Archive for the ‘Civics’ Category

Words

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Note: The following is a brief post about slurs, and hence might contain triggers.

Some time in late high school or early college, I started to correct my friends whenever they used the word “gypped.” In most cases it wasn’t a confrontational correction, because–like with so many other casual slurs–they had no idea what it really meant. I’d say something like, “Did you know that word comes from the word ‘gypsy’?” Usually that was more than enough. They’d be horrified, they’d tell their friends, and within a couple of years I stopped hearing the word in any of our circles.

Generally speaking, I have good taste in friends. They’re good people. They just didn’t know.

Here’s something I didn’t know until last year.

“Gypsy” itself, is a slur. It’s been used for centuries to run Romani people out of villages, towns, cities, countries. It’s been used to deny employment or to justify slavery. The Romani have been victims of lynching and concentration camps, of hatred and erasure.

You might be tempted to tell yourself, “But that’s overseas. Here in America ‘Gypsy’ has a completely different connotation.”

No. Not really. In part because many Romani who survived the Holocaust moved here, and many survive to this day. They have children and those children feel the pain of their parents and grandparents acutely, so that connotation hasn’t disappeared, nor should it. Remembering that something happened is the first step in making sure it doesn’t happen again. Plus America has its own set of stereotypes, as well as its own history of enslaving Romani people.

A short, but by no means encompassing, list below:

  • Gypsies are thieves/charlatans who will rip you off if you let them.
  • Gypsies are fortune tellers.
  • Gypsy women are whores.
  • Gypsy men are killers.
  • They have the power to curse people.
  • They all love to dance and play tambourines and wear bandanas.
  • They’re hypersexual and hot tempered.
  • They’re all homeless and at best travel in roaming caravans criss-crossing the country.

But… But… I have Romani friends and they *self-identity* as Gypsy!

And that’s their choice. The people within a marginalized group can choose to reclaim a word used to shame and hurt them in an effort to turn it into a positive. However, it’s almost never okay for people outside that group to use the word to identify said group.

But the DICTIONARY says–

Stop. Just stop. Many dictionaries still list a definition of “nigger” as a snag or hindrance.* I dare you to use that term around me and try to use that definition to defend yourself. Pro-tip: You won’t have a chance, because I’ll already have blocked you.

So, yeah. “Gypsy” is not a good word. And I used it a lot.

I used it in the first edition of Want Me. Joel often calls Walker a “gypsy” because Walker is a wanderer (see dictionary excuse above). I didn’t think anything of it because I have American-Romani friends who self-identify as Gypsy (see friends excuse above). But since then, I’ve come across several articles** and firsthand accounts written by people who were pained by the term. They were emotional, and true, and hard to read. And if they were hard to read, I knew I had no concept of how painful it was to live that reality.

Honestly speaking, I don’t care about offending people. I do, however, care very much about hurting them.

When it came time to edit the second edition of Want Me, I took it as a second chance and made some changes. The story still starts with Joel using that word, but as his world gets bigger and deeper he–as he does with so many other things–matures out of it in a way that I think is believable and organic. I was glad to have the opportunity to make those changes, to have a chance to mature with him.

To anyone who was hurt reading the way the word was used in the first edition, I apologize. Full stop.

______
* A few of those articles:

** To be fair, Dictionary.com (from which I paraphrased this particular definition) tries fairly hard to explain that it is a slur, is offensive, and should not be used. And although I disagree with some of the things in its usage note, “Gypsy” doesn’t even get that treatment.

The Ali Forney Center

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

The Ali Forney Center for Homeless LGBT Youth was hit hard by hurricane Sandy. Their Chelsea drop-in center in particular was flooded, destroying their supplies as well as the space itself. The AFC provides shelter, food, support, and medical care to kids in distress. In other words, they’re good people, and they could use a little help.

To learn more and donate, please visit the organization’s website: http://www.aliforneycenter.org.

A Breath of Fresh Air

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

When I was in college, I met a guy who we’ll call Mike. Oddly enough, most of my friends from that era would end up coming out in one form or another after graduation, which brings up interesting questions on how we’d come together as a group in the first place. But Mike was my first friend who was out before I even met him.

