Friday, December 31, 2010

Red Without Blue: Since when did LGBT stand for Lesbian- and Girl- Bashing Tolerance?!

image is from the film's website and may be found here

Please note: this blog post was significantly revised on  Jan. 1 and 2, 2011.  
Please also see *this related post on Queer Politics*.  
Also please note that there are links to be able to view this film in its entirety. They appear later in this post along with a more legible list of the awards this film has received.

There's plenty of anti-lesbian privilege and "progressive" girl-bashing going on in Het and Queer communities and it's not being called out much. The dignity of women who lived their childhoods as girls is no longer regarded as of value in Queer community; I doubt it ever was. From my earliest memories, lesbian feminist political agendas were radical, while white gay men's political agendas were conservative to liberal. Things haven't changed in the last thirty to forty years; and what's gotten worse is that radical feminism has been made into a dirty word--or, well, two words. Men still defend and protect their man-given right to be misogynists, to habitually and institutionally reinforce their male supremacist entitlements, and to make sure their masculinist privileges don't go away any time soon.

How do you know white Queer politics are anti-woman? When radical lesbian feminist politics are regarded as anti-queer.

Here's but one example from North American media.

A darling of white-majority Queer film-fests, Red Without Blue is a documentary about racism, classism, and misogyny, including anti-lesbian misogyny. The problem is that the filmmakers and people focused on this documentary don't seem to notice or care that this movie promotes these values and practices in the name of "pro-trans/queer politics".

As one intergender person who is unapologetically pro-radical, pro-feminist, anti-racist, and pro-Indigenist, I reject misogyny, anti-lesbianism, and racism as prerequisites for Queer agendas of social [non-]transformation. If covert and overt racism and misogyny must exist for white Queer culture to exist, then white queer liberalism is about the same thing as WHM conservatism: oppressive and repressive: certainly for all people who are not wealthy, white, and male.

In Red Without Blue we have, yet again, the unquestioned presentation of white middle class people as THE spokespeople on trans and queer issues, as the crucible in which we learn about something called "humanity", as if "humanity" is most apparent there, and not anywhere else. This white nuclear reactive family's story is so loaded up with class, race, and gender privileges, and layered with typically classed and raced dysfunction that it's a wonder this film is heralded by so many Queer/LGBT filmfests as honest and painfully beautiful. Then again, given how white and male supremacist Queer/LGBT dominant and alternative media often are, perhaps it's no wonder at all.

Here's a synopsis of the film's plot lines along with my commentary:
Two white twins, both gay males, grow up in a het home broken by divorce. Their father leaves but is still in the lives of his sons, more or less. The twins become drug addicts, are raped, and try and commit suicide. This is not a happy story and it's a story too many of us know--these dysfunctional responses to pain and socially protected forms of terrorism are commonplace, the norm, and unremarkable if also horrible.

The fact that neither parent really has time for either of these boys is obviously a central issue in the pain they endure and almost don't survive. But they survive the suicide attempt and one of them later decides to transition from a man to a woman. Not because the male twin believes they're a woman. No. That's not the reason: that this isn't questioned more by anyone is a bit of a problem, to me. It's a problem because it means that one is left considering doing something that is quite dangerous and not at all required to bring someone closer to who they say they believe, deep down, they are.

The twin who wishes to transition finds the most understanding and support not from the twin brother but rather from another class-privileged white person raised only as a boy And the exchanges between them are so overtly misogynistic and grossly male privileged that it made me want to scream out at them for their vile unmitigated woman-hatred. The other twin, who remains a gay man, seeks relationship and travel abroad, finding value in each and leaving his sibling to figure out what to do about being transgender.

Here, in this story, is something that is not questioned by anyone in the film or by contemporary queer community in my experience: the assumption that someone who is male is entitled to appropriate some kind of surgical semblance of "a woman's body". Beyond the dominant cultural transphobia that anyone seeking to do this is likely to encounter, we are not led by the people filmed or the filmmaker to ask anything else about this--if a male person wants to have breast implants or to have some sort of pseudo-vagina and vulva fashioned out of penile and scrotal tissue, we are all supposed to nod affirmatively that this is, unquestionably, a socially good thing to do because what the effect is on women as a class can never, ever matter as much as the needs and wishes of people with male privilege--male privilege trumps radical lesbian feminist women's wishes, wants, or dignity in contemporary racist patriarchies like those found across dominant North America.

And so objections to males appropriating women's body parts in the most superficial surgical ways, if questioned or challenged as "a right" at all, is to render the questioner--the woman--grossly transphobic. We may note that someone with male privileges and entitlements to appropriate women's bodies is not challengeable as grossly misogynistic. Who cares if they're called a misogynist anyway? Not many males I know. They just deny it and move on. Never mind that misogyny and anti-lesbianism (more on this later) is so thick in this film you can cut it with a dull plastic knife.

What ISN'T misogynistic about endeavoring to put "female parts" on a male's body? We're collectively not allowed to ask that question without being branded a bigot. Males get to do what they want, to the extent we are able to do so, and heteropatriarchal society will assist males in doing whatever we want as long as we cough up the bucks. That's one point made in this movie. And once again, it's not a point the filmmaker is intending to convey.

Where's the "painful beauty" of two white middle class young adults--the twin who is transitioning and the friend who has already done so, who were raised with plenty of structural male power even if they each were marginalised socially for being queer or nerdy--having a conversation about how gross and disgusting vulvas are, while one uber-privileged transsexual supports another shopping for them? Yes, "shopping", like one would for a car or an iPad.

Note the complete ignorance of what being female is, socially and physically, on the part of our main character, Clair, who believes that to really understand what vulvas look like, one must view pimped images of raped women's bodies--as if images of women pimped by men are not retouched--in every violating and contemptuous way imaginable.

Note how this very male supremacist person, the one who doesn't believe they are a woman, is utterly repulsed at the sight of a FAKE vulva (to our knowledge, Clair has never, ever seen an actual woman's genitals in a non-exploitive context). Note that the repugnance is not even at seeing an actual human vulva as such an organ appears on someone who has not had surgery, but is, instead, elicited by being shown a graphic photograph of  the post-op transsexual person's crotch; is this scene, for trans people, not grossly transphobic? How does one show someone an image of their own body and have someone recoil saying "GROSS" and feel respected by that? There's no indication that anything disrespectful has happened to anyone at all--particularly women raised as girls.

Instead this person with the photographic image of their surgically reconstructed groin tells Clair how happy they were to have it done. We are made to believe that the process is easy--kind of a breeze, really: this process of having ones male genitals removed and a semblance of mostly external female genitals fashioned in their place. In M2F sex-reassignment medical parlance, it's called "bottom surgery".

For whom is this really no big deal? It's not that I think having one's penis and testicles lobbed off ought to be regarded as the highest of cardinal sins; although to be honest, I do think one ought to be made to consider the ramifications of this being done with someone more mature than a person who can laugh with you about how gross vulvas look.

I don't assume that we all feel great affection or affiliation with our bodies. There are many complex reasons for this. Many, many women hate their bodies and do many things--including getting surgery if they can afford it to change the shape and size of various areas of their bodies. Many girls and women also starve themselves to try and get rid of secondary sexual characteristics, from breast tissue to thigh and buttock tissue, and to stop menses. Some women cut their flesh with sharp objects or burn themselves. Body self-hatred is to being female in Western patriarchal societies what penis-worship among men is in the same societies; it is for this reason that some might find Clair's decision to pursue "bottom surgery" objectionable. Some of those who do object, I believe, are located within trans and intergender community. I am one such person but I am not alone. The fact that I have many of the privileges Clair has means that I can speak with a voice that will be regarded as "comprehension-worthy" in a way that people without my privileges will not be listened to so carefully by whites, males, and class-privileged people.

We do not live in a world that promotes girls and women loving their bodies. Mark this down as an early "understatement of the year" for 2011. That so many women with financial means seek to alter their bodies is one clue of this social disdain and denigration. A solution to this social-political problem is not to promote more surgery. It is to promote the end of the institutions and industries which manufacture woman-hating.

It's not that I can't imagine wanting to dissociate completely from a part of oneself that one increasingly doesn't identify as "who I am". But who among us gets to act out this level of dissociation by seeking out surgery? Not most trans people across the globe who will never have the funds necessary to pay a doctor to do it. And who among us gets to have medically necessary non-trans surgeries to repair the physical/genital harm of being sexually violated and injured. Most girls and women who are not trans don't usually get to have access to the experience a few wealthy-enough males who seek sex-reassignment surgery get to have.

