Friday, July 8, 2011

You Fuckers Owe Me . . .

. . . nothing at all.

I was a queerling back in the early 90s in the progressivism and tolerance of North Carolina.  I am no doubt then, therefore, speaking from a position of immense privilege because I’m white and male. I have learned this past week that my being gay doesn’t actually count toward my understanding what it could possibly feel like to suffer the whims of an oppressive majority.  Or even an oppressive minority.

So, here’s the story of my privilege - coming from a family of means protected me against so much that I’m sure the rest of you will just hate me.

What were you doing January 30, 1993? Hell, what were you doing at all in the whole of 1993?
Remember that whole don’t ask, don’t tell business?  I was excited about it. No, it wasn’t enough, but it was something that showed to me that my culture, my society was making progress.  And I understood that social progress and cultural elevation don’t ordinarily happen too quickly.  So, I thought it was just about the way it probably had to go, though I wished for more right out of the gate.

North Carolina being what it is, I knew full well that I had several choices available to me with respect to being gay.  In standard practice for me, I chose to live my life the way I wanted to, and if someone had a problem with it to such a degree that they wanted to beat the shit out of me, well, I’d just handle that when/if it happened.  How did I know those people existed?

January 30, 1993.  One of my number was beaten by three United States Marines for the great crime of being a fag and hanging out with other fags.  These three brave Marines ventured into a Wilmington, NC nightclub called Mickey Ratz (now defunct one notes).  Say what you want about Marines being a fairly uneducated lot and you won’t get much opposition from the Army, Navy, Air Force or Coastguard. But these three trained killers eventually figured out it was a gay bar. They’d been duped, you see, by selecting a door to a nightclub and walking into it without a warning sign reading “FAGS INSIDE: BREEDERS BEWARE!” In other words, they had to figure it out all on their own.

They could have simply left and found another bar, Wilmington is a college town after all.  So leave they did and find poor old Crae Pridgin whom most people won’t remember was dragged out of the bar by  them and beaten to a bloody pulp. It’s unfortunate that some people are assholes, but take heart - we live in a system of laws. These Marines were subject to the horrible penalty of up to a month in jail, or a $50.00 fine. But they didn’t have to worry about that. Why? They’d beaten a fag, and subsequently were found not guilty of it despite witnesses and admissions of it all. Nope. No justice in North Carolina that day.

We were outraged. And scared. All of our drag queens traveled together. None of us failed to have a keychain pepper spray doodad.  So, we had a sporting game, of a kind, that unfolded Sundays when I went there.  You didn’t leave or enter alone. If you were getting some ass, chances are three or four other people were in on the romance by escorting the couple-to-be to their cars. At closing time, those who’d not elected to get some ass, or just struck out, would wait. We would help sweep the floors and put away the chairs. We’d wait for the workers to do their afterhours shots and close the till.

It didn’t take long with half a dozen extra hands helping to tidy up. Then we’d leave. Usually, it was fairly innocuous. But not always. I was new on the gay scene back then and I remember walking out one night after closing to see a group of half dozen or so men standing on the sidewalk across the way. I noted immediately they all had high and tights.  I was unsettled. Looking to my left and my right, I wasn’t the only one.

These could have been our beaters!  These could have been our abusers. Or they could just some Marines really into gay sex.  Or tourists. Or students, Wilmington is a college town after all.  Or who knows what!  So, we stared them down; they stared us down. I don’t know what they were thinking, but our lead drag queen was a ginormous man named John Blalock.  And he said something like let’s go ladies.  So, we started to go all agreeing on the walk to the adjacent parking lot to head to John’s apartment for the night to stick together.  The gentleman followed us to the parking lot.

This wasn’t good. So we turned around and confronted them. As the shouting mounted and these gentlemen got closer I had a memory of a particularly good luncheon at a local Thai restaurant.  That’s the memory I get, as it happens, every time a mist of pepper spray wafts across my face. It is not fun being sprayed with that shit, then or now. 

There are other times when we’d have run-ins with men, of whom we were aware and cautious. But I don’t tell those stories because they turned out not to be gay bashers.  And then I started to notice that almost everyone I met wasn’t a gay bashing savage.  In fact, almost no one is. So, at the ripe old age of 17 I started to do the math – it’s extremely, extremely unlikely that I’ll ever be gay bashed. But it could happen.

How then do I conduct my life? The same way I conduct it no matter where I am. I accept the possibility of a tragedy being had at the expense of my name gracing the cover of some newspaper or other. And I choose not to be worried that everyone I pass could be my gay basher.  It’s for the same reason and in the same way that every car I pass on the road could be the one that’s going to kill me.  It’s the same way all of us take in our stride the risks of living in a world over which we don’t have dominion. We accept the risk, factor it in and lead our lives to the full anyway.

Well, not all of us.  There are some people who are legitimate victims. Most recover and get on with their lives. But then there are some of those who never recover from the trauma – it haunts them until their dying day. And then there are the Rebecca Twatsons of the world.  These are the vicarious victims; these are the imaginary victims. And they have a legitimate complaint: they are being victimized day in and out . . . by themselves. But they have an illegitimate source; it’s always some group of those “they” people who are to blame.  It’s never their fault, and anyone who doesn’t understand why it’s not their fault is the enemy: enter Richard Dawkins.

