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Trans People Forced Outside the Defined Norm and Lack Prior Claim

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In her pioneer book, Homophobia: A Weapon of Sexism, Suzanne Pharr describes a series of elements she finds common to the multiple forms of oppression. Such elements include what she refers to as a “defined norm” and a “lack of prior claim,” among many others.

Pharr explains a “defined norm” as “…a standard of rightness and often of righteousness wherein all others are judged in relation to it. This norm must be backed up with institutional power, economic power, and both institutional and individual violence.”

Another way “the defined norm manages to maintain its power and control…” and kept exclusive is by what Pharr refers to as the element or system of “lack of prior claim.”

This, according to Pharr, “…means that if you weren’t there when the original document (the Constitution, for example) was written, or when the organization was first created, then you have no right to inclusion….Those who seek their rights, who seek inclusion, who seek to control their own lives instead of having their lives controlled are the people who fall outside the norm….They are the Other.”

In the original and unamended version of the U.S. Constitution, for example, since only European-heritage male land owners had the right to vote, all Others, including women and people of color (those outside the defined norm and who lacked prior claim) had to fight long and difficult battles against strong forces to gain access to the voting booth, often under the threat of and actual violence inflicted against them.

Some who oppose marriage equality for same-sex couples claim that this would undermine the sanctity of marriage, and possibly lead to the destruction of society, often using religious sanctions as their justification.

For example, responding to Vermont’s Civil Unions legislation in 2000, Catholic Cardinal Bernard Law reflected the opinion of a number of New England Cardinals and Bishops:

“The Legislature of the State of Vermont, by passing the Civil Unions Bill [countering the defined norm and lack of prior claim], has attacked centuries of cultural and religious esteem for marriage between a man and a woman and has prepared the way for an attack on the well-being of society itself [by these Others].”

Similarly, Robert Lewis Dabney, Professor of Theology at Union Seminary in Virginia, warned: “What then, in the next place, will be the effect of this fundamental change [countering a lack of prior claim] when it shall be established? The obvious answer is, that it will destroy Christianity and civilization in America [by these Others who are outside the defined norm].”

Cardinal Law and Professor Dabney engaged in similar dire predictions, but, and here is the key, they are referring to two different events – the Cardinal referred to marriage for same-sex couples, Dabney, who lived from 1820-1898, referred to women’s suffrage — but they forewarned similar consequences: the destruction of the family and civilization as we know it.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints provides an example on the institutional level. LDS President, Brigham Young, instituted a policy on February 13, 1849, emanating from “divine revelation” and continuing until as recently as 1978 forbidding ordination of black men of African descent [outside the defined norm] from the ranks of LDS priesthood.

In addition, this policy prohibited black men and women of African descent from participating in the temple Endowment and sealings [lacking in prior claim], which the Church dictates as essential for the highest degree of salvation. The policy likewise restricted black people from attending or participating in temple marriages.

Young attributed this restriction to the so-called sin of Cain, Adam and Eve’s eldest son, who killed his brother Abel: “What chance is there for the redemption of the Negro? [lack of prior claim],” stated Young in 1849 following declaration of his restrictive policy. “The Lord had cursed Cain’s seed with blackness and prohibited them [the Others] from the Priesthood.”

While making a speech to the Utah Territorial Legislature in 1852, Young further asserted: “Any man having one drop of the seed of [Cain]…in him cannot hold the Priesthood, and if no other Prophet ever spoke it before, I will say it now in the name of Jesus Christ I know it is true and others know it.”

Since the power structure of the United States has excluded trans and intersex people from the category of “defined norms” by viewing trans and intersex people as the Other, and the founding national and institutional policy documents have likewise excluded trans and intersex peoples’ civil and human rights from a prior claim, a spate of state legislatures have either passed or have considered passing laws prohibiting trans (and by implication, intersex) people from entering public restroom facilities that conforms to their gender identities and expressions, but may differ from the sex assigned to them on their birth certificates.

North Carolina’s HB 2, for example, its Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, also goes by its extended title, “An Act to Provide for Single-Sex Multiple Occupancy Bathroom and Changing Facilities in Schools and Public Agencies and to Create Statewide Consistency in Regulation of Employment and Public Accommodations.”

Recently, Republican Delegate Mark Cole of the Virginia House of Delegates proposed House Bill 663 that would require all people in public buildings, including schools, to use restrooms corresponding to their “correct anatomical sex.”

This bill, if passed, would have the effect of prohibiting trans and intersex people from going into the restroom facility matching their gender identities. The bill defines “anatomical sex” as “the physical condition of being male or female, which is determined by a person’s anatomy.” Referring to schools, the measure states:

“Local school boards shall develop and implement policies that require every school restroom, locker room, or shower room that is designated for use by a specific gender to solely be used by individuals whose anatomical sex matches such gender designation.” Violation carries a $50 penalty.

How would such a law be enforced? Civil rights advocate Tim Peacock argues:

“[A]dults would be required to inspect children’s genitals before they use the bathroom. This is what the conservative movement has devolved into: forcing children to allow adults to examine their genitals out of misplaced fear that transgender kids and adults might commit a hypothetical never-before-seen act of violence or sexual aggression (that would still be against the law with or without transgender protections).”

In Texas, a proposed bill, HR 2801, includes a provision that would offer students $2,000 for reporting and claiming “mental anguish” for having to share restroom facilities with students of another assigned sex.

Members of the trans community often suffer the consequences of so many Others. Nearly every two days, a person is killed somewhere in the world for expressing gender nonconformity. The vast majority of murders are of trans women of color.

So the draconian measures undertaken by state and local governments and by individuals against trans people and their civil and human rights directly and intricately connect with elements of oppression suffered by Others outside the defined norm who lack prior claim.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), co-author with Diane Raymond of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

August 23rd, 2016 at 10:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Michele Bachmann Joins Trump’s Clown Car of Advisors

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Following directly on the heels of ultra-right-wing (“Alt Right”) former executive chair of Breitbart News, Steven Bannon, joining the Donald Trump campaign team, now former Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann has announced that Trump has tapped her to advise his campaign on foreign policy issues.

Bachmann is notorious for her uninformed and bigoted pronouncements on LGBT people and Muslims. Her accumulated playlist of wacked out drivel and lies is unending, though I have my favorites.

Though entirely untrue, she vomited:

“The president of the United States [Obama] will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day. He’s taking 2,000 people with him. He will be renting out over 870 rooms in India. And these are five-star hotel rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. This is the kind of over-the-top spending.”

And who can ever forget her U.S. history lesson:

“What I love about New Hampshire and what we have in common is our extreme love for liberty. You’re the state where the shot was heard around the world in Lexington and Concord.”

And on her vehement opposition to the Affordable Care Act:

“This cannot pass. What we have to do today is make a covenant, to slit our wrists, be blood brothers on this thing. This will not pass. We will do whatever it takes to make sure this doesn’t pass.”

