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July 28, 2009

Sensitivity

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 4:43 pm

sen·si·tive (sns-tv)
adj.
1. Capable of perceiving with a sense or senses.
2. Responsive to external conditions or stimulation.
3. Susceptible to the attitudes, feelings, or circumstances of others.

There is no such thing as being oversensitive. When a person or population is described as “oversensitive,” what is actually being described is an imbalance of sensitivity.

A given situation or problem requires a certain amount of sensitivity qua perspicacity to solve. To be sensitive to something means to be capable of perceiving it; the more sensitive one is to a particular stimulus, the stronger one’s reaction to and the more nuanced one’s experience of that stimulus will be. If one person is being forced into the uncomfortable position of being oversensitive, it’s because others in the situation are being undersensitive, failing to take on their share of the necessary burden of feeling and seeing uncomfortable truths.

Here’s an example: White people frequently accuse People of Color of being “oversensitive” to racism. Let’s unpack that.

In Uprooting Racism, Paul Kivel draws an insightful analogy between racism and economics. The economy impacts almost every aspect of our lives, how we interact with others, how we see ourselves, decisions we make from the microcosmic – what food to buy at the grocery store today – to macrocosmic moves in international policy. Whether or not we’re conscious of them, the economy is woven into the fabric of our daily existence. Being able to perceive and describe the way economic factors influence a given situation requires a certain amount of sensitivity to, or perspicacity about, economic influences. But no one would ever accuse someone who points out (or even complains) that what we eat is influenced by food prices, and that food prices are influenced by oil prices, of being “oversensitive to economics.”

Likewise, racism is woven into the social (and economic) fabric of our culture. Pointing out the racial factors influencing a given situation does not create them, it illustrates a higher degree of perceptiveness about them.

Some people are perspicacious about the economy because they are scholars of it, others because they have to deal with it consciously on a daily basis. It’s unsurprising that most economists, business people, store owners, bankers and brokers have a more conscious, articulated and nuanced awareness of the economic factors in a given situation than, say, most artists or elementary school teachers would. In the same vein, People of Color encounter and have to deal with racism every day in a way that white people don’t, so it only makes sense that they will be more sensitive – in other words, more savvy – than white people when it comes to seeing the racial factors in their environment.

This “oversensitivity” is a survival skill. It’s largely forced on people who are vulnerable in their environments, and need to be especially perceptive in order to keep themselves safe. Having your senses turned up to eleven all the time is not comfortable or fun. It’s distracting and exhausting. It gets tiring having to see racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia everywhere you go. But the other option is choosing to not see it, which really isn’t an option if you’re the one likely to get attacked by it.

If someone is more sensitive than you around an issue, especially an issue that affects them personally, it’s not because they’re “seeing things that aren’t there.” It’s because they’re seeing things you can’t see. Most likely, that’s because they have to deal with some bullshit you don’t have to deal with. There are two ways, as the less sensitive person, to respond to this:

1) You, as the more powerful person, can punish them for being able to see what you can’t. You can ridicule them, write their experiences off, take their perspicacity personally and make things all about you. In addition to whatever bullshit they’re already dealing with, you can force them deal with your bullshit by calling them “oversensitive.”

OR

2) You can take responsibility for your bullshit yourself, and learn to look harder.

Sensitivity is not itself a problem. It points problems out. You’ll find, if you think someone is being too sensitive, that the way to get them to be less sensitive is probably not to harden your heart further and close your eyes tighter, but for you to be more sensitive about what’s going on.

You probably still won’t be able to come close to being as sensitive as they are – not for a long time, anyway. But you can take some of that burden off their shoulders and share it around a little more equally. If you take the trouble to be a little more sensitive, they can relax and be a little less sensitive, because they can count on you to be looking out for them as well.

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July 2, 2009

What it Boils Down to…

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 7:34 pm

I don’t believe in marriage.

But I do believe in love.

And I believe in celebrating love – loudly, boisterously, extravagantly, whimsically, quietly, gently, carefully, playfully, messily, secretly, in public, in private, anywhere, at any time, in any way you possibly can.

Congratulations, Metz and Amy.

Do You Take…?

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 7:09 pm

Today’s the day. The long-awaited, much-speculated about, Dinosaurs and Ninjas-themed Metzroth-Cole Wedding.

And I just don’t have a thing to wear!

…But apart from that, I’m excited. I’m excited because Metz, in all his stage-managey glory, has managed to whip not only the relevant parties but pretty much everyone else in his and Amy’s social circle into a frenzy of planning, preparing, partying, pre-viewing, participating and anticipating. The wedding party has been in rehearsal for weeks. August and Mudge have been working non-stop on the cake for days. And we were up folding dinosaur origami all night.

Typically, any Metzroth production is a big deal – but this one is The Big Deal; his own wedding. Mostly, I just can’t wait to see the already camptacular groomsman Brandon playing a caricature of, well, Brandon in the wedding-ceremony-cum-one-act-play that’s been written for the occasion.

I’m also a little uncomfortable because, I mean…weddings. I dunno. Marriage is obviously a pretty fraught institution. Especially right now, considering that same-gender marriage rights is an issue that’s currently being forefronted politically by even the most middle-of-the-road Republicrats, it’s impossible to conceive of any wedding taking place in a political vacuum.

The meaning of marriage is certainly far from the most important/relevant/radical issue going, but it’s something I’ve thought a lot about as regards my own relationship/s and privilege – given that double-edged awareness: That, as a queer person, having the option to get (easily, uncontestably) legally married is a major mark of privilege AND at the same time, being a woman, my ability to choose not to get married is a major mark of other kinds of privilege. But ultimately, whenever the question has come up, marriage is something I’m a ‘NO’ on.

