Saturday, May 1, 2010

Blogging Against Disablism Day: Why You Gotta Be Like That?

It's blogging against disablism day! Which means for me it's like every other day except I blog it, I guess. This ties back into my Political Correctness post - my requests about language often surround the use of ableist terminology, when they're not focused on sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. As a kid, I had a lot of exposure to individuals with disabilities. They were my friends, and they were people I genuinely looked forward to seeing. They were at a day program my mom worked at, and I loved being there and being with them. These were people with physical and intellectual disabilities, and I loved them. It had a huge impact on me, and I see this in sharp relief when I am in public with someone who has much less experience than I do - I feel their fear, intimidation, sometimes arrogance and sometimes simple misunderstanding. This can lead to them being ableist - and I will call them out.

So what is Disablism?
Like sexism and racism, disablism (or ableism) is holding beliefs about the inferiority, weakness or inherent negativity of individuals with disabilities. Disablism assumes that individuals with disabilities are less than temporarily able-bodied individuals. Disablism assumes that individuals with disabilities aren't capable of making thei own decisions or holding personal power. Disablism assumes that anyone with a disability would wish not to have it, and so it is okay to make negative value judgments about disability.

What does disablism look like?
Disablism can take many, many forms.

When I was a little kid, and I gave what-for to a group of boys at a hockey game who were making that horribly rude mumble/handflap gesture - you know the one - they were imitating one of the men from the day program we were at the game with. Little me snapped on them. I find this gesture to be possibly one of the rudest and most abhorrent things that one can do. Involuntary movements and vocalisations are a fact of life for many people. What those boys did - and what people do when they make this gesture - is ableism.

When you speak to an individual with a disability, talk to them! Not their aide! Or if you talk to their aide, don't speak about their client as though the individual can't hear you. Especially if you know they can. I've had this happen to me when I was in a wheelchair last summer. Lady wouldn't stop asking my friend Shannon what I wanted on my bagel and I was all like "Cream cheese!" and by the time I got my bagel I was just like, fuck this. Just because someone is meeting my need for mobility by pushing my chair, does not mean they are also responsible for meeting all of my other needs.

portrait of someone who just wants a friggin bagel

When you speak to someone with a physical disability, do not assume they also have an intellectual disability unless you know this to be true.
When you encounter someone who is nonverbal, do not assume that they are non-communicative, or that they cannot hear you. Chances are they can communicate. Chances are they can hear you.

Above all, when you encounter someone who has a disability, don't ask them anything you wouldn't want to be asked of yourself. A question like "how long will she live?" (something my client's camily has been asked in her presence) is fucking ridiculous. Don't be afraid to be polite and courteous. But politeness and courtesy toward someone with a disability is the exact same politeness and courtesy you would use with anyone else.

Language: Probably the toughest one.

When you call someone a retard, lame, a gimp, insane, a spaz -  all of these are ableist. All of these compare the negative actions of the person you are talking to with the lived experience of someone's disability. And you are calling it deformed, deficient, or bad. Because really, what else are you trying to accomplish when you say these things?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Why Oklahoma’s Law isn’t about Choice, it’s about CONSENT

So, HB 2780. The veto was redacted. And here we are!

My google-fu is weak but this lawsuit contains the relevant text of the statute.

The Act prohibits a woman from obtaining an abortion unless, at least an hour before the procedure, “the physician who is to perform the abortion or induce the abortion, or the certified technician working in conjunction with the physician:
 (1) performs an obstetric ultrasound on the pregnant woman, using either a vaginal transducer or an abdominal transducer, whichever would display the embryo or fetus more clearly,
(2) provides a simultaneous explanation of what the ultrasound is depicting,
(3) displays the ultrasound images so that the pregnant woman may view them, and
(4) provides a medical description of the ultrasound images, which shall include the dimensions of the embryo or fetus, the presence of cardiac activity, if present and viewable, and the presence of external members and internal organs, if present and viewable.”
The Act notes that “nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent a pregnant woman from averting her eyes from the ultrasound images required to be provided and reviewed with her”
The Act declares a state of emergency and provides the Act shall take effect immediately after its passage and approval

Now, I have never been pregnant, so I know nothing about ultrasounds really. But I can research them!
I’ve found this from Brookside Press:

“First trimester scanning can be performed using either an abdominal approach or a vaginal approach. Abdominal scanning is performed with a full maternal bladder, provides a wider field of view, and provides the greatest depth of view. Vaginal scanning is best performed with the bladder empty, gives a much greater resolution with greater crispness of fine detail. In circumstances where both approaches are readily available, the greater detail provided by transvaginal scans usually outweighs other considerations, and is preferred.”

