Explosion of Rage

28Apr08

As in, I had one, over on Dear White Feminists.

Because it is my first post and I feel the urge to tell a personal anecdote, and also because I have been stewing about this since it happened two years ago, I want to tell you a story I was reminded of by the inevitable “yes, that sucks, but it’s not right to get angry” comment. I’m sure it’s happened to you: you’re venting to a friend about some shitty thing and they suddenly get all stiff and awkward and give you a little lesson in appropriateness. It’s not appropriate to get angry at individuals/an entire group/me/at all. No, because then your friend, who is privileged in a way you are not, would have to think icky thoughts about how that privilege is unearned, and that causes indigestion. Which is almost as bad as oppression.

The last time I had lunch with the man I’ll call Former Coworker, I’d just found out my friendly acquaintances were getting married. Due to things like size and location of event, as well as length of our acquaintanceship, I had missed out on getting invited. I found myself relieved, because as you might have guessed, I am queer and the chances of my being able to get legally married are about 1 in 50. I was trying to parse my feelings, because while I was glad, on some level, that my friends were all in love and stuff, I mostly felt angry. Angry that my relationships didn’t get that kind of recognition, angry that a religious institution and a legal one are wedded in such an insidious way, and angry that I was getting caught up in a debate whose very prominence currently is all about privilege.

I was expressing my anger, though calmly, and said that I felt bad, but my reaction to their marriage was more one of anger — not at them, but at the institution and the injustice. He went all stiff and awkward, and said that while he understood why it bothered me, he “couldn’t support” my being angry at individuals. Maybe the institution as a whole, but it’s not really anyone’s fault.

I’m fairly sure I turned all sorts of shades of pissed the fuck off at that point. Not anyone’s fault? Excuse me? I informed him, less calmly, that it is in fact the fault of many groups as well as individuals — not only policy makers and issue groups, but every one who’d ever voted for them, given them money, or turned a blind eye. Not only that, but I do not need his “support” or justification for my anger. I don’t recall if he had a response, but I do recall that I did not eat lunch with him for the remaining 6 months I was on that job.

Here was someone I’d talked to about my personal life, and despite his difficulty grasping the minutia of transmasculinity, polyamory, or how to stop being all weird about those things, I liked him and tried to be patient and explain things to him in a way that he might understand. I thought I was getting somewhere, and we had a friendship that extended outside the workplace. We had been guests in each other’s homes, but in that moment it became clear to me that his privilege was more important to him than actually being a friend in the real sense of the word.

And that is just one example of why I don’t trust straight people. And I get shit for saying that from straight people who want the benefit of the doubt because they’ve never done that to me. Or because they’re just trying to learn. Or because if I do that I’m just as bad as the homophobes who oppress me.

Bullshit.

When my saying I don’t trust straight people translates to straight people being afraid to hold hands in public, or holding it til they get home because of the hositility they face in public restrooms as heteronormative cisgenedered people of hegemonic gender presentation, then we can talk about my being “just as bad” as them. To the homophobes I’m just some pissed of butch ranting on the internet, and anyone ticked off enough about my anger to scold me for judging them in advance has their head so far up their ass they can see out their bellybutton. I’m not judging you — or I wasn’t. I’m protecting myself from friends and allies who are all about my rights until they’re icky or inconvenient.

As to Seal Press, Amanda Marcotte, and white folks who can’t see racism when it’s wearing a nametag, that’s even worse than my friend who in his defense had probably not gotten enough lectures by angry queers in his formative years and thus was somewhat stunted in that area. You all have so many women of color telling you that you fucked up, how, drawing you a picture and then laying out a map for what you can do to make it better, and there are still people giving the old tired bit about alienating would-be allies.

If righteous anger alienates you, you are not an ally.

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6 Responses to “Explosion of Rage”

  1. 1 alto

    Nail.On.Head.

    Very well put. (I responded on the “letter to white feminists thread as well”)

  2. 2 You should know who

    Reading this makes me miss our shared long huffy rants in the Smith van. Thanks for sharing and triggering that memory.

    Speaking of triggers… After a parade of lovers who were less than sufficient at self awareness, I made a decision to no longer support or excuse even the slightest bad behavior in anyway.

    I met someone a few months back. We shared a number of afternoons in my bed. There was little talking involved. All was well. Then, when we finally did speak, in jest he referred to himself as a “tranny chaser”.

    I took the courtesy of writing him to tell him why I would not return his phone calls. He responded in a Marcottian manner.

    I’m still boiling.

  3. welcome to the ‘sphere, butchfatale. and great post.

  4. 4 sarah

    Hey! You’ve been added to the Association of Smith Alum blogs! (http://smithalumblogs.wordpress.com) Please let us know if that’s not ok, or if there are other blogs we should add!
    Thanks!

  5. Hey, thanks you three! I’m looking forward to ranting more when I’m not so fecking tired.

  6. 6 beset

    Beset says : I absolutely agree with this !


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