18 April, 2011

Off to blog somewhere else...

My sporadic blogging here is about to become more frequent blogging somewhere else. I'm off to blog at Missing Sparkles. There's more than just me, there's a group of us, all wonderfully blogging about queer issues and things, as well as periodically lapsing into pop culture and entertainment.

I may still blog here sporadically when I need to rant...

24 February, 2011

A Recent Conversation

I was chatting with a friend of mine today, when the topic of The Rock FM's "Win A Wife Trip To Beautiful Ukraine For 12 Nights And Meet Eastern European Hot Lady Who Maybe One Day You Marry" competition came up. We laughed at the stupid dick "Mclovin" who was named as the 1st finalist, and at what the number one thing he looks for in a lady: "Washing Iron F^&*(ing Etc)”

After having a bit of a chuckle at his expense, my friend (40s, woman, divorcée) and I had the following conversation:

Her: "I don't know what qualaties I'd look for in a man. I honestly can't say."

Me: "How about someone who is proud to see you as an equal."


07 February, 2011

New Zealand Day

Waitangi Day has once again rolled past in New Zealand, and once again there were protests and controversy and what not...

All these things have once again renewed Peter Dunn's call to rename it "New Zealand Day" - this time creating a separate day, instead of just renaming it.

Of course, that'll work! Instead of addressing the underlying racial tensions, and trying to make a move towards an understanding of our history and creating a country in which our native population are able to participate on an equal footing, let's just sweep that all under the carpet by renaming the day, taking the Maoriness out of it.

You don't fix the fundamental racial issues facing a nation by giving the national day a European name so whitey can pretend that everything's alright. Fixing things is difficult, it takes time and it forces us to look in the mirror and admit to ourselves that, maybe, we could try being a little less racist.

02 February, 2011

Gotta love me some privilege

"I'm all for [minority] rights, but [minority issue] is hardly pressing, so I don't see why [small group of people] need to worry about it right now."

In a fantastic case of not-getting-it, I read a stream of comments to that effect on a Facebook page organising a protest to draw attention to the non-binary nature of gender, by ticking both boxes on the next New Zealand census.

Apparently, we should only care about issues that are immediately pressing. If we took that attitude, then minority issues would never be brought up. We would still find homosexuality illegal and women would still predominantly be found in the kitchen.

It's a similar thing as what was said to me by a local politician in the Open Labout project. Open Labour was about allowing the people to suggest policies that the Labour Party should push, with the intention of allowing citizens an active part in the process of government policy making. This is something I agree with; democracy should be open to all people and not just in picking who gets to make the decisions once every three years.

I suggested that Labour adopt a policy to allow same sex marriage. Yes, we have civil unions, but equivalence is not equality and don't very much like being treated like a second class citizen, and all that. My suggestion got a lot of attention, and most of the responses were positive. But then, Clare Curran commented, "that's not really the point in [Open Labour]." What? Then what is the point? What's the point in asking for the people to suggest policy that's important to them, if you dismiss suggestions that aren't important to you?

Privilege is an annoying thing for those who don't have it, and those that do have it seem hell bent on denying it. So what if the issue isn't pressing (on the majority of people)? That's not the point, and it's certainly not relevent.  The point is that we have an imperitive on being consistent on human rights and doing all that we can to ensure that all people have the ability to participate freely in our society without having to worry about artificial blockades we put up, whether it's by prohibiting them from marrying whom they love, or not including options that describe them on the census.

It's not relevant because we deal with non-pressing issues every day, and we are more than capable of dealing with many issues simultaneously.

31 January, 2011

"Proving he's a typical [chauvinist pig]"

Four different people managed to piss me off in one single news article.

John Key appeared on the radio programme of convicted woman beater, Tony Veitch. Now, I believe in second chances, and think criminals should be given a fresh start after they've finished their sentence. But here is a man who was convicted of breaking his girlfriend's back, sitting down with the Prime Minister, objectifying women by discussing the top three Key thinks are hot (his wife being notably absent).

I expect more of the leader of our country than pining after Tiger Wood's life of money and affairs.

Expectedly, a number of women, Sue Kedgley included, were a little peeved at this. But fear not, fellow penis wielders! Dean Lonergan is here to put them in their place:
"John Key is a strong leader and a very good family man."
"Those women who might be upset at his comments are obviously just disappointed they never made John Key's list and never will."
"He's a normal man who expresses normal manly sentiments from time to time."
Normal manly sentiments like ranking women on their hotness, because they're only here for us red-blooded men to look at? These kind of statements are so infuriating. If that's what it takes to be a "very good family man," then I'm glad I'm not one. I'm sure fact that she didn't make the list is the core of Kedgley's complaints.