And, to a great extent, for the sake of politeness, I can pass this off by saying, “Marriage just isn’t right for, ah, our relationship! …You know. *cough*” (In other words: Look at us Wacky Polyamorists!) Or, if I really want to impress the Progressive Liberals (and there aren’t any Progressive Liberal Newlyweds around) I can say, “Gosh, I just don’t think it would be right for ME to marry my partner when my gay friends can’t marry THEIR partners!” Although I’m starting to wonder lately if that rationale, rather than being a solid ally move, is a bit of an appropriation of other peoples’ struggles in a way that doesn’t actually lessen those struggles any. The tip-off there being how back-slappingly impressive and largely non-threatening that excuse comes across to The Progressive Liberal. (Every time I type “Progressive Liberal”, it sounds more and more like the marriage of a bank and an auto-insurance company…)

But my feelings about it go way deeper than that. Like, straight up, I believe that perpetuating the institution of marriage as it exists today has an inherently detrimental effect on our society’s ability to build radically healthy and loving families and communities.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t think ANYBODY should EVER get married! And it definitely doesn’t mean I’m not totally thrilled that these two people I care about have decided to intertwine their lives, and to celebrate that intertwining with their loved ones, and to do it in a fun, playful, creative, whimsical way that expresses both their individual personalities and their commitment to one another, and that it means I get to eat cake and, y’know, open bar…

And I don’t think, at least for those for whom marriage is an option, that the factors involved are ever simple – not even politically. Ironically, today I also got my monthly newsletter from the Alternatives to Marriage Project, which included a line I found both pithy and insightful:

Nowadays, a “shotgun wedding” means you care about someone enough to put him or her on your health insurance.

I’ve said in the past that I’d consider marrying August if one of us got cancer or got drafted.

Meanwhile, we have some friends who are filing for common-law marriage because it’s the only way for them to get around Boulder’s ridiculous housing laws about how many unrelated people can share a home together. The law exists largely to keep poor people out of Boulder, and the major reason it’s fucking up my friends’ plans is because their family – the primary unit of which is two women, best friends, who have decided to co-parent their kids together – is poor.

So, if getting married allows them to subvert that kind of discrimination and they’ve consciously decided to do it for that reason, rock on. It fully sucks that they’re in this position in the first place – but given the situation they’re in, I can totally get behind their decision. And if they have some kind of ceremony to symbolize it, I will be totally thrilled to eat cake and dance at their wedding.

Another couple of my friends, who are both gay and poly, just went to Massachusetts to get legally married – and I think that’s really exciting. I also know it’s still going to suck for them trying to get their marriage legally recognized here, where they actually live, and I believe that matters.

Because, seriously, it’s not like I think people shouldn’t get married. I just don’t think people should get married without a conscious political critique.

Granted, I basically don’t think people should so much as blow their nose without a political critique – so maybe I’m just being a buzzkill.

Ultimately…Amy’s not straight, she and Metz are effectively non-monogamous, they’re both Progressive Liberals, and I’m sure they had plenty of conversations about what marriage meant before they decided to do it – and some of them were probably even about politics…yet they still decided that a (relatively) traditional wedding and legal two-party union was the right choice for them.

And I feel uncomfortably conflicted about that.

I don’t really have a point here, I’m just going around in circles now…

No matter what though, I’m happy that my friends love each other and want to spend the rest of their lives together, and I feel honored that they want me to celebrate it with them.

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 12:15 am

HELP! I’ve been sucked into the Internet!

*SCHGLOMP* *NOM NOM NOM*

July 1, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 5:13 pm

Damn. I sure have been having a lot of angst over the 24ish hours since I posted those last entries. Not about the one where I divulged intimate details of my current lovelife and psychological state, but the one where I rambled on about stuff that happened years ago…

My angst has mostly come in two varieties, though:
1) What if boys I know read it and it hurts their feelings?
2) What if people think I’m being “oversensitive”?

Since I know that, for me personally, capitulating to precisely these two fears is one of the biggest ways I silence myself about gender oppression, the fact that I’m having them so intensely about that post means it was probably something worth posting.

That being said, I do think that situations like the one I described need a nuanced analysis, although I may not be the right person to give it – and that they’re a perfect illustration of some ways the patriarchal paradigm around sex, love and intimacy hurts (but doesn’t oppress) men as well as hurting and oppressing women.

After all, sixteen year old boys are really not that far off from fourteen year old boys, who really aren’t that much older than twelve year old boys, who are only barely older than ten year old boys. And one of the most heartbreaking things about patriarchy for me is watching it take sweet, creative, loving, bright, fundamentally innocent children and molding them into emotionally calcified adult men who get used as tools for the further oppression of women – including, and often especially, the women who they love most.

Part of what’s sad about that story is not simply that this boy hurt me, but that he did it because, on some level, he honestly believed that’s what love was – and by acting on that belief repeatedly with myself and other women, he ironically cut himself, and us, off from access to real loving relationships by becoming someone emotionally manipulative and untrustworthy, and by giving us more reason to fear and distrust men’s expressions of their feelings. And he did all this without really understanding what was going on. Which, in a certain way, is so much more insidious and sad than if he’d done it out of malice or a plain old power trip.

Because this person doesn’t lack redeeming qualities. Nobody does. I have faith that, deep inside, there’s still the heart of a boy who’s able to give and receive genuine love in a respectful, mutual, compassionate, creative way. But that boy is so overshadowed by the ways in which the man is not a safe person to be vulnerable around. So, in the end, there’s plenty of love to go around but so many walls between us that everyone ends up starving and fighting each other for scraps.

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