Good Faith

Mar. 5th, 2013 07:08 pm
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I’m faintly, academically curious about how the same arguments used by privileged people to dismiss nasty complaining marginalised folks keep getting used -and even rebranded. One glorious example is:

INTENT!

You know how this goes? Someone spouts a whole load of bigoted crap as they do so many times over – maybe they’re ignorant, maybe they don’t give a crap, maybe they’re just that overloaded on their own superiority and privilege, maybe they’re malicious – ultimately they’re called out on it and they turn round and say “I didn’t intend that!”

And magically everything’s fixed. Except, not. Unintended bigotry is still bigotry. Something that dehumanises or others marginalised people still does so even if the person producing it is thinking of fluffy kittens and happy unicorns. It doesn’t make a slur any less triggering, a piece any less erasing, a portrayal any less stereotyped or their actions any less dismissive, offensive and othering. Intent as an excuse puts the privileged person’s feelings above the actual harm caused to marginalised people. This is why the watchword for so long has been “Intent isn’t magic.”

Ah, but the forces of privilege aren’t going to give up just because someone has hit them with some common sense (alas, for if they did we’d be in a much better world by now). And even as we continue to fight magical intent, it’s mutated child has crawled onto the scene…

GOOD FAITH!

The Good Faith argument basically says that the person meant well – they had good faith. In other words, it’s the Intent argument for those who know they’re not going to impress anyone by waving the intent banner. But it has the bonus points of being aggressive, not defensive. See, the “Intent” argument is a defence “I didn’t mean that!” while this is an attack “I’m acting in good faith!” with the nasty little implication that the marginalised person challenging them has BAD FAITH. Tuttut.

And you can see that in how it’s used. I’ve seen it used most often as an accusation: “you assumed I was acting in bad faith!” As if whether they’re acting in bad faith or not changes what they did! Just like with intent, your good faith isn’t magical. If you do/say/write something demeaning, dehumanising, stereotyping, othering or erasing marginalised people then that is what you have done/said/write. Your magical Good Faith Fairy won’t buzz around your words and deeds like some kind of Microsoft Paperclip and edit you actions.

And you know what? Damn right I assumed they were acting in bad faith! Why should I assume differently? Why should I ASSUME that any straight person is going to deal with me in good faith? Why should any trans person assume a cis person is acting in good faith? Why should POC assume white people are acting in good faith?

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Sex, sex, sex, sex, let’s talk about it, because we all know the straight folk want to. Oh I know we hear over and over again from straight folks, “I don’t care what they do behind closed doors” or “I wish they wouldn’t flaunt it,” but honestly, just a glance at the haters will tell you that straight folks are thinking far more about gay sex than we ever could.

I’m sometimes amazed by this obsession. The number of hate groups who go out of their way to search for gay porn, to try and find the fetish that they find the most horrifying. I can’t imagine spending hours of my life trawling the internet for porn I find most unappealing, I can’t comprehend what would make people do this. Some of them even attend gay sex clubs and fetish meetings, so they can find things to be horrified about.

Honestly? If you have to go to this much effort to find things about us you think will horrify people, then you’re just proving the point of how ridiculous it is to object to our presence so much.

But it goes beyond that – there are so many straight people who feel a desperate need to poke their nose into our sex lives. I’ve lost count of the number of truly inappropriate questions I’ve been asked over the years – some are blatant fetishism, some to convince themselves “I don’t do that” (whatever that is) and some who seem to be trying to freak themselves out. Seriously, if you’re that desperate to know what 2 men do in bed, go hit google but I honestly can’t imagine why you’d care.

