Saturday, March 17, 2007

Mistreatment of transgendered persons

I remember when I was fourteen and came out, people kept giving me the same damn book over and over. Not that it's not an interesting book, it's just that it's been given to me so many times!!! Now I'm realizing I have someone else I have to give my second copy to, so it's okay.

It's called The Spirit and the Flesh and it's by Walter L. Williams. It's an overview of two spirited people in "American Indian" people. By the way, I don't mind using the word Indian myself, even if it is a misnomer, because that's what it says on my treaty card. Anyway, yes, it's more of an anthropological book, which is why it's somewhat boring, and it's written by an outsider, but he was permitted to hang with the two-spirited folks.

There are some other names for two spirited people, one is berdache, another one is winkte, which is the Lakota version. I think two spirited has been simplified to mean Gay and Lesbian, but that's kind of inaccurate. Two Spirited people are by definition androgynous people, and some chose gendered roles and a lot chose a third gender, which was basically something that stood outside the binary gender role. In their tribes they functioned in all kinds of roles, they would bridge the gap between women and men, for one, which was a useful trait to the community who might not understand each other otherwise. I think also that it should be noted that while some two spirited people may have been intersexed, often they did have a specifically gendered body, but their body would be overlooked in favour of acknowledging their dual nature. Of course not all people in the tribe were nice to two spirited people, there was transphobia that flared up once in a while.

When the residential school system came in, two spirited children who had taken on a different gender role than their biological body were identified immediately by horrified europeans, and from the history I can gather were summarily executed. I don't think many two spirited children survived in those places, or if they did survive it was only by hiding themselves really well. A lot of rapes which happened in the school system were also of a same sex nature, not all, obviously, because a lot of babies being born in the schools were also being killed and buried to cover up male on female rape. But it did something where people in our community have a huge hate/fear thing going on with anyone who seems gender or sexually "deviant". It think it's important to remember that sexual abuse is about power and control, not about a specific sexuality or transgendered quality.

I think that eliminating the two spirited person's role in our community was done to effectively shut people off from spiritually aware humans. In most cultures around the world androgyny has been noticed to correlate with highly gifted individuals, and it's coming out in gifted research as well. In spiritual terms they say it's because these people have accessed a higher spiritual path that transcends gender. In gifted terms, I don't know if they know why. But they have noticed that people with extremely high IQ's and all the overexcitabilities have a tendency towards androgyny, and it makes them targets for hatred in the school system. That's one of the issues right now in gifted education, trying to create a safe space for profoundly gifted people who are often androgynous.

In doing my funny research, I have discovered that Ce Acatl Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl was also a two spirited person. That person is often called a man in contemporary terms, because ze was a leader and ze did so many things, but in some accounts ze was male and female, and I think that's a more accurate assessment of the person. Quetzalcoatl was a historical figure, and that has to be remembered more than the whole god thing I think, just because gods seem really out of reach of people right now. Anyway, the historical figure known as Quetzalcoatl was a spiritual leader who was also a political leader and who also resolved issues of food shortages and so on so that people could concentrate on art, science, agriculture, music, and poetry, which basically led to a massive renaissance. Ze also eliminated human sacrifice and wanted people instead to sacrifice birds, butterflies, snakes, and jade to the gods. But to appease a tribe which felt blood had to be shed for the gods, Ze also instituted bloodletting, which sounds awful to certain folks, but this was more of voluntary acts with safety rules around it. Yes, Quetzalcoatl liked blood play. But that's a bdsm act that you don't really have to think about if you don't want to.

I'll put it in a more modern context though, so that it doesn't wig you out. I remember on september 11 when the towers came down there was this unprecedented blood donation around the world. Around the whole world!!! People wanted to do something to help the victims, so as one they were drawn to the red cross and donating blood to save these lives. It was so touching. I remember a photo of Yasser Arafat staring in horror with a tube coming out of his arm while he donated his pint of blood. And of course, that horrible moment later in the day, when we realized there were few survivors. But that collective memory of the importance of blood, that was intense. And I think that response was the humane response, that was people spilling their own blood without injuring themselves and with a common goal of help in mind. But that kind of memory of using blood to appease the gods got twisted into, of course, this huge war we're in now.

I think there is something else interesting about blood donation though, which I think is something Quetzalcoatl would have encouraged rather than ritual bloodletting had that person been here today. Since AIDS hit in the 80's, new rules have been instituted to ostensibly stop the spread of AIDS but in reality shut certain people out from accessing that kind of charity. In Canada here you can't donate blood if you're a man who has sex with men or slept with a man who has sex with men (although heterosexual sex statistically accounts for 70% of HIV transmission), you can't donate blood if you've been pierced or tattooed within the last two years (even though piercing and tattoo shops are often following some stringent health procedures, and you should read about these before you choose a shop actually), sometimes you can't donate if you immigrated from a country with high HIV rates (what country doesn't have HIV/AIDS? No really, I'm curious, is there a mythical land such as this?), and of course IV drug users are right out, even the ones who never dared share a needle.

As you can see, this cuts out HUGE demographics from the blood donor pool. For one thing, I know very few youth who haven't gotten at least a piercing, and then there's also been a revival over the years in tattooing, so a lot of people gather piercings and /or tattoos during their lifespan. I'd like to be able to donate blood, but I'd also like to keep getting tattooed over my lifetime, and so it cuts me out from ever engaging in Canadian Blood Services. And it's too bad since I don't have any money but still feel a need to be a charitable human being. Also the rules stipulate that for men, having sex with a man even ONCE since 1977 means they can never donate, even if the last time they had sex with a man was in 1977 and they didn't smoke man pole since and got 8 clear HIV tests in between then and now. And you know, a lot of men have sex with men, although they think they hide that secret really well. And I don't think it necessarily means they are gay, although it means something and everyone kind of wants to find a name for it.

But what I find interesting is that instead of actually figuring out an accurate non-discriminatory method of screening blood, the Red Cross/Blood Service organization leapt to cutting out an entire demographic, a demographic which is quite a bit larger than one would think. And then they're like "What the hell? No one's donating anymore." Yeah, because a ton of people fit into those screening categories. And besides that, a guy could be having unprotected sex with a lot of women and still contract HIV. We seem to invent these categories of low risk high risk safe safer, and then abstinence is being promoted as the ultimate in safety. But who wants to be abstinent? There are low and high risk activities, but there's still this constant argument amongst gay men about tops and bottoms, and tops apparently NEVER contract HIV, and so this other weird thing has come into play where bottoms are kind of considered just like a garbage pail. It's so wrong! Bottoms are lovely human beings with a charming receptive grace. And also people switch too, which complicates things. But yeah, being a top doesn't guarantee anything dudes.

Oh bother, I have no good ending for this lovely morning rant, except a quote from my old babysitter Tracy Lenz:
"Riel was hanged, we don't know if he was hung."

Louis Riel, leader of the Metis Northwest Rebellion

Oh man, another interesting tidbit I picked up from Shawna Dempsey was that someone (was it her grandfather? I don't recall) was at a wild west show when this man on a horse came riding up out of no where, said "Dumont" and went away. Was it Gabriel Dumont? Probably, that sounds like something cheeky he would do.

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