Posts filed under ‘Identities’

Shades of Yellow

May is Asian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month- wow- that is a lot of different cultures to pack into one month! But still, it seems a good time as any to learn about various APIA perspectives on feminism and social justice.

Last year, as a representative of the Bisexual Organizing Project, I went a SOY event- that stands for Shades of Yellow, which is a Hmong GLBTQ organization here in St. Paul. (Its the first and only such organization!) They are a very friendly and close-knit group and I was impressed to see the progress they had made in building connections and understanding in Hmong and other Asian communities in the area, and raising awareness of  queer HAPI (Hmong Asian Pacific Islander) people in the GLBTQ communities. They are also part of the Queer Southeast Asian Network- a coalition of organizations from around the country. St. Paul has the largest Hmong population in the country, as well as many Vietnamese, Koreans, Cambodians and Laotians. Chinese, Japanese and Indian-Americans in the Twin Cities tend to be more concentrated in the suburbs. Minnesota is also called the “Land of a Gazillion Adoptees” (a play on Land of 10,000 Lakes) the link is to a multimedia project/activist org by and for adoptees (many of whom are Korean, Vietnamese or Chinese adopted by white parents)

Growing up in St Paul (well at least during my teen years) surrounded by this wide variety of Asian cultures became my “normal”. Hearing other whites reduce my neighbors/friends/classmates  all to “Chinese people” or “Orientals” seemed bizarrely ignorant. (Even “Chinese culture” is really made up of many different cultures!) I’m old enough to remember Warner Bro.s cartoons that had racist carciatures of Blacks, American Indians and Asians, and while later the minstrelsy Black characters were removed, the Asian and American Indians remained. Why? That made no sense! I didn’t learn there was such thing as an Asian-American civil rights movement- or Asian involvement in Black civil rights and Black Power, until quite recently!

Big List o’ Asian-American Blogs

Reappropriate

Orgs-

NQAPIA- National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance

(This post is from last year, thought I’d release it into the wild!)

May 4, 2016 at 10:38 pm Leave a comment

Things Other White People Tell Me

They tell me, if I work in solidarity with people of color, and try to educate myself to unlearn the racism I have been taught, that I must be motivated by white guilt.

They tell me if I criticize what other white people say, that I must hate myself- my skin, my “culture”, “heritage”, “people”. They don’t specify what they mean by those things. Apparently I share their culture, am one of their people, just based on my skin color…

They tell me that immigrants are coming to destroy “our” way of life, religion, culture, take “our” jobs. They forget all the same things were said about their ancestors.

They tell me Black, brown, Asian people are more homophobic and sexist- it’s just “their culture” what do you expect. While most of the laws made to oppress queer people and women are made by white (purportedly straight) men. Clearly we need to invade those other countries so we can civilize them and bring them feminism, or atheism, or capitalism or Christianity. Because that would be progress.

They ask why study other languages, because English is clearly the best one, immigrants all need to learn English. They forget how long their German or other ancestors kept speaking their languages. They forget some of my ancestors stopped speaking their native language, being force-taught “superior English” before even coming to this country.

They tell me that “white genocide” is apparently a problem I should be worried about, forgetting that some of my ancestors survived genocide- whether they were considered “white” or not at the time.

They worry about me riding the bus and walking in certain neighborhoods, in spite of the fact that a white cis (non-trans) woman is less likely to be attacked than a woman or man of color.

They want to keep out Syrian and other Muslim refugees to protect white women like me. That’s why the Klan was formed, why countless Black men were hung. To protect white women. I am more likely to be abused or attacked by white men- simply due to who is in my social circle, and who I tend to date. If that happens, though I suppose their concern for me will disappear, how was I dressed, did I have a proper escort.

I am also told that I need protection from the trans women who need to use the bathroom. In spite of the fact that I’ve experienced far more bullying from other white cis girls, because I wasn’t feminine enough, my teenage autistic awkwardness sticking out. I learned that there were many ways to be a woman from trans women, from women of color, from non-binary and genderqueer folks. The same people making these bathroom laws also oppose anti-bullying laws. Who are they actually protecting?

