Posts Tagged 'queer'

NC is a no-go: bathrooms, libraries, and the limits of welcoming

Text and some of the slides of talk I gave (remotely) at/for TRLN17AM:

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Title slide below. See what I did there?

Slide01

The original version of this talk started out with an explanation about why I’m doing this talk remotely  (which is all about HB2 and included several bathroom stories); and then tried to use some of those stories to segue into talking about diversity & inclusion in libraries more broadly. But then this happened yesterday:

Slide02

(My slide shows 45’s 3 tweets declaring a ban on transgender people in the military, and includes a pointer to credible data and info on the issue.)

Despite huge amounts of data to the contrary, the president took to twitter to declare transgender service members a burden and a distraction; and to issue a directive that they be denied the full rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

As a veteran and a member of the LGBTQ community, it was a punch in the gut. And this talk went from being a little bit about trans and queer issues to being pretty much mostly about those issues. And it went from being a detached analytical prescription of things libraries can do to being a personal and emotional description of ways we are falling short, and a plea to do better.

And I’m mostly OK with that. My colleague Greg Eow gave a talk at SAA17 last night and he talked about being authentic and bringing your whole self to the workplace – he says that’s something I say and encourage; so that’s what I’m doing this morning.  I’m going to share some tales of what it is like to be a queer person in libraries and in the country today, and I hope that focusing on queer issues in my examples still allows us to talk about broader issues of diversity and inclusion in libraries.

But even if it doesn’t, maybe it’s the right time for a talk that is mostly about queer issues … I’m not sure we do that very often in this profession; and this seems a pretty appropriate moment for such a talk.

First comes the explanation for why I am giving this talk remotely, instead of in person in North Carolina. Note that the explanation, and much of this talk, involves stories about bathrooms. And I have way too many stories about bathrooms to tell, but I’ll try to tell just ones that illustrate bigger issues of inclusion and/or that can spur conversations about those bigger issues.

I feel like I might need to start by declaring my deep love for the state of NC. It is honestly one of the great heartbreaks of my life that it is an unrequited love.

While I grew up in VA, my mom grew up in NC – specifically in Laurinburg, and she lives in Wilmington now. I spent some of my best summers with my Grandparents and my aunts and uncle; barefoot, drinking sweet tea and Mt. Dew; and eating my share of bbq, okra, fried cornbread, collard greens, hush puppies. We vacationed every year at Ocean Isle Beach, and when it was time for me to go to college, naturally I headed to the Tarheel state; which should have made all my Tarheel-loving family members very happy and proud, except … I picked Duke. Basketball season has been hard for all of us ever since. Mom & I just agree not to talk in March.

I really do love much about NC, but over the last several years, it has become a state that isn’t safe for me anymore. And yes, I’m talking about HB2  – both the passage of a bill aimed at keeping trans and gender non-conforming folks out of public bathrooms; and all the surrounding rhetoric and attention that has made just trying to pee a complicated and potentially dangerous thing for a woman like me in a state I still love and miss very much.

So my not traveling to NC, either for this talk or to visit my mom, or to watch some Duke hoops at Cameron, isn’t a boycott, and it isn’t about punishing NC or the good people who live and work in the state, or about trying to apply economic pressure to change a bad law (Not that there’s anything wrong with that).

But not traveling to NC (or any of the other dozen or so states with similar laws or pending laws) is about safety and accessibility and equity.

And, it isn’t just about me.

Traveling to states with bathroom bills is not safe for me, and it is also not safe for any of our transgender, non-binary folks, genderqueer, gender-fluid and gender non-conforming colleagues.

In April of 2016, when HB2 and a similar bill in Mississippi passed, I realized that I could not in good conscience ask anyone to travel on MIT business to a state where they might be harassed, intimidated, or arrested just for trying to pee.

So in the interest of equity, we decided at MIT Libraries that we will not ask or encourage anyone to travel to any place where we wouldn’t all be safe.

Specifically, we stated that:

we will neither require nor encourage anyone to travel on MIT Libraries business or on MIT Libraries-funded professional development to any state with laws that restrict the rights and safety of our LGBTQ colleagues.”

ARL also made a statement which read in part:

The potential impact of these and similar proposed bills is a threat to our patrons, to our employees, and to the core mission of our profession as we endeavor to create safe spaces for open dialogue and opportunities for intellectual, artistic, scientific, historical, and philosophical advancement that will improve our society and world.”

