Tina K. Russell

July 31, 2009

Beck-ing the question

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 10:47 am

The White House doesn’t want to give Glenn Beck a bigger platform or extra oxygen — especially regarding his remark yesterday that the president has “a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture” — so they won’t comment, even off record. Beck, after all, is a radio DJ who somehow ended up getting a national platform to give his opinion on politics. What’s most amazing about this episode is that what Beck said isn’t a fireable or even a SUSPENDABLE offense by his bosses. There was a time when outrageous rants like this would actually cost the ranters their jobs. But not anymore; if anything, it’s now encouraged. And all of this could turn ACTUAL journalists into the next Howard Beales.

via First thoughts: Losing the message war? – First Read – msnbc.com.

I know that Glenn Beck is an idiot, but what he said really bothers me because I’ve seen it before. Barack Obama is someone who grew up in Hawaii, was raised by a while family, and read Spider-Man and Conan the Barbarian comics as a kid. Yet, somehow he gets pigeonholed as hating whitey. It just doesn’t make sense.

I remember reading something a long time ago where a black woman who was a science-fiction fan called for more people of color in science fiction and fantasy works, and commenters screeched “Why can’t you identify with white people?” The truth is that she wouldn’t ever be a science-fiction fan if she couldn’t identify with white people, because she’d completely out of luck given the dearth of black protagonists in the genre. In fact, as should be obvious, she loved the strong characters and stories that made her a fan in the first place; all she wanted was to see her people represented there, too.

Too often, though, that nuance gets lost whenever race comes into the discussion, making it difficult simply to be proud of who you are. Someday, we’ll take it for granted that a proud black man isn’t automatically out to “get” whites or somesuch, and I wish it were today.

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February 5, 2009

Family, responsibility, identity, transsexuality

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 2:55 pm

Transsexual Identity Case May Set Back Gay Marriage | News | YLE Uutiset | yle.fi
Wife Refused Consent to Save Family

The case in question was brought to the Court by a married man and father, who became a transsexual. The couple want to retain their married status, so the wife refused to give her official consent.

(Please note: you don’t “become” transsexual, like, ever. It’s something you’re born with. If it were a choice, nobody would want it, ever.)

(Also, note to copyeditors: the adjective is almost always more respectful than the noun. Someone is Jewish, not “a Jew.” Someone is black, not “a black.” I guess this works better in plural (“Jews,” “blacks”), but when talking about an individual, use the adjective whenever possible.)

(Firefox is telling me that “copyeditors” is a typo. I thought that was the right way… hmmm…)

A lower Administrative Court rejected their case, ruling that “in the realm of family law, a marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman.” And so, from the court’s perspective, the local registry office did not violate the constitutional guarantee of equality of the sexes by refusing to change the woman’s gender without her wife’s consent.

The lower court’s ruling, which defined marriage as exclusively a heterosexual right, has put one more legal obstacle in front of activists calling for gender-neutral marriage laws.

The plaintiff argued that the current laws are essentially forcing her to choose between her sexual identity and keeping her family intact.

In addition, she says that her identification papers have caused real problems in security checks, for example, because they no longer reflect her new self.

There are no legal objections to a man undergoing sexual reassignment to become a woman and then marrying a man, for example.

This is a pretty insane ruling. For the record, here in the States, the law in regard to marriage and transsexuality is a surreal patchwork, and if you’re transsexual yourself, whom you can and can’t marry depends on the state you’re in. But I don’t think we have anything like this ruling in Finland, saying that changing your sex requires your spouse’s consent. (?!)

An important thing, I think, to bear in mind is that transgender people do not abandon their family responsibility when they transition. This is a matter of semantics, but it’s typical, in my experience, for trans people with families to retain the family title they had before transitioning, especially fathers who have transitioned to female after having children. This leads to interesting constructions like “she’s my dad” that may confound the unfamiliar, but it’s always said with the greatest respect. I knew a woman who told her adult children, when she transitioned, “I will always be your father, and nothing can change that.” She said it with pride and conviction, and her concept of herself as a father stood hand-in-hand with her concept of herself as a woman.

That said, it’s perfectly legitimate to want people to call you a different family title (“father” to “mother,” “son” to “daughter,” etc., or the other way around) when you transition; it’s a matter of what you’re comfortable with. However, the idea of transsexuality as a threat to the family is utterly at odds with everything I know. You don’t abandon who you are, or your responsibility to those you love; on the contrary, you drop a charade you’ve been performing all your life, and confirm your love of them through honesty and compassion.

