The Revolution Is Here, Read All About It!

bi:notes for a bisexual revolutionI am part of a very radical, political, and informed bisexual community. I am proud of the people comprising this community, but as little as two or three years ago I didn’t even know they existed. If I pause to think about how I came to know these amazing revolutionary friends, and how I learned pretty much everything I know about bisexual politics, it’s fairly easy to pinpoint a handful of key people, who by reading them and engaging with them, I literally changed how I think: about myself, my gender and sexual identities, about community and politics, and about a million other things. One of these people is Shiri Eisner, whose book Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution has just been published.

By reading Eisner online* (Facebook, Tumblr, and her Hebrew- and English-language blogs) and engaging in the same or similar political discussions (and, of course, with other persons active in radical politics as well), I was able to come to terms, for the first time, with ideas I was either blind to, ignorant of, or in total denial of their existence. I had never heard of bisexual erasure, for example, and I wasn’t troubled by it either, because my own bisexual identity was not important to me.

This new (to me) political discourse made me question myself – why was I willing to suppress my own identity? It isn’t as though I was against identity politics in principle, as I was an active feminist, a supporter of Palestinian liberation, an anti-racism and anti-colonialism activist, and more… What was it about bisexuality that was so easy to dismiss? And once I was aware of my own identity issues, how could I ignore the political aspects of accepting or denying my bisexuality? Was I not collaborating with a system that was oppressing me and others like me?

And as oppression is not my cup of tea… My perceptions had to change.

I can’t actually describe how momentous of a change this was for me. It was a watershed moment, a light bulb switching on, an epiphany… Pick your phrase, but I simply cannot overstate the significance, because this wasn’t just about bisexuality, it was a defining moment for me in understanding my own belief systems – that I have a radical rather than liberal political viewpoint, and that I had gained new critical lenses with which to examine all power relations. It led to a redefining of my feminism, my activism, my gender identity, my participation in other groups’ activism as an ally… It changed my life, and there is no going back. My activism has taken on an entirely different aspect, whether online or in “real life”, and as a result I have come to recognize that I have strength and influence I never imagined.

But what does this have to do with the book?

I don’t think my personal story is unique. I think there are many of us out there, people with non-normative sexual and gender identities, who find each other mostly online, and there share information and experiences and political ideas. I think we gather knowledge and awareness like berries, sometimes in abundance sometimes scraping from scarcity, but always searching and not necessarily knowing everything we might want to about developing ideas or even history, or just the state of things. Or simply getting information in a form or in an order we can digest. So sometimes we gain understanding, sometimes we don’t, it can be hit and miss, and there isn’t one central place in which we can start at the beginning (say, what is bisexuality, anyway?) and then move on to more advanced concepts and tools.

In my view, Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution is the first time all this knowledge has been collected into one place, in a clear and coherent way, defining not only what bisexuality is and is not, but also the societal forces that influence attitudes towards bisexuals, and their consequences. What it has taken me a couple of painstaking years to learn and internalize, Eisner has brilliantly collated into a comprehensive, yet readable book, accompanied by her own unique analysis. While the book certainly deals with advanced concepts, it takes care to define them, and is geared to be an accessible and useful tool for both beginners and those more deeply involved in bisexual discourse.

So why should you read the book?

First of all, you are guaranteed to learn something new, or get a new perspective on familiar topics. For example, even the most basic question of how bisexuality is defined is not free from disagreement, controversy, and political significance, and the book’s explanations are very illuminating. And that is just the beginning – the book introduces many other concepts we should all know, from monosexism to bisexual erasure to gender subversion… Even familiar terms are explored in a way that uncovers their revolutionary potential and places them in contexts that are both surprising and revealing.

In addition, you will learn about issues surrounding bisexuality – such as how bisexuals are disproportionately and detrimentally affected in terms of health, finances, and sexual violence. The book also discusses how bisexuality and the bisexual struggle intersect with, and are influenced by, other oppressions and struggles (there are entire chapters on bisexuality and feminism, bi and trans, bisexuality and the homo-centric gay movement, and bisexuality and racialization).