So this means that in regards to part (1) that the vaginal transducer would be used in almost every case, in order for the physician to be found fully compliant with the law! Which means that in order to obtain a fully legal medical procedure, many women will be forced to undergo a vaginal ultrasound. The State of Oklahoma believes it can mandate that something go into a woman’s vagina. Something that does not increase the safety or efficacy of the abortion procedure. And that is the problem with HB 2780. It isn't a matter of being prochoice or antichoice. It's about being pro-consent. It's about bodily autonomy. It's about doctors not being able to enter a woman's body without her explicit permission. And this bill takes that away when that woman wants an abortion.

Last I checked, someone forcing something into my vagina without regard to my consent was raping me. And you might say “Lyndsay. Using the term rape is a little harsh.” and I would say “Dear reader, penetrating my body without regard to my consent is rape, and is harsh, and is wrong.”

 Want an abortion? Then we get to put this inside you. It's the law!

I only hope the supreme court gets around to this quickly, for the sake of women and their families in Oklahoma.

Kavita Ramdas: Radical women, embracing tradition

A Short Chat about Trans & Cis, Sex & Gender

So I wrote that post about transphobia and one of my tweeps was confused about the meaning of cis/trans, as well as sex and gender.
Before we continue I’m establishing the following:
·         I am a cis woman
·         I am not trans and I have never been trans
·         I am explaining trans issues as an outsider, and must not be treated as an expert. To understand the trans experience, it is absolutely positively necessary to talk with trans individuals about what happens to them and how they are living their lives. I don’t know this! I know the cis experience! If you identify an error I have made in this post, please point it out for me and I will fix it. I do not want to make a deliberate error or misinform people (or be misinformed myself).
We need to break off from the gender/sex lock-in and the binaries that were established for us.
Gender: Socially constructed. Your gender is the clothes you wear, the way you act, the pronoun you identify with.
Sex: Your chromosomes (XX, XY, XXY, etc). Your genitals and secondary sexual characteristics.  
If you are a cisgender individual, your sex and gender are the same – male/male, female/female. If you are a transgender individual, they are not the same – male/female, female/male. If you are a queer or genderqueer individual, you may not want your gender to be identified at all, or use non-gendered terms like ze and hir.
Your gender identity is the way you identify yourself as. So my gender identity would be as a cis female. Might be queer man, trans man, or ze, sie, etc.  
Your gender identity has no impact on your sexual orientation. Your gender has nothing to do with who you want to have sex with. Who you have sex with is your sexual orientation.
How a transgendered person goes from here is up to them. Same as what someone does as cisgendered, as a feminist, as a liberal, as a student. Having a transgender identity does not mean that anyone is entitled to information about this identity. As a cisgendered person, if I suspect someone is transgendered, what should I do? Nothing, because it’s not any of my goddamned business. Seriously! The physical makeup of someone’s genitals will be important to me in approximately zero situations. Unless I plan on having sex with somebody, and I have a genital preference there, but I plan on having sex with 1 person. And I already have that information about that person.

Why Have Cis?
Cis and Trans are opposites, and Queer is for individuals who want off the scale completely or feel they’re in the middle, or just don’t want to pick cis/trans. 
Trans has been around for awhile, but what is cis for?  If there wasn’t a cis, there would only be trans. And this would make the alternative to trans, “normal”. It is not fair, it is not equitable, and it is frankly oppressive to point out that trans people are somehow abnormal. How you gender identify should not place you as less than how anyone else identifies. It would alienate transgendered and genderqueer individuals, it tells them that they are somehow less. And they are not! So we have cis!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Transphobia, Courtesy of the Washington Times.

