Why Progressives Should Stop Using Violent Rhetoric

(Content note: hate and threats, including violently misogynist hatred and threats of rape and death.)

Progressives condemn the hateful vitriol aimed at feminist women.

Why do we aim it at people we don’t like?

fireAs you probably know, Texas pastor and conservative activist Rick Scarborough recently commented on the right-wing Christian fight against same-sex marriage, saying, “We are not going to bow, we are not going to bend, and if necessary, we will burn.”

Many progressives responded as if Scarborough had threatened to set himself on fire. And many of those progressives responded to this supposed suicide threat with glee. They said things like, “I’ll give him the matches,” and, “Can I bring the marshmallows?” When the Supreme Court decision on marriage equality came down, they called for Scarborough to make good on his supposed promise, and mocked him for not doing it. (This isn’t just one or two people, either — it’s been all over my Facebook feed.)

I have a couple of problems with this. One, as Ed Brayton (Dispatches from the Culture Wars) has pointed out repeatedly on Facebook, is that Scarborough’s statement was not, in fact, a threat to set himself on fire. It was an absurd statement of a willingness to fight marriage equality to the death — but it wasn’t a threat to kill himself by burning. But that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about my other problem with this progressive response.

My problem is that I see it as a threat.

Here’s the thing. I’m a feminist writer on the Internet — which means I get a whole lot of people publicly saying that I should experience brutal violence or die in some horrible way, and expressing pleasure at the thought of it happening. And when they do, I see it as a threat. Most of my readers see it that way, too. When people publicly tell me “I HOPE YOU GET RAPED,” or that “someone should tattoo a giant cock across your face,” or that “I think I’m going to become a far right wing, woman raping clergyman,” or that I should “GO CHOKE ON A DICK AND DIE,” or that I should “just die already,” or when they tell me to “Go fuck yourself with a knife,” or when they tell me “Kill yourself” — most of my readers recognize it as a threat. When other women are targeted with hateful messages saying, “You should be killed very slowly,” “Will somebody please rape Rebecca Watson,” “This bitch needs to be punched in the throat,” or “Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself…”– most of my readers recognize it as a threat.

My readers understand that a threat doesn’t have to be explicit to be real. [Read more…]

Keeping Up the Momentum: Support The #MyNameIs Campaign

mynameis banner

I’m writing this to other queers — and I’m writing it to straight/ cisgender allies.

Last Friday, when the Supreme Court ruling came in about same-sex marriage, I wrote this:

We won marriage. Let’s take this weekend to celebrate. It’s Pride Weekend in San Francisco and in many other cities: let’s take this weekend to celebrate, to recognize the hard work we put into this and to to enjoy our victory. And on Monday morning, let’s roll up our sleeves, and get to work — on employment rights, on housing rights, on homelessness among LGBT teens, on school bullying, on the epidemic of violence against trans people and especially against trans women of color, on the hundreds of other ways that LGBT people are still treated as second-class citizens.

We won marriage. Let’s take that momentum, take those changed hearts and minds, and put it to work.

If you’ve been working for marriage equality — in any way, whether that’s volunteering, donating money, doing visibility on social media, simply talking about about it with your family and friends — thank you. That is awesome. And we’re not done. For LGBT people, equality and an end to bigotry and hatred and oppression are by no means over. We’ve won the right to marry. I think it’s an important right. But there is a lot more work to be done.

So let’s keep this momentum going.

Every day this week, I’ll be posting about a different LGBT rights organization. Please support them however you can. That can mean with money, of course — even small amounts help, and small automatic monthly donations help a LOT. But you can also support LGBT organizations by following them on social media, and helping spread the word about their actions and fundraisers. That’s a small, easy thing to do — and if a lot of people do it, it can make a real difference.

Today, I’m plugging The #MyNameIs Campaign.

