LGBT Identities & Intersectionality: A Little Research

Last night I went to Chic Chat, a gathering of bisexual women (trans/genderqueer inclusive) hosted by the Bisexual Organizing Project (BOP) and had a good time. I have been to their events in the past but hadn’t made it to one in a couple years, due to my many competing interests! I was excited to find out that they are going to be doing a series this year of community education sessions about racial/ethnic diversity and discussions of white privilege.

I decided to start doing some research on racial diversity among LGBT populations and possibly bisexuals in particular.

2012 Gallup Poll: 3.4% of Americans identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender  http://www.gallup.com/poll/158066/special-report-adults-identify-lgbt.aspx

A couple of limitations are noted by the way the poll was taken: differences among the GLBT identities can’t be accounted for, and it is purely based on self-identification, not on past or present sexual behavior or other traits. My own thought: People with other identities, such as queer, genderqueer or intersexed might not respond in the affirmative.

This is much less than Americans often think, due to the prominence of GLBT issues in the media, as well as the oft-used statistic that 1 in 10 men has had sex with a man from Alfred Kinsey’s research (it’s suspected that this was a result of selection bias on Kinsey’s part, due to his interests!) It’s often been thought that it was less for women. Due to media framing and the history of the movement, it’s also assumed GLBT identities are primarily a “white” thing, sometimes even implied to be symptomatic of privileged white decadence- an effete elite. Based on the findings of the Gallup, these assumptions are quite false!

Non-Hispanic White: 3.2
Black: 4.6
Hispanic: 4.0
Asian: 4.3

Altogether- a third of LGBT identified people are non-white (33%) whereas 27% of the non-GLBT population is non-white.
Also- slightly more women than men. (I suspect the number of women who identify as bisexual vs. men may have an effect on this)

Men-3.3.
Women 3.6

Being gay, lesbian, bi or trans is also often assumed to correlate with going to college, and being gay or lesbian in particular is somewhat assumed to go with a middle-class or higher status. Also wrong!

High School or less 3.5
Some college           4.0
College grad             2.8
Post grad                  3.2

Under $24,000             5.1
$24  k- less than 60 k 3.6
60 k to less than 90 k 2.8
90,000+                          2.8

The numbers related to income, education and racial diversity also correlate with the higher number of younger Americans who self-identify as LGBT-
18-29 6.4
30-49 3.2
50-64 2.6
65+     1.9
Broken down by gender:
18-29 Women 8.3
18-29 Men 4.6

So yeah- make way for young, queer women of color- with kids!
LGBT women are just as likely to be raising kids under 18 as non-LGBT identified women. More than 41% of Hispanic and African-American lesbian, bisexual or trans women are raising kids. 38% of Asian-American les/bi/trans, and 28% of whites. (I’ve also heard that queer women of color are more likely to be raising biological children from heterosexual relationships)

I have also seen some stats that higher number of people with disabilities identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual (not sure if trans was included) and vice versa, particularly lesbian and bi women, and that there are higher percentages of people with disabilities in communities of color. I’ll save that for another post- this is a lot of info for now!

But in short, if we want more people to come to our events, they should be affordable, at different times (not assuming 9-5 Monday thru Friday schedule) so people who work evenings/weekends/nights may attend, are kid-friendly or provide childcare if not. We could try holding events in different neighborhoods than usual and reaching out to more community organizations.

September 18, 2014 at 10:01 pm Leave a comment

So Call Me “Retard”

What I’ve found even more pervasive than racism in online communities- Geek, Heathen, Pagan,  whatever is the highly “creative” ableist insults. Racist fucktards, and New Age flufftards.  Wow, that is sooo clever! Just take apart the word “retard” add a new prefix on and ta-da! New insult! Of course just plain ol’ retard still does the trick. Look at me- I’m an autistic person that understands the use of sarcasm! And empathy for all those people you’re insulting, yes autistic people actually are capable of that too! Guess what, I actually know a lot of people with mental disabilities who have accomplished what you haven’t- graduating from high school! Apparently you’re still in elementary school because that’s kinda the maturity level you’re showing when you call everyone that disagrees with you “retard”, idiot, imbecile, spastic, etc. And in fact, plenty of kids in elementary school actually know that those words are not OK to use, and learn to treat their peers with disabilities with respect!

So, yeah internet trolls. Bring it on! Call me retard! To my face or on this blog! Then we’ll know who really are- a coward and a bully!