And they have the gall to tell me that I don’t understand what it means to be in their shoes. Yes, I suppose I don’t in a way – I’m not a victim of my own fears. I face them head-on every day and treat no one the worse because of my own internal irrationality.  I do not expect that anyone who makes me uncomfortable for any reason is somehow required to alter his/her life on that basis.

Or to tell Richard Dawkins (thanks to Abbie for bringing this to my attention) that he doesn’t understand, or even that he can’t.  Now, it’s immaterial whether someone is actually abused. We are all capable of understanding that it’s unpleasant, and damaging – potentially cripplingly so.  I don’t need to be shot to understand that being shot is undesirable.  But as it happens, Richard Dawkins was molested. But still, it’s not good enough because he's old, rich, white, British (no idea on that one either), educated, and apparently lives in a tower made of elephant tusks.  Still, he can’t understand why being asked to coffee in an elevator is an OUTRAGE!

Many of us do understand, firsthand as it happens, what it means to be abused. We simply disagree that wearing the status of victim at every occasion is praiseworthy. There's a reason we have distinct concepts between victims and survivors.  Victims aren't people who are just abused; they're people who are abused for all time. They're also people who aren't being actually abused, but insist they potentially are. And then there are survivors. These are people who are abused, deal with it, and get on with the business of leading their lives.

Neither do I understand making myself a victim.  I can understand due concern and precaution should the unfortunate arrive.  Treating every creature who approaches you with reservation is understandable.  Expecting 3.5 billion people to change their lives to prevent your having to take up the onerous task of reacting appropriately? Not so much.

I don't much like be to touched; I am uncomfortable with shaking people's hands. It therefore follows that I can expect nearly 7 billion other people to stop shaking hands because of my irrational discomfort of handshaking.  No, the problem is mine, and I am not going to decry oppression when a fairly innocuous handshaking proposition comes my way.

But what do I know? I'm privileged.

Fuck you, Rebecca Twatson, and your campaign. 

Rebecca Twatson delenda est!

I get e-mail:

For a woman's perspective, please visit the inimitable scentednectar!


Anonymous said...

Well played, sir. I salute you.

Having grown up poor in a series of bad neighborhoods, I know what it's like to be under threat of attack. I know what it's like to be jumped by half a dozen dudes who don't like you because of your skin color. But I'm just a privileged white dude, what do I know about racism, right? What do I know about the fear of being attacked? Apparently nothing, because my life isn't dominated by fear. Guess I'm just a part of the machine.

Justicar said...

Stop oppressing me, asshole. Just typing that you might possibly be able to understand the super special circumstances of one thing that happened in my life is oppressing me! RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAPE! HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELP!

Rayshul said...

Dude. I'm black and female, and apparently THAT doesn't give me a right to have an opinion on this stuff. No, it just makes me a race or gender traitor. This isn't really about excluding people who have privilege - it's about silencing people who express dissent from a radical, dogmatic agenda. Using your perceived 'privileges' against you is just one way to do it; if they can't do it that way, they simply use words like traitor or misogynist.

Justicar said...

Yeah, being black and female won't count for squat with that group I'm afraid. Hey, maybe if you go get gang-raped by a bunch of KKK members before being drug behind a pick-up truck and left for dead, you might, just might, maybe get 10 or 15 seconds to talk before being shouted down.

These people are seriously pissing me off. They're not interested in discussion and solving problems. They're interested in hooting and hollering about all the problems of the world and finding someone to blame. Well, not Rebecca Twatson. She's making bank off of this shit. It's disgusting.

But my opinion doesn't count either. I had the misfortune of being white and male. How little did I know that would automatically exclude me from being able to think. (Of course, being gay doesn't mean shit - except for when Jen McCreight needs an example of a minority, then I'm a convenient faggot in the same way she made you a convenient nigger, and a cunt. If you were Jewish to boot, you could have been a convenient Kyke.)
Well, unless you disagree. Then you're just privileged.

Rayshul said...

Here's the other funny thing about the construction of privilege. I can't possibly consider myself a victim or un-privileged because I grew up in a feminist, upper middle class household. Despite the whole nigger cunt thing, I'm pretty much at the top of the privilege-pile. I think white straight men who, say, have been to places where women are treated horrifically, have experienced sexual abuse or have researched the subject significantly, are in a much better position to talk about sexual assault than I am, and I respect their input. The idea of privilege (perceived or real) shouldn't matter when discussing facts and addressing serious concerns within a community.

It has gone far, far too far. There's someone on my twitter (I've removed them in horror) who actually burnt a copy of Dawkins' books in response to this. Dawkins is even now involved in an anti-stoning campaign to help women and was the first person I saw publicly support (and therefore introduce me to the writing of) Ayaan Hirsi Ali. This is a man who really, really gives a shit about women's right and has spent a significant part of his life fighting for them.

It bothers me that these radfems (I learned that word from ScentedNectar) who boycott people who disagree with their dogmatic opinions are losing out on the wisdom of some of the world's the greatest minds and greatest philanthropists. Because they're intent on making a molehill into a mountain.

