Category Archives: GLBT

Who Votes Over the Economy?

The following is a hypothesis. I don’t really have the background in sociology or any idea of the methodology required to confirm or refute it, but I want to put it out there any maybe someone with more of a clue than me can figure out if it’s true or not.

I read the following quote from Grimalkin on the Atheism+ forums today:

People who have their lives voted on and legislated by politicians tend to not care *too* much about the economy, because we’re too worried about whether some governer is going to declare him the right to our uterus or something equally fun.

It got me thinking. The economy is probably an important issue, and one that I admit I don’t really understand. Because of this I’ve always voted on social issues: stuff I can wrap my head around. Marriage equality is important because gay people deserve the same rights as anyone else. Marijuana should be legalized because we are imprisoning too many people for a “crime” that the vast majority of people commit; they just had the misfortune of getting caught. Education costs should not be prohibited. Homeless people deserve a place to live. Women should have the right to bodily autonomy. Transgender people should not have to worry about discrimination. Women who are coerced into prostitution should be protected and women who want to be sex workers should have that right. People should have access to healthcare regardless of how deep their pockets go.

These are all issues that our society is grappling with and for the most part they seem to be supported by the left and rejected by the right.

In the current US election campaign, I hear Republicans talking about the economy a lot more than Democrats. It’s similar in Canada: I hear a lot more from the conservatives about economic and business issues and a lot more from the NDP and Green Party about social issues.

So it makes me wonder, who actually casts their vote based on the economy?

It seems to me that if your primary concern is the economy, then you haven’t really had to deal with a government or society that seems intent on trampling your rights. If your biggest concern is whether your company can make more money with the Republican tax plan, or if your biggest problem is that you can’t afford the lifestyle you used to have then you are privileged in a lot of ways that allow you to ignore how the right is taking away the rights of the rest of us.

If you’re gay, you have to worry about bigots trying to pass constitutional amendments to prevent you from getting married. If you’re in prison for minor drug offenses, you’re probably concerned about the hypocrisy of the people who put you in there. If you can’t afford an education, you have to worry about how to get a good job in a society that increasingly requires a post-secondary education. If you’re homeless you probably have to worry about whether your local shelter has enough beds and food. If you’re a woman, you might have to worry about the long term consequences of if you have a child you’re not ready for. If you’re trans, you probably have to worry about whether the government will let you get on a plane or whether they’ll harass you because you don’t “look man/woman enough”. If you’re a sex worker you probably have to worry about your safety and ability to rely on law enforcement if you’re in danger. If you have cancer you need to worry about whether you can get the chemotherapy that you need to stay alive.

In my opinion, these issues are way more pressing than which candidate gives the best tax cuts.

I’m not saying that the economy is unrelated to these issues: clearly it is as government needs ways to fund a lot of these things (or in some cases is actively wasting money on suppressing the disadvantaged, for example money spent on imprisoning people for drug possession). But if your primary concern when you cast your ballot is which party will better stimulate the economy, then you probably haven’t had to spend any part of your life worrying about whether the party you were voting for was going to turn around and try to stomp you and people like you down and out of society once they’re in power.

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Seriously, Was Math Not Hard Enough Already?

she, her, she, her

Originally I was just speechless by this story (via Zinnia Jones) about 16 year old Ashlyn Parram first being told she could not sit an exam unless she changed into boy’s clothing, and then being segregated from the rest of the students when she pointed out that the school was violating her rights. First was how offensive the situation was, but perhaps just as bad is the reporting of the story which refers to her using male pronouns throughout. I was so shocked and disgusted that all I could think was that there were no words…

And then I thought: No. Fuck that. There are plenty of words. They are, in order: Her, her, her, assigned male at birth, she, she, she, she, she, she, she, she, She, She, Her, she, she, trangender, She, she, gender reassignment surgery, Her, her, her, her, she, she.

To the educators: you are a failure. Not only have you failed to attend to the needs of a student in your care, but you have gone out of your way to inflict psychological distress on her right before requiring her to take a test that could affect her academic standing. You have failed as both a teacher, and as a human being. And if my saying so makes you feel like someone has called into question a fundamental element of your identity? Now go answer some questions about polynomials.

To Ashlyn, should you ever read this: Some people spend their entire lives questioning their identities. At 16, you’ve already shown that you have not only the courage to question something that many take for granted, but also the courage to express yourself in the face of bigotry. You are awesome: never loose that. And though this situation should never should have happened in the first place, It Gets Better.

1/11/2012 – Things I Saw on the Internet Today

Jessica Ahlquist Has Won Her Lawsuit! Fucking hero.

Drama I don’t really know what to say about this apart from that it sucks and makes me want to give Jen McCreight a hug and that anyone who bears witness to this kind of behaviour should verbally smack the offenders in the back of the head.

BUY GIRLSCOUT COOKIES Best argument to buy girlscout cookies I’ve ever heard.

White House Denies President Obama Travelled To Mars Via Teleport At Age 19 Glad we cleared that one up.

Don’t Copy that Floppy Amazing anti-piracy add from 1992. The best part is how their arguments no longer apply to modern software (owning it, manuals, physical backups).

SMBC on coming out as gay It’s sad because it’s basically true.

Godless Bitches – Transgender Episode

This is a reponse to episode 1.13 of the Godless Bitches podcast, whom I absolutely love listening to because it’s all about issues that I don’t normally think about and I love being challenged with new things that I haven’t heard before. Really can’t say enough great things about them.

