Category Archives: LGBT

The politics of prophet and loss

alberta_pride_postcard-r56fb616fcdd7486dad694bc0884c30d6_vgbaq_8byvr_630Some of Alberta is having some difficulty seeing the writing on the wall. Some of Alberta uses the guise of religious tolerance to justify religious intolerance.

This feels like the Alberta version of Groundhog Day. I wake up every spring to see if the bigots cast a shadow and end up reliving the same tired old story.

I became active on twitter as a direct result of Bill 10. That was nearly a year ago, yet we are still struggling to make this province a safe and caring place for everyone. We are still struggling to let all of our children learn and grow with dignity and respect.

I think the NDP are making progress. The progress might seem slow, but it appears to me that they are using the time to methodically close all the loopholes the bigots can use to avoid being prevented from spreading their intolerance. This is constructuve, albeit not speedy. I am all for the government taking the time to make human decency the rule in the public sphere.

I don’t like catholic schools. I don’t think there should be two systems. I don’t think we should fund religious education. I respect private faith and a person’s private right to pass that faith on privately to their children. But when we include religion in the education system, the semantics of public and separate aside, it becomes public.

This is my issue:

Notice I didn’t say ‘when we fund the system it becomes public’. A lot of the call to arms right now centres on de-funding religious schools. I don’t support using finacial clout as a way to make groups conform with cultural norms of tolerance and inclusion. Using money and funding to achieve social conformity is what the right does, and it’s why Planned Parenthood is fighting right now.

Too often and in too many circumstances, money is used as a tool for political and social ends. De-funding the catholic school system would be the easiest way to enforce our political and social goals, but it is the wrong way to bring about a culture shift towards tolerance, compassion and inclusivity. Those must be taught and modelled, not enforced and bankrolled.

Money or no, we cannot allow intolerance to be included in our education system. No school, public or private, should be allowed to teach intolerance. I can’t do much to stop a parent at home from teaching poisonous ideas, but I can stop it from being disguised and presented as socially condoned curriculum material.

Bishop Henry is an old man with old ideas. He will die, and his hateful ideas will die with him because we will not let them spread, not because we refuse to finacially support them, but because we refuse to give them our passive support. We don’t need to take away their money, we need to take away their moral license.

pride-2007-castro-rainbow-flag-e1377800552209

Advertisements

Penurious Progress (as the sexual revolution marches on)

I was going to just post a reply on Facebook to this, but I started to run on…

What got me started was this article, posted in response to this article.

The tension building up from the sexual revolution is palpable and painful to the touch.

Sexuality is on the cutting edge of a huge cultural shift going on right now in our world. I tend to think of cultural shifts as being like the San Andreas fault. A whole bunch of tension builds up and then there is a sudden lurch. The lurches aren’t controlled and can be both good and destructive at the same time.

The problem faced by legislators trying to address sexual autonomy and rape culture is that laws are written as if the people they apply to have one culture. Our culture is hardly uniform. We have a culture evolving, with subgroups of that culture evolving at differing rates and developing differing ways of coping with change. Can we apply a law uniformly to a culture that is far from uniform? I’m not sure – which is not an argument against trying, it is just a comment on the difficulty of doing it well.

There are a couple other things these articles bring up that I’d like to touch on.

We do need to work on the culture of entitlement to sex. That means making (some) men fully understand sex is for mutual benefit. I firmly believe most men know that, and that the problem is largely that there is no good way for women to tell the good guys from the bad guys. You good guys, get to work on making that easier for us.

We also really really need to make sure women understand that both yes and no are valid. There should be no fear, hesitation, judgement, or repercussions associated with having, or not having sex. One of the things I hear a lot is that men are vulnerable to women accusing of them of sexual assault when they later regret having had sex with them. Forget the flawed premise that women are that vindictive for a minute for the sake of staying on topic. Why don’t we just make sure women don’t have to sort out mixed cultural signals that lead them to regret their decisions? Let’s get rid of the madonna whore complex that brands women sluts when they say yes and teases when they say no, because it’s hard to give a straight answer when neither answer is a winner for you.

