Wayne Read, Song for Deirdre
Sede, Would You Say That I’m Mad, Priestess
S. J. Tucker, In the House Of Mama Dragon, Tales From the Road
Gwydion Pendderwen, Sometimes I wonder, The Faerie Shaman
Heather Alexander, Maiden of Spring, Merlin’s Descendents
Heather Dale, Three Queens, Avalon
Raven’s Call, The Wheel Turns, Call of the Raven
Sharon Knight, Double-Edged Sword, Incantation
Todd Alan, Morgan Le Fey, From This Moment On
Wendy Rule, Shine, Deity
Welcome to PaganFM. I’m Dee, your hostess, and guide.
Before we get into the show too far, I want to talk about an interaction I had this week on Facebook. With all of the discussions about North Carolina’s HB2, which basically outlaws transgender people from using bathrooms, at least without being safe, or without outing themselves to the world, there has been some pushback.
Some people have come out with signs – telling transgender people that it’s safe to use their bathrooms. One of these has images of traditional restroom icons – the man and the woman, but it also contains images of a figure that is half male and half female. It has a figure of Chthulu, a unicorn, a tellytubby – and basically says “just use the bathroom – we really don’t care who you are, or how you identify”.
But on Facebook this week, it seems that someone was a bit perturbed by this sign, and suggested that it contains elements of micro-aggression – that it equates people with non-existent beings, and that, in itself, is somehow objectionable. That such a sign is itself a micro-aggression.
I disagree – and I’ve tried to see the sign this way. I think that logically, I can see HOW someone could come to such a conclusion – the symbols of real individuals, and fictitious or imaginary creatures, on the same placard could be construed to be an equating of transgender people with non-existent beings. But just because a thing can be construed in a negative manner, doesn’t mean that it SHOULD be construed in that manner.
In the past, I’ve spoken about politically correct speech, and simple civil speech. I think that suggestions that signs like this might be offensive is really taking either way too far. In a very real sense, if we try to eliminate anything that could be objectionable, we’ll run into some serious problems – because pretty much every bit of humor, somehow, involves things that are in some way objectionable. We laugh at ourselves through the use of placing ourselves – at least in our minds, in situations that might otherwise be objectionable. That’s part of being human.
Take S. J. Tucker’s song Mama Dragon speaks of being human and being Pagan – it finds humor in very real situations. If we were actively looking to take offense, we could find it – we could look at parts of it as making fun of people – but that’s not at all what it’s about – it’s about celebrating our humanity – it’s about having fun – even though we’re all getting older. It’s about celebrating life, and having fun at our own expense.
I think that sometimes we really take ourselves too damned seriously.
Social justice is terribly important, and it’s hugely important to address real aggression. It’s important too, to address micro-aggression. Micro-aggressions can help to formulate and cultivate attitudes of actual aggression. But the question is this: where do we draw that line?
The point was made in this discussion that intention is irrelevant – that the sign is troublesome not because there was or was not any intention involved, but because somehow, it belied simple humor and suggested a more nefarious meaning – of hidden bigotry.
Again, I don’t see that. Further, the comment was made that saying something like “I don’t care if you’re pink with purple polka-dots” should be offensive, because it’s making a comparison with people who don’t really exist.
Again, I can see the mental machinations that might lead to that conclusion, but I can’t, myself, make such a leap. I see it simply as a way of saying I don’t care what you look like – that you could, in fact, appear as something nobody has ever seen – and you’d still be welcome here. I don’t see using hyperbole as equivalent to derision.
I do think that it’s important to have discussions like that, but I think that in the end, we need to come to a point where we are neither oversensitive, nor insensitive. We need to be able to make fun of ourselves, to be comfortable with our differences, and to be aware of our differences, without permitting those differences to divide us.
In our Pagan / Heathen groups, we have some fairly stark differences as well. There is a perennial discussion over whether a person may be truly considered Pagan, depending on whether she is an actual polytheist or not; there are huge discussions about the place of polytheism and whether or not that is the unique and identifying factor that makes us Pagan. There are those who are outright offended when others suggest that “all Gods are the one God”, or “All Goddesses are the one Goddess”
Seriously, if we look for it, we can find plenty to be offended about, and it’s not really pretty.
