March! And Understand that Intersectionality is Freedom

Vulva Necklace made by yours truly. The clitoris spins and is quite nice to finger (with consent of the owner of course).

I’ve been craving queer space lately. One of the fantasies I have is that someone will throw a completely queer party for me while I’m on tour, and I’ll find myself surrounded by dancing people just being themselves fully and outrageously and happily and as queerly as they are. Living in the cis-heteronormative vanilla world is exhausting, and lately I am feeling the effects of how it eats away at my joy — depression brought on by not seeing representations of myself in others or the commercial world on the daily. It’s affirmative: Texas’ll wear your queer ass down. So will most places…

To me “queer” is a pretty inclusive word, inclusive of all non-normative genders, orientations, and sexualities. The queer communities I run with have been primarily welcoming ones, usually willing to host even the un-queer as long as everyone is serving purpose as bastions of self-actualism and acceptance of one another’s personal expression. A word I dearly wish was more inclusive, though its history has a pretty tumultuous record and its current practice is often spotty concerning inclusivity, is Feminism:

fem·i·nism (ˈfeməˌnizəm/)
  1. the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.

I identify with a wave of Intersectional Sex-Positive Feminism which holds Womanism as an important aspect of what we’re fighting for, and believes in egalitarian ideals. That’s a mouthful, but it’s an important one because the word Feminist has a long history of not being inclusive to women of color, queers, sex workers, and at times it has been associated with movements which were anti-male, racist, and separatist. It’s important, as time moves along and we evolve our ideals in any movement, to not forget what words and movements have meant to people in the past.

We are in the midst of a monumental week which started with Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Monday), and is fast approaching the Presidential Inauguration (Friday), the Women’s March on Washington and sister cities (Saturday), and finishing off on the 44th anniversary of Roe v. Wade (Sunday). Sadly, looking at the week’s news I am left asking, “why, in the face of soaring sexism, racism, ableism, LGBTQIA violence, and criminalized sexual agency are we, as players in the women’s movement, not doing better at organizing holistically to amplify our voices above the current standard of abuse in this country?”

A lot of energy from progressives right now is going into the Women’s March. I want to talk about how that work can be more meaningful to a larger section of our population, and point out the fact that by adjusting our political views to be deliberately inclusive, our movement itself becomes a deeper, more powerful movement.

A few days ago I came across an article about the Women’s March in Portland, OR which lost its endorsement by the NAACP because of the myopic views coming from white feminists in leadership positions. They had declined to give time and voice to Black Lives Matter, and immigrants as an important part of the conversation about women’s rights. So they lost the NAACP’s backing. Thankfully the march ended up changing the organization’s leadership in response. This initial disregard of the importance of intersectionality is an example of privilege enacting oppression. When people fighting for equality and expecting those of the dominating class to acknowledge their privilege and do something about it, do not examine their own privilege first to make room for those less privileged than themselves in the fight, the fight is not as just as it portends to be. The Feminist movement has historically ignored the struggles of women of color in its fight for equality, often in the name of these intersectional issues being “too political”. I can’t help but picturing a pearl clutching elite when I hear that argument — and what feminist organizer signed on to lead like that?!

Since when has fighting for equality not been an intensely political act?

Is everyone supporting women’s rights supposed to fight for white women’s liberation and once garnered, that privileged group can exit the battleground celebratorily leaving women of color, immigrants, LGBTQIA, differently abled women, sex workers, and sexual assault survivors to fight their own enduring battles separately?

What do these feminists actually believe in if it isn’t equal rights for all women?

Trickle down economics of equality much?

It can be only fortifying to a movement to include the stories of those doubly and triply harmed from lack of privilege in our society, as we fight for justice and freedom.

In similar news, this week the Women’s March on Washington has changed its mission statement to disclude sex workers. An incredibly articulate and beautiful statement about why this matters was written by Janet Mock. At the core of it is the idea that until we allow all women sovereignty over their bodies we are not truly living in a world where equality exists. This includes supporting a person’s choice to work as a sex worker, and not conflating that concept with trafficking or coercion.

Speaking of this country’s complete lack of respect over women’s bodily sovereignty, a few days ago a Connecticut politician literally pinched a female co-worker between the legs, told her it was “her word against his”, and that “I love this new world, I no longer have to be politically correct”… Unfortunately for him, there is video surveillance corroborating her take on the event and she filed charges. What the fucking actual fuck (WTFAF)?

