Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Old Lesbian in a New Age.

Old Woman in Marble
I consider myself old. Not elderly, aged or older. Old. No euphemisms. In my retirement support group, the women, who are 55 years old and up, do not like to hear me say that word about myself. To them, a sixty-five year old is just a junior senior. Maybe it's because my mother died at 48 and my grandmother at around 67 (she wasn't sure of her birth year) so I didn't see many female family members grow really old.

What does it mean to be old? In this culture, it's pretty grim. I notice that I have become invisible to many folks. My lesbian identity, even relative butchness has been lost to generic old lady-ness which I don't want any part of. I've become a piece that no longer fits, even in the world of outcasts. I can't be a grandmother because I was never a mother. When younger people compare some trait of mine to an incidental fact about their mom or grandma, I know the what is happening. The word is prejudice. It means the categorical stereotyping of a singular, unique individual.

Having said that, generational differences do exist because of the circumstances and climate in which we were raised. I think of this as "frame of reference." The loss of commonality between folks of different eras is massive, just like it was between the baby boom generation and those who came of age during World War II. The issues and crises we experience shape who we are and the way we perceive the world. Before the internet, before answering machines, there were only three channels on television. We had phone trees to get in touch with others for political activism and you just keep calling I reached someone. Communication was a challenge.

So, it should be better now that it's easier, right? That sounds logical but something personal has fallen between the cracks. Staring at screens and talking to robots all day is quite alienating. Younger people have nothing with which to compare it. As far as what to watch or listen to or do there are so many choices that there is little common culture. A time of shared media is hard to fathom today. We were familiar with the same actors, singers, comedians, even the ones we hated. And yes, many folks were not represented at all. Queer, straight, black, female we all made due with one size fits all and it fit none of the folks I felt connected with.

Now, there is so much choice and variety as to what we read, watch, incorporate into our lives. Of course it's better but, for old codgers, it's overwhelming. I don't watch Saturday Night Live anymore, partially because I don't want to stay up that late, but also because I don't know most of the references to "famous" people. There are a couple generations of actors and singers I've never heard of. And frankly, since my Random Access Memory is pretty full and can't be upgraded, I don't really care.

When I was young, I thought the main issues with aging involved had to do with wrinkles and flab. I didn't seriously consider health the main area where loss happens. That view seems so short-sighted. Personally, four people I've known through various stages of my life have died in the last six months. Now with the internet and Facebook the upside is that I have contact with more people. The downside is that I now experience more sickness and death.

I feel very conscious of impermanence now. I am literally on deadline. Suddenly, I am confronted with a massive amount of work that still needs doing. At least, as a worse case scenario, I can rest assured I will not die young. I look forward to working with folks of all ages and hope that they are ready and willing to see beyond stereotypes and platitudes to work with me. So let's get going. Take my word for it, life is a lot shorter than you think.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Trolling From the Left

Intimidation and name calling online on social media sites and platforms has become commonplace. In virtual as opposed to actual, contact you don't need to know anything about them in order to insult them. The fact is, the less you know about your adversary, the better.

Unfortunately, it is not only the extreme right that is willing to perceive huge swaths of the population as the enemy.  It seems like the us and them mentality fuels many folks on all sides of the proverbial aisle. This kind of thinking will divide our movement before it even has a chance to get off the ground.

I recently joined a group that has a presence both online and in the real world. Their stated goal is to fight fascism. Because I am not on Twitter, I have always felt immune to any form of trolling. My Facebook friends are great and while we sometimes have intense political discussions, we talk about opinions and don't stoop to personal attacks and name callinig. Because of that basic philosophy, I made the faulty assumption that this online group would adhere to the same guidelines, even though their number of members far exceeded my number of Facebook friends. And the more folks in a group, the higher the likelihood of trollers.

The first thing I posted was well-received, at first, anyway. It had a great historical photo of lesbians and was titled, "Lesbian spaces are still needed, no matter what the queer movement says," by Susan Cox. I linked to it so you can decide for yourself if t's offensive. It certainly was not my intention to offend. Au contraire, ma chere, I thought it was an valuable post for an ostensibly queer group.

I didn't overthink it or realize that the very idea of lesbian space is a controversial one. The first responses were positive. Then someone decided that the article was biased against transgender women and things devolved from there. Read the article yourself and decide if you think it's negative. I didn't see it. I re-read it. I still didn't see it. People began taking sides. Dissension was turning to anger. Young people referred to lesbian places, for example the Lex, that I'd never even heard of. I said I was just comparing it to the seventies and places that existed when I came out. It was now clear that I'm old. Condescension increased but I was still not completely discouraged.

But when people started calling me and others fascists and throwing about the term TERF, I withdrew from the discussion. I'd heard of surf n turf at restaurants, but I didn't even know what a TERF was. I assumed it had something to do with my age. But it didn't. It stands for Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist and is commonly used to attack lesbians who consider themselves a distinct group separated from the queer alphabet melange. Articles are proliferating because famous disappearing L from the title of  Bonnie Morris' new book about lesbian erasure. 

Whatever your individual opinions are on this, or other issues, trolling attacks are never appropriate. They are designed to silence individuals and groups who are perceived to embody the other side of the us vs them paradigm. This kind of attack is the same pile of crap whether perpetrated by the right or left. Trolling is not a political discussion. It is just hateful name-calling. The organized right wing will surely defeat us if we are abusing each other before Trump's presidency has begun. It's a self-defeating tactic that is destructive to our entire movement.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

"A Place Where There is No Darkness"

"We shall meet in a place where there is no darkness," is a quote from George Orwell's futuristic novel, "1984." Besides being a warning never to name a book after a year, it was a vision of a dystopia not totally unlike what we may be seeing today. "Freedom is slavery," "Ignorance is strength," seem Trumpian now. The place where there is no darkness, which all believe in a state beyond state repression, turns out to be a prison cell where the lights are never turned off.

Maybe I am being alarmist but it's better than passivity. I am inclined toward worse case scenarios perhaps because I'm a Jew. The fact that some Jews still exist is partially attributable to Darwinism.  We are descended from folks who, for whatever reason, foresight, or twist of fate got out before it was too late.

I have been running around to planning and brainstorming meetings of all stripes trying to find a place work from when the attacks start coming and, unless we can overturn this election, they will. Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare may be first on the chopping block if Tom Price is confirmed as head of Health and Human Services.

Many Trump voters, including Sarah, Russia from my backyard, Palin, are already regretting their presidential choice. Yes, we are a divided nation. Racial and gender identity politics without class analysis are a dead end but so are class politics that don't include an analysis of other types of oppression that compound socioeconomic struggle.

In 1993 I was a librarian at the San Francisco Chronicle when we all went on strike. There were Teamsters from the printing plant, reporters from the Newspaper Guild and some AFL-CIO members as well. We were picketing at a printing plant in Richmond when some of the Teamster guys started calling some outside strike-breakers crossing the picket line, "faggots." Later at a meeting we explained to them how, because many of us were gay (that was the word then before all the initials), that divides us. They got it.

Maybe the rural heartland Trumpers can get it too. Maybe not. We don't need to wait for realization to dawn. We need to organize and come together with whoever wants to fight back. Time to put up hurricane shutters and brace ourselves for the coming storm.