I think these were and are important statements, and that they are entirely consistent with the values of our organizations and our profession.

And, having taken that stand for the MIT Libraries, even if I myself was not personally affected by these bills and laws, I would still have to decline the invite to attend this event in person, in support of MIT Libraries stance on equitable and safe travel opportunities for all. But/and – in this case I am personally impacted.

For another, more complete, take on bathroom bills and professional conferences, see this storify of a self-described twitter rant by Kate Deibel.

I said earlier that NC isn’t safe for a woman like me, so let me back up and unpack just what I mean by that.

I’m a cisgendered woman who identifies as butch and lesbian and queer and genderqueer. Cisgendered means that I was assigned female at birth (AFAB) and I identify now as female, and my pronouns are she, her, and hers. Cis or cisgender is a term that describes those of us whose gender identity matches the sex we were assigned at birth.

I also identify as butch.  I don’t want to define butch for anyone but myself, but for me butch means my gender presentation is masculine of center – it means that the clothes I wear and the look I present is self-consciously and deliberately a look that is associated with maleness and masculinity in our culture. I also describe myself as genderqueer, which is an umbrella term often used for and by people who transgress gender distinctions and norms, or people who queer gender.

Language around gender, sexuality, gender identity and gender expression (like language in general) is evolving and proliferating; and I know some folks get confused, and overwhelmed. I can’t and won’t define all possible terms and identities, but I do suggest that if you aren’t already familiar with the range of terms around gender and sexuality, that you make the effort to become familiar.

So here’s a bit of advice, and some good resources:

“Learning how to talk about trans people is not difficult, and doesn’t require any specialist knowledge. Just as you would in any other situation, you just have to reflect back the words a person uses about themselves.”

from The Production of Ignorance, CN Lester

So, now that you know who I am, and why I can’t physically be with you today, let’s really talk about bathrooms, shall we?

First an assertion: Bathroom bills like HB2, that insist everyone use the bathroom that corresponds to the sex they were assigned at birth and/or the sex on our birth certificates are dangerous for transgender folks and for genderqueer and gender non-conforming folks like me as well.

I stand by that claim, I know it to be true from my own experience and the experiences of others, and I don’t really want to debate that claim because the truth is that single-sex or sex-segregated bathrooms have always been ground zero for gender policing. Because public spaces are never neutral, but are always sites where power and privilege are enacted. Understanding public spaces (like bathrooms and like libraries) as inherently non-neutral places helps us understand how our colleagues and patrons from marginalized groups experience our spaces, our organizations, our profession, and the communities we occupy. In other words, sometimes a bathroom is more than a bathroom.

OK, time for some stories … these are my stories, but they are also stand-ins for the stories of many, many of your colleagues, your friends, your neighbors, and your patrons. These things happened to me, but/and they happen to many of us.

Story #1:

There was the time I was at a small community theater production, and went to the ladies’ room while my wife went to get us a cookie or something.
While in the stall, I hear a man outside the restroom loudly saying “Don’t go in there, there is a man in there!”, and I know its about to get awkward. I go to wash my hands, at a sink visible from the door to the restroom, and the older gentleman steps into the restroom (which has now been vacated by all but me), and aggressively tells me “This is the women’s room!”
Note that at this point, he is the one in the ‘wrong’ restroom.
I respond as politely as I can (I’m frankly a bit shaken up by now) “I know, I’m a woman.” He pauses for a long few seconds as he looks me up and down to confirm my statement for himself, before telling me “Well, your attire had some of the ladies very concerned.” So not only has he thoroughly embarrassed me, but he has also made it my fault.

Story 2:

Then there was the time a docent/security guard at an art museum followed me into the restroom and yelled at me through the stall door.
Docent: “Hello!!”
Yours truly: “Yes?”
Docent: “this is the WOMEN’s room!”
Yours truly: “um, I know …”
After I assured her I was in the right restroom, she huffed about women being worried, and about it being a perfectly understandable mistake. Ironically, this was at the national museum for women in the arts in DC.

Then there are the weekly stories of someone telling me I’m in the wrong restroom, sometimes kindly, often aggressively; and of women entering restrooms and then doing a double-take when they see me and checking to see if they are in the right restroom.

And ever since HB2 passed, and bills like HB2 have been in the news and on the dockets in states, cities and counties across the nation; these encounters take on a more dangerous and menacing tone.

After Target announced its transgender customers and employees could use store bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity, Orlando-based Liberty Counsel president Anita Staver said she would be taking her Glock .45 into Target’s restrooms, saying the gun “identifies as my bodyguard.”

