My first source is:
Spade, Dean. "Fighting to Win." That's Revolting: Queer Strategies for Resisting
Assimilation. Ed. Alia, Matilda, and Bernstein, Matt. Soft Shires Press. 2004. 31-37.
Here, Dean Spade discusses the current state of what he terms the GLBfakeT movement. He talks about the vast differences between high-wage earning queers and low-income, disabled, young, old, and otherwise disenfranchised trans-identified folks. He asserts that the queer movement has been put into a "white liberal civil rights" framework that has, in many cases, had devastating effects on trans folks, if it hasn't simply ignored them altogether. He proposes a strategy for political action that focuses on the needs of those who face the most dire consequences from the gender binary: trans-identified people of color, youth, the poor, the elderly, and the disabled.
This source is relevant to my term as Spade spends a significant portion of his essay discussing trans youth of color. He describes the effects of recent legislation pushed through by mainstream LGBfakeT activists in the neighborhood of the Stonewall Inn, where local gays are trying to rid their streets of these youth, who, for decades, have come together and found each other in this area. This has led to increased incarceration of youth and police brutality. Spade also mentions that the public nets and services off of which he survived his own youth are all but extinct, and that trans people have virtually no other services available to them because they do not fit gendered prerequisites established by the state and other locally run shelters and services. He then discusses the development of trans people and the way in which they become in this world: "Many trans people start out their lives with the obstacle of abuse or harassment at home, or are kicked out of their homes by their parents on the basis of their gender identity or expression. Some turn to foster care, but often end up homeless when they experience harassment and violence at the hands of staff and other residents in foster care facilities... Similarly, harassment and violence against trans and gender-different students is rampant in schools, and many drop out before finishing or are kicked out. Many trans people also do not pursue higher education due to fears of applying to schools and being required to reveal their birth name and birth sex, having not been able to change these on their documents," (pg. 33).
I have been thinking about our conversation in class the other day about discipline and punishment, and I think that is the very question to ask here, in regards to the treatment of poor, trans youth of color. In what ways do we (me, you, the state, etc.) discipline and punish people who are culturally illegible? The way Spade says, "Most trans people start out their lives...," (pg. 33), for me, brings all of these issues back to children and those who are infantilized by disenfranchisement. For that is, in many ways, what Spade is talking about here. The legitimized discipline and punishment of children for perfectly legal infractions on social codes provides a foundation for how we treat those who are perceived as of in need of control, aid, or punishment. The big difference of these apparatuses of biopower in people's lives is based on who we are perceived to be when we are born or by the circumstances into which we are born, and this will decide whether these institutions are geared towards producing us as those who profit from capitalism and serve as the face of the "public" and those who are designated to the under crust upon which society is dependent but which depends on them being damaged humans. So the abuses of the foster care system never end, even in adulthood. They are sublimated by the prison and, more explicity, what is termed "adult housing alternatives." People who are in need of social services and nets are infantilized by the state (though aided), and people who complain of the "Nanny State," are closer to expressing the nature of biopower than they suspect. The big reasons I think the needs of poor trans youth of color (and youth in general) are so important as a central focus of political action are 1) in many ways, they have been rejected by the mainstream LGBfakeT movement, many of whom locate themselves outside of the reproductive world and thus designate reproduction and its result as "straight," (although the mainstream movement pushes for access to many normative reproductive institutions like marriage), 2) the way we begin our lives as children and the establishment of the hegemonic that this entails lays a foundation and is inextricably intertwined with everything else and the way we perceive others and infantilize them, and 3) because the apparatuses that surround the domestic and its desired products are a rich source from which to examine the tangled mishmash of discipline and punishment which dictate all of our lives.
Moving on to my next source, I will take the offer made by Sara to push at what is considered a legitimate academic source by using an incident that happened with my mother and myself. Here, I will examine the apparatuses of discipline and punishment that operated in this event. One night a few years ago, my mother and I walked into Value Thrift in the Sun Ray chain mall off of the McKnight exit on 94. This is a large consignment store run mostly by Latino employees. We took our items to the fitting rooms. There, my mother had a heated encounter with the youth running the rooms. Rather, I should say, the heat was all my mother's. She was angry that you were only allowed to bring four items into the fitting room at a time and she thought the youth was lying about it. While the Latino, gender-ambiguous teen stood patiently before my mother, eyes downcast, she went on a rip about how this was a ridiculous policy, that she would not comply until the manager was consulted, and, that sentence that made me cringe when it passed her lips," I would never receive this kind of treatment from Herberger's!" Sorry, mom, this isn't Herberger's. I know my mother, and believe I know from the way she riled at this downcast youth (from the way she riles at me, when I cause trouble) that this person made her deeply uncomfortable, and that she was put off by the power dynamic she found herself in, that this youth had jurisdiction over the area in a way she did not and that she was not used to. As I gently conveyed to my mother that I disapproved of her actions in the store as we walked to her car, she was ready to tell me that that "gender-confused" youth at the fitting rooms was lying to us about the policy, and that "people like that" will do anything to assert power over "people like me." Afterwards, she asked me if she really had been "a little too hard" on this person, and that she felt she should have been more lenient with someone whom she considered to be mentally and culturally ill, not to mention economically undesirable. I think this is an excellent example of the extent to which discipline and punishment is a perfectly acceptable part of our everyday lives, not just by the state but by singular individuals. My mother felt threatened, and found herself in a position to retaliate. Of course, she never asked herself questions about her own empowerment to chastise this person who had done her no harm whatsoever, or how her middle class lifestyle is made possible by their oppression and expropriated labor. I feel I know she would not have behaved the same way to an adult, and certainly not with someone of her own socioeconomic standing. This youth got a reaming because they were out of line with gendered, racial, and socioeconomic norms, not because they posed a real threat to her.
My last source is a video from youtube.com. You can watch the video at the address below:
The video is called "Fenced Out" and is about the harassment and abuse of GLBT youth of color on the piers and city efforts to run them out of their stomping grounds, making it into a public park for "everyone" to enjoy. This video wraps up my blog entry nicely, but it also points to where this discussion has just begun. This is exactly the kind of political activity Dean Spade is talking about: alternative media that brings poor trans youth of color into the dialogue. The fact that this is an initiative by poor trans youth of color for themselves highlights Spade's assertion that the Stonewall Rebellion and all of its subsequent gains were made possible and owe a tremendous debt to the very people who have been excluded from their own movement to make room for the rich, white, gay man's concerns and people like him. We also see here poor trans youth of color speaking directly about discipline and punishment as it manifests itself in their own lives at home, at school, in their neighborhoods, and on the pier. Clearly, issues of discipline and punishment are central to political action put forth by these youth.
All of these sources address issues of discipline and punishment in society and how a focus on youth should be placed as a top priority to any political endeavor. To Lee Edelman, author of The Future Is Kid Stuff, I would assert that the fact that children are the future is not a bad thing in and of itself, and that it is not inherently "not queer," either. Anyone concerned with any political movement, especially a queer political movement, would do well to reexamine their attitudes towards children and include them as the worthwhile human beings that they are.