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An essay everyone should read

This is a brilliantly written essay which was presented as a talk at The Floating World conference in August of this year by Andrea Zanin. It takes a lot of the standard accepted ways of talking about non-traditional forms of identity and sexual practice and strips them of their veneers. It’s quite a refreshing view of the reality of the ways that humans operate, and the damage done to the various non-traditional communities by couching activities and proclivities in terms that make them more palatable to mainstream culture.

Most relevant to the central topics of this blog, is the author’s skewering of the notion that non-heterosexuals are just like heterosexuals: the cookie cutter concept that same-sex relationships are a simple matter of taking the nuclear family and switching out one of the parents for a different gender. It is an idea that more people need to understand, and one that I have heard or read few people expressing. Zanin really gets that it’s not that simple, and more importantly, that it’s politically imperative not to SAY that it is. Queerness throws a wrench into gender hegemony, which is one of the primary reasons that non-queers find it threatening. The terms of fear are redefined and described in all kinds of other excuses, including the often-stated religious ones, but at the heart of all of it is the deep fear of upsetting the apple cart of gender roles.

excerpted from the essay:

“Any strategy that tries to pretend we’re all alike is a strategy that only works in a vacuum, and ignores all the many issues that we face, as queers, which make our lives and our experience extremely different from the rest of the world. I come from Canada, where same-sex marriage has been a fact of life for several years now, and you know what? It didn’t solve all our problems. It just made certain privileges easier to access for people who generally had a lot of privilege in the first place.

Kids still show up at the queer street youth drop-in that my boy runs because they’ve been kicked out of their homes for being queer or trans or both. Doctors are still under-educated about some of our most basic sexual practices and the risks they may or may not include, like, say, cunnilingus. Queers, alongside many other groups with legitimate political agendas, are still brutally assaulted by cops and jailed for peacefully protesting, as we saw in the recent G20 mess in Toronto which featured the country’s largest mass arrest in decades. Our health is still affected by the strain of living in a homophobic world, with queer people facing much higher rates of smoking, depression and other issues. Written words and images that depict our sexualities are still censored, underfunded and suppressed. We’re still harassed at work and bashed on the streets.”

Read the rest of the essay: “it’s not about sex” and other lies.

Posted in Socio-politics.

One Response

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  1. Lucas says

    chingona,I should have been clerear I don’t mean that the provision of the Civil Rights Act was precisely analogous, only that we have a pretty long-standing history of giving exemptions to religious institutions. Also, Sec. 702 is not as narrow as it may seem; it was amended for clarification in 1972, and this removed the word religious before activities. See Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints v. Amos, 483 U.S. 327 (1987). The case involved a maintenance employee of a Mormon church affiliated gymnasium in Salt Lake City, Utah, who was fired because he failed to comply with the church’s standards regarding church attendance, tithing, and abstinence from coffee, tea, alcohol, and tobacco. The employee sued the church, alleging that his dismissal violated the ban on religious discrimination in employment decisions contained in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The church asserted that the exception contained in section 702 of the Act permitted it to discriminate in any employment decision on the basis of religion. The employee countered by claiming that the exception violated the first amendment’s ban on the establishment of a religion. A federal district court agreed with the employee, and ordered the employee reinstated with back pay. The church appealed directly to the Supreme Court.The Supreme Court began its opinion by emphasizing that “there is ample room under the establishment clause for benevolent neutrality which will permit religious exercise to exist without sponsorship and without interference.” It evaluated the constitutionality of the section 702 exemption on the basis of a three part test it devised in 1971. Under this test, a law challenged on the basis of the nonestablishment of religion clause is permissible only if it satisfies three requirements—(1) it has a clearly secular purpose, (2) its primary effect is neither the advancement nor the inhibition of religion, and (3) it does not result in an excessive entanglement between church and state.10 The Court concluded that “the exemption involved here is in no way questionable” under the three part test. The section 702 exemption met the first part of the test since “under the Lemon analysis, it is a permissible legislative purpose to alleviate significant governmental interference with the ability of religious organizations to define and carry out their religious missions.”In concluding that the section 702 exemption met the second part of the test, the Court observed that undoubtedly, religious organizations are better able now to advance their purposes than they were prior to the 1972 amendment to section 702. But religious groups have been better able to advance their purposes on account of many laws that have passed constitutional muster: for example, the property tax exemption . . . . A law is not unconstitutional simply because it allows churches to advance religion, which is their very purpose. For a law to [have the primary effect of advancing religion] it must be fair to say that the government itself has advanced religion through its own activities and influence. The Court also concluded that the section 702 exemption did not result in an excessive entanglement between church and state. On the contrary, “the statute effectuates a more complete separation of the two and avoids . . . intrusive inquiry into religious belief . . . .”In responding to the dismissed employee’s claim that section 702 provided adequate protection to religious employers prior to its amendment in 1972, the Court observed: [The dismissed employee argues] that . . . section 702 provided adequate protection for religious employers prior to the 1972 amendment, when it exempted only the religious activities of such employers from the statutory ban on religious discrimination. We may assume for the sake of argument that the pre 1972 exemption was adequate in the sense that the free exercise [of religion] clause required no more. Nonetheless, it is a significant burden on a religious organization to require it, on pain of substantial liability, to predict which of its activities a secular court will consider religious. The line is hardly a bright one, and an organization might understandably be concerned that a judge would not understand its religious tenets and sense of mission. Fear of potential liability might affect the way an organization carried out what it understood to be its religious mission.

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