Yasmin Nair

Why I Won't Come Out on National Coming Out Day

Filed By Yasmin Nair | October 09, 2009 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Media, Politics
Tags: Don't Ask Don't Tell, gay marriage, hate crimes legislation, HIV/AIDS, National Coming Out Day, National Equality March, queer, Radical, surveillance, violence

Note: I wrote this piece last year and am resurrecting it here, with a few additions.

This is the week of the March on Washington. Or, wait, is it the March Through Washington, a city that will be missing most of its lawmakers and the now Nobel Peace Prize Winner President Obama himself on the day of? I won't waste too much time writing about something that seems designed to be little more than a publicity event for a few celebrity queers except to say that my best hope is that the mostly, I suspect, younger crowd that's going to go will come away with a sense of the greed and manipulation of gay politicos, fat cat organisations, and power brokers. And that their hunger for public engagement will eventually be channeled towards more substantial and radical critiques than simplistic calls for "equality" that don't go beyond the usual Holy Trinity of Hate Crimes Legislation, Marriage, and Don't Ask Don't Tell. And that some might want to ask why a march organised as an LGBT-no-Q-thank-you March makes no significant mention of HIV/AIDS or the persistent violence towards and surveillance of queers and why it seems, instead, bent on wrapping itself in a blanket of normalcy designed to get phobic straight people to tolerate us just a leeeeeeettle bit more.

So here's my point: The march is on National Coming Out Day. The neoliberal fetishisation of identity means that public embraces of the "LGBT" acronym is just another way to increase inequality by pretending that individual identity and relationships matter more than policies that might benefit everyone. In this context, National Coming Out Day takes on the aura of a sacred rite of passage for an entire nation. It's a way to prove that its collective self is tolerant towards its lesbians, gays, bisexual, and transgender citizens.

Public discussions around sexuality evoke simplistic narratives about gays versus conservatives, and we automatically assume that anything gay is part of a leftist or progressive agenda. I have no doubt that celebrities at this event will be trumpeting their profound love for their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. Those queers who don't toe the line of normalcy or who actually think that marriage or war or more jail time in the prison industrial complex might actually be terrible and dangerous for us all will be shoved to the side, if they're allowed in at all.

As an out queer lesbian who sleeps with men, there's never been a space for me in the acronym and I don't imagine that my kind will be allowed on any of the stages. But that's not my real problem with National Coming Out Day.

I understand the need to come out, and its strategic and psychic importance for those struggling to find their place in the world. I can see the advantage of having a day on high school and college campuses where we actually talk openly about what what it means to be queer. But coming out ought not to define queer identity the way it does today. By placing so much emphasis on the act of revealing, of exposing ourselves to the scrutiny, judgment and, yes, even acceptance of those around us, we are implicitly arguing that to be queer is, in effect, to always have to come out. That positions queer identity as an always darkly imagined Other, the thing that must, on the stroke of midnight of October 11 every year, emerge and perform a ritual cleansing of itself.* Most of all: When we come out today, what are we coming out as and for?

Consciously performing the act of coming out implies that I identify with a larger "gay community." I'm privileged to live and work among like-minded queers and straights (I use all terms loosely). But I've long felt disconnected from the mainstream "gay community" and its notion that "coming out" is a political act of great meaning and significance.

As someone once said to me, "We [queers] used to be the most interesting people in the room. Look at us now." Indeed. We're not just less interesting, but politically conservative. Let's consider the main causes of the "gay community/movement" today -- and why I won't come out on its behalf.

Gay marriage. I'm against the idea that marriage should grant rights and benefits, and I don't think couples - gay or straight - are special people who deserve to be rewarded for their "commitment." Gay marriage is an emotional, social, and cultural issue - by all means, argue for it if you'd like to have your relationship validated by whatever forces you deem important. But don't turn it into a social justice issue by pretending that it's about establishing parity and equal rights for everyone. When gays argue for gay marriage as the way to establish health care and guarantee benefits, they're essentially giving the finger to anyone - straight or gay - who chooses not to inhabit the institution of marriage.

Gays in the military. I'm a militant pacifist, so the idea that I should be able to fight in wars or to help establish the U.S. rule of law in other countries is repugnant to me. We now live in a war economy where recruitment into the armed forces is just another term for "job security," so I'm sympathetic to those who feel compelled to join for economic reasons. But I'd like to work on building a society where peaceniks, like a former student of mine who joined because she couldn't afford not to, don't feel compelled to join the army in order to pay off loans - whether they're gay or straight.

Hate crimes legislation. Hate crimes legislation only serves to enhance penalties, and can even lead to the death penalty. The basic idea behind hate crimes legislation is that people who somehow demonstrate prejudice towards a group (by yelling "fag" during a robbery, for instance) deserve to be punished much more and that the threat of longer sentences or even death will deter similar crimes. In its support of hate crimes legislation, the "gay community" demonstrates its bloodthirstiness - it's not enough for us that someone should go to jail for murdering, beating, or robbing us (crimes for which there's enough punishment); we'd like to expand the prison industrial complex by forcing them to rot in prison for the rest of their lives or be hanged or electrocuted.

"Coming out," as defined by the U.S "gay community," has also become a dangerous export. We've recently decided that there's an international gay community that has goals and ideals in common across borders, and we have no qualms in asserting that "gay rights" are the same everywhere. In fact, what counts as "gay" in the U.S. may be same-sex desire that can't be defined as such elsewhere. For instance, some men in India might have sex with each other but still see themselves as "straight" and continue to live with their wives and children. According to our logic, such men just need to come out and be happy under rainbow-hued umbrellas, an attitude that's both simplistic and dictatorial.

There is, of course, a need to establish solidarity with queers in countries where homosexuality and same-sex desire can be punishable by law. But as gay activists and writers like Joseph Massad and Bill Andriette have shown in their nuanced work, asking for help for queers elsewhere is a fraught enterprise. U.S. feminist groups like Feminist Majority and women like Laura Bush ignored the needs of Afghani women by demanding that the U.S. bomb Afghanistan to help liberate them from the men of the Taliban. Similarly, U.S./Western gays put queers elsewhere at risk by defining acts of oppression as exclusively gay.

"Coming out" may be freedom for some here but for others across the world, it's either a non sequitur or a dangerous calling out that puts their lives in jeopardy. Coming out is increasingly part of a commercialised notion of gay identity to which a lot of us can't subscribe, especially in light of the mainstreaming of gay community.

So when you come out as either a straight ally or as part of the LGBT community, ask yourself: On whose behalf am I coming out? What, exactly, does this community represent?

If you're someone to whom a co-worker comes out, don't be content with simple declarative sentences like "I support you!" or "So am I!" Instead, this year, don't be afraid to ask them where they stand on the particulars. Ask: So, do you really think that married and coupled people deserve more benefits than single people? How can you be against the war and also for fighting in the military? Do you really think that putting people in jail for long periods of time for what they think or say during a crime is a good idea, especially since most people in jail are the already disenfranchised, including the poor? Does "coming out" mean the same in vastly different cultural and political contexts?

What if your co-worker tells you you're being homophobic just for asking these questions? Well, then - that just means that he or she is coming out as a jerk who won't engage with you on a serious level. And that's okay. The best thing about National Coming Out Day, if you ask these questions, might be your discovery that we can be just as nasty as the rest.

Related materials (click for links):

The Guide's interview with Joseph Massad, author of Desiring Arabs.

Bill Andriette's piece on the Iran hangings of, which is also an excellent analysis of US queer politics and its (often misguided) relationship to geopolitics.

My interview with Arsham Parsi, head of IRQO (Iranian Queer Organisation), which touched upon the issue of Western queers agitating on behalf of queers elsewhere.

* Yes, I'm aware that Coming Out Day isn't always meant to be taken literally; let's just go with the metaphor here.