Finally, you will also gain tools for understanding and dealing with some of the challenges and concepts presented – such as deconstructing common biphobic stereotypes and tropes (bisexuality doesn’t exist, bisexuals are just confused, bisexuals are really either gay or straight, bisexuals spread diseases, bisexuals are inherently unfaithful, and more).

Book Quote: Transgender and Bi and intertwining ideas

But perhaps what most appeals to me is that while Eisner certainly does instruct, the book in no way comes to excuse or to defend: Eisner is unapologetic and even aggressive in her insistence on the inherent legitimacy of bisexual identity and community, without seeking approval from any external source; moreover – in seeing the subversive and intrinsically revolutionary potential of bisexuality, as a challenging force to oppressive, binary, mono- and cis-sexist, hegemonic cultures.

I feel extremely validated by the very existence of this book. I like it very much when things I know, or believe in, or strive for, are put in writing and can be referenced. I like learning new things and being challenged to see things in new ways. And I feel very privileged to have been a part of the community Eisner uses as her point of reference and example in this very important document.

Oh! – and I am not recommending this book only to bisexuals and other non-monosexuals… My ardent wish would be for all “normative” (monosexuals and cisgender) people to read this book. Perhaps they would begin to become aware of how they contribute to the oppression of others, even if they are doing so in the most unintentional way.

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* Since that time, we have also met socially and have done activism together.

The bisexual umbrella


Pink Action Against Homonationalism and Pinkwashing

I have a spotty relationship with the Tel Aviv Pride Parade. Where I started out, several years back, was excited support: My city sponsored a colorful, loud, LGBT parade! In spite of this country being largely religious, conservative, homophobic… Yay for liberal Tel Aviv! Yay for gay tourism! Yay for gay couples being able to walk down the street holding hands! Most people I know are still exactly there.

But as I became more politically aware, as I began to embrace and express my own queer identity… I realized that not everything was truly awash in pride-colored beauty. I learned how the Agudah (Tel Aviv Gay Center) is run by white gay bourgeois men, who push forward gay white male middle-class issues, such as surrogacy, and same-sex marriage. All the while budgets are either non-existent or under constant threat for issues such as homeless LGBT youth, transgender housing and health, and HIV/AIDS (which is on a terrifying rise in Israel). Bisexuality as a topic or issue is entirely erased. I became aware of the pinkwashing policies of the Israeli government, who use Israel’s relatively good record on LGBT issues (the middle class ones) to cover up heinous crimes against the Palestinians. And of course the government is not above spreading outrageous lies about the treatment of LGBT Palestinians, claiming Israel is a haven for them, whereas the truth is quite the opposite.

So two years ago, I participated in the alternative radical campaign and march – we started out with the main parade in solidarity with the blocs we identified with – the Transgender Bloc, the Asexual Bloc, etc. – and when the main parade turned right to go to the beach, we turned left and headed to an open mic event for anyone who felt their voice was being silenced.

Last year, no alternative campaign took shape, so I went on record as shunning all city-sponsored pride activities. I was happy with my decision, but was disappointed that no counter-action was in play.

So this year, I was thrilled that a group called Mashpritzot, an anarcho-queer activist group I am part of, decided to take action and do a protest and event. I am extremely proud to have been part of this event, proud that we had an impact on what turned out to be the largest TA Pride Parade ever (over 100,000 by some estimates, who were mostly straights by some other estimates). And I am both happy and proud to record that action here.

The Pink Protest 

In this action against the “gay” community’s priorities, group activists painted themselves pink in protest against pinkwashing – the cynical use of the Israeli “gay” community in order to paint Israel as a “liberal”, “progressive” country, and divert attention from the occupation and apartheid against the Palestinians.

Pink4

Initially marching along with the main parade, we carried signs highlighting issues not dealt with by the community, such as “While You Fight for Gay Marriage, LGBTQs Are Sleeping in the Street”, “While You Fight for the Right to Have Children, LGBTQ Youth are Facing Parental Violence”, “One Quarter of Bisexuals Suffer from Poor Health”, and more.