They tell me this is just some fake phony arbitrary “political correctness”, I’m just suppressing your right to free speech.   Ableism isn’t a “real” ism, everyone loves people in wheelchairs and Down Syndrome kids! (Because they never grow up, am I right?) They even have that law that protects them- the ADA! It’s been so effective in making sure everyone can get the employment, housing and other services they need! Or “those disabled people” all get checks from the government so they have nothing to whine about. Just like Indians all get rich from casino money, right?

Calling racists stupid or crazy is also part of a misconception. People are not racist because they are stupid. They may be illogical and lacking critical thinking skills, certainly. Wanting someone else to blame for their problems- it’s the Mexicans taking the jobs away, it’s the “welfare queens”, whatever. It’s all much easier than realizing that the upper class has been screwing you over for generations by pitting poor whites against poor blacks. It’s easier to go after someone you know who’s cheating on welfare than all the millionaires that do. Because you don’t see them doing it. Out of sight out of mind.

Mentally ill people, actually rarely become violent, in fact they are more likely to be the victims of violence and abuse and this is also the case with people with autism and other developmental disabilities. And as I commented to that fellow on Wild Hunt, why would disabled people support Neo-Nazis, when after all, the Nazis went after disabled people first!

September 17, 2014 at 12:37 am 1 comment

Updates/Notes on the Traffic Light/Racism Post

After reading some community feedback on my previous post, both here and on Wild Hunt, I’ve made some changes to the post and here are some further comments and explanations.

*Faoladh/C.L. Vermeers correctly understood my intent that the presence of  “yellow signs” aren’t necessarily OMG that means group/person X is racist! Other people didn’t read my post as carefully or perhaps I was not clear enough. The entire point of this exercise was to avoid jumping to conclusions and badly supported accusations of racism and Neo-Nazism based on certain words, symbols and themes found in European culture and religious oriented individuals and groups.

*I decided to removed some references specific to Heathenry- mainly the folkish and tribalist labels- partly because I find these terms are not always used consistently by different individuals and groups. There may also be different connotations in different countries- some have noted that “tribalist” has been used as code for folkish, but I think this is mostly a U.S. American thing. I was conversing with a British Anglo-Saxon tribalist Heathen over on Wild Hunt and realized this. Another reason is that I want to emphasize that racism among Pagans is not just a “Heathen problem” it’s a problem in almost all sectors of Pagan and polytheist religions, just as with broader society. I am concerned also that unnecessary paranoia about Heathenry and Asatru may lead to other Pagans wanting to further dissociate themselves from them. I would like to see more understanding between Heathens, other polytheists and Pagans, Wiccans et al while at the same time recognizing the uniqueness and independence of these different religions. Personally I have been impressed by the positive interconnection between local Heathens/Asatru with the broader Pagan community in the Twin Cities area, though it seems in the past few years they have retreated somewhat from this involvement.

*I have been trying to “sniff out” the signs of racism in various people and organizations unfortunately sometimes after rather unpleasant run-ins with them online. Frankly, I’m not sure how much I trust organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center to investigate organizations without having a bias against Heathenry, Asatru or other European polytheist religions. I also don’t necessarily trust the claims that specific Pagans and Heathens about being anti-racist- I judge them by their actions. My journey as a progressive activist with a strong interest in my European heritage can be a lonely and delicately trod path. Many of my fellow leftists have a secular or sometimes Christian bias and sometimes a degree of suspicion towards European cultural revivalists, so I have to be careful how I present myself and my views. For one thing, I pretty much entirely avoid the subject of Israel/Palestinian conflict.

*This is not about obsessively enforcing “political correctness” whatever the hell that means- it’s a rather vague term that gets thrown around, usually by people who are mad at me for insisting that they treat others with respect and try to learn about people who are different from them. How dare I disrupt their blissful ignorance!

*There are various discussions about a type of philosophy called Radical Traditionalism, and authors that are said to support that philosophy, which is connected with the “New Right” that I made reference to- this tends to be more of a European thing, though this school of thought seems to be an influence in the U.S. and Canada as well. I don’t feel knowledgeable enough about this to comment on it too much. Some folks feel that certain Pagan bloggers/activists are unfairly targeting particular scholars and philosophers as fascists, and including the journal “TYR” in this. If Rhyd Wildermuth cares to discuss the “Rad Trads” on his blog or elsewhere, I would recommend checking out what he has to say. Though I don’t agree with everything he says politically, as a political scientist I respect the research and thought he puts into his analysis.

