Transgender History by Susan Stryker

I read this book as part of a LGBT studies class at Sierra College for my degree in Social Justice. It’s a great read and eponymously covers the history of an important marginalized group in America; transgender people.

As always, I am happy to share the audiobook with any friends who want a copy.

This book is an excellent introduction to many of the concepts and terms related to the history of transgender issues in America. There is a big focus on intersectionality and the related history of the women’s movements and the LGBT movement.

One thing I especially liked is the way she compares gender and sexual orientation to language. Humans are definitely wired to have language, but we are not wired with a particular language. Likewise, we are wired for sex, orientation, and gender, but not for a specific sex, orientation, or gender.

Topic Paper: Intersectionality

CJ Trowbridge

SOC 110: Intro To Social Justice

2018-09-11

Topic Paper: Intersectionality

The authors of reading #4 state “from our perspective, no one form of oppression is the base for all others, yet all are connected within a system that makes them possible.” (pg. 23) Referencing your readings and our class discussion/lecture, discuss the impact of the ‘defining features’ of oppression and the three levels of oppression on the intersectionality of identities and the experience of oppression. Include critical analysis and detailed examples in your discussion.

Oppression is a complex topic. The reading for this week breaks its essential definition into six categories. These categories hold true throughout the various types of oppression, or systems of privilege and disadvantage which exist across three main levels throughout society.

Oppression is pervasive. This is important to understand. Oppression is not a single interaction, it is a ubiquitous feature of society. It is present consciously and unconsciously every day and in most (if not all) interpersonal interactions on one level or another.

Oppression is restrictive. It prevents people from having the same opportunities as others based on some characteristic which separates them from the people with power. It means they do not get the same treatment and advantages as others. It means the government responds differently when they are in trouble. It means they do not get to have the same full life
that other people do.

Oppression is hierarchical. It puts some groups above or below others. Importantly, it puts certain intersections of groups below or above others. A famous example is prison populations. Though black people are a minority in America, they are a majority in our prisons. This is because of many factors which work together to form what we call oppression.

Oppression features complex, multiple, cross-cutting relationships. Here
intersectionality is key. An upper-class black man has several forms of privilege which others do not. Despite being part of at least one marginalized group, this person is upper-class and male. These are both important sources of privilege, despite oppression this person endures as a
black person. Here we see intersectionality at play, illustrating complex, multiple, cross-cutting relationships.

Oppression is internalized. Black people who take standardized tests perform worse if they are asked their ethnicity on the test. This is an example of stereotype threat. When people hear a constant message that they are below another group, they start to act that way.

In our culture, we have many biases based on differentiating characteristics for groups of people. This gives rise to what the reading calls, “Shared and distinctive characteristics of ‘Isms’.” We have a culture and a social order which perpetuates and expands this constant propensity to classify and hierarchically rank groups of people based on often random characteristics. The reading describes this issue thus, “all [systems of oppression] are connected within a system that makes them possible.” We are so used to lumping people into categories and making assumptions about them, that we do this without thinking. This leads to many forms of prejudice, and indeed to ongoing systems of oppression in our culture.

Systems of oppression are individual. Both the oppressed and the oppressor are participating in oppression on a daily basis. Microaggressions and unconscious or conscious biases form the bulk of what becomes oppression, and the people who are targeted with these acts are subject to them on a daily basis. No evil deed is done to a group, it is always done individual by individual. What we think of as statistics are actually the amalgamation of individual experiences. This fact opens the door for justice by allowing individuals to become informed and change these behaviors, leading to improved conditions.

Systems of oppression are Institutional. From the freedmen’s bureau after the civil war to the prison system today, choices have been made at the institutional level which impact marginalized groups in negative ways. This leads to systemic institutional oppression. There are so many examples from sharecropping to the convict lease system over a century ago, to the modern predatory housing system and associated predatory lending systems, as well as the bail bond industry. These institutions systematically target, exploit, and oppress marginalized groups.