This isn't an argument for not allowing someone to have surgery to remove parts of their body. But it is an argument about what people who have been raised as boys--including those of us who didn't identify with being boys--ought to call ourselves. This is an argument about those of us who were born male and grew up into adulthood with structural and social male privileges and entitlements. It's an ethical and political argument about those of us who later, after reaching adulthood, have various medical and surgical procedures done to re-assign our sex. My argument has to do with what we are, socially and politically when that process is completed--or not. This ethical argument is built on this premise, which is, in reality, an institutionalised, globalised practice: we live in a world in which female bodies are medically and socially violated as standard operating procedure. In this world, always in this context--never outside of it--a very few number of class-privileged people raised as boys get to shop around for the kind of vulvas and breasts they want to own, physiologically, to pass as "a woman", as if "a woman" is only someone who has socially noticeable breasts and something between their legs that looks enough like what pornographers' photograph to get prospective het men to believe its "a real vagina". The argument is that surgery doesn't construct a person into being a woman; male supremacist social power, including routine sexual terrorism, does.

If this wasn't a documentary I'd simply call out the writer of the film for scripting a grossly misogynistic, classist, and racist screenplay. But since this is not scripted, I've got to call out the two white middle class people in this movie--Clair and her transsexual friend--for revealing for all of us who view the film how virulently misogynistic and absolutely objectifying of women's bodies male-privileged people can be, even those who demand to be considered women by family and society. It's not like they didn't know cameras were rolling when they were discussing this. Their level of callousness to girls and women who are not trans who might watch this is astounding to me--or, well, it would be except that's the level of callousness I've come to expect from most people raised as as boys.

There's some honesty here in this movie about gender in the West. As mentioned briefly already, Clair acknowledges (a few times) not feeling like a man or a woman. So why shop around for fake female genitals? What are the sexual politics and signs of entitlement infused with THAT course of action? Who is this person wanting to be, and for whom? Why is Clair feeling profoundly loved and unconditionally accepted by their father because he is willing to pay for Clair to have a fake vulva surgically constructed where male genitals are? Shall we not question the misogyny of the father, in assuming his purchase of something that looks sort of like a vulva, but isn't one at all, is a blessed gesture of fatherly love? I am reminded of the parents who permit teenage girls to get breast implants and nose jobs. Sure, the kids feel loved by the parents who let them. But is that really what love is? I sure hope not. What that is, is this: the misuse of money to replace real relationship; the use of purchasing "things" to replace putting in the time it takes to have intimate and solid connection with ones children. That dad checked out earlier and feels awful about his twin boys almost killing themselves--might this be a motivation for him wanting to pay for one of his children to have "bottom surgery"? Are we allowed to ask him? Are we allowed to ask this at all? Isn't this what capitalist parents do, who have the means to do it: buy the love of their children?

How do we conclude that dis-identifying with ones own male genitals leads us to shopping for surgeons who can manufacture vulva-like flesh? In what social world which values any level of personal authenticity does obtaining a fake vulva make you the woman you repeatedly say you aren't? Clair is not only NOT a woman-identified person; Clair is a seriously misogynist male supremacist non-female person who feels trapped in a gender-binaried world and seeks solutions that reinforce the binary Clair is trapped inside.

Were I Clair's friend, I'd say: "Clair, welcome to our anti-queer, woman-hating world. Now, what can we do to fight male supremacy, capitalist exploitation, and stop the degradation and mass production of women's body parts seen to be and made into things to be thoroughly exploited, violated, and exchanged in the male supremacist marketplace? How can you find some peace within yourself, given the emotional and sexual trauma you've endured?"

Even her twin brother, it seems, cannot approach speaking about their rapes. And so no one appears to be interested in tending to that horrendous wound. Instead, let's find doctors to replace parts that we no longer wish to have be part of us.

It's a strange time we live in, for those of us who live in places where such surgical solutions to emotional and political problems are promoted as healthy and are not objected to as blatantly woman-hating.

And then there's the "Driving Miss Daisy" scene, with our protagonist, Clair, being chauffeured around by a man of color who drives a cab: yes--chauffeured. She rents his services to drive her everywhere claiming he's a really good friend. It is obvious that Clair is completely clueless about the blatant racism and classism being promoted as perfectly acceptable behavior. There's no social awareness here evidenced by these actions of our white trans exploiter. This is about as gross a display of classism and racism I've seen in any allegedly progressive movie, heralded as such by one white male supremacist queer film festival after another.

And additional dimension of classism shows up when we find out the twins' father was out of work for months but pretended to be going to work each day, out of the house. How did this family survive economically? Were this a poor or working class family, such an act would have meant terrifying peril. How is it that the white man of the house, who, to our knowledge, is a primary "bread-winner" can not work for months and yet the family still survives exactly as if he is working all along? This unaddressed question may perhaps be seen a being beyond the scope of the film, but if you understand the film to be about how class, region, gender, and race all coalesce in each of our lives to promote or protect various realities, then this is a relevant question. He does go on to use his money to assist Clair in her gender-journey in a few key ways: all of them medical or surgical.

As if all that weren't way too much, we also have the Christian mother of these twins living with--as in sharing her bed with--another white Christian woman, but they state clearly THEIRS IS NOT A LESBIAN RELATIONSHIP. Got it. They're Good Christian White Women sharing a bed and apparently are keeping enough space between them for Jesus to keep them good, and holy, and what? Straight?

The class, hetero/sexist, and white anti-lesbian privileges reek to high heaven throughout this film.

One of the entitlements of the most privileged among us is that we get to name ourselves and define ourselves, because if we're atop class, gender, and race hierarchies, we don't have those dominant groups above us telling us who we are. This whole matter of deciding what gender or sexual orientation someone is comes with various degrees of privilege; let's not forget that millions of queer kids, including me, were told what we were from childhood on, and the terms weren't pretty.

We were told what we were and we internalised the sexual shame and gender degradation to our humanity that the bullies' news was delivered on. The shame, for me, to be clear, wasn't being called a girl. Being called a sissy did sting; being called a f*ggot hurt a lot. To endure verbal abuse and other forms of mistreatment was degrading. But to be called "a girl" was flattering. The shame was in being systematically targeted for humiliating verbal and physical assault by boys who were perpetrating pricks.

And speaking of perpetrating pricks, there is a rapist in this film's story too. A slightly older gay man who rapes both twins repeatedly, also rapes another child, a boy who at the time of his assault was younger than they were. They witnessed this child's assault--they witnessed him come out of a bathroom where the man raped him. They witnessed him be curled up with a terrified and distant look in his eyes. The obviously traumatised, terrified boy didn't wish to prosecute. I can understand why. I doubt I'd have had the strength or will to prosecute the man who sexually assaulted me when I was twelve. I get not being able to prosecute someone you want to never think about again--let alone be face to face with.

But the gay male twin presents this as a reason why the twins couldn't do anything to hold the rapist accountable. Why not? He raped both of them? If the younger child didn't want to be part of the case, that's up to him. But there are other assaults here to report: their own. But that never gets discussed beyond it being a story of gross exploitation and abuse of emotionally needy and terribly vulnerable queer kids. It does make a compelling argument for why it is gay male adolescents are more vulnerable to sexual assault by men that het ones. We are vulnerable to men who are out as gay or by men who are just interested in abusing young people regardless of gender. And lest we forget--and most males I know who are deeply concerned about the sexual abuse of boys often do--surrogate or biological father-daughter incest remains the most common form of child sexual abuse.

How do these assaults shape each of the twin's lives? The rapes, in this film, exist in a social-psychic vacuum. We are not to question whether there's any relationship between someone getting sexually assaulted and wanting to have their genitals removed. While this is a question we are not encouraged to ask, I'm going to answer it: I wanted to dissociate from my genitals after being sexually assaulted. I am asexual today because of that need for dissociation. I once very seriously contemplated having sex-reassignment surgery. Were it not for radical lesbian feminist understandings of assault and the aftermath, or were I to grow up, through my teens and twenties, now instead of when I did (at a time when radical lesbian feminist perspectives flourished and were regarded as wisdom not just as bigotry), I'd likely be out as transsexual instead of out as pro-radical feminist. It wasn't just that I dis-identified with my male genitals. I also identified more with women's genitals in some ways.