September 16, 2014 at 11:56 pm Leave a comment

Red, Yellow and Green Lights: Discerning Racism

I took a break from reading/writing Pagan blogs for a while and came back to this news of a white nationalist band being kicked off of Philadelphia’s Pagan Pride and a response by Ryan Smith of Heathens United Against Racism- Ending Silence to End the Bigotry. There’s been some debate over whether this band was actually racist, or just had some racist fans and used some imagery associated with Nazis. It seems like there is enough damning evidence against Norsewind, however I do understand that sometimes it is tricky to draw a line between truly racist bands and Pagan/Heathen groups when they use similar terms, symbols and rhetoric.  Over time, from observing various patterns in code words, framing and phrasing on websites of European (or Euro- diasporan) cultural and religious organizations, conservative political groups, and even having run-ins with individuals on Facebook and other places who set off my alarm bells. I’m working on getting my driver’s license, so the analogy of red, yellow and green lights came to mind. Green means you’re in friendly territory, yellow is caution- warning signs that may signal a problematic group, or may not- if you find many yellow light signs from one individual or group, this may add up to be a red light.  I’m probably being more generous with the yellow lights than some would be- frankly as a person with white privilege I can afford to be. I understand from my own personal experience than un-learning racism is a life-long journey, so I don’t claim to have a huge moral superiority over my peers. From an activist viewpoint- the folks with the yellow “caution” signs are people you may be able to dialogue with, and help them see other views, while the red means stop people I would recommend confronting only to kick out of events, online groups or organizations. Trying to “convert” them to a different way of thinking is a noble intent, but it’s pretty much a waste of time and possibly a risk to your mental and physical health.  For safety reasons, to a person of color (or person with a multi-racial family) interested in Heathenry and European culture, I would recommend viewing yellows with two stars** as reds.** Edit: I have now moved beyond traffic light colors and made those orange. I may need an entire rainbow!

Green Light: Explicit statement about anti-racist stance, inclusion of people of color. Hopefully also: people with disabilities, people of different classes and income levels and inclusion of sexual and gender diversity. Involvement in community activities that support these values.

Yellow Light:

*The phrase “indigenous European” is sometimes used by New Right/white nationalist groups

*the term European-American, or Euro-American is used by both right-wing and left-wing groups. I mean, I use it.

*Indo-European studies- of course, being an ADF-er I don’t have a problem with IE  Studies by itself. However sometimes people with creepy agendas use Indo-European studies to support their views- usually for a “Aryan origin for all religions!” metanarrative.

*Facebook friends/fans- remember a fan page is different- you can be a fan of a group without their acknowledgement, a friendship request requires a person to respond. Should we expect band members to check potential friends’ facebook pages for signs of racist views? This is why I think fan pages are a better idea for bands. Frankly, I have individuals who follow my blog that have expressed anti-Semitic, homophobic and other not cool things on their blogs. Don’t know why they follow me, but I just don’t follow them back.

*Neo-folk and black metal genres of music- bands who play these genres- or any other genre may or may not be racist

*Use of symbols/imagery that were (mis)used by Nazis, KKK or other groups- Black sun, Celtic Cross, certain runes, swastikas

Orange Light:

**Individuals/Groups that express concern over (non-white) immigration, complaints that affirmative action policies are “reverse racism”, paranoia of the growth or influence of Islam in Europe or the U.S., Christianity, feminism, Big Government, pop culture or some other sinister influence as making “our sons” effeminate, homosexual, weak pacifists and we need to go back Ye Olde Macho Warrior Traditions!

**Playing a gig for a racist group without realizing it was racist (this claim can be a stretch at times- people don’t see what they don’t want to see- however there are groups that are sneaky, and the politically unsavvy may be taken in)

Red Light:

*Explicit exclusion of people with the “wrong” ancestry (usually just by making assumptions based on their appearance)

*Repeatedly playing gigs for racist groups (while claiming to be “a-political”) Repeatedly co-hosting events with racist Heathen/Pagan groups in the name of “frith” or “harmony”.

*White genocide- Oh No! white people are a minority in “their own country” (whose country?) This is not the same as genocide! No one is systemically being killed. Little hint: Pale-skinned people have *always* been a global minority!