Lastly, oppression is Social/Cultural. It’s impossible to talk about the ubiquitous actions of individuals without talking about the culture they are a part of. The actions of groups of individuals could be seen as the definition of social behaviors and culture itself. The problems we face on an individual level with issues of oppression converge into a culture of oppression. This is a primary concern of social justice, and the only way to address these large aggregate issues is by examining them at the social/cultural level in addition to the individual level. Systemic oppression is an en masse cultural issue, made up of the aggregated interpersonal interactions of members of privileged and marginalized groups. In the words of Bobby Fischer, “In order to improve your game, you must study the endgame before anything.” This is as true in sociology as in chess. With an accurate understanding of the world as it is, both on the group and individual level, we can prescribe change which will positively affect these issues both at the interpersonal and cultural levels.

Topic Paper: Power Dynamics

CJ Trowbridge

2018-09-04

Soc 110: Intro to Social Justice

Topic Paper: Power Dynamics

Selection #3: Johnson’s “The Social Construction of Difference”

Johnson quotes James Baldwin’s statement that “No one is white before he/she came to America. It took generations, and a vast amount of coercion, before this became a white country.” He uses this statement to illustrate the “social construction of reality” by which racism, sexism, ableism have no significance outside systems of privilege or disadvantage. Can you provide examples of how systems of privilege and disadvantage–concerning race, or gender, or any other system of advantage and disadvantage—may have changed over time, as the “social construction of reality” itself changed?

At the end of the civil war, many flawed attempts were made to integrate the freedmen into society. There were many problems with these attempts, and nearly all of them led to lasting systemic oppression of black people in America. One excellent example is the convict-lease system. Politically appointed sheriffs all over the country began arresting black people on made-up charges, often en masse. These people were then rented out by these sheriffs to do physical labor for the sheriff’s’ personal financial gain. This system largely persists today where a relatively small number of black people are targeted by politically appointed police forces to fill a disproportionate segment of the incarcerated population; a population which is leveraged by the police industrial complex and commodified as a source of revenue for private prison companies.

In the words of Jesse Jackson, “There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps… then turn around and see somebody white and feel relieved.” Stereotype threat is a term which describes the phenomena whereby groups of people will perform worse as tasks if they think they are being tested on the basis of race, and that their race is not the one with power. This is a widespread factor in reinforcing stereotypes and biases throughout American culture. Black people who are taking standardized tests perform significantly worse on average if they are asked their ethnicity at the beginning of the test. If a group hears all the time that they are bad or less than others, they will
unconsciously act that way because of factors like stereotype threat.

Both of these issues I have mentioned are examples of the social construct of reality defining black people as a lower class and forcing them into that position through widespread cultural oppression over time.

Johnson distinguishes between “diversity”/“difference” (“difference” need not imply inequality) and “privilege”/“oppression” (in which inequality is rationalized or justified by differences). Provide at least four examples of “differences” that do not convey inequality, and three examples of situations in which “differences” have been used to justify privilege and oppression?

One example of differences which do not necessarily confer inequality is height. A wide range of heights are considered “normal.” Another example could be wavy versus straight hair. Both are considered normal and do not confer inequality. Third is freckles which may or may not
be present while still being considered normal. Fourth is body type. Typically in America, endomorphs versus ectomorphs are both considered normal. In contrast, Rwandan culture considers people of different body types to be separate races thanks to Belgian colonial influences. This contributed to a genocide in Rwanda against people of certain body types. In America however, these differences are considered normal.

One example of a difference in American culture which does convey privilege or oppression is body weight. People who have genetic or other factors contributing to a higher than “normal” body weight are often targeted with oppression regardless of their efforts or capability to solve the “problem.” Another example is housing status. People suffering the tragedy of homelessness are usually treated not as a neighbor and community member in need, but as some kind of villain or criminal. Third is addiction. Many people have genetic, epigenetic, psychological or other factors which cause them to be highly susceptible to addiction. This tragedy is generally treated as a crime and punished with jail time rather than with the support and treatment that could actually improve outcomes.