When asked by Jane Schmidt, student coordinator of the Gay/Straight Alliance at Waverly High School in Waverly, Iowa on November 30, 2011 “Why can’t same-sex couples get married [throughout the United States]?,” as then a Republican Presidential candidate, Michele Bachmann responded that gay and lesbian people should have “no special rights” to marry people of the same sex, insisting that “the laws are you marry a person of the opposite sex.”

She added: “They can get married, but they abide by the same law as everyone else. They can marry a man if they’re a woman. Or they can marry a woman if they’re a man.”

Bachmann has represented same-sex attractions and sexuality as a “disorder” and as “sexual dysfunction” that encourages child abuse and “enslavement.” Her husband, Marcus, has been roundly criticized for his so-called “conversion therapy” (“praying away the gay”) practices at his Minnesota counseling center.

Michele’s Iowa presidential primary co-chair, Tamara Scott, was recorded as asserting that the legalization of marriage for same-sex couples would ultimately lead to people marrying turtles and inanimate objects, like the Eiffel Tower.

At the Circus:

The very first thing that caught my eye as I entered the grounds of the Iowa Republican Party Presidential Straw Poll on August 13, 2011 were three young children, I would guess between the ages of 4 -7, wearing day-glow orange baseball caps with “NRA” scrawled atop, and round stickers on announcing “GUNS SAVE LIVES” on their small T-shirts.

The Straw Poll was held a mere three blocks from my home in Ames, Iowa and upon the campus of Iowa State University where I taught between 2004 – 2013.

I saw Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee grinning shoulder-to-shoulder for the line of press cameras.

Inside Herman Cain’s tent, the candidate led a religious-style revival meeting proclaiming “Just like we do in the Southern Baptist church, say ‘Amen!’ Everybody shout ‘Amen.’ Now again, shout ‘Amen.’ And again, shout ‘Amen.’ That’s how it’s done!”

A singer on stage in front of Ron Paul’s tent sang the Bob Dylan classic “The Times They Are A Changin’,” and literally changed the lyric to “…Come senators, congressmen, Please heed the call, Don’t stand in the doorway, Don’t block Ron Paul….”

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley took the stage in the “Soapbox” tent and talked how the Tea Party speaks for a new and exciting grassroots movement that is taking back the government for the people. So is Grassley from the grassroots too?

Singers on the Tea Party stage crooned themes of small government and, in particular, issues of liberty and freedom in front of their enormous and imposing red, white, and blue sign “Guns, God, and the Constitution.”

And tables representing every imaginable conservative organization from the Heritage Foundation to the Faith and Freedom Coalition distributed information, food, soft drinks, and plenty of political memorabilia.

As I walked through the extensive crowd, this virtual sea of white faces — old, young, and in between — and as I saw the staffs of a relatively large group of presidential hopefuls lobbying my Iowa neighbors for their votes, I was conscious of a unanimity of message, a virtual lock-step of thought and expression of ideas.

Then I saw Marcus Bachmann, husband of presidential candidate Michele Bachmann. Before he had a chance to read my tee-shirt, (“It’s OK With Me” written beneath a picture of two men, a man and woman, and two women), I asked him if I could have my picture taken with him by my friend and out gay man who was also running for presidential nomination of the Republican Party.

I then asked Marcus about his controversial recorded statements in reference to LGBT people as “barbarians who needed to be educated’ and ‘disciplined’,” but most importantly about his so-called “psychotherapeutic” practices when “treating” LGBT people at his Minnesota counseling center. He then looked down at my tee-shirt.

First, he proclaimed, “I like homosexuals, and I never called homosexuals ‘barbarians.” Though this is what he clearly called LGBT people in a recorded interview on a radio station, I asked him “to please refer to us as ‘lesbian,’ ‘gay,’ ‘bisexual,’ and ‘transgender’ people rather than ‘homosexuals.’”

He replied: “‘Homosexual’ is my word, and that is the word I will use.”

I then told him that I do not appreciate that his wife, Michele, promoted her political career by stepping on the bodies of LGBT people when she proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives a Constitutional amendment requiring the institution of legal marriage to include only one man and one woman. Is this, I asked Marcus, “liking homosexuals” as he had previously claimed?

At that point, he simply accused me of being misinformed, and his political handler led him away.

The political and theocratic Right has very skillfully manipulated the language and the discourse in its concentration of so-called “social issues” and, thereby, the demonization of those who favor women’s reproductive freedoms, LGBT rights, stem cell research, those who warn of the human component in global climate change, those who advocate for gun control, for universal health care, for police to be more responsible to the people in the communities in which they serve, and those who support comprehensive immigration reform, among many other issues.

So what does this tell us about Donald Trump who now relies on Michele Bachmann for advice on foreign policy? Actually, not much more than we already know about Trump.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), co-author with Diane Raymond of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

August 22nd, 2016 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

What Is a Man? What Is a Woman?

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Man for the field and woman for the hearth,

Man for the sword and for the needle she,

Man with the head and woman with the heart,

Man to command and woman to obey,

All else confusion.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, from “The Princess

What is usually the first question people ask parents on the birth of a child? Probably not “How much does the baby weight?” No, that question usually comes further down the line. What about, “Is the baby healthy?” Sometimes, but typically not first. Usually, people ask, “Is it a boy or a girl?”

On the surface, this may seem as an innocuous question. In reality, though, it is rife with underlying social and even ethical consequences.

Even before the infant’s assigned sex is inscribed on the birth certificate, individuals, institutions, and society at large have made assumptions regarding that person’s life course, assumptions based on a highly sophisticated and complex network of gender-based role expectations in terms of behaviors and attitudes.

To unearth those assumptions and make them visible, in my university courses, I facilitate an interactive class exercise titled “What is a man? What is a lady?” (I state “Lady” rather than “Woman” because the Feminist Women’s Movement has expanded options somewhat for females, and for this exercise, I hope to have students think back to earlier constructions of “femaleness.”)

On the board, I draw a male symbol and a female symbol separated by a vertical line. I then ask students to call out characteristics attributed to men. When they have concluded, I ask students to call out characteristics attributed to ladies.

For the “Men” side, some common responses include: tough, independent, not emotional, protective, strong, competitive, competent, goal oriented, makers and fixers of things, sexually active, and others.

On the “Lady” side, some common responses include: caring, nurturing, emotional, sensitive, expressive, caretakers of others white often disregarding their own needs, good cooks, concerned with physical appearance.

I then ask students to engage in a “Nature / Nurture” discussion by first imagining the following scenario:

Imagine what it would be like if after you were born, you were immediately placed in a dark and silent room where you had no contact with any other human beings, though your basic bodily needs for food and elimination of waste were met.

What if this situation continued for years? What kind of a person do you think you might be? What would your personality, your values, your emotions, your attitudes in general be like? What can we learn about what it means to be “human” from these questions? What can we learn about what it means to be “men” and “women” from these questions?

Then, going back to the list of characteristics for “Man” and “Lady” we wrote earlier on the board, I ask students either to add or delete items we might see from people who had undergone this extreme isolation process.