#mynameis 200 logoThe #MyNameIs Campaign is a coalition of drag and other performers, transgender people, Native Americans, immigrants, domestic violence survivors, and allies who advocate for the reformation of Facebook’s dangerous and discriminatory “real names” policy. In October 2014, the #MyNameIs Campaign received a public apology from Facebook and a commitment to allow all users to express their “authentic identities” — however, they have yet to see substantive change in the company’s policies or procedures and are continuing to apply pressure. The #MyNameIs Campaign is organizing around three main demands: they’re demanding that Facebook remove the “fake name” reporting option; stop asking for ID; and create an appeals process.

Please support them with a donation if you can. Please follow them on social media: they’re on Twitter at @TeamMyNameIs , and they’re on Facebook at facebook.com/mynameiscoalition. And if you have a story about Facebook’s harmful “real names” policy, please consider sharing it with them — they will (of course) protect your privacy, and will publicly share only the information you’re okay with them sharing (including no information at all — they’re also gathering stories for statistical purposes that aren’t being publicized at all). Please support them any way you can. Thanks!

#mynameis shame on FB at SF Pride Parade 1

#mynameis shame on FB at SF Pride Parade 2

And if you have suggestions for other worthy LGBT organizations, please make them in the comments!


Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPGComing Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

Keeping Up the Momentum: Support the National Center for Lesbian Rights

National_Center_for_Lesbian_Rights banner

I’m writing this to other queers — and I’m writing it to straight/ cisgender allies.

Last Friday, when the Supreme Court ruling came in about same-sex marriage, I wrote this:

We won marriage. Let’s take this weekend to celebrate. It’s Pride Weekend in San Francisco and in many other cities: let’s take this weekend to celebrate, to recognize the hard work we put into this and to to enjoy our victory. And on Monday morning, let’s roll up our sleeves, and get to work — on employment rights, on housing rights, on homelessness among LGBT teens, on school bullying, on the epidemic of violence against trans people and especially against trans women of color, on the hundreds of other ways that LGBT people are still treated as second-class citizens.

We won marriage. Let’s take that momentum, take those changed hearts and minds, and put it to work.

If you’ve been working for marriage equality — in any way, whether that’s volunteering, donating money, doing visibility on social media, simply talking about about it with your family and friends — thank you. That is awesome. And we’re not done. For LGBT people, equality and an end to bigotry and hatred and oppression are by no means over. We’ve won the right to marry. I think it’s an important right. But there is a lot more work to be done.

So let’s keep this momentum going.

Every day this week, I’ll be posting about a different LGBT rights organization. Please support them however you can. That can mean with money, of course — even small amounts help, and small automatic monthly donations help a LOT. But you can also support LGBT organizations by following them on social media, and helping spread the word about their actions and fundraisers. That’s a small, easy thing to do — and if a lot of people do it, it can make a real difference.

Today, I’m plugging the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

National_Center_for_Lesbian_Rights_logoNCLR is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, legislation, policy, and public education. They are a a non-profit, public interest law firm that litigates precedent-setting cases at the trial and appellate court levels; advocates for equitable public policies affecting the LGBT community; provides free legal assistance to LGBT people and their legal advocates; and conducts community education on LGBT issues. Their projects and legal issue areas include: Asylum & Immigration; Elders; Employment; Family & Relationships; Federal Legislation & Policy; State Legislation & Policy; Hate Crimes; Healthcare; Housing; Low Income & Poverty; Prisons; Rural Communities; Sports; Transgender Law; and Youth. They’ve been deeply involved in the fight for marriage equality: they are currently working on campaigns to end conversion therapy, to address the needs of LGBT people in rural American, and much more.

Please support them with a donation if you can: you can make a one-time donation, or an automatic monthly gift. And please follow them on social media: they’re on Twitter at @NCLRights, and they’re on Facebook at facebook.com/nclrights. Please support them any way you can. Thanks!

And if you have suggestions for other worthy LGBT organizations, please make them in the comments!


Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPGComing Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

Keeping Up the Momentum: Support the Transgender Law Center

transgender law center banner

I’m writing this to other queers — and I’m writing it to straight/ cisgender allies.

