Saturday, December 31, 2016

A Long Pause and a Little Reflection

It's almost over folks!  The shit show that has been 2016 is at an end and I don't know about you but I'm ready for it to piss off.

Like many other people, I have been reeling from the recent election.

Seriously, Donald Trump?

America's collective pussy is clenching at the thought.

But while speculation flies about what a Trump presidency might look like and we wait with bated breath for the next offensive, asinine thing to come out of the man's gob, I have used these past few months to do some reflecting about the state of protest and sex positivity in this country. Because 2017 is shaping up to be a scrappy 365 days for us all, so we might as well gear up for it now.

One of the most poignant things I heard on election night came from Chuck Todd, who took his and the rest of media’s share of the blame for promoting Trump throughout his entire candidacy. 
But it isn’t just the media's fault.
Granted, there was some hyperbolic shit flying around. And Todd was right—every time Trump opened his damned mouth he was saying something more outlandish than the shit that flew out of him before.  Still, we as citizens cannot shirk our share of the responsibility.

2016 was the year of fake news.  Shortly before the election Samantha Bee reported from Russia about a man and woman whose job it was to flood our Facebook and Twitter feeds with fake news.  Not a new concept by any means.  This year, however, a man shot up a pizza parlor supposedly moonlighting as a child sex ring ran by none other than Hillary Clinton.  Last year it was a Planned Parenthood that was allegedly draining babies of their stem cells and organs and selling them on the black market. 
I guess without a little investigation it is easy to get swept up in the hyperbole of it all.  But who has time for research?  This is America after all.

For future reference, is an excellent resource to check out the validity of, well, practically anything on the internet.  Or you can just Google the shit. Granted, it might take a little more time thumbing through all the other websites that  have covered a story as if it’s gospel, but it can be done.

But that is where the hurdle lies. We have a tendency to flock to those stories that fit in with our current world views. It's called cognitive dissonance and it is alive and well here in the U. S. of A.  We are all guilty of it, including yours truly. Case-in-point, after the election, when I was a fuming mess, I ran across a scathing article about this safety pin initiative.  Anyone wearing a safety pin was representative of a safe person who would stand against injustice were they to witness it.  The piece painted these people as privileged and, to some extent, I agreed. I just couldn’t see people of color or anyone hailing from an immigrant family and facing deportation pinning a safety pin on their bodies to combat the very real threat they may already be aware of.     

I know now that I was lashing out against allies.  It took a friend explaining his reason for wearing a safety pin to show me how wrong I was.  After the horrific shit that has happened this year—Pulse, Bastille, all the Islamaphobia, and, of course, Trump—we are all looking for a way to act; a way to show the rest of the world that while times may seem dark, the light of inclusiveness and human empathy is still burning bright.

Which brings me to my next point:

It is okay to make mistakes; it is how we learn.

In November, Kimberly Pierce, director of the 1999 film Boys Don't Cry was invited to give a lecture at Reed College where she was protested for being transphobic by people who took umbrage with Hillary Swank playing the role of Brandon Teena, a trans man who was killed in 1993. While the erasure of POC and trans individuals is a persistent thorn in the side of Hollywood—i.e. Scarlett Johansson in the upcoming Ghost in the Shell—people sometimes forget that it was movies like Boys Don't Cry that helped bring trans rights to the forefront of people's minds. 

2016 was a hell of an inclusive year.  So much so that we stopped listening, too quick to jump down the throats of anyone who dared question our ethnicity or misgender us or, heavens forbid, pose a perspective that challenges our own.

And I totally get it.

Perception goes as far as our nose. Beyond that, we're blind.

Shortly after the election I listened to an episode of NPR's Code Switch where comedienne Negin Farsad discussed how certain movements can alienate people that don’t necessarily have access to a lot of diversity.  One of the things she finds hope in, she explained, is when people feel comfortable enough to ask why she refers to herself as Iranian American instead of just American—something she said might blow up the Twittersphere with allegations of bigotry.  But Farsad believes that as much as these questions come from a place of ignorance, they also come from a place of honesty and a desire to understand.

It's like the book 1984, wherein our thoughts and language are policed by the opinion-setters. Just ask Alice Dreger or Ru Paul how they have been mistreated by the community they were trying to protect.  Is that why there is going to be a megalomaniacal, misogynistic, xenophobic, racist in office soon?  Because people were afraid to ask questions for fear of some right or left wing nut-job calling them a bigot because of an honest question?

2016 was also the year privilege made a name for itself.  Granted, it's always been there—just ask the white, cisgender upper-middle class man.  Of course, naturally, nobody wants to be reminded of their privilege no more than we like being told we’re wrong.  Yet it exists despite the protests I have heard to the contrary.  When a black man is gunned down, overkill style, for stealing a box of cigars and your first response is to shake your head and say "he shouldn't have broken the law," then there is something fundamentally fucked up about that.

Yet this was the year I came face to face with my own privilege. 

When a man saw me cleaning windows and called it "woman's work" or joked about "chucking a spear" at an African man for pissing him off and I just laughed it off and quickly made myself scarce—that is privilege my friends.   

I am a white, cisgender man. Queer, to be sure. I believe the words "gay as the dickens" have been thrown around a time or two.  But privileged nonetheless.  I have the freedom to walk away and even laugh nervously at these misogynistic and racist comments. A female identified individual or person of color may not be afforded such luxury.  And if they are, it isn’t with the ease I do; they may even be afraid. 
This is what privilege looks like.

2016 was a fuck of a year.  We lost a prince, a princess, and too many people because of hate, ignorance, and a system meant to keep disenfranchised folks further divided.  But fret not, my friends!  The year is over and a new one is about to begin.  It will be a fight to be sure.  Over the next four years I have zero doubt that we will be fighting for our health care, our marriages, our right to simply exist.

But with a new year also comes a new hope.

So take the time to live, laugh, love, and fuck in the new year.  And make a mistake or two . . . or a dozen. How else are we going to learn?

Until next year my beauties . . .