Invariably, students begin to see how our socialization (nurture) may actually impose the greatest variable in the ways we express, present, perform, and define the sex we were assigned at our birth. We are “gendered” at once from the time the physician announces, “It’s a girl” or “It’s a boy.” Thus, according to social theorist Judith Butler in her book Gender Trouble, “begins the long string of interpellations by which the girl is transitively girled.”

Social customs and norms created and continually reinforce many shared preconceptions about the “sexes.” Some of these may be inconsistent or even contradictory, but they share the common element that they prescribe rules of conduct for us all. When “males” and “females” assigned at birth both exhibit similar outward behaviors, the sex we are assigned at birth will often determine the societal meanings affixed to that behavior.

For example, what may be seen as “assertive” behavior in a man may be called “pushiness” in a woman. A man may be seen as being “enthusiastic” or “passionate,” whereas a woman is accused of being “emotional” or “on the rag.” Where a man is viewed as “confident” or “firm,” a woman, on the other hand is considered “stubborn” or “bitchy.”

When a woman aims to serve as corporate executive, stepping outside the gender role assigned to her, she is sometimes accused of “trying to be like a man” and considered “too masculine.”

Feminists and trans people have exposed the truth regarding this fabrication we call “gender roles” as a social construction, one which our society ascribes to each of us as it assigns us a sex at birth. With the label “female” assigned at birth, society forces us to follow its “feminine script,” and with “male” assigned at birth, we are handed our “masculine” script to perform.

As scripts are given to actors in a play, these binary gender scripts also were written long before any of us entered the stage of life. In fact, the roles in which we were cast have, very often, little connection to our natures, beliefs, interests, and values.

According to Judith Butler,

“The act that one does, the act that one performs, is, in a sense, an act that has been going on before one arrived on the scene. Hence, gender is an act, which has been rehearsed, much as a script survives the particular actors who make use of it, but which requires individual actors in order to be actualized and reproduced as reality once again.”

These preconceived binary scripts become internalized standardized mental pictures that societies model and pass to future generations. What it is to be “male” or “female,” “girl” or “boy,” “woman” or “man,” social actors pass on as theatrical actors memorize their scripts and pass to future actors.

This conjures up images of the Hollywood movie “The Truman Show” starring Jim Carrey in the lead role as Truman Burbank. The film documents a man who for most of his life remains unaware that he lives within a human-made artificial set of a reality television show, broadcast 24 hours a day to billions of people around the world.

The show’s executive producer and director, Christof, placed Truman at birth in the fictitious town of Seahaven, and manipulates every aspect of his life. (I will leave it up to you to analyze why the director of this farce has the name “Christof.”)

To dissuade Truman from exploring past the limits of the constructed set, Christof pretends to kill Truman’s father in a fabricated storm to teach him to fear the water. In addition, actors playing the part of TV news reporters warn of the dangers of travel, and promote the benefits of staying home.

Stemming from some unforeseen glitches in the scenery and unexplained and habitual coincidences in the placement of the actors around him, however, Truman becomes suspicions until he discovers the truth about the artificiality, manipulation, and control Christof has perpetrated on him for the past 30 years. Truman eventually outwits Christof and escapes the fabricated set into the warmth and brightness of a true sun, and the coolness and wetness of natural rain.

Society and institutions on the macro level, and individuals and families on the micro, act as extreme and fanatical examples of directors in the coercive societal battalions bent on destroying all signs of gender transgressions in young and old alike, and in the maintenance of gender scripts.

Most of us function as conscious and unconscious co-directors in this drama each time we enforce binary gender-role conformity in others, and each time we relegate our critical consciousness by failing to rewrite or destroy the scripts in ways that operate integrally to us.

I have never felt comfortable referring to myself as “male,” “boy,” and “man,” even though others assigned me the label of “male” at birth. Though I do not define as “trans,” I choose not to describe my sex, gender, and gender identity other than that of “non-binary.”

Each time we rewrite the scripts so as to give an honest and true performance of life, each time we work toward lifting the ban against our transcending and obliterating the gender status quo by continually questioning and challenging standard conceptualization of gender and gender roles, each time we challenge definitions (and the very categories) of “Men,” “Women,” “Girls,” “Boys,” only then will we begin as individuals and as a society to experience what Truman experienced after he lifted himself from the manufactured dome of artificiality: the warmth and brightness of a true sun, and the coolness and wetness of natural rain.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), co-author with Diane Raymond of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

August 21st, 2016 at 5:43 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

God and Natural Disasters: It’s Not Only the Queers’ Fault Anymore

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Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans people have long been held responsible by some Christian conservatives and Republicans for causing many of the greatest natural disasters of modern times.

For example, in May 1978, Anita Bryant, Florida Orange Juice queen and chief organizer of her so-called “Save Our Children” campaign to overturn a gay-rights ordinance of Dade County, called homosexuals “human garbage,” and blamed the drought then overtaking California on their sinful behavior. Ironically, however, just one day following the first openly-gay San Francisco City Supervisor, Harvey Milk’s November 8 election, and six months following Bryant’s claim, it started to rain.

On another side of the weather spectrum, others blamed the torrential winds, rain, and devastating flooding of hurricane Katrina in 2005 on LGBT people. Reverend John Haggee, evangelical pastor of a “mega-church” in Texas, was quoted in an interview in 2006 saying that “God caused Hurricane Katrina to wipe out New Orleans because it had a gay pride parade the week before and was filled with sexual sin.”

Televangelist Pat Robertson has most likely talked to God who told him of an upcoming calamity. After Orlando, Florida city officials in 1998 voted to fly rainbow flags high atop city lampposts during Disney World’s annual Gay Days events, Robertson issued a stern warning to the city:

“…I don’t think I’d be waving those flags in God’s face if I were you. … [A] condition like this will bring about the destruction of your nation. It’ll bring about terrorist bombs, it’ll bring earthquakes, tornadoes, and possibly a meteor.”

Following the horrific events of September 11, 2001, Robertson, along with his conspiratorial-theory evangelical buddy, Jerry Falwell, reiterated past warnings. Falwell, with an air of righteousness, proclaimed on Roberson’s 700 Club on the Christian Broadcasting Network on September 13, 2001:

“I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen!’” To this Robertson responded: “I totally concur.”

The cause for wide-spread and devastating health pandemics have also been laid at the feet of LGBT people. For example, Ronald Reagan, under whose presidency the AIDS pandemic was detected and spread, had not formally raised the issue until April 1, 1987 in a speech to a group of physicians in Philadelphia — a full seven years after the onset of AIDS in the United States.

The one and only time he publicly spoke of AIDS before 1987 was in his first year in office when he inferred that “maybe the Lord brought down the plague because illicit sex is against the Ten Commandments.”

When AIDS was perceived by many as a disease of primarily gay and bisexual men, Pat Buchanan, who served as Reagan’s Chief of Communications between 1985-1987, was quite outspoken, referring to AIDS as nature’s “awful retribution,” and saying it did not deserve a thorough and compassionate response.

