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Fighting For Equality Means Equality for ALL

I used to think that it was axiomatic that striving for equality meant equality for everyone. Lately I’ve been shown how wrong I was in my thinking.

• ITEM: The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has just endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. The frightening thing about this is that the Human Rights Campaign has never represented all LGBT people, but instead has concentrated on the rights of its majority faction; namely, rich white gay men. At the same time, Ms. Clinton is a (very) late-comer to LGBT rights, but she has always been a strong supporter of Wall Street. The HRC’s endorsement means that she will continue to side with corporate America over the general population.

• ITEM: I don’t make a big deal about one particular aspect of my racial heritage: that is the fact that I am part Mi’kmaq (also Micmac, L’nu and Mi’kmaw), a Canadian First Nations band. The reason I don’t make a big deal about it is two-fold: 1) I only recently discoverd this fact, and 2) while I may be racially connected, I am not culturally connected. That is, I know next to nothing about the reality of being Mi’kmaq, nor have I had the experience of growing up within that culture.

That being said, I do post and share many articles on Facebook dealing with Native Americans/Indians (NA/I) and First Nations (FN) issues. ANd while many of my Facebook friends share or comment positively about LGBT and racial issues when they concern African-Americans, I have yet to see one of them show any interest in my NA/I or FN posts.

This, despite some of them claiming “my great-grandmother was a Cherokee princess.” To those people, I suggest you read the excellent article, Why Your Great-Grandmother Wasn’t a Cherokee Princess.” And for those who are too lazy to read, I’ll sum up the article for you: There is no such thing!

I think the reason so many people remain uninterested in these issues might be collective white guilt. After all, the biggest act of genocide in recorded history took place on North American soil. For more on this subject, go here.

Another reason might be the fact that the plight of the NA/I and FN haven’t really improved that much from the way they were in the 1800s. Most still live in abject poverty, wards of the State which still treats them like animals.

And a final reason is that we Americans (especially) and Canadians don’t like solutions to complex problems. We don’t like hard work unless it directly benefits us. After all, what does it matter to me that Leonard Peltier was sent to prison for life on the testimony of an “eyewitness” who admittedly never saw him? Or that he is slowly dying because he’s being denied access to medical care?

Amnesty International considers Leonard Peltier to be a political prisoner… Amnesty International believes that Leonard Peltier should be immediately and unconditionally released.

Yes, I know: this doesn’t directly affect you. It doesn’t even indirectly affect you. But the way the government of the United States is behaving these days, you would do well to reflect on Martin Niemöller’s famous words:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Sleep well tonight—your government is watching.

Robyn Jane

Haters Gonna Hate…Especially When They Lose

On The Twelfth Day of Equality
The haters gave to me…

“The Confederate flag isn’t a symbol of racism, it’s a banner of pride in our heritage.”

Maybe so, but what if Arnold Schwarzenegger, when he was governor of California, decided to fly the Nazi flag on the State Capitol grounds as a way of expressing pride in his heritage? After all, his father was a Nazi….

And these same “proud Southerners” have a problem with people in Texas flying the Mexican flag. But after all, Texas was a part of Mexico long before it became first an independent republic, then a Union state, a Confederate state, and a Union state once more. And besides, some of the families flying the Mexican flag have been in Texas far longer than most of the rest of the population of Texas.

Speaking of Texas, the latest revision of that state’s history—and which will be taught in their schools—makes no mention of slavery or the Ku Klux Klan.

Is There a Point to All This, or Am I Just Ranting?

There is most definitely a point and it is that we are in the midst of tremendous social change in the United States. And while social (or cultural, if you prefer that term) change is usually slow, there does come a time when certain forces come together and culminate in one, big explodey BOOM!

And isn’t that what’s been happening for the past couple of weeks in the United States? First, we had the decision—some would say the inevitable decisions—by the Supreme Court of the United States that same-sex marriages are, in fact, protected by the Constitution. Then we had the tremendous push-back against the display of the Confederate battle flag as a result of yet another white supremacist committing yet another murder (in this case, murders) in yet another African-American church in the South. And just yesterday I read that the City of New York was ordered to pay nearly $6 million to the family of yet another Black man killed by the police—this time because they used an illegal choke-hold to restrain him, despite him telling them that he couldn’t breathe. And this time, the coroner had no trouble ruling his death a homicide.