And straight people need to seriously shut up about Grindr (yes that certainly includes Paris Hilton) or gaydar, or the many dozen other places, aps and websites out there. Yes it’s a nifty little tool that gay men use to meet each other. As such, it is so completely and utterly NOT YOUR BUSINESS straighties, it really isn’t. What would make you think your opinion is wanted or remotely valid?
Oh, and the reason why things like Grindr exist, is not just convenience (though it is awfully convenient), it’s the same reason the gay cruising areas exist (and, yes, police entrapment in these areas is homophobic persecution and damn common) it’s because it’s still hard and dangerous for GBLT people to try and meet each other. Because not everywhere has a friendly GBLT neighbourhood or gay bar, because not everyone is Out and feels comfortable in those places – and guess where the violent haters go when they want to attack us? That’s right – there’s been no small amount of our blood spilled on the steps and in the car parks of gay bars and clubs. Gods, my next “Bad News List” includes 2 gay bars which have been firebombed and they’re far from the first.

And we don’t need you to lecture us about AIDS. We know it’s a problem, ye gods we do. We knew it was a problem while you lot were calling it GRIDS and completely freaking ignoring it, while we died in droves. We know we have to strike a balance between not stigmatising people with AIDS and countering the growing impression that AIDS is an easily managed chronic disease. We know about safe sex and getting tested and all the rest and there’s probably a lot we still need to talk about within the community. We don’t need or want you to lecture us, or judge us, or screech at us. I don’t speak for all gay men but I, for one, am thoroughly freaking sick of being bombarded with AIDS lectures. The clubs, the bars, the community centres, the drop ins are plastered with AIDS messages, it’s like wallpaper. My doctor wants to test me for AIDS every time I go there. There was a gay men’s health clinic recently – did it talk about suicide rates? Mental health issues? Our high rate of Anorexia? High rates of drug, alcohol and tobacco consumption? Any other health issue we could possibly have? Nope – AIDS AIDS AIDS AIDS. Aaaargh give it a rest, people are tuning out now, they’ve heard it so much.

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Regularly now one of my oh-so-dearest neighbours has been leaving snide little homophobic notes on my door, ranging from Bible verses to random mutterings about AIDS, to condemnation for the many many orgies we’re not actually having (don’t you just hate it when people have more fun with your life than you do?) At the same time, we’ve had to shoe-horn our cars into The Home of All Junk (who knew garages were for cars?) since they’re picking up an awful lot of potentially-related and very annoying scratches and horrible things have happened to our plants in the front garden. Also, the Bible left in the rain and shredded by cats was vexing – we’re still finding little scraps of soggy, sanctimonious confetti.

It was unnerving to begin with, I took precautions – and several months later with it still happening, we’re playing snap with the nasty little things (they’ve started to repeat themselves. Which I think is just rude – if you’re going to leave nasty little hate notes on someone’s door, you could at least strive to be original! Reusing your old hate is just plain lazy).

There are places in my home city I know not to go at certain times. Or some not to go alone. I know where fool straight folk gather when they’ve had too much to drink, looking for a victim. I know a local park where the police will assume I’m cruising.  I know to avoid these places.

At work, I know that at least once a week, one of three people will say something offensive. I know that, at least 4 times a week, annoying secretary will flirtingly joke about “changing me” or “what a shame it is you’re gay” or some such. I know that I need to check my email religiously or have the extra, over-scheduled work dumped on me because it’s assumed I have no family and no plans. I know I have to book holidays well in advance and fight for them in case they’re moved in favour of those who “have family and partners to be accommodated”. I know that my most senior partner still doesn’t understand why I’m pissed at him for throwing cases of gay-bashers at me and why I don’t want to be in a small room alone with such people to interview them. I know that, in some family and criminal cases, he will act like I’m a woman or use my being gay as some kind of selling point.  I’ve worked out ways around these problems, things I can’t say, things I have to grit my teeth and ignore, ways I have to react and steps I have to take to avoid shouldering the firm’s grunt work.