A woman--someone who grew up as a girl--once called me out on the misogyny of me fantasizing about having female genitals. From my mid-teen years on, I fantasized about having a vulva and vagina, and of being able to possibly seduce teen het guys and later het men, to have sex with me: PIV sex, as it is sometimes termed online. Penis-in-vagina. I wanted that. I never really desired anal intercourse with men. What I wanted was for men to penetrate me vaginally.

But a few years ago, one woman dared to speak up about how this was typical of men (or, in my case, an intergender male): to appropriate and fantasize about having parts of women's bodies as if they aren't parts of women's bodies. As if the parts all belong to men or to males, to try on, to violate, to appropriate, to exploit, to fantasize about, and, when possible, to rent or to purchase and possess. To do whatever with, other than respecting that female genitals are parts of women's bodies which are whole, part of a girl-to-woman's physical-psychic-emotional-social-political-spiritual being, not a collection of fetishised parts as if from some pornographic Ms. Potato-Head game.

It's funny (although not ha-ha funny) how, even while intergender and allied with women politically, I never fantasized about menstrual cramps, missed periods, or the dangers of contracting HPV (in terms of being more likely to develop cervical cancer), or the problems of endometriosis or ovarian cysts. No, I got to pick and choose which aspects of "having a female body" would most meet my needs, my very male supremacist needs. I also wanted to be able to breast-feed a baby, but not worry about breast cancer.

I want to publicly thank that radical feminist woman for calling me out. I doubt she's welcome me to tell you her name. But if she's reading this, she surely knows I'm acknowledging her act of truth-telling to me and for demonstrating what solidarity with girls and women sounds like.

To indulge the kinds of fantasies I was having, without considering what that said about my own male supremacist understandings of women's bodies, was grossly misogynistic of me.

We don't get to talk about such things in Queer community, in my experience. The dudes don't really want to talk about our male supremacist entitlements to appropriate and misuse representations of women, including in fantasy, in stage performance, as well as directly using and abusing actual women.

We who are male also don't generally want to discuss being molested and raped by men; not that women love doing so--but women have broken down the barriers to being able to discuss sexual violence and abuse against girls and women. I believe one function of gay and bi (and, of course, HET) males not readily discussing how abused some of us were by men is that we want to protect the rights of men to be abusive to everyone else, including to children.

No one is allowed, currently, to question why it is someone who is a survivor of sexual trauma and violation might dissociate from their own bodies--especially the aspects of our bodies associated most with "sex"--which is what the predators and assaulters always believe they're having. How does being sexually abused, when the victim is male, combine with male privileges and entitlements to use women? Is this not one of many elephants in the room of the movie?

So of course white- and male-dominated Queer and non-Queer film festivals are heralding Red Without Blue as an unproblematic cinematic and social success story. Because dominant Queer political agendas can only exist in their liberal ways if they are white and male supremacist. And classist as hell. And not held to account for any of it. Just because a movie reveals some of the emotional complexities we face as trans and intergender people, or as queer people who are neither, doesn't make it painfully honest enough if the oppressive power and entitlements exercised by characters in a film are rendered completely invisible.

To all my Queer sibs:
Please call out the classism, the racism, and the misogyny (including the anti-lesbian misogyny), of the rampant white and male supremacy, and of the denial of what child sexual assault and gross emotional neglect does to us, including in Queer and Trans communities. It is emotionally neglectful of the most silenced among us to support each other going to the dominant industries and institutions that were designed to harm us--such as the Academy, the military, prostitution, pornography, psychiatry, and surgery, without noting how each will seek to disallow radical, revolutionary interrogations and challenges to society and one another, and how each exist to maintain the heterosexist, gynocidal, and genocidal status quo.

From what I find in correspondence with non-queer women and with trans and queer people without many privileges: queer and trans people who are living in poverty; people who are working class or who are not living with "First World" protections from government warfare; people of color who are not living with white protections from prison and police brutality; people who are marginalised, ostracised, abused and neglected not just inside dominant English-speaking white society, but within one's society of origin; and girls and woman globally across class, region, ethnicity, and race who are targeted for abuses specific to that class of people.

What I find is that the less privileged among us can't afford to pay the price of our too often willful ignorance of our own abuses of power and support of systems of harm and atrocity that the main characters in Red Without Blue demonstrate. The twins in this movie will never have to encounter the systematic abuses and forms of neglect (such as not being regarded as human or socially existent due to one's skin color or ethnic heritage) up-close and personal, let alone as members of a religious, regional, political, or ethnic group, as people of color do, as Jews do, as Muslims do, and as Indigenous people and women of all colors and sexualities do.

The people in this movie do go about living their very classist lives: they discover "who they are" as they move around from North America to Europe and back again as they please, or by jumping across the U.S. to live in NYC or San Francisco because of course "people" can just do that to improve their education or enhance their sense of "being in the world" that is "ours".

Not just any people: only class- and region-privileged ones, folks. And those of us who are part of a those privileged communities need to ask ourselves: with that kind of privilege, to move into other people's places with the assumption that we get to try out belonging and possibly staying wherever we decide to go--a privilege not afforded most poor people of color who don't speak English as a first language, and not afforded most immigrants of color in the white West either--what do we also assume can be ours for the taking or ours to inhabit indefinitely? How about parts of women's bodies as well as their identities?

"Woman" is a political category born of patriarchally atrocious actions committed day by day and night by night against people who live in female bodies from birth to death. Some of those women's bodies are intersex, surgically altered in infancy or childhood or later to "appear" more female. The intersex activists I know vehemently object to surgical interventions to make intersex people fit the oppressive gender binary.

I am calling on those of us who are intergender, intersex, and otherwise gender non-conforming, queer, or transgender, female, male, or neither, to stand in solidarity with women raised as girls in identifying their political identities as theirs. Because theirs is the identity of being girls-then-women who are never structurally privileged with male entitlements to take what they want and go where they want; theirs is the social identity that combines with a physical-political body for men to degrade and use as sexxx-things, nursemaids, housekeepers, and child rearers by thinking of them as parts not ever comprising a whole human being, beginning on day one and ending at the point of cremation or burial, if lucky or respected enough to be buried after death.

I am asking that we honor our sisters as we honor ourselves, in all our complexity, by working however we can, in alliance, to rid this world of male supremacist entitlements to disproportionately and specifically abuse and appropriate female human beings and coercively, shamingly, or violently rob them of their capacity to say "NO!" to accommodating anyone else's wishes, needs, or demands, or to name who they are as a specifically oppressed gendered group: girls and women.

We know the abusers, intimately, interpersonally, institutionally, and industrially are by and large, across the globe, wealthy men, white men, and non-queer men. Let us break all alliance and allegiance with those groups of men and any others who defend and protect misogyny, and stand instead with girls and women as they define themselves and as they continue to resist globalised racist patriarchal oppression.

*          *          *

Here are two places online to view the documentary in full:

http://www.logotv.com/video/misc/421930/red-without-blue-part-1-of-8.jhtml?id=1638533


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzO11m6WBPQ

From IMDb. Please click on the title to link back.

Awards forRed Without Blue (2007)

Athens International Film and Video Festival, Ohio, USA
YearResultAwardCategory/Recipient(s)
2007 Won Documentary Film Award Brooke Sebold
Benita Sills
Todd Sills
Barcelona International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
YearResultAwardCategory/Recipient(s)
2007 Won Jury Award Best Documentary
Brooke Sebold
Benita Sills
Todd Sills
Chicago Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival
YearResultAwardCategory/Recipient(s)
2007 Won Best Documentary Brooke Sebold
Dublin Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
YearResultAwardCategory/Recipient(s)
2007 Won Audience Award Best Documentary
Brooke Sebold
Benita Sills
Todd Sills
Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
YearResultAwardCategory/Recipient(s)
2007 Won Jury Award Best Documentary
Brooke Sebold
Benita Sills
Todd Sills
Rhode Island International Film Festival
YearResultAwardCategory/Recipient(s)
2007 Won Second Prize Alternative Spirit
Benita Sills
Brooke Sebold
Todd Sills
San Francisco International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival
YearResultAwardCategory/Recipient(s)
2007 Won Documentary Award Brooke Sebold
Benita Sills
Todd Sills
Slamdance Film Festival
YearResultAwardCategory/Recipient(s)
2007 Won Audience Award Best Documentary Feature
Brooke Sebold
Benita Sills
Todd Sills
Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
YearResultAwardCategory/Recipient(s)
2007 Won Jury Award Best Documentary
Brooke Sebold
Benita Sills
Todd Sills
Toronto Inside Out Lesbian and Gay Film and Video Festival
YearResultAwardCategory/Recipient(s)
2007 Won Audience Award Best Documentary
Brooke Sebold
Benita Sills
Todd Sills

30 comments:

antiintellect said...

