The Challenge

fannie-lou-hamer-activist-nobodys-free-until-everybodysOkay, my LGBTQ and sex positive friends and allies:

This is your call to action.  Maybe you’ve been burning with anger, or immobilized by fear. Maybe you just don’t want to think about political stuff at all — jeez, I know I don’t.  I’m not a policy wonk, and while business-as-usual hasn’t worked out that well for me as a disabled person, I’ve survived.

But the battleground is set, and it’s on the edge of a volcano. We hear the ground rumbling underneath us.  It’s more heated right now than I can remember anytime in my life — and I’m in my fifth decade. The fight for human rights feels more urgent to me now than anything since Stonewall, since the fight against AIDS in the 1980s & 1990s, since the assassinations of George Moscone and Harvey Milk, since the rallying cry around the death of Matthew Shepard or any of the myriads who’ve died for the crime of being different.

In the last five years we’ve seen the LGBTQ  community gain some amazing strides: the legalization of marriage nation-wide, the Obama administration interpretation of anti-discrimination law, some strong moves forward and statements by cities, states and school districts in support of their LBGTQ population.

We have met these changes with triumph and with regret that they are still so little and long overdue.  To us, it is obvious that all human beings must have the equal rights to access to love, security, housing, education, and jobs.

For the most vocal of the Trump supporters, no.  The election results were not a surprise to me, nor to many of my friends who’ve lived in rural America.  Anyone who is poor could probably see this coming. We know what shadows lie in the system of business-as-usual, and what has to be sacrificed to keep our awareness down, to keep from being ground under its wheels.

Throughout this election year and especially after the election results, it has become more obvious to us that people are tribal. We’ve noticed that many people’s definition of tribe can’t encompass an entire country, and maybe ours can’t either. But those of us who have been in this fight, whether for years or decades, need to redouble our efforts to put the good for the whole country over the good for just the people we like.

And how do we do that?

We need to challenge the idea that any life can be disposable. We need to broaden our perspective.  We have to struggle even harder for our own rights while simultaneously insuring that the rights of other people aren’t sacrificed for our security and peace of mind. Not in this country, and not on this planet.

We need to stay informed. And we need to get our information from good sources. Read many sources not just a few.  Cruise the news. Try checking out The Guardian or another foreign paper to get news on US politics.  Don’t rely on the same sources every day. And definitely get on the mailing lists for your own representatives to stay apprised of what they are working to do.

We need to stop vilifying people.  We can despise actions without despising the humanity of the people who perpetuate them.  We aim for understanding of those who are our worst critics. Tha

We need to commit to what we can actually do.  It’s easy to get swept up in post-election fervor and it’s not hard for most people to participate in a nonviolent protest. But if I’m agoraphobic, that’s not going to be my style of activism.

What small thing can I actually do to change the world today?  Would my efforts be more useful at a local level or state level? Am I more of an online activist or a call-your-senator type?  Maybe I’m a person wh0 believes that meditation or prayer has a place in activism.  Or maybe my Vietnamese next door neighbor needs me to go with her to Social Security to make sure that communication lines stay clear because she doesn’t speak English well.

I remember why I left the peace movement in the late 1980’s — I reached a wall. I felt I’d done what I could and I didn’t have any more to give. I was angry all the time, and some part of me felt that I couldn’t be marching for peace until I had more peace with who I was. Sometimes you need to change the world and sometimes you need to let the world change you.

The Challenge

I completely understand the desire to hide away somewhere peaceful or to Netflix out for awhile — and there’s a place for that. But don’t let that be where you stay.  Make a small amount of time for political action — an hour a week, or a phone call a day. Pick an organization working for change and meet with them in your city.  Because we really can’t afford to numb out all the time. We have a clear example of where inaction leads us. Now let’s see what we can really do.

 

(Value added: LGBT rights by country or territory)

 

Tea & Consent

I ran into this video awhile ago and it’s stuck in my mind. It’s the perfect video for explaining consent to someone who just. doesn’t. get it.  If that sounds like someone you know, see if you can share this video with them, and then find out what they think. It could be a life-changing conversation.

Don’t Say Maybe When You Mean NO

Forever 21 pulled this t-shirt from their shelves this week after criticism on social media that the message supports rape culture:

forever21

Called “jaw-droppingly repulsive” by twitter user @Steph Dale and “very rapey” by Cosmopolitan, the shirt stirred up instant controversy.  Forever 21 responded by pulling the shirt and deleting it from their website, apologizing to “anyone who was offended by the product”.

I read it differently.  In many cultures, women and men are both socialized to say “maybe” or “later” when we mean “no”.  Nice people don’t say no.  Nice people let other people down easy, or do whatever they have to do to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, at least directly.

Yes, people engaging in sex absolutely have the responsibility to gain the consent of the other person/people involved.  Yes, consent should be wholehearted and enthusiastic. Whether you’re asking someone if you can give them a hug or spank them while they’re wearing a duck suit, anything less than an enthusiastic “yes!” should not only give you pause, but should be a warning sign that maybe you don’t want to engage in behavior with this particular individual, because they are not clear on what they want or don’t want.

But as a sexually active individual, it is my responsibility to develop and make clear my boundaries.  “Maybe” doesn’t cut it, unless I follow up with a list of conditions that would make it a yes.  “Later?” isn’t enough of an answer.  “I don’t know” isn’t clear enough.

“No.” “No thank you.” “I like you, but no.” “No, but you might approach so & so (who happens to love being spanked while wearing a duck suit)”.  These should be the phrases and sentences we train ourselves to say.  As a sexually active being, even as a submissive, even as a masochist, I don’t ever get the option of abdicating responsibility for my own safety AND enjoyment.

Frankly, I’d wear this t-shirt and welcome the dialogue that I might encounter.

Upshot: don’t ever take a maybe for a yes.  And don’t say maybe when you mean no. And for all of us, let’s build a culture in which consent is clear and “no” is a socially acceptable and common answer.

 

Sources:

Today: Forever 21 apologizes for ‘don’t say maybe’ t-shirt after social media backlash

Huffington Post: Forever 21 Removes Creepy Graphic Tee From Its Website