Lastly, and I love this part, the article touches on commitment and relationships. The sexual revolution freed men and women part way, but kept both genders tangled up in old mores and attitudes. That left the rebellion against strict sexual codes open to excess. There has been excess. The hook up culture leaves everybody vulnerable to misunderstandings. Sex and lust are not really conducive to obtaining legally defensible consent. We get swept up in lust and it inhibits our ability to read other people. Again, not an excuse for men ignoring signals, just an explanation of how a subtle signal could get lost. Also not an argument against making consent the cornerstone of sexual assault laws. The better you know someone the more familiar you are with their subtle communication. Within commitment, consent is informed by an existing framework of mutual respect and affection. Now that we have the right to have sex we should make sure it is actually right to have sex.

I am fixated on this issue. I was so very lucky to be raised by a mother who never made me feel like sex was a dirty word and a father who never made me feel like having sex was a bad decision. I observe from a very safe place. I see all the tangled issues and all I can do is comment from my point of view as a woman who hasn’t been afraid to speak up, who was never called a slut for saying yes or a tease for saying no, in a society where women are pretty empowered, and as a woman who has a fabulous partner in her life and a stable and mutually fulfilling relationship. I wish everyone could have what I have. But they need my parents, and they need my background.

I am trying my darndest to spread the good stuff around. You can too.

Let’s start by outing men like Daryush Valizadeh who are not compatible with where we want to go as a culture. Let’s raise our kids to respect sex, and respect each other. Let’s admit that, in our desire to make change, we are going to make mistakes and will have to tweak how we deal with issues as they arise, and let’s work together to move forward.

 

Pork-barrel-pie Politics

So topic of the day has to be the pie. Look at this political poster.

pie politics

B Y W P … Bring Your Wife’s Pie.

In spite of the people who claim that this is not a real issue, I am going to explain why it actually is an issue and why it actually is offensive to progressive Albertans.

I know it can be subtle, but sexism in politics is a real problem. It seems minor in the same way that low dose daily exposure to a carcinogen seems minor. Sexist stereotypes interfere with the ability of women (and the non cisgender, non heterosexual members of our communities) to fully and confidently participate in political life. I am only able to personally address how it affects heterosexual women, but I know that other communities suffer the same type of ill effects.

Let me tell me what is NOT wrong with this poster and get that out of the way. Reaching out to people and creating community is very constructive. Calling people together to participate in the democratic politic process is admirable. And in my personal opinion, pie is the ultimate dessert – nothing beats a fresh apple pie with a good homemade crust.

What’s WRONG with this poster?

It is pretty clearly an invitation to men. Which, in and of itself, is perfectly acceptable. It can be acceptable to target specific audiences if you are addressing issues and concerns specific to that audience. For instance, is acceptable to exclude teenagers from a conversation about seniors housing …

… UNLESS that info is being handed out at a political rally during an election. I will explain that later.  The acceptability of the exclusion is negated by the tone and underlying message of the information that goes along with the invitation.

It is an invitation to men married to women. It passively discourages single men and men married to other men by painting a specific picture of who should attend. Not overtly, but covertly and passively, the call to participation looks straight married men in the eye while avoiding the gaze of everyone else. If it was direct and stated that it was a meeting for straight married men to discuss some concern exclusive to straight married men then it would be better. However, politics are in no way exclusive to straight married men, nor should they be.

Then there’s the ‘Bring your wife’s pie’ part. That is truly insidious. So much is between the lines of that text. Have your wife make a pie for you to bring along, it’s OK as the man of the house you are entitled to use her labour for your own gain. Of course she makes it, women cook, you couldn’t bake your own pie as you are too busy farming and calving and doing man stuff. It also somehow manages to neglect to include the wife in the meeting, almost as if it too manly for her; this politcking is man stuff. Bring her pie with you and learn important political man stuff and then go home and share your new knowledge with the little woman. It harkens back to a dark time for gender relations that we really should not be nostalgic for.