“Str8 4 trans ONLY” [Draft]

Sublimation Is The New Reaction-Formation For Homophobia

Freud argued that all neurotic or psychologically atypical behavior is caused by dissonance. He defined dissonance as when the person one is, is different from the person one feels one should be. He argued that this causes what he called repression; the dissonance is pushed into the unconscious mind, where it is expressed through several defense mechanisms.

One famous example is homophobia; the fear of being homosexual. People who are homophobic are afraid that they are homosexual, and this fear is pushed into the unconscious mind where it manifests through what Freud called reaction formation. The person acts like the opposite of what they fear they really are. In the case of homophobia, the person typically behaves in a hypermasculine way. They try to prove to themselves and others that they are not homosexual through hypermasculinity which often includes misogyny and hypervigilant fear and hate of people with atypical sexuality and gender identity.

There is a very interesting thing happening in our culture today. It’s not new, but it’s more visible than ever and seems to be growing.

Freud argued for another defense mechanism called displacement or sublimation. This is when a person acts on their subconscious fear by using a substitute object and an elaborate excuse or metaphor to explain their behavior in order to make it more acceptable to themselves and to others. This allows them to behave according to their subconscious desires while still officially identifying as the opposite.

In recent years, there has been a huge surge in personal ads, gay dating apps, and in gay culture at large of people who identify as straight and are looking only for transgender people. Scrolling through Grindr at present, I can see dozens of nearby examples. I believe this is a clear example of displacement/sublimation. These people do not outwardly identify as homosexual, but want to act on those subconscious urges. Joining a gay sex app and then adding an all-caps headline to their profile that they are looking for trans people only allows them to dip a toe into their true selves while still identifying as the opposite.

Being a straight guy means being attracted to women. So if a straight guy approaches a trans man, then they are calling that person a woman. This is a very abusive behavior, deliberately misgendering the trans person. If the straight guy approaches a trans woman, this alone is not inherently abusive.

This is probably a very cathartic experience for people who are homophobic, but it is an expression of mental unhealth. It is an expression and extension of a deep problem which is not being addressed and is likely to escalate until actually dealt with.

There is also a long history of “gay panic” where a homophobic person is doing something like this and suddenly has a crisis of identity and decides to injure or murder the other person involved to prove they are not homosexual. This effect can be exacerbated by Post-coital Tristesse where some people feel intense sadness and guilt after sex, leading to unusually intense reactions against their partners. Venus Xtravaganza is a famous example. She was a transgender sex worker who described numerous instances of this happening to her in the documentary Paris is Burning, and she was eventually murdered by a John.

There is also the fact that self-identified straight men have the highest undiagnosed HIV and STI rates of any group, and the poorest attention to sexual health.

There are many examples of ways this phenomena can negatively impact transgender people as well as homophobic people, but it is also possible to imagine scenarios where both groups are empowered and enabled to find that palliative catharsis in the experience.

I interviewed an expert in human trafficking and sexual violence who said that most self-identified males define good sex as sex that ends in them having an orgasm and vice versa for bad sex. This expert also said that most self-identified females define good sex as sex that doesn’t hurt or doesn’t involve physical violence, and vice versa for bad; with neither party making any mention of the female-identified party achieving the orgasm which is assumed for the male-identified party.

There is a clear line between healthy sexual encounters and abusive encounters, and there are many behaviors and actions which are good indicators of future violence and abuse. Power and control dynamics and any physical violence are both excellent indicators of future abuse and violence.

In the words of atheist Elizabeth Gilbert, “[Saint Anthony] said, in his solitude, he sometimes encountered devils who looked like angels, and other times he found angels who looked like devils. When asked how he could tell the difference, the saint said that you can only tell which is which by the way you feel after the creature has left your company.”

