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Queer in the Academy

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I wrote a guest blog for Edge for Scholars on being a queer scholar and how being out and proud makes me a better educator.
Welcome to Class, I’m Alana and I’m Queer.

Written by thelittlepecan

June 15, 2017 at 11:48 pm

Posted in Sociology

Does a year make any difference?

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I’m trying to decide how I feel today. I want to mourn, but I don’t want to center myself.

Let’s talk about Marsha. She wasn’t a drag queen and she wasn’t white. She was a black trans woman and she was a revolutionary.

Yeah, #HappyPride…but let’s remember that corporatization of everything is the path of the destruction of all things. The movement doesn’t stop with marriage-do you think trans people have no barriers to marriage?  When there are still barriers to bathroom access? When there are still barriers to dancing?

I saw one of Karen Handle’s commercials. Well, one by an outside org, but you know what I mean. Blaming Syrians for all of ISIS. As if ISIS isn’t killing Syrians.

Blaming Muslims for PULSE. As if queer people can’t also be Muslim and want to dance. As if many Muslims aren’t brown like Latinx people are sometimes brown and find themselves on the same shitty end of the privilege straw.

It’s worse today than it was last year.

At least 12 trans persons, mostly trans women of color, have lost their lives this year.

http://www.hrc.org/resources/violence-against-the-transgender-community-in-2017

Hate crimes against Muslims have increased each year.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/05/11/hate-crimes-against-muslims-us-continue-rise-2016

Queer Muslims continue to experience erasure

http://queermuslimproject.tumblr.com/

They experience death in some countries.

In Chechnya gay men are being detained and executed extrajudiciously.

Here are the queer Latinx persons who were murdered last year.

http://blacklivesmatter.com/in-honor-of-our-dead-queer-trans-muslim-black-we-will-be-free/

 

Fight for the dead by protecting the living.

#resist

Written by thelittlepecan

June 12, 2017 at 5:46 pm

Posted in Sociology

The Queerification of Me: Coming Out in the Wake of Pulse

The first time I fell in love with another woman, she held my hair as I vomited violently into the toilet and then she held my secret while I came to terms with being pregnant at 17 years old.

And then she kept my secret for 10 more years after I had my first abortion.

She loved me unconditionally when my first husband demanded I sever ties with her.

A demand that came only after determining that we were too intimate and therefore too powerful to be allowed a relationship.

Women who love each other are dangerous, y’all.

She is my first love..

However you think I mean that I can pretty well guarantee has no relationship with reality.

She still loves me unconditionally. And it was never our time and maybe it never will be, but my assumption has always been the porch in a rocking chair with sweet tea and bourbon while we laugh at the tricks gravity has played on our once lithe bodies after our husbands die and our children go on with their lives.

I’ve never “come out” to anyone. I have used passing as a way to hide away from hard conversations. I have used passing as a way to advance my own privilege. I have used passing as a way to self-denial.

Not today, Satan.

I’m a queer, pansexual, cis-gendered white woman married to a cis-gendered white male…*

And I think I’m just about tired enough of participating in my own erasure.

My marriage looks straight to you, but it’s not, so let me say that again for those in the back–MY MARRIAGE AND NON-MONOGAMOUS RELATIONSHIPS ARE NOT STRAIGHT.

The love of women, genderqueer and non-conforming, and trans personalities and bodies and minds and souls will always be part of my relationships…if I’m fortunate enough to find those people who wish that with me.

Until someone threatened to out me at my job I let passing be enough…and then and ONLY then did I accept that I got to decide if I’m queer.

My family, my heart, my people and those families and hearts and peoples from communities I wish to ally and align myself with have been brutalized.

And I am broken.

But y’all, they done fucked around one too many times, though.

It’s always one too many times.

So, I’m broken, yes. I’m devastated and I don’t know moment to moment how I’m going to look the world in the eyes and say,  “Today I can.”

But I will.
Because I am tired and I am angry.

 

I’m here.

I’m queer.

 

You can get used to it, or we can burn it down.

 

 

This was my “coming out” statement on Facebook following the Pulse Nightclub shootings. I was on my way home from attending the NNAF abortion funds conference as a board member of the Magnolia Fund (please give them money). A radical, feminist, women of color centered space where I could #shoutyourabortion (well, should MY abortion) through the We Testify initiative. I could love on women and say #menaretrash and feel myself in all my feminist, loud, queer, awkward intelligence.