January 16, 2009

Oppression: Gotta catch ’em all!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 2:23 pm

The Way We Live Now – The Edge of the Mystery – Will Barack Obama’s Aura Fade? – NYTimes.com
Already, in the weeks since the election, Obama has endured the moans of disgruntled constituencies in his own party whose ideal of the outsider is difficult for any breathing politician to fulfill. Progressive activists online and inside the party have complained bitterly about Obama’s turning to so many pragmatic insiders — that is, public servants who ran Washington in the Clinton years — to populate his cabinet, rather than reaching out to more academics or state-level politicians whose political instincts have not yet been corroded by Washington’s penchant for incrementalism. Then, too, have come the inevitable protests from identity-based interest groups: Latinos and African-Americans in Congress who weren’t satisfied with the number of senior appointments, as well as gay activists lamenting the omission of a gay cabinet nominee. That sound you hear is the last wheezing gasp of boomer-age politics, the cataloging of individuals according to their areas of oppression, the endless process of tallying cultural differences rather than aggregating common objectives. It is a political philosophy that probably made sense 30 years ago but that seems sort of baffling at the dawn of the Obama era, when such interest groups are among the most powerful in the Washington establishment — and when the Man himself is black.

At the risk of alienating every single one of my friends, where the hell have you been?! Have you been to a college lately? Sometimes I feel like all I ever hear about are intersecting identities and oppressions and blah, blah, blah. Sometimes I wonder if I’m really a person, or if I’m just a cascade of labels.

I’m a little afraid to talk about this, because I do know oppression exists (I’m not naïve), and I do strongly support affirmative action (as large groups of similar people tend to make bad decisions). Plus, after all, I possess an alienating medical condition (transsexuality) and a learning disability (ADD), and when these are taken into account by those above me I feel marvelous. I’m just a little sick of the culture around me of amassing identity tags like trading cards.

Once, an event at my school was promoted by a Facebook page waxing poetic about the speaker’s “intersecting identities,” and not a word was given to what she actually does (and for all I know, she does it very well). I’ve had dear friends publish articles ending with self-summaries that begin with a list of countercultural credentials (“Jane is a radical, kinky, queerspawn,” etc.) that reduce us to shipping labels. I’ve heard spoken-word performances consisting entirely of espousing irritation at white people for our stupid white mistakes, recorded solely for the benefit of white people to listen to not as entertainment (I do love a good bit of light-hearted debasement), but as an act of righteous self-flagellation.

And, I’m afraid of this because now I’ve just bestowed myself with yet another label that I can use to cry oppression: tokenization, the process of making someone into a novelty barganing chip, or a trophy of liberal achievement. I’m essentially decrying an act of self-obsession, and obsessing over that sounds even worse; it sounds like an easy way to restart the cycle of self-imposed, righteous, perpetual victimhood. We whine and moan about how oppressed we are, or we boast about how radical and different we are, and none of it gets us any closer to what we want. It’s vain, it’s annoying, it’s shallow, and it’s disgusting. I’m proud of being transsexual; I’m proud of being intelligent; I’m proud of being part Norwegian. I can wrap more into myself, though, than any pompous list by using just one label: Tina.

Perhaps I’m grousing because I feel I don’t fit in; I’ve never found a single community that I feel I adhere most closely to, and so to the time of this writing my blog’s header still simply says “Tina K. Russell, writer and artist.” (Edit: whoops, I forgot that my blog’s current theme doesn’t use a subtitle. Never mind…)  There’s a lot more to me than that, but… I don’t believe that because I hang in young liberal circles that I’m somehow “more unique” (not a valid phrase!) than others. We all have our inner beauty and splendor, and more than I want someone I’ve just met to be impressed by a boastful list of Oppression Achievements, I want them to trust me due to my warmth and candor. I don’t want to limit myself to communities where it’s cool to be a victim. I just want to be… me, and I want other people to see me for me.

I once went to a queer-themed summer camp, as a teenager, hoping that this would be my “back to Africa” moment, where maybe I’d feel normal for being surrounded for people like me. Instead, I was the transsexual on display. I even had a camp counselor tell me “I think it’s great what you’re doing!”, referring to my transsexuality and not to any personal achievement. That is the sort of person, the token, that everybody wants to be seen next to but no one wants to get close to. To be a label is to be an unperson, and if my fellow college liberals (I’m one, I should say) think that amassing labels will bring them closer to happiness, they’re in for brutal, crushing disappointment.

November 11, 2008

Love and Proposition 8

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 12:22 am

Please watch.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

November 4, 2008

A historic night

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 8:26 pm

Some thoughts:

First of all, it’s “a historic”! Not “an”! It’s “a” if you hear the “h”, “an” if you don’t. A historic. Thank you. (Sorry, it’s a mistake I’ve heard some people make today, and it’s been driving me batty.)

Second, I’m so happy that the man I supported through the primaries is now going to sit in the Oval Office. It’s a new spirit in America, one in which the philosophy of everyone-for-themselves has failed, and we must learn to work together.