But the fourth person to piss me off in this article, was the journalist, Neil Reid. He caused me the most consternation with the simple phrase "Proving he's a typical Kiwi bloke..."

This was an article about the controversy surrounding chauvinistic statements by this country's leader and Reid opens by normalising his comments, passing them off as "typical." The journalist, who is supposed to take an unbiased position, by opening with a suggestion that the PM's comments are typical of New Zealand men, is directly implying that the ensuing complaints are unwarrented.

No wonder Anna Faris wasn't happy with her visit to New Zealand.

26 January, 2011

Let's get some privatisation up in this place!

So, John Key has announced that he's going to sell off some state assets, namely our energy companies, to cover some of this debt we seem to enjoy so much. There's a couple of things I don't like about this, and they cover both practical and ideological fronts.

Key, in his State of the Nation speech, said that National would sell off 49% of the state-owned energy companies to pay for rising national debt, retaining controlling interest for the government.

On the practical side, I understand that energy companies earned the government around $700 million last year. This goes into the state coffers where it's used to help pay for things like healthcare and education. If the government sells off half of the shares in the companies, that would slash the revenue that the government can take. That will mean we'd have to find more money from other sources to pay for important things that we're already not providing enough funding for.

Selling the assets would mean a one off cash boost to the government, but after a few years, the reduced income would negate that.

We were in debt a couple of years ago, and John Key cut tax for the rich, claiming it would help boost the economy, apparently still believing that the trickle down theory actually has merit. That, or he was lying through his insidious smile. Either way, fit for leadership that does not one make.

Yoda-esque sentences aside, the cuts were supposed to be balanced out by the increase in GST. It's incredibly naïve to think that a tax on consumption would work in a time when consumption is low.

So we ended up in more debt, of Key and Bill English's construction, which they claim will be solved with a quick state-asset sale.

On the ideological side of my argument, energy companies are part of our core infrastructure. They belong to all of us. Key said that "mum and dad" investors (I abhor that term on so many levels) would be better off if they could buy shares in the companies. When CLive pointed out that "mum and dad" already own shares with them being state owned (as do the rest of us non "mum and dad"s), Key merrily said, "Yes, and now thay can buy their own shares in it! ^_^" *

"Mum and dad" investors are not going to be better off - wealthy, private interests are. Foreign investors are going to go for their slice of the pie too (even though they have to stand at the back of the queue, NZ investors would be given first dibs).

Electricity companies are fundamentally important to the running of our nation. Power generation should belong to all the people and not be subjected to the whims of private owners. Just because the government holds controlling interest, giving them the power of veto in certain decisions, it doesn't mean that the other 49% don't have any sway. They have a lot of sway.

I shouldn't keep saying that these companies are owned by the government, that makes people miss the point. These companies are owned by us - the citizens of New Zealand. We should be the ones who control them. A small group of politicians should keep their grubby paws off them.

* I'm paraphrasing a little.

24 December, 2010

Just because I have a penis, doesn't mean I want powertools for Christmas

I get sick of all the advertising on television, pandering to stereotypes and 1950's, Stepford wife, bullshit. The same thing happens on Mother's and Father's Days. All men want for Christmas, apparently, is tools and car stuff. Women, on the other hand, will be content with pot-plants and spiritual books, according to the advertising they keep hammering in our faces.

As I mentioned in one of my earliest posts, I'm not the biggest fan of Christmas. What gets me the most about it is that all the stores and malls suddenly become tacky vomitoria of hideous, cheap, plastic, brightly coloured crap. While that annoys me, however, what I find the most insidious, is the aforementioned advertising.

I don't want to read rugby players autobiographies as if their vapid lives have any remotely interesting aspects worthy of printing in ink. I don't want jerseys with car logos on them as if affiliating yourself with either Ford or Holden somehow made you a better person (note: it doesn't, it makes you worse). I have no use for powertools or car stuff. Yet in spite of this, I'm still a man.

How about, instead of looking for "Gifts for Girls" or "Gifts for Boys," we instead just look for Gifts for People. If you're going to tailor a gift for someone, you should at least try to be a little more specific about who they are than just judging based on what they happen to keep in their pants.

