“Not-man” cannot be understood as shorthand for “women & others.” It is, rather than a collection of non-male identities, a way of referring to the product of gender as a relationship of exploitation. “It is nonsensical to describe not-men as doing something—anything—or having any unity,” because not-man is a position of silence, an exclusion from subjectivity as it is put to work within gender and patriarchy. This cannot be confined to any group of bodies or identities, and to conflate it with a unitary womanhood would be an error on the order of conflating “proletarian” with “industrial worker.” None of us are not-men by virtue of anatomy or identification, rather not-men is a position we are forced into, to greater or lesser degree as the recipients of gendered violence.
— UNDOING SEX: AGAINST SEXUAL OPTIMISM -THE LIES JOURNAL OF MATERIALIST FEMINISM
Effectively, the not-man cannot speak, cannot be represented with total accuracy, as it is defined through lack and absence. Still, it is a point in a relationship which is constitutive of gendered class, and discussion of it is necessary for any understanding of what it is to be a woman, man, transgender, or queer. Not-man is a means of addressing the problem of patriarchy—the way in which maleness and male subjectivity produces, appropriates, and exploits a condition of silence, death, and lack—while hopefully avoiding the presupposition of a coherent feminist or female subject. Not-maleness is constitutive of gender’s class reality—forms of womanhood and
manhood exist only in relation to it — but it is irreducible to one or several classes.
Racism and white supremacy are so pervasive, that we don’t even have to be consciously or intentionally doing anything to participate in them. It’s in the air we breathe; it’s how the machine rolls; it’s the default. It’s backed by everything in our society. That’s the thing about oppression, power and privilege: unless you are actively challenging it, you are colluding with it. We live in a heterosexist society, we live in an ableist society and we all have a responsibility to actively work against it. We can’t guarantee that things won’t be ableist or won’t be racist (that’s not the world we live in right now); but we CAN guarantee that when there is racism, when there is ableism, that we will do something about it. We will LISTEN to those most impacted; we will listen to people of color, we will listen to disabled folks; we will listen to trans folks; we will listen to queer disabled people of color—and hear them. We can guarantee that we will act and communicate with each other. And maybe we will make mistakes; and we will learn from them.
There is no such thing as neutrality. If you have privilege, you can never be neutral, because you are constantly benefiting off of that privilege—even at the same time as you are also being oppressed. That is what “intersectionality” (for lack of a better word) is about. It is about moving beyond single-issue politics; it’s about understanding the complexities of our lives. It is understanding that fighting for racial justice IS queer; fighting for disability justice IS queer. —
“Intersectionality” is a Big Fancy Word for My Life (2010)
This essay is mostly intended to educate people about the ways prisons, immigration detention centers, and the deportation process oppress the queer and transgender community, not to attack Jane Marquardt. However, it’s well worth asking: What kind of ally to the LGBTQ community profits off of these sorts of human rights violations? Jane Marquardt is a respected and influential member of Utah’s LGBTQ community, but if she profits off of a system that oppresses us, how good of an ally is she? While I have not yet found specific details regarding how her company, Management and Training Corporation, handles sexual assault against queer and trans inmates, there are multiple documented cases of sexual assault and illegal strip searches in their facilities. Furthermore, regardless of how MTC handles their own facilities, they have pushed for laws that increase rates of immigration detention and deportation. In doing so, they have backed the caging, rape, harassment, abuse, and possibly even wrongful death of queer and trans immigrants.
This also raises a question for the LGBTQ movement more generally. Where will our focus as activists be? Are we going to solely focus on easy issues like gay marriage and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, or will we confront the caging of queer and trans people, as well as the subsequent harassment, rape, assault, and deportation they face? This question decides whether we will be allies merely to privileged queers or to all queers.— “The PIC vs. the Queer & Trans Community” by Quantum Tuba
For companies like Corrections Corporation of America, GeoGroup, and Management and Training Corporation, the money comes from keeping people locked up. But when you’re operating an immigration detention center, the end result for many detainees is inevitably deportation. In order to secure more detainees, all three of these corporations have financially backed anti-immigrant legislation, and such legislation almost certainly means an increase not just in rates of detention, but in rates of deportation.
