Guest Post: Smug Liberals

The following guest post was authored by Heina Dadabhoy of Heinous Dealings and is published here with permission. 

Content Notice: Current Election Cycle, sexual assault, racism

You know what’s worse than having to wake up early to go to the last two days of a job you wanted out of as soon as you started it after a late night out? Snubbing a suddenly-snuggly cat in order to get up.

Worse than that is when the Medium app on your phone decides that you need to read a post called Why I’m Voting for Trump, and you tap on it only to find out that it’s even worse than expected.

My whole life, I’ve been told that I need to understand “the other side”. When I was a scarf-wearing Muslima, I was told to understand why people were willing to inflict harm on and instill fear in me based on the religion I followed. I needed to have more empathy, I was told. I should let the ignorant American masses exorcise their xenophobia and other assorted irrational fears upon my person. It would make me a stronger person, I was assured, and ensure they didn’t do worse to me or others if thwarted. In other words, I should let people scream “Go home, fucking Ayrab!” and spit at me without a word from me other than a sheepish apology if I had the chance, because that was better than them escalating to “actual” violence out of frustration.

Now that I’m a godless heathen progressive (i.e. far too liberal for the Democratic Party), I’m told to stop dehumanizing people voting for Donald Trump by calling them supporters of a racist, sexist, abusive candidate. I’m told that the only reason I could say such things about “the other side” is that I don’t understand them, that I don’t care about them, that I’ve got more in common with them than I think I do. They are my fellow Americans, after all.

Little do these pushers of understanding know that I want nothing more than to understand ardent Trump supporters better. Even as my legs instinctively clamp and my arms cross over my chest as I contemplate the sorts of grabbing DJT thinks is fun banter but I know is an assault upon my bodily autonomy, I unclench my body until it is usable enough to function, because when I’m pretzeled up with fear, I cannot process information. Even though my hands shake as I think about what The Orange One assures he will do to me and my Muslim family if he were to become Commander-in-Chief, I use them to carefully scroll through explanations as to why they support what is, to me, the promise of a pogrom.

And there are helpful pieces out there. There are real issues to sort out and deal with as Americans, and false perceptions to take down. There are valid if chilling explanations. Utterly unhelpful and downright hypocritical was what I found in John Biggs’s Why I’m Voting for Trump.

To save you the scroll down all the way to the bottom, the piece does not, despite its deceptive formatting, aggregate interviews and/or statements from actual Trump supporters. It is a fantasy piece written by a self-described liberal in which he, in the name of understanding, stuffs words into Republican Trump voters’ mouths. The heart of this piece is “This is what I think they think, and I will speak for them so that you may understand them, since you, liberal reader, think they are inhuman monsters.”

I wish I were kidding about how the very premise of the piece is irredemably flawed.

The only genuinely-written part of the piece is the end, where the author insists that Trump supporters aren’t monsters. No one knows that better than people like me that monsters aren’t necessary to do irrevocable harm. I’m related to people who voted Yes on Proposition 8 in 2008. I’ve worked with people who are excellent teammeates but who thought airing transmisogynistic statements constituted work-appropriate banter. My once-atheist Canadian Internet boyfriend (I actually had a real one) is now a Muslim who thinks that my reasons for leaving Islam were foolish and emotional compared to his allegedly logical ones.

I still hang out with and love the relatives who voted as a way to protest an essential part of who I am (i.e. my queerness). I have good professional working relationships with people whose “jokes” directly invoke the murders of my trans and gender-nonconforming siblings. I didn’t cut off my Canuck former flame despite the infuriating white supremacy and misogyny embedded in his statements. I, of all people, know that monstrosities do not require monsters. All you need is people selfish, self-obsessed, and self-serving enough to not even try to understand others’ realties. All you need is people who care about nothing but their own feelings of “safety, security, health, and wealth”.

And even if you take John Biggs’s caricatured statements at face value, that’s exactly what we have, and exactly the problem.

My Body

I have difficulties with my body. Between my autism, my cult upbringing, and  body dysmorphia, I don’t just struggle to like my body. I have trouble believing that it’s really mine. The following poem is questions I have to ask my body. 

Are you still there limbs? I can’t hear you. 

Are these my hands? Are you sure? 

Why are there writhing snakes in my bowels, and what do you mean those are my bowels? 

Is this hair that tickles me really mine? 

Why am I hungry? I ate yesterday. I have to do it again?!

Am I fat or thin? Your guess is better than mine. 

Is this hunger, nausea, or acid reflux? I can’t tell them apart. 

Are these cramps caused by digestion or menstruation? 

Why am I crying? Do I hurt? 

How can I divide physical and mental health when my brain is made of matter? 

Am I taking care of you? Are you me? 