Writing in 1986, Buchanan claimed: “The poor homosexuals — they have declared war upon nature, and now nature is extracting an awful retribution.” Also, back in 1983, Buchanan demanded that New York City Mayor Ed Koch and New York Governor Mario Cuomo cancel the Gay Pride Parade or else “be held personally responsible for the spread of the AIDS plague.” And later: “With 80,000 dead of AIDS, our promiscuous homosexuals appear literally hell-bent on Satanism and suicide.”

In 2007, Falwell extended the blame: “AIDS is not just God’s punishment for homosexuals, it is God’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.”

Some even fault gays for ultimately bringing about the total destruction of humanity itself. In his annual “State of the World” address at the Vatican delivered to diplomats from 179 countries, Pope Benedict XVI, on January 9, 2012, released a dire warning stating that marriage for same-sex couples “undermine the family, threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself.”

The pontiff stated earlier on December 22, 2008 at a Christmas address to the Curia, the Vatican’s central administration, likening saving humanity from homosexual and gender-variant behaviors to saving the rain forest from destruction:

“[The Church] should also protect man from the destruction of himself. A sort of ecology of man is needed….The tropical forests do deserve our protection. But man, as a creature, does not deserve any less.”

The Pope warned that humans must “listen to the language of creation” and understand the intended roles of man and woman. He compared behavior outside heterosexual relations as “a destruction of God’s work.”

But now, Ms Bryant, Reverends Haggee, Robertson, and Falwell, Mr. Reagan and Buchanan, and Pope Benedict XVI, you better tell the queers to move over, for they no longer have a monopoly on bringing about world disasters. The gods have said “ENOUGH” to you Evangelicals and Republicans for your insane inquisitorial attacks.

As God tested Abraham (the patriarch of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims) by demanding that he kill his beloved son Isaac, hurricane Isaac returned in a deadly tumult to test the very moral character of the Republicans at their convention in Tampa in 2012. Could it be that the gods forced the Republicans to shorten their convention by one day for their evil transgressions against LGBT people?

And now, have the gods punished the rabidly anti-LGBT, Tony Perkins, President of the so-called Family Research Council by flooding his home and Greenwell Springs Baptist Church in Louisiana where he is the interim pastor? Perkins has himself linked natural disasters to God.

Asked if he believed God was involved in the catastrophic deluge hitting Louisiana, which he described as a “flood of biblical proportions,” Perkins responded that “We’re gonna look for what God’s gonna do in this. I’m asking those questions and I’m going to see.”

Well, Tony and all others who profess that God(s) warn you about LGBT people, wait just a minute. Glory be, I think I hear God speaking. Yes, yes, yes indeed, she is telling me that I must notify you in no uncertain terms that you are all false prophets who profit by using your bigotry for your own personal advancement and enrichment.

By scapegoating and stereotyping LGBT people, you hope to fill your organization’s bank accounts and attract others to your causes.

If there is any lesson to learn from the spate of natural disasters hitting the globe, we as a collective human species, and not God(s), have the power to destroy or save our planet if we stand resolved to reverse our destructive and insane use of fossil fuels. Rather than blaming LGBT people, start to embrace science to save humanity from itself.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), co-author with Diane Raymond of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

August 18th, 2016 at 11:12 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Harvey Milk Sailing the High Seas

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The United States Navy has chosen LGBT rights activist and former San Francisco Supervisor, Harvey Milk, for a ship in his honor in its new fleet of replenishment oil tanker. Other honorees include illustrious civil rights icons Sojourner Truth, Chief Justice Earl Warren, Robert F. Kennedy, suffragist Lucy Stone and U. S. Rep. John Lewis.

Only two years ago, the United States Postal Service released a long-awaited and overdue postage stamp in honor of Harvey Milk, a pioneering legislator and advocate not only for the civil and human rights of LGBTQ people, but for all people, especially those who had been traditionally locked out of the legislative power structure that often attempted to control their lives.

Once in office, Harvey shepherded a comprehensive ordinance through the Board of Supervisors for LGBT rights, and worked successfully to defeat the draconian Proposition 6 on the November 7, 1978 California ballot sponsored by John Briggs, a conservative state legislator from Orange County, which, if passed would have mandated the firing of all LGBT public school teachers as well as anyone who supported LGBT rights in the schools. Briggs alleged that gay teachers desired to abuse, molest, and “recruit” youth.

Just three weeks later, after serving only eleven months in office, Harvey Milk and his friend and political ally, George Moscone, the Mayor of San Francisco, were brutally murdered by Dan White, another Supervisor who recently quit the Board, but changed his mind and demanded to be reinstated.

Controversy surrounded Harvey during his time in electoral politics, which did not end with his assassination. Following the announcement by the U.S. Postal Service in 2014, the ultra right-wing American Family Association (AFA) initiated a two-pronged boycott of the stamp. At the time, they wrote their supporters;

1. Refuse to accept the Harvey Milk stamp if offered by your local post office. Instead, ask for a stamp of the United States flag. 2. Refuse to accept mail at your home or business if it is postmarked with the Harvey Milk stamp. Simply write ‘Return to Sender’ on the envelope and tell your postman you won’t accept it.”

AFA’s mission “…is to inform, equip, and activate individuals to strengthen the moral foundations of American culture, and give aid to the church here and abroad in its task of fulfilling the Great Commission,” and to “…restrain evil by exposing the works of darkness” by “championing Christian activism.”

AFA justified its action to stamp out Harvey:

“The Harvey Milk stamp was a result of seven years of lobbying by a self-described drag queen (a biologi [California] man with implanted breasts) and former transsexual prostitute Nicole Murray Ramirez of San Diego. Honoring predator Harvey Milk on a U.S. postage stamp is disturbing to say the least. Harvey Milk was a very disreputable man and used his charm and power to prey on young boys with emotional problems and drug addiction. He is the last person we should be featuring on a stamp.”

In actuality, no amount of cissuppremist rantings by the AFA will ever diminish Nicole Murray Ramirez’ integrity and groundbreaking lobbying efforts for the establishment of a postage stamp and California state holiday to honor civil right pioneer, Cesar Chavez.

A crucial point in the psychology of stereotyping and scapegoating is the representation of minoritized groups as, in historian John Boswell’s words, “animals bent on the destruction of the children of the majority,” and dominant groups have long accused LGBT people of acting as dangerous predators of young people.

Former beauty queen and Florida Orange Juice Commission spokesperson, Anita Bryant, for example, spearheaded her so-called “Save Our Children” campaign, which succeeded in overturning a gay-rights ordinance in Dade Country, Florida in 1977. The ordinance was finally reinstated in 1998. According to Bryant, “a particularly deviant-minded [gay] teacher could sexually molest children.”

These stereotypes have been validated institutionally. The 1992 Republican Party platform openly endorsed this oppression, stating that “[The Republican Party] opposes any legislation or law which legally recognizes same-sex marriages and allows such couples to adopt children or provide foster care.” In fact, some states still explicitly ban LGBT people from adopting or serving as foster parents.