In 2016, a GOP candidate for Sheriff in Denton County TX said:
“All I can say is this: If my little girl is in a public women’s restroom and a man, regardless of how he may identify, goes into the bathroom, he will then identify as a John Doe until he wakes up in whatever hospital he may be taken to.”

Check out the comments section on any story about bathroom bills and you will find plenty of these sorts of threats – primarily men threatening violence as a way to protect their wives and daughters from “men” in the restroom.

And since I am mistaken for a man in restrooms several times a week (more when I’m traveling), these threats are personal. For a heartbreaking and very, very real description about what it feels like to be scared to pee in public, see on restrooms, gender and fear by Emily C. Heath.

But thank the goddess we don’t have to worry about extremists like that in the library profession– librarians aren’t like that, am I right? In fact, we reject that kind of hate and ignorance. We’re all very progressive and welcoming and its safe here in our libraries, and on our campuses. Everyone is welcome here, right?

And that is probably mostly true. But/and just because we are fairly confident that outright threats of violence against transgender folks or other marginalized colleagues and patrons are rare in our organizations doesn’t mean we don’t still have some serious problems and shortcomings around diversity and inclusion in our libraries and in the profession.

Let me tell another story, a story I haven’t really told to anyone outside my circle of close friends until I started preparing this talk. Partly I didn’t tell it because I’m still not sure what it means, partly because even though I know it is the other person who should feel this way, I get embarrassed telling and living these stories, and partly because the impulse to protect others, even, especially when they do or say clueless things around diversity topics is strong.

This is my “Welcome to our bathroom!” story.

Not long after HB2 passed, I’m at a meeting of my library directors peers. At this point I’m still new to being a library director, so I don’t really know very many of my peers. So, I’m at this meeting with about 100 other library directors, and a colleague I don’t know except by name and institution starts a conversation with me. She’s older, straight, cisgendered, white. With no prompting from me, she starts this conversation with me and proceeds to tell me how horrible HB2 is, and how “the transgenders” (sic) aren’t a threat to anyone, and just generally how against HB2 she is. This is literally the first conversation I have ever had with this woman, so I smile and nod along awkwardly, silently praying this convo will end quickly. Eventually it does end, but our story does not. Later that day, during a break in the meeting, I head to the restroom and end up behind this woman in line.
She turns to me with a big sweet smile, and says, loud enough for everyone to hear: “Welcome to our bathroom!” I think she even patted me on the shoulder or something.

Slide13

She meant well, I assume; but there’s a lot that went wrong in that interaction, for me. And there is much to unpack about assumptions, intent, and whose feelings got centered, and who got singled out, and how much more awful it would have been if I were trans, or if I weren’t white (like every other person in that bathroom – after all it was a conference full of library directors). If it is helpful to you, I suggest you might use this story to talk amongst yourselves about micro-aggressions, and about good intentions gone wrong.

But I want to use this story – my “Welcome to our bathroom!” story – to point out some ways library diversity and inclusion efforts often fall short, or worse.

I think this story is a pretty decent example of ways in which folks who think they are being welcoming and who are trying to embrace diversity actually end up doing more harm than good.

And it is really hard to resist the urge to apologize for how harsh that sounds – because there is a prevailing narrative – especially popular in librarian circles, that says social justice advocates have to be patient and understanding and kind and nice and forgiving when people try to “be good allies” but mess up. And certainly we need to allow people to learn from mistakes and missteps, but/and in order to learn we have to be specific about when and how our seemingly well-meaning efforts fall short.

What I’m saying is, we need to move beyond the notion of being welcoming and we need to consider real fundamental, cultural and structural changes that would foster inclusion and justice.

I want to really zero in on the “Welcome to our bathroom!” story and talk about one of the many ways it is problematic. Whatever other assumptions might have been going on in that statement, by welcoming me to her bathroom, this nice straight lady made it very clear that she conceived of the women’s restroom as hers; and not really “mine” until women like her welcomed me.

And I think this is also what we in libraries do when we declare ourselves “welcoming” to librarians and archivists of color. We welcome “them” to our spaces, and to our profession, without really doing the work to actually make our profession and our cultures inclusive, and without doing the work to undo the decades of exclusion and discrimination that are the history and legacy of our profession and of most of our institutions.

And, we focus our diversity and inclusion efforts on programs that are designed to recruit members of underrepresented groups into libraries and archives; and then we train “them” on how to succeed in “our” institutions and “our” cultures.