Ableism, Slurs, and Buffy 

Ableist language becomes so due to bigoted attitudes. Many ableist slurs were originally diagnostic terms. “Retarded” means slow, and this diagnosis was meant to describe someone who was slower to learn new data and skills. If we did not have cultural hatred for slow learners, then the R-word would never have become a slur. In this respect, the medical community is stuck in a verbal arms race with those who hate disabled people, trying to find new stigma free terms. 

A word or phrase that’s selected to avoid stigma can still be used as a slur, if the speaker is determined enough. The 1990s TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer has a few examples. A guy complains “no one in the sighted community” would date him, suggesting a blind girl would not be able to tell he wasn’t cute and making a bitter joke out of it. In another instance Buffy, mad at herself for missing something obvious, cries out “God, I am so mentally challenged!” 

This is why, in addition to urging people to abstain from using ableist slurs, I also encourage people to root out their ableist beliefs. Constantly changing the terms for cognitive disability is necessary and will be so for as long as these attitudes persist. But shifting the terms isn’t enough if we all still agree that mentally impaired people are defective, flawed, unacceptable, and worthy of scorn. 

We have to move past the idea that disabled – stupid, crazy, lame, spastic, dumb, and weak – is the worst thing a human can be. It’s no coincidence so many English language insults are about disability. The English speaking world gave us eugenics, asylums, forced lobotomies and sterilization. It’s a shitshow, and hating disability goes back centuries in English language literature and plays. 

Our language is ableist because our culture is, and our culture is ableist in part because our language is. I will continue working against slurs, but also the myths and biases that give them weight. Disability is a fact of the human species. It’s evidence of our survivability and adaptability that we can be sick or maimed and yet not die. It’s also evidence of human ingenuity every time we develop a new prosthetic or adaptive device or surgery. 

There are terrible things in this world and in humanity: cruelty, callousness, hatred, and greed. These are the words we should use to describe what we detest, what we find unacceptable. When we use disability language and diagnostic labels to show disgust for something, what we really show we hate is disabled people. We can do better. 

Worthier Causes

I admit it. When I read that Democrats raised thirteen thousand dollars in under an hour to give, no strings attached, to the GOP, I was angry. How could my supposed allies do this? Funding hate is funding hate, even if you do it in the name of love. The Republican party is a source of much misery, especially for women, poor people, parents, disabled, and LGBT, all groups I belong to. They’re pretty fucking racist too. 

There are worthier causes than good press and assuaged liberal guilt. There are worthier trash fires. Every dollar a “progressive” donated to be used however the GOP sees fit is a dollar they didn’t donate to buy water for residents of Flint, to help people facing crisis pregnancies afford abortion, to support a starving artist or a domestic violence shelter. 

So, rather than rant about how unfair this is, how angry it makes me with “allies”, I’m taking a more positive approach. Here are worthier causes you can give to today. 

If you had a dollar for the GOP for a building, find a dollar for these cats! Dusty and Lint will have surgery this week but only half the funds have been raised. These cats mean the world to their owner who doesn’t have as much money as the GOP. 

You can also help someone afford an abortion. The GOP wouldn’t approve but I do. 

Instead of giving the party of homiophobia money, you can assist a young homeless trans person, just recently kicked out by their parents. 

Rather than funding hate, you could support tigers and jaguars, while backing legislative efforts to protect big cats. 

You could give the party of rape unrestricted donations or you could actually do some good by donating that money to RAINN

Instead of giving money to the same people who draft gay and trans discrimination laws and use us as wedge issues to rile up their hateful base, you could help this femme same sex couple afford their medication. 

Why donate to the party that attracts KKK endorsements when you could be giving to Black Lives Matter instead? 

Sure I guess it’s your right to give money to climate change denial and the myth of clean coal, but surely supporting water defenders at Standing Rock or helping people in Flint access clean water is better. 

The urge to give is a good one! Make sure your giving does good too. 

The Compulsory Forgiveness of Respectability Politics 2/2

Let’s also consider the many problems with responding to abuse with comfort. Let’s think about how coddling the emotional sensibilities of abusers has never worked at any level, from spousal abuse to genocide. Let’s contemplate the disgusting message white gays send when we “forgive” racism and slavery as if it were our place or right to do so. 

No amount of ass kissing has ever earned respect. The best equality respectability can achieve is for the dominant power group to tell some hated minority members “You’re one of the good ones.” Respectability politics let’s a few minority members provisionally slip through the cracks in the ceiling, so long as they throw the rest of their group under the bus. 

I have no plans to forgive unrepentant bigots, the people who cause queer teen suicide and justify school to prison pipelines, police brutality, and wide scale sexism. I don’t want to comfort people who think I should starve rather than use food stamps, who don’t want “retards” and “faggots” and “n*gg**s” getting healthcare or education or human rights. 