Last Friday, when the Supreme Court ruling came in about same-sex marriage, I wrote this:

We won marriage. Let’s take this weekend to celebrate. It’s Pride Weekend in San Francisco and in many other cities: let’s take this weekend to celebrate, to recognize the hard work we put into this and to to enjoy our victory. And on Monday morning, let’s roll up our sleeves, and get to work — on employment rights, on housing rights, on homelessness among LGBT teens, on school bullying, on the epidemic of violence against trans people and especially against trans women of color, on the hundreds of other ways that LGBT people are still treated as second-class citizens.

We won marriage. Let’s take that momentum, take those changed hearts and minds, and put it to work.

If you’ve been working for marriage equality — in any way, whether that’s volunteering, donating money, doing visibility on social media, simply talking about about it with your family and friends — thank you. That is awesome. And we’re not done. For LGBT people, equality and an end to bigotry and hatred and oppression are by no means over. We’ve won the right to marry. I think it’s an important right. But there is a lot more work to be done.

So let’s keep this momentum going.

Every day this week, I’ll be posting about a different LGBT rights organization. Please support them however you can. That can mean with money, of course — even small amounts help, and small automatic monthly donations help a LOT. But you can also support LGBT organizations by following them on social media, and helping spread the word about their actions and fundraisers. That’s a small, easy thing to do — and if a lot of people do it, it can make a real difference.

Today, I’m plugging the Transgender Law Center.

The Transgender Law Center works to change law, policy, and attitudes so that all people can live safely, authentically, and free from discrimination regardless of their gender identity or expression. Their programs include: a legal information helpline; legal clinics in the Bay Area; a Detention Project that works to end the abuses transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) people experience in prisons, jails, immigration detention, state hospitals, and other forms of detention, and at the hands of law enforcement; and more.

Please support them with a donation if you can: you can make a one-time contribution, or a monthly sustaining gift. And please follow them on social media: they’re on Twitter at @TransLawCenter, and they’re on Facebook at facebook.com/translawcenter. Please support them any way you can. Thanks!

And if you have suggestions for other worthy LGBT organizations, please make them in the comments!


Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPGComing Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

Same Sex Marriage a Constitutional Right!


YAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!


Ingrid and Greta holding hands at Skepticon 6 Biblename Foto Josiah Mannion

It’s not just that the Federal government recognizes same-sex marriage. It’s not just that states have to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. The Supreme Court has ruled that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage is now legal in all 50 states.

Here’s the full majority opinion, written by Justice Kennedy. It’s worth reading. It got me tearing up in places.

I’m tickled pink about this, for all the obvious reasons. I’m actually finding myself uncharacteristically tongue-tied: this is so obvious, it has been so obvious for so long, I’m finding it hard to put into words exactly why this is important and wonderful. Marriage equality is, you know, equality. Millions of couples around the United States are no longer second-class: our marriages are seen as fully valid, with the same rights and responsibilities as any other. To put it in personal terms: Every year, Ingrid and I go to Skepticon in Missouri. This year, it’ll be the first time we won’t have the constant worry in the back of our minds, “What happens if one of us gets sick or hurt? What happens if some asshole at the hospital decides not to let us make medical decisions for each other, or even let us visit each other — because they think gay sex makes baby Jesus cry?”

Now, multiply that by millions. Millions of couples around the country can now visit each other in the hospital, make medical decisions for each other, adopt kids together, file state income taxes together, travel from state to state without their marriages disappearing and re-appearing and disappearing again.

I’m also, just personally for myself, enjoying an opportunity to have been proven wrong. When the recent cases on marriage equality were first brought to the Supreme Court, I was one of the people saying it was a bad idea. Many of us thought that the current court would deny the freedom to marry — and that this would set a precedent it would take decades to overturn. I’m deeply happy to have been proven wrong.

And finally: I’m delighted that we can now move on.

