Monday, January 26, 2015

Irrational Fear

When you search "fear of Islam" on the internet, the first entry is a Wikipedia article entitled "Islamophobia." When you search "fear of Christianity," the first entry is a Yahoo Answers post from 2008 entitled "Fear of Christians...?" Now tell me. Do you see a problem here?

If someone tells me they're Christian (or any sect thereof), I get scared. My mind flashes to the Westboro Baptist Church's URL ( and images of white-hooded figures burning crosses. I have flashbacks to the movie Jesus Camp. Is that unfair? Maybe. But if someone tells me they're Muslim, I do not get scared. My initial association with Islam is not violence and hatred, it's my 6th grade social studies class, because we did a really long, extensive unit on Islam. And then I think of my friend's grandmother who converted to Islam. I like her. She's nice. And then I think of Zayn Malik, because he's Muslim. And I love Zayn Malik.

I have a lot of problems with the how people are reacting, and have reacted for many years, to jihadists and extremists by conflating their actions with the actions and ideologies and beliefs of all Muslims everywhere. If we're going to commit to fearing all members of the 2nd most practiced religion of the world, then we need to commit to fearing all members of the 1st most practiced religion of the world: Christianity. People have been fighting in the name of "God" and "Jesus" for years so they can get away with doing hateful shit. Whether you go to the Wikipedia entry,, or, the message is the same: the KKK aligns itself with Protestantism, and they do what they do because they claim it's "God's will." Same with the Westboro Baptist Church. They may not be directly affiliated with the Baptist Church, but they definitely use their "religion" as a crutch. I could list thousands of examples of organizations or people who attempt to color their bigotry as anything other than it is by using Christianity as their paintbrush.

Anyone will jump up immediately to say, "Not all Christians!" the same way they'd say "Not all men!" or "Not all cops!" Really? Are we playing that game? Okay, fine. Let's talk about how over the summer, the Supreme Court got rid of the 35-foot buffer zone between protestors and abortion clinic because they felt it directly attacked anti-abortion protestors. WHAT THE FUCK? Is being physically and verbally harassed on your way to doing something very personal THAT LITERALLY AFFECTS NO ONE ELSE not a direct attack? Let's think, what do most pro-lifers cite as their reason for believing abortions give you a one-way ticket to hell? It's Jesus. And what about the time that Rep. Todd Akin said, "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down"? He's Christian. Honestly, I don't even want to keep going with this list, I'm just going to get pissed off.

If we're going to keep defending racists, homophobes, murderers, rapists, and the like by saying not all men/cops/Christians/et cetera, then why the fuck are we not saying "Not all Muslims"? Because if any of those deserve to have a "not all" in front of it, it's Muslims. Because people of the Muslim faith do not actually pose a threat, it's a specific group of people within the much, much, much larger global Muslim community. Cisgender men have proven for centuries that they can and will take advantage of women. Of course not every single man is a rapist, but the way people born with penises are socialized and educated and treated, the way they are taught to be a MAN, is very much inclusive of misogyny, sexism, and the objectification of anyone who is not a cisgender man. Of course not all cops have killed people, but it is in their training and imbedded in our culture to kill those we don't like. Of course not all Christians hunt down Black people in their free time or stand outside abortion clinics throwing eggs or believe that being anything but cisgender and heterosexual is a sin, but it is part of modern Christianity to be taught these things. These ideas are drilled into people's heads by their families, by their churches, by mass media, by politicians, by almost everyone, because Christianity has its foot in every door Fearing things that have, historically, for decades, been hurting and targeting specific groups of people--that's rational. Those are real fears, with valid reasons. Fearing all brown-skinned people and all Muslims because there are a few groups of people that fit those descriptions that have unsound and harmful beliefs? That's racism, xenophobia, whatever name you wanna give it, I don't care. The bottom line is that it's fucked up and needs to stop.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

It's Not About the Guns

It was never about the guns. Before guns, there were crossbows and swords and spears and clubs and the force of the human body. Every one of them has the capacity to do the same thing: kill. It never mattered what weapon was used. Obviously some were more expedient and effective than others in completing the desired task, but the task would be completed regardless of the method. As the saying goes, guns don't kill people--people kill people.

