I was musing about writing about this publicly. For the first time in all these years of writing pretty personal stuff about my feelings, my way of becoming more honest with myself and a more authentic person through that I was thinking about letting you in on this is a good idea.
You see, people have used information from my personal blog in the past, and tried to use it against me. Needless to say they failed with it, and it only showed their true face. So why does it feel different this time?
Thing is, I'm in the midst of my second puberty, and the hormones are kicking in in complete hardcore mode. And it doesn't help at all that there is trans antagonist crap from the past and also from the present popping up left and right at a pace and a concentrated amount that is hard to swallow on its own without the puberty.
Yes, I used to be able to take those things with a much more stable state. But every. Single. Of. These. Issues is draining all the energy out of myself. And even though I'm aware that I'm not the only one trying to fix all of those, even though for some spots I'm the only one doing the work, it's easier said than done that I don't have to fix the world, when the areas involved mean the world to me. Are areas that support me in so many ways. Are places that I need. And on top of that, the hormones are multiplying the energy drain of those.
So ... I know it's not that common. I know you are not used to a grown up person to go through puberty. But for god's sake. Don't make it harder than it has to be. I know it's hard to deal with a 46 year old teenager, so to say, I'm just trying to survive in this world of systematic oppression of trans people.
It would be nice to go for a week without having to cry your eyes out because another hostile event happened that directly affects your existence. The existence of trans lives aren't a matter of different opinions or different points of view, so don't treat it like that, if you want me to believe that you are a person able of empathy and basic respect.
Sidenote: Finishing to write this at this year's #36c3 is quite interesting because of the conference title: Resource Exhaution. Oh the irony.
Recently I thought a lot about group building. There had been some dynamics going on in way to many communities that I am involved with, and it always came down to the same structural thing:
Is the group welcoming participation of everyone?
Is the group actively excluding people?
When put this way, I guess most people will quite directly swing towards the first option and outrule the second. Thing though is, it's not that easy. And I'd like to explain why.
Passive vs. Active Exclusion
The story about passive exclusion
Exclusion always happens, it even has to happen, regardless how you try to form a group. Let me explain it by an example, that recently happened at an event in Germany. It was an event called "Hanse inter nichtbinär trans Tagung (HINT)", conference for inter, non-binary and trans folks. A doctor was invited who performs genital "corrective" operations on babies, something that inter people suffer a lot and unfortunately is still legal and a huge practise around the globe while there is no medical need for any of this. In turn inter people didn't feel safe to attend a conference anymore that was specifically set out for them as part of the target audience.
And that's just one example. I could come up with a fair amount of others, like having sexual abusive people at polyamory meetups, and there is a fair amount of free software related discussions going on too, having abusive people in the community actively invalidating others, ridiculing them, belittling them, or software that specifically enables access to hate-speech sites on free software portals, all with the reasoning that it's about free software after all.
All these things lead to passive exclusion. It leads to an environment that suddenly doesn't feel safe for a fair amount of people to get involved in in the first place. People that are claimed to be wanted within the community. People who are told to grow a thicker skin. People who are criticized for pointing out the discrimination and being rightfully emotionally wound up, also about the silent bystanders, having to do the emotional labour themselves. And as organizers and group leads, it's definitely the less energy consuming approach.
When you understand this, and start to engage with abusive people that make other feel unsafe, you might realize: That's actually hell of a work! And an unthankful one on top of that. You suddenly have to justify your actions. You will receive abusive messages about how could you exclude that person because they never have been abusive to them so it can't be true, you are splitting the community, and whatsnot. It's an unthankful job to stand up for the mistreated, because in the end it will always feel like mistreating someone else. Holding people accountable for their actions never feels good, and I totally get that. That's also likely the reason why most communities don't do it (or, only in over-the-top extreme cases way too late), and this is a recurring pattern, because of that.
But there are these questions you always have to ask yourself when you want to create a community:
"Whom do I want to create a community for, whom do I want to have in there - and what kind of behavior works against that? What am I willing to do to create the space?"
When you have a clear view on those questions, it still might be needed to revisit it from time to time when things pop up that you haven't thought about before. And if you mean it honest, for a change, start to listen to the oppressed and don't add the hurt by calling them out for their reaction of fighting for their sheer existence and survival. Being able to talk calmly about an issue is a huge privilege and in general shows that you aren't affected by it, at all. And doesn't contribute to solving the discrimination, rather just distracts from it.
One last note: Active exclusion doesn't necessarily have to happen all the time. Please check in with the abused about what their needs are. Sometimes they can deal with in a different way. Sometimes the abusers start to realize their mistake and healing can happen. Sometimes discussions are needed, mediation, with or without the abused.
But ultimately, if you want to build any inclusive environment, you have to face the fact that you very likely will have to exclude people and be ready to do so. Because as Paula said in her toot above:
"If you give oppressors a platform, then guess what, marginalized people will leave your platform and you'll soon have a platform of dicks!"
It's been a while. And to be honest, I'm overdue with a few things that I want to get out. One of those things is … Brazil doesn't let me go. I'm watching this country since over a year now, hopefully understandable with the political changes last year and this year's debconf being there, and I promise to go into more details with that in the future because there is more and more to it …
Because one of those things that showed me that Brazil doesn't want to let me go was stumbling upon this artist. They were shared by some friends, and I instantly fell for them. This is about Oxa, but see for yourself:
Toy: Their first performance at the show »The Voice of Germany«, where they also stated that they are non-binary. And the song is lovely.