These are just a few items on my list of things that have become normal for me. I’m not een talking microagressions like gross heteronormativity, erasure, or far too many damn people using homophobic hate speech, or even big massive things like the current marriage equality debate and everyone showing their scabby, homophobic arses over it. I’m not even talking about my annoyingly homophobic family trying to drag me back to them over the bridges they burned. I mean all the things, all the shit, every day in our lives that are specifically unacceptable yet have become normal to us. And I think every marginalised person has one of these lists – a lists of regular shit they have to endure from certain people, certain times, in certain places, they know shit will happen above and beyond the normal micro and macro aggressions. Just routine, unacceptable shit that is part of your daily life – neither the background noise of micro aggressions nor the big, unusual spikes of macro events – but routine, normal shit.

Because you get used to things. Even things you shouldn’t have to get used to. You learn to endure. You learn to tolerate. You even learn to accept. You become jaded, cynical and even numb. You learn that this is the way the world is and, ultimately, you have to live in that world.

And I think it’s another way that being marginalised affects us - the lessons we learn and the twisted sense of “normal” we internalise. Normal, for so many of us, is abuse. It’s navigating shit, it’s putting up with shit, it’s expecting shit and it’s dealing with shit all the damn time. It’s making shit normal.

Which means you shouldn’t really be surprised when you come with some story of utter repellent bigotry and, rather than shock our outrage, the marginalised group’s response is something like *shrug**sigh*. You can’t be shocked by what is normal, and being outraged by what is normal quickly becomes exhausting. And, frankly, being reminded that our “normal” is someone else’s unbelievable shit is just depressing.

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One of the eternal frustrations with trying to talk marginalisation with privileged people is the ignorance of what persecution actually means, what being marginalised actually means. Yes, I know, blink and step back “surely it’s obvious!?” right? I mean, groups that are marginalised are treated horrendously in a myriad of ways for centuries – how can we not know what that means?

And yet – how many times have we seen a marginalised person described some event in their lives where prejudice has screwed them over and you have some privileged person saying “oh, yeah, that’s just like what happens to me!” And then we to resort to the marginalised serenity prayer – give me the serenity not to kill this person with axes. Increasingly it seems I am lacking in serenity, on the plus side, I have no shortage of axes.

However, axe murdering does rather stain the carpet, and putting out plastic sheeting every time is a nuisance so can we actually address what marginalisation is and why privileged people don’t face it, even if they think they do?

So, let us begin with the “that happened to me too.” Ok, but does it feed into a societal pressure and habitual victimisation? Do things like that commonly happen to people like you, for that reason? Does it reflect or build on a major societal pressure?

Because this all matters. Say tomorrow I am walking down the street, leaving my firm and someone decides that he really really hates lawyers and decides to violently attack me with my own axe. Woe, I have been attacked, due to my profession. I have been victimised. Yet, if we take exactly the same attack and change one thing – that my attacker tried to kill me for being gay instead – and we’ve got an entirely different situation.

Being attacked as a lawyer wouldn’t make me worry about it happening again. It wouldn’t make me check the news for other attacks on lawyers and feel that fear every time I see it appear. I probably wouldn’t actually see any other incidents, or very few. I wouldn’t change my behaviour or worry about how I’m acting and what I’m saying. It wouldn’t send a message to all other lawyers that they’re under threat and their lives aren’t valued. I wouldn’t walk into a room full of non-lawyers and worry about being safe. I’d be pretty sure that it wasn’t part of societal attitudes to destroy me, drive me out or render me invisible (well, except for people who’ve seen one to many of those “I’ve had an accident” Underdog adverts, but even I want to punch them. After I’ve tracked down the Go Compare opera singer anyway). There won’t be powerful forces in authority encouraging people to discriminate against me for being a lawyer, to condemn me for it and to add to a culture of violence against lawyers. I can expect the press to report on my attack, rather than ignore it, I can rely on them not demonising me for being a lawyer. I am confident that, being attacked as a lawyer, my attacker will be treated like a criminal, I will be treated as a victim, I won’t be blamed for my attack, my attacker will be sentenced appropriately, the crime against will be treated as a grave one.

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So, I was talking about how Beloved’s parents aren’t exactly super-duper thrilled about be, or mine about him for that matter – and I was quickly informed by an empathetic person that they totally understood, they didn’t get on well with their in-laws either. See, they understood what it was to be rejected by your loved one’s family.