Here is the Editorial

"Politically Correct"? Check!

ENDA purports to "prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity." Clever politically correct wording aside, this is a direct attack on common sense.

Not using easy to determine terminology? Check!
ENDA would make it impossible for a non-church-based charter school, for instance, to remove from the classroom a "she-male" who insists on exposing her pupils to her unnatural transformation.
Being transgendered is a "lifestyle"? Check!

States have a sovereign right to set standards governing behavioral - as opposed to immutable - personal characteristics.
Trans people are somehow endangering our children? Check!

In short, courts easily could decide that even parochial schools must hire she-males to teach their kindergartners.
And now with BONUS ABLEISM

Our children and our co-workers should not be forced by law to be held hostage to such disorders, nor should employers be forced to have psychologically troubled persons as the public face of their businesses.

The connection between gender identity and sexual perversion is something that the editorial writer seems to see as strongly correlated, otherwise why would a teacher undergoing gender transition be somehow a danger to kindergarteners? In reality, the gender that somebody chooses to present as - through clothing, makeup, hormones, or surgery - has no bearing on what their sexual practices are, except that it's extremely likely that ze is interested in having sex, as most people are wont to do. Outside of this there is really no other assumption that could be made about hir's sexual interests, and like any responsible teacher would definitely not discuss these sexual interests with hir class.

The only thing I see the author of this editorial really do is state the facts of the ENDA - and lets the reader fill in the fear-mongering blanks themselves. Thanks to its tone, we are all well aware that this is a negative, but we can't be told why.

Not to mention the deliberate use of the really old-school gendered slur "she-male". If you don't know much about trans politics, there are easy things to do! Some of them are:
  • Ask the person you're interacting with their preferred pronoun
  • Use your brain. You probably have the social context necessary to note the gender this person is presenting as. Refer to them by those pronouns.
  • Don't bring up gender if it doesn't matter!
I mean... I don't even know any trans people well, that I know of. Maybe I know a few who haven't identified themselves to me (not that it's my business). So this is not some arcane, hidden knowledge. This is approaching people as people. Who deserve, you know, respect and love. And are doing something which has no impact on your relationship with them (unless you're having sex with them) and has even less impact on their ability to work.

ENDA wants to protect individuals from hiring discrimination based on factors which do not impact their ability to do their jobs. The Washington Times editorial board thinks that they do not deserve such protection - and indeed, they do not deserve to take up the spaces we have created for ourselves in society.

The attitude of the Washington Times editorial board is one of the reasons why this video by Ivan E. Coyote is so moving:

(This video shows me I need a wider CSS style)

You wouldn't want this person teaching, or in your workplace?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Ontario Backs Down on Sex Ed

I can’t believe we still have to fight for comprehensive sexual health education.

Comprehensive Sex Ed matters to me, a lot. As a teen I worked with at-risk youth in weekend seminars providing sexual education information. These weekend seminars were some of these kids' only exposure to sexual and reproductive health information – these teens were seeing a condom for the first time. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them were saying ‘vagina’ for the first time. They knew nothing about sexuality, consent, or sexual health. Growing up in Saskatchewan, I received an abstinence only sexual education. Before moving I had somewhat of a comprehensive sex ed class in the fifth grade! After that, the only real reproductive health lesson I remember receiving was being given free packets of always and tampax by our grade eight teacher. The rest was about saying no to sex.

Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario, seems to think this was sufficient. So do a multitude of parent groups and religious organizations. Here is what they have to say:

"It is unconscionable to teach eight-year-old children same-sex marriage, sexual orientation and gender identity," said Charles McVety, head of the Canada Christian College. "It is even more absurd to subject sixth graders to instruction on the pleasures of masturbation, vaginal lubrication, and 12-year-olds to lessons on oral sex and anal intercourse."

Parent Rehana Shaik is glad the government backed down. "I don't want the kids at a tender age to learn all that sex education. My younger son will be starting Grade 1 next year and I don't want him to learn all that," she said.