Thanks, everyone! Now that this two-year, nonstop political campaign for the Presidency is over, I’ll need a good, long sleep. I’m amazed, though… it’s a cliché at this point, but yes, I’m impressed we have a black President. I always knew we had it in us as Americans—pundits just love to kick around the football of racism, when Americans really aren’t all that racist as individuals—but I didn’t know it would be so soon that we would have the confidence, the willingness, to send a black man into America’s harshest, most stressful battle and give him the backing he needed to emerge victorious.

I wonder what other awesome things we didn’t know we could do?

Yes we can.

August 13, 2008

Merkley’s crude remarks

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 8:31 pm

Merkley, Wyden offer fuel for thought – Breaking News From Oregon & Portland – Oregonlive.com
Senate candidate Jeff Merkley promised Wednesday to move aggressively against high gas prices, hoping to turn voter anger over $4 gas into votes that will fuel his drive to the U.S. Senate.

“As long as we’re hostage to oil sheiks overseas, we’re mortgaging our future,” Merkley said, standing with Wyden at the Portland gas station.

I’m voting for Merkley, but oh my god. Did he really just say that? Talking about “oil sheiks” would be like saying we’re held hostage by “media rabbis” or something, in that it’s both hateful and inaccurate. The biggest exporter of crude oil to the US (as of 2007) is Canada, followed by Saudi Arabia, then Mexico, then Venezuela, then Nigeria. I wonder if we’ll start hearing about the “Canucks of crude” or the “petroleum padres” any time soon. 20% of our oil is from the Persian Gulf, so it’s true that our oil is disproportionately Middle Eastern, but it’s nowhere near overwhelming.

I’m all for energy independence, I’d just rather not see the “scary Arab” trotted out to sell the policy. (The “scary speculators” thing is similar, though speculators probably aren’t in danger of having their houses firebombed.) Fighting the oil addiction means a change in us, not just railing at those around us.

With Merkley joining him in the Senate Wyden said Oregon would benefit, predicting that the state would “become the Saudia Arabia of renewables.”

I have no doubt about that. 20 years ago Oregon was a state reeling from restrictions on logging (which I should note are, in part, so that the industry doesn’t simply log itself out and put itself out of business), but we invested in high-tech industry and we’re now home to an Intel campus and to Linux creator Linus Torvalds. However, with Abu Dhabi (in Saudi Arabia’s neighbor, the United Arab Emirates) investing in clean energy from the bundle they’ve made in dirty energy, we may want to hurry before Saudi Arabia because the Saudi Arabia of renewables.

June 20, 2008

Paved with Good Intentions: Portraits of Well-Meaning Liberals (UPDATED)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 10:11 pm

From a list of Pride week events in San Francisco:

GAY PRIDE EVENTS
Good Vibrations

“Divas of San Francisco: Portraits of Transsexual Women.” Photographs by David Steinberg. Reception 6-8 p.m. Thurs. Through July 20. 1620 Polk St. (415) 974-8985, ext. 201.

facepalm

If you’re wondering why this makes me so angry, try to imagine a “High-Achieving Academics of San Francisco: Portraits of Asian Women” photo exhibition, or maybe a “Forthright Playas of San Fransico: Portraits of Black Men” one, or perhaps a “Mystical Shamans Who Cry When You Toss Away That Beer Bottle in San Francisco: Portraits of American Indians” one, and you may get the idea.

Basically, stereotyping in praise is still stereotyping. I’m essentially being called a “hot tranny mess,” and it makes me want to pound somebody’s eyeballs out. If I’m walking down the street of San Francisco, dressed in fashionable clothes and toting a purse, I wouldn’t mind people thinking I look pretty (why else would I dress up?), but I would mind if people thought right away, “wow, she’s a diva, she looks like she’s gonna take over the freakin’ world.” I loathe when people praise transsexuals for our default setting of “being transsexual”; they might as well be patting us on the head and giving us lollipops.

Grrrr.

UPDATE: Well, I feel silly now. My dear friend Riftgirl–see her blog, “Being ‘T,'” at right–fills us in through the comments.

I’m SO totally anal at times, it amazes even me. With regard to the exhibit title, it actually is very intentional – and appropriate. From the exhibit notes:

“For over five years, David Steinberg has been photographing transsexual women who frequent Divas Nightclub and Bar in San Francisco, the premier transgender club in the U.S.”

Still, I don’t know what “culture” has to do with a name of a bar. ;-) And on a side note, “premier transgender club”… Groan, I hate that kind of crap.

Hey, Riftgirl, don’t you get it? The nightclub is questioning its gender identity. That’s perfectly normal for its age. (I wonder what its parents think?)

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