So what sorts of consequences can deportation have for queer and transgender immigrants? In some cases, it can mean that they will be deported to countries where they are very likely to be persecuted, perhaps even killed, for who they are. For example, Tanya Guzman-Martinez, whose ordeal in a CCA detention facility we already discussed, applied for and received asylum on grounds that she would be persecuted in Mexico for being transgender. When HIV positive immigrants are deported, it can be a death sentence if they are sent to a country without access to necessary medication. A 2009 Human Rights Watch report, Returned to Risk, discusses deportation of HIV positive migrants in detail.— “The PIC vs. the Queer & Trans Community” by Quantum Tuba
The homophobic culture of corrections is compounded by policies that do not take into account the specific concerns of LGBTQ prisoners. For example, transgender women are typically housed with men, in accordance with their birth gender, and are required to shower and submit to strip searches in front of male officers and inmates. In addition, gay and transgender inmates often seek protective custody because of their heightened risk for abuse, only to be placed in solitary confinement, locked in a cell for 23 hours a day, and losing access to programming and other services.
Thus, official policies in the prison system subject queer and transgender inmates to serious psychological discomfort, while heightening their already severe risk of sexual abuse. — “The PIC vs. the Queer & Trans Community” by Quantum Tuba
Once one is trapped in poverty, one is exposed to profiling and disproportionate police presence in poor communities. One is also more likely to be subject to the criminal laws which target the homeless. Furthermore, members of the transgender community can face criminal charges simply for living in accordance with their gender identity. For example, they can be arrested for using the “wrong” bathroom, due to suspicious discrepancies in their ID, and even on trumped up charges of solicitation. This flow chart from the Sylvia Rivera Law Project explains the phenomenon well.
The combination of employment discrimination and criminalization particularly impacts queer and trans immigrants. In America’s labyrinthine legal immigration system, finding skilled employment is one of the few paths to legal immigration status. When that is closed off by discrimination, one is far more likely to be an undocumented immigrant. This difficulty is compounded by the structural poverty and criminalization already discussed here, as once an undocumented immigrant is picked up by police, they are likely to be sent to a detention center and eventually deported.
In addition to the risk factors detailed here, evidence from the juvenile justice system demonstrates that once arrested, LGBTQ youth are more likely to be placed in pre-trial detention. According to an article in The Nation:
The road to incarceration begins in pretrial detention, before the youth even meets a judge. Laws and professional standards state that it’s appropriate to detain a child before trial only if she might run away or harm someone. Yet for queer youth, these standards are frequently ignored. According to UC Santa Cruz researcher Dr. Angela Irvine, LGBT youth are two times more likely than straight youth to land in a prison cell before adjudication for nonviolent offenses like truancy, running away and prostitution. According to Ilona Picou, executive director of Juvenile Regional Services, Inc., in Louisiana, 50 percent of the gay youth picked up for nonviolent offenses in Louisiana in 2009 were sent to jail to await trial, while less than 10 percent of straight kids were. “Once a child is detained, the judge assumes there’s a reason you can’t go home,” says Dr. Marty Beyer, a juvenile justice specialist. “A kid coming into court wearing handcuffs and shackles versus a kid coming in with his parents—it makes a very different impression.”
This initial bias makes it clear that queer and trans youth are disproportionately locked up in this country, even before they are given a trial.
Even though most cities do not provide enough affordable housing, shelter space, and food to meet the need, many cities use the criminal justice system to punish people living on the street for doing things that they need to do to survive. Such measures often prohibit activities such as sleeping/camping, eating, sitting, and/or begging in public spaces and include criminal penalties for violation of these laws. Some cities have even enacted food sharing restrictions that punish groups and individuals for serving homeless people. Many of these measures appear to have the purpose of moving homeless people out of sight, or even out of a given city.