February 29, 2016 at 2:27 am Leave a comment

Diasporan Polytheism

Diaspora is a Greek word meaning to scatter, usually referring to ethnic groups which have been scattered forcibly by expulsion, persecution, genocide and other not-fun thing humans do to each other. The most famous example which often gets the capital D is the Jewish Diaspora, the Irish and African diasporae are other well-known examples. A diasporan religion is one that is practiced around the world far from its origin- Judaism, once again, as well as African and Afro-Caribbean, Chinese folk religion, Shinto and Hinduism. How does the concept of diasporan religion work differently for broken traditions such as European polytheisms in the Americas, Australia et al.? It is tricky to call them “broken” per se, as there are folk customs of honoring land spirits, saint cults with possible pre-Christian roots and magical practices that have been carried across the oceans. Typically these have survived more strongly in rural areas, the Ozarks, Appalachia, Nova Scotia and Deitsch areas being good examples.

This is one of the difficulties of the Irish diaspora in the United States- a mostly rural people became one of the most urban. People even identify their origins by what city they are from- as I sometimes explain to folks that my father is “Philly Irish” (Philadelphia) rather than St. Paul Irish. Then of course we discuss what counties we know our ancestors came from. According to Wikipedia- in depth research I know- Philadelphia has the second largest Irish-American population, Boston being the first.

Like Sarenth discusses here (Broken Lines), there was very little in the way of ethnic cultural traditions that were passed down to me. Then again, I realize there was in way- this would make my father cringe but we are pretty culturally Anglo. It just tends to not be recognized as “ethnic” as its the Wonderbread of American culture (and German culture to some degree, just spell it Wunderbrod) And on the other side, various forms of resistance to dominant Anglo-American culture, including the assertion of Irish identity, trappings of hippie-dom and such. Perhaps it’s not surprising then, that I often find British Druids easier to get along with, while the few Irish-in Ireland people I encounter online seem a bit hostile to American Irish polytheists/pagans/New Agers  being concerned that we don’t care about the living culture, only the old stones of the past, think Ireland is stuck in an endless time loop of the Quiet Man, and we made their lives suck by funding the Irish Republican Army. And using their culture to promote white supremacy.  I understand and empathize with many of these concerns, except maybe the IRA one. WTF? Interesting essay about Irish assimilation here. I guess my dad’s take on Irish identity was the opposite of Sean Hannity & Bill O’Reilly- he saw supporting the Civil Rights movement as a moral duty- both as American citizens and in memory of the challenges our ancestors faced. It’s very interesting to compare the similarities and differences of these three diasporae, adding more in of course- I highly recommend Ronald Takaki’s book A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America, as well as PBS’ 3 documentaries- the Irish in America, Africans in America, and the Jews in America. There is also now one on Italians but I have not seen it yet, so I can’t vouch for its quality either way.

Polytheisms as Diasporic Religions

Vodou F*cks Everything Up

 

January 13, 2016 at 2:29 am 4 comments

Labels, Identities and Boundaries

Hey, y’all! I have moved this post to my Witches & Pagans blog, Way of the Sacred Fool. I realized something rather odd. It seems when I specifically set out to write a post for W & P I end up getting stuck, but then I’ll fluently write out something for this blog. I think I need to *just write* without worrying which blog whatever I’m writing fits into and then publish accordingly!

October 28, 2015 at 1:35 am Leave a comment

Shamanism Part 3- Other Words, Other Worlds

I encounter with relative frequency, individuals calling themselves shamans or having an interest in shamanism in both online and offline settings. I suspect most of them are not Evenki or Tungus Siberian folks, though there is the occasional exception. I would humbly propose to other well-meaning defenders of indigenous cultures that screaming cultural appropriation! at these New Age “shamans” is probably not the best approach, especially if they are not actually the ones leading the weekend sweat lodge retreats and publishing books on Shamanic Wiccan Druidry. Instead, let’s have conversations.

Is there a better word to use than shaman?

What are you trying to describe with the word shaman or the adjective shamanic?

A role serving a particular community as a spiritual specialist who does lots of intense spirit work, healing and otherworld journeying?  What tradition do you work within? Are there more culturally specific terms?