Born This Way: With this one, the spoken word interlude gave me goosebumps and I'm astonished that this was possible to get into the show. Big respect!
I'm Still Standing: The lyrics in this song are also just as powerful as the other chosen ones. Extremely fine selection!
I'm absolute in love with the person on so many levels–and yes, they are from Brazil originally. Multo brigado, Brazil!
Today, November 20th, is Trans Day of Remembrance. It is about remembering victims of hate crimes that aren't amongst us anymore. Last year we learned about at least 331 murdered trans people, the real number is like always higher. Also like always it affects mostly trans women of color who are the target of multiple discriminatory patterns.
What is also a pattern is that Brazil has a fair chunk of those murders. Unfortunately the country since a while is on the top in that statistic, but the election of an right winged outspoken queer hating person as president of the country last year did make those who feel the hate having some sort of legitimacy to it, which makes it obviously harder to survive these days. My thoughts thus are specifically with the people of Brazil who fight for their survival.
Right-winged parties though rise all around the globe spreading hate, and as our Debian Free Software Guidelines say in #5, "No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups", and this is something that we can't limit only to software licenses but also have to extend to the way we work as community.
If you ask what you can do: Support your local community spaces and support groups. I had the pleasure to meet Grupo Dignidade during my stay in Curitiba for DebConf 19, and was very thankful for a representative of that group to join my Debian Diversity BoF. Thanks again, Ananda, it was lovely having you!
I was musing whether I should post something for the Lesbian Visibility Day on April 26th. After all, being part of the European Lesbian* Conference means a lot to me. I've never felt so much empowered and being part of an event that takes inclusivity to a next level.
And then ... there is still a lot of these internalized doubts. I fully stand behind EL*C and its inclusive agenda. I know that the L is accompanied by an asterisk for a reason. Among others, to make it clear that Bisexual peeps aren't left out. And that trans people are also included. And here I sit, thinking nevertheless, am I allowed to see myself in that spot? Am I enough to take up space in there?
And here I am again with my internalized transphobia. Speaking up, making yourself heard is hard enough for trans feminine people. Especially when you click for everyone and people's first instinct is to address you with he/him pronouns.
Because those are traits are often enough seen as male - and when you don't identify as such you start to try everything to avoid being put into that box. Which results in a self-silencing. Including on such important dates where visibility is what it's about.
So here I am ... Trying to fight these feelings. And as much as I see it needed to be visible in the bisexual community, I also see it very much needed to be visible in the lesbian* community, because I feel connected to both. A lot.
Just the other day a working colleague asked me what kind of music I listen to, especially when working. It's true, music helps me to focus better and work more concentrated. But it obviously depends on what kind of music it is. And there is one project I come to every now and then. The name is Enigma. It's not disturbing, good for background, with soothing and non-intrusive vocals. Here are the songs:
Return To Innocence: This is quite likely the song you know from them, which also got me hooked up originally.
Push The Limits: A powerful song. The album version is even a few minutes longer.
It seems almost as if being political correct is something people do not want to be. As a matter of fact, to move forward as humanity, we though need it very much. Let's take a look at the why and what it actually means, shall we?
I think we all have heard of the Golden Rule: "The Golden Rule is the principle of treating others as one's self would wish to be treated." I hope that we can agree on that. The idea behind is to envision oneself in the other person's shoes, figuratively, and see what it would do to yourself. If you don't like it, don't do it. Sounds easy?
Well, it isn't. When it comes to discrimination, which is something systematic, that doesn't work. There is also a power difference involved in discrimination, and here it starts: It's not possible to envision what some words might do unto others. Most of of the people within the Debian community are most probably white, able-bodied, cis (identifying with the gender assigned at birth), hetero, and male. Just to name a few most prominent categories. So even if we try to envision oneself in the place of the other person, we haven't experienced systematic discrimination like racial profiling, not able to enter a restaurant, being looked strange at whatever toilet we go to, have heads turned on us and people whispering when walking down the street hand-in-hand with our partners, or being cat called. And we might envision that being called "fag" isn't the nicest thing, people forget one thing: There is a huge power difference especially also in language.
How many discriminatory words can you come up for black people? Disabled people? Non-hetero people? Trans people? Women? And then take a step back ... and try to think about how many discriminatory words you can come up with for white, able-bodied, hetero, cis and male people. And then try to realize how even language plays into that power imbalance. Especially on the internet where the only thing you get from others is written language. So the one way to work with that is to actually listen to those facing discrimination and acknowledging that some words are off limit.
So next time you tell someone they are just a special snowflake, or that they should just swallow it down because that's the way things work ... think about this. And think about what you actually are transporting when you oppose to a political correct approach: When you consider political correctness something awful to strive for because it seemingly limits how you speak to and about others. Because honey, no, it doesn't. Anytime you belittle a political correct approach you are just showing one thing: That you are unwilling to be a safe space for the people around you, and simply don't care.
Oh, and one more thing: Free Software and Debian in specific always was political. Don't tell me that's news to you. Working on Free Software is an extremely strong political statement. It is to improve the world for everyone through making software available to everyone. And yes, that everyone includes non-white, non-cis, non-ablebodied, non-hetero and non-male people too, surprisingly to some it seems.
Enjoy, and happy new year!
P.S.: Part of this content is inspired by the German language book: Eine Frage der Moral from Anatol Stefanowitsch. If you understand German I urge you to read it. It gives a good insight.