This post has two parts. The first one isn’t very long. I just want to say “May the 4th be with you!” to every star wars fan out there in internet land. And as always, I’ve posted my @catniagara May the 4th pics all over my social media and half of everyone else’s but in case you’re reading this and haven’t seen them yet, here’s a little of what you missed out on:
Guess I’ve got that sith blood in my veins.
Now that we’ve gotten the obligatory egotism out of the way, I need to talk to you guys about something. Something I honestly didn’t think was all that huge. Tonight, I took the neices and the nephews and the friend’s little rugrats to see a play called “Boys, Girls, and other Mythological Creatures.” I did this because my Niagara Artists Center informed me in their bulletin that this performance was a. kid-friendly and b. totally free. Spectacular! Cosplay (even the amazon special you see before you) is very expensive. So is hanging out with small relatives. They just WANT EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME and with those chubby cheek faces how can you say no to dem? When you just wanna squish ’em.
So I went. Thinking I was going to see a little cute play for kids. It was not that.
There was a long, drawn out apology at the beginning and a whole lot of upset, and then the play began. I must have cried three times. The play is about a little boy named Simon who really just wants to be a little princess named Simone, and nobody will let this person choose. Simone feels forced into gender roles she doesn’t feel, and the amount of pain and suffering conveyed in a play that is ALSO age-appropriate for children was almost surreal. It reminded me of Dr. Seuss’ writings, such complex concepts being placed in such tiny hands.
After the play, there was a question and answer period. I really thought everyone would just get up and leave. What would people have questions about? It was a great play.
I was shocked to find that not only did they have questions…they were pissed.
This play had been banned from being shown at several schools because they thought the material was inappropriate for young children. A couple of parents stood up at the event to voice their concerns, how angry they were that a production partially funded by the LGBTQ community would be allowed to be performed in the first place.
From my perspective….
from my (at times overly honest) perspective, I was in a room full of white people being silenced. It didn’t seem to matter if they were pro or anti gay, pro or anti the play, pro or anti teaching children about transgender people… nobody asked my opinion in that space.
Mike and I have a running joke: the more “progressive” the space, the less likely I am to be given a voice. We like to attend “everyone has a voice” events and put up our hands, one at a time, to see just what the discrepancy is between the number of times a caucasian male/female is called upon, and the number of times I, a multi-racial Canadian of disfavorable (brown) skin tone, will be called upon. Most events don’t make it above 10, unless they are LGBTQ events. At those events, and at this one, I am given no voice at all.
When it was time for questions to be taken, the order of the day went like this:
- An older white female.
- An ethnic female who had sent an angry e-mail previously, who they knew would give an angry opinion.
- A white female who attacked the ethnic female’s opinion.
- A gay white male who claimed not to attack the ethnic female’s opinion (that kids under 12 are too young to hear about LGBTQ subjects) while attacking it (he said he was lgbtq as a child and he was happy to have parents who accepted this).
- A white female sitting right behind me…I was pointed OVER to get to her.
- A white female school principal who said HER school put on the production and tried to assure parents that the schools were working with the Carousel players on how they can change the play to “adjust for parental concerns”
- A white female with short hair who claimed to have “always had feelings of being different”…I guess because of her short hair? Nothing else about her really screamed “different” to me.
- A white female.
- A gay white male.
- A white male father who thought the play shouldn’t be performed because it was the same as “a church group funding a play about God, and then putting it on in front of atheist’s children”
- A white female.
Progressive, to me, seems to mean watching white people discuss what they’re going to do about something while hanging on at the sidelines without a voice. I had my hand up the entire time, and wasn’t called on. Was in fact silenced by an organizer who looked right through me and pointed at the person behind me.
Moreover, white males and white females did not have to raise their hands and wait patiently. They jumped right in speaking without being asked to wait their turns.
I have been to many conferences, conventions, industry events, movie productions, and I can honestly say that the most “progressive” events are often the most exclusive. It’s as if people are only capable of discussing one contentious issue at a time. You can be black, as long as you’re not a woman. You can be a woman, as long as you’re not gay. You can be gay, as long as you’re not black or a woman.
It shocked me. It shocked me because it was far back in 1851 when sojourner truth spoke those famous words at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio. She said this:
“Sojourner Truth (1797-1883): Ain’t I A Woman?
Women’s Convention, Akron, Ohio
Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?
That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?
Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?
Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.
If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.
Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say.”
I thought it was made pretty clear, back in 1851, that I can be a minority, I can be a woman, and I can still have a voice. That my voice can and should be heard as clearly as that of the majority ESPECIALLY in spaces where we’re talking ABOUT discrimination, we’re talking about what a person goes through when they are forced a square peg into a round hole.
I was ethnic in that room. I was a woman in that room. I did not exist in that room. Sorry, honey, white women are talking about how tolerant they are. You’re going to need to shut up for this discussion.
I know this is contentious, and it’s not anything anyone wants to hear: the truth about my experience of life can be tough to swallow. I bet the people in that room thought they were being inclusive and tolerant because they were talking about inclusiveness and tolerance.
But while the people standing on that stage acted out a play about a kid who is being told that he needs to act like a boy to fit in, I was thinking of Soujourner Truth’s words and how they rung through with my own experience:
I was born in this country, but I don’t speak the language of this country.
In point of fact, I was literally TOLD the other day that I wasn’t “speaking the right language” because I wasn’t quietly agreeing with everything being said without question.
There’s a reason for that: I have been told that I was wrong from birth. Everything about me: the way I moved, spoke, combed my hair, wrong. My mother was harassed for having a child of color, and if not harassed then congratulated for “taking in a poor child from another country”. My father was congratulated for landing himself a white woman so his child would be “less black” than he is.
Less black. Sure. And in a room full of white people I sat there, shushed to silence, listening to them talk about how tolerant they are….
Aint I even a person? I seem to remember that over 100 years ago, when we couldn’t even vote, we were at least allowed to speak.