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I respect your right to these opinions but have to say that you are talking about what you think and want which is fine for you. I choose to think about what I want and think but also what others should have the ability to do such as have a career in the military and not get thrown our for being who they are. I may not agree with a war but guess what this was happening when there was no war! Also, as for the idea of single people not having the same benefits most times they do. Your claim that murderers, robbers and the like get enough prison time is only partially true. Tell that to Sean Kennedy's mother whose son's killer will only serve about three years. There are many times when people get very little time for these things. It is wrong. And I agree that there is little reason to come out every year as I live as an out person. But this is designed for people who are not yet out more than for me. So you may not need to but don't assume it is not good for some to do. You asked who would a person come out for and my answer is themselves and many others who see it is okay to be who you are. To me your post comes across very negatively about everything. People are trying to do good things and make progress and others seem determined to find the problem with it. Not sure why.

Rann,

"you are talking about what you think and want which is fine for you." Yes, that's why I write thes blogs.

The U.S is always been in a war, somewhere, at some point, either directly or indirectly, for at least the last 50 years - not all of them have been accounted for by the mainstream media. And I think you miss the point entirely.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Yasmin-

I realize that is why you write the blogs to express your opinions which is why I said I respect that. I am just stating my opposing views. I don't comment only when I agree with some one. So I don't think I missed your point. I jsut disagree with most of it. I also wish you would address my other points about murderers such as Sean Kennedy's and about coming out for oneself, etc.

Ouch. Glad you won't be there. We really don't need all that negative energy.

I will be there standing proud with my gay community.

As always, another insightful and thought provoking entry from Yasmin. As thinking people we must be constantly willing to explore alternative perspectives and evaluate them against our own ideas and notions. This is how we grow. The constant "Rah rah rah" of the "gay rights" movement can become so myopic in its zeal that it marginalizes many of the people it purports to fight for. Nobody says we have to change our minds. But we do have to listen, HEAR and think.

AmyMo

As an out queer lesbian who sleeps with men, there's never been a space for me in the acronym and I don't imagine that my kind will be allowed on any of the stages.

Actually, there is: It's the "B" in LGBT, which stands for "bisexual." However, if you wish to continue calling yourself a "lesbian who loves cock" out of contrarianism or because your happiness depends on having something to complain about, then have at it.

For instance, some men in India might have sex with each other but still see themselves as "straight" and continue to live with their wives and children.

It's the same way among many men in China (though becoming less so), and it was the same way in this country for many years (and still is, in certain Minneapolis airport restrooms and Colorado megachurches). It's called "the closet." But what do you suppose would happen if these men's wives and children found out that daddy fucks guys? It usually leads to divorce, job loss and social ostracization.

@AmyMo,

Thanks!

@Alaric,

Ahem, it's "queer lesbian who loves cock," thank you. And I don't need people telling me which letter I should adopt, thanks. You also appear to be taking all this quite literally. And hugely simplifying sexual identification categories, as if everyone across borders should adhere to the same labels recycled in the U.S.

As for why many of us prefer "queer" and not "bisexual", I encourage people to read Jessica Hoffman's excellent post "Why I Don't Do "Bi" at

http://www.bilerico.com/2009/04/why_i_dont_do_bi.php

Maybe you're not aware of this, but a "lesbian," by definition, is a woman who is exclusively sexually attracted to women and presumably only has sex with women, unless she's in the closet and fantasizing that the husband on top of her is Pamela Anderson with a strap-on.

Whatever you want to call yourself is fine, whether it's "queer lesbian who loves cock" or "Empress of the Alpha Centauri Imperium," but your expectation that the rest of us are going to accommodate your peculiar personal labeling preference is pretty futile. You're just creating an unrealistic expectation and setting yourself up for disappointment so that you'll have a convenient grievance to bitch about, it seems.

[ Puts hands to face ]

No!! Really? So THAT'S the real meaning of lesbian?

I rather like "Empress of the Alpha Centauri Imperium." I think I can add this to the many names I've been called on this site.

[ Shrugs ]

Your fondness for the literal remains undimmed.

I'm really not interested in these silly mind games or in explaining, in this day and age, why some of us might prefer queer - and I wonder about your obsession with following me around bilerico with these increasingly more bizarre summations/inquiries about why I do or write what I do.

In case anyyone reading this is wondering - Alaric is among those who follows my posts and launches into some very interesting trajectories, most of which have nothing to do with the original post. For more evidence of this, please see, for instance, "Prop 8 is a Distraction, or NOW Can We Dump Gay Marriage as a Cause?"

http://www.bilerico.com/2009/05/not_a_defeatvictory_but_a_disraction_pro.php

or any of my other posts.

"Fondness for the literal?" No, I'm just fond of correct use of language, and I don't subscribe to post-modernist cognitive relativism. If you like the term "queer," then by all means call yourself that. But "lesbian?" Sorry, if you're sexually attracted to men, you're not a lesbian, any more than those Indian men who sleep with men are straight. Calling yourself something doesn't make it so.

As for your stance on hate crimes legislation, I can understand and respectfully disagree with it. But my response to you will be the same as my response to people who oppose hate crime laws from a conservative/libertarian standpoint: Whether you think hate crime laws should exist is irrelevant for the simple reason that they do exist, and as long as they exist, they should be fairly applied. It's the same way with marriage. Marriage, whether you like it or not, is a contractual agreement and a foundational institution in our society, and it should therefore also be fairly applied.

Now, if you want to argue for eliminating hate crime laws and eliminating marriage, then fine, but that isn't going to happen for a long, long time. Eliminating marriage, in particular, would entail radical social change that is unlikely to occur in our lifetimes. So for the time being, we have little choice but to work with what we have.

Yes, and war has been proven to be good for getting messy governments out of our way, so we should keep forging ahead with that. And on, and on, and on...

On a related note: It's ironic to me that so many people who insist that I'm not an activist ( I don't necessarily know if Alaric falls in that category) then also insist that I and others like me should do nothing to alter the status quo.

Have a good venting day. I'm back to do the work I need to do.

Yes, and war has been proven to be good for getting messy governments out of our way, so we should keep forging ahead with that. And on, and on, and on...

And logical fallacies are a time-tested and true way to water down your arguments and avoid actually addressing people's points.

Yasmin;
Provocative as always, and delightfully so.
My personal beef with the event is that it is by and large a march for a legislative agenda set by an elite few and fed to us like an addictave opiate.

I was not a fan of attatching the hate crimes legislation to a military expenditure bill that will allow us to continue an unwinnable war with no clear goals and no workable strategy at the cost of lives. As a mother of a soldier, I have strong feelings about wasting lives for political approval points or macho posturing.

Why can't we have a hate crimes bill not purchased with the blood of others?

Why can't we have an ENDA without the concurrent granting of special priviledges to practice discrimination for the Right Wing Theonomic Christianists?

Why can we not have a long overdue medical outreach initiative for Lesbians?

I disagree with you on the relative value of hate crimes legislation seeing some of the ridiculously low sentences handed out to the murderers of trans-people but like you I oppose the death penalty as a rule for anything except genocide.

I do support an end to DADT but doubt that we will see it from our Nobel Prize winning President.

I've rambled long enough.

I enjoyed the article. Well done.

Thanks, Maura, for your considered and considerate views.

I hear you on HCL, and I'm glad we can have a civil conversation on the same despite our differences on the issue.

Alaric;
As a Lesbian Feminist, I have to interject in your latest visceral reaction to Yasmin to remark that I find a man denying a woman her self-defined status offensive. Besides, you are clearly not a gay man since we all know that gay men are rabidly promiscuous and never would support same-sex marriage.

If you find that offensive, know that it does not reflect my feelings on that subject; it is an illustration of just how offensive I find your setting criteria for Sapphism to be.

"It's the same way among many men in China (though becoming less so), and it was the same way in this country for many years (and still is, in certain Minneapolis airport restrooms and Colorado megachurches). It's called "the closet." But what do you suppose would happen if these men's wives and children found out that daddy fucks guys? It usually leads to divorce, job loss and social ostracization."