And then I got on the plane to go home and I saw.

And we sobbed silently on that plane all the way back to Atlanta from Houston.

I wrote about solidarity, but I also needed to be in solidarity with myself. With who I am.

As I prepare to go through relationship changes and personal changes and school and career changes, I acknowledge that I have a right to take up space in the queer community and in the world as a whole as a queer person.

Queer

 

*I realized after the fact that this might be read as thinking my cis-gender or race were being erased and that is absolutely not the case so while I leave this writing in its original form, the only parts of my identity I felt were being oppressed were those related to being a queer, non-monogamous woman.

Written by thelittlepecan

May 8, 2017 at 10:13 am

They Tried to Make Me Go to Rehab and All I Found was this Nutty Bitch who Could Play Guitar

So she played and I sang. Tada!

Written by thelittlepecan

April 27, 2017 at 10:01 pm

Posted in Sociology

They Tried to Make Me Go to Rehab and I said, “What the Fuck is Up with All this Gendered Sexist Bullshit?”

I’m sitting on a sofa in the upstairs room newly outfitted with IKEA living room furniture, a sign on the wall that reads “HUMBLE” in the style of an old gas station advert and a weird looking clock that is impossible to read which is really fucking annoying…I had to have my husband ship me a watch because TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE.

I am waiting for class to begin.  And by class, I mean a 22 year old young middle class white woman who is triggered by Trap Music (the genre, not T.I.’s album with a ‘Z’) is going to speak to me and a room full of other women aged 19-40 somethings about…what?

Ah. Relationships with women. When we are in full blown addiction we will find women to be bitchy and take our boyfriends. I am not straight, but okay.  I never found my friends to betray me in that way, but…

Now we are learning about addictive behavior and…clothing?

I shit you not.

Stop wearing short skirts and Holy Respectability Politics, Batman! Dammit, girls, if you’d just dress like a lady, you probably wouldn’t shoot up so much and get facedownplasteredinthecar.

I bet you’re surprised that there’s research on the gendered ways we deal with addiction, just like there are racialized and sexualized ways…and those things intersect. Insert shock and awe here please.

Cis/straight/middleclass/white men are the bulk of all addiction treatments from AA to Passages. They are overwhelmingly run by that same demographic. And women, who raise the bulk of our children, suffer far greater instances of domestic violence, need assistance (that is often tied to drug testing or treatment completion) from the social safety net more often and experience sexual assault related to drug or alcohol misuse and abuse at astronomical rates are often completely left out of conversations about how best to deal with very specific issues when it comes to addiction. Well, unless they are being drug tested and having their babies taken away by DFCS. Wait, only poor women and WoC?  Okay.  Then we talk a lot about it. Mainly about taking them to prison and chaining them to beds if they are pregnant.

But our skirts, yeah?

In the US, the ‘‘good woman’’ is a gendered construct characterised as one who upholds exceptional moral standards; the good woman embodies an image of sexual purity, trustworthiness and innocence (Harris-Perry, 2011; Raddon, 2002; Thetford, 2004). Some scholars articulate that these images are also racialised, placing white woman as the hallmark image of the ‘‘good woman’’ – a mutually reinforcing construct of sexual and racial purity characteristic of societal ideals of whiteness (Anderson, 2001; Harris-Perry, 2011; HillCollins, 2000). Though scholars have long critiqued these societal ideals of femininity as discriminatory and unrealistic, the good woman image persists as a cultural identity that both women and mene spouse (Hill-Collins, 1990; Raddon, 2002; Thetford, 2004).

It is these gendered understandings of morality that get in the way of good sobriety, of good treatment and of trauma healing inside a facility. Already treatment is viewed as a moral failing, a neo-liberal understanding of individual responsibility with little biological/medical understanding of addiction (See Dr. Carl Hart’s work on addiction) and a pseudopsychologic/sociologic misunderstanding of social and psychological behavior.  Basically, you are bad and you should feel bad.  Jesus can help. Go to another meeting.

And it did make me feel bad. Even though I knew it was bullshit.