But it’s not a matter of my in-laws not liking me or my parents not liking Beloved. Even if Beloved or I were completely different men, our parents would still be hostile. We cannot have a relationship that would possibly meet their approval. Every potential relationship is wrong. It would actually be better for us not to have relationships, in their eyes, than have any of the relationships open to us. Our very capacity to love is flawed in their eyes. They weren’t just rejecting our partners, they were rejecting us. And that is so extremely different from your in-laws not liking you very much.

I spoke about the difficulties of the closet and the evils it perpetuated on us. And someone told me how they understood because they were “closeted” about their political position (in fact. The Tories actually ran an advertising campaign based on the concept).

See, they wanted to say, they understood how hard it was to be closeted, because they had to hide too!

Except there is a world of difference between political opinion and actual being. Except they didn’t have to live with constant societal rejection and invisibility. Except they didn’t have the shame and self-loathing and the history of conversion therapy, bullying, suicide, substance abuse, familial hatred and everything else that goes into the soul-destroying closet. They had none of this context behind them to make such a gross statement.

I spoke about how slurs hurt, how they made the whole world cringe for me and how dehumanising they were. And someone told me that someone called them an anti-gay slur once because they thought he was gay!

See, they wanted to say, they understood what it was like to be called that nasty name, because they’d been called it too.

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There are a large number of people on the internet who believe they have won lots of social justice arguments against me – especially when it comes to homophobia.

And this surprises Beloved, it does, for he has yet to outmanoeuvre me when I blame him for, well, absolutely everything I can :) (because that's loooove). He will even lament about how I will even replay past arguments in case I feel he hasn't been hailed my rightness sufficiently.

This is because tormenting Beloved is a fun sport of which I am an international gold medal holder.

So why on the net are there all these victorious arguers? Well, because I don't really argue on the net. Most of the times when someone drops prejudiced bigot shit on my screen I wince, make a note to treat that space accordingly and tread carefully should I ever go back there. Occasionally I'm invested enough in a space or person – or it's my space – to engage the fail and resist it. Sometimes it's just vile and I feel I have to comment because if I don't I feel I've endorsed or accepted what has been said. So I comment.

And there's a response, usually as bad or worse. In naïve hope I respond and try again. Usually it's pretty clear that I'm just repeating myself, giving myself a massive headache and generally achieving nothing so...

I just leave.

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Ok, so I'm going to chew off another of the excuses that seems to be increasingly used when privileged people are confronted with various issues they've perpetrated - this one is Curiosity.

Now, this was recently raised as an excuse in Renee's recent post about people pawing black hair (and believe me, those unabridged comment threads would have been comic if they didn't destroy your faith in humanity).

I've also seen it invoked when I've complained about personal, sexual and otherwise invasive questions being asked of GBLT people that are none of the questioner's damn business and I can't imagine in what possible universe they thought it'd be an appropriate question to ask.

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Ok some things hang around far too long. They're not only wearing out their welcome, but they're lurching around, rotting, smelling like an extra on The Walking Dead.

And most certainly one of them is that old, stinking excuse “I have X friends” (or cousins, or co-workers or employees or someone who once passed you in the street) and it's related zombies “My friend said X”.

Apart from anything else, it's useless. I'm always amazed when one marginalised person says “hell no” and then some privileged person turns round and says “but my friend says...”. Why? Why does your reported friend overrule the marginalised person in front of you saying it's not ok? Sometimes even multiple marginalised people are supposed to bow to this. Does your friend have the grand imperial veto or something? Supreme Godfather of the Gay Agenda? International President of all Black People? Supreme Dictator of Translandia?

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After the much reported homophobia in YA fiction (or, should I say, after the long term homophobia in YA fiction's publishing became noticed and more shouted about) following 2 authors being called upon to de-gay their story there has been a lot of talk about it. A lot of people expressing outrage at the erasure of GBLT characters from YA – and especially the utter wrongness of publishers demanding that GBLT characters be removed or made straight before publishing.

