Jane Eaton Hamilton

"At the bottom of the box is hope." – Ellis Avery.

Tag: homophobia

The Shining Clarity of Social Justice

South of what is Canada’s southern border, reactionary events are afloat that may, or may not, be brought back from their facist brink by the upcoming mid-term election. Numbers will make or break this day at the polls. There are more progressives than there are retrogressives.

The arc of the moral universe bends toward justice. Dr Martin Luther King made this sentence famous and I have thought of it thousands of times in my life, wondering whether, in fact, he was right. Does it? Does it?

In the meantime, this has been a weak and quivering seven days. A domestic terrorist mailed pipe bombs to prominent Dem targets, while another DT shot up a synagogue in Pennsylvania. Two developmentally delayed brothers were killed, and a generous doctor who worked with the first AIDS patients.

I think often of the Holocaust. I was born only ten years afterwards, when people were still counting their losses. Never again, we said. Never again a Holocaust. Never again will we stand by and allow harm to come to Jews. (We did not talk about the slaughtered disabled. We never knew of the murdered LGBT community.) Never again a Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Never again an Internment.

This was my childhood, ducked under my school desk against the fear of nuclear bomb from Cuba: Never forget. These words were bellowed, sung, whispered. Friend to friend. Parent to child. Principal to assembly. Pastor to congregation. And we didn’t forget. We new children who hadn’t been there, we didn’t forget. Our homes were full of the old tendrils of war, the ways our grandparents and parents had been affected, and we didn’t forget.

People who don’t remember their history are doomed to repeat it, said George Santayana, a Spanish poet, and here we are, here we are, at the yawning cusp, at the mouth of the beast, at the bared yellow teeth.

What are we going to do? How are we going to respond? This beast hates us. He’s never met us, but he hates us on a theory.

Ours is a world yearning toward love, I swear it, I swear it. I watch it each day in the coo of the babies I see weekly. I see it when a hummingbird mother brings her two young to sit with her on my round feeder, teaching them about bird and human interaction. I see it when my parrot tucks himself on the side of my glasses and begins to preen and hum, happy in my warmth. I see it when people kneel down and render apologies. I hear it all the time, for my family, both its Caucasian members and its JC members, is a family engaged in social justice. I’m sorry, we say to each other when we’ve erred. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Will you forgive me?  Our striving to do better for each other is utterly human. Human and beast, both, adult and child, both, we long for safety, for shelter, for food, for acceptance, for this restoring power of generosity, compassion, empathy, humility, respect and love.

Once, I stood under the railing in Tennessee where Martin Luther King Jr stood as a sniper shot him dead, and I wept. I touched the bed where he had slept, peered from the window to see the path of the assassin’s bullet, and I broke inside, over and over, as I had broken over and over moving through the rigours of the National Civil Rights Museum.

“The arc of the moral universe,” said King, “is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Is it bending toward justice? It is, when transgender rights are protected in Canada. It isn’t, when transgender rights are threatened in the US. It is when the abled world works to fix accessibility issues for the disabled; it isn’t when US police drag protesting disability warriors out of their wheelchairs to arrest them. It is when we host annual Missing and Murdered Women’s Days; it isn’t when again and again white men go free after murdering BIPOC. It is when we get the right to same-sex marriage; it isn’t when homophobia moves underground like a hot spring, and bubbles up to burn us.

The opposition to social justice is fierce now. The blowback isn’t coming. It’s here.

“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere.” – Elie Wiesel

We must interfere.

It was a new thing in TV news in the 60s that we could watch assassinations almost live, so I watched the replay of President Kennedy dying over and over on our scratchy black and white console, and a few years later, I watched Dr King crumple.

All my life, and fiercely for the last 40 years, I’ve fought for social justice through a stretchy and gorgeous feminism. My feminism was never a solid block, but a curious, questing, alive thing. My feminism was always encompassing, and it stretches to encompass even now our foibles, our mistakes, our minor offenses, our sloganeering and academic thought. It fights against violence against womxn and children; it fights racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism. No one can be left out of our fight toward love.

In my justice, no one will be left at the bottom of the stairs looking up.

 

Standing Against Hate

I despise what’s going on. I stand against it without reservation. I support the LGBTQIA, disabled, women’s and POC communities, and call for y/our lives to be made safer by the continuation of legal protections, Planned Parenthood and the ACA, and the de-militarization of police. So much has gone wrong in a week’s time, but most of it was well seeded earlier.

