#UniteCloud in the Wake of the Pulse Nightclub Shooting

Part 2:

Non-Latinx people, especially white folks, even if they’re queer and/or trans, need to know that we are not all Orlando because we all do not share these same experiences with violence that members of this particular community do, and that’s really important to understand. As Tatum says in “The Complexity of Identity,” “The task of resisting our own oppression does not relieve us of the responsibility of acknowledging our complicity in the oppression of others.” That is why non-Latinx, but especially white queers and trans folks cannot go around acting like “This could have just as easily been me!” We definitely experience violence, but not nearly at the same rates or in the same form that queer and trans people of color do. White queer and trans people still have white privilege and are totally capable of perpetuating racism and white supremacy. We are not somehow not white privileged anymore because of our queerness or transness. We are simultaneously privileged and oppressed (at least in these specific ways), so we cannot carry on pretending that this could have just likely been a massacre of white people or completely erase the racial/ethnic aspects of this hate crime altogether in the name of utterly useless and actively harmful “color blindness,” which I’m sorry to say to all of the so-called whites for equality out there, isn’t fucking real. It’s just irresponsible.

Speaking more about social responsibility and acknowledging our oppression of others, we must not allow the violent actions of this one Muslim man speak for an entire worldwide community of Muslims. Islamophobia was already horrendous in the United States following the terrorist attack on the twin towers back on September 11, 2001, but now in this post 9/11 world with our worsening political climate before and after this most recent election, Islamophobia and hate crimes against perceived Muslims has been on the rise and putting Muslims in serious danger. Even if Omar Mateen identified as an Islamic extremist, we must recognize that Islamic extremists only account for a very small fraction of a percentage of the worldwide population and are not any more violent as people from other religious groups, like Christians, but violence perpetuated by white Christians are never labeled as terrorism or attributed to the zealous religious affiliations of the attacker. We as queer and trans people especially have, and must continue to be outspoken against Islamophobia, and make it abundantly clear that we refuse hateful violence against us to be used as justification for more bigoted, hateful violence against other groups (though there are plenty of people who are Muslim and queer and/or trans). We must fervently denounce these divisionary and Islamophobic tactics and instead be grateful for all of our queer and trans Muslims as well as Muslim allies to the LGBTQ+ community.

Now after analyzing the violence and aftermath of implications, I shall return to the post from #UniteCloud. It’s short and sweet, and I think they did a nice job of highlighting people’s feelings after such a tragedy took place and also does a great job of combating Islamophobia with a nice little quote from Haji Yusuf calling for solidarity between Muslims and LGBTQ+ folks (though like I said before, you can definitely be both). And then Natalie offers a message that LGBTQ+ folks matter every day, not just when such a tragedy takes place, and that we must listen and take care of each other.

In summation I think the brief blog post provides a pretty good synthesis of the event, I only wish there was more analysis like the one I have provided here. They didn’t use the problematic #WeAreAllOrlando either, so that’s a definite plus! I appreciate some of the community recognizing that what #UniteCloud has done and will continue to do as grassroots activism is the best, though our politics definitely differ (they supporting neoliberalism, whilst I am more radical). Community activism for the win!

 

Image: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2016/06/12/three-horrific-hours-orlando-nightclub-massacre/85788574/

 

 

andy-blog-photoRuth Sybil Virginia May is a junior undergraduate student at St. Cloud State University, studying Gender and Women’s Studies, Human Relations, and Film Studies. Ruth is a genderqueer trans woman from a poor, working class background with a passion for feminism, fashion, film, and rad tunes. 

#UniteCloud in the Wake of the Pulse Nightclub Shooting 

Part 1:

Last semester, Natalie Ringsmuth, Executive Director of the local grassroots activist group, #UniteCloud, joined my class to talk about some of the work of #UniteCloud within their overarching goal of actively participating in the end of marginalization of all of our community members. After such meeting, I read a blog from their website and incorporated what we’ve learned through class discussions to analyze said post to better understand systems of oppression.

I read a post from #UniteCloud’s website titled “Orlando, You are Not Alone” about a community gathering that occurred following the massacre that took place at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida this past June. The purpose of the gathering was to honor the lives lost as a result of this hate crime that motivated mass murder, and to come together as a St. Cloud community to show that they care about our LGBTQ+ community members. In order to understand this community gathering, we must understand the murders themselves.