Many things have arisen out of this – not least of which is a lot of authors coming forward with their own stories of publisher demands and erasure. It's good to see some attention being paid and hopefully we can see some changes.

A one thing that has arisen is book lists. Lists of YA books with GBLT characters as protagonists. I approached the lists with – ok, not glee because I'm far too cynical for that now. But cautious optimism and certainly a hope to increase my reading lists

And then I looked at some of the lists and... was saddened

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I have a huge list of pet hates because it's truly amazing how much privileged arseholery there is out there, but at the moment, swimming its way to the front of the list is:

“It's better than....”

“At least I'm not....”

For I tire of these excuses, I really do. I tire of the bare minimum being considered praiseworthy. And I tire of any prejudice short of the utter extreme being considered acceptable.


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So, there have been a few cases now and I feel moved to rant... err, I mean comment.

During the eternal meandering of the proposition 8 trial it was revealed that judge Waker was gay. And the haters were up in arms, frothing and furious! We can't have a gay judge decide that case! He'd be biased! How can he possibly be fair!? The whole case must be scrapped and re-decided with a fair (straight) judge!

And then we have a case of a gay prison inmate on trial for attacking a prison guard – the prosecution is quick to remove a lesbian from the jury. Uh-huh

And of course, they're not isolated cases, nor for that matter, are they limited to one country. It's not limited to one marginalisation for that matter. There's a pervasive idea that to be unbiased you have to be privileged. Simply because we are GBLT, we are inherently biased. We cannot be trusted to be fair, to make reasoned decisions, to be anything other than self-serving and selfish.

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There are innumerable ways I while away the few... well, minutes that aren't already claimed in my extra hectic circle. And one among my guilty pleasures is the computer game, the Sims 3. Especially when I'm reading a book for Fangs for the Fantasy that is so ultra painful that I have to do something else at the same time to distract me

Anyway, a friend of mine looked over my shoulder and was surprised at my gay commune. Yes, all my Sims, their children and grandchildren were gay – my little gaytopia. And this confused and bemused her. Isn't it silly? Isn't it unrealistic?

And I have to say this is a game where my eldest Sim is a vampire, where I can make the kids age by buying a cake, I can on holiday to France, find some artefacts and bring them home (also the only place you can buy a camera) and put them on your shelves. I can buy teleport pad for crying out loud. But an all gay household? That's just ridiculous!

And I recall, the many times when I complained about lack of decent GBLT representation out there, commenters have objected because “realistically” there just simply aren't that many GBLT people, right? So surely a lack of us is just “realistic.” Never mind the other effects of representation on a marginalised population, never mind that even if the quota in the media exactly matched the proportions in real life, we'd still need a damn site more characters. Never mind how we commonly accept elves and goblins and star ships and that absolutely anyone laughs along with those laugh tracks. No, too many GBLTs? That's totally unrealistic.

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So last week I saw another round of that old old game - “you aren't tolerating the homophobes! You terrible intolerant person!”

Because we, as marginalised people looking for tolerance to survive, are hypocrites because we don't tolerate those who attack us.



There be a new post on the blog. clicky clicky
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Marginalisation comes with many costs. Many personal costs, costs to life, costs to lifestyle, and certainly costs to health. Being marginalised can hurt you in a myriad of ways and I'm sure most people can see that and understand that.

Which is why it never fails to annoy me – or cause me grey hairs – when privileged people use the symptoms of our marginalisation to further attack us. They take our scars and try to bludgeon us with them.

And rarely is this so clear than in the right wing cluckings about the “gay lifestyle.” Because that's a meme isn't it? That' we're unhealthy? That we're diseased? Even that *gasp* being GBLT will lower your life expectancy! Yes, GBLT people are doomed to die young! They have to protect the kiddies from the dreaded gay because it will kill them! BEWARE THE GAYDEATH! GAYDEATH stalks us!