Thank you for writing this article. I consider myself a trans activist, but have been unable to articulate my growing concern as to the way trans identity is being depicted and presented. The idea that purchasing of parts is key to personhood or connecting with ones true self has always troubled me. As well as the development of technologies to change a penis into a vagina, but not the other way around. Surely it has more to do with just lack of demand, but also what is allowed and conceded in a patriarchal society. This was a great post full of clarity and I hope that it is not drummed out of the discussion simply because it asks important questions.

Julian Real said...

Hi antiintellect,

Thank you so very much for taking the time to comment.

If you've written about your concerns or would like to, I'd be most welcoming of posting them here as a guest post or two.

I feel this is a conversation we who are queer, lesbian, and trans need to be having and are not.

My experience is that lesbian women raised as girls are shut down and shut out of any and all conversations that raise some of the issues of appropriation of women's bodies that this post discusses.

My experience is also that trans and intergender people in trans community feel silenced and unable to speak our truths to what is going on among some very privileged trans folks who claim to speak for all of us but most certainly do not.

Antifeminism and woman-hating are established values in queer and non-queer community, and necessarily effects how we think and feel about ourselves; it impacts the degrees to which some gay men feel the need to declare themselves REAL MEN; it shapes who gets to be a woman who feels herself worthy of esteem and love.

This means that courses of action each of us takes are done inside a conglomerate system of misogyny. It also means that the options dominant society provides us will necessarily be loaded up with unpacked, unchallenged, unexamined rampant misogyny and antifeminism. It is for those of us who are marginalised, as usual, to do this unpacking and examining, as well as to organise against dominant expressions and manifestations of racist, classist, anti-lesbian woman-hating.

Why do we as queer people, as trans people, as intergender people, not interrogate how this milieu of misogyny shapes what we think of as "okay to do" when it comes to wrestling with finding our paths and places in a world that generally doesn't want us around at all?

Bex vanKoot said...

I completely disagree that the "radical" element of queer politics has been primarily feminist. The Radical Faeries, who until very recently were an entirely gay male movement, is one of the first radical sexual-political groups to form and take action.

Body modification is not new or modern.... I'm still not sure, after reading your post, exactly why you believe that body objectification harms or oppresses women more than men.

Julian Real said...

Hi Bex vanKoot,

I'll put your text in italics and will respond below each portion of what you wrote. This will likely be a two-part reply.

I completely disagree that the "radical" element of queer politics has been primarily feminist.

In my experience, radicalism with regard to queer liberation has been most deeply intersectional and pro-liberation in the writings by radical women of color, some of whom identify as feminist and some of whom do not.

The Radical Faeries, who until very recently were an entirely gay male movement, is one of the first radical sexual-political groups to form and take action.

I have always had deep affection for Radical Faeries, and their activist efforts. I have also observed this group to be overwhelmingly white, "First World", and class-privileged. Correct me if that' wrong. And, as you note, overwhelmingly male.

I don't believe male-dominated groups, no matter how queer, can offer adequate wisdom and insight into intersectional global oppression. I look internationally to women of color, such as Dr. Vandana Shiva, Yanar Mohammed, Malalai Joya, Ruchira Gupta, and so many more women, including North American women of all colors such as Andrea Smith, Patricia Hill Collins, Marimba Ani, and Catharine A. MacKinnon for wisdom and activist direction.

My experience of all white-led groups is that they are deeply racist. My experience of all male-led groups is that they are deeply misogynistic. That's due to structural location, and the relationship between such location and lack of awareness of and irresponsibility regarding one's class-based privileges (whether regional, gendered, raced, ethnic, economic, or other than those).

Julian Real said...

Body modification is not new or modern....

This is an entirely ahistorical anti-radical (entirely and problematically liberal) statement, in my view. Body modification is located in specific cultures at specific times. The forms that exist today in the white West did not exist even one hundred years ago. And five hundred years ago whiteness barely existed. I critique the practices most encouraged and enforced by CRAP's controllers, enablers, and apologists.

Traditional Indigenist solutions to having societies in which people were diversely gendered were too diverse to get into here. I'm also ignorant of most of them. But nowhere have I seen, heard, or read about a solution to being what we call genderqueer or transsexual to be performing surgery on some people so they'd more closely resemble the appearance of the most dominant and privileged genders, if such hierarchies existed at all. What we now see as surgical interventionism with regard to intersex and transsexual people is an entirely white/Western/First World/capitalistic solution to a problem that exists in many places. And what we understand to be transsexuality is, to my way of thinking, a product of white Western patriarchal gender systems, not distinct or separate from it. The forms of separation that currently proliferate across the West, distinguishing "sex" from "gender" as experiential categories, for example, is a very recent euro-white-anglo thing to do.

I'm still not sure, after reading your post, exactly why you believe that body objectification harms or oppresses women more than men.

I welcome you to read more posts on my blog and on many pro-feminist and womanist blogs, where this is dealt with in great detail. See Sociological Images, for one. There you will note how men's objectified, sexualised violence against women shows up repeatedly in advertising, whereas men's objectified, sexualised violence against men or anyone else's violence against men does not.

Consider that the multi-billion dollar a year pimp-run industry in trafficking and raping girls and women, called "pornography", is designed to violate, humiliate, and torture women and girls for men's entertainment, and that regardless of how many female consumers of it there are, this doesn't significantly change the content of the material that produces the billions in annual revenues.

Consider that girls and women's body self-hatred is far more deep and egregiously supported by men than men's body self-hatred is by women.

Child sexual abuse, which shapes our understandings of ourselves as sexual, loving beings, is used to traumatically subordinate, violate, psychically if not also physically maim, and effectively terrorise into silence twice as many girls as boys.

In what national or state environments, in which societies or civilisations, do you think the objectification of males by any group, including men, is equally oppressive to that of females by men?

And please link me to any websites that detail the many revolutionary anti-CRAP actions by Radical Faeries. I'll add them to my list of important links.

Julian Real said...

@Bex vanKoot,

See this little bit of advertising, as but one disgusting, triggering example of how violence against women. In this case the imagery, motions, and emotions of gang rape are perpetuated here, fictionally, and purposefully ambiguously--in terms of what the hell is going on--by slim but muscular white men against a white, very thin, blond woman. This is being used to sell a new issue of an online magazine, to men:

V magazine

How does this "aesthetic of harm and terrorism" hurt men as much as women, as a class of gendered people? How does eroticising white het male supremacy work against WHM's capitalist, racist, heterosexist, male supremacist interests, now globalised?

Julian Real said...

@Bex vanKoot,

See this little bit of advertising, as but one disgusting, triggering example of how violence against women. In this case the imagery, motions, and emotions of gang rape are perpetuated here, fictionally, and purposefully ambiguously--in terms of what the hell is going on--by slim but muscular white men against a white, very thin, blond woman. This is being used to sell a new issue of an online magazine, to men:

V magazine

How does this "aesthetic of harm and terrorism" hurt men as much as women, as a class of gendered people? How does eroticising white het male supremacy work against WHM's capitalist, racist, heterosexist, male supremacist interests, now globalised?

amalgamatedliterature said...

So, I, an Anthropology major, am in a Sex, Gender and Culture course at UCF and one of the modular assignments is to watch the documentary "Red Without Blue" and write a response to it, which I did, and I do a search on the film to see where the people it focuses on are at in their lives and I come on across this blog post. Yet another excessively anti-patriarchy blog from the point of view of someone who evidently doesn't know some of the things she talks about and now I have to the bitch to said poster and probably reinforce her perceptions rather than contributing to the refining of the perceptions. But fuck it.

Firstly, you need to understand something that from what I can tell you don't actually understand (maybe you do and the post just makes you seem angrier and less reasonably than you really are) and it is by far the most important thing anyone can say to you. Just because it isn't what fits into your compartmentalized box of what is acceptable, doesn't make it wholly wrong (the same exact thing can be said of every other person on the face of the planet, regardless of social or sexual stratification). Someone being privileged or of a particular kind of lineal system, does not make them necessarily wrong on all fronts. Neither does someone being the opposite of that make them right.