"The closet" is a Western construct. I think the discussion here is about approaching other cultures with political ideals formed from our definition of morality. Isn't that a form of imperialism? And no, I'm not suggesting that anyone stand idly by while someone else is tortured or killed for an act of sex. I'm just saying, shouldn't we walk several miles in someone else's shoes before we assume that they'd like us to come in and liberate them from "closets" they didn't even know they were living it?

Guys in China who secretly sleep with men -- whether they're married or have girlfriends on the side or not -- are acutely aware that they're in the closet, even though they might not necessarily use the same term (though they often do).

In the old days, some men would sleep with men and have wives and mistresses; the difference is that they didn't hide it like they do now.

Gay men in China who marry or date women do so out of family obligation and because of pressure from parents, not because they are genuinely into women, even if they call themselves "straight," and they often have little or no sexual relationship with their wives and have to fantasize about men just to get it up. If you look at gay life in this country back in the 1950s and earlier, it was virtually identical. The reason is that societies and cultures -- especially complex ones -- have a tendency to impose unfair demands on people that don't necessarily match up with their actual biological needs.

What's happening in China now is that a lot of gay men -- particularly younger ones -- are coming out to peers and parents, while more and more gay teenagers are embracing a gay or bisexual identity, thanks largely to the Internet and their ability to connect with each other.

Cultural relativism only works up to a point, and I say that as the son of an anthropologist who's from a multicultural household. We're still the same species, regardless of whether we live in India, China or the U.S.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | October 9, 2009 4:46 PM

Guys in China who secretly sleep with men -- whether they're married or have girlfriends on the side or not -- are acutely aware that they're in the closet, even though they might not necessarily use the same term

Omg. I don't care whose son you are, that statement perfectly illustrates the mentality both AmyMo and Yasmin are decrying.

Yeah, I couldn't say it better than AmyMo just did, but to chime in: There is something incredibly short-sighted and ignorant about assuming that it means the same thing to be in "the closet" in one country as it does to be in any other country. Maybe if you actually read a book by Massad or another imperialist scholar you would get some of the context that your statements tend to so severely lack, and you could cease to express immediate disdain for anyone who *dares* to look critically at the values you consider so unimpeachable.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | October 9, 2009 4:42 PM

I'm just saying, shouldn't we walk several miles in someone else's shoes before we assume that they'd like us to come in and liberate them from "closets" they didn't even know they were living it?

Excellently put, AmyMo!!

"Do you really think that putting people in jail for long periods of time for what they think or say during a crime is a good idea"

Hate crimes legislation isn't about what somebody says during a crime, it is about the motivation behind the crime itself. It isn't about tacking on some extra punishment to a random crime because the perpetrator has made homophobic comments, it's about punishing perpetrators who specifically target queer people.

I find it hard to see hate crimes as contributing unfairly to the prison industrial complex, because hate bias is extremely hard to prove in court. That has been the case with racially motivated hate crime, and I doubt it will be any different for the queer variety.

Discerning, in whatever way the system deems possible, the motive behind a crime is exactly about being able to tack on more years to the penalty.

Hate bias is not hard to prove if there are enough political motivations to do so, and that's the biggest problem with the legislation - that it can be manipulated to benefit the most affluent, not those whose lives are threatened on a daily basis. Most of those who do get targeted most violently - whether for gender identity/expression or perceived sexual orientation - are also those least likely to get restitution from the legal system.

The system need to work to first prevent crime and then deal with the crime itself, not with the motivations; we already have punishments in place for the crimes committe, and adding motivations as one more marker will not decrease crimes.

"Discerning, in whatever way the system deems possible, the motive behind a crime is exactly about being able to tack on more years to the penalty."

There is still a difference between the way you put it and the way I did. The way you described it, hate crimes are like how seat belt laws are enforced in many places--a tool for the officer to tack on additional charges or as an excuse to pull someone over in the first place.

But hate crimes are more like trying to discern the difference between 1st and 2nd degree murder, or between murder and manslaughter. Except hate bias is a lot harder to prove than mere premeditation.

"Most of those who do get targeted most violently - whether for gender identity/expression or perceived sexual orientation - are also those least likely to get restitution from the legal system."

I agree with you there, but I don't think that that is a reason to reject hate crimes altogether. Rather I see it as a reason to not stop reform at hate crimes legislation.

"The system need to work to first prevent crime and then deal with the crime itself, not with the motivations"

I'd rather the system deal with all of the above, myself, because the motivation partly defines the nature of the crime and the amount of harm it can inflict.

I meant to respond to Jamie when I posted my comment that appears below.

What a difference one checkbox makes --- sorry!


Very appropriately, when you open Yasmin's rant, I mean post, the ad "FART BUTTON" appears. This is much more on the money, than what I was going to say about all her bad air on everything. Yasmin, don't poop on the parade !

If you don't like the agenda of the Equality March, start your own organization and DO SOMETHING. Many people think that it is important for politicians and for straight America to understand that our community is not apathetic.

I hope that you are correct that the participants are young. Let's see. This is the generation that has been spoon-fed their gay rights since they were born. It is important for them to get active, give money, and continue the fights for EQUALITY.

Yasmin, you have made yourself terminally unique.

I'm going to play Devil's Advocate here --- and since I'm a former Libertarian (capital L) I know this argument well.

You say, "Hate crimes legislation isn't about what somebody says during a crime, it is about the motivation behind the crime itself." I might shoot someone (a) because I want to rob them (b) because I don't like the way they are dressed, or (c) because I think they are queer, or (d) because I'm bored and out to stir up some trouble.

Now, why does my "motivation" make the crime any worse or any less? My crime still means that an innocent someone experiences terrible physical injury and pain, goes to the hospital (if he's that lucky), and maybe dies; and has to live with the painful memory and possible resulting fear from the experience I have put him (or her) through.

Why is "That guy shot me because he thought I'm queer" worse than "That guy shot me because he thought I dress funny" or "That guy shot me because he thought I was rich"?

Personally, I have come to support hate crimes, but only if the hate crime penalty is small --- it's the same physical crime either way. And I, personally, am more interesting in causing the hate crimes perpetrator to have to carry the burden and social stigma of having been convicted of a "hate crime" than I am in substantially increasing his sentence.

That's my view. I know that most GLBT people who discuss such things disagree with it, and so be it.

"it's the same physical crime either way"

The thing is that individual crimes do not exist in a vacuum. When a crime is committed there is an emotional and cultural impact that extends far beyond the crime itself. It affects not just the victim, but the victim's family, friends, and community. That impact is greater when the attack is made against an entire community rather than an individual person.

"Why is 'That guy shot me because he thought I'm queer' worse than 'That guy shot me because he thought I dress funny' or 'That guy shot me because he thought I was rich'?"

This is getting close to the argument conservatives try to use to label hate crimes as "special treatment". The difference is that people are rarely targeted for violence strictly because they "dress funny" or are rich, but people are regularly attacked for being queer. Again, this extends beyond the crime itself and into the culture of violence surrounding it.

Jamie,

I think yours is among the more nuanced approaches I've seen but I'd like to point out that people are, in fact, targeted for their perceived social and economic status. You can be targeted for "looking rich," and that may not garner much sympathy, but you can be targeted for looking poor, or vulnerable, or because you have a visible disability.

The point I'm trying to make here is that we all belong to different communities, and "community" can mean one thing for those of us inhabiting them, but it can mean something else entirely when it's the law deciding that our belonging to a community is one more way that it can push for penalty enhancement.

I think the great difficulty for those of us who know what it's like to be queer-bashed is our full understanding that the law does not work in our favour. I have a friend who works with trans youth and/sex workers, and they get screwed over by law and order from all sides - if they're hauled in for soliciting, they're likely to be penalised much more because of trans-phobia. If they complain about being harassed on the street, or of being brutalised by clients, their complaints will not be taken seriously - if at all. So, my friends' clients are the last ones to be critical of HCL.