In recent years, the fear of alleged pedophilia had been used to justify the ban on gay and bisexual boy scouts and boy scout leaders as argued by Rob Schwarzwalder, 2013, Vice President of the conservative Washington, DC-based public policy and lobbying organization, Family Research Council (FRC): “The reality is, homosexuals have entered the Scouts in the past for predatory purposes.”

Tony Perkins, FRC President, in a 2011 fundraising letter for the organization addressing the LGBT communities’ so-called public promotion of homosexuality to youth, wrote: “The videos are titled ‘It Gets Better.’ They are aimed at persuading kids that although they’ll face struggles and perhaps bullying for ‘coming out’ as homosexual (or transgendered or some other perversion), life will get better. …It’s disgusting. And it’s part of a concerted effort to persuade kids that homosexuality is okay and actually to recruit them into that lifestyle.”

Harvey recorded a will that was to be played in the event of his assassination. In it he stated that he never considered himself simply as a candidate for public office, but rather, always considered himself as part of a liberation movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans* people, and a liberation movement for all people.

Each time Harvey spoke in front of a crowd, he urged people to come out everywhere and often: “Tell your immediate family,” he would say. “Tell friends, neighbors, people in the stores you shop in, cab drivers, everyone.” And he urged heterosexual and cisgender people to be our allies, to interrupt derogatory remarks and jokes, to support us and offer aid when needed. If we all did this, he said, we could change the world.

In his relatively brief time with us, Harvey Milk left an indelible mark and invaluable gift by changing lives. He has earned the lasting, enthusiastic, and unqualified esteem of the countless people he touched, and we deeply and sorely miss him. During his time here, he did not simply walk, but in fact, he paved a path of justice and decency.

Though his killer may have destroyed his body, and his detractors then and now may have attempted to slander his reputation and malign and vilify his work, they will never succeed in extinguishing his legacy or destroying his spirit, or in terminating the heart of a community and a movement for social justice, for Harvey’s life-force continues, inspiring a new generation, a nation, and a world.

Harvey served in the Navy for four years. His legacy not only inspires us landlubbers, but it will now sail the high seas.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), co-author with Diane Raymond of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

August 17th, 2016 at 12:19 pm

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Exposing “Façades”: The Web Series

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Trans people have exposed the truth regarding this fabrication we call “gender roles” as a social construction, one which our society ascribes to each of us as it assigns us a sex at birth. With the label “female” assigned at birth, society forces us to follow its “feminine script,” and with “male” assigned at birth, we are handed our “masculine” script to perform.

As scripts are given to actors in a play, these binary gender scripts also were written long before any of us entered the stage of life. In fact, the roles we were cast have, very often, little connection to our natures, beliefs, interests, and values.

According to social theorist Judith Butler,

“The act that one does, the act that one performs, is, in a sense, an act that has been going on before one arrived on the scene. Hence, gender is an act, which has been rehearsed, much as a script survives the particular actors who make use of it, but which requires individual actors in order to be actualized and reproduced as reality once again.”

If we challenge the director by refusing to follow our lines, and when we tell the truth about this human lie about gender, the director (society) doles out harsh, often fatal punishments. Most of us function, however, as conscious or unconscious co-directors in this drama each time we enforce gender conformity onto others, and each time we relinquish our critical consciousness by failing to rewrite or destroy the scripts in ways that operate integrally and authentically for us as individuals.

The new web series, “Façades,” literally rewrites these historical gender scripts handed to each of us at birth. The show’s actors, in memorizing their lines, simultaneously challenge and rewrite societal gender scripts, and by so doing, expose the façades we have been taught and mandated to perform.

“Façades” focuses on the emerging boy-meets-they love story between Phinn (talented drag performer, “Fantasia Fabulous,” played by Russell Peck) and Rhys (male-assigned-at-birth non binary trans person played by Maybe Burke). Rhys, like so many others now, employ “they” as a gender-inclusive and non-binary personal pronoun.

Seen toward the beginning of their journey in the process of embracing and expressing gender authentically, Rhys gives voice and visibility to those of us who seem as strangers in the strange land of predetermined and tyrannically-enforced binary gender regimes.

Throughout the episodes, in their body language and clear direct statements, we, the viewer, experience Rhys’ discomforting surprise, shock, and bewilderment in inhabiting a world with a tightly-regulated binary gender system, a world that emotionally assaults Rhys at every turn. Rhys literally personifies the “Gender Outlaw” in the title of the book they read in one episode by pioneering trans activist and author, Kate Bornstein.

Rhys’ relationship and discussions of gender with Phinn highlight the contradictions, tensions, and problematics in the ways drag exposes but simultaneously reinscribe the gender status quo. Rhys and Phinn, therefore, inhabit very different worlds and speak different languages.

Rhys highlights the contrasting world views on historically gendered constructions by telling Phinn: “You run with it. I run from it.”

Interspersed throughout the series the viewer peeps through the keyhole to see the on-camera as well as the back stories of the anxiety-ridden and expectant cis women contestants at Continental’s Newest High Fashion Model, an over-the-top campy parody of popular TV fashion runway shows.

Hosted by the always-elegant and seemingly unattainably dazzling, Tiara Anderson-Anderson (played by Raquel Nicole Jeté), this lampoon punctures society’s balloon of compulsory expectations on the meanings of femaleness and womanness.

Tiara informs all potential candidates that for them to be considered for the show, they must be at least 5 feet 10 inches tall, no more than 110 lbs., between the ages of 18 and 26, with medium length hair, and, most certainly, “female” (assigned at birth). All others need not apply (read as all others have failed in their quest for femininity).

One contestant, out and proud lesbian Alli Sabatini (played by Korinne Winter) attempts to navigate the line between making a statement in contesting (as a contestant) the societally-rigid standards of femininity while also placing herself in contention to win the competition.

While a very low budget production, “Façades” succeeds with high quality writing and directing of series creator, Ariel Mahler, and acting of its talented cast.

In the service of full disclosure, Ariel Mahler, my creative and brilliant twenty-something cousin, has taught, me, this almost seventy-something pre-Stonewall sissy-to-homosexual-to-gay-to-queer traveler how to transform a relatively long life’s path into a runway to transcend and soar into the heights of authenticity.

The series emphasizes that each time we rewrite the scripts so as to give an honest and true performance of life, each time we work toward lifting the ban against our transcending and obliterating the gender status quo by continually questioning and challenging standard conceptualization of gender, only then will we begin as individuals and as a society to experience true authenticity touched by the warmth and brightness of a true sun, and the coolness and wetness of natural rain.

To watch “Façades”: The Web Series, click here.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

August 14th, 2016 at 9:57 pm

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Promoting Violence Has No Place in Public Discourse

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Former Republican Vice Presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, created her now-infamous “cross hairs” map targeting Democratic legislators who voted for President Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Bill. These Democratic U.S. Representatives were elected in districts that Republican Presidential nominee John McCain and Palin carried in the 2008 Presidential election.

Using the cross hairs, the symbol of the rifle aiming device, Palin emphasized in her map that these Democrats were particularly vulnerable for defeat in the next election. On January 8, 2011, however, at a Safeway supermarket parking lot in a suburb of Tucson, Arizona, a man named Jared Lee Loughner took the symbol literally.

