Monday, May 25, 2015

Go Ireland? The Real Meaning of the Marriage Victory

By Kelly Cogswell

Apparently, rainbows broke out all over Ireland as people voted "yes" to letting queers tie the knot. It was hailed as remarkable victory for LGBT people, not just because it was the first successful attempt to hold a popular vote on same-sex marriage, but because the measure won widespread support across the nation from the big liberal city of Dublin to the tiniest villages boasting little more than a church and a pub.

As in the U.S., I'm not sure how important a marriage win is for our community at large. Because it's possible that support for same-sex marriage is less a departure from Ireland's entrenched conservative, Catholic values than a reflection of them. A successful trip to city hall largely boils down to giving the happy couple the right to declare monogamy, protect inheritance, and pay less tax. What could be more traditional than that?

In fact, that's how the global marriage equality movement has characterized itself, largely making its case by mothballing the freak flag, banishing liberation in favor of equality, and carefully removing the sex from homosexual. Most of the photos illustrating the marriage issue portray us as hand-holding milquetoasts, content with chaste kisses and changing the nappies of somebody else's kids. Our unions are spiritual. Our new rights as abstract as citizenship.

So far, this right to bear boutonnieres hasn't made much difference to queer lives in the flesh, in the street. We're still getting bashed outside our own bars, and bullied in the locker rooms. Queer kids are getting kicked out of their own homes. Pervasive social change is still a distant promise.

Nevertheless, some members of Ireland's Labour Party are interpreting the victory there as a sign it's time to improve the country's strict anti-abortion laws. First on the agenda is repealing the 1983 constitutional amendment giving the "unborn" an explicit right to life. Second is broadening the 2013 law that allows abortion only when a woman's on the verge of death or suicide.

Currently, unless they have the means to get abortions abroad, Irish women are forced to bear unwanted children, even in cases of rape, or when the fetus won't survive past birth. If you have an illegal abortion, you face up to fourteen years in jail. Even women that qualify for an abortion under the 2013 law can't always get them. Every year it seems there are cases of suicidal girls forced to carry a kid to term. Last year, a brain-dead woman was actually kept alive as a human incubator in an attempt to save a fetus.

Women just don't count for much, there, or anywhere. We lack dignity both in life and death. Which is the biggest problem when you try to look to marriage equality as a predictor of the abortion fight. Men (and women) are winning rights in the first case. The second is all about females. And what are we but our bodies and our flesh? Especially when it comes to abortion and there's no denying that at some point a penis came into contact with a vagina, or at least a sperm met up with an egg, and the result is growing there in a female belly.

If somebody insists on finding a queer comparison, a canary to sing about the end of Patriarchy, a better predictor would be the fate of trans and gender queer people. What happens to our girly boys and masculine girls when they dare step outside or into that rigid box of gender? The way we challenge expectations of bodies and control intersects more closely to issues of abortion and reproductive freedom than the question of marriage equality ever could.

And the state of the trans Irish nation doesn't give us much encouragement for an abortion fight. At the moment, trans people can legally change their names, but still not their genders. The Gender Recognition Bill currently in the works contains regressive medical certification requirements and age restrictions.

In a report published last year by the Transgender Equality Network Ireland showed that trans and genderqueer people paid a high price for moving beyond traditional roles. The verbal harassment is endless. One person said, "Every day [I'm] called a 'tranny', 'lezzer', 'lesbian', 'it's a man', 10 to 20 times a day every day in Dublin."

Trans people are attacked in bathrooms, on the street. In one of the worst cases of late, an 18-year-old was beaten, chased and raped for being a trans man. Like other trans victims, and the average woman, gay, straight, bi, trans, he didn't trust the police enough to report it. United in humiliation and fear, we have more in common than we think. Éirinn go Brách.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Let's Hear it for White Appreciation Day!

By Kelly Cogswell

It's not such a bad idea, White Appreciation Day, the brainchild of two Hispanic restaurant owners, Edgar Antillon and Miguel Jimenez, who recently bought a BBQ place in Milliken, Colorado. It might well be a simple publicity stunt, but fair's fair after all, and if, like Mr. Antillon said, "We have a whole month for Black History Month," and another for Hispanic Heritage, "…the least we could do was offer one day to appreciate white Americans."

And why should I bite a gift horse in the mouth that feeds me? Especially since Mr. Antillon's such an obviously generous guy. He's already been a long-time activist supporting the rights of pot smokers to score handguns. His own organization, Guns for Everyone, even offers classes on the whole concealed carry thing, because I suppose folks have to be instructed on how to buy a gun, and then not wave it around, for instance, or strap it to their chests.

With all the abundance of holidays he enjoys, why not share? Do you think WAD will deprive you of something? As if the big white head could get any fatter? Or white cops more violent? White corporations more greedy? No? Why not concede this gesture, and let the poor disenfranchised White Race have their day?

Scheduling is the biggest problem. At first glance Presidents' day seemed a no-brainer for WAD, but that's out now that Obama's portrait is up in whatever gallery Presidential portraits are relegated to. Labor Day might actually work since unions in the U.S. are largely defunct and nobody ever does anything for that day anyway, except have a BBQ which is half Mr. Antillon's goal. We also might consider replacing Parents Day on July 26 which seems awfully redundant given that my Mother and Father have already had twenty-four more hours than they're owed, if I'm allowed to do the calculating.

Or perhaps we should plump for May 10th, that locally unknown day set aside to remember the abolition of slavery, which lasted 400 years and not only enslaved multitudes, but directly killed 60 to 70 million Africans. Yes, what better day to acknowledge how the effects still reverberate, not just in economic inequality, violence, and institutional racism directed towards the descendants of slaves, but those poor White Folks deprived of around the clock, disposable "help."

The least we deserve is a cheap pulled pork sammie, 10 percent off at Rubbin Buttz BBQ. Maybe Ben Affleck can even make peace with his slave-owning ancestors who were probably just going along with the crowd.

I have to say it took me a while to understand the potential. I've spent many an International Women's Day as a tireless harridan quoting statistics at the men demanding their props. There's the matter of wages, violence, sheer and unadulterated power, I'd say. Every March 14 I rage against the Irish bigots justifying queer exclusion from the St. Paddy's Day Parade in New York because we had an entire month and our own goshdang parade.

But, this is the thing. With a WAD firmly in place, white folks flashing our skin and demanding special treatment on all those other days will only be entitled to a slap upside the head. Preferably from our own mommas who will tell us to our rotten, complaining, candy and tear-streak faces, "No, yesterday was your day at the fair. No more tear gas and hollow points, and steel-toed boots in the subject's head. Or preferred admittance to Harvard. Or that seat on the board. That gate-keeper's gig. Nope, nuh-uh. Only one day a year for you."

WAD will put Whiteness on the level of every other race. Shrink it down to cake and bunting only one day a year instead of having it as the unspoken default. Name a thing, call it out, you don't conjure, but control it. Every two bit sorcerer knows that. So here's to WAD.