As a cultural relativist (not moral), I have come to understand that a holistic perspective is essential to approaching decisions for the present problems and not devolving into a shitstorm where everyone thinks they are the one who is right and everyone else is a bastard.

Your comments on body modification are ignorant of the cross cultural practices of body modification (Hijras have existed far longer than a hundred years), even though you do recognize than when it comes to cultural perceptions of gender and sex, the feminine often gets shafted. One of the things you need to know is that White Western culture is not the only existing culture that is severely racist; severely sexist, slighting women; favoring one class, color and social position over another.

Every agricultural, industrial, post industrial and post colonial society in the world is AT LEAST as guilty as the US in these respects, and in many cases, more. The fact that people like you and I (trans, queer, lower class) can be as aware of the injustices as we are and have the ability to speak out en masse and lobby and petition to make sure our rights don't get amputated is pretty much an attribute that only the Western patriarchal society has. It is just reality. You get people like us and you get people who hate everything we are. And we all can speak.

There is still a very long way to go in our society before women have the same level respect as men, but to hate the system so vehemently without any regard for the fact when it comes to poverty in the world that you are essentially as privileged as those white folks by comparison, is really disingenuous.

Every single person who lives in this postindustrial society that is the US, legal and illegal, and any and every gender, sex and ethnicity is privileged. That is not something you can ignore and be seen as honest in the eyes of the people you want to convince are privileged are unfairly in comparison to you. Despite what you may think, fewer people are that unreasonable than would seem.

I hope my rambly comment doesn't come off as wholly negative and that the abrasive bits don't keep you from understanding the overall message.

Remember, when ISNA was trying to get the "corrective surgery" to be recognized as genital mutilation just like (African) female circumcision, it was a feminist who said "we are not considered with biological exceptions" (Fran Hosken).

Julian Real said...

Hi amalgamatedliterature,

I offer responses to portions of what you wrote:

Yet another excessively anti-patriarchy

How can something, anything, inside or regulated by patriarchal conditions be 'excessively anti-patriarchy'? Patriarchy is what's excessive, not critiques of it, imo.

blog from the point of view of someone who evidently doesn't know some of the things she talks about

I'm not a she. You can read about my structural political location at the "about me" link on my blog.

Firstly, you need to understand something that from what I can tell you don't actually understand (maybe you do and the post just makes you seem angrier and less reasonably than you really are)

That seems to assume that very angry and very understanding are mutually incompatible. I find that the most enraged people are also the most understanding of the oppressive conditions around them.

Just because it isn't what fits into your compartmentalized box of what is acceptable, doesn't make it wholly wrong

My blog focuses on what is oppressive, deadly, damaging, not "wrong" so much. So your mischaracterisation of what I'm doing already departs from the content and focus.

Someone being privileged or of a particular kind of lineal system, does not make them necessarily wrong on all fronts.

Where do I indicate that's the case. Have you read my blog? My posts tend to focus on intersectional political locations, some being advantaged and empowered institutionally, some not. I also go into that a bit in the "About me" section. You seem to be drawing incorrect inferences and conclusions based on misreading my post's content.

As a cultural relativist (not moral), I have come to understand that a holistic perspective is essential to approaching decisions for the present problems and not devolving into a shitstorm where everyone thinks they are the one who is right and everyone else is a bastard.

I find that comment unhelpfully abstract, and typical of how the Academy encourages people to deal with deadly social realities--by intellectualising them rather than concretely confronting them.

Your comments on body modification are ignorant of the cross cultural practices of body modification (Hijras have existed far longer than a hundred years), even though you do recognize than when it comes to cultural perceptions of gender and sex, the feminine often gets shafted.

My comments are culturally specific--located in this time and place: "body modification" isn't the issue; people pretending that gender is constructed surgically is the issue, and the ways that two people in that film discuss this is virulently misogynistic, to me. You say you're a cultural relativist and then try and pass off an anti-relative perspective as appropriate.

Julian Real said...

One of the things you need to know is that White Western culture is not the only existing culture that is severely racist; severely sexist, slighting women; favoring one class, color and social position over another.

And where do you see me making that statement, anywhere on my blog? Why do you make stuff up to then use as a point of critique of what I'm doing with this blog?

Every agricultural, industrial, post industrial and post colonial society in the world is AT LEAST as guilty as the US in these respects, and in many cases, more.

I don't appreciate how you reframe these issues in order to level these charges. The issue is male supremacy, white supremacy, misogyny, and the liberalisation of a radical challenge to all of that. How and where, in Queer and Trans societies, do we challenge white and male supremacy? I'm not seeing it happen. I see the most liberal interpretations of gender being conformed to inside and outside the Academy, and few people are willing to name and confront how male (and white) supremacy is thriving in our ranks.

The fact that people like you and I (trans, queer, lower class) can be as aware of the injustices as we are and have the ability to speak out en masse and lobby and petition to make sure our rights don't get amputated is pretty much an attribute that only the Western patriarchal society has.

That's not my experience of this society, honestly. My experience is that this society systematically regulates the parameters of what people can do that is "protest" and uses police force to control such "speech" and "assembly". I don't see many people at all lobbying to end white male supremacy, or gender as a system of hierarchical oppression enforced with rape, battery, and gross sexual exploitation and trafficking, among other atrocities. Do you?


It is just reality. You get people like us and you get people who hate everything we are. And we all can speak.

That's a pretty anti-relativist thing to say and believe, imo. Poor people don't have speech in Amerikkka. Neither do most people of color, particularly but not only American Indians. When's the last time you heard anyone Native American "speak" in forums where whites were listening? Where are the media forums for such protest? Do you get why the blog "Censored News" is called exactly that? Because Native voices, experience, struggles, conditions, and forms of resistance are all invisbilised to the point that no white people I know seem to notice that a genocide is on-going.

I recommend reading this for more on the myth of "free speech for all". This society is only founded on creating speech opportunity, for guaranteeing speech for the elites: whites, men, and the wealthy. It hasn't changed except that slavery is worse now than ever, globally.

Your analysis fails to consider how people are very forcibly and coercively silenced, through incest, rape, poverty, and genocide. "Free speech for all" is an abstract value. It's not existent in practice among people who are oppressed and marginalised out of the elite world of media and policy-making.

Julian Real said...

There is still a very long way to go in our society before women have the same level respect as men,

This is not how I see the issue at all. You seem to be framing things up in the most liberal-to-conservative ways. You don't offer up a critique of the whole of society, of how Western Civilisation functions to exploit and destroy the whole of the world, disproportionately harming people of color in the Global South and East.

The issue, to me, isn't "respect"; it's how power is used, abused, and distributed. How militarism, patriarchal violence, and economic injustice weave together to silence the majority so the minority of rich white het men can flourish in unearned wealth and privileges--and power used over and against people, structurally and institutionally if not also individually and interpersonally.

but to hate the system so vehemently without any regard for the fact when it comes to poverty in the world that you are essentially as privileged as those white folks by comparison, is really disingenuous.

I own my own economic privileges and so I'm not sure what you're talking about.

Every single person who lives in this postindustrial society that is the US, legal and illegal,

Illegal? What and who do you mean? Do you mean undocumented workers who are grossly and disgustingly exploited by white capitalists? If you're white and you're living in what is now called the Americas, you're here illegally. Please don't forget that.

and any and every gender, sex and ethnicity is privileged.

People with economic privileges are privileged economically and while economics is deeply raced and gendered, I don't at all agree with your conclusion. Women and girls are still oppressed as women and girls, regardless of their wealth or lack of it. White rich women, for example, are still raped and battered by men who say they "love" them, right? I don't know what you're talking about. Oprah Winfrey still experiences white supremacist racism, and is demeaned socially in a society that will never mistake her for a white woman. Right? Her wealth doesn't protect her from some white fucker calling her a racist-misogynist term, does it?

Julian Real said...

That is not something you can ignore and be seen as honest in the eyes of the people you want to convince are privileged are unfairly in comparison to you.

I don't agree with most of what you're writing here, honestly. People who visit here find my to be honest. If you don't, please look elsewhere for what you need to fulfill your intellectual assignments.

Despite what you may think, fewer people are that unreasonable than would seem.

On the whole, we are collectively quite profoundly impacted by media propaganda and other political forces designed to make us passive in the face of horrific conditions. Most Western people think, for example, that "Western Civilisation" is unequivocally "good" as opposed to what it is: deadly for all of us. That it is "good" for some temporarily, at the expense of most people and other living beings on the Earth doesn't make it "good", does it? Have you, yourself, taken this test?

http://slaveryfootprint.org

Let me know the answer, okay?