As U.S. Representative Gabrielle (Gabby) Giffords met with her constituents, Loughner shot Giffords through the head at point-blank range, and then went on to shoot 18 other people killing six, including a nine-year-old girl and a federal District Court Chief Judge. Giffords suffered severe brain damage and did not run for reelection.

High Profile Political Assassinations in the United States:

President Abraham Lincoln (1865), President Chester A. Arthur (1881), President William McKinley (1901), Senator Huey Long (1935), Medgar Evers (1963), President John F. Kennedy (1963), Malcolm X (1965), Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (1968), Senator Robert F. Kennedy (1968), S.F. Supervision Harvey Milk (1978), S.F. Mayor George Mascone (1978).

Certainly, Sarah Palin does not stand alone in using violent imagery or language. Take the example of Donald Trump. Recently at a rally, after repeating his consistent lie that Hillary Clinton, if elected President, will take away people’s guns by appointing Supreme Court justices who will place severe restrictions on the ownership of firearms, he warned his audience:

“If she gets to pick her judges, there’s nothing you can do, folks,” as the crowd booed. He then added: “Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.”

Though debatable as to his actual meaning, many took his words as veiled threats of violence against Hillary Clinton and left-leaning judges.

Gabby Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, penned a response published in the New York Daily News:

“Donald Trump might astound Americans on a routine basis, but we must draw a bright red line between political speech and suggestions of violence. Responsible, stable individuals won’t take Trump’s rhetoric to its literal end, but his words may provide a magnet for those seeking infamy….When candidates descend into coarseness and insult, our politics follow suit. When they affirm violence, we should fear that violence will follow..,.”

If this had been the only instance that Trump used such language, politicians and the media would have in all likelihood let it slide. But Trump cannot seem to help himself from spewing incendiary drivel from his guts to his mouth.

During the primaries, he prided himself on his popularity to such an extent that he claimed: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.”

At a rally as security officers escorted a protester from the hall, Trump yelled with a disgusted sneer on his face: “I’d like to punch him in the face….In the old days, [protesters would be] carried out on stretchers. We’re not allowed to push back anymore.”

Just before the Iowa primaries, Trump claimed at a campaign rally in Cedar Rapids that a security officer warned him that some protesters might throw tomatoes at him on stage. Trump advised supporters that if this were to occur, they should show no mercy and “knock the crap out of ‘em!” He pledged he would pay for supporters’ legal fees.

At a Trump rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, a white man sucker punched an African American man in the face as the security patrol led the protester out of the auditorium.

Trump focuses major initiates of his foreign policy on violence. He advocates using brutality, such as waterboarding and other extreme measures, when interrogating prisoners. He wants to track down and “take out” families of suspected terrorists as a means of “retribution.” And he advocates that Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia acquire nuclear weapons in their arsenals.

In the most recent National Civility Survey, when asked whether they believed that civility has eroded in modern life in terms of personal relationships, government, business, media, and on-line, 65 percent of respondents stated that this is a “major problem” while 71 percent believed this has “worsened recently.”

In the final analysis, all high visibility celebrities and candidates for elective office must be held to a higher standard in making certain they do not project even the slightest impression that they are advocating violence as a solution in solving problems. When they do, however, they serve as negative social role models, and they must be held accountable.

High Profile Political Attempted Assassinations in the United States:

President Andrew Jackson (1835), President William Howard Taft (1909), President Theodore Roosevelt (1912), President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933), President Harry S. Truman (1950), President Richard M. Nixon (1972), President Gerald Ford (Sept. 5 & 22, 1975), President Ronald Reagan (1981), Representative Gabrielle Giffords (2011).

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

August 10th, 2016 at 6:11 pm

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Catholic Church Gets It Wrong (Again) on Trans* Identities

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Throughout recorded history, governments, social and religious institutions, and powerful individuals have devised ways of silencing opposition for the purpose of maintaining and extending its control and domination. They commit physical or psychic murder upon those who speak and live their truth when this contradicts “official” policies and teachings.

The Catholic Church, as one such religious institution, has wronged and at times murdered those who have advanced beliefs that run contrary to Church “teachings.”

For example, the Church convicted physicist and astronomer Galileo Galilei on the charge of heresy by insisting that the Earth revolves around the Sun, rather than, as per Church teaching, the Earth was the immovable center of the universe with the Sun revolving around the Earth. The Church forced Galileo to spend the remainder of his life into the 16th century under house arrest.

It took the Church under Pope Paul II in 1992 approximately 350 years to finally admit they got it wrong.

A key factor in the development of orthodox Catholic ethics since the 13th century is the concept of “Natural Law,” which includes a set of standards that the Church has inferred follow an ordering of nature.

Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican scholar born in 1225 was an early exponent of “natural law,” which asserts that morality is based on certain constraints of human nature. Aquinas believed that same-sex sexuality (and any sexual act not intended specifically for procreation, including masturbation) and gender non-conformity are vices against nature, which violate the will of God.

Thus, the Church has concluded that the expressions of homosexuality and forms of gender non-conformity, plus many forms of heterosexual sexual behavior are “gravely and intrinsically immoral” or “gravely and intrinsically disordered” (as clearly stated in the Catholic Catechism).

Joan of Arc, the teenager who helped defeat the English in her native France, became one of the greatest war heroes in French history. In spite of this, the Catholic Church tried and convicted Joan on the charge of heresy by rejecting Church authority in preference for direct inspiration from God, and most importantly, by donning men’s clothing. Joan died by burning at the stake.

The “modern” Roman Catholic Church Catechism 2357 relates to same-sex sexuality:

“Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are gravely disordered. They are contrary to natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of love [i.e., children]. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”

Dominican Brother Nicanor Pier Giorgio Austriaco, in his book The Myth of the Gay Gene, elaborates on this theme:

“The Church teaches that as embodied spiritual creatures, human beings were created male and female so that in the complementarity of the sexes, they can reflect the inner unity of the Creator. This was recognized and confirmed by the Lord Jesus who instituted the sacrament of marriage to celebrate the divine plan of the loving and life-giving union of men and women.”

Pope Francis, in his relatively short time serving as the leader of the Catholic Church has talked about inclusion and acceptance of diversity thereby, at least in his words, seems intent on taking the Church out of the 17th Century where it has remained stuck for some time and carry it on the wings of a dove to at least the 19th if not the 20th or 21st century regarding the concerns of LGBTQ people.

But alas, the dove has died as has the hope. His policies and teachings on topics of same-sex sexuality have remained unchanged. Even more troubling, the Pope has further tightened Church restrictions on trans* identities.

The Vatican hierarchy recently fenced off Alex Salinas, a 21-year-old transman from Cadiz, Spain, by informing him that it had denied his request to become the godparent of his nephew because being transgender is incongruent with Catholic teaching. According to the Church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, its doctrine-enforcing agency:

Transgender status “reveals in a public way an attitude opposite to the moral imperative of solving the problem of sexual identity according to the truth of one’s own sexuality. Therefore, it is evident that this person does not possess the requirement of leading a life according to the faith and in the position of godfather and is therefore unable to be admitted to the position of godfather or godmother.”