Not Christmas gifts advertising, but here's a take on gender-based advertising in general:

Blogging and stuff

I want to be the awesome blogger, but being that I'm one of those people who has to say something important rather than just inane blather, and also being that it can often take effort to write seemingly important things (it takes me ages to get a post just right, I can't just brain-fart one out) I never get around to it, so my blog doesn't get updated and goes unread.

So either I'll fade into obscurity, or I'll start posting inane ramblings. Find out after the break...

08 November, 2010

Depression is lame and stuff

Do you know what really sucks? Everything.”
- Scott Pilgrim
OK, so everything sucked for Scott because he had girl trouble, but he pretty much sums up how I feel at the moment. Depression sucks. It really does, and it makes everything else suck.

It saps your motivation, makes you tired and grumpy, and makes everything you do feel like a failure. It's like there's a voice in your head telling you how much everything sucks. Whenever you attempt to do anything - especially if it's important - that voice is there telling you that trying is pointless because you're not going to succeed at what you're doing, and therefore, will fail at life forever.

That's not a silly exaggeration - that's literally how I feel when I attempt to do my work. It's really hard to maintain motivation when the part of my brain that I need to do my work, is being used by my depression to tell me that there's no point in doing any of the work, because I'm never going to get it finished to any kind of acceptable level. It's annoyingly circular, it makes your life feel like one big clusterfuck, and if left unchecked, will spiral out of control until your whole life collapses into a catastrofuck - kind of like what a neutron star goes through - except neutron stars are awesome and depression isn't.

A lot of people don't seem to understand depression. They often tell me to 'cheer up' or 'get over it,' or worse, they point me to a self help book which spends a whole chapter telling me that I just need to smile - Oh right! That's my problem! It's got nothing to do with the ability of the neurons in my brain to transport serotonin*, I just need to smile!†

* I'm not a neuroscientist - that's just what I got from a cursory glance of Wikipedia.
† That book is real, by the way. I can't remember what it's called, and I'm not going to give the author the dignity of looking it up, but it was, by far, the most patronising opening chapter I've ever read. Seriously, Self Help books are a waste of time and money.

It doesn't work like that (well, not for depression strong enough for a doctor to tell you that you have depression. Everyone gets in a bit of a 'blue funk' from time to time). You can't 'cheer up,' you can't 'get over it' and you certainly can't just fake a smile and pretend that it will trick your brain into thinking you're happy. Because you're not happy, and the suckiest thing is that you can't explain why.

In my last post, I wrote about my struggle with depression due to living in a homophobic world, and ended by saying that It Gets Better. But it's not just homophobia that makes me depressed - I am clinically depressed, and though it hasn't affected me very much over the past few years, it's coming back right now with a vengeance - right at the time when I most need my motivation and a clear head. Clinical depression doesn't go away and recent studies have suggested that anti-depressants aren't as effective as once thought. How can I tell young LGBT kids that "It Gets Better" when, right now, I feel like it never will?

The trouble is, we always want to strive for perfection. We want to be perfectly happy, without a care in our perfect world. But in reality, we have to set our sights a little lower. "Perfect" is unattainable. We have, instead, to set our sights on "good enough." My depression will never go away, I will have to battle it again and again. You can't escape it. For me, there are long periods of what can be approximated as "almost-normalcy" punctuated by periods of depression. For me, "almost-normalcy" is as good as it gets, but that's OK, as I don't really want anything too saccharin.

But it does get better - I have to fight and fight against an unknowable force using the very tools it's using against me. It's an uphill battle and it's hard and it usually strikes when you least want it to - when you're under stress or work pressure; when it has it's most deleterious effects - but it does still get better. It's taken me years to train myself to remember that. I'm not on medication now, haven't been for a few years, because I've trained myself on how to notice depression sneaking up and how to deal with it when it does, and the solutions are as individual as the person it affects. But that doesn't mean that I can just turn it off like a switch. I still have to fight it - every minute of every day - until it goes away. And it doesn't just take a day or two, it can linger for weeks or months - sometimes even years.

So I can't despair (even though that's what my brain is trying to make me do), I just have to plod along and do what I can to fight it: enjoy the sun, listen to good music, eat good food - and take solace in the fact that it will get better, but it's not easy. It's not something I can run away from or protest or accuse of bigotry. I've got to slog away at it until it's over. Even though it's the loudest voice in my head, I've got to ignore it, and I've got to shout over it to get anything done. If shouting math equations over an obnoxious emo in your head sounds like a bit of fun, then you should try depression too. But for me, it's not fun (OK, visualising and personifying it, is fun, but I digress...), it's a necessity.

