From Minneapolis to Salem, from 2021 to 1992: An unsettled, unsettling journey

Now THIS is an unpleasant shock. From the Minneapolis StarTribune:

The FBI arrested three more men Friday in connection with the violent Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, two in Minnesota and one in Iowa.

Brian Christopher Mock of Minneapolis was charged with assaulting, resisting or impeding officers; entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds without authority; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted place; obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder, and acts of physical violence on Capitol grounds.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m more or less from Oregon. Certainly I’m more from Oregon than I could be said to be from anyplace else, even Los Angeles, where I was born. I moved away from LA when I was 10 months old (ask me about my experience driving the U Haul, it was hellish without power steering) and landed in Oregon when I was 4. From then on, I grew up in a relentlessly white section of that relentlessly white state about 20 miles from Portland. Not much farther from Portland is the state capital, Salem. I’ve been there many times, both because I’ve had friends live in the area and because of activism I’ve done. This article brings up something that happened in Salem 38 years and 8 months ago that everyone should learn or remember.

In 1992, the Oregon Citizens’ Alliance, a theocratic group originally known for misogynistic attacks on women’s reproductive rights (most obviously in an anti abortion ballot measure which was their first success in placing new state laws before voters) had become better known for hating queers.

For that year’s election they had drafted a ballot measure and collected sufficient signatures to put it on the ballot so that if passed it would be illegal for the state to spend money in any way and on any person’s salary if doing so would contribute to portraying queerness as anything other than “abnormal, wrong, unnatural and perverse”. Conflict was ramping up like crazy around the state. Many people who hadn’t been out, came out that year. Others who had been out retreated to the closet.

This was a defining year for me as I, too, came out of the closet in 1992, and immediately began engaging in activism to fight the OCA. Anxiety was high for queers, but it was also high for the bigots. While in Colorado Amendment 1 was written to have a similar legal effect, it was written in dry prose, without the phrase “abnormal, wrong, unnatural and perverse”. In Colorado the fight was mostly about whether or not the state should “support” queers. (which I guess just means should allow queers to use state services without discrimination?) Amendment 1 passed. In Oregon the hostile language became a reason for moderates to oppose the OCA and their Measure 9. With so much attention focussed on not the legislative effect but the apparent ill will communicated by the OCA’s language, a huge number of people were feeling reflected hostility. While in the past their bigotry would go unchallenged as simply “normal”, now anti queer hatred was (modestly) condemned.

The turn of events shocked the bigots, what with how other people were questioning the morals of the bigots as much as (sometimes more than!) people were questioning the morals of people who liked boobies or occasionally gave a blowjob to someone they loved. Anxiety and anger among the bigots rose as well.

Over the course of that summer, 39 years ago, some young skinheads (ages 19 to 22) living in Salem were engaging in a long running campaign of harassment against two queer roommates a couple doors away. The roommates were one black lesbian in her twenties with a Jewish surname and one white gay man in his early 40s. Perhaps because it was a single theme that allowed them to condemn both roommates at once, their friends made it clear that insults targeting sexual orientation were at the heart of this campaign of harassment. But racism and antisemitism were present too, as you could expect from a group of racist skinhead asshats.

One day in late September, well into the campaign season, there was a physical confrontation between houseguests of the two queers and the racists, heterosexist jackholes. We’re not sure of the details of the confrontation, but the houseguests felt that they were sticking up for their hosts when they heard the skinheads being racist, as racists will do, and the racists felt that the houseguests had invaded their apartment and attacked them (and, hell, maybe they did).

In any case, after a confrontation over racism in the context of this ongoing campaign of heterosexist harassment, the racist, heterosexist bigots decided that the right way to reclaim their power was to fill bottles with gasoline, stuff the ends with rags, light them on fire, and throw these Molotov cocktails into the apartment of the hosts & houseguests.

Because of the layout of the apartment, the houseguests made it out. The hosts burned to death.

The hosts’ names were Hattie Mae Cohen & Brian Mock. They were clear victims of a campaign of racist, heterosexist terror for months and became martyrs to hatred’s white, Oregonian avatars.

While Measure 9 consistently polled badly, the margins were never huge, and there was a great deal of concern that some people would not want to admit to supporting a measure that had become associated with bigotry, but would happily vote yes in a private voting booth. Every queer I knew was tense right up to the day after the election.

I am acutely aware that the coverage of the murders of Cohen & Mock may very well have tipped the vote decisively against Measure 9. My freedom and my employment may have been affected by their deaths. For that reason, I consider it a duty to remember them, and I have ever since. I’ve never forgotten their names, nor am I ever likely too.

That’s why it was so shocking to see the name Brian Christopher Mock in a news story as a man arrested for acting out bigotry and hatred and paranoia. To be honest, it was a relief that they included the middle name, and made me wonder if someone at the Star Tribune was familiar with the events of September 26, 1992 in Salem, Oregon.

If you were not familiar with these murders and the effect they had on queer freedom in Washington, California, and especially Oregon, you can read more, or listen to a podcast about them, here.

