Body Ownership

Carmen Cordis is a rad CHATpdx Sexpert, Activist and Leader in Portland, OR. 

I’ve recently encountered a lot of people, whether they identify inside, outside, or on the fringe of the alphabet soup community (LGBTQQAAPIT-S and any I missed, in no particular order), who have given me an ultimatum, namely that I must make some kind of physical or surgical alteration (of other people’s choosing) to my body or appearance in order to “earn” their acceptance, approval, respect, charity, or support.

I am taking a stand against our culture of non-binary-gender-phobia, body-shaming, photographic alteration, unrealistic body image fixation, cissexism, transphobia, and discrimination based on gender identity, gender presentation, sexual orientation, or bodily appearance.

Carmen Graphic

I am a living, breathing, feeling human being with a heart, a brain, a plethora of dreams, a past, a future, and a story.

I am not someone else’s narrow vision of a quickly-labeled “other” identity that ceases to exist outside of those narrowly imposed boundaries.

I was born with human dignity.  My gender is my own; it does not belong to anyone else.  It cannot be ripped away from me and reshaped by someone else, because no one else owns it.

Likewise, My body is my own. No one the right to make serious, irreversible, potentially harmful or deadly decisions regarding MY BODY but me – and those I designate as my agents in the event that I desire assistance.

Because of the culture of fear, my body has been made into my worst enemy for as long as I can remember.  I also tend to avoid conflict and prefer mediation or compromise in order to diffuse conflict.

Unfortunately, at times I have lost the control of my own body because someone other than myself decided to own my body or change it to suit their desires.

Willingly, or unwillingly, I surrendered my body to someone else, sometimes to avoid external conflict, and found myself waiting for the hell to be over when I began to drown in the internal conflict I created by capitulating.

Carmen Own Post

Too many times, I have tried to destroy my body, in order to satisfy the demands of a fear-hatred culture, and to escape from the hell of conflict by giving up and throwing in the towel, saying, “Okay.  You win.  Are you happy now?”

I no longer wish to propitiate those people who would delight in my destruction.

I deserve to be happy, and one step toward my happiness is to own my own body.

Please consider my words the next time you notice someone (perhaps yourself, even) making serious entitlement claims to someone else’s body, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Please consider my words the next time you notice someone else making serious entitlement claims to your own body, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Do not surrender to anyone who would delight in the destruction or invalidation of your essential self, the self of your definition and determination, the self of your life experience.

No one is infallible, but maybe by educating each other we can make a better world, one step at a time.

Carmen Dignity Post

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The desexualization of bullying – A deeper look at bullying’s sexual undertones

Posted on February 16, 2012

by: Kris Gowen, originally posted on Kris Gowens Blog

 

Kids Bullying

You Can Stop Bullying

I was going to try to come up with a fancier more accessible title, but I can’t right now. But I sure better by May! I’ve been invited to speak at an bullying awareness event in Austin Texas this May. While I jumped at this opportunity to share my work (and support my friend who is organizing the event), I quickly realized that I am no bullying expert. But, for better or for worse, not being a total expert on a topic as not stopped me before…

I am an expert on adolescent sexuality and sexual development. I also have a pretty good handle on youth and technology and how that impacts their development (hence, this blog). So, how to use my strengths in the context of this upcoming event? Tie all of these issues together — sexuality, technology, and bullying. I have found my comfort zone!

What’s odd is that while so much of bullying has a sexual undertone or is blatantly about sex or sexuality or at least gender, most bullying curricula, anti-bullying campaigns, etc., do not acknowledge this important association. Bullying is seen as harassment, teasing, isolation, and assault. But under no circumstances should one put the word “sexual” in front of any of those terms and call it bullying.

Why this separation? Why not discuss sexual harassment while discussing bullying? Where is the conversation about sexual respect and self-worth in curricula that addresses the need to be nice to others? Are (anti) bullying experts afraid to talk about sex? Does it complicate things too much? Does it narrow their message?

Whatever the reason, I think it’s important to accept the fact that a lot of bullying has to do with sexuality. An obvious example is about name-calling due to sexual orientation and/or gender expression (and the “Think Before You Speak” campaign does a good job of calling this out). But what about sexting under pressure? Spreading rumors? Calling someone a ho or slut? These are unfortunately very common ways to bullying another, but where’s the conversation about the sexual components?

I hope to be able to speak more eloquently about this topic in the future. For now, I will continue to explore this rift and see if I can’t begin to bridge the gap between my interests and the important work done to decrease bullying among youth.

 

It’s your turn, what do you think we should do to change this? How has society removed Sexuality from bullying? Is this a bad thing? Comment and share your thoughts and then share this blog with someone you know.

Bully Victim Bystander

Stand Up Against Bullying

 

Privilege? What’s that supposed to mean?

