Thursday, January 21, 2016

Creeps in Your Restroom!

This blog post was written to fulfill an assignment for the course Creativity & Community.

There is a chance that any time you or your loved ones enters a public restroom, that they could be sharing it with a sex offender.  Child molesters, voyeurs/exhibitionists, date rapists - these are all people who buy the same groceries as us, eat at the same restaurants as us, and fill up at the same gas stations as us.  If you were the type to be concerned about safety in public restrooms, and believed that legislation were an effective tool to protect restroom patrons (I don't), what could you do about this situation?  If your answer is to outlaw transgender people... you just might be Indiana Republican state Sen. Jim Tomes.
What about the other sector of society of people that who have all through the decades women been using women’s restrooms and men been using men’s restrooms and kind of like that and kind of expect that level of privacy? Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?
Forget people who are actually tried-and-convicted sex offenders; the real danger has been me all along!  Nevermind that if there really were an epidemic of cross-dressing predators peeping under bathroom stalls, Fox News would be plastering their mug shots all over the scare pieces in a never-ending parade of shame.  But the real stories of abuse and violence against peaceful transgender folks in public spaces get pushed to the back pages of news websites.

In many states, there has never been a law explicitly against using the "wrong" restroom.  So why after over 100 years of trans people in multi-user public restrooms (yes, we've always been using them, even if you didn't notice) do we suddenly need laws to segregate and outlaw us?  Honestly, it's for the money.  This is a great way to scare people into donating money to the political campaign or advocacy organization of their choice.  I'm including pro-LGBT orgs here - they use fear tactics to profit from our situation too.

Even if laws were passed explicitly to protect people like me, we still wouldn't be safe.  Assault is already illegal, and people still regularly assault trans folks anyway.  We cannot be safe in a society that demands segregation.  I mean that in the fullest sense.  We cannot be safe in a society that demands separate yet equal restrooms.  Racial segregation dates back to 1849; separate gendered restrooms came later, in 1887.  Segregated restrooms have always been racist as well as sexist, and as such will always be unsafe.

P.S.  I figured out how to find the single-user restrooms on campus.  It's solution - inadequate on a societal level, but it's the solution available to me right here right now, so I'll take it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Rap is Creativity; Rap is Community

This blog post was written to fulfill an assignment for my college course Creativity & Community.

October of 2014, Ferguson October, we gathered in the lawn across from the courthouse, the place infamous for denying Dred Scott his personhood under the law.  We are rallying together to mourn what is lost and to build strength for what is possible.

Kiener Plaza, St Louis, MO

Woop-woop, that's the sound of da police
Woop-woop, that's the sound of da beast
The crowd gets a little more energized.  Some people start rapping along.  I listen along for a while, then I look around me and observe the physical space we are occupying, and recognize this space as a product of the music.
You need a little clarity, check the similarity
The overseer rode around the plantation
The officer is off, patrolling all the nation
The overseer could stop you what you're doing
The officer will pull you over just when he's pursuing
The lyrics are clever, the WHOOP is catchy.  KRS-One is taking his experiences and those of his community, and creating a work of art to share with them.  Then, by replaying this work at the rally, the community is creating physical space for themselves.
The police them have a little gun
So when I'm on the streets, I walk around with a bigger one
The physical boundaries of this community space has been delineated by the audible range of the lyrics.  Anyone within the space who can hear it will be confronted with its charged message - those who identify with it can stay and share their common values with others, and those who find it hostile to themselves can tolerate their awkward outsider status or leave.

KRS One - Sound of Da Police

Chants of protesters and activists have frequently been borrowed from rap, and vice versa.  "No justice, no peace!" we shout.  Then the artists go to their studios and create lyrics that expand their message.

Warrior Minded feat. Dramatik - No Justice, No Peace

Similarly, people on the streets draw from popular songs for their chants, such as when protesters reminded each other “We gon’ be alright.”

Protesters Chanting Lyrics

Kendrick Lamar - Alright

Rap has always been a way to create community space and convey narratives of shared experiences.  I'll leave the details to the experts, but here are a few more examples I highly recommend you experience:

Queen Latifah, Yo-Yo, Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes (of TLC), MC Lyte, Patra, Nefertiti, Da 5 Footaz, Salt-N-Pepa, Meshell Ndegeocello and others... the song was a tribute to women of the past like Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, Shirley Chisholm, and Angela Davis who played major roles in black resistance, as well as the empowerment of women of the present.

Beyoncé - Ghost
Thoughts on capitalism being at odds with creativity.

Miss Bolivia ft. Rebeca Lane & Ali Gua Gua – Libre Atrevida y Loca
Featuring femmes of all sorts of gender expressions and filmed in Argentina, Guatemala, and Mexico (where Miss Bolivia, Lane, and Ali Gua Gua are from, respectively) .

Angel Haze - Same Love (remix of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis)
The only version of this song anyone ever needs to hear.