Depression's a bitch, and if you don't nip it in the bud, it'll make you it's bitch. Talk to your friends (friends love it when you bitch about stuff at them), or a counciller, or a doctor or anyone who can help, and get yourself on the right track to mitigating it (you can't "cure" it). It's not easy, but with a little effort, it will get better.

31 October, 2010

It gets better - but it needs help

There's two things going on at the moment, mostly in the US, but it's also spilling over here too. The first is that there have been a string of young, queer people who have killed themselves due to the constant bullying that they receive for their particular shade of different. Whether this is something that has recently reached a crescendo or that it's rather that the mainstream is just starting to pay attention, doesn't matter - it's starting to get the attention it requires.

The second is the response. Celebrities across the US are posting videos online and giving speeches on their talk shows telling same-sex attracted youth that it gets better, that life is worth living, and pleading with the everyone to end the homophobic and transphobic bullying. The latest trend started when Dan Savage posted a video titled It Gets Better, with a number of celebrities, including Ellen DeGeneres contributing to the project. I must say that I am impressed by this - usually the mainstream media don't like talking so frankly about queer issues, preferring to sit on the "balanced" sidelines.

I am absolutely thrilled that this is happening, but I'm worried that as soon as the novelty wears off, we'll find something else to worry about, and the abuse and the suicides will continue to happen.

In New Zealand, gay, lesbian and bi youth are three times more likely than their straight counterparts to be bullied for being gay, or being thought of as gay. I'm not sure what the stats are like in other countries, but from what I understand that it doesn't get much better.

There is a reason that young queer people are being singled out and bullied, and it goes quite a bit beyond general schoolyard meanness. As a teenager at school, you're pretty much guaranteed to be bullied if they don't fit into whichever clique is supposed to be popular. Nerds and geeks are classical fare, as are the fat kids, and those who are just arbitrarily deemed unpopular. But if you're labelled 'gay' - even if you're really not - then life can become a living hell. At school, I fell into all those categories.

There needs to be a lot more done to curb bullying in schools. A lot of the abuse is often just passed off as childhood and teenage meanness; we certainly wouldn't expect adults to act like that. But when homophobia and queerphobia gets involved it becomes much worse - who you love and who you find attractive become one of the most things in a teenagers life once puberty strikes, and coupled with the overwhelming desire to fit in and do and like the 'right' things, things can get very stressful for a young queer person even before you add bullying into the mix. Children and teenagers can be very cruel - I should know: I spent years being bullied and taunted everyday, including two years at a boarding school I couldn't escape, for having the audacity of being different in a way that was outside my control, and for not following the rules of that society which, to this day, I can't totally comprehend.

I think that there is a dangerous myth present here that knocks back efforts to curb school-yard bullying - that children are cruel, purely because children are cruel. I really don't think that is the case. Yes they can be blunt, yes they take time to learn about things like compassion and empathy. Male children are learning how to establish hierarchies and pecking orders, in which they put others down. But I don't think that's enough to explain it all. Where do they get their ideas of how to be at the top of that pecking order? How do they know who to pick on; who's 'different'?


Quite simple, really. No prizes for me. Some children might not have developed their empathy, but that doesn't mean that they're incapable of understanding it (children are capable of understanding anything if you explain it to them) and it is the duty of adults, especially parents and educators, to explain it to them. And it is also adults who spread most of the lies, misunderstandings and stereotypes about homosexuals and queer people.

“Being a fag doesnt [sic] give you the right to ruin the rest of our lives. If you get easily offended by being called a fag then dont tell anyone you are a fag. Keep that shit to yourself [...]  I like that fags cant procreate. I also enjoy the fact that they often give each other aids and die. If you arent against it, you might as well be for it.”
That from Clint McCance, a school board member in Arkansas in responce to students wearing purple in memory of - and to protest the homophobia that led to - the recent, high-profile cases of gay teenage suicide. Read that again: a school board member, i.e. a person who influences teenagers' education. There's currently a Facebook campaign calling for him to be fired. Thanks to the fallout, McChance has since announced that he will resign from the school board. (Just as well, too - do we really want someone in charge of people's education when he can't seem to comprehend an apostrophy's role in contractions?)