At first, he was a friend of a friend. But we’d talk, and it was cool. I didn’t yet have a word for how I identified, and being around him was a breath of fresh air for reasons I wouldn’t understand until years later.

My college had a movie night. It was a very small, rural town and the two big weekly events for students were movies on Wednesdays and dancing on Saturdays. Most of us would go and catch a movie every. single. week. This particular time was no different. I went with my usual group of friends, which now included Mike because he was a friend of a friend. I don’t remember what was playing. I only remember that one of the main characters was gay.

And there’s a reason I remember that detail and nothing else.

Five minutes into the movie, there were snickers all through the theater. Five minutes after that, I started hearing things like “Oh, he’s totally a friend of Dorothy’s,” and “He’s light on his toes,” and “What a cake walker.” I frowned, wondering what the hell they were talking about. I’d lived overseas most of my life, and at that point I wasn’t at all familiar with the vast array of slurs that existed in the guise of almost-normal sentences in America*. But then words like “fag” began to filter through and I started to get the context.

I glanced at Mike, who somehow in the seating shuffle had ended up next to me. His jaw was tight, every muscle in his body had gone rigid. He kept his gaze locked on that movie screen.

I had no idea what to do. At nineteen, who does?

So I did the only thing I could think of. I leaned close to him and asked if he wanted to go outside.

His whole body slumped against the seat. He took a deep, shuddering breath and nodded. Without another word, we got up and walked out of the theater.

Once outdoors, we wandered aimlessly for a while. Quiet. Listening to fall leaves rustling on the wind. He apologized for ruining my night. I said I liked being there with him better and it was the jerks in the theater that had ruined the movie. He apologized again. I asked why because I was dense like that back then. He smiled and started to talk about other things. I listened.

That’s all we did. I don’t know how long we were out there—for damned sure past the length of the movie. And somewhere over the course of the night we went from being two people with a friend in common to actual friends.

A while back, Anderson Cooper did a special on bullying. It turns out, as much as bullying often induces a complex mob mentality within groups, intervening is just as contagious. All it takes is one intervener to get the ball rolling. A person witnesses the intervention, learns from it, and steps in when a similar situation pops up. More people witness, more people intervene. Even in the case of the person being bullied—if someone intervenes on their behalf, that person is much more likely to become an intervener as a result, developing a sense of empowerment that not only makes them want to change their own situation, but everyone else’s situations as well.

That is amazing for so many reasons. It’s also amazing because almost every bully interviewed in that special admitted to being bullied at some point in their lives, sometimes continuously. We repeat the behaviors we’re taught, and we go to great lengths to survive the culture we are in. Intervening not only helps victims, it changes society by creating a culture where the goal is not to survive, but to thrive.

Often it doesn’t take much. A word. A hand. A little quiet attention. It doesn’t matter so much what you do, as much that you do something that diverges from the tactics that bullies use.

Today is the International Day Against Homophobia. It makes me think about that night at the movie theater so many years ago, and how stepping out into the open air changed two people. It makes me think about how utterly terrified I was to come out to my own family and friends, then again to my readers. Both those times, I thought about Mike, who often told me his horror stories, but also shared how he loved and how he was loved, and how—even beyond that—he loved himself. I took a deep breath. And it was better.

That’s the power of intervention. It doesn’t always succeed, but it always, always makes a difference. So be an intervener. Change the world in big and little and amazing ways. Start today. Make things better now.

Listen. Tell your own stories. When something happens to your friend (or someone who could use a friend), speak up, step in. Give them a safe space. A breath of fresh air.


*I’m not saying other countries don’t have the same sorts of slurs. I grew up a military brat, so while I lived overseas, I wasn’t immersed in those cultures because I lived on base. At the same time, I was far away from the States and didn’t experience American culture as many Americans might experience it. An odd little bubble that wasn’t without bullies, but had its own culture and vocabulary.


I’d very much like to hear your stories and experiences on both acceptance and non-acceptance, so please feel free to comment below.