According to an article from NPR titled “3 Hours in Orlando: Piecing Together an Attack and its Aftermath,” on June 12, 2016, an armed gunman named Omar Mateen entered the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando and slaughtered 49 innocent people. But these people were not coincidental targets. Mateen planned to massacre the people at the Pulse Orlando Nightclub because it was a known queer bar, and the night Mateen planned his attack coincided with a Latin themed night, where the majority of the attendees and grand majority of the victims of this heinous hate crime were queer Latinx people. This type of mortal, violent outburst on Mateen’s behalf was a textbook definition of mass systematic violence. The victims and those traumatized by the attack were specifically targeted as queer and trans Latinxs and for no other reason other than their belonging to these marginalized groups.

However, I find it important to contextualize that although this hyper form of mass violence is not common on a daily basis, violence against queer and trans Latinxs individually and in smaller groups is an extremely common occurrence, most especially felt by Latinx trans women and trans feminine people. Violence against queer and trans Latinxs is nothing new, and is in fact extremely prevalent when you listen to the voices and stories of these people and their everyday experiences at the intersections of racism, heterosexism, and cissexism. Even if certain members of this community are not experiencing direct physical assault, just the looming vulnerability is enough to be demoralizing and induce suffering and unhappiness. Young says that, “The oppression of violence consists not only in direct victimization, but in the daily knowledge shared by all members of oppressed groups that they are liable to violation, solely on account of their group identity.” Queer and trans Latinxs are certainly hyperaware of their marginalization and vulnerability to violence. It is our social responsibility, especially as white folks, to not talk about this tragedy as if it were an isolated and erratic occurrence, but an act of systematic racist, heterosexist, and cissexist violence that has been occurring for hundreds of years, thanks to colonization.

Shortly following the aftermath of this tragedy, people from around the globe, but especially Americans, started using the hashtag, #WeAreAllOrlando as a way to show support and solidarity with those most impacted by the attack. While very well intentioned and seemingly harmless to some, after listening to queer and trans Latinx activists, it became quite clear that, in fact, we are not all Orlando. Community leaders like the wonderful Jennicet Gutierrez were outspoken about this and refused to let this massive hate crime be whitewashed.

Whitewashing happens when other factors, like race and ethnicity, are not taken into account, unreported, or completely omitted from conversations and public discourse surrounding the massacre. Everyone, but especially white queer and trans folks have the responsibility to not erase the fact that the people targeted in this attack were almost exclusively (if not exclusively) people of color, namely Latinx people. It is a dishonor to these people who survived and didn’t survive the attack to gloss over this crucial bit of intersectionality; if we really want to understand what provoked this violence and listen to queer and trans Latinxs to find ways to best prevent more violence from continuously occurring.

Image: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2016/06/12/three-horrific-hours-orlando-nightclub-massacre/85788574/

 

…Stay tuned for Part 2, coming on Thursday…

andy-blog-photoRuth Sybil Virginia May is a junior undergraduate student at St. Cloud State University, studying Gender and Women’s Studies, Human Relations, and Film Studies. Ruth is a genderqueer trans woman from a poor, working class background with a passion for feminism, fashion, film, and rad tunes. 

The Filling, the Overflowing, and the Emptiness

On November 23rd of this year, I had the honor of being appointed to the Young Women’s Initiative Cabinet of Minnesota.

The Young Women’s Initiative Cabinet brings together nonprofits, businesses, and government to improve equity in outcomes for young women in Minnesota who experience the greatest disparities.

This cabinet has been a work in progress for years, but nowhere would approve it until Minnesota. It wasn’t approved until Minnesota because no government officials were on board until Governor Dayton. As soon as the idea was pitched to him, he was on board!

If our action plan works, this cabinet will be starting in many other states as well and for those of us in the cabinet, we will be a part of history.

There are about twenty five women on this cabinet, ranging from ages of 16 to 24 who are working with me to create an action plan to strengthen services and areas that are already working for women in Minnesota.

It is seldom I feel proud of myself but being appointed to this cabinet is one of those moments. My voice didn’t seem important until now.

But getting appointed to this cabinet a few short weeks after the election was conflicting for me in many ways.

Being a part of this cabinet was the hope that I needed in humanity and in the world I live in.

There’s a phrase that says ‘you cannot pour from an empty cup’ and the election had me feeling as if my cup had run permanently dry.

After a few weeks of feeling absolutely empty post-election and then getting to be a part of this cabinet, it felt like the cup I pour from was overflowing.

But how does one keep faith in the work they’re doing when the world at large is actively working against them?

I have always believed in people and that they hold the power.

To maintain my full cup, I needed to be a part of this cabinet working to create change in a world that so desperately needs it.

At the first cabinet meeting, we each spoke about what made us decide to apply for a position on the cabinet. As each woman went around the room sharing what brought them to this cabinet, I had hope in the people around me and faith in the fact that people still care.