Social Identities Pie

CJ Trowbridge

2018-08-22

SOC 110: Intro To Social Justice

Social Identities Pie

I have decided to analyze each component of my identity in descending order by the amount of conscious deliberate attention I put into them.

My strongest and most conscious identity is probably related to my sexuality and my identity as a gay person. This certainly receives the lion’s share of my attention as it is directly related to my social justice and entrepreneurial career. I work for a San Francisco based non-profit which throws large parties every couple of months. My job is to increase attendance diversity (within the queer spectrum) through communications. Within my community, my identity is very normal, but outside my community it still often makes me the target of hate speech and violence from strangers.

I am an atheist which I would equate with rational humanism. In the past, I was more militant about it but I have learned to be more tolerant of the superstitions of others unless challenged. I am always open and honest about my trust in evidence and rationalism, and I enjoy very much those moments when I can debate with others. I am aware that atheism is the fastest growing religious group, and the most popular among young people, but I think this still puts us in a small minority in the world today. We must constantly fight against the legislation of puritanical nonsense and the denial of realities like climate change and the need for renewable energy sources.

Now we get to the things where I know I have privilege. As someone who is from a middle-class family, I know I don’t really have to worry about problems that may come up. No matter what could possibly happen, I will be able to eat and have a place to live and go to burning man, etc. I know that this is not the reality for the vast majority of humanity, especially in the United States. To this end, I participate in several groups which work to elevate the position of people who are less lucky. I am an advocate for issues related to people who are homeless and participate in regular meetups where we make care packages to hand out, while also informing people who are homeless about resources such as continuum of care.

As a young, white, cis-male who is tall and able-bodied, so I also have a great deal of physical interpersonal privilege. In the words of Jesse Jackson, “There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery. Then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.” This is awful, but it’s a fact in American culture today. People make judgments based on physical characteristics. This is an advantage to people like me, but it also puts us in a position to act effectively against prejudice. I try to follow the advice of Philip Zimbardo and call out prejudices on the part of people in the same groups as me whenever I see it. In his words, this is the most effective way to prevent evil.

As a tenth-generation American, I grew up speaking English. In every country I’ve visited, I’ve made some effort to learn the local language. Despite that, when I’m in Berlin and I order a pretzel, “Ich moechte ein pretzel, bitte.” I inevitably hear the response in English. This is true in Norway, in Spain, in Holland, all over. Speaking English as a first-language is an enormous advantage no matter where we are in the world. And it’s a constant source of conflict and prejudice on the part of people who want everyone to speak English rather than broadening their own skills. Again I try to take the Zimbardo perspective and call out the evils of nationalism and language prejudice in order to prevent that evil behavior.

BQT: Notes From Conversation with J.T.

J.T. is a leading member of a prominent LGBT organization. I asked specifically about managing perceptions around “colonization” and “appropriation” when working on issues related to attendance diversity in large LGBT organizations.

His advice was simple. Give the power to the people. Recruit leaders in underrepresented communities and empower them to create new events the way they want to.

He said just like early American racial integration, the issue must at first be forced on to the unwilling majority audiences in the city, and that they will learn to accept it. Empower the underrepresented to be their own leaders, and no one can accuse you of appropriating or colonizing those groups.

Sacramento Pride 2018

I was very proud this year to march with Sacramento’s Bolt Bar, a gay alternative bar which is a big participant in the leather and fetish communities in the Northern California area. The Bolt also hosts an annual Mr Leather competition whose winner goes on to International Mr Leather.

I carried the Trans pride flag. This is an important and underserved group in the gay community. I am proud to do my part to support them as an ally..

 

The truck that followed behind us as we marched towed a trailer containing a puppy mosh pit! Photo credit to my friend Professor Scott Kirchner. It was very funny to see many dogs in the crowd reacting to the puppy mosh pit as though they were real dogs. I am still looking for photos or videos of those hilarious reactions. :]

BQT: Notes From Conversation with J.C.