Hop Against HomophobiaThis post is a part of the Hop Against Homophobia. Click here to see what many other writers are sharing on the subject. I’m also giving away a copy of Want Me in a drawing open to anyone eighteen years and older. To enter, send an email with “hop” in the subject to mcbride_rowan@yahoo.com (mcbride_rowan at yahoo dot com) with your name and snail mail addy in the body. Drawing closes at 11:59PM CST on May 20th, and the winner will be notified via email the morning of the 21st. The winner’s initials will also be posted on this blog that day.International Day Against Homophobia

Sending Relief to Japan

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Yaoi-Con is auctioning off some amazing stuff, and all proceeds will go to the relief effort in Japan. More information can be found on their main site, while the actual auction is at http://ycon-auction.livejournal.com/. I’ve already put down a bid on a Vash and Wolfwood poster.

If you’d like to donate money through more traditional channels, click here for six ways more ways to help the victims of the earthquake/tsunami.

Also, prayers appreciated for my best friend’s mother. We haven’t been able to contact her yet.

How to Help Haiti

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

I got the link via Mrs. Giggles’s blog. It’s a list of reputable places to donate:

http://www.care2.com/causes/human-rights/blog/how-to-help-haiti/

Amazon Fail update

Monday, April 13th, 2009

While it’s still not clear exactly *what* happened (and is still happening to varying degrees) with the massive #amazonfail, many books are once again searchable on the front page. Want Me is once again searchable and–I must say–those of you who tagged the novel “amazonfail” absolutely rock socks. The story is still not ranked, however, which does severely limit the chances of people not specifically looking for *me* of finding it.

Below is what I know of the debacle to date. I’m operating on less sleep than usual, so the events listed may be somewhat out of order.

  • Sunday, the only thing Amazon would tell anyone was that it was a “glitch.” This led to a new hashtag on Twitter called #glitchmyass
  • A livejournal user comes up with a more plausible explanation than “glitch,” but doesn’t quite explain the memos some people received days and even months ago regarding the “adult material” policy.
  • Dear Author explains why rankings on Amazon are important.
  • Someone takes responsibility for hacking Amazon. A few more people follow suit. The code posted is apparently debunked.
  • People all over the interwebs hold their breaths as Monday rolls around, waiting for Amazon’s official statement. None seems forthcoming, which just adds to the Fail.
  • Erastes compiles an excellent list of #amazonfail articles.
  • Quietly, some de-listed books get returned to the lists, but still no official word.
  • The silence with which the books can come and go makes this article even more scary
  • Not a glitch! from feministing.com
  • Dear Author finds some interesting patterns in Amazon’s metadata
  • Someone says that someone says that someone at Amazon blamed some employee in France for making a programming error. This sparks a #FranceMyAss hashtag on Twitter.
  • Patrick at Making Light proposes another plausible explanation that unfortunately still ends in #amazonfail. After all, why would “gay” & “lesbian” get caught up in such an algorithm but things like “bestiality” slide right on by?
  • Amazon finally speaks up. France is actually mentioned. (So is the word “hamfisted” which surprisingly does not hit the top ten trending topics list on Twitter.) Apparently, in France “adult” translates to “porn” and the changes made over there affected the global system. This sounds somewhat plausible until you start wondering how the hell “porn” OR “adult” would auto-affect “gay,” “lesbian,” and “transgender” works.

So that’s the situation as I know it so far. Hope it helps.


UPDATE 4/14/09, 12:30AM CST — It seems that Want Me once again has an Amazon ranking. 🙂

UPDATE 4/15/09 — Looks like books are finally being re-listed on Amazon UK. As far as I can tell, still no real explanation (or apology) from Amazon, so the situation continues to = #amazonfail.

Dear Author explains that while things might seem normal now, they’ll probably never be the same: http://tinyurl.com/df8fzx.

Also, there is quite an amusing #amazonfail song on YouTube now: http://tinyurl.com/dea69y.