The gun that shot Michael Brown is not responsible for his murder. The person whose wretched fingers curled around the trigger and pulled--he is responsible, and he alone. Well, if he didn't have a gun in the first place... Yes, this is true. If Darren Wilson was not in possession of firearms at the time (he was also carrying mace, but found an unarmed teenager too much of an imminent threat to his precious life to use something as harmless as mace), perhaps Michael would not have died by Wilson's gun shot that day. But if not then, it would have been a different time, place, and scenario. The next Darren Wilson wouldn't even use a gun. Just his own two arms. He would employ an illegal chokehold. The murderous hands would belong to Daniel Pantaleo, closing in around the neck of Eric Garner.

It was never about the weapon.

It should have at least been about the evidence. It should have at least been about the laws that are so often lauded by our government, praised as the pillars of our free country. It should have been about a fair trial. And an unbiased jury. It should have been about the truth. But it was not.

Even when the murder of Eric Garner was filmed, which is the closest we can get to witnessing something firsthand, it meant nothing. Not even when the chokehold used was illegal in its own right, independent of the fact that its use resulted in death. Not even an indictment. What happened to the law about when you kill a person, you have to face the consequences? Oh, right, I forgot. When they wrote "person," it was understood that it was open to interpretation. The definition of "person" was deemed to be at the discretion of the perpetrator. When Darren Wilson shot Michael's surrendered, unarmed body, he did not see a person. He saw a "demon." Well, there you have it. These laws very clearly refer to HUMANS ONLY. Demonic law is a whole other system. You'll have to consult the Grand Jury of the Underworld.

It was never about the guns or the body cameras or the laws. It is about the inability of some to recognize others as fellow human beings, comrades in the slug race to the abyss. This inability is a disease of the mind, a very serious, very dangerous, often lethal flaw. Racism is not an opinion. Opinions are only valid when there is more than one side of an issue. Black people are people. That is a fact. Any "belief" insinuating otherwise is not an opinion--it is a direct act of violence. To say that Black lives do not matter is not only a direct act of violence, it is an act of genocide. The words themselves do not literally kill Black people, the same way guns do not literally kill people. But the words are a result of a deeply, dangerously, horrifyingly, blatantly racist society. This world breeds racist people, who then perpetuate the "idea" that Black people are somehow less than, that they are not people, that their lives have no value or worth, that they are disposable. It does not matter if you never raise a hand or a gun to a Black person--if you think their lives do not matter as much as yours, you are committing genocide. You are contributing to the erasure and execution of a targeted group of people.

I am not going to argue why racism is wrong (to say the least), or say "we all bleed red" to try to justify the worth of Black peoples' lives. Not only would it be degrading, but they have told you themselves, a million times. They are alive every day, fighting back, proving their worth again and again, more than anyone should ever have to.

Do not blame the guns or the laws. Do not jump for joy when three hundred million dollars are going to be spent on body cameras that will film police brutality that has already been caught on camera and deemed useless evidence. Blame the people. Blame the society. And then go out there, and fucking change it.

Monday, November 10, 2014

"Fucking ridiculous I even have to WRITE this shit"

[In light of some really horrible tweets posted to the @Louis_Tomlinson Twitter account, my cousin Emma wrote an essay responding to this.]

I don’t believe Louis Tomlinson is a homophobe.

If you’re arriving late to this party, or don’t care at all about One Direction (why do you not care about One Direction? Love yourself, listen to their music.), allow me to fill you in. Sunday November 2nd, 2014 saw an interview of Harry Styles and Liam Payne posted online by ODE. In this interview, Harry and Liam are asked what traits they look for in a girl. Liam responds with a cheeky, “Female, it’s a good trait.” Harry then replied, with a grin, “not that important.” This, of course, fueled massive speculation about Harry’s sexuality, but that's nothing new. 

About a week later, fellow 1D member Louis Tomlinson was photographed at the X-Factor studios wearing a shirt with the rainbow Apple logo on it – a logo which had recently been used as a symbol of support for Apple CEO Tim Cook, who a few days prior had come out as gay. Yes, it is possible that Louis just liked the old Apple logo and pays no attention to recent events and it’s all a coincidence. But do you really think that’s the case?

