Sunday, July 20, 2008

south dakota? colorado? where to, this time around?

two years ago this november, i went to south dakota for a week to volunteer with South Dakota Campaign For Healthy Families, the coalition formed to oppose the ban on abortion (Referred Law 6, that year) that was placed on the ballot by the same coalition. (for the few of you not in the know: the south dakota legislature had passed, and the governor had signed, a ban on abortion in march of that year. putting it on the ballot was safer than going through the courts system to make the ban go away.) it was a totally amazing, incredible experience; i missed a week's worth of classes, flew to a state i've never been, mostly closeted myself as a queer (...well, sorta. that is, if making out with a girl in the front seat of our rental car still counts as "closeted"), picked up a midwestern accent, and actually made change. saw a victory, and was part of it. incredible.

we won by a pretty decent margin...but in a weird way. the way that the campaign strategy worked, we opened ourselves up for exactly the ban that's currently on the ballot for this year: the ballot initiative, this time, includes the exceptions for rape, incest, and women's health that were our strategic points last time around.
(i fucking hate leslee unruh.)

so it's back.
i'm working on finding a way to get back to south dakota for november, to volunteer again with the SDCHF. to work again with some of the people still kicking around SD, still working against the ban, to work for this amazing coalition, to help them win again (they have to win again. we have to win again.).

footage from SDCHF's and PPMNNDSD (planned parenthood of minnesota, north dakota, & south dakota) follows:

(also see PPMNNDSD's blog, Stand Up South Dakota)

now, though, i'm torn.
do i go back to south dakota, work again with the coalition i love, work against the crazy that is leslee unruh and her campaign?
or do i go to colorado, where there is a full zip code full of evangelical woman-haters (focus on the family's frightening hq is in colorado springs), where there's another abortion ban on the ballot for november?
the campaign against this ban in colorado is Protect Families, Protect Choice. (interesting how they both use the emotionally loaded word, "family," in their campaign names.)
this ban is really frightening for a lot of reasons. mostly, because it's not explicitly a ban on abortion; instead, it's a "personhood amendment." meaning that it would change the state constitution of CO to define "personhood" as beginning at fertilization. this definition extends to the sections of the state constitution regarding due process, inalienable rights, and equality of justice.
this, by extension, makes abortion illegal. this makes a lot of forms of birth control illegal. this makes emergency contraception illegal. this has no exceptions, whatsoever. not for rape, not for incest, not for the health (maybe even the life) of the mother. nothing.

(one of my big fears: the colorado campaign will go the way of the SD campaign and use the so, so problematic strategy of opposing it based on the lack of exceptions. it worked in sd two years ago, sure, but now the ban is back, with a much worse prognosis for us than before. please, colorado, learn from this. please please please.)

so, decision-making time:
south dakota?
(or maybe california, where that fucking parental notification bullshit is back on the ballot again?)

où vais-je?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

(my) truth about causality, queerness, and abuse

When I came out to my birth mother, one of her first questions (or, more accurately, accusations) was: “This is because of what happened with your brother, isn’t it?” She couldn’t speak the words that held the truths of my life; “this,” for her, was as close as she could get to admitting that her only daughter was queer. “What happened” was as close as she could come to admitting that her only daughter had been abused by her own son. The causal link that she saw linking these two unspeakable truths about this girl she birthed was terrifying to her, but at the same time, made it easier to dismiss and refuse to engage with each hard truth.

These are my terrifying, real, hard truths:
I am queer.
I am a survivor* of childhood sexual abuse, a survivor of emotional abuse and neglect, and a survivor of rape.
I do not see these aspects of my identity as separate, or separable. They do not exist as isolated truths. Each identity plays into and informs the other. (Yes, intersectionality applies here, too.) I cannot say that the abuse does not affect my current sexuality, just as I cannot say that my sexuality wasn’t an aspect of the abuse as it happened.
I was victimized in part because my sexuality was already a point of vulnerability.
And here’s the other part of this truth that nobody wants me to say, nobody wants to hear: I am queer because I was sexually abused.