There’s been considerable debate within the LGBTQ community about the priority that’s been placed on same-sex marriage. Many in our community argued that other issues — employment rights, housing rights, homelessness among LGBT teens, school bullying, the epidemic of violence against trans people and especially against trans women of color — were more important for more of us. It was argued that other issues have a greater impact on queers who are poor, working class, disabled, immigrants, trans people, people of color, and others in our community with multiple marginalizations — and that the emphasis we placed on marriage was another example of more privileged LGBT people being put front and center.

Myself, I had mixed feelings about this. I certainly saw that point, and even agreed with it. At the same time, I also thought that we don’t always get to choose our battles: some issues catch the public heart and the public imagination, and same-sex marriage has clearly done that. And I thought winning same-sex marriage would make our other fights go easier. The legal precedent helps, of course: but maybe more importantly, the fight for same-sex marriage has changed people’s minds about us, in a way that few of other our fights have done. I think that when straight people saw us fighting for love, and fighting for the right to make commitments and take on responsibilities based on that love, it humanized us — and I think that will help us win our other fights. But yes, I definitely saw the point people were making, and even agreed with it. I think there are other issues for LGBTQ people that are more important than marriage.

I’m delighted that we can now move on.

We won marriage. Let’s take this weekend to celebrate. It’s Pride Weekend in San Francisco and in many other cities: let’s take this weekend to celebrate, to recognize the hard work we put into this and to to enjoy our victory. And on Monday morning, let’s roll up our sleeves, and get to work — on employment rights, on housing rights, on homelessness among LGBT teens, on school bullying, on the epidemic of violence against trans people and especially against trans women of color, on the hundreds of other ways that LGBT people are still treated as second-class citizens.

We won marriage. Let’s take that momentum, take those changed hearts and minds, and put it to work.

Comment policy for this post: If you want to be negative or douchy about marriage, do it another time, or don’t do it here. Today, I just want to celebrate and be happy.

Photo copyright Biblename Photo/Josiah Mannion.


Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPGComing Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

“There was rage, anger, pain, and determination”: Guest Post on AIDS Activism by Tim Kingston and Liz Highleyman

silence equals death posterThis is the second in a guest-post series about ACT UP and the history AIDS activism. There are some amazing events happening in San Francisco this weekend, commemorating important events in the early AIDS activist movement (specifically, the 25th anniversary of the 6th International AIDS Conference in San Francisco, and ACT UP’s week of protests). This is important and fascinating history, well worth knowing and remembering. If you’re interested in queer history or the history of street activism, and you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area this weekend, I urge you attend at least if you can.

There’s a great article in the Bay Area Reporter by Liz Highleyman about ACT UP, 6th International AIDS Conference protests, the history of AIDS activism, and the reasons behind this weekend’s commemorative events. (A full calendar of the weekend’s events is in the article.) She interviewed Tim Kingston, who in 1990 was a reporter for the LGBT community newspaper San Francisco Bay Times. But as is almost always the case with reporting, only a small portion of the interview was quoted. Liz and Tim have given permission to quote the interview here in full.

Liz Highleyman: Why were these events so important at the time?

Tim Kingston: I just found and re-read my article from the AIDS conference in San Francisco, and it was both sobering and informative. It’s hard to put myself back in those times, but a couple of things stand out. First was how universal the condemnation was of the Bush (senior) administration by everyone at the conference; second was the lack of treatment options. There was parallel track drug approval in place (i.e. a faster drug approval process than existed at the time) that AIDS activists had managed to get put in place, but there was only one drug in it. And that was ddI, remember ddI? Everything else was AZT AZT AZT.

The frustration and rage as a result both of those situations was palpable in the air, and floated off the pages of the Bay Times reading it 25 years later.

There were all these little images I was reminded of: when Louis Sullivan was shouted down, how Dr. Paul Volberding just stared at Sullivan, stone faced. He was not staring at the AIDS with anger, he was staring at Sullivan. Sullivan, by the way, missed the start of the conference because he was at a Jesse Helms fundraiser!

