The Sacrosanct Identity, Bigotry And The Enabling Of Oppression
Crossposted at The Spectrum Cafe
It’s deeply personal and for the most part we go way out of our way to protect it. Not just our own but others as well. At least when identity policing and erasure isn’t going on. It’s one of those sacrosanct inviolable rules of the Alphabet Soup community (GLBTQQIAsomethingsomethingetc) that identity trumps all. Don’t police, don’t fuck with it, don’t erase, don’t demean and don’t tell people their identities are invalid.
This sacredness of identity is, for the most part, brilliant. It protects people from erasure, prevents the odious bullshit of having to explain and justify why you are who you are to every privileged piece of scumfuck who comes along. Sacrosanct identity allows us to work past the bounds of nonfunctional or bigoted language built to deny us basic self determination of who we are. It allows us to come to terms with the workings of our lives and the problems we face at our own pace and have community to fight these issues. Generally when identity is attacked, it’s attacked on bigoted bases or on derails. By treating it as sacred, that heads off those attempts at the pass, allowing identity to stay safe even when under assault from all sides. Yes, identity being sacred is helpful in many ways but it is also has one ridiculous flaw.
It doesn’t account for the fact that identity is not immune to being bigoted.
Let’s start with appropriation, both the most obvious and yet most ignored example of a bigoted identity. An identity stolen from a marginalized group by a privileged one is still an identity. For all intensive purposes, it fits the structure. Deeply personal, central to self conceptualization (who you are), defended harshly when attacked and often seen as sacred (in no small part due to the sacredness of identity in activist circles). One of the best examples of an Alphabet Soup community fuck up in the identity zone when it comes to appropriation is white people (or really anyone outside of the Native Cultures it comes from) calling themselves Two Spirit . This bigoted bullshit is defended heavily all throughout white GLBT circles, using the sacrosanct identity as the entire basis. And this defense contributes to systemic bigotry and discrimination through appropriation against the Native nations and peoples of North America from whom the concept came. It is, in fact, enabling that bigotry by allowing the damaging identity usage to persist.
There are less obvious examples, ones that are actually quite basic to the very comprehension of sexuality. For instance the sexualities within monosexuality (straight, lesbian, gay, gynephilic, androphilic, agendrephilic, androgynephilic, etc) are structured in such a way as to be mired with cissexism and binarism. The polysexual orientations are a bit more free of these issues but bisexuality is prone to similar issues in its usages more than its actual structure. These orientations, the bedrock of the Alphabet Soup community’s sexuality section, are often directly at odds with trans identities in a relationship that is undoubtedly cissexist, binarist and wholly discriminatory and bigoted. And yet, the sacredness of identity is used as a basis to enable this bigotry through strawman fallacies, oppression olympics and privileged whining not just in that example but in many others (which I’ll avoid hyperlinking since they involve radscum cissexist fuckwagons and I try not to make my readership vomit blood too often).
And that’s what it comes down to. Identity is so sacred to the community that even when one particular identity is ultimately damaging and harmful, props up systemic discrimination and even directly attacks other members of the community, those elements are ignored and people will pretend that it is a simple question of accommodation or identity policing.
Let’s be entirely clear, identity policing isn’t good. But neither is propping up bigotry. So what to do? Should we drop the sacredness of identity? Ignore bigoted identities in order to protect all the others? Luckily I’m not one to subscribe to false dilemmas. Neither option is necessary. What is required is a bit more of a thinking approach. Too often identity is treated in a kneejerk approach. It is considered the ultimate trump card and is reflexively protected with no thought as to what is actually being said, the best example being Carolyn above who utterly ignored the cissexism accusations and even admitted so:
[…]In this example, according to Ms Hope, one or the other has to redefine themselves; she prefers it to be the lesbian. (I’m sure there’s some unsupportable, emotionally heated, argument about “cis[sexual/gender] privilege” in there, somewhere.) […]
-Carolyn Ann of CaroLINES
In fact, more often than not, the painfully awful quote above being a prime example again, the bigotry issue is ignored or dismissed entirely in the debate. This occurs with even heavier intensity and higher frequency when you’re dealing with a privileged party. If you remember the link on appropriation to http://mycultureisnotatrend.tumblr.com and simply follow their tumblr for a while you’ll notice the huge numbers of white people who ignore their white privilege involved in appropriation. Similarly, cis monosexual and polysexual individuals will immediately ignore their own cis privilege involved in the damage their identities do to trans people. Same with binary individuals and nonbinary/genderqueer folk harmed by their (the binary ones) identities.
It becomes fairly obvious that many people will use the sacrosanct status of identity as a shield to protect their own bigotry or engage in apologism for the bigotry of others. And those that don’t will still follow the reflex reaction of defending identity even when that identity is hopelessly toxic and built on a giant pile of bigotry.
But if bigotry is used as a red flag in an identity discussion, allowing for this reflex of unthinking protectiveness to cease for a moment it makes it so identity being sacred is no longer a problem. When the possibility is raised that a given identity has bigotry issues, if people step back for a second and don’t go into ID IS SACRED RAAAAAAGE mode, that one serious flaw in this method of protecting identity becomes null. It is bypassed and allows us to combat the enabling of oppression through identity fully, instead of becoming enablers ourselves in our zealous (and for the most part, positive) attempts to stop identity policing.
Filed under: activism | 42 Comments
Tags: cissexism, erasure, identity, monosexuality, polysexuality, racism, sexuality, trans