This criminalization of homelessness is not limited to cities conventionally seen as conservative. To the contrary, the same 2009 report ranked both liberal Berkeley and the famously queer friendly San Francisco among their “10 Meanest Cities” for criminalizing homelessness. These criminal sanctions put queer and trans homeless youth at increased risk of eventual incarceration. — “The PIC vs. the Queer & Trans Community” by Quantum Tuba
Finally, because we lack an intersectional analysis of how heteropatriarchy structures white supremacy and colonialism, we end up developing organizing strategies that are problematic to say the least. To name but a few examples: We have anti-violence groups supporting the bombing of Afghanistan in order save women from the Taliban, and we have these same groups supporting the buildup of the prison industrial complex by relying on criminalization as the primary strategy for ending domestic and sexual violence.
These groups fail to see how the state itself is the primary perpetrator of violence against women, particularly women of color, and that state violence in the form of either the military or prison industrial complex is not going to liberate anyone.
We have racial and antiwar groups meanwhile organizing against state violence in Iraq and elsewhere, but cannot seem to do anything about ending violence against women in their own organizations. These groups fail to see that it is primarily through sexual violence that colonialism and white supremacy work.
And then we have mainstream reproductive rights and environmental groups supporting population control policies in order to save the world from poverty and environmental destruction, thus blaming women of color for the policies wrought by corporate and government elites, thus letting these elites off the hook.
In all these cases and many more, activists fail to recognize that if we do not address heteropatriarchy, we do not just undermine the status of women, but we fundamentally undermine our struggles for social justice for everyone.
Thus, if we are not serious about dismantling heteropatriarchy, then we are not serious about ending colonialism or white supremacy. We might as well go home and tell all Christian Right activists to retire because we will be doing their job for them.— Heteropatriarchy, A Building Block of Empire — Andrea Smith
First, because we have not challenged heteropatriarchy, we have deeply internalized the notion that social hierarchy is natural and inevitable, thus undermining our ability to create movements for social change that do not replicate the structures of domination that we seek to eradicate. Whether it is the neocolonial middle managers of the non-profit industrial complex or the revolutionary vanguard elite, the assumption is that patriarchs of any gender are required to manage and police the revolutionary family.
Any liberation struggle that does not challenge heteronormativity* cannot substantially challenge colonialism or white supremacy. Rather, as Cathy Cohen contends, such struggles will maintain colonialism based on a politics of secondary marginalization where the most elite class of these groups will further their aspiration on the backs of those most marginalized within the community.
Second, our sense of social hierarchy as natural then limits our revolutionary imagination. For instance, the theme of the U.S. Social Forum is “Another World is Possible: Another U.S. is Necessary.” But the critical question we must ask ourselves is, if another world is possible, then is the U.S. itself necessary? If we put all our revolutionary imaginations together, is the best we can come up with a kindler, gentler settler colonial nation-state based on slavery and genocide?
This is where we should be informed by indigenous peoples’ (particularly indigenous women’s) struggles to re-imagine nationhood without nation-states. The indigenous models of nationhood are based on nations as inclusive rather than exclusive, based on respect and responsibility for land rather than control over territory, and are governed on principles of mutual respect, interrelatedness and responsibility for a larger world, rather than governed through violence, domination, and social hierarchy.
Third, our organizing often follows a gendered model that is based on a split between private and public spheres. That is, in the public sphere of social protest, we are supposed to be completely together people who have no problems. However, when it turns out we do have problems, we are supposed to address those problems in the private sphere — at home, or through social services. Because we cannot bring our whole selves to the movement, we then end up undermining our work through personal dysfunctionality that cannot be publicly addressed.
In addition, when we think to work collectively, our collective action is confined to the public spheres of protests and other actions. But our movements do not think to collectivize the work that is seen as part of the private sphere, such as daycare, cooking and tending to our basic needs. Consequently, we build movements that are accessible to very few people and which are particularly burdensome for women who often are responsible for caretaking in the private sphere.— Heteropatriarchy, A Building Block of Empire — Andrea Smith