*Metagenetics or other pseudo-scientific theories about how culture (and religion) is genetic. While we’re at it, let’s throw in phrenology just for fun!

*discussion of whites as a minority group whose “interests” need defending like other minority groups

*It’s all a big Jewish/gay/feminist/cultural Marxist/Wiccan/Universalist/New World Order/black helicopters Conspiracy! Extra points if conspiracy that involves different factions that openly despise each other in reality, but somehow are secretly collaborating.

Conclusion Furthering the traffic metaphor- even when you have a green light, you need to be careful. Someone can still make a right turn, and you have to watch out for them. Someone also may run a red light! Likewise, even when an explicit anti-racist stance is taken, there may still be problems with subtle forms of prejudice, micro-aggressions, assumptions and de facto discrimination. People may be good about  Individuals and groups also may change their views and policies over time, and we will all have to decide for ourselves if these changes are genuine, if apologies are sincere, and if we truly feel comfortable associating with individuals or groups that are supposedly reformed. I’ll be discussing dealing with examples of more everyday, “kinder gentler, more liberal” racism in other posts. I also recommend- if you want to give examples of racist groups, rather than directly link to them and boost their web ratings, use DoNotLink.com, it will link via the website so you visit it without helping the website get more publicity. Please comment if you have any suggestions to add to my list of warning signs.

September 15, 2014 at 11:38 pm 5 comments

Gentrification and Mixed Feelings

Alley Valkyrie has written yet another amazing essay, this one about her experiences living in a working-class Afro-Caribbean neighborhood, and how her presence there helped lead to gentrification. (link to be added!) I’m long-time city-dweller with mixed-class status and white privilege as well as a live-in caretaker of a home in which I rent out rooms to low income tenants. So yeah, I have a very complex relationship with gentrification. Neighborhoods need to be maintained and improved, yet a balance must be maintained as well. Likewise, I don’t really believe that there are “good” and “bad” neighborhoods. Those are big over-simplications with many unexamined assumptions lurking behind them.  

My neighborhood, Midway in St. Paul has fluctuated in its reputation over the time I’ve lived here. Back in 1994 my dad drove by and spotted the house and made an offer to the owner that very day. Apparently my neighbors thought he overpaid for it at the time. Many of the neighbors were elderly or middle-aged empty-nesters. There were only a handful of kids I knew, mostly younger than me. Over time, a bunch of them have moved away and younger couples (with and without kids) have moved in. There was a tattoo parlor close by (much to my parents’ chagrin), and several businesses later there’s one there again! Midway had a worse reputation then. My Dad, who is from the suburbs of Philadelphia originally, strongly believes in fighting the trends of middle-class white flight (a social trend which has had a terrible effect on Philly and many other metro areas) by staying vigilant and aware of what’s going on. He and other neighbors in our block club were in frequent contact with the police about activities they found suspicious- cars stalling by our large privacy fence might mean drug deals. Lots of people going in and out of a house might mean a drug house. And so forth. So with this vigilance, the neighborhood got better, but we try not to be complacent. We continually need to keep an eye on things. I still get comments from people, especially from suburbs about where I live. “You live there, really? Well, at least it’s not Frogtown!”  Frogtown, or Thomas-Dale is nearby, and I don’t really consider it “worse” than Midway. Different in flavor, more like. When I take the (newly finished as of June!) Green line light rail down University Avenue, I notice both neighborhoods have a mix of businesses that are newer, or have been fixed up, and ones that are run-down, and vacant buildings and a few empty lots that are waiting to be bought. There are somewhat more of the latter in Frogtown, but there are also improvements in the works. There are lots of immigrants from Southeast Asia- Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia. Many of them have lived here for a couple of generations at least. There are more recent immigrants from Northeastern Africa- chiefly Ethiopia & Somalia. There are Black Americans and European American whose families have live in this country much longer. I suppose this diversity scares some people, but I find their own ignorance scarier. I think the mix of cultures makes things interesting. For one, I can go have Cambodian for dinner, then have breakfast at the Finnish bistro the next morning!

We have Hamline University, and not too far away, Macalester College and St. Catherine’s, St. Thomas, and in the other direction, the University of Minnesota.  Having all these educational institutions nearby. Oddly though, I’ve never rented to any students before (as my parents and many neighbors expected to happen), I’ve gotten a few Craiglist responses from students, and shown the house to a few, but none of them ever worked out.

