Wednesday, April 27, 2011

_______ and Violence. Far too much violence.

I've been trying to respond to Afreen's post for a while now, and my thoughts get tangled up in that morass of fear-of-guilt, agreement, indignation and what-have-you. Then my life took a vacation without me, and I lay about at home not watching the news or being online or being in touch.

I came back today gung-ho to respond to Afreen, and saw, amongst other things, a Gaysi article that made my blood freeze. I want to go back to not paying attention to the news.

I followed links around until I found a more complete story: In a McDonald's restaurant in Baltimore, USA, Chrissy Lee Polis went to use the restroom. She was stopped by two other women. These two women attacked her, dragged her around on the floor, beat her, kicked her. Why? Polis is transgendered.

(There's a video here. It's terrible; I can't watch it all the way through. Be careful if you click to watch it.) An emplo

That's it. A woman got up to use the restrooms. Two other women beat the shit out of her because - er. Because they don't like to share? They're afraid they'll catch cooties? The McDonald's ladies' toilets should not come in contact with peepees that no long apply?

The attackers are 14 and 18 (Teonna Monae Brown) years old. They're being charged, possibly with a hate crime.

The employees at McDonald's stood around and watched. (And laughed.) Vernon Hackett - an employee again - caught the attack on hir mobile camera and put it on youtube. Someone was being dragged around on the floor, beaten and kicked, and he taped it and put it on the internet. (He was fired. McDonald's as an enterprise does not want to be evil.)

The video received widespread attention because of the racial dynamics of the attack...

In America, this attack gets extra attention because the attackers are black, and the victim is white. No, seriously. A woman is beaten and dragged around on the floor of a public eatery, the video is put up on the internet, and it attracts comment because it might have been racially motivated. While racial attacks are an atrocity, something is still very wrong with this picture.

Of all the people in the place, only two people went to help Polis. The manager, and Vicky Thoms. Vicky Thoms is 55 years old. I don't like it when people talk about the manners and morals of the older generation. I am subscribed to the old-people-are-more-narrow-minded school of thought. The vicious beastlings punched Thoms in the face. I'm subscribed to the wrong goddamned school.

As someone who grew up female and is acknowledged as female, I was and am conditioned to be female too - I negotiate my Inner Self with my Outer Self and my Social Self and all in all I think I have a fair grip on the bits of me I call "female" or "woman" or "feminine" or "I can has babies (but don' wanna)". But as a person, as a socially acknowledged female human, as a feminist, I have dealt consciously and unconsciously all my life with being relegated to my body. And just my body. Weaker, shorter, softer, bloodier, and therefore finer, more delicate, more nervy, more emotional. Right? Right. And I have read, heard, watched people - women, men, people I couldn't pigeon-hole - say, We are more than our bodies. Or We are our bodies, and we shall claim them. I've seen feminists increase the chasm between the sexes, humanists say, I just want us all to get along, asexual people say, I'm not frigid, all my bits work, I just never want to have sex. It's icky.

But we get to say it. Within the bounds of informed consent, people/our prdecessors/we have worked for decades to ensure it!

In a "queer" world - in a place where we consciously, inevitably, break with heteronormativity, surely it should be easier for us to say, We're Not "Normal", And That Is SO ALL RIGHT. We're together in this. In a world where I get to say, my vagina is not the Men's room (sorry, men, I love you but the metaphor seems funny right now), it's the Ladies', where I can say, I'll love, fuck, make love to, anyone I choose, and you can complain all you like, but if your complaint is their genitalia I'ma gonna tell you to fuck the fuck off -

One assumes that some sorts of tolerance become easier with time.

I keep coming back to those girls. They're girls. Not even women. I don't think they need to be gentle loving souls or whatever feminine crap American girls in Baltimore get fed. I don't know the details of the concerns they face and negotiate every day as a racial minority in a large country. I'm certain that as girls, as women, they are trained - perhaps sensibly, perhaps not - to be wary of male abuse, attack, oppression, chauvinism. But surely, surely, as women, as women pleased to be women, as women who must be careful as well as strong, female as well as women, protective as well as defensive - sure, when someone comes along who says, In my heart, I want to be like you. I have this aspect of you. I am one of you. When that person comes along, whether we're gay, straight, queer, mundane, asexual, misanthropist, ornery, giving - when that person comes along, shouldn't the most natural response be a smile, a hug and a "you took your time getting here, but we've saved some cookies! Dig in before Roh finishes them all, she's a greedy pig."

We're so busy, sometimes, naming things, knowing things, learning things. We're taught where things go, what the physical world is made of. We learn to categorise, to include, to exclude. That's how two young girls, not even women yet, were able to say, "That is a MAN. He does NOT BELONG in the LADIES' toilet."

What would have helped stop this? If Chrissy Polis were black? Would she have been "allowed" the restroom in peace if her skin tone said, "I like sunlight!"? Would she have been categorically safe?

We're a very clever set of apes. So we'll get to the point where we remember what all the learning is for. Hopefully. What being human ought to be for.

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