Here’s what’s actually in the (now pulled) curriculum from Google’s Cache:

Grade 1


Grade 3:


So. Teaching children the respect that we are supposed to afford one another under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and teaching children the correct names of their body parts. That is what this is all about.

Grade 6 (remember: "subject sixth graders to instruction on the pleasures of masturbation, vaginal lubrication")

Aaaaand grade 7:

Why must we fight for comprehensive sexual health education?

Why would you restrict the knowledge of first graders about the proper names for their body parts? No evil will come of a child saying 'vulva'. Children (especially children as old as six) are very aware of context and social norms. They are aware of shame and secrecy. They learn shame and secrecy where we teach it. Is body shame a family value?

Is a third grader incapable of understanding marriage? Of course not! Children in daycare understand marriage. Why do we keep same sex marriage a secret from them?

Children begin masturbating when they are in diapers. Why keep masturbation a secret from a sixth grader?

Why do we teach children that sexuality is a secret? This makes them vulnerable to sexual abuse and assault by not empowering them with knowledge of consent and a feeling of control over their own bodies. It makes them vulnerable to STIs and pregnancy, because they will feel too ashamed to discuss contraception with their partners, doctors or parents.

Do we insist on leaving kids in the dark because we are uncomfortable with their sexuality? If so, who is the one with the problem - the adults making the conscious choice to restrict this knowledge out of social discomfort, or the children who are progressing along their development, attempting to learn as much as they can from us?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I'm Politically Correct. And I Like It.

Why should I fear being called politically correct, when most people cannot even articulate what it means to them?

I talk to a lot of people about sexism, being that I am rather opinionated and will fuck you up (engage you in respectful conversation) if you are out of line. When I talk to people about sexism, many of those people say that the sexist things they just said/did aren't sexist because:

-They are a lady too

-They have lady friends, or even a ladyfriend

-They are nice to their moms

-They didn't mean it like that

And when we continue with the conversation:

-I am just being too politically correct.

But here's where it all breaks down for me. When I ask, "What does politically correct mean?" a lot of people have no answer for me. Answers I have heard are things like, "afraid to offend anybody" and "too wimpy to laugh at jokes”. Generally, their definition of politically correct (nebulous as it is) involves weakness, deference to others, and fear. But, in any group of people, I can usually count on being one of the most politically correct people there. I am also one of the most likely to express a strong opinion and feel comfortable engaging with someone who disagrees. And this is not something that comes from weakness, this comes from a strength of conviction.

To me, political correctness means acknowledging that everyone is vulnerable to emotional harm, and that for many people this emotional harm comes from the attitudes of society. And societies learn attitudes from language, teach attitudes with language, and form language from attitudes. It's all there. When I call out a friend, family member or colleague for making a sexist, homophobic, etc. remark, I don't want to silence them. I don't want them to stop talking. I do want them to think about what they say. I want them to understand that saying sexist things makes sexists think their ideas are okay too. Using homophobic slurs makes people think gay-bashing is okay. When I call someone on it, I do it with the idea that we will talk about it, talk about language, and figure out what it means to use language like that. I would never want someone to stop talking (Okay, I wouldn’t mind of Glenn Beck stopped talking). I want people to talk to one another more, and examine their own ideas more. It is when I encourage people to examine their views of the world that I get called “Too PC”. From what I have seen, examining your ideas and views is challenging! Rare! People are loath to change their views! People don’t want to confront their privilege!

Being politically correct means saying that a lot of things are NOT okay. Being called politically correct is a tactic often used to silence me, it's a tactic which is supposed to make me look like a weak individual, one who is filled with fear. But I’m not filled with fear. I’m filled with idealism. I’m filled with an idea of the world that simply doesn’t have the time or space to put up with sexism and homophobia, ableism and racism, ageism and all of that shit. I’m filled with the hope that we can overcome it and treat everybody the right way. And that is a deference to others – a deference that respects their humanity, and expresses my respect for all people. Political correctness isn’t weakness. It’s standing up for my belief in equality, standing up for my belief in democracy and for my belief in free-thinking people. When I am being politically correct, I am being true to my core. And being true to yourself is far from weak.