Enter the Sunday November  9th, 2014 article in The Independent: “Louis Tomlinson supports gay Apple CEO Time Cook – days after Harry Styles’ comments on gender and sexuality.” Nowhere in this article does it speculate or even mention Louis’s sexuality; it praises his support of the LGBTQA+ community and reminds us of Harry’s comments the week before. That is literally all.

And yet, come Monday November 10th, 2014, a tweet was posted to Louis’s Twitter account to the writer of the article: “The fact that you work for such a ‘credible’ paper and you would talk such rubbish is laughable. I am in fact straight.” And then a few minutes later: “Fucking ridiculous I even have to tweet that shit !”

I read those tweets and my heart dropped into my stomach.

You could tell me, “Emma, it’s a harmless comment, it’s a celebrity defending their sexuality! No big deal, you’re overreacting!” But I’m not. And the countless other queer 1D fans who were sickened and hurt by this are not overreacting either.

First off, nowhere in the article does anyone insinuate anything about Louis’s sexuality. It is an overwhelmingly positive piece about his support of the LGBTQA+ community. When I saw those photos of his shirt the other day, I was beyond thrilled. To have such open support of someone like me on a celebrity of that status when so much of the world is constantly telling me and people like me that we’re wrong for existing, it’s not a feeling I can describe. It was incredibly important.

And then, to have that all followed up by these tweets that lash out at someone who dares to equate his wearing a t-shirt as support, that call his alleged support of non-heterosexual people “rubbish,” I can’t describe how that feels either. Countless posts are going around social media right now of One Direction fans supporting each other and offering an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on after these comments. The One Direction fan base is primarily young women, with a large subset of those young fans being non-heterosexual. Having one of the people we love and support aggressively trying to distance himself from our community in such a blatant way does nothing to support these young women in their journey to finding and accepting themselves. It doesn’t matter to me in the slightest how Louis Tomlinson identifies; what matters to me is the hundreds of thousands of young people who see what gets posted to that Twitter account, and how irresponsible it is to use that kind of platform to be so rude and aggressive about supporting LGBTAQ+ people.

But I don’t believe Louis Tomlinson is a homophobe. I’ve seen enough interviews and heard enough firsthand fan accounts of what he’s like to not believe for a second that he wrote those tweets. [Note from Odelia: Louis has had countless opportunities to dispel actual rumors surrounding his sexuality, especially yesterday during the livestream when he was asked several times about the "oddest rumors" he's heard about himself, and could've also talked about his girlfriend Eleanor when he was prompted (twice), but he didn't.] But I believe someone on his team wants us to think he did, and I think that person or those people don’t care about non-heterosexual 1D fans or people in general. And to be honest, I couldn’t be less surprised, but I also couldn’t be more disappointed.

Queer One Direction fans shouldn’t be made to feel like less valuable members of the family, just as all queer people should not be made to feel less important than their heterosexual peers. Whether this was a horribly miscalculated PR move or I drastically misread Louis’s character and it actually was him tweeting those things, an apology and a shift in views is more than necessary. Being rumored to be gay or bisexual or trans or asexual or pansexual or anything not cis-heterosexual is not something people need to defend themselves against, celebrity or not. It’s almost 2015, friends; queer people are everywhere, and it’s time to stop treating us like we’re less worthy of your respect because of who we are.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Not That Important

Some people are very confused when I tell them that I love One Direction. It doesn't quite fit my persona: the radical trans-feminist-anarchist-vegan-activist persona. I was completely shocked by it myself in the beginning, and at times it still feels a bit out of character. I resisted for four years, during my screw-pop-culture phase, a time throughout which I was the sort of person who insisted upon critiquing the cis-heteronormativity in One Direction's famous song, "What Makes You Beautiful." But one day you get tired, and hating everything that isn't perfect is a fruitless pursuit.

