Tag Archives: LGBT

The American Cishet’s Guide to Celebrating May 17th

What is May 17th all about? According to https://may17.org/about/, it’s this:

“The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia was created in 2004 to draw the attention to the violence and discrimination experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexuals, transgender, intersex people and all other people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities or expressions, and sex characteristics.”

With that in mind, here are some meaningful ways that you as a straight, cisgender, non-intersex American can honor May 17th and make a real difference:

1) We are disproportionately poor and homeless (especially our youth) due to discrimination in hiring, promotions, and housing, especially those who aren’t white and face that discrimination due to race as well. Message your queer, transgender, and intersex friend(s), ask if they are short on any necessities, and offer to provide them in honor of today.

2) Many basic rights are stripped away from us through deliberate discrimination in federal policy making. We rely on state laws to protect us from these federal assaults on our human rights. Here is a great interactive infographic from The Guardian for easily comparing state protections for some of the basic rights that are often denied due to discrimination around sexual orientation. Call or write a letter to your state legislature asking them to fill in any holes in rights in your state, or thanking them for the protections that are in place.

3) A LOT of violence against trans and nonbinary people happens in bathrooms. Transgender are frequently beaten, raped, and arrested just for trying to find a place to pee, so gender neutral public restrooms are necessary. Besides, these facilities are useful for people from cultures that have more than two genders, making your workplace more culturally inclusive. If you don’t have gender neutral restrooms at your place of work, email your supervisors or HR department and ask them to install them now during the pandemic closures before reopening. This can often be as simple as changing signs.

4) Our representatives don’t know what we want unless we tell them. With powerful lobbyists filling their ears, it is particularly important for all of us to contact them. Call and/or write to your federal representatives after looking at their track record. Either praise them for protecting LGBTQ rights so they keep doing it, or ask them to start.

5) If you do not know who Brett Kavanaugh is, please look him up and read about his terrifying background from before President Trump appointed him. Impeaching Kavanaugh protects all Americans, not just the gay ones. Call and/or write to your federal House representatives and ask them to begin impeachment proceedings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Yes, they can do that.

6) Educate yourself about intersex people. Here is an article that explains some of the most common false myths associated with intersex people. Here is one that talks about the abuse intersex children frequently experience in the form of unnecessary genital surgeries, written with a focus on the cultural context surrounding that. Then, call and/or write to your state representatives and ask them to ban genital surgeries on healthy intersex infants and toddlers.

Transphobia and Racism

Anthropologists are aware that there are a plethora of genders around the world. Whether we are talking about gender identity or cultural gender, which are two distinctly different concepts, this remains true. Refusal to accept the reality of the existence of more than 2 genders is refusal to acknowledge the validity of many of the world’s cultures. This is therefore a form of racism or cultural supremacy rising up under the mask of transphobia and/or binarism.

Modern Western imperialism has its roots in the 15th century when various European nations began colonizing other people’s countries, glorifying it as “discovery” and justifying it by insisting that the people who already lived there were animals, not people. This likely played in to their immediate dismissal of cultural differences as “wrong” or “inferior.” Several cultures around the globe enjoyed the freedom of multiple recognized genders before their lands, societies, and resources were taken over by European colonizers, missionaries, and so on. These freedoms often also extended to general acceptance of various relationships that we might call LGBQ through our modern, Western lens. These were among the other freedoms European colonizers squashed during their whitewashing of the cultures of other nations.

Examples for further reading of case studies include:

Decolonization began in some continents in 1945, five centuries after colonization began, and never happened in North America. While many countries regained their independence, it wasn’t until after devastating impacts on their cultures were enacted by the withdrawing conquerors and entrenched over periods of time that were sometimes hundreds of years and multiple generations long. For example, 34 countries in Africa now outlaw homosexuality as of this writing. This isn’t surprising, when we consider that the colonizers came from Europe and 17 European countries still require sterilization of transgender people to this day. Sexual orientation and gender aren’t the same thing, but European rigid requirements around gender include rigid requirements around sexual orientation because their concept of sexual orientation is based upon gender. Thus, many of the world’s nations that are currently very hostile to LGBT people weren’t always that way, and only became that way because of the influence of missionaries and conquering nations from European (and later, American) origin. Nations beginning to relax their death grip on LGBT existence and behavior as transgender and queer rights are slowly won back is thus an aspect of modern decolonization.

North America was never decolonized. Canada and the United States continue to engage in genocide towards indigenous peoples. The fact that most of the states in the United States only recognize two genders legally despite the existence of several indigenous genders is part of this. Our societal and legal refusal to recognize that genitals do not necessarily define gender, and that there are more than two genders, is an extension of the same racism and cultural supremacy that fuels ongoing genocide of various indigenous peoples, that brought anti-gay laws to multiple continents that did not previously have them, and which we must actively combat both within our own minds and at all levels of government if we wish to undo the ongoing evils of those who came before us, and which are still enacted by many of the people around us.

This topic was selected by the author’s Patreon patrons.