I watched girls, young women really, but barely old enough to be out of my Mama range, who had been violently assaulted or engaged in sex work (for which they had no reason to be ashamed) or engaged in sex for reasons they felt ashamed of (for their own reasons that I would honor) already be further shamed by talks delivered by completely unqualified techs with nary a background in women’s studies, addiction treatment, sexuality, sociology…or social work.

We are nowhere near being able to distinguish the brains of addicted persons from those of non-addicted individuals. Despite this, the ‘diseased brain’ perspective has outsized influence on research funding and direction, as well as on how drug use and addiction are viewed in society. Dr. Carl Hart

Even though:

Your risk of experiencing intimate partner violence increases if you are:

  • Poor
  • Less educated
  • An adolescent or a young adult
  • Female
  • Living in a high-poverty neighborhood
  • Dependent on drugs or alcohol

I sat and listened to this talk and then an activity whereby a fictional woman on a fictional island is fictionally coerced into having sex with a man with more power and resources than she in order to go to the other fictional island where her fictional fiancè is located, who proceeds to abandon her and shame her for her rape and she is then rescued as a distressed damsel by a third man all while her mother encouraged the entire scenario.

I later found out that the worst person in the story according to the LICENSED ADDICTION COUNSELOR was the woman–for a lack of integrity.

These two instances happened on the same day, back to back.

I’ve been sexually assaulted in the context of addiction a number of times. I’ve been coerced into sex in the context of addiction a number of times. I’ve been RAPED UNDER THE INFLUENCE A NUMBER OF TIMES.  I’ve also been violently assaulted by a loved one in the context of addiction and I’ve had my mom counsel me to “carefully consider my options” when it came time to probably leave. I’ve had horrific and shameful encounters with women friends in the context of addiction. I’ve been blamed for all of these things as a woman and as an addict/alcoholic by any number of people throughout my time in that world.

So. Yeah. Triggered. Sobbing.  And attempted to make some kind of headway with the head of program direction…but, you know, as an addict/alcoholic my word really didn’t mean shit. As a victim. As a survivor. AS A FUCKING SOCIOLOGIST.

“What can you do to gain knowledge in these situations?
Honestly, I dunno you ignorant fuck, what can you do to protect your clients from further trauma and respect the knowledge we have as experts in our own lives and hey these degrees that are costing me three times your fucking yearly salary?  Yeah?

Okay no then.

I heard the words slut, bitch, and whore more times than I can count and I don’t mean in a take back the night wild hairy underarmed feminist kind of way either.

I listened as male clients inspected the bodies of female clients, who touched them inappropriately, who bragged about having sex on property with young women who were clearly vulnerable and had limited opportunities for non-sexual physical contact (more on that and the rampant queerphobia later).

I know of at least two women kicked out for what amounted to specifically labeled gendered behavior that was not allowed and women shamed for not being ladylike and women who relapsed immediately after their discharge.

There was only one group who regularly “succeeded” and I’m not even sure we can call it that.

Source Material

A. J. Gunn & K. E. 2015. “Intra-group stigma: Examining peer relationships among women in recovery for addictions.” Drugs: Education, Prevention & Policy. 22(3): 281–292.

Babcock, Marguerite L and Connor, Bernadette. 1981. “Sexism and treatment of the female alcoholic: a review.” Social Work. 26(3):233-238. 

McKim, Allison. 2014. “Roxanne’s Dress: Governing Gender and Marginality through Addiction Treatment.” Signs: Journal Of Women In Culture & Society 39(2): 433-458.

Written by thelittlepecan

April 25, 2017 at 11:16 pm

There’s Nothing Between the World and Me

https://twitter.com/_WeAreBlack/status/856151211577405440

I often wonder what it is like to live in real fear for your child. A mental exercise steeped in racial and class privilege.  I don’t live in fear of much of anything. I have fear of what others think of me, but even as I face legal issues related to alcoholism, I have almost no fear of jail, or social consequences.  I certainly do not fear the loss of my child’s life at the hands of those meant to protect him. I do not fear that he will be seen as a threat.  I only ever hear that he is well-mannered and sweet, his occasional outbursts or rude behaviors seen as quirky or normal.