The poster doesn’t leave open the door for anything outside the straight male marriage in which the man does man stuff (like politics) and the woman bakes pies. I admit, it doesn’t close the door on it either, but it is intimidating to see one section of our population ushered through a door while we are left to open the door for ourselves (because they legally can’t actually keep us out). The poster paints a very narrow view of society that serves to exclude people who don’t fit that mould. AND THAT is not appropriate during an election campaign.

Everything about and all the information pertaining to policy, platforms, plans and intentions should be be made as broadly available as possible during an election. During the democratic process there is no room for the politics of exclusion.

During an election  not only do people get to do what our society grants them the legal and moral right to do – choose for themselves how they live, who they love, how they work and what they believe in – they get to decide who they will vote into office to make decisions about how free they are to continue doing those very things. There can be no exclusion at any point in the democratic process.

This isn’t like not letting men in the women’s change room. This isn’t like having men only baseball teams. This is the very core of how we currently define and continue to evolve ourselves and our society.

The world has changed. The world is changing. To have open, inclusive and accountable government we must start with an open, inclusive and accountable democratic process.

gender pie chart

I hope I’ve made my point. This may be my fastest blog yet.

For fun, watch this video of the much respected Peter Lougheed if no other reason that looking back at it is creepy and feels wrong for reasons that are difficult to put a finger on exactly. That is how our kids are going to look at the above poster.

WATCHhttp://www.cbc.ca/archives/entry/peter-lougheeds-go-go-campaign

It’s subtle, but watch the men greet him at the door and the women stay inside the threshhold. At 1:15 he meets ‘Martha and Henry’. After the greeting Martha immediately goes back into the home and leaves the politics to the men  …  I don’t even know where to start on the go-go dancers at the end…

Personal Pedantic Political Peroration, the Social Edition

I am going to keep saying this until it sinks in; Yes, government has a role in legislating morality.

We need to elect progressive, liberal minded representatives that understand why philosophical-esque ideologies clash over individual and plural rights in our communities. Look:

  • liberalism = commitment to balancing individual freedom and social justice.
  • conservatism = commitment to traditional values, the goals and ideologies of which vary.

The definition of social conservatism includes the caveat that traditional values vary between groups. In any society there are potentially multiple traditions, and potentially values may not align.

I hope you can hear me over the wailing right-wing nuts when I say this. Do try…

If we’re all going to live together, we need balance. Maintaining balance between personal and secular values isn’t a zero sum game.* Sharing a human right doesn’t eliminate it; or halve it, or quarter it, or reduce it by any fraction. Removing a tradition from the public realm doesn’t necessarily remove it from the personal realm. In fact a zero sum only happens when progressive liberalism governance is NOT present.

Herein lies the peril inherent in democracy. Votes are equal individually, but not collectively. The risk that a majority can run roughshod over a minority exists because there is considerable pressure for government to conform to majority held views.

But the role is government is not to pander to the majority, it is to rise above and serve the whole.

In a progressive liberal democracy we avoid the trampling minority rights by implementing reforms that protect the right to have personally different values. A progressive government implements reform where there is contradiction between current traditionally informed and non-traditional choices. Progressive governance mitigates inequality founded upon tradition.

The catalyst for this Personal Pedantic Political Peroration is the Bill 10 fiasco in Alberta. Bill 10 panders to the worst pockets of social conservatism in our society. I expect my government to enact legislation that makes it unlawful for any group to use tradition to deny rights to the others. I’m not alone either. Alberta is full of progressive liberal minded people.

I don’t care what any religious tradition says about homosexuality. I am not bound by other traditions. Everyone is free to be offended by LGBT people in any old heteronormative tradition bound way. However, finding something personally offensive does not give anyone the right to censure it. We are all free to disregard any tradition, or the word free doesn’t apply at all.

The right to challenge tradition has been asserted before, and it will be asserted again:

Well, Alberta, now there is so much racket that something must be out of rightness.