I hope my rambly comment doesn't come off as wholly negative and that the abrasive bits don't keep you from understanding the overall message.

I found it woefully liberal-to-conservative, not abrasive exactly.

Remember, when ISNA was trying to get the "corrective surgery" to be recognized as genital mutilation just like (African) female circumcision, it was a feminist who said "we are not considered with biological exceptions" (Fran Hosken).

Too often, among whites, such cross-cultural comparisons of harm done to women and girls is done from an arrogant Western and white viewpoint, which tends to mistake what happens in portions Asia, Africa, and the Americas as simplistically "African", for example.

Julian Real said...

I neglected to include the link to the piece on the myth of freedom of speech for all. Here that is:

http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/dworkin/WarZoneChaptIVE.html

amalgamatedliterature said...

I am not as irritable as I was yesterday so I hope my second response will be a bit clearer and less misleading.

I can't really respond to all of your points (time constrictions), but I will do my best not give the impression of ignoring any part of your perspective.

As for my intellectual speech, I deliberately go out of my way not to be clearly on one side of the spectrum or the other, although I do say individual things that are clearly liberal and conservative (personally I am economically a Communist and do identify as transsexual, feminist, and so on).

To answer some of the points you made, my comment about "legal and illegal" was not assertion of what immigrant rights should or an encouragement of the stigma against immigrants of any ethnicity (which I loathe), but rather a lapse in judgment and coherency on my part. I can get really twisted in my communication when I am not clear headed.

I was listening to an npr story on Native American children who are stolen from their parents by social worker programs (in South Dakota), mostly because they have to fill a quota to keep receiving mass funding from the US gov, so I have tiny grasp of the current day injustices against Native Americans. It is appalling and disgusting and is just one of many examples of ingrown oppression within US society.

I think the main difference between me and you is that you have the capacity to remain consistently angry over these injustices (partially due to being subjected to several of them on a daily basis) and I don't. Everyday, I read new examples in essays and reports (not television media-for the past few years, I have refused to watch any of it because it is really just one big reality tv show that fucks around with peoples' livelihoods) and gain further perspective on the range and diversity in the injustices themselves. The way I approach the situation is: what little difference I can help inspire while I am alive, I am fine with, because, really, assholery is ingrained in this culture.

I am not sure if you heard of the John's Committee (FL), but if you haven't, I urge you to look it up. Sure, it was the late 50s, but I think it gives us a look into the mindset of the immensely overprivileged.

amalgamatedliterature said...

I am a University student and an Anthropology major at that, which means I essentially have no issue with accepting when I have made a mistake or misjudgment and have no issue with admitting my wrongs and working to help improve life in more mature and sensitive ways.

I don't have the same issues with Anglo-American culture as you do, but I have many.

You mentioned the perception of Africans "those..." which is a perception, I noticed, a lot of "philanthropists" have and what they will end up doing often is supporting/sponsoring programs that just fuck up the lives of the people they think they are helping even more in the long run (if you want examples, I can provide a few :/ ). Essentially, the humanitarian ideal of this culture are based more around pity (those fucking sad African baby ads >_>), which to me is what is really offensive. Pity, in my opinion, damages people more than any idealism could. Pity can convince people they are actually doing something positive, and I think you might find people who hurt you to "help you" as offensive as I do.

What I think needs to be instilled and fought for is respect, more than the removal of privilege. Privilege would seem to be more ingrained and harder to deconstruct directly. Educating and getting people to respect the ideas and notions and beliefs of others will make people less likely to just mindlessly fuck up other peoples lives continuously as if life is an assembly line of what shit can we sling today.


I want to finish this comment with a little revelation of something I had not known before a few weeks ago. I was talking to a History major friend of mine and we got onto the subject of the Crusades. Apparently, just before they begun, trade was so decentralized (and thus faltering) that within provinces, towns weren't even trading with one another-mainland wasn't with the coast. The Catholic institution thus instigated the Crusades to impose and imperialistic identity so trade could spread to the international level again.

Now, whether or not that is a fully accurate representation of that time is history, is not what is most important. What is, imo, is the underlying implication there: that in order to get people interacting with each other, they have to get violent and excited about killing people. And, in terms of Western-European society, this seems to be very much the reality of the culture we are embroiled in. We are surrounded by a bunch of people who aren't happy unless someone is suffering, preferably by their own hands

Julian Real said...

Hi amalgamatedliterature,

Thanks for explaining more what your own views are.

To put this discussion back into a context related to the post, I will copy and paste a bit of the post here, and then respond to your most recent comments.

From my post above:

Just because a movie reveals some of the emotional complexities we face as trans and intergender people, or as queer people who are neither, doesn't make it painfully honest enough if the oppressive power and entitlements exercised by characters in a film are rendered completely invisible.

To all my Queer sibs:
Please call out the classism, the racism, and the misogyny (including the anti-lesbian misogyny), of the rampant white and male supremacy, and of the denial of what child sexual assault and gross emotional neglect does to us, including in Queer and Trans communities. It is emotionally neglectful of the most silenced among us to support each other going to the dominant industries and institutions that were designed to harm us--such as the Academy, the military, prostitution, pornography, psychiatry, and surgery, without noting how each will seek to disallow radical, revolutionary interrogations and challenges to society and one another, and how each exist to maintain the heterosexist, gynocidal, and genocidal status quo.


I restate this because this was my challenge to our communities: pro-feminist, trans, queer, and gay.

Julian Real said...

I see little to no radical consciousness or organised action from privileged people. Not from whites, not from men, not from people with economic/class privilege. The more privileged one is, the more easy it is to be distant--geographically, emotionally, physically, psychically, from the horrors that afflict and destroy so many of us. I am very privileged but also not so far from the horrors; perhaps my life would be easier if I had more distance from experiences of well-organised, systemic atrocity.

I am deeply saddened and disappointed in "us": whites, men, queer folk, trans folk, for taking what appears to me to be the easier route to personal well-being. That route is the one in which we don't all carry each other along. Where we aren't all in this together but instead are in it for ourselves, with "ourselves" either meaning "me" or "whites-only", "men-only", and class privileged queer folk only". When we say "our battle for justice and liberation" who is the "our"? Too often from whites and men, the battle--our battle--doesn't include women of color, lesbian or not. When white gay men and white trans folks speak of greater freedom, that freedom, if we track the trajectory of the goals set, means that poor people will continue to pay the highest price for the wealthier among us to get what we want. That's unacceptable to me as a political goal and practice. It's also profoundly unethical and immoral. To ignore the most marginalised and terrorised in order to achieve "gains" for the privileged few among us (let's say in this case: LGBTIQA folks), is to me, to my heart, a morally and ethically bankrupt course of action. The movie doesn't only invisibilise the most invisible among us, it is grossly exploitive of people who have less privileges than the main characters. It reinforces misogyny, racism, and classism and passes itself off as "progressive" on the issue of trans realities. It appears to me that the realities of queer/trans people who endure racism, classism, and misogyny are beyond the view of the filmmaker and the subjects filmed.

That is beyond objectionable. It is beyond offensive. It is dangerous. It is oppressive. It adds harm to the lives of "us" if "us" means people who are female, of color, Indigenous, and poor. It makes our lives harder to bear. It fosters and fuels depression and despair. It snuffs out hope. A political project that does all of that while thinking it is "doing good in the world" is one that needs to be radically and deeply critiqued, and that's what this post exists to do.

Julian Real said...

Now, onto your most recent comments.

I deliberately go out of my way not to be clearly on one side of the spectrum or the other, although I do say individual things that are clearly liberal and conservative (personally I am economically a Communist and do identify as transsexual, feminist, and so on).

I don't believe the dominant Amerikkkan spectrum of conservative to liberal adequately reflects the experiences, the struggles, and the worldviews of most of us. It leaves out most people, pretending they don't exist. Where, for example, in liberal-to-conservative discourse and debates, is discussion about how to end genocide and gynocide? Even within liberal white queer spaces, where is the organised opposition to heterosexism that has an analysis of how racism, capitalism, and misogyny fuel it?

This is my perspective: Our locations as marginalised people due to a very Western and post-Industrial notion of "gender"--that does, in the real world, means that you and I will be in danger in some ways that assimilated male-men are not. But it doesn't require either of us to give a shit about lesbians of color. Or to figure out how our experience of our own non-traditionally gendered selves is shaped by the many forms of privilege each of us has.