And because representation matters, recruitment programs for librarians and archivists of color continue to matter. We remain an unbearably white profession, and progress towards becoming more diverse is and has been really slow; certainly far slower than the rate of change in the demographic make up of the country and/or of the college student population.

So, yes, our recruitment programs matter, but/and they are not enough. We also have some serious retention problems; and I think that has a lot to do with us resting on our good intentions, and assuming that being nice welcoming white ladies (and we are mostly women in this profession) is enough.

It is not enough.

When I talk about diversity, inclusion, and social justice with white librarians, I always hear from people about how much better libraries are than the rest of society, about how liberal and welcoming librarians are, and about how our lack of diversity is really just a pipeline problem. (I also hear a lot of “shouldn’t we be neutral?”, but in the interest of time, let’s take up that neutrality myth in the Q&A if you want). And there’s always at least one dude who wants to talk about the plight of males in this predominately female profession. Don’t be that dude. Not today.

At any rate, I’m pretty tired of hearing those tropes – and I’m willing to bet our colleagues of color are also really tired of hearing them.

Many librarians and archivists from marginalized groups do not experience our profession or our organizations the same way us white folks do. Which should not be surprising – there is ample evidence across many domains that demonstrate that the life circumstances of people of color are different from those of white folks.

At any rate, my experience is that many of us think we are being welcoming, but we are often just about as ham-fisted and unwelcoming as the woman who welcomed me to the ladies’ restroom after assuring me she was down with the gays and the transgenders.

I’m sorry to say that much of what we do in libraries in the name of diversity and inclusion is just as performative and is often less about making real changes and is more about making us look good and feel good about ourselves.

I want to call your attention to some blog posts from some colleagues I admire very much:

These colleagues write about the emotional, physical, and intellectual toll of being a librarian of color in an overwhelmingly white profession, full of well-meaning nice white ladies (and a few men) who likely think of themselves as liberal and accepting and welcoming and not at all racist. (and I imagine there are some folks in the audience who are uncomfortable, or maybe even offended by the phrase “nice white ladies”, so let’s talk about that in the Q&A).

April talks about ALA as “Five days of having “nice white ladies” tell you to be “civil” and “professional” when you talk about the importance of acknowledging oppression and our profession’s role in it.”

Sarah writes of hearing some white women use the words “inclusive” and “welcoming” to describe our association. And then she reminds us that It’s not up to the majority to determine whether or not the space is/has become welcoming and inclusive. Those sentiments are aspirational, not reflective.

And Fobazi calls our attention to this post by a white woman on a Facebook page I won’t be linking to:
Slide15
The post reads:

One of my greatest takeaways from #ALAAC17 was seeing the beautiful diversity in our profession. We truly represent all those we serve and I’m proud to call you my people.

Not only are we really not that diverse, and we certainly don’t “truly represent the people we serve”; but this kind of statement renders our non-white colleagues as props on some self-satisfyingly diverse stage we can admire. As Fobazi says (sarcastically), “I love knowing that my body is seen as diverse. Not as a person. But as a pat on the back.”

And too often this is exactly what we do in libraries. We don’t want to dig deep, we don’t want to confront our own ingrained racism and homophobia, and we don’t want to examine the racist and oppressive histories and legacies of our institutions; so we talk about how we love diversity and how welcoming we are.

And we tell the one queer librarian we know that we are against HB2 and we welcome her to our bathroom, and we tell anyone who will listen how much we love seeing the “beautiful diversity” of our profession — while we remain 88% white and while our culture and our policies and our bathrooms continue to reflect and enforce a traditional gender binary.

You know that saying “We’ve come a long way, baby”? Well, we haven’t really come very far … and don’t you dare call me baby.

In the meantime, at the Society of American Archivist meeting, we laugh at all-gender restrooms.

And to make matters worse, we get defensive when we are called on our “nice white lady” micro-aggressions. We tone-police people of color and queer activists and we tell them to be more patient, and that they/we will make more progress if they act more professional; without ever interrogating the inherent classism and racism and heteronormativity built into our conceptions of professionalism.

And we complain that the language and the concepts of social justice are too advanced, and that the activists among us need to slow down and provide an on-ramp for those of us who are trying to catch up to diversity work.

