I had such an inspiring day at Occupy Chicago! There are so many wonderful folks doing wonderful things. Conversations and connections abounded, and the Oakland Soildarity march was AMAZING! It is a gift to be together with you all.
As I listened to several of the speakers tonight, I was struck by the frequent use of the phrase "brothers and sisters" to address the assembly. I am aware that some members of the trans and genderqueer do not feel included in this terminology because it is so binary and doesn't acknowledge the many genders that exist among us. May I suggest that we consider using phrases such as "siblings and friends," "kin," "beloved community," or even "brothers and sisters and everyone else?" And that we educate one another of the importance of using gender-neutral language in our effort to make a safe(r) space for a larger and larger circle of people?
Thanks, y'all. I'm so grateful for everyone's work.
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Unfortunately this is something that is just going to happen since gender specificity of English pronouns will always plague communication.
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And equally important to remember is that attempts to appear inclusive can, in the end, result in it feeling more exclusionary. The simple act of handing someone a flyer and asking, "Do you know who we are or what we are about?" can already suggest that there is a "we," a group that wants them to join, as opposed to, "Hey, you know what Occupy is all about, right? No, you're in the 99% that isn't getting any of what the 1% is, right?" It's not just about not using the "we," but about making people realize someone who they may not look at and think of as the person they have something in common with start to get that they are part of a group with that person, the 99%, who is being excluded by the 1%.
In some ways, this whole defining things so carefully and in such detail is part of the tool the nedia and politicians use to divide people, to make people look at and blame each other, to get people to believe they have been rejected or excluded, to stop alliances and coallitions from forming.
Occupy is the 99%. I would suggest that this movement can push far forward by simply being that. There is plenty of room for concerns that are important to each group, but the things that are in common, that should be the place to start. Economic disparity, the effects of money in government and elections, they may have different results, they may hit varrious parts of the population differently, but it is the 1% against the 99% when it comes to those issues. I would say, stand together by whatever name on those. The people who are looking to pick Occupy apart are looking for anything to divide and conquer, the strength in the numbers is what scares them, the rejection of their tactics is what they fear.
The list of people who might ask for specific language is so long, to start trying to be inclusive in that way can just as easily lead to a list that feels excluded. I'm not ignoring your feelings or your point of view, just saying that this could make lasting and real changes in so much, it could be the starting point for so many. But first everyone has to come together, so how about that first?
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Using "Brothers, Sisters, and Family" or other inclusive language is one small way to remind folks that the gender binary does not include all of us. I don't think this is a trivial issue of "political correctness". The idea that recognizing our differences undermines our unity is outdated and has consistently been used to repress the voices of minorities in social movements. Rather, recognizing our differences helps everyone feel welcome and makes us stronger. Decades of caucus organizing in unions has proven this.
If you disagree with the above argument, just humor me please, I'm not interested in debating queer politics on the message board. Changing "Brothers and Sisters" to "Brothers, Sisters and Family" or other inclusive language will create a more welcoming environment for genderqueer folks, so to be blunt, we need to just do it.
Thanks for your understanding!
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