I think the main difference between me and you is that you have the capacity to remain consistently angry over these injustices (partially due to being subjected to several of them on a daily basis) and I don't. Everyday, I read new examples in essays and reports (not television media-for the past few years, I have refused to watch any of it because it is really just one big reality tv show that fucks around with peoples' livelihoods) and gain further perspective on the range and diversity in the injustices themselves.

Due to my own privilege, reading is also a way for me to learn more about what other people are experiencing. People not politically or geographically located near me. I do consume corporate media to keep a handle on what the masses are being fed, with me being among he masses. My most recent post is about that. With corporate media being a primary means of mind and body control, I find it important to know what the most wealthy and removed want me to think about "us" and about the society that manufactures more despair and death than wealth and well-being. That said, I fully understand anyone choosing to opt out of taking that CRAP in. I agree that I am subjected to outrages that maybe other whites and males are not subjected to, but I'd argue that's primarily because most white and males choose to not see people of color and women across ethnicity as "just like me". I don't wish to separate myself from various outrageous practices being pummeled against the psyches and bodies of millions of people and this may not have anything to do with anything one might call "virtue". I honestly think it has much more to do with how my psyche was forged in and beyond trauma to feel strongly what other people feel. I'm not sure how to turn that off. I do sometimes sleep to escape, however. I think registering my own suffering and endurance as "not just mine" but rather as one embodied experience of a much larger pool of suffering, a much larger collective endurance, is what keeps me connected to people who aren't located or positioned where I am.

Julian Real said...

The way I approach the situation is: what little difference I can help inspire while I am alive, I am fine with, because, really, assholery is ingrained in this culture.

I wish you well with that work. I guess I don't see myself as outside the grain. What's ingrained in the dominant culture is ingrained in me. To move against the grain is to shift something socially too. With enough people doing that, hopefully in ways that are organised and radical, and also accountable to people who are hurting from institutionalized harm and horror, maybe the harm becomes visible enough for the powerful to not want it to exist--because it makes them uncomfortable to publicly condone it. I don't think powerful people hand over power; I think they make changes in their own interests. Whites who were anti-Blaick stopped being so overtly racist in this country not because whites figured out how to see Black people as fully human, but rather because the hatred displayed publicly by some whites was more than many whites could bear: whites didn't want to have that naked hatred and the violence that flowed out of it, visible to "everyone". People atop social hierarchies generally don't want it known that they/we are far more immoral and unethical, more violent, more greedy, more corrupt than those they/we oppress.

Thanks for letting me know about the John's Society.

You mentioned the practice of philanthropy. It can only exist in a world of profound economic injustice and inequality. It cannot solve any social justice problem because it requires the problems to be there in order to exist as a practice. Philanthropists also generally make sure they don't become economically similar to those they believe they can help. And it rarely occurs to religious missionaries or financial philanthropists that they need help more than those they think are deserving of their controlled kindness.

I don't have the same issues with Anglo-American culture as you do, but I have many.

If Anglo-American society requires genocide, how can we not challenge it to its very roots?

Essentially, the humanitarian ideal of this culture are based more around pity (those fucking sad African baby ads >_>), which to me is what is really offensive. Pity, in my opinion, damages people more than any idealism could. Pity can convince people they are actually doing something positive, and I think you might find people who hurt you to "help you" as offensive as I do.

I do. But far more destructive than pity, imo, is apathy and cynicism. At least pity requires someone to acknowledge there is a world of suffering around one. Far more destructive than apathy and cynicism is passivity in the face of globalised horror and terrorism--the kind perpetrated and perpetuated by the US government, US military leaders, and US corporations.

Julian Real said...

What I think needs to be instilled and fought for is respect, more than the removal of privilege.

People can offer one another something like respect and regard without actually demonstrating any willingness to have society be significantly different than it is. I fully expect racist heteropatriarchy to make room for trans people who are white and class privileged. I expect within the next ten years we'll see non-trans people demonstrating public respect for trans people with a lot of privileges. And that will do nothing at all to challenge the many ways queer people without class, race, region, and ethnic privileges are harmed and destroyed.

Privilege would seem to be more ingrained and harder to deconstruct directly.

I'd argue that privileged people offering respect to people they oppress is a form of pity, or an exercise in guilt-alleviation that ought to be intolerable and unacceptable.

Educating and getting people to respect the ideas and notions and beliefs of others will make people less likely to just mindlessly fuck up other peoples lives continuously as if life is an assembly line of what shit can we sling today.

I wish that were true. What I see as flawed in that argument is that most people will never be educated in the ways you suggest. Most people will consume corporate media steeped in racism, heterosexism, misogyny, and classism. Whether liberal or conservative, such media has no means of liberating anyone from anything at all. So while I don't entirely disagree with you, I don't see the statement as anything more than abstract idealism.

Now, I'm accused of that all the time--calling on people to work to end injustice, to stop atrocities we perpetrate, is, I suppose, idealistic. But only if I think it will happen soon. I don't think it will. And I don't even think it will ever happen. But regardless, I think we ought to challenge each other to be responsible with the power we have, conscious of the political locations we inhabit, and willing to work accountably, however we can, to be good allies to people working to survive and eradicate genocide and genocide.

Chris & Kristine said...

I really don't understand why you assumed that the point of this documentary was to be the definitive example of a typical life of homosexuality or transgenderism. How about just appreciating that it is a very intimate snap-shot of two lives out of the 7,000,000,000 lives on the planet? Why can't you get your personal views across without using this documentary? I don't see this film as a trans activist film. I see it as just a film. You seemed sickened by the family as if they sought out on their own to personally challenge your own values, as if they knew you. You retaliate against the family as if they are the reason why you are disgruntled? So many of us are victims of this suffocating culture we live in. We're products of it. I'd say, to over-simplify things, that you're barking up the wrong tree.

Julian Real said...

Hi Chris and Kristine.

I really don't understand why you assumed that the point of this documentary was to be the definitive example of a typical life of homosexuality or transgenderism.

I don't assume it. I simply critique it for what it does--however unconsciously it does it.

How about just appreciating that it is a very intimate snap-shot of two lives out of the 7,000,000,000 lives on the planet?

Because this isn't a site for dominant cultural appreciation, or, even, marginalised cultural appreciation when such cultures replicate male and white supremacy, colonialism, genocide, and so forth. It's a site for critiquing such cultures.

Why can't you get your personal views across without using this documentary?

The post is partly a movie review. The critique of the film is linked to very real manifestations off camera of white and male supremacy in white trans spaces.

I don't see this film as a trans activist film. I see it as just a film.

I think all cinema is activist, but I get what you're saying. My point isn't that this film is intending to promote the white supremacy and male supremacy I find glaring in the film. But when it does so, by effect, unconsciously, without intention, or not, critique is still appropriate, I'd argue.

You seemed sickened by the family as if they sought out on their own to personally challenge your own values, as if they knew you. You retaliate against the family as if they are the reason why you are disgruntled?

I get your point. My outrage isn't that they offend my values. My outrage is that white trans spaces are far too often deeply misogynistic and racist. (And, when those spaces are class privileged, also classist.)

So many of us are victims of this suffocating culture we live in. We're products of it.

Not only that, though: also promoters, perpetrators, or consumers of it.

I'd say, to over-simplify things, that you're barking up the wrong tree.

I don't understand that last point. I'm only here, at my blog, stating my views, values, and perspectives. So how is that "the wrong tree"?

Dylan Mitchell said...

Hi Julian,

I also found this documentary rather disturbing on several levels, so your insightful post made my day.

First, it is quite telling that RED WITHOUT BLUE won so many awards. Most people (LGBTQ and straight) turn away from the ugly truth, and embrace the beautiful lie.

This film made me cringe at least a dozen times. You've already mentioned many of the film's faults, and I agree with everything you said.

However, I was especially offended by how the film seemed to be made for a white middle class audience.

As a disabled gay man, I could never afford to take for granted the options the people in this film seem to think they are entitled to.

In fact, I only got to see the documentary because it was available on DVD (for free) at my public library.

I'll never be able to travel to New York (in order to find/lose myself?).

I have never owned a car, and certainly don't have the funds to hire a taxi driver when I need to go some place that is several miles from where I live.

And even though I have always felt more female than male (on the inside) - I most certainly will never have enough money to
alter my physical appearance.