In the middle of the Pride Parade, we spread a huge rainbow flag, and cordoned off the area, blocking the parade. Participants then fell upon the flag, feigning death. The sign seen in the picture reads: “Here lie the victims of the community’s priorities”.

Here Lie the Victims of Israeli Homonationalism Priorities

Fliers were distributed as onlookers surrounded the display. Some were amused, some were annoyed. One man told me he hoped we really would die. Others were truly moved and excited, shook our hands and expressed support. Some people took the opportunity to learn more about transgender and bisexual issues. Some made transphobic remarks. But no one who passed by at the time of the action was able to ignore us.

Some of my friends and colleagues got asphalt burns, but according to them it was well worth it.

Afterwards, we went back to the park where the Gay Center is located (while the commercial parade went to dance on the beach) and had another open mic event, where every single person who wanted to, had their voice heard.

For more about pinkwashing:
BDS, LGBT, and Why You Should Care About Pinkwashing
Pinkwatching Israel: Pinkwashing Kit

PinkMe1

Highlighting Women

New Revolutionary Women post!

Phoolan Devi

Phoolan DeviKnown as India’s Bandit Queen, Phoolan Devi stole from
the rich and gave to the poor. Her story evolved from being a member of a “lower” Indian caste, being forced into marriage at the age of 11, being raped and tortured… First by her husband, then by the police, and later by upper-caste members of her village. She escaped, and took revenge upon her tormentors (she stabbed her husband and dragged him out to the village square; later, she shot dead the villagers who raped her).

She proceeded to fight the caste wars as a field revolutionary, was charged with crimes and went to jail, and later on entered politics representing the lower-caste Samajwadi Party as an MP. Hated by some, she was a hero and a legend to the many she represented.

Phoolan Devi was assassinated in 2001 by three masked men in New Delhi.

View biographic timeline

…… 

Ibtisam Mara'ana

Ibtisam Mara’ana is a Palestinian-Israeli documentary filmmaker, perhaps best-known for her film Paradise Lost, considered to be the first film to be made from the perspective of a Palestinian woman. She is the founder of Ibtisam Films, a documentary film production house.

Ibtisam Mara'ana

Mara’ana was awarded the Dalai Lama’s Unsung Heroes of Compassion award in 2009 for her social and political activism for peace and on behalf of battered women in Arabic society.

Read an intervew with Mara’ana about her mother as feminist inspiration

View an interview with Mara’ana about her work:

Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera

Kasha Jacqueline NabageseraFor Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, being an LGBT rights activist means the daily threat of violence, imprisonment, and death. In Uganda, homosexuality is punishable by long jail terms, and violence is common. Her colleague, David Kato, was murdered last year because of his activism and voice against Uganda’s discrimination.

Nabagesera is widely recognized for her fearless human rights activism as founder of the LGBT rights organization Freedom and Roam Uganda.

In 2011 Nabagesera won the Martin Ennals Human Rights Defenders Award:




Michael Oren Strikes Again, Rewrites History

Ah, Pinkwashing. Is there anything cheerier to wake up to in the morning?

Today, I woke up to to this article, an interview with Israel’s ambassador to the US Michael Oren. Oren, who starred in this blog about a week ago regarding the debacle of trying to forestall CBS News from airing a 60 Minutes piece on the plight of Christian Palestinians.

This time, Oren is preparing for his keynote address at the Equality Forum, an annual LGBTQ conference in Philadelphia. This year, its “featured nation”, inexplicably, is Israel — the nation identified by the UN as the only democracy that limits human rights, the nation carrying out a military occupation of a nation of people for 45 years, the nation doling out wave after wave of anti-democratic legislation aimed at limiting public roles of non-Jews, placing refugees in concentration camps, upholding segregation of women in public spaces, and the list seems endless…

That Israel presents itself as a paradise for LGBT folk is beyond ironic, but it also has a name: PINKWASHING. Pinkwashing is the idea that Israel has conceived of that if it flaunts its relatively good record on LGBT issues, it can divert attention from its anti-democratic, human-rights-violating, occupation-and-conquest-based policies and agendas. (More about pinkwashing here and here.)

