Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Out on the Streets: Queer and Homeless

There's a question to be asked, there's a reason why the question should be asked and there's a setting within which the question can/should be posed.

First, the setting:

In order to stay contemporary and rather transnational, let's put a big banner that says "same-sex marriage" as a backdrop that will stage the question. I say same-sex marriage because the latter seems to be a global phenomenon in constant expansion, with a new country hitting the headlines every week: This week, it's Great Britain attempting to lift the ban on same-sex marriages. (More details available here.) Same-sex marriage and its legalization or non-legalization is not my concern here. Rather, what I am interested in is: What allows us to make a claim for same-sex marriages? What are the factors and processes that make the "us" that are claiming "our" rights?

I am tempted to say that as a citizen of X country, I make a claim to be treated equally as any other citizen in that X country. Similarly for the Y citizen in Y country. So, I need to "belong" to a country to be able to claim a right in that country as a citizen; there's a relationship between the subject "me" and the bigger legal/geographical/economic etc. structure called "the State."

The next point to keep in mind is that I claim my right not as Ms A or Mr B, but as part of a community that suffers the same injustices as I do. Let's be real and let's face the truth as it is: I cannot claim a right, I cannot change a form of injustice, I cannot alter the constitution solely and only on my own behalf. There is nothing that makes me more special that my other millions of fellow-citizens. As a consequence, a group of people who feel oppressed in the same way, who feel they all need to be granted rights in the same way (here the right to same-sex marriage) speak out and enter what can loosely be called a "social movement" in the hope of affecting the desired change.

Thus, to go back to the setting, Ms A and Mr B ask for their rights to marry whomever they want on the grounds that they are citizens of a X country (so they can change the law in X country) and on the grounds that they belong to a community of people who are all discriminated against in the same way.

And now the question:

If we have established that "we" fight for "our" rights to marry people of the same-sex as part of a community that we call LGBT or Queer, we are demanding that our rights be granted at two levels: 1- as citizens and 2- as queer/lgbt.

So my question is the following: If we are benefiting/will benefit of certain privileges that will allow us to have a better life and fulfil our desires as part of a community, isn't it also our duty to make sure we work for the betterment of others in the same community under whose aegis we are demanding our rights? Isn't it our duty to give back what is being given to us?

The reason why the question is being asked:

I just read this article from the Wisconsin Gazette and as I went on doing more research, looking for more census figures etc., I was appalled to learn that in the major North-American cities, 20-40 % of the homeless youth declare being part of the LGBT community. Besides the article from the Wisconsin Gazette states that homeless LGBT youth experience a higher rate of sexual violence than their heterosexual peers.

And this is why I question this notion of the "community." How far, how much do the members of the "community" really support each other?...

From the article:

"As a student at Nicolet High School, Kevin never fit in. An African-American who likes to wear a little make-up, he endured constant teasing and bullying. Eventually he transferred to The Alliance School, which helps students who are not succeeding in traditional schools due to harassment.

But when Kevin’s mother discovered he’s gay, she threw him out of the house. Determined to earn a diploma, he camped out on the streets near the Alliance campus and continued attending classes until he graduated. Last fall, an older gay man gave him a place to live in
exchange for sex..."

Read more here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

There's Nothing Gay About Marriages [a small rant]

I am tired of them all calling it "gay marriage." What's so "gay" about marriage anyway? If there's a celebration, a party, good wine, beautiful dresses, alcohol and cake, we could call it a happy event indeed, but is that what they mean by gay marriage? As from now on, shall we make an effort and call it for what it is: same-sex marriage?

As I got irritated about gay marriage (a.k.a. homonormative male wedding-- yucks!) I went to dig into a book I had read over a year ago. Here's what Ruth Vanita says in her book Love's Rite:

"Commitment between two persons of the same sex is not inherently different from commitment between persons of different sexes. "Gay marriage" is a misnomer. A marriage is not gay (though the two persons may define themselves as gay). Being gay is just one dimension of a person, and marriage encompasses the whole person. (...) When people claim their right to marry, their sex or sexuality is not intrinsic to that right, although social prejudice makes it appear so."

-- Ruth Vanita in Love's Rite: Same-Sex Marriage in India and the West (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005: 2)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

France: Transsexuality No Longer a Psychiatric Condition [queer news highlight]

As it had been announced by the French Health Minister, Roselyne Bachelot back on the 16th of May 2009 (on the occasion of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia-- a day prominently marked in France), France would remove transsexuality from its list of psychiatric conditions. An official statement was released on the 10th of February 2010 announcing that France had formally withdrawn transsexuality from its list of "long-term psychiatric diseases."

Joël Bedos, French representative of IDAHO (International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia) congratulated France on being the first country to remove transsexuality from its list of mental pathologies. The cost of health care for transitioning will still be taken care of by the government.

Link to IDAHO site: Click here.
Sources from the French newspapers Le Monde and Liberation: Click here, here and here.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

"In fact, there is nothing simple about Mauritian identity."

I am reading this book by Miriam Pirbhai who is a Professor of English and Film Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University. The book (link here) is called Mythologies of Migration, Vocabularies of Indenture (University of Toronto Press, 2009), and it reached my mailbox yesterday morning and I've had my nose deep in it since the moment I opened it. And as I read about my own island, my own history, my own ancestry, as I let a ghost take possession of me and I get taken back to my native island-- where I spent the first 18 years of my life-- in the Indian Ocean, I come across this line:

"In fact, there is nothing simple about Mauritian identity." (Page 45)

I laughed out loud... I laughed and laughed thinking it was the most amusing line I ever read. And then, I cried, a bit, too. Indeed, there is nothing simple about Mauritian identity.