So I live as a celibate gay man. It's not a happy way to live, but
my options are limited by poverty.

Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for your insightful post. I did a Google search for reviews of RED WITHOUT BLUE, and discovered your blog. Yes, yes, yes! Keep up the good work!

Julian Real said...

Dear Dylan Mitchell,

Thank you for your comment and for sharing what you did about your life.

Lately, among white, class-privileged queer folks, I've been encountering more of this decades-old refusal to acknowledge how their privileges make them ignorant of and insensitive to the realities of most queer people, who are not white, are not class-privileged, and are not gay.

I agree with everything you wrote and related particularly to this:

"...I have always felt more female than male (on the inside) - I most certainly will never have enough money to alter my physical appearance.

So I live as a celibate gay man. It's not a happy way to live, but
my options are limited by poverty."

I would like to have a more in-depth conversation with you about this. Here on the blog if you are open to that, or not publicly in email if you'd prefer.

My email address is aradicalprofeminist@gmail.com

If you're open to the discussion being public, I'd make it a separate post, not something that would take place in this comments section.

What I've been dealing with lately is how I, like so many queer people, didn't have sufficient ways to begin to understand my experience of gender, so was left with what was available to me. People have asked, "How can you be gay and intergender? Doesn't being 'gay' mean you identify as a man?"

I have explained it this way but even now I find my response is inadequate. I've said that for me being gay means that I'm male-not-female in the current system, and I find myself drawn to men-not-women in the current system.

But, like you, I'm celibate, and have been asexual too.

Being white gives me a kind of privilege and entitlement to claim a statused place in a society that at least validates me as a "normal" human being in that respect.

Being white means that I can explore areas of my own marginalization without fearing being disregarded as completely aberrant (and abhorrent).

Dylan Mitchell said...

Hi Julian,

Thanks for your interest in my queer life. I'd be delighted to "tell you everything," as Quentin Crisp was so fond of saying.

However, I am no academic (just two years of college), so I hope both you and the readers of your blog will not be put off by my rather heartfelt way of expressing myself?

I tend to say what I mean in a poem or very brief essay, so it would be nice to compare notes with a true scholar.

I'll send you an email ASAP.

Oh, here's a poem I wrote about what my life was like during my teen years.

Again, thank you for your very kind interest.


THE CABBIE THAT GOT AWAY

He drove an old battered Taxi
and tried to pick me up
every time I walked home

in the midnight rain. I had
very long hair in 1978,
and most people

thought I was a pretty girl.
In truth, I was a scared to
death

gay young man. Worried about
everything, and not sure
about anything.

I loved his blue eyes and
wicked smile, but never
managed to accept his

free ride: I knew the price
would become much too high
once he learned the truth

about me. So I kept on walking
and his sweet whistle was
like the soundtrack to some

favorite black and white movie
I used to love, but no longer
can remember the name of.

--Dylan Mitchell

Julian Real said...

I really, really, really like the poem, Dylan. I sooooo appreciate you sharing it here. I may want to copy it into the body of a new post once we get underway with more extensive conversation--in whatever forms are comfortable and make sense to you: poetry, brief essay. Wonderful. All of it.

I'm more of an essayist than anything resembling a scholar!! I actually pride myself on NOT being part of the Academy, not that there's anything wrong with that. (And not that all scholars reside inside the Academy.)

We certainly need more people representing marginalized groups in colleges and universities as students, professors, and administrators; also in grade and high schools.

The poem speaks to me a great deal. Let's keep the conversation flowing. I look forward to your email and will ask you for clarification there, about what you are and are not comfortable having appear publicly on this blog. You deciding some of it is fine to post, and some of it not, is completely acceptable to me.

Welcome. Grab a cushion and get comfy. :)

Dylan Mitchell said...

Hi Julian:

The Celluloid Closet is a good starting point in demonstrating how we can go about showing the world that we (LGBTQ) are worthy of being depicted in movies as human and real.

However, we need something MORE honest and real! Lesbians, African Americans, and Trans - all get short shrift. Why is that? That's the question we all need to ask ourselves.

What are we so afraid of? And I think fear is what prevents us from being more open and honest in the arts and life.

What are your thoughts on this very important subject?

Dylan

P.S. And why are so very few poor (LGBTQ folks that are on welfare or homeless) ever depicted on the big screen?

Are all LGBTQ people white middle class? Really? That's not been my experience...

Julian Real said...

Hi Dylan,

I'll offer up some opinions on this.

QPOC are routinely and systematically shut out of dominant culture, unless to be tokenized, such as the (quite fabulous) trans queer person, Unique, portrayed by Alex Newell, on Glee, or as fashion critics on white-run and majority-white entertainment shows.

Another way to say this: QPOC are never positioned as social dominants in a world which despises people of color and queer people, particularly when they are one and the same.

Historically, QPOC not only exist but have prominent roles in society, in dominant culture and in marginalized and denigrated cultures.

So why do whites--queer and not--ignore such realities, such cultures, such lives? Because white folks generally don't see people of color as existent unless they are serving white interests, and even then, they are not seen as fully human.

What generates fear about race is the power of race to destroy and the knowledge, even when largely banished among racial elites, that those atop race hierarchies are doing a lot to destroy people who don't look like them. And that fear is not hardly ever acknowledged, let alone understood historically. For example, how many white folks do you know who speak regularly about the on-going genocide against American Indians and Black, Brown, and Indigenous people globally?

I know of no white people who do so.

People in poverty are despised by those who consider themselves to not be poor, as you've noted.

No one I know with class privilege, particularly if born into it, wants to conceive of themselves as being as economically/socially vulnerable as people living on the street or without a secure and relatively stable home. Even when they become economically vulnerable.

I am thinking at the moment of "culture" as a set of stories, and only some people control the routes of access to published and recorded and mass marketed stories. The stories of queer people of color exist and always have. But it can be like a tree falling in the woods: when the ears are white, nothing is heard.

But the stories are always there.

When white LGBT people tell stories we/they tell stories that appropriate the lives of people of color, exploit them, and misuse them. I am thinking right now of the number of times I've seen white middle class trans people speak of "our" vulnerability to lethal violence when on the street, when reality shows that most of that violence is directed at poor people of color.

But the racism fused to the stories is ignored when whites tell the stories.

The stories are always here, there, everywhere.

Outfest Fusion

They pre-exist whiteness, capitalism, and globalization. They exist within each. I'm not sure white people are prepared to understand what those stories are saying because white folks generally can only see people of color as "not white"--that is, as people who exist only in relation to whiteness.

black./womyn.:conversations with lesbians of African descent

Korean Queer-themed cinema

Dangerous Living: Coming Out in the Developing World

Dylan Mitchell said...

Hi Julian:

Thanks for the insightful info about why and how LGBTQ movies are ultimately (in a distorted fashion) made available to the public. What a sad world we live in. Honesty does not encourage huge ticket sales. So it's best to tell a false (more sensational) story? Sad.

I've recently seen LOVELACE (the so-called bio pic about Linda Susan Boreman), and I was appalled by this quite lame and rather dishonest film.

Gloria Steinem was a strong supporter of Linda (she even wrote an introduction to one of Linda's books about how women are used and manipulated in the porn industry), yet we see no mention of that in this film?

Perhaps that might be a bit much for the typical white middle class (male) ticket buyer? So let's take the easy way out (leave out the politics), and maybe sell a few more movie tickets?

Alas, it seems to have not worked. The film did not do well at the box office, and got really bad ratings from the critics.

Pretty odd given that DEEP THROAT grossed as much money (if not more) than GONE WITH THE WIND. And Linda was only paid a couple thousand dollars (the movie ultimately grossed millions),and she was never offered decent parts in films or plays after DEEP THROAT.

Was she marginalized? Hell yeah. DEEP THROAT continues to make millions of dollars (on cable and DVD), but Linda never received any of the profits. She published several books, but her serious health problems cost her more money than she could earn at the end of her life.

She died in a car crash in 2002. LOVELACE does not tell the story true. Very, sad, this: Linda's story (one of abuse and exploitation) needs to be known by all. And not only known, but understood with much empathy and concern.

LOVELACE (is just another) slap in the face (as if DEEP THROAT was not enough). We are better than this - or at least we should strive to be.

Julian Real said...

I agree, Dylan.

Only radical feminists understand her life and the politics of it.

It was meaningful that Gloria Steinem was one of the them. Because she has some media clout.

Thanks for writing that comment.