In his April 2016 letter focusing on marriage and the family titled Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”), Pope Francis sternly warned against gender transition procedures by stressing that “conditioning children into believing a lifetime of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex is normal and healthful is child abuse.”

Later, in a meeting with Bishops during his pilgrimage to Poland in July 2016, Francis talked about current times in which, “We are living a moment of annihilation of man as image of God.” Francis referenced Pope Benedict XVI, his still-living predecessor, who branded these times as “the epoch of sin against God the Creator.”

Frances took this occasion to inflict another tirade against trans* people when he warned: “Today, in schools they are teaching this to children – to children! – that everyone can choose their gender.” He condemned this on what he cited as “ideological colonizing” backed by “very influential countries,” which he did not name. One such “colonization,” he said – “I’ll say it clearly with its first and last name – is gender.”

When religious leaders preach their damaging interpretations of their sacred texts on issues of same-sex sexuality and relationships or identities and gender non-conformity and trans* identities within and outside their respective houses of worship, they must be held accountable and responsible for aiding and abetting those who target and harass, bully, physically assault, and murder people perceived as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or trans*.

Nearly every two days, a person is killed somewhere in the world for expressing gender nonconformity. The vast majority of murders are of trans* women of color.

In addition, religious leaders and entire denominations must be held accountable as accomplices in the suicides of those who are the targets of these abusive actions, and who grow up in a religious denomination and larger society that teaches them to deny, to hide, and to hate themselves.

Will it take another 350 years for the Catholic Church to finally admit they got it wrong again?

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

 

 

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

August 5th, 2016 at 11:45 am

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Does Trump Reflect a Narcissistic Body Politic?

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According to Greek legend, a young man was so fascinated, awestruck, and enraptured by his own image reflected on the surface of a pool that he sat lovingly gazing at water’s edge for so long that he succumbed to his own vanity and eventually transformed into a flower that carries his name, “Narcissus.”

The American Psychiatric Association, in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual II (DSM) from 1968 lists “Narcissism” as an emotional problem and “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” (NPD) with a number of characteristics. These include

·         An obvious self-focus in interpersonal exchanges

·         Problems in sustaining satisfying relationships

·         A lack of psychological awareness

·         Difficulty with empathy

·         Problems distinguishing the self from others (having bad interpersonal boundaries)

·         Hypersensitivity to any insults or imagined insults

·         Vulnerability to shame rather than guilt

·         Haughty body language

·         Flattery towards people who admire and affirm them

·         Detesting those who do not admire them

·         Using other people without considering the costs of doing so

·         Pretending to be more important than they actually are

·         Bragging and exaggerating their achievements

·         Claiming to be an “expert” at many things

·         Inability to view the world from the perspective of other people

·         Denial of remorse and gratitude

In summary, this condition results in the over-inflation of one’s self-importance.

One does not have to have earned a Ph.D. in psychology to identify Donald Trump as someone suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder since he clearly manifests many if not all of its symptoms. While he definitely has not transformed into a beautiful fragrant flower as did the character in the Greek legend, we, nonetheless have to ask, some critical questions, which include:

How did Trump as someone who may suffer from a serious emotional character disorder garner so much support from the electorate to have vanquished 16 other candidates to win the mantle of the Republican Party for the presidency of the United States?

Does Trump’s meteoric ascendancy reflect a sort of collective Narcissistic Personality Disorder in the larger U.S. body politic?

Narcissistic Personality Disorder falls within the overall category of “sociopathology,” in which a person’s antisocial behavior demonstrates a lack of a sense of moral concern or responsibility or a deficit of social conscience. The American Psychiatric Association’s DSM classifies this condition as “Antisocial Personality Disorder” (APD), which it defines as…

“[A] pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood.”

On a macro level, from Colonial times and continuing after the Revolutionary War into nationhood and beyond, whose rights were considered important and included in the founding documents of the United States, as opposed to which groups of people were disregarded or not even considered?

How many years and in what ways have these violations been corrected? Or more importantly, have these violations been corrected at all?

On the Republican side of the equation in the current election season, did any of the leading primary candidates or the person (Trump) who went on to win, specifically identify and target any group or groups to disregard and violate their rights? And if so, did this candidate or candidates gain traction in terms of the vote count by employing this tactic?

While in ancient Greece and Rome, a demagogue originally referred to a leader or orator who advocated for and championed the common people, the term has since come to represent a politician who, rather than employing rational arguments, appeals instead to peoples’ fears and prejudices for their own political ends.

While Trump operates clearly as a demagogue, during any era, narcissistic and other types of sociopaths use demagoguery to achieve political ends. Would this appeal resonate as it has if at least a significant segment of the country had not suffered from a sort of collective narcissistic nationalistic disorder itself?

Trump has appealed to a nationalist strain in the United States, an “America first,” “we are the best and last great hope for the world,” “a shining city on a hill,” “a beacon of freedom, liberty, and hope to the entire world,” because we are an “exceptional nation.”

Nationalism emphasizes excessive and aggressive jingoism or chauvinism, an attitude of infallibility and dominance. This notion of “American exceptionalism” (also read “American superiority”), this mantra drilled into us as soon as we exit the womb, does it not reflect a narcissistic psyche on a national scale?

The Church convicted physicist and astronomer Galileo Galilei on the charge of heresy by insisting that the Earth revolves around the Sun, rather than, as per Church teaching, that the Earth was the immovable center of the universe with the Sun revolving around the Earth. The Church forced Galileo to spend the remainder of his life into the 16th century under house arrest. Ultimately, the Church saw the error of its teaching.

The concept of “American exceptionalism” attempts to position the United States as the immovable center of the planet with all other countries revolving around us. While the United States can be seen as a great country with strengths and weaknesses, so too can many other countries around the globe.

Review the symptoms for Narcissist Personality Disorder, but this time see whether these apply as well to the personality or the psyche of the U.S. body politic.

This collective attitude of “exceptionalism,” though, separates our country and our residents from people of other nations by giving us the image of the “arrogant Americans,” which often engenders ridicule and scorn around the world.

At this point in time, with Donald Trump’s severe and obvious character disorder, we need to implore his family, his Party officials, and we the people of the U.S. to undertake an intervention to convince him to suspend his disaster-of-a-campaign. We as a nation must stop serving as his enablers.

The current election season gives us as individuals and as a nation the opportunity to stop and reflect about the original sin on which this country was founded: racism. And it allows, especially for white people, to look at how we have come to embody a sort of collective narcissism.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

August 3rd, 2016 at 11:32 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Sinister Connections with Heterosexism and Cissexism

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Looking back over the past half century of so, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, intersex, asexual, and queer folks have fought for and earned many of the rights and privileges they had not seen previously, though the struggle for full equality has far yet to travel.