(Warning: this next section is a personal rant) As someone who is a survivor of childhood and adult sexual assault, a person grateful for the abortion I had access to as a teenager, an educated (read: greatly skilled and in debt) queer artist who gets paid almost nothing for their work, who can not afford healthcare without the Affordable Care Act (yet still believes in regular STI testing and talking about sex honestly and openly with all partners), and who still to this day has a hard time navigating sex and feeling good about it, I’ll make note of the fact that I’ve been feeling a teeny bit triggered and unhappy for quite a while due to the state of politics. As I do not have a therapist currently, I read a lot and watch lectures on the psychology of healing trauma, I meditate, and I write a damn blog about sexuality to help understand and process my experiences, as well as to be a voice fighting for open conversation about this deeply personal, political, and repressed subject. I am constantly looking to find myself reflected in the world at large, seeking advice about what to do with my feelings when they come up, and I chip away at figuring out what “normal” is supposed to feel like for me as a survivor… I don’t have a map for these things, and I want to be better than the unprocessed and painful reactions I sometimes have to the world around me; I want to be kinder to myself when an unplanned shut-down of my sexual system during playtime occurs; and I want to let go of the shame I feel at my inability to feel safe enough to climax easily. This week I came upon a website geared toward sexual assault survivor care which featured a page welcoming people of all different backgrounds and experiences to their space. Each group was named and and told “you belong here”. It was quite empowering, though when they made mention of the queer community this website named Lesbians, Gays, and Transgender people as belonging, apparently Bisexuals are not welcome to get their needs met in that space. When I wrote them, thanking them for their presence but asking why the omission of “B” in “LGBT”, they answered saying “that we include all survivors of rape or sexual assault, including but not limited to – males who have been assaulted, or if you were assaulted by a woman.”… which I can only read as meaning my sexuality is somehow defined by the sex of my assaulter?!  WHICH IS REALLY FUCKED UP! I politely asked for more information about why they had made the choice to contribute to bi-erasure, offering statistics about bisexual women suffering the highest incidences of sexual assault amongst women (followed by straight women and then Lesbians), and giving information about the impact of bi-erasure on victims seeking help. My response to that was that they weren’t going to change the line, it had served them since 2001 just fine… I wrote back again:

I think it’s unfortunate that you do not include bisexual survivors, and that you do not mention our name in welcome. Bisexuals and Transgender people have a long history of being left out of the LGBT meaning making of our world and I find it distressing that your site so blatantly falls into that lineage. I hope you do not think someone’s sexuality or orientation is in any way associated with the sex of their oppressor, as it seems you might from your first response to me. I think it’s terrible that this site is actively contributing to bi-erasure in a world where people are taken advantage of especially because they do not neatly fit into one category or another.

I do not feel you have adequately answered my questions, nor do I have an understanding of your reasoning. I will not be further visiting your site as I do not feel it is a safe place welcoming me and my history of trauma or, indeed, my foundation for survival — namely finding that I can embrace all of who I am as I struggle to claim my sexuality and identity. I am Bisexual. I exist among the Lesbian, Gay, and Transgender people of this world, but I also have suffered violence and biphobia at their hands. My sexuality is my own, and I believe bisexual people deserve recognition and named space which honors that. By disincluding the word “Bisexual” when you reference LGBT you are contributing to bi-erasure and creating a hostile environment for those of us wondering how safe we actually are as we search for help.

The last point I ask you to ponder, is how this also reinforces violence against bisexual men. As a female I am fetishized against my will and treated as an object most frequently by society (and people). I do not get to see meaningful depictions of bisexual desire in most media which isn’t intrinsically shaming. Bisexual males walk an arguably tougher road than that, facing people trying to reassign and relabel their desires as gay or experimenting to a degree females less frequently are punished for. Men are not given social support to talk about their desires, their sexualities, their feelings, or their shame openly, much less holistically in our culture. It is not healthy or welcoming to have your sexuality undermined and repressed by the black and white values of others.

I don’t need a response. I do hope you’ll further think about the impact of bi-erasure, especially pertaining to those Bisexual people hoping for healing after trauma.

– Karin

So, what am I really saying here? Well, I am saying: Go March! March for your own needs and march for the needs of those who live differently marginalized lives too. Learn about intersectionality. Learn to look around and question how diverse your surroundings are — if your surroundings are not a reflection of the city or town’s population you actually live within, question why — there is an answer. If you are privileged to be in the position of leading a group, learn how to advocate for a diverse audience and then do the work of cultivating diversity (you will need to work with and hire people from diverse backgrounds to accomplish this). Question those around you (mind I did not say accuse or threaten) who are in power when you see something off or less than the ideal you want to live within. Have open conversations with lots of different people about those topics people find “too political” and construct a more 3-dimensional view of what’s happening in those topics. Let people speak for their own experiences, this means learning when to listen, when not to take up space or speak or respond, as a gesture of respect to someone else’s lived reality. Trust minority people. Ask questions and don’t expect answers to all of them — no one has the responsibility to educate you except yourself. Educate yourself about the lives of people who are different from you. Have compassion and empathy. Do the actual work of connection. Show up. Be authentic. Use your voice.

Play On My Friends,
~ Karin

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