J.C. suggested a large emphasis on information technology and demographics research in order to drive targeted advertising through existing channels within the communities. Specifically Grindr, Scruff, and the already large Facebook presence of the organization. He has had great success with similar events in the past using demographics-targeted Facebook posts in the past.

He also suggested polling people at the door at each event to see what ZIP code they are coming from and whether they are white or non-white. This would allow much better information about where people are already already coming from. Maybe some large percentage of the existing customers are coming from a particular area, and throwing a party there would be an automatic success, “Maybe a hundred people come from Oakland to every party and you just don’t know it yet.”

J.C. also made the same argument K.A. did; that events need to be held in the communities, rather than just in San Francisco. This will establish trust with these communities which will make people feel more comfortable coming to the larger events in San Francisco.

J.C also noted helpfully that all the recent party themes have been white-culture related holidays. He suggested that we could do parties themed on holidays from other cultures which still fit with the overall aesthetic theme of the organization. For example; Dia De Los Muertos or Sun Ra themes. These could also introduce different musical cultures into the events and organization while making people from these cultures feel more comfortable at the events.

J.C. is a prominent member of the leather community, and suggested collaboration with leaders there. They are already a historically diverse and sex-positive group which is established not only in San Francisco, but throughout the bay-area communities with more diverse demographics as well as across the world in cities which have already addressed these issues.

BQT: Notes From Conversation with K.A.

There are many safe queer spaces in San Francisco which are representative of the demographics of San Francisco. These spaces are largely dominated by caucasian cis-males for several reasons.

These spaces in San Francisco, though relatively representative of the demographics of San Francisco, are not representative of the demographics of the broader bay area because most non-white groups are centered outside of the peninsula.

The biggest challenge for people from other parts of the bay to attend queer events in San Francisco is transportation and lodging, as transit stops running relatively early in the night.

According to K.A., who attended meeting Facebook held in San Francisco about inclusivity issues related to the “real name” policy, several members of the east and south-bay minority communities voiced outrage that the event was held in San Francisco and not in the minority communities. K.A. quoted one member as saying this is how the communities know Facebook is not serious about fixing these problems. Similar comments were made by a member of these communities at a similar meeting which I was present for at another organization.

Assume the goal is to create more inclusive queer party spaces in the larger bay area and in San Francisco.

One excellent strategy outlined by K.A. would be to hold smaller parties in these minority communities and cross-promote for the larger parties in San Francisco once these communities learn to trust the organization and its intentions. These parties should be thrown in conjunction with established and trusted organizations which are already leading in each of these communities.

K.A. also reiterated earlier recommendations I had made that at these and other events in the minority communities, evangelism should take place such that local leaders are empowered to hand out discounted tickets to trusted local leaders so that they can participate and spread the word about the event and its intentions.

K.A. also recommended we reach out to Michelle Meow, president of San Francisco Pride, radio personality, and POC activist who is very hands-on engaged with issues like this.

 

I set up several meetings with SF Pride board members and other community leaders related to these points.

The First Run: 140 Care Packages For People Who Are Homeless

We liked the idea of having something other than cash to hand out to people who are homeless in order to be more helpful with less money. We also wanted to start conversations around the project which helped to humanize people who are homeless. This comes in the face of intense prejudice in our communities and stigmatization of people who are homeless as though they are the source of our problems rather than a symptom of our community abandoning its most vulnerable members.

So we decided to make care packages. This is what we came up with…

Care Packages For People Who Are Homeless

In this first run, each care package contains;

  • A Bottle of Water
  • A Granola Bar
  • A Ramen Packet
  • Tissues
  • Toilet Paper
  • A Feminine Hygiene Product
  • A Bag of Dog Food For Man’s Best Friend
  • A Tooth Brush
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Apple Sauce
  • A Bar of Soap (Special Thanks to Stand Up Placer and Jenny Davidson for donating these!)