Charlottesville: Call it by its name – racism

I have seen some weak denouncing of what happened in Charlottesville. The best way to avoid a conversation about racism is to not call it racism. In the last three days, I’ve seen white people say, “Hate is not tolerated here” or “Hate is hate,” etc. Uh. Duh. You’re right. I’ve been teaching my five-year-old stepkid you don’t say hate. Not tolerating hate doesn’t require much effort. Like I said, the five-year-old is picking up on it pretty quickly.

But we aren’t five and this wasn’t *just* hate. This was a clear and obvious display of racism. Members of the KKK showed up at the riot. Remember, the white people who kill and assault people of color? Here is a tip for you: When the KKK shows up, it’s racism. So, why are we saying, “Hate will not be tolerated”? Why not “Racism will not be tolerated”?

Hate will not be tolerated is much more appealing to a wide audience. Right? Who can’t get behind that? No hate here! Plus, a large number of white people truly believe racism is no longer a problem in our country. Using the word hate allows us to sound outraged but also to ignore the bigger, bloody wound of racism.

By not calling racism by its name, we erase it from our conversations. The way we’ve erased black people in public spaces. We marginalize what happened in Charlottesville. The way we have marginalized black people. We make Charlottesville the work of extremist when the reality is our nation was built on racism. We erase the history of these types of violent encounters.

I’ve noticed posts about Charlottesville that include the LGBTQ community. While I appreciate the thought, by including LGBTQ people you’re blanketing the problem again. You are making this about hate. Again, hate sucks. While we LGBTQ people have a whole slew of discrimination and equality issues to tackle, this isn’t about us white LGBTQ people. You can call homophobic, transphobic people out when the time comes and, trust me, it comes often. See: President Trump’s trans military ban. But this is about racism.

You need to do the work and focus on that issue. The blanket statements about not tolerating hate against any people including people of color, LGBTQ people, etc, are not requiring you to work. It doesn’t require you to examine the nuances of discrimination. These statements don’t consider intersectionality of identity. They don’t consider the historical context of racism, homophobia, and transphobia. You just lump us all nice togetherly and say, “I love these people. Don’t be mean to them.” That is not helpful.

You have to take the time to understand why this is happening and listen to people of color. You need to realize that racism isn’t ‘getting worse again.’ You’re just noticing it now. Racism is alive and well and it remains so if we keep ignoring it. If we call it hate. If we say it’s not the whole nation.

White people get uncomfortable with the word racism. Either afraid it’ll be pinned to them. “Well, I’m not a racist.” Or afraid of what it means for their lives if the country stops upholding institutions filled racism. “I deserve the job because I’m most qualified.” We have to stop being afraid to admit, we are racist. If we really want change, we have to talk about it. We have to acknowledge it – in ourselves and in each other. We most certainly have to call it out during national events.

Let’s stop our chanting and writing about hate. Sure, this was a completely hateful event but it’s much more dangerous and complex than hate. It’s much more historic than hate. This is racism. Racism is systemic. Racism is everywhere.

Charlottesville was an act of racist terrorism.

Gender labels ruin performance

We all struggle under the weight of labels, even the self-imposed ones. Labels are a way for us to feel connected to a group/community. For us, to say, “Hey, I’m one of you.” We use labels to be seen or understood. Labels are often not for us, but about us. Many of us might start using a label as a way of self-expression or self understanding, but …[Read the rest by becoming a patron]

Don’t Call Trump’s Anti-Trans Military Tweets a Distraction

In the midst of the Russian investigation and the ACA vote, many people’s reaction was to call Trump’s ban on trans people in the military a distraction from the ‘real’ issues. But saying this was a distraction is both untrue and just as damaging as calling trans people in the military a disruption.

First, the timing isn’t random. In June 2016 the Pentagon ended the ban on transgender people in the military. This allowed trans people to serve as openly trans and not be discharged. However, transgender people were still unable to enlist. That step was intended to take place July 1st, 2017. This did not happen because Defense Secretary James Mattis agreed to a six-month delay. The delay has been heavy in the news cycle for the last several weeks. The conservatives saw this as a glimmer of hope that the ban might be reinstated. Trump’s tweets came only 25 days after the day when transgender people would have been allowed to enlist. This wasn’t randomly timed.

Second, when you call something a distraction you are saying it is not worth attention. When I build a learning activity, I put in distractors, and I put in the information I want the learner to the retain. The distractors are the pieces of information I do not want the learner to remember. When you say that Trump’s tweets are a distraction, you’re saying that transgender people in the military do not deserve our attention. Trump called transgender people in the military a disruption. A disruption and a distraction aren’t that different. Both terms are used when something takes away from the main event or the important thing. Transgender people are neither a disruption or a distraction. Was it a political move to appeal to his hate-filled base? Maybe. But it was no distraction. It was a continued assault on the transgender community.

A distraction is using someone’s emails against them. It’s taking everyone’s attention away from something that affects many and focusing it on something that affects none. Just because the transgender military ban doesn’t affect you, that doesn’t mean it’s a distraction. Sure. It affects far fewer people than the ACA repeal or the Russian investigation. But it’s hardly a distraction. It’s a large number of people’s lives. It’s refusing to let transgender people exist in places where cisgender people exist.