Just as with things in nature, neighborhoods and cities have cycles. And different neighborhoods and cities go thru phases of the cycles at different times. I could do some homework on urban studies and sociology to get into more , but I intuitively know what some these cycles are without doing that. I’ve watched them over the years just as I see the dramatic turns of Minnesota seasons. I already mentioned one- generational cycles. Waves of people often move in or out of a neighborhood at particular times. Individual buildings and businesses go thru cycles. A change in one individual’s decision of where to live, or whether to renovate their home or business or build a new one, influences others decisions. Each neighborhood and city has its own social and economic balance that it needs to maintain in order for people to get what they need. And within a metropolitan area like the Twin Cities, each adjoining town or city tries to find niches to fill within that context. Within a city, a neighborhood tries to figure out its own niche. In St. Paul and Minneapolis, each neighborhood has a name and a council (some are larger, more organized and do more things than others, and it also depends on what other non-profits exist that focus on that area, or if a city or state government decides to fund a special business development program there and so forth.
I feel my neighborhood is pretty good about maintaining the necessary equilibrium, without going into full-blown gentrification mode.

September 5, 2014 at 3:39 am Leave a comment

Retreat and Renewal

(Written on August 16th- not posted due to technical goof)
Today, I’m leaving on a trip to Wyoming/Montana to visit family. (Response from one of my housemates: “Where’s Montana?”)  “Uh, it’s a state, far out to the West of here.” I said. Hopefully this will be a good way to finish getting over my depression and as my partner put it “Find Mariah again. I really miss her!” That’s my actual name, I think I’ve used it here but can’t remember. Keeping this blog has been a major solace to me, but also an unhealthy obsession at times. It can be a healthy way to talk about my issues and connect with like-minded people. But it also can be a way of escaping my problems and responsibilities. Seeing my family and getting out in the wilderness and away from technology will be good for me. Just so long as my family isn’t too crazy-making…but I can only control me, not them.

Note: I tried posting this from my tablet, which can be a little wonky- it’s better for browsing/reading than writing because it sometimes crashes and copy/pasting links doesn’t work well either. But the internet is being painfully slow on my partner’s computer (I know I’m spoiled, aren’t I?) So I may be posting some things, just with less links, and perhaps go back and add them in later.

September 5, 2014 at 1:18 am Leave a comment

Remembering Columbine

(This post was going to be about Goth culture, but then it turned into being about Columbine. Well stay tuned for the next post!) I remember when I was in high school, when the Columbine shooting happened. Afterwards there were many panicked attempts to blame various “bad influences” on the teenagers who committed the crimes. Video games! (this is is invoked every time there’s a shooting) Goth culture! Drugs! The Occult! At various schools across the country, dress codes were tightened, specifically targeting “deviant” clothing, make-up, jewelry and accessories.

Rather than urging protection for students against bullying, bullied students were looked upon with suspicion. They must be depressed, troubled youth barely stifling homicidal urges! people thought. So it was one big fun batch of scary things society doesn’t understand and likes to sweep under the rug, all in one! Mental illness! Guns! Odd youth subculture! Misfit teenagers! My high school was mostly Black, in a “bad neighborhood”, full of “bad kids” with “bad parents”. At least, that’s how it would all be portrayed if a shooting had happened there. It would be in the news, but not like Columbine. Besides, my school always had at least one cop stationed there, and constant paranoia about guns being brought in to the school. Columbine shocked not just due to the number of students shot, but also because it was in a Nice Innocent Middle/Upper Class Suburban White town. These were “good kids” from “good families”. Why and How could this have happened?!!!

Newsflash: White people own guns at twice the rates as Blacks and Latinos (granted the shooting happened in 1999, this data is from 2013, but if anything I bet the rates have gone up since then. OMG! Obama’s been elected! Must buy guns!

Also see this helpful graphic of mass shootings: notice almost all are white dudes. Frankly, I suspect in some cases their white privilege (i.e. lack of suspicion towards them compared to co-workers/other students/bystanders of other cultural background) may have actually helped them in carrying out the crimes.  

My point here is not that “white people all suck” (while of course claiming that I’m the exceptionally enlightened white activist hipster that you should totes invite when you re-form the Black Panther Party or something) This is WordPress- not Tumblr, folks!

But I am pointing out the absurdity of lumping everyone with a vaguely similar skin tone together as a monolithic group that all thinks and acts alike. 

 

September 3, 2014 at 1:33 am Leave a comment

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