In the meantime, I will take this coincidence as another reminder of the capacity of fascists to befoul everything that they touch, and as more motivation to prevent the spread of fascism’s stain.

May we always remember those who came before. May we always consider those who will come after.

 

 

QAnon, self parody on steroids

So, apparently Q has gone quiet since not long after last November’s US election. As a result there is a power vacuum, or perhaps “influence” vacuum, since QAnon isn’t precisely a hierarchical movement where anyone is overtly or specifically empowered to order others to take action. Whether in practice people have sufficient influence to declare an action needs to be taken and can expect that QAnons, at least some of them, will take that action is a separate question. (And I think the answer to that question is yes.) But call it power or influence, the vacuum exists, and there are many people who covet that power/influence and will pursue it.

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If you support women and girls in sports

the threats are not from trans kids.

If you support women & girls in sports, the threats are not the other competitors, trans or not.

If you support women & girls in sports, the evidence has shown us again and again that the threats are from the coaches, the doctors, the organizing bodies, and the donors who claim most loudly that they support women and girls in sports.

Here’s yet another look at what harms women and girls in sports:

 

Really, people?

In my most recent post, I criticized Madison Cawthorn severely. I said, and I quote:

Madison Cawthorn is a jerk

Cawthorn’s behavior is gross

His behavior is atrocious,

The prejudiced behavior of his peers can never justify his own bad choices,

I encourage everyone to strongly condemn his assaultive behavior, loudly and often. There’s no excuse for it.

among other things. Yet I was accused of making excuses for Cawthorn’s behavior.

Most of y’all are missing the point. When people have criticized Cawthorn lately, in the specific context I made the subject of the last post, people have been asserting this his behavior is the result of being secretly gay, or not so secretly impotent, and thus entirely unmasculine, a failure as a man.

I was trying to articulate a wish that our entire community would do better than that, and so I did not point out any one particular person or comment, but I originally wrote a version of this over one Wonkette where these types of comments were being made:

We all know that Madison Cawthorn could spend 100 years on "marital service" and still not provide his beloved with a single orgasm.

There were more, including quite a few focussing on his supposed secret gayness and not so secretly flaccid penis.

The point here is intersectionality, people. Just because he’s a white, rich boy doesn’t mean he’s immune to ableism. And even if you don’t give a fuck about Cawthorn, there’s the splash damage you cause by assuming people wouldn’t be acting badly if they were straight, or were more masculine, or could get laid.

I said repeatedly that Cawthorn’s behavior has no excuses and should be criticized. I also said I would focus my criticism away from one single aspect of his bad behavior, his tendency to talk about sex a little too much, a little too loud, a little too publicly. This smacks of defensiveness, yes, but to be perfectly frank, I don’t expect people to have this conversation competently or appropriately, so I don’t want to have that conversation anymore. Too many people have used this as an excuse to call him sexually incompetent or gay, and there are more harmful choices to critique anyway.

There are many problems with Madison Cawthorn, but I don’t give a fuck whether or not he’s gay, and I don’t give a fuck whether his dick gets hard. Not only that, but when people focus on these things they only make ableism worse.

It’s not me making excuses for Cawthorn’s bad behavior. It’s the people who are saying it’s all because he’s a limp dick, cowardly faggot, whether they put it that bluntly or put effort into trying to be clever while saying it. I have said over and over, including in my last post, that there’s no excuse for his bad behavior and that we should criticize it. Criticize away. But the people who think that it’s okay to call him a sexually incompetent nancy boy are also causing problems here, and those problems must also be addressed.

People on Wonkette understood what I was talking about just fine, but maybe that’s because instead of me mentioning the sexual criticisms of Cawthorn (which I did, but which people seemed not to read) they actually saw the toxic crap that was being written. Even if no one spoke up against it, maybe there was already a question in the back of their minds that made the more gentle approach I used in my last post more effective in that context.

This is an intersectional world, and Cawthorn, like all of us, is an intersectional person. As I said, he’s a jerk, but he’s a complicated jerk. Blame the fuck out of Cawthorn for his bad behavior, but if you can’t do that without being homophobic, sex phobic, and ableist, maybe just shut the fuck up until you can learn to do better because spreading that shit on the walls isn’t actually helping.

Madison Cawthorn is a jerk, but he’s a complicated jerk

So people are talking about Cawthorn’s sexual behavior as a riff on the “service as a husband” statement he made in an interview to explain why he has missed so many votes so early in his career as a congress member. There’s actually a lot to critique in Cawthorn’s behavior, but I’m choosing not to focus on this aspect, the aspect where he talks about sex a little too loudly and a little too defensively.

There’s a toxic behavior of able bodied people that desexualizes people with disabilities, and strips men with disabilities of their masculinity, which is to say their adulthood and value as a member of a community. You may be familiar with the concept of “infantilizing” people with disabilities. Well, this is part of that. Men are adults, and infants don’t have sex. It’s all related. When there’s no sexual disfunction at all, and the person with the disability knows that, it’s still bad enough. It excludes you from community if people assume that something important in their own lives is something completely irrelevant to you.