And thus, featuring Israel at the Equality Forum, and having the Israeli ambassador as the keynote speaker, has quite rightly been branded the pinkwashing event of the year.

Back to the interview that started this post. It is filled with gems (read: lies, lies, and more lies), but my favorite is this part, which in a nutshell neatly wraps up everything that is wrong, and sick, about how Israel presents the issue:

Michael Oren Reinvents History

What do you say to those that criticize Israel being featured at the Equality Forum?
Israel was fighting for gay rights before the 1967 war. Even when terrorists were blowing up our buses and cafes, there was equality for gays.

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Where do I begin????
(Well, I will just do my best to deconstruct this for you. )

Israel was fighting for gay rights… Really? Fighting? Fighting whom, exactly? Israel is the STATE. If the state wants someone to have rights, it GRANTS them. Who are these nefarious powers FIGHTING with Israel to prevent gay rights?

…before the 1967 war. Again — REALLY?? Two parts here:

  1. Connecting the issue of gay rights and Israeli-Arab war is at the heart of the pinkwashing mentality: What is the relevance? Are the ARABS those evil geniuses preventing Israel from achieving true equality for gays? And,
  2. Gay rights were not a policy issue prior to 1967, given that, for example, sodomy laws were only taken off the law books in 1988, and even then (swear to the spirits!) it was apparently done only through clerical error (accidentally on purpose). When the legislature voted on the new version of the sex crimes law, they didn’t realize that the final bill did not include the sodomy clause. So actually: Israel, the STATE, never actually voted on the issue, never “fought” for inclusion of gay rights in the law.

Note that the vast majority of LGBT rights in Israel were not passed by law — but rather informed by the courts, in which case, the STATE was often the party objecting to those rights. And to the extent that rights have been legislated or incorporated into national policies — NONE of that has been done under the current government, the one Michael Oren represents. So even if there is credit to be handed out, it isn’t credit they get.

Even when terrorists were blowing up our buses and cafes, there was equality for gays. Again, this weird conflation of Arab violence and gay rights. And is this still before 1967? Is Oren claiming there was a state of ongoing terrorism on buses and cafes before the war in which he apparently fought for gay rights? Because there have been spates of terror attacks in Israel, but the worst of them — particularly those aimed at buses and cafes — were after the collapse of the Oslo peace plan, in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

So is Oren claiming gays have always has rights in Israel? And yet, oddly, that Israel has had to fight for them? And that the fighting was apparently against Arabs — because otherwise, how does this last sentence even compute? “Even when terrorists were blowing up our buses and cafes (bizarre thought trick connection) there was equality for gays”.

(And the more observant among you already noticed (and are probably biting your tongues) that somehow all we are talking about here is “gay rights”. That is Oren’s level of awareness — in this LGBT heaven! — that “gays” are the only ones who need rights, and BY GOD they already have them! He is giving the keynote address at this LGBTQ convention, and he has no fucking clue what LGBTQ even means. Or rather, to him it is just a means to an end. And the Equality Forum is going along with this.)

Thinking about this made me imagine Oren’s vision of Israel’s war in 1967: Amid exploding buses and cafes, running through the smoke and debris are crack Israeli combat troops — carrying rainbow flags. They halt, and create a phalanx before the Arab enemy with whom they are fighting for their gay rights, and they firmly state: This shall not pass!