New post on the bloggy thing. CLICKY CLICKY
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This piece originally appeared at Womanist Musings where Renee has very generously allowed my random musings to appear on her excellent blog
 
And now I’m going to have a rather personal ramble on internalized self-hate and the horrible baggage it leaves. Which, in turn, is why I am slightly obsessive when it comes to demanding decent gay representation in the media (that and the sporks. I hate being spoked I do and it’s nigh impossible to avoid if you turn a television on).
 
When I was growing up I had one series of books that contained a gay character – and they were written by Ann “tent peg” McCaffrey. Television was scarcely much better, the recognisable gay characters being people like John  Humphreys and Lieutenant Gruber – caricatures that existed so straight people could point and giggle at them, comic characters who were funny ONLY because they are gay and simply being gay was just so screamingly hilarious.
 
My family didn’t talk about anything remotely related to being gay except in the most heavily euphemistic terms (often with strong slants of distaste). The closest they ever came was pouring venom over my uncle Henry.
 
I remain the only person in the family who refers to him that way. My great uncle Ralph never married. He lived with Henry for 30 years. The family always referred to him as “Henrietta” though he never identified by that name nor in any way as female. And when uncle Ralph died they pushed him out of the funeral and spoke bitterly about how ‘Henrietta’ got all of Ralph’s money (thankfully Ralph was sensible enough to make a will). I’ve often wanted to meet him, but after Ralph died no-one kept in touch with him, no-one even knew his last name. 
 
I’ve already spoken about some of the badness that hit when I came out/was outed at school. There was a whole lot of negative there and I absorbed most of it.
 
In short, I entered the big bad world of dating rather messed up. I hated myself and had a twisted, broken idea of what it meant to be gay. I had no positive ideal of myself or what I was. I thought love was impossible, an alien concept, something reserved for others. Gay men only wanted sex. All the time. Any time. And that it was dirty and shameful and wrong and sick. It was unnatural and perverse. I didn’t understand or recognise affection even though I craved it – and hated myself more for not being a ‘proper’ gay man. And I expected various badnesses to be normal and acceptable among gay men.
 
Needless to say, this was not a particularly healthy attitude. It certainly didn’t lead to many constructive relationships.My dating history is a trainwreck of disasters. Decent guys were usually too young, inexperienced and just unable to deal with my subscriptions (I had graduated beyond issues). Some became frustrated and angry which didn’t help over much. Guys as messed up as me lasted longer – and we indulged in a happy fun ride of spirally disaster and mutual destruction. This was not helpful to either of us. And there were guys who were very happy to find a young, vulnerable, emotionally needy, malleable and easy to please and willing to tolerate just about anything. And that wasn’t helpful either.
 
And I didn’t look for help. Because I knew what would help. I would have to magically become straight – or live with it. Those were the choices – because the problem simply had to be my being gay. And, of course, there were no shortage of powers that be that were happy to agree with me there – and smugly take any tales of a dysfunctional gay relationship as proof for their own homophobia. To this day, I dislike discussing even moderate relationship issues I have with Beloved, let alone my past trainwrecks. I cannot describe how hard it makes it to find help when you know that any indication that a relationship is less than perfect – let alone outright destructive – then it will be blamed on your sexuality, on who you are.
 
It took a lot of work, dedication and love from a lot of good people and great friends and a whole lot of rage to put me back together again, build a sense of self-worth and try to shed some of my gross misconceptions about what it meant to be a gay man – and that that’s not a bad thing to be. Well, insofar as I have been put together again.
 
Looking back, I have a strong sense of being cheated, of years wasted and lost while I sorted my head out. And I have a whole lot of rage – and no small amount of that against myself for allowing myself to be a victim when common sense and logic should have opened my eyes. (And yes, I know I wasn’t working on logic at the time, I don’t think anyone is, but knowing that doesn’t make it accepted or any less enraging).
 