A solitary path that involves intense spirit work and otherworld journeying? Spirit worker, mystic, hedge witch/wizard/warlock

A belief/worldview involving plant, animal and other spirits?  Animist

Some Potentially Very Bad Reasons for “Deciding” to be a Shaman include…

Connotations of “Noble Savages” who are more “in touch with nature, what it Truly Means to Be Human etc.” in contrast to This Corrupt Urban Industrialized Disenchanted society that I still don’t want to leave cuz indoor plumbing and electricity are nice… Please unpack your cultural assumption baggage again- some books that might help:

Playing Indian by Philip J. Deloria

Orientalism by Edward Said

Books, articles and classes on postcolonial theory, postcolonial feminism, anthropology, cultural area studies (American Indian, East Asian, African diaspora et al.)

You have what Western medicine classifies as a mental illness, chronic illness or other disability. Therefore, shaman *must be* your spiritual calling!  You have a shaman-sickness! You are specially/chosen or “marked” by the Gods/Spirits/Ancestors! Your suffering, isolation etc. now has meaning and It All Makes Sense Now!  OK, let’s slow down. I admit this one is a little close to home, as I myself qualify as neurologically divergent in various ways (autistic, epileptic, ADHD, etc.) I believe this *does* make my spiritual perceptions and experiences unique and different in various ways, but I’m hesitant to jump to the conclusion that This Means I Must Have a Special Cosmic Destiny!!!

For one, I know plenty of other people with the same conditions as well as other disabilities that do not have any such spiritual inclinations and get pretty darn irritated when they get the “You are Special Child of God” or the other extreme “You are possessed by demons!” crap from people or similar Pagan/New Agey versions- “You’re an Indigo Child”, “You did something bad in a past life, and this is your punishment”. There does seem to be a higher than average number of Pagans with various disabilities and medical conditions, how much of that is self-selection or by Higher/Lower Powers That Be is up for debate.

You are transgender, non-binary, genderqueer, gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, pansexual, intersex, asexual, kinky, yada yada…and once again this gives you a magical ticket to shaman-hood. In various cultures- yes shaman-type roles are often associated with gender-bending/blurring/fluidity and sexual “otherness”,  though it’s important to remember that late 20th-21st century Western identities like I just mentioned above are different from alternate sexual and gender identities found throughout human history and contemporary cultures around the world. We can certainly find a lot of inspiration and ideas from these various identities, and learning about them can put into context how we view GLBTQ+ identities in our own cultural settings, and how they can have collective and individual spiritual meanings and roles. But likewise, a gender/sexual/romantic minority might see their identity in a completely secular manner, or see their identity as mostly incidental to their spiritual role and development.

October 5, 2015 at 10:00 pm 4 comments

Cultural Sharing vs. Stealing- Past Posts

There’s been yet another dust-up on Pagan Patheos about cultural appropriation- I’m not bothering to post links, you can find them yourself, and I found both of them had a mix of things I agreed with & disagreed with.

So, I’m re-posting links to some older posts I’ve written on the subject. My views may not be exactly the same as the various times these were written, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s very difficult to have all around hard and fast rules about what’s OK and what’s not OK- many folks on Tumblr use the concept of “closed” and “open” cultures, and while it’s good that gets the concept across that some things are off limits, I think it’s also an oversimplification. Many people think Shinto and Hinduism are “closed” but I know non-Japanese and non-South Asian-descended people who practice those religions in fairly traditional ways. Other traditions that are seen as “open” like revived/reconstructed European traditions still have etiquette and taboos, so it’s not like Woo! anything goes!