As a young white person involved in the activist community I have talked a lot about the word “privilege” and what it means. To me privilege is a word I use to describe unearned benefits given to me by societies and institutions and individuals that I interact with-in the United States. For instance, I am privileged in the fact that I am a white person.

How does that benefit me? In my experience I benefit from the fact that I can walk down the street at night without getting harassed by the police without probable cause. I am more likely to be “trusted” or given positions of authority in social groups as compared to people of color. People are more likely to listen, believe, and trust the information I present them than they are to do the same to a person of color presenting the same information. To learn more about how a person might have privilege from being white in this society, check out this article “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh.

Why should I care? I feel it’s important for activists, youth, and anyone to recognize where they are oppressed and where they are privileged. It gives us a better understanding of ourselves and the world we live in. Recognizing our own privilege can open dialogue about the issues that affect all of us. If we don’t recognize and understand what’s wrong, how can we change it? By understanding how we are seen, we can start to see the world in a different light. Knowing who we are directly affects how we see the world around us.

I’ve noticed in myself, and others, that whenever someone brings up the subject of privilege there is a lot of automatic defensiveness, “I’m not privileged, I’m poor” is a common response. We all experience privilege and oppression in different ways. I’ve learned to see that when someone points out my privilege, it is not because they are trying to invalidate my oppression. Instead it’s because they are trying to help me understand some of the oppression that I help perpetuate out of ignorance to that particular oppression and experience. In order to fulfill my goals in making this world a more egalitarian place for people, I have created a list to better help me understand my privilege and my oppression. I encourage you all to make lists similar to this one:

My Privileges:

-I am a white person.

-I live in the country which I have unquestioned citizenship in.

-I am perceived as cisgender/as someone who is gender conforming.

-I am perceived as able-bodied.

-I am physically able-bodied.

-I am not addicted to any illegal substances.

-I have never contracted an STI.

-I am not currently homeless.

My Oppressions:

-I am queer identified.

-I am gender-queer.

-I am and have always been well below the federal poverty level.

-I have a mental illness or disability called Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

-I have been physically, mentally, and sexually abused.

-I am perceived as female and was born female at birth.

By making these kinds of lists we become more aware of how we perceive the world, where we come from and how our privilege shapes our understanding. We must acknowledge how we are similar to each other to begin to think more critically about things that we may not understand about each others identities. We do not need to feel bad that we have privilege because after all we all have at least a bit of it. Instead we can look for ways to use our privilege to make it easier for those without it.  Remember, privilege and oppression is not about who suffers more or who benefits more. It’s about understanding all the different ways in which institutions, individuals, and society at large keep us all from achieving our basic human rights. It’s to help us see what is keeping us from recognizing each other and being recognized as full human beings. Recognizing our privilege is a way of opening the doors to educating ourselves on what oppression we perpetuate against other people. I encourage you to help fight the oppression and make a Privileges/Oppressions list.

-Darwin


Introducing Tessara

Name: Tessara/Mayhem

Age: 21

Gender Identity: Genderqueer

Preferred Pronoun: “they/them/their”

Sexual Orientation: Pansexual

Location: Portland, Oregon

Likes: Reading, writing poetry & fan-fiction, knitting, educating around youth sexuality

Dislikes: Street harassment, unearned privilege, bigots, politicians who prevaricate, stigma

I have some poetry coming up on the blog- keep an eye out for it! Some of it’s pretty gritty, and stems from personal experiences that have been hard… I write fiction a lot, but I also channel anger and frustration into my work. I write about my experience of the world as a female-bodied person transitioning into a male presentation, my experiences with stigma and harassment, and my encounters with the –isms of the world.

I moved to Oregon from San Jose, CA at the age of 13. Shortly after getting here, I found SMYRC and got involved with Bridge 13, the community education project there. I spend a lot of time—both through Bridge 13 and on my own time—educating friends and strangers about gender and sexuality. Youth sexuality is oft-misunderstood, and education is easy. I use Gender Gumby and other awesome resources to show people how broad the range of sex and gender minority can be—it opens a lot of eyes!

I have had my experiences discounted time and again because of my age, and that is an awful feeling. My solution? Education! There are so many people who would be queer allies and adults who would be youth allies if they knew how, and that’s where we come in. The youth who stand up and talk, who share their experiences so that others can be aware and informed. Education is also important in Curbing HIV/AIDS Transmission among at-risk and racial/ethnic minority youth! Teaching that sex is dirty and shameful, or that condoms are evil, or that only gay people get AIDS are all things that contribute to the continued transmission of a preventable disease.

This blog is an awesome tool for educating, but it is also a great way to share community. Sometimes it can be so easy to feel isolated. CHATmosphere helps us see that there are others facing the same struggles we are, that we are not alone.

-Tessara(Mayhem)