Amazon Fail

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

I don’t know what the hell Amazon.com is thinking these days. I come home from a very nice Easter service to find all of my portals to the internet on *fire* with their latest insanity. Twitter, in particular. The number one trending topic there is actually called #amazonfail.

A few days ago, people have been noticing that the Amazon sales rankings on certain books were mysteriously missing. Most assumed it was just some sort of tech glitch. Now, as I understand it, YA author Mark Prosbt inquired and got the following response:

In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude “adult” material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.

Hence, if you have further questions, kindly write back to us.

Best regards,

Ashlyn D
Member Services
Amazon.com Advantage

Which is when everything hit the fan.

The level of wrong in all of this is wicked hard for me to articulate. The idea that I’m being “shielded” from “adult” material when I have no wish to be because I am, after all, an adult. The fact that Amazon has shown NO consistency in choosing which materials fall into that category and which don’t. And the awfully convenient sweep of GLBTQ titles underneath the virtual carpet, regardless of whether they contain sexual content or not.

I can no longer find Want Me by searching on Amazon’s front page. A friend in Florida could earlier this afternoon, but in my experience this just means the change hasn’t filtered through all the servers yet. You can find the book by searching in the Books section, but who knows how long that will last. You might be able to find it by browsing lists and or search terms in the Books section, but I haven’t been able to yet.

But, like I said, it’s not just sexually explicit material suddenly deemed too adult for the average consumer. A glance at http://twitter.com/timeline/home#search?q=%23amazonfail at any given second reveals more stunned people listing books that have essentially been blacklisted. Non-fiction books about lesbian pregancy. A guide for parents on preventing teen suicide. The list gets longer and more bizarre by the hour, and Meta Writer is actually trying to keep track of it here: http://community.livejournal.com/meta_writer/11992.html?thread=220376#t220376.

The book on preventing teen suicide broke my heart. Then I found out that a parents’ guide to preventing teen HOMOSEXUALITY is alive and well in the search/sales rankings and I got physically ill.

I’m still feeling sick to my stomach, so we’re moving on to the “what can we do” phase of this blog because I need a way to channel this.

  1. Sign the petition protesting Amazon’s new “Adult” policy. It started at out zero this morning and is now clocking in at over 2500 signatures.
  2. If you’re in the U.S., call Amazon’s customer service number at 1-800-201-7575. They’ve currently been flooded with so many calls that they’ve requested email complaints only, but still make a call and then:
  3. Email Amazon customer service. This page (http://copperbadge.livejournal.com/2742329.html) gives an excellent guide on how to do it if you find yourself daunted, or–like me–you were too pissed to think coherently. Also, you can complain directly through your Amazon account.
  4. The Smart Bitches have set a most excellent Google bomb. All you have to do is LINK TO http://www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com/amazonrank with “Amazon Rank” as the anchor text. The link should look like this:

    Amazon Rank

If you have more ideas, I’m open to hear them. And if you’d like to learn more about the Fail, check out these sites:

http://copperbadge.livejournal.com/2742329.html

http://community.livejournal.com/meta_writer/11369.html

http://dearauthor.com/wordpress/2009/04/12/amazon-censors-its-rankings-search-results-to-protect-us-against-glbt-books/

http://booksquare.com/open-letter-to-amazon-regarding-recent-policy-changes/

http://www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com/index.php/weblog/comments/amazon-rank/

Fight Hate Crimes

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

Note: This blog was originally published on my MySpace blog, July 4, 2007.




The Matthew Shepard Act will be coming to a vote in the Senate soon. If the bill is passed, it will give the Department of Legislation necessary tools to fight hate motivated crimes that are rooted in the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. Right now, the law only includes race, color, religion or national origin.

Hate is hate, and everyone should have equal protection under the law. It’s in the Constitution, and it’s appalling that we need additional legislation like this to help keep GLBTQ individuals safe.

The bill has strong opposition, and they’re vocal. I believe that the majority of Americans are good, caring people. I have to believe that. So we have to be vocal too.
Go to http://www.hrcactioncenter.org/campaign/fighthate_video, write your senator, and be heard.


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