I think that between the social progressives in the cities and the reality of what constitutes a human right, the traditional bigots will be in a fix pretty soon. Let’s be honest about what we all are talking about.

The zealots over there say that LGBT students don’t need to be helped to feel safe, or given a place to share, and that they have anti-bullying protection already. Don’t ask don’t tell will help them, doctrine over compassion, because that’s what scripture says.

Was Delwin Vriend protected? Was he? Now look at his students. Tradition clearly allows them to be marginalized, or be punished for who they are, here in this system. Isn’t that bullying? You should look at the statistics and look at these children – maybe you’ll get it – LGBT students suffer your bigotry. Do they deserve it?  They all bear higher risk of suicide, and GSAs mitigate that risk, and aren’t their lives important – doesn’t god love even sinners? Aren’t you a sinner? I hear you all talk about this scripture or that – why use them to justify contempt? What’s that got to do with a moral life?

If you have the right to choose your religion, and you are choosing it freely, doesn’t that give us all the right to choose for ourselves which path to follow? All the small minded keep saying it was Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve; how does your wife feel about Abram and Hagar? Which scriptures do you follow? Which ones are discarded? Use logic and reason for human rights. Your religion has nothing to do with it.

If we have already as a society made a clear distinction between church and state, and we have already agreed to allow our neighbours freedom of conscience, you few right-wing nuts rallying behind your irrational traditions shouldn’t be able to hold the rest of us back from moving human rights forward!

The progressives are speaking, and the government better start listening.**

 

* FUN FACT: Zero Sum one of my favourite pedantological terms, I slip it into every conversation I can.

** With all due respect for the great Sojourner Truth; imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

 

The Pedanthood Monologues

falling resize

Eve Ensler wrote a fabulous piece of theatre called the Vagina Monologues twenty years ago. I saw it with a friend at the Meyer Horowitz theatre on the University of Alberta campus. It made me cry, it made me smile, and it made me think.

This recent article indicates that she, and the work, have been accused of not being ‘inclusive’.

This touches on a distinction that bothers me. It is appropriately a pedant issue too, because it involves the precise interpretation of two related words. High five for living up to my blog’s name once in a while. YAY!

It can also be directly tied back to my previous posts via one common rebuttal of feminism – “What about men’s rights” Low five for sticking to a theme? …

Here’s my issue: Just because something is not included does not mean it was excluded. Inclusion involves choosing what is IN a set. Exclusion involves deciding something should not be in a set. For reasons of pragmatism or availability of information or timing of message, IN choices can leave things un-included. But that does not mean they were deemed un-includable for broad purposes. They can be brought into discussion and can benefit from awareness generated about an issue even if they were not originally in the set.

Eve Ensler herself says “The Vagina Monologues never intended to be a play about what it means to be a woman. It is and always has been a play about what it means to have a vagina. In the play, I never defined a woman as a person with a vagina.”

I am a woman. I also have a vagina. Specifically, I am a cis gender woman.

The Vagina Monologues addressed a specific issue, and for pragmatic reasons cis gender women were the IN set. The Vagina Monologues speak to me as a subset of humanity without denying the humanity of anyone not addressed by the specific words spoken on stage. This wonderful work is not called the ‘Woman Monologues’ and it doesn’t claim that the underlying themes are unique to women. Sadly violence, bigotry and intolerance are issues faced by many ‘sets’ within our species.

The issues faced by women and by LGBT people are similar, but not identical. All gender identifications face challenges when it comes to living their sexual identities. The set was chosen to give voice to one facet of broader human challenges. That it is applicable to a larger set of people and the challenges they face means that The Vagina Monologues can be used as the foundation upon which more discussion, change and progress can be built.

I am an ardent feminist, and logically by extension have also been an active advocate for LGBT rights. In my head one extends to the other; there is overlap and fluidity between the two groups and the challenges they face.

Bear in mind that when I talk about harassment of women or violence and sexual crimes against women I am speaking for myself from my own personal experience, but I would never dream of silencing your voice or minimizing your struggle. We are humanity, and we are in this together.