Another person to not like It Gets Better, is a strange person called Mike Adams. In the interest of one-upping those annoying gay suicides, he decided to write about the suicides of eight straight people due to "harassment" by homosexuals. The cases he cites are all real except for two subtle points. The first is that they couldn't really be counted as "harassment." One of his 'victims' had recommended a homophobic book for a freshman reading course as a library committee member, and another member filed a harassment complaint against him. Because of that complaint, the librarian took his own life. Except, as he admits at the end of his rant, he didn't. And that's the other point. None of his 'victims' took their own lives. Instead, they're mostly sueing the people who "harassed" them.

So, Adams - a college professor - tried to out do a spate of teen suicides caused by horrific homophobic bullying by equating that abuse (which has included kidnapping and torture) with what mostly amounts to being called out for their bullshit, and then not committing suicide. Harassment is not being told you can't be a bigot. Harassment is being called a fag every other day. It is being spat on on the street. It's being told that you shouldn't be allowed to marry your partner. It's being accused of paedophilia and bestiality. It's being called a disease ridden whore. And not just being picked on by high-schoolers, but by entire churches and religious leaders, celebrities and politicians - all of these people demanding freedom of speech and religion to deny the rights of others, apparently without noticing the irony of their actions.

Fun fact: Adams is also a misogynist.

So, what to do? First of all, we must remember that there is no arguable defence of homophobia and queerphobia. None. Is it a 'sin?' Nope. Does it lead to paedophilia, rape and incest, or be kept away from children? Nope. Is it 'unnatural' (however you qualify or measure that)? Nope. Being gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, or any other shade of queer is no more wrong than being left-handed, or blond, or female, or black.

Next: be visible. Show people that it's not shameful to be queer. Be visible in your sexuality, or your acceptance of the differing sexualities. I know a lot of people don't want to do this for fear of precisely the things we are trying to fight, but we need to make ubiquitus the idea that being gay or lesbian or bisexual or trans or queer - being different - is completely normal* and acceptable.

* Normal, as in an everyday, natural occurance, not as in statistically average. I am aware of how stupid that word it.

And finally, we need to discourage homophobia and queerphobia wherever we see it. When people say "that's so gay" or call someone they don't like a "homo," tell them that that's not alright. When someone says that gays can't raise children, ask for proof, and let them know that, according to research, children raised by lesbians fare better than those raised in heterosexual households. If they say that it's a 'sin' or that God forbids it, point out leviticus, along with prohibiting male homosexual acts, also forbids the eating of shellfish (which also uses the term abomination), shaving, vegetable gardens, doing anything on a Saturday, and mensturating women from sitting on chairs - furthermore, there are stories of a lesbian couple and two gay couples.

Everyone needs to own this problem; both queer people and 'straight', but especially adults. It's time we got rid of homophobia and queerphobia, and all other forms of bigotry, once and for all. Oppose it whenever you witness it, and tell people that it's not OK.

To all those teachers, parents and caregivers, you need to go out of your way to loof for and discourage homophobic and queerphobic bullying. Yes, all bullying is bad and needs to be stopped, but for too long, bullying of young queer people has been largely ignored. It's your job to ensure that children and teenagers are raised in an environment free from persecution and harassment, and that they understand that they live in a diverse world with many different types of people, just trying to live as who and what they are, and that bigotry is unacceptable.

And to all those people, young people especially, who are being bullied and abused for being gay or being perceived as gay; for all those who are caught in a spiral of depression and are comtemplating suicide, know this: It gets better. You grow up. The arseholes go away. You can get away from it. You can do something about it. I've been there - I've been bullied, yelled at, called a 'faggot' and been tormented. When I was at Timaru Boys High School, as a boarder, I was in an inescapable cuccoon of hypermasculine homophobia. The prefects egged it on, and the housemasters cared more about not letting my parents think there was anything wrong with the hostel than whether I was alright. (It was at the boarding school, that I developed my keen disdain for hegemony, authoritarinism and also militarianism)

But I grew up. I was able to leave Timaru Boys† and, although Ashburton College (shut up) didn't fare much better in the homophobia department, I eventually left that too. I went to university - the bullies dropped out. Now, I'm the happiest I've ever been.

 † I have nothing against the school itself, except the rigid, Christian, superiority complex that I remember. It's the boarding hostel, Thomas House, or rather those that ran it at the time, that draws the attention of my ire.

Life gets better. Even if you're being dragged throught the shit, don't give up. Depression can cloud your judgement and make you unable to see through the storm. It may even make you just want to give up and kill yourself. But that's never the answer. Once you're dead, you're dead forever. You can't go back and fix it. Instead of killing yourself, hold on. I know it may seem futile, but grab onto whatever gives you strength and keep going. Just remember that it does get better.