What comes across years later is the sense that for the first time, AIDS researchers and activists were on the same page. But it was not a pretty page. They may not have been exactly in agreement, but everyone there was pissed off with a US government whose response to the epidemic was to ban people with HIV from coming to the country instead of working on expediting research. Both inside and outside the conference there was rage, anger, pain, and determination. I remember that well. When you have activists and delegates all trashing the US government, you know something different was happening.

Unlike the Washington AIDS conference where no one had heard of ACT UP, or Montreal where activists were banging on the door to get in, one way or another AIDS activists were a critical part of the conference and a welcomed part. I could not find any delegates inside willing to defend the government. The problem was there were no drugs in the pipeline. Think about that. We had got ourselves inside the circus, finally inside their doors, but there was no show, no main attraction. As I said, it was all AZT.

Having said that, the groundwork had been laid for later success. The foundation for successful testing of drugs and some level of access was there. That was important, very important. And it was also a point where, instead of always being on the outside, AIDS activists were inside and recognized, by Anthony Fauci and other officials, as important allies to get funding and action. Not only did we understand the inside/outside strategies, but our allies on the inside did too.

Why is it important to remember them now 25 years later?

It important to remember and recognize the activists and the work they did and the fact that we did change the world. Just as with any great social movement and what was achieved, it is hard to remember what it was like before that change. It is hard to go back to that period without it hurting inside. But it is critical that we remember our history — that we have had a hand in creating many of the things about AIDS [currently] at work. We attacked and eliminated a large part of the stigma of AIDS; we changed the medical system forever; we changed the doctor/patient relationship from patronizing to equivalent in many other areas of treatment; we changed how drugs are researched, developed and approved. Without ACT UP we would have been at least ten, maybe twenty years behind where we are in treatment options. That is why it is important to remember the Micheal Wrights, the Jesse Dobsons, the Terry Suttons, and many many others — woman and men, black, brown, white, Asian, rich, poor, young and old, who died fighting.

What did the protests accomplish?

It set the stage for a different world. Here, from the end of my original article:

“This year, however, science and politics meshed. Throughout the conference, PWAs [people with AIDS] and activists were an integral part of panels and plenaries, explaining how more attractive clinical trials will enhance recruitment and obtain real-world data, noting that unless health care and treatments are available to all, entire societies are in danger of collapse. Dr. Johnathan Mann, former president of the WHO’s AIDS program, says, ‘The deficiencies of our health care and social system have been so starkly and painfully revealed that the pre-AIDS paradigm of public health… has been found to be desperately inadequate and therefore fatally obsolete.’

“AIDS cannot be stopped by laws, and it cannot be stopped by science, but it can be prevented by behavior change, and to change that people must have the power to alter their lives. Mann says to fight against AIDS it has become necessary to fight for human rights and social justice. Without such rights, the disease goes underground and spreads. ‘The discovery of the inextricable linkage between human rights and AIDS, and more broadly, between human rights and health, will rank among the major discoveries and advances in the history of health and society,’ asserts Mann. ‘The historian of the future will see that we have had the privilege of participating in the creation of new worlds of thought and action — a revolution based on the right to health.'”

Do we still need AIDS activism today and if so why? What issues remain?

I honestly don’t know about AIDS activism at this point. Yes, activism is necessary, but AIDS is no longer a single issue, if it ever was.

Any anecdote or event you found particularly inspiring?

The most inspiring thing from that conferences was being part of the crew of delegates and researchers and activists who streamed out of Moscone Center into the Gay Pride parade. It was a moment of solidarity and joy in the midst of disaster that I will forever remember. Yes, we are united, and yes maybe — just maybe — we will survive this plague if we stick to it together.


Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPGComing Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

“There was such a terrible sense of urgency”: Guest Post on AIDS Activism by Ingrid Nelson and Liz Highleyman

ACT UPThere are some amazing events happening in San Francisco this weekend, commemorating important events in the early AIDS activist movement (specifically, the 25th anniversary of the 6th International AIDS Conference in San Francisco, and ACT UP’s week of protests). This is important and fascinating history, well worth knowing and remembering. If you’re interested in queer history or the history of street activism, and you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area this weekend, I urge you attend at least some of these events if you can.