But I’m also angry at the negative message. The negative messages that saturated the world that I absorbed and the positive messages that are silenced, diluted and overwhelmed. I am angry when I see stereotypes and caricatures, I am angry when I see people using “gay rights” to push gay fetishisation, I am angry when I see the life-affirming It Gets Better campaign being gradually overwhelmed by celebrities looking for a higher profile, companies using it for marketing, politicians using it for campaigning and an inordinate number of straight people looking for those tasty ally cookies.
 
And I am angry because there’s still a vast number of people out there who cry “censorship” every time we protest hate speech. I am angry at the vast number of people who yell “think of the children!” every time we demand that GBLTQ youth see positive representations of themselves. I am angry every time someone says “don’t you have anything better to worry about?” when I complain about media depictions or erasure or the near universal heterosexist nature of advertising or the hate speech spouted by religious leaders, by politicians, by celebrities and yes, even high profile nobodies with 10 minutes of undeserved fame ranting off on their twitter feed.
 
Because – and I say it again knowing I’ve said it so many times before that I’m not even a broken record any more because a broken record would have worn out by now – the message matters. The message can make and break lives
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This piece originally appeared at Womanist Musings where Renee has very generously allowed my random musings to appear on her excellent blog

Valentines day has swung round again. And words cannot express how much I hate this day (though I am looking forward to the much more fun holiday – cheap chocolate day!)

Not just because it’s so commercialised that cupid should have a Clinton Cards logo branded on his arse. Not even because I think greetings cards are the biggest con since people started trying to sell London bridge

No, my first annoyance is just how empty it is. To me Valentines day means “society has told me I should give you this card and this sanctioned gift. This is no indication of my feelings – it’s required on this date.” Nearly every couple around the country – and more, will be doing the same thing, probably even the same gifts and maybe the same cards. It’s very impersonal…

And if it’s impersonal, how can it be romantic? I’d much rather Beloved surprise me with a gift that is meaningful to me, on a date that matters to us (or just randomly because he wants to…. well, depending on his surprises anyway. Beloved has a bad track record with surprises). A gift given on the 14th February feels like a duty gift – something you are obliged to do, words you are obliged to say – because that’s the way “it’s done.”

That doesn’t mean that loving couples don’t celebrate, and it doesn’t mean that people can’t make genuine romantic gestures on this day (*and hey maybe it’s a reminder for people who don’t to actually do so) but it does feel a little contrived – and more than a little like the greeting cards industry saying “there are no damn holidays in February?! Let us exploit their loooove/guilt to make them buy shit!”

But the second and main reason I hate it? Well, is there a holiday on our calendar that is more heteronormative than this one? Is there one holiday that is more overwhelmingly straight? For the weeks leading up to it and the day itself, it’s one giant het-fest – even more so than daily life.

I’m glad I don’t watch much television, because the weeks of adverts of lots of straight folks celebrating romance would quickly drive me up the wall. I mean advertising is usually wall to wall straight folks anyway. It’s absolutely everywhere you look, in every media you consume and it’s all straightness all the time. Well now we get to throw in the emphasis on love and couples blaring from every direction and the omission is glaring. “It’s the time of year where we all celebrate romantic loooove! Uh… but not yours. No we don’t want that. Yours doesn’t count. We mean real love. And by real love, we mean man/woman love – the only love there is!”

What’s with that Milk Tray man?! Am I not worth James Bond rip-off stunts to bring a box of poxy chocolates too?!

If I go shopping I am bombarded “straight love! WORSHIP THE STRAIGHT LOVING! Anyone not in a straight loving relationship right now is sad and lonely in a desolate empty life!” (can you tell it bugs me?) Signs and banners, packaging and jingles. And don’t even get me started on the music. Boy meets girl. Girl meets boy. Girl sings about losing boy. Boy sings about wanting girl. Boys and girls sing together about how wonderful the opposite gender is. Gods, if they do a cover of a song that was sang by the opposite gender they change the damn words to desperately avoid THE GAY! *crash of thunder* *lightening strike* *maniacal laugh*

