If It’s Good Enough for Obama, It’s Good Enough For Me: How I Chose To Resist

Gentle Readers,

You know I feel strongly about making the world a better place. You know that I am not in favor of our current POTUS. There are so many things he stands for that I find abhorrent. However, one person can only do so much, and I prefer to focus my efforts into things I can actually impact. I cannot do a damn thing about Russian interference. I cannot stop climate change. I cannot protect NAFTA. I cannot make them hold a hearing for Merrick Garland.

My advocacy must lay elsewhere if it is to have an impact

For advocacy to be most effective, it should focus on asking the right person to do or not do something specific that is within their power to do or not do. Unless your advocacy is more broadly about making a conversation happen. Changing narratives is important, but it cannot be the only thing done. I am glad that there are people staging protests and using their voices in that way, but it is not the route for me.

My tactics are different. I do not have much available time, and I must use it effectively.

I know that the election was decided by a very small margin of voters. I also know that many potential voters wanted to vote, but were disenfranchised. Either by someone’s intent, or through inability to secure the proper documentation. The very inability to secure the proper documentation is because of how we set up our system. I think it is intentional. Many countries automatically register everyone to vote, or use ink on a finger as proof that you’ve already voted, etc. Our system is not the only way, nor is it an effective way if you want more of the electorate to vote.

One of my many internships was working at a nonprofit that considered itself a homeless shelter without walls. We did not have beds for people, but we acted as a hub in that community to enable people to access the multiple services they all needed. Most of our clients had been through homelessness and many other complicating factors. To access services provided by the city and state, they needed to prove who they were. Many homeless individuals lose their birth certificates and other documentation because they are very far down in the hierarchy of needs.

Part of my job included contacting the office of vital records on a client’s behalf. I would fill out the paperwork and get our treasurer to write a check for ten dollars. None of our clients had ten dollars to spare for something that was not urgent for survival. Within seven to ten business days, that man would have a birth certificate. Then we would help him get an ID. Another process that can be hard for people to navigate. The forms can be confusing even if your language skills are more “advanced” than others. The forms also required patience and the ability to prove where you lived. Not always easy for someone. People who’ve been homeless don’t often have utilities in their name.

Without an ID, people cannot vote. As seen above, even without government agencies and officials intentionally disenfranchising people, ie felons and former felons in some jurisdictions, the processes to navigate having the paperwork can be impenetrable. If a person uses a mobility aid, and the bus system only comes by once an hour when it works properly, that person may not be able to make it to the DMV during the appointed time. Having nonprofits who can literally arrange transportation for people who do not have access to personal vehicles can literally be the difference between a citizen being allowed to vote in elections that impact their bus service and not being allowed to vote.

How I chose to resist

Knowing all this, I have followed President Obama’s lead and will focus my energies on voter enfranchisement work. He is a politician, and rightly focused on anti-gerrymandering work, but I don’t have the political knowledge or resources to impact these efforts. I know more about how government works than the average American, but not enough about the systems and processes and political machinations to be able to successfully work in that arena.

I don’t have the capacity to volunteer in a nonprofit at this time, but I do have the internet and the ability to research.

I looked at the states with the most voting restrictions. Then I narrowed that list to those states that had the closest elections in 2016. I chose to narrow in this manner because I do not have unlimited funds. If I were rich, I would have expanded my list and worked on all states with significant voting restrictions.

The states with the most voting restrictions that had the closest elections in 2016 were Florida, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.

I then searched for organizations in those states doing voter registration or anti-gerrymandering work. I found https://www.wisconsinvoices.org/, http://www.nonprofitvote.org/, and http://www.blueprintnc.org/. All of these organizations are focused on nonpartisan civic engagement.

If the organization I interned at still existed, I would love to donate to an organization like that. Especially if they allowed me to direct it to enfranchisement efforts.

This is the concrete action I have chosen to take. It is okay if you have chosen something else. I just needed a discrete problem to focus on because of how my brain works. I cannot solve all problems. I know advocacy works. I saw it when all of the phone calls, town halls, letters to Congress and berating our Legislators resulted in the Affordable Care Act living to see another day.

I cannot do everything, but I can do this one thing.

How do you engage in resistance? Do you have a nonprofit you wished I more folks donated to?

 

Ways To Be An Ally

Gentle Readers,

You know that the LGBT community has suffered an incredible loss in the past week. We are grieving. Each in our way. We know that other people are grieving, too, but that some allies are afraid they’ll somehow mourn incorrectly. You can not mourn human life incorrectly unless you harm someone. I was asked to write what allies can do. This is my attempt.

There are many correlations between LGBT communities and the Financial Freedom community. We are all non-conformists who question everything. I hope that more FIRE folks can question things outside of financial decisions.

Be careful with your words. 

To me, this is the most important advice in all realms. If we are mindful with our language and thoughts, we’ll have been careful with other peoples’ hearts and lives. We will make fewer assumptions.