Each woman that spoke has known various forms of struggles and disparities. Each of the women has the desire to create a better world for all the people in it. Their passions ranged from healthcare disparities to racial profiling and beyond. Even though we all had different issues that brought us to this cabinet, we were a room full of people who cared. The amount of empathy and passion in that room was enough to empower anyone.

It was everything I needed to hear. Being in a room so filled with passion, I felt my cup overflow.

And I recommend becoming a part of something to everyone who is feeling their cup has run dry.

Be engaged.

Surround yourself with people who care and have passion to create change like you do because you are not alone. You are not the only one who feels empathy for others or has a desire to change the way that our world is going. And there is nothing more than to fill your cup up with hope.

Hope in the people around you.

There are more of us out here fighting for good than you think.

So my advice is to do whatever you can to find people like this because they do exist.

And people have the power.

We just forget that.

 

 

grace-espinozas-blog-pictureGrace Espinoza is a junior undergraduate student at SCSU, majoring in Social Work. Grace works at the Women’s Center and the American Indian Center on campus. Grace is a straight, Mexican Portuguese/white woman with a passion for social justice, feminism, and poetry. She has been a published poet several times beginning in the seventh grade and is honored to contribute to Collective Feminism. 

 

But It Doesn’t Add Up

As I am sitting in my Social Work classes taking notes on what it means to be an advocate for social justice, I have to stifle an ironic laugh.

Here I am taking notes on how to advocate for social justice when I should be out there actually fighting for it.

Every day, I wake up and see another executive order passed and it makes it that much harder to drag myself out of bed for classes.

The world needs us, but we’re here taking notes on how we can create change.

What it means to advocate for social justice cannot be understood in the classroom.

Notes are not real life and the classroom is not how the real world works either.

So when you ask me to write about what social justice looks like in my notebook, I am dreaming of throwing this notebook out the fucking window.

Social justice doesn’t have anything to do with sitting in a classroom talking about what social justice could be.

Social justice is getting out into your community and working to create change there. It is starting person to person to eventually create a cultural shift.

Social justice is showing up when the fights are not just about you or showing up for people who don’t want you to.

Fighting for social justice looks like a thousand things, but it will never start while we’re trapped in classrooms.  Here we are stuck in classrooms talking about what we could be doing without doing anything at all.

So how does this add up?

How do we navigate our responsibilities as students, employees, etc. while still showing up and advocating for social justice?

Are there even enough hours in the damn day?

And am I the only one who is starting to feel burned out on both ends?

I wish that there were some answers I could find within a book or a sign from somewhere to guide me to the next step.

But there isn’t.

And time keeps turning and the executive orders keep coming and life isn’t slowing down for any of us.

So where does this leave us?

What can we do?

Although I don’t have all the answers that I’m looking for I do know what the stepping stones are for each and every one of us to begin to do our part to advocate for social justice,

  1. Keep showing up when support is needed. Show up for those who don’t have the privilege to.
  1. Be as present as possible as to what is going on in the world and what causes you can be a part of. If you can support it, do it.
  1. Become involved in your community: volunteer, get to know the people around you, and support those in your community. Creating change is a process and it starts person to person.
  1. Remember not to stretch yourself too thin. The world needs us to keep up the fight, but we cannot give all of ourselves if we are empty.
  1. Stay as informed as you can while staying sane. Know when you need to take a step back from the news for a day, but do not be so privileged as to fully step out of the fight because many cannot.

And lastly,
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. “-Margaret Mead

 

 

 

grace-espinozas-blog-pictureGrace Espinoza is a junior undergraduate student at SCSU, majoring in Social Work. Grace works at the Women’s Center and the American Indian Center on campus. Grace is a straight, Mexican Portuguese/white woman with a passion for social justice, feminism, and poetry. She has been a published poet several times beginning in the seventh grade and is honored to contribute to Collective Feminism. 

Self-Care Over Spring Break

Spring Break is nearly here! While you’re using next week to catch up on schoolwork, add more cash to your paycheck, or play a new video game (or like me, a tasteful blend of all three!) self-care is extremely important as we move into the final half of the semester.

What is self-care? Broadly, self-care is anything that allows you to take a deep breath, to center (sometimes, re-center) yourself in your own life. Doing intersectional feminist work is just as exhausting as it is rewarding, and it is essential to make room for yourself. Self-care includes everything from hugging a cat to staying off Facebook for a week to going to the doctor. Try answering the question, “What do I need?”

This awesome article talks about self-care, especially its importance to black women, and aptly quotes Audre Lorde, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” That is, making time for yourself is not selfish–it’s connected to survival, which for some marginalized groups is an act of defiance.