Justicar said...

Absolutely. It's amusing to me that I had the benefit of having a family of means, which could pay for me to have an excellent education, only to be told that being educated is one of the things that prevents me from having an opinion. Privilege you know.

Fuck, who do they think fix world problems? It isn't the uneducated and unclean masses whom they seem to think have the ultimate wisdom and ability to "get it". There's a reason so many academicians are passionate about helping others: the thing that let us become academicians is the thing that makes it important for us to help others along.

For my own part, I feel a duty to help everyone else get to where I am. I am obliged to return the kindnesses visited on me by the sheer happenstance of my birthplace, time and family. But no, these accidents of nature that enable me to be in a position to help financially, educationally, politically, and what not are among the traits these halfwits claim exclude me from the conversation.

To be fair to Dawkins, it's accurate to say he cares about women's rights. It's incomplete. He cares about everyone's rights; he's not interested in holding people who wallow in self pity hand. Essentially, Rebecca Twatson's complaint is that something happened, she didn't like it and now it's the world's problem, and all men are no longer allowed to speak to people in elevators. It can't be just women, because, you know, if we're going to go off of the "what if" situations, it has to apply to anyone this hypothetical guy might "corner" in a public, filled to capacity hotel during an international conference in a major city.

If I ever find myself in an elevator with her under similar circumstances, I'm totally going to scream "HEEEEEEEEELP!!! Fake RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAPE VICTIM! HELP!" I wonder how quickly the hallways will fill up at that.

Yeah, somehow Dawkins saying, um, nothing happened to you. You felt awkward because of something you've contrived in your mind - grow up is now Dawkins hates women and human rights. Grow up. He's spent millions of pounds, decades of years, and constant attention finding the best and brightest minds he can to address issues that harm us. And now he's persona non grata.

Petulant children.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it's a fucked up situation all-round. I like the idea of freaking out in an elevator, but you know that she'll insist that you were scary and intimidating and a woman-hating oppressor, blah, blah, blah... Of course, no press is bad press, right? Maybe you could peddle the fame into a life of jetting around the world and speaking at conferences on someone else's dime like she has...

Justicar said...

Yeah. There's nothing like being involved in something for the money. I am not opposed in any fashion to people earning a living doing what they enjoy. I am not even opposed to, say, someone hating their job but doing it for the money.

But pretending to champion a cause you actively work to destroy while getting paid in the process? That rubs me the wrong way.

I have my little paypal button up there, but beyond this comment, it's just there. Hanging out. If people notice it and feel like clicking it, fine and well. If they notice and don't feel like clicking on it, fine and well. If they don't notice it, fine and well. It's just an option people have if they think what they get out of my doing something is worth it to them. If they don't, well and good.

If I start compromising my values because people are hitting it, I would hope that my friends in real life have the good sense to take me out back and beat the living the shit out of me. And then make me swim in Tabasco sauce.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I don't have a PayPal button for reasons that made sense at the time, but no longer hold sway... Maybe I should put one up. Or maybe I should pretend to champion a cause I'm actively working to destroy. How much money is in that, do you think?

Justicar said...

Apparently, more if you have tits than if you don't.
As Rebecca has noted this last week, it also helps increase your income if you can get "Richard Dawkins to say something stupid." There are the trade secrets I won't be called a gender traitor for sharing publicly.

For the remaining secrets, they're e-mailed as a response to people who wisely use my paypal donate button. lol

Actually, I can see it being funny to have set an auto-response after someone uses it to send money, "the secret to earning money on the internet is suckers like you." lol

Anonymous said...

The tits are rather further than I'd prefer to go... but I could probably get Richard Dawkins to say something about me and pretend it was stupid. (Getting him to say something actually stupid may be out of my league - he's been playing this game a lot longer than I have.)

AllStevie said...

First, let me say I found your personal story moving. I've been waiting for someone to say a lot of what's in this post; I haven't been able to put all my thoughts about "Elevatorgate" & RW into a coherent whole yet, but I will be working at it. " I do not expect that anyone who makes me uncomfortable for any reason is somehow required to alter his/her life on that basis." THANK YOU! The thing I most want RW to hear is: whatever Womyns Studies course taught you that you have the right to never feel uncomfortable for a moment was full of lies. I share your rage at the way she (& others of her ilk) fight like he'll to silence all dissenting viewpoints. It's outrageous, esp in what's supposed to be a free-thinking community. I've also been enjoying your dialogue with rystfn here: you two are giving me hope. My fears for you: 1) that we're giving RW way too much of the attention she's whoring for, & 2) that your habit of calling her "Rebecca Twatson," while I'll confess it made me giggle, might dissuade people from attending to the important arguments you're trying to make against her. It's probably more hurtful to your cause than it is to her, as I'm sure this can't be the first time she's heard it.

AllStevie said...

Oh man, I feel stupid. No offense to rystefn, but I need to add Rayshul to my shout-out because I thought you were both the same commenter. We dont need to speculate on how much race and/or gender matter to what got said, do we? I'm really tired.