I'd probably be able to write a full essay on what I love about this group of boys. I'll start by rattling off a few reasons, but keep in mind that that is not the focus of this piece. I love that they are goofy and ridiculous, just a group of dumb kids mucking about and trying to have fun. I love that they are all from humble backgrounds, and have not lost those roots. I've watched plenty of interviews and videos since my induction into the 1D universe, and I can confidently say that they seem to have remained down-to-earth. I love that they are all such great friends and that there's very little inter-band drama. I love that they have the voices of angels and can pull off a five-part harmony like no one else. These are all wonderful things that make me happy, but I think what makes me happiest of all about One Direction is one of the boys in particular: Harry Styles.

A-ha, you saw it coming, did you? But wait! Let me explain. I don't love Harry because he is beautiful (which is, nonetheless, very very true and does not hurt his cause), nor is it because he has a beautiful singing voice (which is also a valid reason). Harry is the youngest, and easily the most publicized of the five band members. People have sold his vomit on ebay. That is a level of fame that few people will ever achieve at such a tender age (he's only 20 years old). By being the most fetishized of the group, he is under the most scrutiny by the media. Harry is at the same time the most eccentric of the crew, growing his hair ever longer and wearing coats in deserts and being generally very kooky. People that fit Harry's general description (teenage-ish white male) usually fall into one of my least favorite categories of human. But Harry is an anomaly, and the explanation as to why that is can be summed up with one of the most iconic quotes to be uttered in this century: "Not that important."

If decontextualized, that phrase means nothing. What isn't important, Harry? Why are you so nonchalant about it? But I re-read that phrase and my heart is set alight. When asked what four traits they look for in a lady, his bandmate, Liam Payne, said, "Female, that's a good trait," to which Harry laughed and replied, "Not that important." Go to this video and skip to 2:20. Watch the following fifteen seconds. There are a lot of theories floating around the internet, on Tumblr in particular, about what exactly happens during those fifteen seconds. Many people think it was staged (in addition to the onslaught of unapologetic media "shipping" of Louis Tomlinson and Harry Styles a few days before), because who would really say "female" in response to that question? That's not a very natural response. While Liam is talking, watch Harry's body language. He's tense, he's playing with the rings on his fingers, he's focusing really hard on something off-screen. If you watch the video from the beginning, it also becomes apparent that Harry is visibly uncomfortable (I suppose you might have to know a bit about how he usually acts in order to reach this conclusion, but he is generally a very charismatic and charming person), isn't really reacting to Liam's jokes, and is overall more serious than one would expect him to be. When the interviewer finishes reading the question, Harry takes a sharp inhale and then clears his throat, presumably steeling himself for the coming moment. It's hard to tell, but when Liam is saying "female," his right hand looks as though he's giving Harry a thumbs-up. After he says those three magical words, Liam emits what can best be described as a loving chuckle. He and Harry both look off camera in the same direction (what are they looking at? The world may never know), then Harry chuckles nervously (yet triumphantly, with relief) and continues on. Notice how the interviewer doesn't say a word, but rather giggles uncomfortably.  His comment is never addressed. It is completely glossed over.

I swear my heart almost stopped when he said those three words. I'm sitting here trying to adequately express what it is that is so perfect about that phrase, but my mind keeps tripping over itself. The closest I can get is to say that "not that important" perfectly explains what it is to be queer (I use "queer" as an umbrella term to denote unspecified LGBTQ+ identities). It doesn't mean that queerness as an identity is unimportant. It means that someone can look at a concept like gender -- to which most people kowtow day and night -- and say, "Eh, not that important." Gender and the subsequent sexual orientations created around these genders have caused so many problems (this is the best word I can think of to describe the atrocities such as gender-based violence, the Westboro Baptist Church and the Hobby Lobby debacle) in our society that to say, in essence, "Eh, screw it," is massive. But when you're Harry Styles, it is MASSIVE.