  1. Stop assuming that people are straight and cisgender. There are so many ways to be and you assuming otherwise often means that your friends do not feel comfortable telling you about their real life. One easy fix is changing your check-in language to “Are you seeing anyone? What are they like?” No gender was assumed. And you just might find out about his hot new boyfriend.
  2. Believe LGBTQ people when we tell you what our worlds are like. Especially when our world sounds alien to you. If we tell you that we have a gender outside of the binary, use google to look up the definitions. Here’s a primer available for free. Don’t ask us to explain the intersections of our lives to you. Learn from other allies and google. There are numerous nonprofits and university sources available for free online happy to explain things. It can be exhausting for us to explain the terms to you, because you have so many levels of learning to do. Do that with non-impacted folks.
  3. Ask us how we are doing during this trying time. So many of our families have rejected us, and maybe we need to know that you are thinking of us. We may not feel like talking, but your support will be appreciated.
  4. Stop insulting men by comparing them to women. So much of homophobia is wrapped up in idea that gay men are insufficiently masculine and gay women are insufficiently feminine. So much of homophobia is rooted in a hatred of things deemed feminine. I read a piece recently where a blogger said that the worst thing that could happen would be a for a girl to beat him in a race. Imagine what it is like for girls to know that men feel this way. Do better. Consider women to be people – worthy of being in competition with.
  5. Stop telling children to “man up.” Allow all children the freedom to express the full range of human emotions. Don’t tell them that crying is for girls or sissies. Crying is for humans. Joy is for humans.
  6. Stop devaluing femininity.
  7. Stop worrying about who is in the bathroom stall near you. People just want to pee. Get the hell over it.
  8. Learn about “toxic masculinity.” So much of violence in our society is rooted in the ideas about what a man is owed, whether respect, access to sex, access to money, or something else. You know before the headline is finished that the killer is a man 98% of the time. This statistic has stayed the same throughout most of history. This is revelatory. Something about how we raise and treat men causes some men to be very bad in ways that very few women are. We must begin to understand this. We must begin to change this.
  9. Learn about the link between toxic masculinity and domestic violence, and domestic terrorism, and mass shootings.
  10. Read female writers.  Read queer writers. Read “Exile & Pride.” Read writers who are different from you. Try to begin learning what assumptions underlie your life.
  11. Learn about other communities in the US.
    1. Stop mocking the South. All of the US has issues and it is lazy thinking to scape-goat an area of the country. Stop.
    2. Stop referring to “Fly over” states. Learn their names. Learn their value to the US. Learn their cultures.
    3. Stop assuming that LGBT people are safe in cities or safe in gay meccas. We are not. 75% of hate crimes in most cities are against LGBT people.
    4. Learn about other people’s religions.
    5. Learn about other people’s sexualities and gender identities.
  12. Know that you cannot remove queers from the world. We have been part of the environment since the dawn of man. Learn to live with us.
  13. Stop accepting hateful rhetoric against queer folk. Literally, stop listening when someone is telling lies about us. Tell them why you are stopping. Be “rude” in confronting them. Stand up against your people so that maybe they do not kill my people, maybe they’ll stop writing laws against my people, and maybe they’ll let us live.
  14. Don’t take personal offense if an LGBTQ person does not want your prayer – so many of your religions have been used to bludgeon us. At times, to death. If you are praying to comfort us, you may want to consider our actual experiences with people using praying as a weapon to “pray the gay away” and how it would make you feel if strangers prayed about the way you experienced sex and intimacy.
  15. Stop attending homophobic movies and churches. Seriously. Don’t support things with your time and heart and money that tear other groups down.
  16. Learn about LGBTQ history. Learn about the cases that told us that we were perverted. Read about Alan Turing and all the other queer inventors and historical figures who were tortured by their countries. Learn about how the US government responded to HIV when it was a “gay disease” – they literally left us to die. Learn about laws that precluded us from adopting children. Learn that even today 40% of homeless youth are homeless because their straight parents rejected them for being LGBT.
  17. Fight back against the rhetoric rising against Latinx folks in this country. It is significant that this US citizen attacked an LGBT club on Latin night. Rhetoric leads to hatred. Hatred with access to guns can lead to mass-murder. Demonizing a group of people will not help you, and can lead to their deaths and suffering.
  18. Stop assuming that your choices are natural. Your choices are constrained by your assumptions. Every human feels normal. Every human chooses differently. It is not normal to be straight, it is just common.
  19. Please call your governors and representatives and tell them that you believe in worker protections for LGBT people – we can literally be fired just for being gay in over half of these United States.

Our hurts are deep and complicated. The most important thing to remember is that we can treat one another with dignity. There is enough dignity to go around.

Pulse was created by a sister who loved her brother and wanted to honor him after his death from HIV. That is radical love. She took her sorrow and served a community in love out of it. Use your sorrow for good when you can.

There is a gofundme to help the victims of this horrific attack, if you can, please join me in supporting them monetarily. https://www.gofundme.com/pulsevictimsfund

In solidarity,

ZJ