Which is how this meme was born :)

Six Day War History According to Michael Oren

Among Oren’s other lies: Israel (or rather “his” ministry) is the only one in the world that grants spousal privileges to gay partners; that Israel provides shelter to Palestinians who are brutally persecuted in their own culture (that has NEVER happened. EVER. Yes, there is an ex-pat Palestinian community in Israel, but they must hide from the authorities because they will be DEPORTED if caught); that Israel is a LIBERAL DEMOCRACY (while his own party is passing laws that create racial, religious, and sex discrimination); Oren claims that proof of this is that groups like alQaws (the Palestinian organization for gender and sexual diversity) are “headquartered in Israel” rather than in the Palestinian territories… Totally ignoring that East Jerusalem is NOT LEGALLY PART OF ISRAEL, and is considered by those very groups to be PALESTINE… The extent of the hijacking of both Palestinian and Israeli queer issues by this most oppressive Israeli government ever is truly staggering.

Here is a statement by Palestinian Queers for BDS (PQBDS) and Pinkwatching Israel.

Here is an open letter by the first LGBTIQ delegation to Palestine.

Femina Invicta:

I’m in the process of writing a response post to a feminist who objects to “transgender” though not to transgender people… Unlike the hateful radfems, she has an honest desire to learn and understand, which I deeply respect and so am willing to engage and put forth the effort. This very week I discovered this amazing post, which largely corresponds with what I have already written. I’ll be using some of it’s ideas and providing a link to it. Any more good posts on Trans 101 for Feminists/Cis Folk are appreciated!

Originally posted on Tranarchism:

There is a huge problem with the way that people are taught about gender in this society. Children are indoctrinated early to believe that there are two sexes, corresponding with two genders, which are both immutable and non-voluntary and completely beyond our control. This worldview is called the gender binary, and it has no room in it for us.

Trying to teach a new perspective to the victims of this extremely aggressive brainwashing can be daunting. In fact, the task can seem downright impossible. The temptation, therefore, is to “dumb things down” for the benefit of a cisgender audience. This situation has given rise to a set of oversimplifications collectively known as “Trans 101.” These rather absurd tropes, such as “blank trapped in a blank’s body” cause confusion among even well-meaning cis folks, feed internalized transphobia among us trans people, and  provide endless straw-man fodder for transphobic ‘radical feminists,’ entitled…

View original 2,148 more words

Communities to rally for slain transgender woman – Chicago Phoenix

Another case of the system turning away from violence against transgender women. I’m glad that at least in this case she had a community that cared enough to do something about it. Also stresses the importance of CHOSEN FAMILY as opposed to enforced blood family.

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A social worker at Taskforce Prevention and Community Services, is organizing a community event to call for answers in the murder of Paige Clay, a transgender woman who was killed on the city’s West Side on Monday morning.

Brian Turner, the organizer, said the motivation for this event is also due to the dissatisfaction over the police investigation.

“My main reason for doing this is because it seems like it is in the process of being swept under the mat,” he said.

Clay, who was 23, was found with a gunshot wound to her forehead early Monday morning in an alley behind the 4500 block of West Jackson Boulevard. Area North detectives are investigation the case and no suspects are in custody. Initial information obtained from police and the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office could not confirm her gender identity.

Turner, who runs a program for transgender women called Women of Many Voices of which Clay was a member, has taken it upon himself to be a voice for the now silenced Clay.

This silence is also coming from investigators and Cook County officials, according to Turner. He said he has contacted numerous officials and investigators and has not been contacted in return. Turner was also turned away from identifying Clay’s body because he was not considered immediate family.

Turner describes Clay as an adopted member of his family via his aunt, Denise Turner, who was a foster mother to Clay.

“Why should it matter if I’m not immediate family if my aunt was her foster mother? This is the woman that raised her, who took her into her own home,” he said.

Cook County has given Turner 90 days to wait to see if any biological family makes a claim, something he finds frustrating and confusing.

“She has people who love her who were not her immediate family, but they were family.”

Turner knows what it is like to be a “ward of the state” and was one himself until his grandmother took him in, he said. Clay never had that advantage of a loving mother father home, but that she did have a community and a life, he explained.

Clay was well known in the ball community and held down several part-time jobs in the area.

“She was a human being just like anyone else and she was trying to do better,” Turner said.

