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October 13, 2019
Trans Workers Rally
Saint Louis, MO

Spoke representing SEIU Local 1 regarding queer and trans workers, and how an injury to one is an injury to all.

A Trucker’s “Me Too”

There is enormous variety in how truckers respond to sexual violence and sexual harassment at work. Some fight back through legal and other formal channels. Using fierce dedication and self-advocacy, they compile enough complaints that they cannot be ignored, hoping that the culture of trucking starts to change. Such work by woman truckers has led to recent cases against megacarriers like Prime.

Others fight back in person, on the ground, and just keep rolling.

If your feminism isn’t intersectional, it isn’t feminism

At each protest I’ve been to since Trump, I see a sign saying: If your feminism isn’t intersectional, it isn’t feminism.

I agree with the sentiment, but I feel compelled to add that intersectional thinking is genuinely difficult. The insight of intersectionality (Crenshaw) is not that we all live within an interlocking system of oppressions, but rather that these oppressions pull us in different directions, causing divided loyalties – internalized conflict and tension. Intersectional identity leaves each person feeling ripped apart at the core. AND each person who theorizes or does activism intersectionally feels that, too.

Kim Davis is Wrong -- But Bashing Her Looks Isn't Right

Photos and memes of Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis are taking over my newsfeed and my life. One of the most popular memes I’ve seen shows that much-duplicated frame from video footage of Kim at her desk, turning away a gay couple from getting a marriage license. Text placed over the image reads:  “When you're so anti-gay, no one will do your hair."

Now, let me make clear that Kim Davis is obviously guilty of dereliction of duty. Her job is to help uphold the constitutional right to marriage by issuing marriage licenses and she’s clearly discriminating against same-sex couples. It hurts to read about people like her who go far out of their way to be bigots. I'm gay, and I understand that perfectly well.  But many of the memes making fun of Kim Davis hinge on classist and sexist humor and gay stereotypes. Instead of making me laugh, these jokes make me cringe. We shouldn’t shame Davis by making fun of her body, her romantic life, or her class.  To do so is mean-spirited and ultimately harms the movement to make a better, more equitable society. Come on, friends, we’re better than this!

Yale Reflections

Now that I have completed about half of the LGBT Research fellowship, I would like to thank Yale Librarians.  This photo is of me standing in front of SML with my father, who was the first Yale librarian to rock my world.  During the fellowship, Gwyneth Crowley and Tim Young both worked with me to find the unfindable.

I am at Yale to research blue-collar queers.  What we know about archives is that the people who typically wind up in them are people who see their lives, and themselves, as important.  They ask themselves questions about where their work will be housed, and they take steps to ensure that documents are saved, organized, and searchable.  Yale has hired and funded archivists who seek out materials that fill the gaps this process generates.  Yale librarians look at the archive and ask the most difficult question:  what is not included?

Queer Steelworkers and Labor Unions

Over dinner recently, I met with three straight male steelworkers to ask why they feel their union is so inhospitable to gay people. I had just given a radio interview about my forthcoming book, Steel Closets, during which I had remarked that the United Steelworkers is not a very progressive union. Organizers and staffers from the USW had heard this, and were pissed off. Several called me to inform me about cutting-edge worker advocacy efforts spearheaded by their union, both nationally and globally. I was glad to hear it, yet this doesn’t change the fact that the queer steelworkers whose stories my book relates are not adequately protected by their union. I had organized the dinner to give union rank and file a chance to respond to my book’s critique.

The Consequences of Marriage Inequality

I recently received a “save the date” postcard announcing the marriage this coming summer of one of my narrators. In Iowa. By the time the wedding rolls around, marriage equality will exist in Illinois as well, though Indiana is going the other direction, with a campaign to amend the state constitution to explicitly forbid same sex marriage.For my narrators—the forty transgender, lesbian, and gay steelworkers I interviewed—marriage is complicated. Insurance and survival benefits are not just theoretical issues for them. For example, Harriet’s partner has started attending college and wants to cut her work hours down to part time. Though they can manage the reduction of income, loss of benefits is too much risk, since both are women over 40, which puts them in many high-risk health categories. And Harriet’s job is dangerous and unpredictable. But if, God forbid, she suffers death or injury, her partner would not receive compensation.

As GLBT freedoms expand, who benefits--and who doesn't.

You have no choice about where you are born, and limited choice about where you live. Geographic and cultural mobility is predominantly a Western, middle-class concept. All of my narrators remained in the place they were born. Some live in the same house where they grew up, and others go as far as a neighboring town, but migration to urban centers, or to different job prospects, is just not part of their world. Though Northwest Indiana isn’t an easy place to be gay, most people figure out a way to live here anyway, rather than uproot themselves and go somewhere else, or somewhere easier.

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