It gets worse when there is actually sexual disfunction involved … or potentially involved. Nerves are complicated, and Cawthorn’s spinal injury could leave him unable to get an erection or not, we don’t know…but the odds that he’s permanently unable to get a penile erection are really high, far, far higher than the background rate of the population. Moreover, because most people don’t understand how complicated nervous systems can be, most people think an injury like Cawthorn’s has a 100% impotence rate.

Cawthorn’s behavior is gross, but he’s almost certainly responding to gross assumptions, prejudice, and community exclusion he faces as someone with a spinal cord injury. If he was a douchebro in high school whose friendship circle committed small sexual assaults and bragged about those assaults and/or their sexual behavior, then while other people would become more adult as they became adult, the insecurities of adolescent years would be replaced by the insecurities of being a guy assumed to be impotent in the middle of a culture where men’s sexual activity is associated with his general competence.

His behavior is atrocious, but it’s known that straight guys with spinal injuries compensate by being publicly sexual in their conversations and behavior. The prejudiced behavior of his peers can never justify his own bad choices, but we can at least understand that anti disability prejudice and Cawthorn’s insecurities in the face of that prejudice play a role here.

I encourage everyone to strongly condemn his assaultive behavior, loudly and often. There’s no excuse for it.

But before you condemn him for talking about sex with his wife just a little too loud or in a venue that’s a little too public, maybe consider how our society’s ableism is creating a context conducive to such overreactions. In particular, I’ve seen speculation (a LOT of speculation) that Cawthorn is a closeted gay man and defensiveness about potentially being seen as gay/bi/queer might have a lot to do with his behavior. I agree that defensiveness probably plays a role, but since we know that straight guys with spinal injuries are prone to this defensiveness as a result of how society treats them in relation to their disability, speculating on his queerness is not only unlikely to be correct, it’s actually likely to increase the anxiety (and ultimately the defensiveness) of other straight guys with spinal injuries.

There are a lot of people with spinal injuries, and while Cawthorn deserves condemnation, I don’t want to make those other people believe that we’re not sympathetic to what they’re going through. So for me, I’m going to choose not to focus on his loud, “I HAVE SEX! I CAN HAVE SEX!” statements and instead focus on the scary, fucked up, assaultive “car rides” he gave women in college and the scary fucked up political positions he takes in congress. And I’m certainly not going to suggest that he’s queer just because he’s a man with a spinal injury who seems defensive about sex and masculinity.

 

 

Pselebrating Psaki

I want my, I want my, I want my Psaki…

Now look at them briefings, that’s the way you do it.
Embarrass Doocy on your WonkTV
That ain’t deference, that’s the way you do it
Answer the questions, give ‘em facts for free.
Now that ain’t spinning, that’s the way you go it:
Reject the premise if the question’s dumb
Maybe you blister ears of FOX’s listeners
Maybe you condescend to feed them crumbs

She’s gonna speak to, the whole damn nation
Forthright, upbeat delivery
She’s gonna speak to the voting public
She’s gonna speak from their LCDs

See that Biden with the Oval for an office?
Yeah, FOX News, he won it fair.
That ol’ Joe Biden got his own Air Force One.
That ol’ Joe Biden got an honest air.

She’s gonna speak for that ol’ Joe Biden,
Forthright, upbeat delivery.
She’s gonna speak truth, swat down the nonsense
She’s gonna speak through our LCDs

I shoulda learned my journalism.
I shoulda learned my Poli Sci.
Look at that Psaki, she got it goin for the camera!
Girl, we could have some fun.
OANN’s* up next, What’s that? “Some people say that?”
Which people say that? Can you name me three?
Now that ain’t dodgin’; that’s the way you do it:
Pandemic questions go to CDC

She’s gonna speak to the whole damn nation
Forthright, upbeat delivery.
She’s gonna speak for the Biden White House.
She’s gonna speak through our LCDs.

That ain’t deference, that’s the way you do it:
Answer the questions, nix conspiracies.
That’s just briefing; that’s the way you do it:
Explain administration policy.
Answer the questions, give ‘em facts for free
Answer the questions, give ‘em facts for free
Answer the questions, give ‘em facts for free
Answer the questions, give ‘em facts for free


* For purposes of scansion, “OANN’s” is here pronounced “oh ann’s”

Gaza Will Burn

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz has now declared: “If citizens of Israel have to sleep in shelters, then Gaza will burn.”

Ha’aretz is reporting that police are standing around not stopping crowds as they light arab owned Israeli businesses on fire. Jews killed in the latest attacks now number 7, and Palestinians killed now number over 80. Yes, things can still get much worse, but my concern now isn’t so much that it’s plausible that it could get worse, but rather that it is literally inevitable that things get worse. Without minimizing the terror inflicted by Palestinians firing rockets on largely Jewish communities*1 it is the disproportionality of the statement by Gantz that shows so clearly how and why violence has escalated.

There simply is no good to be found. Fuck violence.


1: Don’t forget that Israel’s population is only 75% jewish, with the biggest portion of the remainder being Arabs of non Jewish religions

Gender News: Cis people are insane, refuse help

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