I’ve also come to find that the real micro-aggressions that we perpetrate, will often come back to bite us. There is a bit of Karma that will come about. There were jokes, for example, about people with bad teeth – I recall a joke about people from nearby towns and why a toothbrush was called a toothbrush and not a teethbrush. And now, that I’m getting older, my own teeth are a problem. I’ll say that I am a bit self-conscious about them, and I’m hoping in the future to have enough money to get that taken care of. I will say that those jokes I heard, laughed at, and told when I was younger, don’t retain the same humor that they once did. I suppose that part of the reason I’m self-conscious is because I actually place value in the societal ideals of what we’re all supposed to look like. I’m seeing a problem with my teeth, as somehow a deficiency in me. And that is the real root of the problem. The teeth will get fixed, but it’s up to me to recognize that they don’t define me.
In fact, just as I was writing this, I had a chance to meet an older gentleman – his name is Bob, and he came into the building looking for his nephew – to bring him a bit of supper while he was working. I spent a little while with Bob, going around the building looking for his nephew. What I realized was that this man certainly didn’t have more luck with his teeth than I did, but I didn’t view him as any lesser of a person because of it. I wonder why I judge myself more harshly than I do others.
In another interaction this week, someone was upset because they were called “An ugly drag queen”. I get that – that is certainly beyond micro-aggression – but I was reminded that I’ve been called at least as bad on more than one occasion. In fact, that was one of my greatest fears – I just didn’t want to look “like one of those”. I found myself giving that person some advice that I try to live with – I’m honest about who I am. I don’t hide the fact that I’m trans. And that is what takes the sting out of any such attack.
It seems to me, that when we take offense at something, it’s often us – ourselves – who put the sting into the weapons that are used against us. Certainly aggression is something to rid the world of. Hatred, bigotry, racism, sexism – these are poisons. And certainly, the victims of these crimes aren’t responsible for these crimes. But one thing that I can say is that we can help take some of the sting away – we can rid that serpent of a good deal of its venom. And one tool we have to do that is to not take the small attacks, or the non-attacks, as seriously.
Most of these people are trolls – they want reactions. When someone thinks they’ve dug up the dirt on me, and thinks they’ve “outed me” as trans – and then discover that they’ve learned nothing that I’m not already open about – just about everywhere – it’s they who are deflated.
But the people who are trying to be our allies – these aren’t the ones that we should be fighting. These people shouldn’t be the focus of our anger or frustrations. If something really hurts us, obviously we should speak about it, but when someone posts a humorous sign saying “everyone is welcome”, that’s not the right time – in my humble opinion – to put on our social justice warrior battle dress. I see it as more of an opportunity to learn a bit more about humor, and to find the funny rather than finding the faults.
The point is, that I’m learning the meaning of micro-aggression, aggression, and being able to find humor in a situation. If I can find the humor, I can ignore the perceived fault. But if I’m looking only for fault, I’ll always find it, and those around me will see me as a pissed off trans-woman with an axe to grind – and that will help to formulate their opinion of what trans women really are.
I’d rather have people get to know me first, as someone who is happy, who they can talk to, who they can ask questions of, and who they can trust. When they are comfortable enough with that, they’ll become comfortable enough to ask me about things that are micro-aggressive, and why they matter. But if I start there, I’ll turn them away every time.
We ought to know by now that we don’t build community by building walls.
Tonight, we will have an interview with Karen Tate. We had a great discussion earlier this week that touched on a wide range of topics – from faith and feminism to politics and activism. That will be coming up in a few minutes. Before we get to that, we’ll have a bit of music, and our PaganFM almanac.
Today is Saturday, May 21, 2016. It’s the 142nd day of the year. We’re approaching a full moon, which will be on Sunday, May 22.
The Sun has just entered the sign of taurus.
It’s also the Birthday of Gwydion Pendderwen who was born on May 21 or 22 in 1946. Gwydion was a student of Victor Anderson and a high priest in the Feri Tradition. Gwydion felt himself to be a Druid and spent a great deal of time in seclusion. With a great love of trees, he chose his last name to be Pendderwen, meaning “Leader of Oaks”. Gwydion was an actor and musician, recording some of the first modern Pagan music. He died in an automobile accident in 1982 at the age of 36.
And, in our PaganFM Prayer list – please keep in mind my daughter Mallory who will be having some surgery on her nasal sinuses coming up in a couple of weeks.