The same is true for cis gender female street sex workers - but here's the rub: the latter are just as likely to be targeted for being who they are. But is the law likely to consider them a community worth protecting? For that matter, is society at large likely to consider them worth protecting? How do we define vulnerability? How and when do we decide what communities are worth protecting? When you add to all of this the fact that "bias" can be, and often has, been proven after the fact, the picture gets very complex indeed. And there are situations where bias against one community can be seen as outweighing the other.

Another example: A colleague of mine, a lawyer, has talked about a case where a relatively poor, South Asian immigrant got into a fight with two relatively affluent gay white men in Chicago. Both sides hurled racial and sexual epithets at each other. Guess which person got jail time for a hate-based crime? In this case, the social class of two white gay men in a city that reassures affluent gay men that they will be protected is what got them off.

No one should dispute that bias might exist in the execution of some crimes, but a crime is a crime, and all crimes affect communities, even those not as well-defined as some. But those of us who resist HCL do so because we're also working towards our goal of a society where the legal system actually hands out justice. With HCL, justice looks too much like vengeance.

"You can be targeted for 'looking rich,' and that may not garner much sympathy, but you can be targeted for looking poor, or vulnerable, or because you have a visible disability."

Are these groups met with nearly as much hostility as queer people? Does a huge sect of the population believe these people to be lesser human beings undeserving of basic human dignity? Has there been a long history in this country of these people being met with violence?

You can be targeted for looking rich, but the treatment those people may face is an order of magnitude less than what people who are visibly queer face.

"The same is true for cis gender female street sex workers [but] the latter are just as likely to be targeted for being who they are"

Are cisgender women nearly as likely as trans women to be kicked out of their homes, disowned by family, denied employment and housing just for being who they are? A greater percentage of trans women are sex workers than in the greater female population because of that kind of discrimination, so the comparison isn't as equal as you claim. And I would definitely argue that trans women sex workers are more likely to be violently assaulted than cisgender ones.

I personally feel the solution to this particular problem is to legalize prostitution, or at the very least criminalize the johns and not the sex workers themselves.

I don't think hate crimes are a perfect solution, but I do think they are a step in the right direction. I do understand where you are coming from, I just do not agree that the shortcomings of HCL are enough reason to dismiss them entirely.

I think the shortcomings of HCL (like with the last example you give) are caused by faults in other areas of the justice system, which need to be addressed and fixed separately.

I get you on the history of violence - but my question then is: And why do we think that more incarceration - which has been proven to only create worse conditions and increase disenchantment and which, especially these days when prison guarantees you a lack of access to the possibility of restitution or education so that you might emerge with some chance of returning to society with transformed views - will in any way help change that history of violence?

My comparisons were made for the sake of comparison, to illustrate the different issues faced by different communities. I'm disturbed by the idea that we might now move in the direction of comparing oppressions - and that's exactly what HCL does; it fine-tunes the idea that some groups, essentially, matter more than others. Depending on it to remedy a history of violence allows us to evade the responsibility of effecting any kind of systemic change.

I'm not going to go down the road of deciding whose oppression matters more.

I think we've reached the point where our arguments are just going to start repeating themselves, so I'm bowing out. Thank you for the debate, it was very insightful.

Jamie - yes, I think that may be the case. But thanks for engaging for this long; I found the discussion useful and insightful as well.

Well, I'm glad that there are people here who, regardless of whether or not they agree with me, are capable of carrying on a conversation that's above the poop and fart jokes that just emerged. Or the endless vitriol of "You're no lesbian! I deny you agency!!"

I think this is turning out to be an interesting and nuanced discussion and I hope it'll continue. I don't think too much of this gets discussed in either the mainstream press or the gay press, so this is a good start.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | October 9, 2009 4:53 PM

I agree. And Jamie, your point about hate crimes affecting the larger community are, IMO, one of the strongest arguments in favor of the legislation. I'm not sure what my overall opinion is. I'm still mulling it all over.

at a super-secret conclave of the Lesbian Leadership, the group Heterodoxy, last evening....no one mentioned pulling Yasmin's "Sapphist in Good Standing" card so til that happens she remains entitled "to all of the rights and priviledges therunto appertaining" including muff munching and calling herself a Lesbian/Sapphist/Practitioner-of-that-love-which-dare-not-speak-its-name

Whew - I'm still in, I'm still in! *Grins and jigs about*

Thanks, Maura - I know you put in a good word for me!

Rush Limbaugh also likes to lambaste the "mainstream press". And speaking of "Mainstream Press" (rightly or wrongly the media reaching almost every person in the USA), it is the Marriage Issue that has gotten the Mainstream Press to put our agenda on the front page of every paper in America, on every talk show, and has almost every politician talking about gay rights in some fashion. All the other issues (although of immense importance) have failed to engage ALL of America and ALL of the media in such a discussion. The discussion is the necessary first step to us getting equality. Even if you are against marriage, or the importance of marriage on the LGBTQ agenda, whatever your main issue is, you have the MARRIAGE ISSUE to thank for getting any attention from the media.
Marriage is the issue to engage people on our whole agenda.
Too bad you do not like HRC. It has won immense respect for LGBTQ lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C. One can always be negative and nit-pick, but the battle for EQUAL RIGHTS is in reality in early stages, yet moving very fast.
Too bad you won't be in DC marching. The kindergarten lesson "If you want a friend, you gotta be a friend" applies. The LGBTQ coalition needs representatives of all the alphabet in its acronym. Yasmin, you should be there. There are times when people rally together and put their differences aside.

"It has won immense respect for LGBTQ lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C."

At least, when it comes to pushing for rights that affect affluent white gay men. Their track record on other issues (especially trans rights) isn't nearly as respectable. They have done a lot of good, but they are far from being paragons of equality. And "nitpicking" those flaws--which in some cases are very serious--is crucial if we want to achieve true equality.

Drake,

I think Jamie has taken on your point quite well below, but I'll add:

What's really hilarious - beside the fact that your comment is copied and pasted in from *every* comment that you've ever made on my Bilerico posts (and again, I recommend that people go to any of my posts, especially the recent ones on gay marriage, to see the evidence) - is that I didn't even mention HRC. I merely referred to fat cat organisations - so I find it supremely delightful that you are the one to decide that I was referring to HRC. Well, hey, if the shoe fits...

I generally don't engage your points, because you, like Alaric below, have only got the one and I learnt a long time ago that there is no conversation to be had with someone who has only one train of thought (Alex's points below are all well taken and relevant here), but I just thought I'd mention it. At least try to come up with something original. And try not to be so obvious.

As I said above, I'm not going to engage with adolescent personalities (even the most fascinating Armenian-Latino-Maori circumcised lesbian women among them) who simply show up with the exact same points, verbatim.

And now, back to the original broadcast among the adults here.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | October 9, 2009 5:04 PM

has gotten the Mainstream Press to put our agenda on the front page of every paper in America

Ah, so now it's our agenda?! Just when did I get to vote on that? And please don't say something along the lines of, "If you don't like it, start your own organization." I'm one of the few who actually got off the couch and went out and volunteered on the "No on 8" campaign--and that's far from the last issue I put myself on the line for.

But like Yasmin and many other queers, I'm fed up on the way marriage and DADT have become the measure of whether a person is with us or against us, as well as the sinkhole both issues have become for energy, attention, and donations. And I'm offended by the campaign to present our community as "just like you," with the you being middle America.

So, no, that "agenda" is not mine.

I thought I'd add a few things here:

1. I don't personally agree with everything Yasmin says here, although I think that a lot of her insights are right on. Especially the part about being gay coming to mean that we buy into certain political ideas and ideologies; the fact that there are people in this thread are saying that she isn't a lesbian kinda proves that point. It reminds me of Aravosis saying Barney Frank is "formerly gay" because he isn't mad enough at Barack Obama.

2. Someone's a lesbian if they say they're a lesbian, especially online. I've known lesbians who date the occasional guy, and lesbians who have long-term relationships with trans men. I know women who identify as "bisexual" who only date men, and straight women who've had some experiences with women before. These categories aren't that clear-cut.