And it’s a damn good thing I do think cards are just a con because if I did feel the need to buy Beloved a Valentines day card I’d have to trawl past acres of straight cards and hope I could find something suitably generic that will hide the fact it’s meant for a man to send to his girlfriend – or vice versa. Actually finding a card for gay men to celebrate out love? Yeah, that’s going to be a specialist supplier there. Major greetings card companies just don’t cover same-sex love. Hallmark is “thinking about it.” and taking  “baby steps” It’s a card for crying out loud. You need a 10 step plan to make a card?! And Clinton Cards in the UK? They’re producing THIS vile thing

So yeah, cards? Probably not even if I were willing to spend that much on a piece of paper.

This holiday is a constant barrage It’s 99.9% man/woman man/woman, man/woman THIS IS HOW IT SHOULD BE! MAN/WOMAN!!!! The Hetero-holiday has spoken!

So to those who celebrate – happy Het-fest!

To the rest of us, let’s buy cheap chocolates, lots of booze and snark at things. Bah… hmmm… what’s the valentines equivalent of ‘humbug’ anyway? “Bah Garage Flowers?”

sparkindarkness: (STD)

This piece originally appeared at Womanist Musings where Renee has very generously allowed my random musings to appear on her excellent blog

Humanity confuses me at times. With this bruiser on my face I think I’ve had the following conversation several times.

Person: *gasp* what happened to your face?

Sparky: Someone hit me.

Person: *disapproving look*

Yes, they appear to disapprove of my face being in the way of someone’s fist. Yes yes they do.

Maybe they disapprove of my inability to dodge?

Maybe everyone around me secretly believes I am a secret agent or a trained martial artist – maybe I look so cool they can’t imagine anyone could possibly lay a finger on me without me ripping them limb from limb while delivering terribly witty one liners?

Or, as it occurred to me, we live in very different worlds. They haven’t been attacked. They’ve never been the victims of violence. They’ve never, really, face the actual threat of violence, it’s so alien to them that the reality of it catches them out – it can’t happen randomly, the world, their world, just doesn’t work that way. I must have been an instigator, I must have done something I shouldn’t have – not necessarily “asking for it” but at least doing something foolish or silly that put me at risk.

Either that or they’ve never placed me in their mental picture of a victim. For whatever reason, I don’t fir the profile of someone who has to be careful of someone who has violence enter their lives. I wonder if I should take that as a compliment or be vexed by their blinkered vision.

And, well, neither mind sets are ones I can picture. I’ve pretty much absorbed the idea that violence happens, happens to me and happens any time. I’ve accepted the idea that safety is pretty rare and you have to be on guard (though, clearly, this is a lesson I need to practice more). It’s not the first timer. It’s not the 6th time. It’s not the 9th time. It won’t be the last time.

And it has had me somewhat torn in emotional response. Do I envy them for living lives so… sanitised, so insulated from some of the harsher aspects of reality that violence is an alien concept to them? Be irritated at their ignorant naivety? Be angry because they are so ignorant and dismissive and almost doubting of my experiences?

But it also makes me think. It makes me think how hard sometimes it is to bridge the gap of people’s experiences. How hard it can be for people to understand a marginalisation who either do not live that marginalisation or just cannot see you within the context of that marginalisation (either because they have bought into stereotypes or preconceived notions). Part of this relates to my previous post on how if you’re privileged you don’t understand.

But I think it’s more. First a reminder to privileged people that they’re looking at the world through a different lens. But I think it’s also reminder to the marginalised that, no, maybe the privileged people genuinely don’t understand . Yes maybe they are shocked, confused and bemused. Maybe we do have to stop, take a few steps back and let them catch up with the conversation. Not that we need to put up with fail, wilful ignorance or general arseholery, but at least be aware that we may have left someone behind. Remember the nuance or assumptions made me lost (or completely different ones made) and maybe some gaps need to be filled.

Do I know where I’m going with this? No, it’s something of a ramble as is my wont. But it’s something to think about.


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April 2015

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