Yep, I said it. The way my life has panned out, there is a connection. There is a link. It is, at least in part, a causal one.

Which isn’t to say that every queer woman is drawn to women because she was sexually assaulted (although the number is a little overwhelming), or that every woman who was victimized “goes gay.” But it’s my reality. And I do not think I am alone.

I’ve spent almost the entirety of my “out” life (5 years now) running away from that truth. Denying it and downplaying it and making it not mine, fitting myself into the mold of the (already marginal) rhetoric of queer survivors of sexual violence. I was terrified to lose that legitimacy as a queer woman, terrified to open up that most painful part of my past to scrutiny and disbelief (as if it weren’t already). And maybe, in most people’s eyes, and certainly in the eyes of the mainstream alphabet-soup (LGBTQ) movement, I just lost my claim to a “real,” “legitimate” queer identity. But when it comes back to it, this is my truth. This causal link between sexual violence and my queer identity is real.

(so much more to say after the jump)

Here are some more truths about that link:

immigration is a feminist issue

just in case you needed more proof that immigration is, indeed, a feminist issue:

the vast majority of women are sexually assaulted on their journey across the US-Mexico border.

According to experts, rape is now considered "the price of admission" for women crossing the border illegally.

But this scourge goes largely ignored, and is suspected to be vastly underreported. Not surprisingly, few women care to describe their ordeals to authorities in stark government detention facilities.
Civilian border-watchers tell of hearing these women's cries.

"I thought the wailings we heard at night were the coyotes barking at the moon," one volunteer told The Washington Times. "I didn't know until later that those sounds were the cries of women being raped in the Mexican desert, some less than 100 yards away from the border. There was absolutely nothing anyone could do about it."

The rapists are known to hang women's bras and panties from tree limbs as trophies.

read the whole article. really.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

coming soon to this space

check back soon.
there's an almost-done post on queer survivors of sexual violence coming up.

(similar to the last paper i wrote at Smith, on queer survivors of childhood sexual abuse, but less academic / with more heart. also, dissimilar in that i don't think this post will come close to killing me in the way that paper did.)

{ETA: the post is now up, but I'm leaving this one up so that I can keep the totally awesome sytycd videos up.}

in the meantime, enjoy this, my love from SYTYCD (sadly, eliminated last week).
not gonna lie, half the reason i love her so much is 'cause she danced to Ani. what? it's an easy road to my heart.

also, her totally fucking amazing (also Ani) audition:

trauma, bodies, healing, revolution(izing)

what she said.

Unfortunately, what I most often witness is people’s trauma around their bodies getting in the way of uniting. As queers, as fat people, as people with disabilities, as people of color, we have often located so much of our pain in our bodies. We internalize so much anger, we get sick from it and throw up walls and make divisions. I get inspired when I see the connections made on an individual level. But on a larger scale I don’t really see it happening yet.

I think there are two main obstacles: 1) Most of us spend a lot of time outside of our bodies. I’m not sure how many people are willing to get into their bodies in the way it would require in order for this kind of movement to build. Phat Camp was an amazing place to witness people going through this. They come in with their brains in a tizzy, wondering “What is empowerment? What is self-acceptance?” and then they realize we don’t want their brains to do the work—we want to go to a deeper place. A place where all of our bodies are unified in the struggle to be whole and real.

2) People who don’t have to think about their power usually don’t. Sometimes I wonder if we can really build anything effectively without figuring out how to cross over and get people to examine their privilege. There is so much mythology about health and wellness, that it’s hard for me to picture having a deep moment with someone who more than anything believes I just need to lose weight. Even if we agree that the prison system needs to end and Bush is a motherfucker.

I see the goal of all work like this to be community building, healing, and revolution. In that order.

(via bfp, via nadia)