What is clear-cut is the fact that, over the internet or even in reality, we can't know what's going on in someone else's head or body or even what they do with their lives.

I also find the statement about men in India important - I actually do think that there's a difference between a man who has sex with men and goes home to his wife and kids and a man (like me) who lives with his boyfriend. In the US, that's not the difference between gay and straight, but that's an important difference to look at nonetheless. Why do we divide ourselves along the "has sex with same vs. opposite gender" line and not along the "has/seeks relationships with same vs. opposite gender or doesn't seek LTR's" line? These are important questions worth discussing without getting personal.

3. yasmin's been posting here for about 2 years. No one's going to change her mind with their comments. She's not going to change anyone's mind if they're the sort of person who would leave a fart joke comment on this thread on a site geared towards adults.

In the end, though, I think that we're all better for having had these discussions, even if we don't convince one another.

4. I love the "you're not an activist" argument and how it gets thrown around. Are we about to pull out resumes and compare their lengths like penises? I remember debating someone who used to blog at AmericaBlog on something like 5 years ago, and he was all like, I blog with John Aravosis, who once organized a Stop Dr. Laura protest. I couldn't stop laughing.

Seriously, some people here do more work in the real world (and online world!) that could be labeled "activism" than others. Fine. That doesn't mean that those who don't aren't entitled to an opinion, or that you know what someone else does just based on whether you agree with them or not.

the fact that there are people in this thread are saying that she isn't a lesbian kinda proves that point. It reminds me of Aravosis saying Barney Frank is "formerly gay" because he isn't mad enough at Barack Obama. ... Someone's a lesbian if they say they're a lesbian, especially online. I've known lesbians who date the occasional guy.

As far as I know, Barney Frank is only sexually attracted to men and only sleeps with men. His political views don't change the fact that he's gay. However, Yasmin sleeps with men, which would basically mean she isn't a lesbian, which means "homosexual woman."

And "someone's a lesbian if they say they're a lesbian?" Okay, then: I'm an Armenian-Latino-Maori lesbian woman with a circumcised penis. Granted, I have no Armenian, Latino or Maori ancestry and was not raised in any of those cultures; I'm biologically and psychologically male (not MTF) and only into guys; and I have a foreskin. But I'm an Armenian-Latino-Maori circumcised lesbian woman because I say I am online.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | October 9, 2009 5:09 PM

I'm an Armenian-Latino-Maori lesbian woman with a circumcised penis

Interesting that you managed to bring your penis into a discussion of identity. Says a lot.

Interesting that you managed to bring your penis into a discussion of identity. Says a lot.

Like what, that I have a sense of irony and absurdity?

May I suggest to everyone on this thread that we let immature points simply die a natural death and that we not respond to the insecure adolescent types - the ones who simply can't stop arguing needless points even where there is no argument in sight, and who have been flitting from point to point without really connecting the dots, all in a vain attempt to prove how smart they can be in their retorts? And whose tactics - like childishly repeating, in bold format, no less, the words of anyone who dares question them - are beginnning to give me flashbacks to kindergarten. I can practically hear the whining voice behind the comments...

There are some good discussions going on here, especially among Brynn, AJ, and Jamie, for instance, particularly around hate crimes legislation -- and I'd hate to see all that being hijacked by more childishness. Shuhlayisnice has posted the Sylvia Riviera Law Project statement on HCL, and I do recommend taking a look at that.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | October 9, 2009 6:04 PM

Like what,that I have a sense of irony and absurdity?

Actually, no.

More like your obvious lack of awareness of just how much privilege merely possessing such an organ instantly conveys, from birth onward, in pretty much every culture on the globe. Otherwise, I seriously doubt you would have made such an analogy.

Gee, Brynn, read too far into things much?

I don't read this site as much as I used to, not because there's nothing on it that I like, but because it seems to attract this crowd of bitter, overly PC, humorless types prone to doing things like interpreting an ironic and sarcastic comment that happened to mention the writer's penis as a sexist remark.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | October 9, 2009 7:47 PM

bitter, overly PC, humorless types prone to doing things like interpreting an ironic and sarcastic comment that happened to mention the writer's penis as a sexist remark.

When you can't argue the point, make personal attacks, eh? Am I surprised? No.

If you don't like personal attacks, then don't make them in the first place.

When you are a woman then we will discuss whether or not anyone is or is not a Lesbian.

The sheer effrontery of arrogating to yourself that kind of power to define one of us is infuriating, Alaric.

Not only do you not understand what a Lesbian is, but we are never going to let you in on the secret out of spite.

Well, I suppose that I ought to share this tidbit with you: some women can enjoy sexual encounters with either sex but only form any kind of emotional attatchment with women. We call them...(wait for it).....Lesbians

From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

lesbian
Function: noun
Date: circa 1890

: a woman who is a homosexual

Oh, the sheer effrontery of it all! How dare those assholes at Merriam-Webster arrogate to themselves the power to define words! As an Armenian-Latino-Maori lesbian with a circumcised penis, I find that racist!

Seriously, though, all this PC cognitive relativism is actually rather amusing, even if it's just so...1994. My whole point, of course, is that words have meanings, and whatever emotional comfort you derive from giving an inaccurate label to yourself and however infuriating you find it when somebody points out the contradictory nature of calling oneself a lesbian who likes men are irrelevant. If you're a woman who likes men but still calls herself a "lesbian," then by that logic, Ward Churchill is Native American simply because he says he is, even though he has no Native American ancestry.

Maura,

I think you've made excellent points here, but they're going to go right above Alaric's head. I've interacted with scores of people like him, mostly frustrated wanna-be academics or academics (note his need to declare himself the "son of an anthropologist" and the classic stand-by, the rush to Merriam-Webster) who suffer from the persistent need to best themselves in rhetorical battles and thrive on the attention they get in these constructed flame wars. And most of them have also been deeply sexist men. Of course, this is the web, so for all we know Alaric will someday reveal himself to be a talking mouse (and, I suspect, that may not be an entirely inappropriate guess on my part).

This blog's really not about lesbian identity, and none of us need justify our labels to any one, and I think those who want to make that the focus are doing so because they have no clue about how to engage the real issues raised here and because they don't want the discussion to happen. As you and other regular Bilerico readers are well aware - Drake, Alaric, Robert, and Javier, and others who are yet to emerge - are part of the pack that persists in following me around and it's sometimes amusing to watch them. But at this point, I feel like echoing Willow in Buffy, when she herself turned into a vampire and was tired of playing with Angel: "Bored now." Boys, boys, boys, your obsession with me is beginning to look a lot like a weird stalking kind of crush.

In all seriousness, if your comments are not going to further the conversation and you're just here to prove how clever you can be - get off and stay off. I'm one of the bilerico bloggers who consistently responds to comments and tries to stay engaged - not everybody does that - but that doesn't entitle you to use this or me as your punching bag.

Maura, you provided more clarification than some deserve or need, and I think your points are well made. There's more than a trace of sexism in the comments by those who question a woman's self-declared sexual identity, as we can tell, and I think it's best to leave some people alone, especially when they demonstrate such dangerously high levels of contempt and misogyny - and yet attempt to paint themselves as sorta, kinda, somewhere on the left.

No matter what you or anyone else says, these underdeveloped adults will stew, like petulant children, and then return with some pouty comment that, essentially repeats the classic childish tactic of mocking by repeating - it's the sort of thing five year olds and extremely insecure and insufficiently socialised adults tend to do. You've seen them do the same thing, over and over again, on my previous blogs. I suspect that, for some of them, there's a long history of alienation and frustration that would be sad if it weren't also quite so ... strange and downright creepy. Unfortunately, the web allows people with too much time and not enough social ties to adopt monikers of their choice (or even use their real names) and roam around creating flame wars just for the heck of it. It's incumbent upon us adults to keep the conversation going. Which is to say, I'm so glad there are adults like you around, and I can't thank you enough for your sanity. The children should probably just put themselves to bed.