There’s a great article in the Bay Area Reporter by Liz Highleyman about ACT UP, 6th International AIDS Conference protests, the history of AIDS activism, and the reasons behind this weekend’s commemorative events. (A full calendar of the weekend’s events is in the article.) She interviewed my wife, Ingrid Nelson, a nurse practitioner specializing in HIV — but as is almost always the case with reporting, only a small portion of the interview was quoted. Liz and Ingrid have given permission to quote the interview here in full.

Liz Highleyman: Why were these events so important at the time?

Ingrid Nelson: Because people were desperate for scientific information. There was no Internet! These were the early days of patients learning to be their own advocates. They wanted to find out what drugs were being studied, what clinical trials they might qualify for. And they wanted input into where the research should be focused in the first place. There was such a terrible sense of urgency, and so little access to information. It was a terrifying time.

Why is it important to remember them now 25 years later?

It would be such a shame if all this history were lost. Our community was so traumatized, and I think it’s too painful for a lot of survivors to talk about now. People lost their lovers. Multiple times. They lost entire circles of friends. And many were estranged from their families of origin. It was like a war, except it was invisible to the rest of society. I think those of us who are still here, who are able to, feel a sense of obligation to speak up about it. We want people now to learn from what we accomplished, and also from our mistakes. And we are passionate about honoring and remembering our fallen comrades.

What did the protests accomplish?

We did get passes into the conference for people with HIV and AIDS. Many conference attendees — medical providers and scientists — stood up and publicly joined their voices with the activists, during Peter Staley’s speech. Research protocols became more open, and parallel tracking speeded things along. We got tons of news coverage that was very much on message. We brought issues of race, immigration, poverty, and sexism into the discussion. And huge numbers of queers from the community showed up and got arrested for their first time, and became lifelong activists starting with that week.

Do we still need AIDS activism today and if so why? What issues remain?

silence equals death posterWe didn’t have the word “intersectionality” back then, but that’s what the ACT UP/SF philosophy was all about. It wasn’t enough to just demand “drugs into bodies,” like the treatment activists used to say. You had to ask “whose bodies?” One of our fears was that AIDS might become a two-tiered epidemic, and that’s exactly what is happening now. We have effective treatments, but we don’t have equal access. If you have HIV but you are poor, or a person of color, or trans, or a woman, or a youth, or in prison, or mentally ill, or a drug user, or an immigrant, or homeless, or a sex worker, or live in an isolated rural area or a resource-limited country, you are more likely to get sick and die. There is still tremendous stigma and shame and invisibility. People have this idea that HIV is a problem that has been fixed. We need to shatter that myth. We need to educate the public about the “cascade of care,” and realize that the biggest gap is in retention of patients in primary HIV care.

Any anecdote or event you found particularly inspiring?

There are so many. The INS protest was amazing. The PISD caucus going over the barricades was such powerful symbolism. Seeing so many men getting arrested at the women’s demo was extremely important and meant a lot to me personally as a member of the ACT UP Women’s Caucus. I also loved the red paper chains that the women wrapped around themselves — that was a wonderful visual. Peter Staley’s speech from the podium was huge, and possibly the first time a person with HIV had spoken from the main stage. I remember Peter asking the con attendees to stand up and chant with us, and a lot of them did. I remember him saying (not exact words, but close) “someday, people will talk about how there used to be a terrible disease. But there were some very brave people who fought back.” I will never forget shouting down Louis Sullivan. Our feelings about that were complicated — we believed in free speech, and we didn’t like the idea of a group of mostly white people shouting down a black man. But we talked through all that, and we ultimately decided that the federal government’s inaction was so grotesque, and so criminal in the face of so much suffering and death, that in this case it was justified. That symbolizes so much about how we all felt then — that we were literally fighting for our lives, and that therefore all bets were off and the old rules didn’t necessarily apply. Drastic action, as long as it was nonviolent, was absolutely called for and was entirely appropriate.