If your first instinct was to assume this was a distraction, I would take a moment and think why. What about this issue is a distraction for you? Why is not worth your full attention? Try to think about a group you identify with – moms, lesbians, vegans – what if the president said, moms can no longer enlist because it’s a disruption! Then your newsfeed was filled with people calling his words a distraction. How would that feel?

Any time a group of people are not allowed in certain spaces that is an assault on America values. It not simply a distraction.

 

Allow or Accept: Importance of Semantics in Trump’s Anti-trans Military Tweet

This morning Trump tweeted that the government will not allow or accept transgender people to serve in the military. Let me say this upfront; trans people are currently serving our military. We are there. The weight of his words doesn’t fall on the reasons why he stated the government would not allow or accept transgender people in the military. BTW, the reason was “tremendous medical costs and disruption,” neither are true. The weight falls on the words that the NYT highlighted, “accept or allow.”

Accept is consent to receive and allow is to give permission. Trump isn’t just saying that the government will not allow transgender people to serve in the military. He is saying our government will not accept their service.

As transgender people, we are often not allowed to do the things. We weren’t allowed to play football because we were assigned female at birth. We weren’t allowed to be in ballet because we were assigned male. We aren’t allowed to use the proper bathroom. Not being allowed doesn’t stop us, it motivates us. It inspires us to tear down the walls. We fight to be allowed. But acceptance is another story.

The use of “accept” regarding a government decision about the military holds a deeply personal feel. I’m sure for transgender people currently serving in the military, it has a familiar sting of rejection. This type of language is often used to renounce transgender people. When a transgender person comes out to an unsupportive family, they often hear, “I can’t accept it.” Acceptance is used as a tool to manipulate a trans person into feeling wrong. If your family or church doesn’t accept you, it makes you question who you are. It makes you doubt the decisions you’ve made.

Most of us have craved acceptance from family and friends, to society as a whole. We’ve wanted to be seen and accepted for who we are. Acceptance is a human need.

We have military trans folks who have devoted their lives and passions to their government. They have worked to make our country safe and free. After fighting their own personal battles of not being accepted, they are told their devotion and loyalty is not only not allowed, but it is not accepted. Their blood and sweat have stained government-issued band-aids and sheets. Is this type of devotion not accepted?

Our families may practice the deeply personal rejection of not accepting us. But our government, the one these transgender military folks have fought for, can not. You may not allow us in the military, but you certainly cannot say you do not accept it. We are there with or without your acceptance.

Things are changing here

Hi all,

I’ve had the good fortunate of getting paid for some of my recent pieces. I will continue to post links to my work on this blog. However, I will rarely blog here. You can read all of my posts on Patreon  by becomg a patron.

I want to turn this passion into a career (some day). This is the first step in that direction. I’m still always available to chat. I’m here if you need me.

Read my latest blog When trans people are privileged enough to police on Patreon.

Thank you for reading and commenting!

I love you,

Leo

Focused on my throat

My birth would be described as traumatic.

Tragic.

You see I was born with my umbilical cord wrapped around my throat,

and one of my lungs had collapsed.

The very thing that gave me life was taking it away.

They laid me on a cold metal table and I began to struggle,

I was whisked away to a plastic box,

Skin to skin contact,

I wouldn’t know what that was for another week.

When I was five I ripped open my neck, on a barbwire fence,

They said it was millimeters away from slicing my jugular vein.

 

It felt like some unknown force was focused on my throat.

If I couldn’t be strangled, maybe I would bleed.

And now since I haven’t bled maybe, just maybe,

I can still be suffocated under the tragedy of a misunderstood existence.

Maybe the isolation will suffocate the brilliance within my heart.

But I find tragedy can become poetry, in the right context.

When your words have worth

I’ve been sharing my gender journey publicly for over two years now. During that time I’ve received such kind and beautiful emails and comments. I know some of you have sought solace in my words and, for that, I’m happy. I started writing because I thought the world needed to hear me. I thought my story could be helpful.

During this time I’ve published 33 blogs, I’ve created an interactive bathroom piece. I presented a new concept for structuring gender at Philly Trans Health Conference.  I’m writing a book about unbinding the transgender narrative from the gender binary – for Jessica Kingsley Publishers. I’ve published 11+ columns in the Pensacola News Journal and The Courier-Post. I wrote a research paper Transgender Experiences: Using Media to Highlight the Complexities of Gender.

And it’s been a blessing and it’s been a lot of work.

I’m writing because I need to get paid. This has been a labor of love but the baby has been born and diapers need to be bought. The last year I’ve struggled financially because of medical bills and lawyer fees (see my blog about my bully). I have a wonderful full-time day job and I feel blessed and privilege to have that. But I’m still struggling to make ends meet. So, I want any labor I do to be financially backed.

I am asking for opportunities or suggestions that will pay me to write. I know, I know it’s pretty bold to just ask but I struggle to find specific jobs related to being a transgender writer. So I figured what the hell. I need to reach out to you, my community, the people that know me and my writing.

Please send any suggestions to my email hi@leocaldwell.com

 

Remember, you are who you say you are. I’m a writer.