Queerness is nothing new. As a queer person myself, I can tell you, it doesn't set me apart from others by giving me a tingly feeling in my feet at all times or allowing me the ability to hold my breath underwater. I'm not particularly fond of cisgendered males and prefer people that do not fit that description -- whoopdeedoo *twirls index fingers in a half-hearted manner to allude to a lack of excitement*. For some people, though, it's a sinful "problem" that needs to be rectified using violence, imprisonment, torture, bullying... an endless militia of horrible, horrible things. There are many places within this "progressive" country alone in which being openly LGBTQ+ will get you stabbed and thrown in prison. Having amazing figures like Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, Ellen Page and many others representing the celebrity LGBTQ+ community is huge. No offense intended to Laverne, Janet or Ellen, but Harry Styles' fame surpasses all of theirs. He is an international phenomenon. I lack the words to describe how vastly influential he is upon global society. So, now, I finally reach my point: if Harry Styles can shrug and say that female is not a trait he finds important in a partner, then what else can happen? In other words, if Harry Styles can be queer, anyone can be queer. The floodgates have sprung open. The LGBTQ+ community has taken an enormous step forward with those three little words.

On behalf of myself and at least four other people I've spoken to about this, I want to thank you, Harry, for your bravery. What you have done is so inexplicably amazing, not only as Harry Styles, but as an individual human being. For what it's worth, I am so proud of you.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Emma is fine

Alright friends. Here's the deal. I get that Emma Watson is a cishet thin young traditionally beautiful extremely wealthy Ivy educated white woman. I 100000% understand that. But here's the thing. You know how someone who is VERY PRIVILEGED, such as Emma Watson, was threatened with nudes and other ridiculous typical stupidity by the very people she was telling to own the fuck up to their wrongness? Could you even IMAGINE what would have happened if someone like, say, Laverne Cox were to speak on behalf of the UN? If a trans woman of color were to represent feminism and women's rights? NO ONE WOULD LISTEN. Because the people who respect and love and admire Laverne Cox are not the people that He For She is targeting. Or that anyone interested in actually progressing feminism should be targeting. We're already the "in" group. The people who think that homosexuality is a sin and white people are superior and abortion is also a sin and BLAH BLAH SHUT THE FUCK UP BLAH BLAH BLAH, these are the people we need to be targeting. So that's what He For She is, ideally, doing. It would be AMAZING if Laverne Cox were the spokesperson for an organization called Xe For All or something beautiful like that but WE DON'T LIVE IN THAT WORLD YET. We live in a world where Mike Brown disasters happen and we still are fighting the Roe v. Wade fight and the the wage gap is very much a thing and rape is happening all the goddamn time. That is the world we live in. So for right now, having a cishet thin young traditionally beautiful extremely wealthy Ivy educated white woman be the spokesperson for a gender-exclusive organization is an okay step. It's not the best step, but it is a step. So please, everyone, calm the heck down, we will get there, but we can't ignore the harsh realities. The world is not ready for Laverne, because they're barely ready for Emma.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

On top of it

Just a quick update telling the world that it is not even October and I have already written 14 out of 18 of my college application supplements. Plus my Common App essay. And one of my teachers already submitted her recommendation. I am on top of it.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Put self on line

Sometimes it's okay to sit on the chair by the window and read, but sometimes you have to be bold. Put yourself on the line. It used to be terrifying to the point of sadness-anxiety but now it gives me kind of a rush and a boost of I'm-the-baddest-bitch confidence.

In the past 24 hours I have:
1) made polite conversation with several inebriated college students
2) danced in the same room as aforementioned inebriated college students and was not super self-conscious and actually enjoyed the physical act of dancing
3) given my number to a random kid's brother because we're the same age and live in the same state and I wanted to be his friend
4) talked to a past girlfriend for the first time in a while

(A note on #4: I HATE the word "ex," it's so repulsive to me. Like, what is that word. Don't say it. It's so dismissive and possessive at the same time. Your ex? The fuck does that mean? They belong to you? But you're also stressing that they DON'T belong to you? So what the heck are you trying to say here???)

Put self on line: CHECK
Wrote several college supplement essays: CHECK
Stressed out a little bit about a lot of things: CHECK

Being bold/etc is a complex psychological exercise because it builds your confidence by making you feel proud of yourself but it also puts you on edge because REACTIONS OF OTHER PEOPLE TO YOUR ACTIONS. NEWTONIAN SHIT.

Ah, life. How you baffle me.
I should listen to more radio podcasts. They are so interesting. (I'm talking to you, Radiolab.)