Shuhlayisnice | October 9, 2009 3:55 PM

A good article on why hate crimes legislation isn't the best way for our community to feel safe. http://srlp.org/node/301

yasmin,
can you be specific on what you mean by this?:
"The neoliberal fetishisation of identity means that public embraces of the "LGBT" acronym is just another way to increase inequality by pretending that individual identity "...etc

it's not very specific...

also,
"an out queer lesbian who sleeps with men"
i have heard this before,and i am not bi or anything, but is it not possible to see this as "bi-phobic"?
why not just say "queer" and not lesbian at all.
what does "lesbian" mean as an identity anymore, anyway?not the sameas historically it seems....
(which IS good, inclusive of all "types" of people, right?)

i am personally against identity politics, other then lobbying reasons, it's ALWAYS divisive....

also:
"As someone once said to me, "We [queers] used to be the most interesting people in the room. Look at us now."

but what bullshit!people are interesting as individuals, right? aren't you arguing AGAINST "identity" as a THING, rather then a personal collective of traits? how can it be both ways?
gays etc. are PEOPLE.
not neccessarily "more interesting"!
that is like a 1950's gay politics trope or something....!

also:
"For instance, some men in India might have sex with each other but still see themselves as "straight" and continue to live with their wives and children. According to our logic, such men just need to come out and be happy under rainbow-hued umbrellas, an attitude that's both simplistic and dictatorial. "

if those men are possibly unable to live as "gay"or homosexual exclusively if they wanted to, and were oppressed by their culture, would you see it differantly?
i would.how can we in either direction make up their minds FOR THEM?

are WE exporting "gay" or are they IMPORTING"gay"?
that would be my question.are we really controlling anyone?(not saying that we *the west* don't TRY in alot of ways, lol....)
-thank you.

yasmin,
i am only now reading the comments. i hope you will still address mine seperatly, as the answers interest me, even if the q's are similar to some above.....
thank you.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | October 9, 2009 11:28 PM

"tolerate us just a leeeetle bit more."

Civil Rights movements are like that.

"Gay community?" We are not organized enough and everyone loves to disagree anyway.

Gay Marriage, you make an excellent point. I am not "married" but I have a partner these past 33 years. No one should be advantaged or disadvantaged by marriage. Now, lets get rid of those child tax credits too while we are at it.

Gays in the military, you overlook the tremendous good we are capable of doing for the world and ourselves by proper use of our military. It reminds me of the story of the Frenchman who decried our sending an aircraft carrier to a disaster zone. "What are they going to do bomb them?"

The aircraft carrier had helicopters to evacuate injured to it's enormous hospital, could generate power from its nuclear turbines and transmit it to land to power hospitals, could prepare 9000 meals per day in its galley and it's deck could serve as a staging area to distribute disaster supplies to hard hit parts of the effected country.

There is much to be proud of in what our military can do when it is used properly both foreign and domestic. We deserve to be part of that if we choose to be. We are equal participants or we are not. What is needed is the discipline to do so.

A "militant pacifist" who can do nothing to help anyone is a neutered militant pacifist.

Re "Hate Crimes" I side with AJ and confer upon you the additional title of:

"Divine Reclining Sapphist"

Shortly the monks and nuns in saffron robes will arrive to worship you in your preferred manner.

hi yasmin, (above you say that :)

"Well, I'm glad that there are people here who, regardless of whether or not they agree with me, are capable of carrying on a conversation that's above the poop and fart jokes that just emerged. Or the endless vitriol of "You're no lesbian! I deny you agency!!"

I think this is turning out to be an interesting and nuanced discussion and I hope it'll continue. I don't think too much of this gets discussed in either the mainstream press or the gay press, so this is a good start. "

ok,i have addressed you politely,
and i have made DIFFERANT points
then others above, so i'm not sure
why you can't respond to me.
as you have replied to matillda,
i guess you're still around...

i think the questions i asked were both civil
and valid.and as you point out, civil disagreement is valid disagreement.

i also had someone send me this:

blog.okcupid.com/index.php/2009/10/05/your-race-affects-whether-people-write-you-back/

i hope that isn't going on here, i do feel that i notice that response ALOT online, and have considered changing to a more anonymous online moniker, (instead of Javier, a spanish name...)

and also, ftm's feel marginalized and invisible alot of the time, as you know.
sincerely,
javier

ps trying to be polite...

Yasmin,

This morning when I saw your post I was happy and relieved to see that you were still around.

As usual, I agree with your points and am disappointed to see the responses you've gotten.

What people don't understand under the question of neoliberalism is the ways in which people want to believe that the "identities" they choose serve to partly support late capitalist market economies. In this sense, gay and lesbian identity is supported only to the extent that it serves to legitimate state discourses of property and privacy. That's why gay marriage as "the issue" is able to get on the front page of newspapers, because it ultimately does not really disrupt questions of the larger market economy.
I won't even get into the ways in which marriage works as a disciplining mechanism.

As for the question of the closet, people don't even understand its nuances within an American context. One may be out to a circle of friends or to certain people, but may choose to not be "out" to family or coworkers for a variety of other reasons. The discourse of the closet is ultimately a progressivist narrative that does little else than legitimate certain kinds of gayness while aggressively disavowing other forms of subjectivities and necessities.
Thus, the paradigm that sustains the closet is also able to delimit what kind of gay and lesbian identities are available and acceptable (allowing someone to say, "you can't be a lesbian! what are you talking about!? Haven't you read the DICTIONARY?!). Of course, this is a way of forgetting that institutional discourses are ever-changing and that the definitions in the dictionary (or in pop culture) are heavily marked by certain kinds of discourses around what an acceptable space of sexuality is.

This is a bit scattered, but again, it was lovely to see a voice of dissent this morning around all the hoopla concerning this march.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | October 10, 2009 1:56 AM

Well said, Ivan! You articulated several threads that were running in my head but that I allowed Alaric to derail.

If anyone want's to take away your sapphist standing, they're going to have to take away Sappho's first, let's not forget that she had sex with men too. If anyone who had sex with men was no longer a lesbian, there'd be a lot less lesbians out there. Take a look at any "famous lesbians throughout history" poster, and you'll find that half or more of them had sex with men.

Sure, we can start making exceptions. You won't lose you're lesbian status if it's a loveless marriage, or for money, or you always disasociated through it. But where do you draw the line? What about if it was only before you came out but you happened to really like it. What if it still happens, but only once every several years? What if it's only with guys who are queer? What if you really want to but you don't just because of what your friends would say? What if you're head over heels for one guy in particular but never felt attracted to any other many ever? I could think of a dozen more.

Looking over the way this thread has gone, it makes me wonder: is coming out the problem is it how, why, and what we come out as? Frankly, I see a lot of benefit coming from your coming out as a "queer lesbian who sleeps with men." It makes me want to come out as that too. If enough of us do, maybe we can get you up on that stage.

well i guess politness isn't the "point" with you.
ok,forget it.
have a good one.

Oh and as to the hate crimes discussion, I want to say that ideally, it's not about what someone says or thinks but about the impact they are having. When someone graffiti's violent and hateful language over a community space, that's doing more damage than require a new paint job. And when someone is attacked based on a minority identity, that entire minority community is impacted. It's the classic definition of terrorism. And it makes sense to take that additional impact into consideration when determining things like resources for investigating the crime or putting an end to a crime spree.

Of course, we both know that handing over idealist policies to law enforcement doesn't work out as planned. I have no doubt it is disproportionately enforced (like all laws) and that it might be turned against the population it's supposed to protect. And considering the problems of the prison industrial complex, we don't need "sentencing enhancements" under any circumstances. Those are reason enough to oppose hate crimes without having to deny the greater impact a crime has when it's directed against a community and not just an individual.

Hi Ivan,

Thanks - you've put it really well, as always. I'll keep referring people to your points (although some here seem to assume I'm here to provide private tutorials 24/7). Along the lines of what you've written: I suspect that the hysteria around and adherence to and guardianship of categories ("OMG, you're no lesbian!") is one more way for people to avoid the fact that "the "identities" they choose serve to partly support late capitalist market economies. In this sense, gay and lesbian identity is supported only to the extent that it serves to legitimate state discourses of property and privacy."