They are not sorry. 

They have made no apologies. They are unrepentant. Hillbilly hanky waving Southern homophobes are not seeking our forgiveness. They don’t want it and nothing good will come of offering it. Forgiveness absent repentance is taken as permission to keep it up. Here are some things this Forgive meme, this pathetic submission display, won’t get us. 

  • Healthcare. Many Southern states refused to implement the Affordable Care Act. There is currently a human created estrogen shortage, a health crisis for trans women this won’t solve. This won’t save us from our doctors calling us sinners.
  • Employment. Hugging a bigot won’t give us jobs or economic security, but it does get you within physical beating distance, a more likely outcome. HB2 and other discriminatory laws won’t be repealed if we mollify queerphobia. 
  • Housing. This “forgiveness” won’t stop heterosexual parents from throwing out their queer children. It won’t pay rents to get homeless queers off the street and out of shelters. It won’t end housing discrimination. 
  • Safety. 2016 is already the deadliest year on record for trans women, and there are months left to go. This ass kissing won’t stop that and it won’t prevent the next Pulse. 
  • Anything. There are exactly zero group benefits to a “higher ground” defined by not fighting back, not demanding repentance, not even waiting for the murders to stop to “forgive” the crimes of queer bashing, slavery, and secession. 

    Making ourselves smaller, quieter, and less seemingly gay won’t protect the biggest, loudest, and rainbow pasties wearing of us. Hugging a Confederate flag is gross, and suggests slavery can and should be forgiven, by gays. It’s an insensitivity to black people – including southern black queers still in danger after your feel good meme is posted.  This image does harm but no good. 

    The Compulsory Forgiveness of Respectability Politics 1/2

    Respectability politics are actions taken to make a hated minority group seem less threatening or more mainstream to the powers that be, in the hope this leads to acceptance or tolerance. Compulsory forgiveness is a social expectation that abuse victims need to “take the high road”, ” be the bigger person”, and forgive those who harm them. Both maintain uneven power structures. 

    Medieval chivalry only specified how the right women, the respectable ladies, should be treated. Rapacious behavior against non respectable women was not frowned upon at all. In US feminism it’s long taken the form of white middle class ladies presenting the concerns of nonwhite and poor women, making it more palatable for having passed through their lips. 

    In LGBT life, this desire from some members to package and market ourselves as being very much like cis heterosexuals. “We just want to get married and adopt your unclaimed bastards! Look at us filing taxes jointly and not destroying society in the process! Corporate America? We love corporate America! Yay capitalism and suburbia.” 

    This desire is understandable, but it always leads to a split: the respectable and the not. This can lead to the more hetero-beloved LGBT people joining their straight friends in hating on queens, dykes, leather daddies, bois, twinks, or anyone else who’s “too” flamboyant. Too gay. 

    When this respectability is combined with compulsory forgiveness, the result looks something like this. 

    The above image was created as a direct response to a queer bashing decal that showed a personified Confederate flag kicking a personified LGBT rainbow pride flag. The politics reflects how Southern white homophobes really feel. They want to harm us and see even Southern queers as outsiders intent on ending their way of life. They don’t want forgiveness because they don’t think they’re wrong. 

    My Crip Fashion 2/2

    That sick day look

    Heavy fabrics weigh me down, and the additional clothing weight is one of my biggest winter complaints. Some clothing doesn’t distribute this weight evenly, resulting in concentrations of weight, pressure, and pain. My winter wardrobe is made of many light layers to avoid this weight lumping, and to let me peel off extra weight as the day warms. 

    I’m a big fan of drawstring waists and loose cuts when it comes to my sweat pants and pajama bottoms. Something that reassuringly covers my nakedness without the pain and pressure of “real” (socially acceptable in public) clothes.Microfiber fabrics are soft and lightweight and most of my pants are micro cotton or micro fleece. 

    In public, I trade out my PJs and fuzzy pink robe for leggings. The steady compression will eventually hurt, but the distribution is usually even, so it takes a few hours. Leggings are socially acceptable, and easy to remove in a bathroom emergency. They’re too tight around my abdomen to wear all day though, and sometimes the close fit of the fabric makes my long leg hairs itchy. 

    My end look is either (at home) pajamas and a robe or (in public) leggings with layered tops. I usually start with a bralette camisole, a woman’s cut t shirt, a light cotton three quarter sleeve top, and a flannel. In winter I add my soft coat, angora wool scarf, and a crushed velvet hat for gentle soft warmth that isn’t too heavy. 

    These are the factors that influence my crip fashion. Other people with other disabilities and symptoms are going to have different clothing needs. Manual wheelchair users, for example, may want no long sleeves, as they are likely to get dirty. For people with medical devices, it may mean decorating those items. What does crip fashion mean to you? 

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