Too much of our diversity work is based on an unstated assumption/attitude that libraries belong to us (white folks), and out of the goodness of our progressive and definitely not racist hearts, we need to welcome ‘diverse’ people. That framing, that way of approaching this work is itself a micro-aggression and is part of a culture that keeps us from making any real progress toward inclusion and social justice. And it is the same attitude and culture that makes it OK for a nice straight lady to welcome me to her bathroom.

I think that our diversity and inclusion work and our diversity and inclusion committees have to move away from questions of how we can be more welcoming; and we have to tackle the harder questions about how we create cultures and policies and practices and organizations that are inclusive and that foster and promote equity and social justice. To do that, we have to admit that no matter how well intentioned we may be, libraries and archives are not magically welcoming spaces for people from marginalized communities.

Think about it – I shared with you my own stories of being marginalized by well-intentioned straight colleagues and allies; but/and I come to these encounters with a whole bunch of privilege. My queer identity intersects with loads of privilege — I’m white, I have too many degrees from too many Ivy Plus schools, and I’m the director of the best library in ARL. And I still steel myself against the inevitable micro-aggressions I will experience at library conferences, and I get stressed just trying to pee when I travel.
And y’all, the stuff I have shared today is just the tip of a very chilly iceberg. Ask me about fund-raising and job interviews …

But enough about me – here’s another example:

At ACRL, Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress, spoke about the importance of having a regular outlet for her frustrations as a woman of color in a profession that is overwhelmingly white. The most accomplished, most senior librarian in the country admits that she calls her mom to regularly vent about real and pervasive frustrations of being a black woman in this profession.

Some of you, maybe many of you, didn’t need convincing that we have a lot of work to do – individually and as organizations; but I’m willing to bet that some of you did need either convincing or reminding. I hope this talk has done some of that.

I know you will be talking about diversity & inclusion later today, and you will be discussing ways to promote diversity and inclusion in TRLN and your individual institutions. I hope you will ask yourselves and each other some hard questions. I have a few starter questions to suggest:

  • What needs to change at my institution to go from passively “welcoming” to actively inclusive?
  • How does my library enforce a gender binary?
  • How is our definition of “professionalism” classist, racist, heteronormative, etc.?
  • How might we better understand ways we fall short, as individuals and organizations?
  • What are we doing that is queer-affirming in my library?

And I have a few suggestions for queer affirming things you can do in your libraries:

  • Gender neutral bathrooms
  • Pronouns, preferred names
  • Queer-affirming content in ALL displays, libguides, etc. (not just in June)
  • Ally training
  • What else …?

I tweeted this morning that this talk might well end up being the queerest and most personal talk I’ve ever given. I think that might be true.
This was a hard, but cathartic talk for me to prepare and to give. I hope it was helpful to you, and the work TRLN intends to do.

Let me close with this – if you are queer, if you are trans, if you are any part of the big glorious LGBTQ+ community, please know that I see you, you belong here, you are valued, and I will never stop fighting for you – for us.

On Orlando and my first tattoo

I sent this email to all the MIT Libraries’ staff today.

Friends,

This weekend, I made my first trip to Provincetown. I lived in the Bay Area of California for nearly 20 years, and I’ve been to the famous Castro district of SF many, many times. I have been to countless Gay Pride parades, and I’ve even been to my share of gay bars and nightclubs. But in between being in those spaces, I tend to forget how it feels to be in a place where there are other women who look like me, where Diane and I can hold hands in public without a second thought, and where the full diversity of the LGBTQ community is celebrated. Walking around P-town on Saturday felt unexpectedly nurturing and empowering.We ate well, we walked on the beach, we shopped. I bought a “Love conquers Hate” t-shirt for a friend’s toddler.

Then on Sunday morning I woke to the news that 49 people were murdered and dozens more injured at a gay nightclub in Orlando FL. Most of the victims were Latinx members of the LGBTQ community for whom gay nightclubs like Pulse served as safe havens in a world still plagued by homophobia and racism. Suddenly, being in one of the most gay-friendly cities in the country felt simultaneously comforting and absolutely terrifying. Since hearing the news, I have cycled through feelings of sadness, horror, fear, and rage.

I have also been touched by stories of incredible courage, compassion, and love. I am willing myself to believe the t-shirt slogan – I want to trust that Love conquers Hate. Sunday afternoon, I decided to go ahead and get the peace symbol tattoo I’ve been thinking about for years; but decided to get it in the rainbow colors of the Pride flag. It is on my forearm, where I can see it; because I know that I need to remind myself to sow peace in the face of conflict, to practice love in spite of hate.

