Intersectionality

I’ve been thinking about this for about a year now. I think it all started at a Monday Night Supper Club dinner that The Cajun & Canadian were hosting.

And it started with a lighthearted discussion over this very Portland meme.

Somewhere during the ridiculousness of the conversation about the bombing du jour that spawned the MOAB meme and Portland’s ability to enjoy a good laugh at its inherent liberal self, The Canadian innocently asked the table if any of us had heard the recent discussions around intersectionality.

Now, a couple of things about The Canadian:

A) He’s smarter than hell. Intimidatingly intelligent, but he’s not flagrant about this trait.

B) He’s from Canada, but his ethnicity is not Caucasian. This often prompts the question, “Where are you from?” from people who want to know his ethnicity but aren’t woke enough to understand either the difference between the two questions or how unaware of their own racist tendencies they are.

Personally, I love that he replies, “Canada” every time the question arises just to see them get flustered and say, “Yeah, but where are you from?” as if he’s not only not white nor American but also too dumb to understand the question.

See also: subtext fail.

Wow…I’ve already wandered fairly far afield.

Anyway, before I try to re-rail this train of thought, let me just say this:

A) He’s not the dumb one.

B) I can’t remember where the heck he’s from. It’s because I don’t really care, he’s from Canada. His parents aren’t from Canada, I think they are originally from someplace that starts with an M.

Does not knowing that make me a bad friend?

I don’t think it makes me less of a racist. Or sexist. Or whatever else old, white guys collective and commonly are labeled. Clearly, I’m also agist.

This past week, Joy Reid got called out for being anti-LBGT. This was based on some blog posts from years ago. Apparently, it was brought to her attention in December of last year and her response was that her blog was hacked. She went a step further and hired a forensic IT investigator to get to the bottom of it.

Well, what happened is that the investigator was able to prove that her blog hadn’t been hacked.

Joy Reid apologized.

To read about the apology, specifically her own words, I sense that she’s as surprised at what she’d written as any of her fans. Her apology doesn’t make excuses or further denials. It doesn’t blame anyone, she takes accountability.

And then, goes one step further to say that she isn’t the same person that she was back then or ten years ago or five years ago or yesterday. I’m paraphrasing. But I was struck by how intelligent that statement is…talk about being woke. It’s a good point to acknowledge, in my opinion, because it helps to keep us grounded in owning our today.

Being present.

Keeping ourselves accountable to our future selves for what we do and say today.

Of course, her bloodthirsty haters and butt-hurt minorities are still calling for her head on social media. That’s on them. For me, I think she did a good job of doing the right thing.

I think it’s worth mentioning that Joy Reid is not Caucasian…a minority being called out for anti-LBGT comments is a pretty good example of how mind boggling intersectionality can be.

Also last week, I was asked by the Silver Fox what cis meant. We were having a conversation about trans-folk. I had mentioned that my nephew had told me a story about his senior prom, specifically that his school’s prom king was trans.

I was all, “Way to go, suburbs!” with equal parts incredulity, because I really couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that his school had a trans student and I couldn’t believe that the school environment was open enough that this kid became prom king.

Way to put the “cool” in school, I say,

Anyway, first I taught The Fox the correct pronunciation of cis and then told him what it was. Basically, someone whose birth sex aligns with their sexual identity as well as the gender they express.

I know someone will hate how I expressed that definition. They can go read another blog.

Our conversation went on to trans folk in general, but that’s another blog, before fizzling out when he asked what intersexed meant. It fizzled because I realized I don’t feel like I even really know. Admitting that to myself and to him exhausted me.

I was exhausted because in realizing and admitting that I don’t know something, I know that I need to find out. Sure, I can dismiss knowledge gaps about trivial stuff, because: who cares. But this stuff is importan to know. I feel responsible for knowing in order to be a good global citizen.

No, that’s not the right term, I realize. It’s not that I want to be a good global citizen, because…I don’t. I mean, I do, but I don’t hold myself accountable to knowing the latest about the Greek economy, emerging post-USSR emerging European countries or even whether Bismarck is the capitol of the North or South Dakota.

It’s North.

Not to sound pretentious, but I think the right term is human. I want to be a good human.

Part of that is understanding other humans versus writing them off for their differences.

See what I did there? That’s me being all intersectional with a side of pettiness. I’m making potential differences the other party’s problem instead of findings an inclusive approach to co-existing.

I was exhausted because of the task ahead of me and it took me back to that MNSC dinner from last April: what is intersectionality?

Intersexed people are a part of it, that’s for damn sure.

But that exhaustion? That’s not (solely) a product of the daunting task of educating myself. It’s also in part an apprehension of the lack of forgiveness I will experience at the hands of the people who get woke before me. It goes back to when trans people began to experience their emergence.

I had friends that began identifying as trans, quite a few, actually. I remember the belligerent one. I was the Joy Reid in that scenario.

No, I wasn’t.

Humanity was.

She was the Stonewall through Act Up era gays. And she was retroactively pissed off and lashing out as she progressed through her evolution to her true himself.

I felt the struggle and tended toward empathy when we spoke. She had been an art student and friend of Rib’s. I interacted with her frequently because of my relationship and their friendship. I bought several of her art pieces to support her.

Plus, I liked them.

Some of them.

And when I asked for support in learning more about trans people…I was faulted for not knowing.

It was exasperating.

Kind of like discovering you’ve ended up at a mainstream restaurant with a vegan or self-diagnosed celiac person: somehow it’s your fault.

As we discussed intersectionality at dinner that night last year, I expressed my thought that it was kind of like politicizing butt-hurtedness.

That went over well.

But as a grumpy old cis white guy, that was my intersectionality moment. I’ve only had to overcome one measly mainstream disadvantage in my lifetime: not being heterosexual.

In order to be that good human I want to be, I have to understand what I haven’t had to overcome, basically everything but race and sexuality and including race and sexuality struggles that differ from my own.

As I look forward to learning about intersexed people and understanding/integrating intersectionality into who I am as a human, I’m dreading a repeat of that retrograde intolerance I experienced when seeking to understand trans.

But it’s part of the price, I suppose.

To bring myself full circle, this happened on The Instagram today

Just because my friend named their dog Hazel doesn’t give me the right to presume to use female pronouns when discussing them. I gave myself a good chuckle for holding myself accountable to using currently PC pronouns with a friend’s pet…that had probably been spayed or neutered prior to adoption.

All humor aside, though, that heightened awareness required to make those self edits on the fly will be a journey versus a destination because humanity will (hopefully) continue to evolve as I do.

Probably at different paces, too, just to keep it interesting.

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Intersectionality