I also remember when the con was over, and we all marched to Market Street and essentially crashed the Pride parade. We always refused to get any type of permits for our protests — it was against our principles, and we made no exception for Pride. We didn’t know exactly what the crowd’s reaction would be — there were some people in the LGBT community who disagreed with our tactics. But that march felt like our own ticker tape parade. We got nothing but cheers and thumbs up the whole way. I remember turning and saying to someone marching next to me, “it’s such a lie that this community hates us.” We did our usual routine of “dying in” at regular intervals, and drawing chalk outlines around each other’s bodies. It’s one of my most vivid and proud memories of those times.


Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPGComing Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

7 Things People Who Say They’re ‘Fiscally Conservative But Socially Liberal’ Don’t Understand

money closeup

Social and economic issues are deeply intertwined.

“Well, I’m conservative, but I’m not one of those racist, homophobic, dripping-with-hate Tea Party bigots! I’m pro-choice! I’m pro-same-sex-marriage! I’m not a racist! I just want lower taxes, and smaller government, and less government regulation of business. I’m fiscally conservative, and socially liberal.”

How many liberals and progressives have heard this? It’s ridiculously common. Hell, even David Koch of the Koch brothers has said, “I’m a conservative on economic matters and I’m a social liberal.”

And it’s wrong. W-R-O-N-G Wrong.

You can’t separate fiscal issues from social issues. They’re deeply intertwined. They affect each other. Economic issues often are social issues. And conservative fiscal policies do enormous social harm. That’s true even for the mildest, most generous version of “fiscal conservatism” — low taxes, small government, reduced regulation, a free market. These policies perpetuate human rights abuses. They make life harder for people who already have hard lives. Even if the people supporting these policies don’t intend this, the policies are racist, sexist, classist (obviously), ableist, homophobic, transphobic, and otherwise socially retrograde. In many ways, they do more harm than so-called “social policies” that are supposedly separate from economic ones. Here are seven reasons that “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” is nonsense.

*****

Thus begins my latest piece for AlterNet, 7 Things People Who Say They’re ‘Fiscally Conservative But Socially Liberal’ Don’t Understand. To read more, read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!


Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPGComing Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

To Block Or Not To Block: A Social Justice Question

Please note: This post has a different comment policy from the usual one. That policy is at the end of the post.

hand on keyboardI have a question for all you other Social Justice Warriors out there. When people say racist, sexist, classist, ableist, homophobic, transphobic, etc. crap in our online spaces — should we block them? Or should we engage with them, and try to educate them?

Let me narrow that down somewhat. I’m not talking about when people say crap that’s aimed at us, at a marginalized group we’re part of. I’m talking about when people say crap about another marginalized group. I’m talking about what white people should do when people say racist crap; what men should do when people say sexist crap; what cis people should do when people say transphobic crap; etc. I’m talking about how to ally.

I’ve seen very good cases made on both sides of this question. I’ve read very good pieces by African Americans saying, “Please block the assholes saying racist shit in your Facebook page already, why on Earth are you tolerating that?” (Alas, I can’t find the pieces I read saying this — I really need to learn to bookmark this stuff. Links in comments would be appreciated.) And I’ve read very good pieces by African Americans saying, “Don’t just block these folks. That’s the easy way out. We don’t have access to these people, you do, we can’t educate them — so as painful and difficult as it is, it’s up to you to do that.” (Here’s one example of this, the one that keeps getting cited when this topic comes up.)

It’s one thing when people demand, “Educate me!” — and then ignore, derail, move the goalposts, argue without listening, repeatedly ask questions they could get answered with ten seconds of Googling, and generally show bad faith and a complete lack of interest in being educated. I’m not talking about when willfully ignorant fools demand, “Educate me!” I’m talking about when people I’m working to ally with point to those fools and say, “Educate them!”

Please note: I’m not asking whether I have the right to block people. I know I do. I’m not talking about what I have the right to do. I’m talking about what’s the right thing to do. I’m finding myself somewhat stymied, and I want to hear from people I respect.

Here’s the conundrum I’m experiencing. [Read more…]