Color-blind racism is an academic notion with real, devastating human consequences. We discuss it as something to quantify and research, to count and run t-tests of what policy is working and which white groups are “disenchanted”.   Opposite Bizzarro World, Ta-Nehisi Coates  explains to a willfully ignorant nation that this well intentioned attempt to dismiss race and along with it the history of brutality and oppression is futile.  More than futility, though, it is strategic denial of responsibility.

Black bodies have never been autonomous. How to explain to your child that their body is not their own?  I talk about consent with my son.  I tell him he doesn’t have to hug anyone he doesn’t want to and Meme can’t demand a smooch if he isn’t feeling like it.  I explain to him that he should not touch others without asking and that no one should touch him without an invitation.  I do not have to see him watch the torture porn of black bodies on television, bodies brutalized and replayed over and over so that white audiences will understand the reality of the situation.  He does not need “The Talk” except that one about the birds and the bees (Coates 2015:12).

I drove last summer to see my niece.  She’s a graduate student in Tennessee. We had a rental car with Texas plates.  I was driving with my husband and two very tall teenaged boys.  We headed home and it was late, after midnight.  I was pulled over for speeding or not using my turn-signal, something mundane.  My husband reached into the glove box without warning as I rolled down my window…and nothing happened.  My sons were not seen as threatening even though they are pushing six feet the both of them.  My husband’s sudden movements were not viewed as dangerous or that of a person reaching for a weapon.  I was warned to slow down or be careful and with a charming smile, sent on my way.

A mile down the road a Black man was pulled off his motorcycle by that same officer.

I had a conversation with my boys about their rights and how to interact with police.  And I told them that this conversation was wildly different than the conversations their friend’s parents had with their friends.  But, I didn’t fear.

What a privilege it is to only wonder about fear and to never panic for your children for existing in the world as children.

Written by thelittlepecan

April 23, 2017 at 10:39 am

They Tried to Make Me Go to Rehab: And I Found All the Racism

So, apparently the white racial frame and the pressures exhorted on Asian Americans to assimilate (including the damage done to the psychological welfare of those trying to gain whiteness) is apparent in the micro-interactions of a small residential addiction treatment facility in North Georgia. The space is overwhelmingly white, upper middle class and male. The second of two, an Asian American resident was repeatedly subjected to the pressure of the white racial frame described in Chapter 5 of The Myth of the Model Minority during my time there (Chou and Feagin 2015).

Chou and Feagin (2015:142) write that individuals of color are repeatedly made to bear ridicule, humiliation and exclusion. I met J***d my third week in addiction treatment. His mother and father brought him and they looked about as worn out and scared as every other loved one who brings their child, parent, sibling or friend to rehab. Certainly no white savior/white knighting was necessary from me, but after seeing the way the only Black resident was treated during my first two weeks there, I guess I was apprehensive on this new client’s behalf.

J***, the nickname provided to him by his white, male counterparts in treatment who seemed to have “trouble” pronouncing his name began attempting to find his place in this closed community after about two days. The name problem was a persistent obstacle to his assimilation and an unacknowledged tool to remind him he was excluded. Referencing Sue (2007), Jennifer Gonzales (2014) writes about the lasting impact repeated mispronunciation could have on students of color…or anyone of any age who has a name not classified as “white”. While white America has no problem with names like Galifianakis, somehow a man’s name with five letters is too difficult for credentialed professionals at a mental health facility to pronounce. Gonzales (2014) has a category for both the professionals and the clients who gave J***D his nickname in this instance-“arrogant manglers” who continue on with their mispronunciations after repeated corrections and “nicknamers” who just don’t care enough about another human being (because that person is seen as less than human) to say their name correctly. Both of these categories were evident as J***d’s name was repeatedly corrupted for at least the first week he was there.

J***d attempted on multiple occasions to gain entry to this overtly white space. He “excelled” at rehab (a condition ironically named “making an A in rehab”) by never missing meetings or groups, giving out cigarettes to anyone who asked, playing corn-hole with anyone who would team up with him and making conversation with his most ardent attackers. When overt racism was apparent, he laughed it off. This is explain by Lara in the reading, “ignoring the issues and always just trying to be better than the people around me so…they didn’t have anything over me” (Chou and Feagin 2015:145). It’s impossible for me to know if his attempts were propelled by a need to be a model minority in a facility that attract so many from the low end of social acceptability or he was just trying to survive that experience or both, but the outcome was the same.