The event, Justice for Paige, will be held at Taskforce, located at 9 N. Cicero Ave. Tuesday, May 1 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. More details will be updated on posted on that page.

The event is intended to bring the community together to share useful information about the murder. The event is also meant to heal the community wounded by this event.

“[We want to] do what we can do to bring this person into custody and do what we can do as a community to get us back on track,” Turner said. “Comfort one another and ensure that this does not happen to another trans girl.”

Turner is calling for the police investigating to release what leads they have and to really become involved with the community.

via Communities to rally for slain transgender woman – Chicago Phoenix.

How I Was Blocked From Facebook

This week, a Facebook friend published a record of how she was detained by Israeli security, held, and questioned for hours. Her crime? Political activism on behalf of Palestinians and against Israel’s occupation of that nation. Not surprisingly, some of the responses she got were belittling ones, “boo hoo, you’re quite the martyr, having spent three whole hours in security!”, blatantly ignoring the fact that she was being intimidated, threatened, sexually harassed, her freedom curtailed… Also (as she alluded to in her article) she has had other more intrusive run-ins with Israeli security.

As a matter of fact, she is well-known to Israeli security forces because of her activism, but as long as her politics are on the “wrong” side, she is to be belittled, and reduced to a whining little girl, rather than the intelligent, political woman she is.

Well, this story has moved me to do a little whining of my own.

I must admit that while I am also an outspoken, strong, intelligent, and political woman, I have never been arrested for it, or threatened, or tear gassed. I’ve had shouting matches with police, been shoved by them, threatened as part of a group… But so far, I’ve escaped their notice as a focal point. Until, that is, the dreaded FACEBOOK police.

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This week, the Tel Aviv Pride Parade campaign kicked off. Lo and behold, it is entirely based on nationalistic ideas and imagery. Homonationalism is a problematic concept anywhere, but in Israel it takes on special significance, given the sharp divides between Jews and Arabs (whether citizens or not) and the treatment of other marginalized groups.

The reproduction of hegemonic power structures into the “LGBT” community is an ongoing issue. I am fond of calling the LGBT center the “gay-white-man center”, that’s how obvious and blatant the marginalization is. All the men in positions of power there are quick to deny it, and point at the one or two women in the room (somehow, never named, never quoted, never heading up any important projects…). But even the two token white lesbians, does NOT an “LGBT” community make. Nor does it encourage any idea of commitment to equality when Ethiopians, Palestinians, any non-Jews (unless they are cute European gay guys), trans folk of any ethnicity, and others are continually made to feel unwelcome.

So back to the Pride campaign. Based on and inspired by the ultra-nationalist idea of celebrating Israel’s independence, just using the rainbow flag… A white-Jewish-male-gay-guy-spokesman felt obliged to note that “this is not meant to promote nationalist sentiments, and community members from minority sectors are included and invited to participate in the parade.

Well, um. Yeah. Minority sectors = Arabs, right? How kind of you!! I mean, it doesn’t really matter how unfriendly you make it for Arabs, as long as you then add a disclaimer in the small print.

(To put this in context, Arab supreme court justice Salim Joubran was excoriated by Knesset (parliament) members and the public recently for not singing the national anthem (which calls for the *Jewish* national state), and as this is being written, the latest outrage around Arabs (and other minorities) being entirely excluded from Israel’s upcoming Independence Day ceremonies.)

So, back to me, and Facebook. I made a poster/caricature of the Gay Center similar to this one:

It’s not about the WHITE, it’s about the PRIDE, dummy!

Israeli Gay Pride Welcomes Minorities!

Having gotten carried away with my own annoyance at the Center, and my desire to point out the ridiculousness in their assertions of inclusion, I disregarded the fact that Facebook runs bots on your pictures, and can pick out certain symbols. They immediately flagged the klansman, and blocked me indefinitely, putting a dent in my political activism as well as my social life!

So now I know what it feels like to be singled out by the police for my activism for social justice. And just for kicks, here is another draft of the idea.

Israel Gay Pride -- Minorities Welcom