So first off I want to admit that I know very little about transgender issues (“transgender” or “transgendered”?) but I’m trying to learn, so if you disagree with anything I’m about to say, please let me know because I’m here to learn.

This is primarily a response to a part in the podcast where Beth asks how useful the labels of “female” and “male” or “man” and “woman” are, given the diversity that can exist among the spectrum (around the 29 minute mark). Jen identified them as useful rules of thumb and that we shouldn’t consider them as terms that are necessarily prescriptive of behaviors or even physical characteristics. Natalie agreed, but then went a bit into the point that I thought of when I heard Beth’s question: that “male” and “female” can be useful terms for people to apply to themselves. That’s basically what I want to talk about.

“Man” and “woman” may not have rigid definitions, but I hardly think this disqualifies a word from being useful. I want to draw an analogy. Consider the word “dog”. What does that mean? Look at this picture:

What do those two animals have in common? Very little: they’re different colours, sizes, shapes… But we’re still able to recognize them both as falling under the label “dog” even though we might not have a strict definition of what that term actually means. Yes, I’m sure there’s some strict biological definition of what constitutes a dog, but my point is that even people who lack this education in biology can identify both as dogs. Similarly we can often look at people and recognize them as male or female, even without strict definitions of what these things mean.

Tangent: Does being male mean having a penis? I don’t believe so. Does having a penis make you male? I don’t believe that either. And yet, I consider myself male because I do have a penis. So the attributes we associate with a particular gender are neither necessary nor necessarily sufficient to belong to that gender, but can they be sufficient in certain cases such as my own? For the logic nerds (or possibly just for my own masturbatory needs): \diamond(\text{penis}\rightarrow\text{male}) holds, but \Box(\text{penis}\rightarrow\text{male}) does not. Thus, \text{penis}\rightarrow\text{male} may hold sometimes, but not always. Does that make sense to anyone else?

Now of course these terms aren’t exclusive and one of the things I’ve learned from reading about transgenderism (is that the right word? spell check says no…) is that gender identity can fall on a spectrum. As I see it, there are two possibilities: multiple people can fall into the same spot on the spectrum, or they can’t. If they can’t then that means that no two people have the same gender identity. This, to me, is absurd and means we can’t actually use labels for gender identities at all, which seems pretty inconvenient to me. Thus, I currently accept the other option, that many people can occupy the same spot on the spectrum. Thus, we can have many people with the gender identity of “male”, many with “female” and many in-betweens. I believe this is where the problem seems to crop up with labels: what words do you use to identify these people? Part of the issue is one of linguistic usefulness. How many people have to have a particular gender identity before we need to come up with a word for it. I don’t think it would be controversial to say that “male” and “female” would be the largest categories. But what then? Do you name a spot on the spectrum that only holds one person? How big does a group need to be before we give it a name? I don’t have the answers, but I hope it at least makes sense as to why I think we need to keep the labels we already have.

This brings me to a point I would like to make on how I feel about gender roles. I’m going to take what I think might be an unpopular stance: Gender roles in society are important. Adhering to them, however, is not. So that we all have our definitions straight (or in case I don’t) when I say “gender roles” I mean any behaviour that is typically associated with either men or women but not both (for example, wearing a suit is more masculine and wearing a dress is more feminine). I think what’s useful about these is that when you want to identify as a particular gender (whether it’s your birth sex or not) these give you patterns you can fall into that will allow other people to more easily identify you as your gender expression (again, am I using that term correctly?). It’s convenient. If I want to be identified as a man, I can grow a beard. If I want to be identified as a woman, I can wear makeup. These gender roles can be extremely useful, for so many reasons! How much of Monty Python’s humour was based on men wearing dresses? What would drag queens wear if there were no such thing as gender-specific clothing?

Where the problem comes in is the expectation that everyone ought to adhere to their gender roles. They may be important, but not important enough to be forced upon people. Girls can like sports, and boys can like dolls and why should it matter to anyone else? It’s not the roles themselves, but rather forcing them upon people unwillingly that becomes harmful. I have a saying I like to use which is that “Girls can be boys too” (or vice-versa, depending on context), which is to say that girls can do things that other people might associate with boys (or the other way around) but that it really shouldn’t matter at all if they do.

There was one other point I wanted to raise, and it’s in reference to a quote I remember from the podcast that I can’t find the time code for, so if I’m misremembering it, I apologize. But someone (I want to say Beth) mentioned not understanding why people have difficulty grasping that biological sex is different from gender identity. I just want to put forward my hypothesis for why I think this is. For thousands of years, people have been treating gender as a binary, biological thing: having a penis makes you a man and having a vagina makes you a woman. Hell, this is even how I learned it as a kid. I think it can be difficult to get past thousands of years worth of linguistic programming to accept that your junk doesn’t determine your gender. Even I still have some problems with this. When I hear the term “transgender male” I think “person who was born with a penis” and I have to stop and thing “wait, no… that’s a person who was born female and now identifies as male”. It’s a problem that I’m slowly getting better at avoiding, but the point is it hasn’t yet become a natural thought process for me. So I’d just like to put out there that maybe some people who have trouble grasping this concept should be cut a little bit of slack. Unless they’re being dicks. Then feel free to verbally lambaste them all across the interwebs.

That’s all I really have to say on the issue. Once again, please feel free to tell me where I’m wrong (or even where I’m right) because this is just how I see it at the moment, and all of it is open to revision as I learn more and more.