Oppression operates like a wheel with many spokes in which each spoke represents one of the virtually endless systems of oppression. The wheel’s rim holds and connects all the spokes together. In this way, the rim represents the elements of oppression that the spokes, the numerous forms, have in common.

Some social movements battle for one spoke’s extraction from the larger wheel, while others work for the removal of many spokes. Though these movements learn from those that have gone before, and while they follow similar stages in their evolution and progression forward, throughout history each social movement has advanced at its own pace and at its own time.

History teaches valuable lessons regarding how dominant groups have represented “minoritized” groups for the purpose of maintaining domination and control. This was expressed through myths, defining, stereotyping, marginalizing, scapegoating, and by other means. By comparing and contrasting forms of oppression during different points in time, we find interesting and poignant connections.

So what, for example, do same-sex sexuality and trans* identities have in common with left-handedness? Though comparing handedness, sexuality, and gender identity might seem akin to comparing artichokes, jet planes, and oil paintings, by so doing we see many striking connections. For one, societies have transformed the meanings of value-neutral characteristics into morally significant “facts.” Let’s determine what other connections we can find.

Left-Handedness:

Estimates suggest that one out of ten people is left handed. In fact, this number probably holds true for all places during all times. This means that there are approximately 32 million left-handed people within the United States today alone.

Left-handed people have existed throughout the ages in all cultures, in all races, in all social classes, and in every country. Even the earliest cave drawings show left-handed figures.

Though it may seem obvious, it is not always easy to determine who is left-handed. Some people, for example, use different hands for different activities. Former President Gerald Ford used his left hand to write while sitting, and his right hand to write on chalkboards while standing. Some people can successfully manage with either hand. In fact, it is probably true that most people are not exclusively right- or left-handed. Many people, though, define their handedness in terms of whichever hand they use the most, especially in writing. Nevertheless, people in general exhibit a great variety of hand skills covering a broad continuum between exclusive left to exclusive right handedness.

Though you might not think your friend or mother or classmate is all that weird because they are left-handed, such tolerance or support has not always been the case. In fact, for centuries, left-handed people were viewed with scorn and even, at times, with fear.

People often justified this disparagement with references to religious texts such as the Bibles, both the Jewish Bible and Christian Testaments, though primarily the Christian Testaments, which consider “the left” as the domain of the Devil, whereas “the right” as the domain of God. For this reason, Jesus told his followers to “not let they left hand know what they right hand doeth” (Matthew 6:3).

Jesus also described God’s process for separating good from evil in the Last Judgment: “…the King [shall] say unto them on His right hand, ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world….’ Then shall He say unto them on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels….’” (Matthew 25:32-41).

Early Christians applied these categories so strictly that they even held that the saints, while still infants, were so holy that they would not suckle from the left breasts of their mothers.

Not only do the Bibles condemn left-handedness, but so did a number of ancient societies. The ancient Greeks and Romans shared this attitude as well. For example, the philosopher Pythagoras argued that left-handedness was synonymous with “dissolution” and evil, and Aristotle described good as “what is on the right, above, and in front, and bad what is on the left, below, and behind.” The Romans further reinforced these beliefs by standardizing the right-handed handshake, and in Western countries alphabets favor right-handed people in being written from left to right.

Later, in the Middle Ages, left-handed people were sometimes accused of being witches sorcerers, or as fathered by the Devil. The present-day wedding custom of joining right hands and placing the gold ring on the third finger of the left hand began with the superstition that doing so would absorb the evil inherent in the left hand.

Even our terminology reflects anti-left-hand bigotry. Words like “sinister” (“left” in Latin) and “gauche” (“left” in French) suggest a moral evil or physical awkwardness associated with left-handedness. Their opposites, however, “dexter” (“right” in Latin) and “droit” (“right” in French) mean “skillful,” “artful,” “clever,” “correct,” “adroit,” or “lawful.” In fact, the English word “left” comes from the old Dutch word, “lyft,” meaning “weak” or “broken,” whereas “right” derives from an Anglo-Saxon word, “riht,” meaning “straight,” “erect,” or “just.”

The term “ambidextrous” literally means “being right-handed on both sides.” Phrases like “left-handed compliment” are insults to left-handed people.

What “righties” usually take for granted often involves awkward adjustments for “lefties.” Most tools and utensils and most packaging of products are designed for the ease of right-handed people. These include scissors, power saws, corkscrews, sewing machines, and even gum wrappers. Left-handed pilots have not been allowed to sit on the right side of the cockpit to reach the controls in the center, even though to do so would make it easier for them.

And writing from left to right accommodates right-handed people, which forcing left-handed people to make difficult adjustments.

This brings to light the realities of right-hand privilege, which includes unearned advantages bestowed on right-handed people that often are invisible to those who have them.

Any difference from the norm receives more attention from researchers. Some theorists believe that left-handedness is biological, citing studies that suggest that left-handed people are dominated by the right side (hemisphere) of their brain. Others, though, dispute this view by arguing that the correlation does not hold in many cases.

Some evidence shows that left-handedness may be genetic – that it is inherited – since there is a higher statistical probability that two left-handed parents will have a left-handed child. Others maintain that left-handedness is a result of an imbalance in the mother’s hormones while the fetus is developing in utero. Other researchers seriously dispute this.

In addition, some investigators believe that some infants show a distinct preference for one side over the over as early as the second day of life.

Some social scientists argue that left-handedness is environmentally determined and may be a form of mimicking or copying of the behavior of another left-handed family member by the developing child. And some people argue that left-handedness is a choice as opposed to being biologically determined.

Others maintain that hand orientation is influenced both by heredity and environment, citing possible genetic factors that are then modified by cultural influences. Still others say that left-handedness is pathological as a result of trauma to the brain or stress to the mother during pregnancy.

Why does this matter anyway? Well, it matters to some who believe that left-handedness is intrinsically evil or unnatural. This attitude has led many theorists to propose tactics for changing an exhibited hand preference. They have urged parents to encourage young people to emphasize their right hands, especially in writing.

In some schools, teachers have tied young students’ left hands and arms behind their backs, or made them sit on their left hands to promote use of the right hand. This treatment often resulted in emotional outbursts, speech impairments such as stuttering, reading problems, and other learning disabilities. Some left-handed people have tried to conceal their hand orientation and to “pass” as right-handed to fit in and to avoid social sanctions.

As other minoritized groups, left-hand social movement activists cite examples of famous members of their group throughout history including Alexander the Great, Judy Garland, Gerald Ford, Marilyn Monroe, Ben Franklin, King George VI, Jimi Hendrix, Babe Ruth, Cole Porter, Pablo Picasso, Lefty Gomez, Henry Wallace, Queen Victoria, and many others.

In fact, the left-handed artist, Michelangelo stuck it to the Catholic Church for its anti-left-hand condemnations, that when he painted the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican, he portrayed God giving life to Adam through Adam’s left hand.

So, while we could continue in this story, did you come up with any parallels to heterosexism and cissexism?

I want to thank Diane Raymond for her assistance on this article.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

August 2nd, 2016 at 5:14 pm

Posted in Uncategorized