Find more self-care strategies here:

Self Care Resources for Days When the World is Terrible

Self Care Strategies to Reduce Stress

Even Non-Artists Use Art Journaling to Relieve Stress

How to Avoid Burnout and Still Help Others

Self-Care Tips for Activists–‘Cause Being Woke Shouldn’t Mean Your Spirit’s Broke

Enjoy break!

–Collective Feminism

(Feminist) Thoughts on the March

Just after the Women’s March on Washington, Carly Puch (one of our own!) wrote on her own blog about her experience participating in the march.

She brings together a thoughtful perspective on the empowering heart of the march, critiques of its unmistakable whiteness, and what both of those things mean for the kind of work we have, as feminists, ahead of us.

Here’s an excerpt…

There are improvements to be made, and particularly we white feminists can do better but what these marches symbolized was that recognition. More women are mobilized because for many it is the first time their rights are truly being threatened, whether that be attributed to their race, their class, their age or any other factor that has allowed them to turn a blind eye to injustice. Human rights campaigns in this country have been built on the backs of people of color, do not silence them, but listen and learn to those who have been fighting before you.

Continue reading here!

The kind of work we have ahead of us must not be forgotten or ignored: it must be thoughtful. We must strive to love each other, build bridges between those of us with vastly different experiances, and act beyond our fear to achieve things which may seem impossible.

What do you think?  Let us know here on the blog or write us at collectivefeminism@stcloudstate.edu

Reflection from the Post-Production of That Takes Ovaries

By Ruth Sybil May

A few weeks ago, I participated in the feminist play titled, That Takes Ovaries: Bold Women, Brazen Acts by Rivka Solomon and Bobbi Ausubel; of which I was a cast member. The play is an adaptation of the book similarly titled, That Takes Ovaries: Bold Females and Their Brazen Acts, edited by Rivka Solomon. The framework of the book/play is a collection of true stories submitted by ordinary people recounting an experience in which they acted of courageously and bravely, told through first-person narratives. The play was organized by recruiting a cast of diverse community members to enact these true stories on stage in front of an audience, mixing activism with performance art in a way that is humorous, yet serious and inspiring at the same time.

Within the play, I played the part of Drake, a young, transgender man on a path of self-discovery and emotional bravery. During his scene, Drake works up the courage to come out to his mother as transgender despite knowing his mother would not react well. After sharing his truth, his parents are apprehensive at first, but soon do their research so they can better support and love their son no matter what, bringing their family even closer together than before.

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Special Edition: Critiquing the Critique

Women on Wednesday is a critical program with a rich, 26 year history of highlighting the voices of diverse, intelligent, savvy and  creative people, especially women working to end sexist oppression and promote a safe, inclusive and engaged community through advocacy, education, alliance-building and women’s leadership.

On March 30th, the Women’s Center hosted Vednita Carter and Joy Friedman from Breaking Free, one of the nation’s leading organizations for working with victims and survivors of sex trafficking and prostitution, at a Women on Wednesday session titled “Sex Trafficking 201: Dynamics of Prostitution and Sex Trafficking.” We’re excited to report a record-breaking audience of 157 for this engaging presentation from two survivors about the realities of the sex industry and the experiences of prostituted women. (Follow this link to listen to an audio recording of the session and hear their powerful stories yourself!)

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Open Letter to SCSU Community

To the St. Cloud State University campus community:

On March 2, 2016, the Supreme Court will hear Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a case that is fundamentally about autonomy, one’s ability to freely determine what is best for their health without interference, and access to the safe, and legal health care that meets individuals’ self-identified needs. This case challenges laws that restrict abortion access under the guise of concern for the health and safety of patients but are truly political ploys to limit the accessibility of abortion care. The outcome of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt affects us all: it will change the realities of abortion access for decades to come: either by finding undue restrictions unlawful, or forcing clinics to shut down, and subsequently, people to seek alternative and unsafe abortion services.

Despite clarity from the Supreme Court that people have a constitutional right to abortion, states continue to pass laws that limit women’s access to abortion care through a variety of tactics, including:

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What Does Yoga Have to do with Social Justice?

Have you met Dr. Beth Berila?  She is the director of the Women’s Studies program here on campus, she teaches many Women’s Studies courses, and she is a certified yoga instructor!  (We would also contend that she is a pretty awesome individual!)

Dr. Berila has a website called The Mindful Semester, where she inspires and challenges students to become more mindful of their college experience.  She has graciously offered for us to post from her site, and today we are pleased to bring you some of her ideas!

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