Cultural Appropriation Has Lost Its Meaning– the Blargh! Everyone’s talking past each other! post

All Wrong: Religion, Culture, Country– the whatever, I don’t care anymore, everything White Americans Do is Wrong post

Educate Yourself!  Attempt at figuring out some guidelines for approaching other cultures respectfully

Encouraging Respectful Language while being respectful

How Folkish Heathenry Differs from Judaism & Native American tribes

Fellow White Liberals, We Created Rachel Dolezal

September 30, 2015 at 1:54 am Leave a comment

Pansexuals & Bisexuals- Suggested Communication Strategy

I came out around age 16, at that time, yes there was Internet, but there wasn’t a lot there yet- searching “bisexuality” would likely yield more porn than decent information, and I was fortunate enough to be living in large liberal metro area that had books about bisexuality and gay/lesbian/bisexual issues more generally in the library. I’ll admit that for myself at the time, my understanding of bisexuality was rather binary- an attraction to both men and women. However, this was more due to my understanding of gender at the time than definitions bisexual activists were promoting. Many bi folks did and still do, use definitions like “being attracted to one’s own gender and others”, but others did and still likely do use more gender binary definitions. Bi communities have frequently experienced overlap and allyship with trans communities and individual activists, but transphobia and cissexism has also occurred and still does in bi communities. I think we need to be honest about all this- warts and all, to both bi/pan and monosexual trans, genderqueer and cis folks. Let’s not pretend we have this magically more Enlightened Than HRC attitude.

With this honesty I believe we can sincerely and politely respond to various critiques of bisexual identity from folks who prefer pansexual identities. If we do this consistently, along with affirming the legitimacy and choice of other non-monosexual identities and labels (and desire to use none at all) and listen to younger people’s desires for distinctive identities, I think we can work toward a broader, more inclusive bi community, (or whatever we agree on calling it!). We need to stop publicly arguing with pansexuals over the bisexuality definition. I understand it’s frustrating, but instead let’s redirect the conversation. Say “We accept and include pansexuals and respect your identities, please respect ours. We’d like to dialog and learn about each other *in person* or perhaps over Video chat (Skype, Googletalk etc) or even just message one on one. Obviously we’ll want to limit that to folks who are 18, or have parental approval for everyone’s protection.

This section is for the pansexual folks- I admit I’m less familiar with y’all- but I’d like to address some things I’ve heard from and about *some* NOT ALL pansexuals.

I’d really appreciate it, if you have not already- please learn more about bisexual and transgender movement history- really it was B & T before G & L came along and acted like it was all their in the first place, and B & T were just tag-alongs. (I admit this statement is specific to United States, while I know bits and pieces about other countries, particularly Britain and Germany I’d need to do more research to learn how different identity groups played roles in other countries)

For those who believe in the bi means binary definition therefore I’m pan, I’d like you to consider that I know quite a few trans and non-binary people who identify as bisexual (or sometimes both bi & pan) and in fact, many of them are involved in the Bisexual Organizing Project, BECAUSE or other bisexual groups around the country. I’ve also seen definitions of pansexual that emphasize attraction to “men, women and trans people” which doesn’t seem to actually be respectful of trans people considered many of them *are* men and women. If you want to be an ally to trans people please actually learn about them- in person (if & when they want to talk about it!) books, documentaries, blogs etc. getting many different opinions- there is no Grand Trans High Council that decides which trans celebrities to anoint or whatever. I admit to be being in a continual learning process about gender diversity myself! Other trans people are non-binary, genderqueer, agender, bigender, neutrois etc. there may also be some such folks that don’t see themselves as under the trans umbrella- we all know how complex those “umbrella terms” are now, don’t we?

I have also heard concerns from some trans individuals that pansexual sometimes seems to be used by people who have a particular fetish-y interest in trans people- not always, but it’s something they at least see as a “red flag” while dating. Date people because they are attractive, cool and interesting people, not for social justice/diversity cookies, and same goes for making friends.

I’m also hearing a “I’m gender-blind, transcend gender, I care about people not parts” sorta thing, which sounds familiar, it’s the same twaddle I used to and sometimes still hear from bisexual folks. That may sound cool and enlightened, but it’s also comes off as really annoying and will not win you friends. Most straight and gay people I talk to who have described their experiences of attraction have more criteria than “this person has this gender”. People of every orientation are capable of being superficial, lookist, sizeist or whatever label of bad-ness that you can imagine. We’re human. Sometimes there are messed-up beauty standards we absorb, consciously or unconsciously. Sometimes we just have features that attract us and features that don’t.

Resources about Bi & Trans movements in the next post…stay tuned!

September 25, 2015 at 2:07 am 9 comments

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