Of course, outward humiliation and degredation were present as well. During large group meetings it was common for clients to respond to roll call with silly or inappropriate outbursts, rather than “here” or “present”. Several young, white men began to respond with “Allah Akbar”—nevermind that none of these men knew J***d’s religious beliefs or had recognized that he is not Middle Eastern (which is assumed to be the reason they did this. I am not sure they understood the vastness of the Islamic population worldwide or that, as a near Asian descendent it was just as likely that J***d is Hindu or Christian.) This outburst was followed by some garbled version of another Arabic phrase turned into a bludgeon to associate Brown persons from Persia, the Middle East, India, Pakistan, etc. with terrorism. “Rocking the boat” was not an option for J***d (Chou and Feagin 2015:169). In a closed environment where these same men were his roommates, small group therapy-mates and his cohorts in games, outings and social smoking activities, speaking up was not available. At least, not if he expected to get through the program. At one point he or someone else did complain. The talk in the rumor mill began immediately. Someone was “offended” and “they were just joking”. While the responses to roll call stopped, the same phrases continued, even escalated during smoking times or free times. These spaces were even more important than the roll call situation because this is where clients create relationships. Close relationships with at least one or two other people in treatment are considered especially important to successful completion. In other words, exclusion can literally prevent a person from maintaining sobriety and gaining the tools to finish the program. This is another example of how racism can impact health care outcomes.

Lastly, in the same way that Coates (2015) discusses at length the ways in which Black Americans have little to no rights over their own bodies, J***d was repeatedly humiliated either in secret or in person for his dietary needs-his autonomy over his own person. This is another example of exclusion, othering, unrealistic expectations and humiliation (Chou and Feagin 2015:142). Clients and staff believed that J***d should be expected to put his faith-based dietary needs on hold in order to accommodate the facility. If he did not meet this expectation, he could assume some backlash. On a Saturday while an outdoor activity was being held outside, I read on the couch in the common space. A man from admissions was speaking loudly to the nursing staff. He was complaining about religion and having to respect the beliefs of others. “Just because you being in some Big Sky Fairy shouldn’t mean that we have to accommodate your food!” There was only one resident who required dietary accommodations for religious reasons. When I mentioned that he was being very loud and others, including clients, would be able to hear him, the response was one of categorical disinterest. A moment later after a short discussion on appropriateness of professional behavior, I was told that I was “taking this too seriously.” A later conversation with the head of the clinical team ended with an instance of rescuing whites (of which I am quite possibly a part given my minimal attempt to do anything) since this admissions professional didn’t “mean to offend me” (Bracey 2011). It seemed to go over his head that I wasn’t the person who needed to be assuaged or apologized to, another occurrence of whiteness being the important factor. I was talked to, humored, and placated rather than any meaningful conversation about race and its intersection with religion and bodily autonomy in a facility touted as a spiritually grounded program.

The instances of racism in my time at residential treatment were many. Beginning with the fact that I only saw four people of color my entire time there. The only other Asian client was a Vietnamese woman who suffered much of the same racism J***d did, but dealt with it differently, by utilizing her woman-ness to create connections with other women and separate herself from younger clients. Still, slurs like “slant eyes” were heard during her tenure as well. It was suggested that it would be helpful to have people on staff with a more broad understanding of inequality and social factors that intersect with addiction, but these were, as most suggestions, brushed aside in favor of a “what have you done to escalate conflict” approach. This was an eye-opening experience in a number of ways. A disheartening example of how racism still works in medical and mental health institutions, an example of how this treatment may do more harm than good for those not of the upper-middle class, white, male populations.

 

 

Bibliography

Bracey, Glenn. 2011. “Rescuing Whites: White Privileging Discourse in Race Critical Scholarship” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, NV, Aug 19. http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p506887_index.html Retrieved January 11, 2017.

Chou, Rosalind and Joe R. Feagin. 2015. The Myth of the Model Minority. New York: Routledge.

Coates, Ta-Nehisi. 2015. Between the World and Me. New York: Spiegel & Grau

Gonzales, Jennifer. 2014. “How We Pronounce Student Names, and Why it Matters.” Cult of Personality. https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/gift-of-pronunciation/ Retrieved April 6, 2017.

 

 

 

 

Written by thelittlepecan

April 22, 2017 at 10:20 pm