Excellent point, and I think that's too much for people to take, especially gays and lesbians who are convinced that both the "coming out" ceremony now officiated by neoliberalism and the call for specious "rights" or "equality" are politically radical acts. Thanks, as always, for your refreshing clarity. It's good to know *you're* still around as well.

Tobi,

Ha, yes, good reminder about Sappho. But then neither history nor reality are what's being pursued here by some of the commenters, or even rational discourse.

Coming out as any one identity, even one that seems to irritate the heck out of people, like "queer lesbian who sleeps with men" isn't any more or less interesting or radical than - though I don't know if that's what you meant. For me, it's less about the identity itself and more about critiquing the context in which that identity becomes a part of the same neoliberal agenda, and Ivan makes those points really well.

As for hate crimes legislation, I think we're on the same page there. Being critical of the idea that some communities' hurt matters more than others - the fine tuning that I criticise above - is not the same as "denying the greater impact a crime has when it's directed against a community and not just an individual." I get terrorism, I get the threats towards a community, and I also get, from what I've seen in Chicago post 9/11 (one example), how that threat can be used to get a community (specifically South Asian immigrant communities harassed for "looking" like terrorists) to embolden law and order's desire to find and imprison members of other communities of colour, particularly the most marginal among them.

....*puts back on ftm invisible man bandages and hat,......leaves.....*
lol

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | October 10, 2009 2:03 AM

javier, did it ever occur to you that not everything revolves around you? that maybe yasmin has a life other than this thread? jeeze. let it go, will ya?

Get off your cross, Javier. Not everyone is going to respond to you but that doesn't mean it has anything to do with your race or gender, which no one knows anyway. This isn't all about you.

For what it's worth Javier, you did ask questions that I would like to see Yasmin answer, as well.

Unfortunate that it was handled in this manner.

I read Bilerico daily but many time I skip the dicussion. Today I'm reminded why.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | October 10, 2009 11:23 AM

Lori, of all the people who post at bilerico, Yasmin is especially dedicated to responding to comments. Need I remind people that bloggers here receive no compensation for the hours and hours of work they put in to keeping this site supplied with interesting posts for readers' entertainment, information, and intellectual stimulation? On the contrary, what we receive instead is often dim-witted insults. (I’m NOT saying that about you nor Javier.) That Yasmin either chose not to respond to Javier’s points, or merely had other things to do in her life is no reason for snarky comments.

Wow! Absolutely stunning, eloquent, nuanced article - really made me think past the Holy Trinity, as you call it. Thank you, thank you!

As a 22 year old gay man, I am part of the "younger generation." Sure, we might be naive. We might not quite understand all of the anger that the "older generation" has, but that is a good thing. We don't have the bitter taste of defeat in our mouths. We are energetic and hopeful. The so-called "older generation" should stop trying to convince us to be cynical; let us be naive and let us have hope. The blame game gets no one anywhere.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | October 11, 2009 2:09 AM

Kevin, if you only wish to read things you agree with you will be one dimensional like many of the "projectors" and posters on this site already. I too am optimistic, but await a willingness on the part of all groups to compromise and work toward mutually desirable goals.

I assume that you regard Yasmin as one of the older generation? You may wish to "naively hope." We who you describe as tainted by defeat and cynical are the ones who have done much of the heavy lifting to allow you a better life. Those who are first discriminated against seldom get the respect they deserve. When we wake up and realize that ours is a Civil rights rather than a "lifestyle" movement we will have come a long way.

Hi Brynn

My comment was not snarky, or is any disagreement with a bloggers behavior considered snarky?

If Yasmin is trying to educate readers than questions and dialogues go along with that.

It was obvious that she chose to answer some questions and not others. That is her choice.

I do believe that you and Alex were over the top with your response to Javier. You both could have easily said the same thing without the "snarky" tone. Perhaps there is a past history that I'm not aware of. Either way, it really doesn't matter.

Yasmin, if you could turn all the controversy you stir up into dollars (like some people know how to do), do you realize how rich you could be?

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | October 10, 2009 5:45 PM

My comment was not snarky, or is any disagreement with a bloggers behavior considered snarky?

So, lori, your earlier comment, "but many time [sic] I skip the dicussion. Today I'm reminded why." is not snark?

All bloggers have the perfect right to respond to some questions and not others. Moreover, there is only so much time in the day, we have lives off the internet, and like I already said, we get no compensation for what we do--meaning most of us have to make livings.

Given the nature of the internet, when we post we're lucky when we provoke some stimulating, intellectual conversation. More common lately on Yasmin's and (to a lesser degree) my posts seem to be many of the same people reiterating the same, tired opposition without introducing new ideas. You have to start to wonder, why these people keep reading our posts. It's evident we're not going to agree on most issues.

So, yes, you could say there is history here. But whether that has even the slightest thing to do with Yasmin's not answering javier, you, or anybody else is anyone's guess. She might just be out exercising her right to be having fun away from her computer.

Bingo, Brynn ... she didn't respond to my last comment either, and your point, Brynn, is especially valid this weekend when, if Yasmin wasn't able to travel to DC, she might be watching things intently on CNN.

Brynn,

I can't thank you enough for your supportive comments. Like you, I'm fascinated by the online temperament and demands of many (but certainly not all) commenters who treat bloggers like outsourced labour and feel that we should be around 24/7 to answer their questions, regardless of whether or not those questions have been answered. Or whether or not we want to engage with them. Blogs are blogs; they're not online universities where an instructor is supposed to be on hand all the time to respond. I've even received one e-mail personally asking why I didn't respond to the sender - apparently, my time is never my own, even off-line.

No blogger is obliged to respond to anyone, and the etiquette, for everyone, should be the same as at any social gathering: mingle loosely, engage with people, have a few polite quibbles if necessary and feel free to move on once someone gets really creepy or just annoying. Mostly, have fun, and try not to hog the refreshments (and yes, that is a metaphor for hijacking threads by focusing on the irrelevant). At bilerico, as at any social gathering, creepy people generally get ignored or smartly shut down by fellow commenters. One of the best examples on this was when Nakhone Keodara also "debated" (one struggles to find a word for the immense silliness around the issue) my sexuality, mostly with himself. Bilerico projectors rose up and clamped down on him in one of the most cutting and hilarious comment threads I've seen in a long time. That thread can be viewed here:

http://www.bilerico.com/2009/01/nation-wide_campaign_campaign_to_create.php

And, as you know, yes, I've always been conscientious about engaging with commenters - and that's evident in all my previous posts. Like Susana below, I'm impressed by the level of discussion here, for the most part.

A.J - nice joke about me watching the march! And in response to your previous comment - yes, the thought has in fact occurred to me, ha. Also, I've sometimes seriously contemplated just putting up my grocery list here on bilerico one day - I actually think there are people who would swarm to criticise even that: "Orange juice?! Real lesbians only have theirs fresh-squeezed! Squeezed by their own hands! And where's her granola?"

For the record, I prefer my fruit whole. And store-bought granola can be really bad for you because it's usually packed with unhealthy trans fats.

Interesting article.
I am a queer/lesbian/lawyer in Vancouver, and fought one of the 3 canadian marriage cases here. We fought it NOT to get spousal benefits (they have beeen available to queers here for years) but on an analysis that said that everyone should have a right to get to gether with whomever they want; and that the right to marry is in every culture part of the collection of institutions of citizenship. Always has been. think anti-miscegenation laws.

Same sex marriage has not been a panacea, but it is undoubtedly true that what I call "mainstream homohphobia " has decreased very very substantially since it was adopted here in 03. By mainstream homophobia I mean the opinions held not by extreme right wingers but by "ordinary folk". It is no longer socially acceptable here to be a queer basher.