How many times have you heard—or even said yourself—that “we fear what we don’t understand”? Do you have even a basic understanding how hatred grows out of not only ignorance but fear? And make no mistake: I’m not using the word “ignorance” as an epithet or to dismiss people as being stupid. Far from it. There is a difference between ignorance and stupidity. As someone once told me, “Ignorance can be cured,  but stupid is forever.” My own view of the difference between them is that ignorance comes from a lack of education or experience, where as stupidity is deliberate and a conscious choice.

As an example, take the fact that there are still people who believe that the Earth is flat. This, despite all of the evidence to the contrary. Compare that to the Yanomami tribe in the Amazon jungle who have had very limited contact with the outside world. If they don’t know that the Earth is round (and I’m not saying they don’t; after all, the ancient Greeks knew that fact), I would put that down to ignorance rather than stupidity.

So here we sit at the junction of progress and regress, of light and darkness, of knowledge and ignorance. Where we go from here, and how long it will take, is a combination of those of us who choose to take positive action as well as the dying off of older minds who still cling to the lies and hate.

As for me, I choose positive action.

Thanks for reading,

Robyn

On Being Gender-Fluid

I have always been intrigued by the Native American concept of Two-Spirit. “The two-spirited person is a native tradition that researchers have identified in some of the earliest discoveries of Native artifacts. Much evidence indicates that Native people, prior to colonization, believed in the existence of cross-gender roles, the male-female, the female-male, what we now call the two-spirited person.”[1]

But as a transgender American of European descent, I felt uncomfortable calling myself by that term. Too much guilt, I suppose, over co-opting yet another Native American concept by the white man. So while I continued to try to understand the concept, I decided there was no legitimate way I could apply the term to myself.

But recent genealogical research turned up an interesting fact: when my ancestors emigrated to Newfoundland, at some point they intermarried with the Mi’kmaq (a Canadian First Nations Algonquian tribe).

This was a game-changing discovery. And while I still don’t know which branch of the family it was (the ones from Liverpool or the ones from Belfast), the fact is that I now feel entitled to call myself Two-Spirit.

So what does this mean in terms of my gender identity? For one thing, it merely supports what I have maintained for years, and what the latest sociological research bears out: gender is a spectrum. In my case, I identify as both male and female. To paraphrase an old advertising jingle, sometimes I feel like I’ve got nuts, sometimes I don’t.

For another–and more crucial thing–I no longer think I’m crazy when there are times when I identify as male, times when I am female, times when I am neither, and times when I am both.

“Our Elders tell us of people who were gifted among all beings because they carried two spirits, that of male and female. It is told that women engaged in tribal warfare and married other women, as there were men who married other men. These individuals were looked upon as a third and fourth gender in many cases and in almost all cultures they were honoured and revered. Two-spirit people were often the visionaries, the healers, the medicine people, the nannies of orphans, the care givers [2]. They were respected as fundamental components of our ancient culture and societies. This is our guiding force as well as our source of strength.” (Laframboise and Alhorn).

To make a long story short (if it isn’t too late), as a Two-Spirit I am a wanderer between worlds. As a man, as a woman, as neither and yet both, I have a unique insight on what Joni Mitchell one sang: “I’ve looked at life from both sides now.” Two-Spirits see life from both sides. As such it is time to reclaim our rightful place in society, as healers, dreamers, and peacemakers.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Who are the Native American Two Spirits?

Two-Spirit on (Gender Wiki)

Two-Spirit (Wikipedia)

SOURCES

[1] Laframboise, Sandra, and Michael Anhorn. “The Way of the Two Spirited People.” Dancing to Eagle Spirit Society. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Feb. 2015.

[2] Roscoe, Will. Living the Spirit: A Gay American Indian Anthology. New York: St. Martin’s, 1988. Print.