We feel anxious, frightened and uncertain about what’s coming next. On Friday, immigrants and refugees from seven targeted countries were banned from entering the US, throwing individual lives and entire communities into crisis and destabilizing the planet. My Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has spoken of Canada’s open shores, and I trust that he and his ministers will work tirelessly to ensure refugees and immigrants already in detention in Canada are released into community, and new refugees and immigrants are welcomed immediatey.

Tonight terrorists opened fire at a mosque in Québec City, killing five. I send condolences to the victims’ families and friends and to their religious community, and continue to stand against violence and hatred. Muslims are important and welcome members of my community.

I am buoyed by the push-back of citizens. Protesters are marching, lawyers and protesters are occupying airports, airlines are reversing ticket charges, companies are taking stands to hire refugee workers, and thousands of people on social media are decrying these regressive, dangerous acts and thinking up new ways to make global citizens safe. Each one of us will play a part in de-activating the virus spreading through N America.

We are stronger together, just as Hillary said. Join hands, my friends, and join solutions.

On Poverty and Class in Literature

Alison Stine, writing at the Kenyon Review, wrote the necessary essay “On Poverty” partially in response to classism in Claire Vaye Watkins’ essay “On Pandering.”

“We are poor because we were born that way. We are poor because our husbands or girlfriends left us, or our families disowned us, or our partners abused us. We are poor because we are raising children and children need things, like food. We are poor because of illness or disability. We are poor because the city where we live is expensive, but we don’t have the savings to leave. We are poor because we spent those savings on rent. We are poor because our rent was raised. We are poor because our fifteen-year-old car broke down again. We are poor because of student loans. We are poor because there are no jobs, or there are not enough jobs, or we’re working three jobs, but none pay a living wage.

We are not poor out of lack of hard work. We are not poor because we “want it less.” We stay poor because of institutionalized sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, ageism, and classism.

We stay poor because doors stay closed.” -Alison Stine

To her essay I would add:

Being able to have a job, even at McDonalds, is a luxury beyond many of our disabled writers who are on provincial or federal disability, cannot work, and whose low incomes are, consequently, not only meagre but fixed and unable to ride them through any unexpected storms.

On Poverty

 

“The Unbearable Too-Whiteness” of MFA programs: Junot Díaz

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I am a queer feminist author who admires the heck out of Junot Díaz’s work and who also never got an MFA–so was shielded from the fact that anyone not white and straight and male has a tough go of it in many of these programs. But I’ve experienced a lot of homophobia over my career, along with, of course, the side-lining that is ubiquitous for women writing.

Listen again to what Díaz says, folks, about racism in writing. As soon as he was published, he put together a writing workshop called The Voices of Our Nation, and now has compiled an anthology of workshop works and for which he has provided the introduction.

“…something right out of my wildest MFA dreams, where writers of colour could gather to develop our art in a safe, supportive environment. Where our ideas, critiques, concerns, our craft and, above all, our experiences would be privileged rather than marginalised; encouraged rather than ignored; discussed intelligently rather than trivialised.”

And “where our contributions were not an adjunct to Literature but its core”.

Here, as we lean hard into race relations around this globe, is the article from the Guardian, May 2014:

Junot Díaz condemns creative writing courses for ‘unbearable too-whiteness’

 

 

 

The Big Boo–Rejection

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Kavita Das wrote an excellent article for The Atlantic about how we romanticize writers’ rejections. Many top-notch writers endure a lot of it before moving on to other things/smaller publishers, and she makes the point that the fault lies not with the work, but with the publishing houses. She lands this at racism’s door, but I’d add homophobia, too. The numbers of times I’ve heard that a work of mine is too “avant garde” or that it would be “better suited to a [journal/publisher] with a more eclectic list” or “we published a lesbian a few months ago” are legion.

We shouldn’t be glad that prejudice spurs fine writers to almost quit or to actually quit, as I did. Rather we should expand ourselves, and trust white readers to read outside their own comfort zones. Rejecting well-written works? A disfavour we do writers/ourselves. Potential is soured. The books that would have been finished with a little encouragement and support die in drafting or stuck in a drawer.

Pubs, if you think writers don’t recognize phobic rejections, you’re quite wrong. We may not call you on it to your faces, but we sure do talk about it, pretty much forever.

And it doesn’t serve you.

Writers Shouldn’t Romanticize Rejection

Lit Rejections

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