I judge the success of the marriage campaign by how bitter and twisted it has made our brothers and sisters on the religious right of the spectrum.

barbara findlay

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | October 12, 2009 10:31 PM

I judge the success of the marriage campaign by how bitter and twisted it has made our brothers and sisters on the religious right of the spectrum.>/i>

Barbara, one of my primary reasons for working on the No on 8 campaign before the election was my hope that kids growing up in a world where "boys could marry boys, and girls could marry girls," would end up a lot less homophobic.

Since the election, the transphobia, racism, and "flight to normalcy" of the marriage-equality campaign's leadership and many of its rank-and-file has driven me off. As well, I've reconsidered the essential conservativism inherent in fighting so strongly for marriage while so many other poor people, children, single parents, non-citizens, and others fall through the cracks.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | October 12, 2009 10:53 PM

(Btw, by my previous comment, I meant to say I appreciated your comment! Thanks for making it.)

yasmin, i simply wanted to say that i completely agree with so many of your comments. to be honest i so often distance myself from the "community" at large because i have spent too much energy attempting to reconcile and defend my thoughts on the same subjects. i am aware and comfortable with my own identity. i do not feel the need to align myself blindly for the sake of unity or sisterhood or any other such thing.

and for those who have commented intelligently and willing to share in open discussion and respect one anothers views, i applaud you!

thank you so much for the post! i actually just caught this link on facebook via a friend and so glad i did!

cheers to you!

Thanks, Susana!

Barbara,

Re:
"I judge the success of the marriage campaign by how bitter and twisted it has made our brothers and sisters on the religious right of the spectrum."

That says a lot about the marriage campaign right there. Nothing about the intrinsic justice of the issue, just about the need to get Right wing angry. Which, especially in the U.S., is ridiculously easy.

At any rate, let's not forget the many important distinctions between Canada and the U.S - including the fact that Canada's marriage laws came much after other issues of parity, like health care, had been fought and won. In the U.S, we're light years away from that. I invite you to come live here without health care and without equitable education in the public school system, if you haven't already, and then see if you still think that marriage should be the most important goal for the gay movement. In other words, comparisons between the U.S and Canada simply don't work.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | October 12, 2009 11:00 PM

Yasmin, I could be wrong but I didn't get the sense that Barbara was advocating marriage as the most important goal for the LGBT movement, but rather observing that for her, an emotional entry point into supporting the issue was that the Religious Right was so against it. Which is something I can identify with. I read her point as a very cursory analysis, not an end all and be all.

Brynn,

Thanks, you're quite right - Barbara didn't state that it was the most important goal for the (Canadian) movement, so I'll take that back.

But as for the rest: She responded as a lawyer involved in one of the cases and spoke for her organisation: "that everyone should have a right to get to gether with whomever they want; and that the right to marry is in every culture part of the collection of institutions of citizenship." I disagree that her statement about the Right was quite how you describe it: "an emotional entry point into supporting the issue was that the Religious Right was so against it." I'll let Barbara elaborate, if she wants, on if that's indeed what she meant. But I stand by what I said in my response to that part, and I still think that statement reveals a lot about the thrust of the "movement."

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | October 13, 2009 10:43 AM

I still think that statement reveals a lot about the thrust of the "movement."

Fair enough. I could be misreading her intent. Barbara, it's for you to clarify, if you wish.

Um.. if i may interrupt this incredible exchange of ideas... (*cough)

Is this really an entire page devoted to terminology and labels? On a Website designed - I assume - for people to perhaps share and listen (please note the 'and' in there).

Labels are things I've never found to be the full truth in every situation and to every person. To my Father I am still his little girl (just now with a mustache) - a confused lesbian to my Mother - and just a chick with friggin issues to many.
So for me the correct of all labels would be transgendered.

But when we get right down to it.
Right down to the bones of the matter - It's about who we love. Isn't it? I found that after a few years of living as me, the idea of sexually filling that part of me that still remains turns me on a bit. and since it is attached biologically to men, some might call me bi. But I would not. And who knows me better than me about the things of, well me? No body obviously.
So were i to say I do enjoy sex - that's JUST sex now - equally with men or with women, then maybe I'd be a bi-transguy.
But truth be told, i don't. I have gone full circle. Went from lying to myself that a vagina even exists - to now speaking it aloud and considering using it.

But back to the point of my interruption - I promise i have one once... Oh yes.
I wanted to say the only thing i ever learned from a tv. talk show. Oprah if it matters, the early years. She said: "believe what people tell you". It was in reference to what people say about themselves. And more specifically the negative disclosures.
When a person says things like "I'm selfish", or "I'm a very jealous person", or "I have a terrible temper". Listen. Put away that automatic "Oh no you're not" response. And really listen to them - and believe them.

and now i think those times of self-disclosures, especially when said very very early on, first date, whatever. That those often turn out to be the most honest words I ever heard them say, full-stop.

And the same goes for the positive - though not always true do to false bravado or plain lying. Obviously.
But if it's a neutral 'it just is what it is' kind of disclosure - like "I am a Lesbian"... and I like having sex sometimes with men". Tend to believe it's true, even when it seemingly makes no logical sense. That is a phrase used to discuss many of us here and in that group of letters I can never get right.
I make no sense to my Dad - 'but you're a girl!'
You'd think we'd shy away from fighting over labels to pin on others.
Why pick on choice of words or worse, just completely dismiss a person's self-truth? If anything, one could have learned a new way of viewing people in general.. or understanding something that never even occurred to you before.
When the day comes a person knows everything about everything, and everyone, that is the day that ends in therapy...
or the day you discover you're dead.
Either way, I guarantee there will be more than a few questions asked then. Am I right? Not too mention a Whole lot of Listening!

Regardless... I don't know everything to be known over here... But I have come to know this:
That it all comes down to Love. As simple as that.
Who do we love - that's what determines whether a person is Lesbian, 'Straight', what have you.
Which sexual gender is the love of your life? Do you fall in love with Jane's or John's? period.
Now when it comes to HAVING sex - I must say either one's hand or mouth feels good in the dark, and would feel pretty much the same no matter the gender attached to that hand or mouth. So perhaps the person who claimed to be a Lesbian who's bi, falls into the category of falling in Love with women, thus the lesbian term... but sex Can be strictly sex - so maybe at times her sexual desire is for someone 'different' let's say.
I don't know, but she does. And though we have no choice who we fall in love with, I choose to believe she knows herself

And since Love is the key to everything...
Putting it into practice, caring enough to listen without judging. Asking instead of correcting and dismissing another's statement. There's also the compassion to Not drop those word-bombs. You know. Usually it's saying something or labeling themselves in such a way that they know other's will wiggle in confusion, when another choice of words would stop that from happening - but it gives the once powerless a little bit of power. I think it might even be a step in the growth process for many children go through a similar phrase. and that was not a back handed insult, but an I understand, but it isn't necessary anymore. Or at least it shouldn't be. Same goes for the know it all and let me prove you wrong, go ahead, let me. Another phase of 'I'm really Not stupid and I'm not worthless, see!

and what begins as the search for Love goes through phases.
just think about all the phases to finally see who were truly were?

Since we don't choose who we fall in love with, we will love who we will love.
As for me, it's always been with a woman. And wanting desperately to love them and hold them in everyway possible.
Yet my birth cert says 'female'. and i already stated what was below my belt. So if I say I am a straight male, will I be dismissed as well? Will I too be told that by definition, That can not be true? That I must be either confused or lying, probably both.
Well I hope not. and since people are gay lesbians straight what have you, before they even begin to have sexual relations, then the core of it goes beyond just sex. It is an attraction to be sure.
But please. May we never forget to put Love within the equation.
There is so much more to it - and to us - than just that.
We are people who also fall in love... who have 1000's of points of view, rarely agreeing on any of them. But why would we, or should we? We are all separate, different people.
One of many, many people who just happen to share something that others don't.

Unless it's all been a huge conspiracy and that everyone who ever breathed in life was gay or transgendered but weren't honest enough to say but instead picked on the ones who were strong enough to speak the truth.
I'd be more than a little pissed then.