I wish there were words I could share that would make this latest tragedy easier to deal with; but I don’t think there are any. I do know that being kind and gentle and loving to ourselves and to each other feels all the more important right now. So the best I can do is encourage us all to practice extra acts of kindness – random and intentional – in the coming days and weeks.

As always, I am honored to be part of this organization and to count you all as my colleagues.

Peace to you all,

Chris

 

Sitting and thinking: Some post #libtechgender panel thoughts

Born, Julius. [Portrait of Baby Sitting in Chair],  University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History; crediting River Valley Pioneer Museum, Canadian, Texas.

Born, Julius. [Portrait of Baby Sitting in Chair], University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, crediting River Valley Pioneer Museum, Canadian, Texas.

I’ve been trying to gather my thoughts in the aftermath of the #libtechgender panel at ALA Midwinter, and I’m still not sure if it is time for me to write yet. Part of me wonders if maybe I need to “sit and sit and sit and think” a bit more. Privilege and marginalization are complicated things. Trying to be a decent ally, for me at least, means never being quite sure if/when I should speak up and when I should shut up. All I can do is hope that when I speak and I should have shut up, or when I’m silent and I should have spoken up, someone will call me on it and I’ll have the humility and decency to listen and to try to make it right. So here goes …

On the one hand, I’m thrilled that there was talk of structural oppression, of white privilege, of the dangers of essentializing womanhood, and of not just gender and technology but of the gendered and racist nature of technology itself. My co-panelists Myrna Morales and Cecily Walker spoke with eloquence and passion about the kinds of substantive issues that we have to grapple with if we hope to make any headway on inequalities of and in technology and librarianship. And Myrna reminded us all that there are people and organizations (like the Community Change, Inc. and the South End Press) that have been doing movement work for a while now and that we need to learn from. Like I said in my remarks, I will never fully understand how much courage and commitment it took to be the only people of color on that panel. My love and respect and gratitude for Myrna and Cecily is endless.

On the other hand, it sucks that the threads about intersectionality and structural oppression kept just floating out there and dying, and the conversation kept veering back to personal stories and simple solutions about how individuals can behave in less sexist, racist, homophobic ways. Of course it is good for people to learn how to be less personally sexist, racist, and homophobic (oh — and also to be less freaking clueless about non normative gender presentations); but we have to move beyond that. We have to. If we don’t figure out how to tackle the structural issues that create and sustain white supremacy and heteronormative patriarchy, we will never see any real progress.

And on that whole issue of storytelling …

Like I said at the panel, and like others have said, storytelling has its place and can be a tool for healing and teaching. But enough is enough. The marginalized folks on that panel, and on twitter afterwards, made impassioned pleas for us to please move beyond the storytelling in sessions like these. And here’s what I don’t get – most of the well-meaning straight white ciswomen I know actually do want women of color, trans women, queer women, and other marginalized people to participate in these discussions and feel welcome. So I cannot fathom why when the marginalized people in the conversation say “let’s move beyond storytelling”, those same well-meaning straight white ciswomen would respond with “but I like storytelling. Please let me keep the storytelling.” Fuck that.* That right there was your chance to “sit and sit and sit and think”. And I know that smacks of silencing – but it is a different kind of thing when my silence is sometimes what is needed to try to reduce the harm done to those without the privileges I enjoy. Being silent so my sisters of color, my trans sisters, my disabled sisters, can have a voice is damn sure OK with me. In fact, I know it is something I need to practice more often.

And finally there is the whole issue of how respectfully the panelists were when we disagreed with each other. Yes, we were respectful. And for some of us, that came at a pretty high cost. I know I’m personally wondering whether I’m willing to bite my tongue so often next time. Sitting silently while others talk about gender in ways that exclude me and my sisters of color and my trans sisters is a soul-sucking experience. My hesitancy to call anyone out personally and publicly lest I look like a bully (angry dyke or mean AUL, picking on junior librarians), bumps right up against my intolerance for heteronormative, racist crap being promulgated as feminism.

To try to end on a nicer note (gender socialization is strong), I want to say how much I appreciate those straight white cisgendered women and men who are “sitting and sitting and sitting and thinking”. I’m not going to name names, because I know I’ll leave someone out by accident. I hope you know who you are. Your willingness to be humble and vulnerable, and to do your own homework, is cool; and helps me remember to do the same.

* Sorry about the language. I really am trying, but I just haven’t come up with a good clean substitute for “Fuck that” yet. I’m open to suggestions.


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