This post is the seventh post in a series of coverage from the Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference 2010, that took place Feb. 19 to Feb. 21, at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.
Kate Bornstein — transgender femme and author of Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws; Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us; and My Gender Workbook — asked the audience about life and what makes it worth living.
While there is a myriad of answers to that venerable question, Bornstein cited fair and equal access to the resources people need as a life essential.
People have identities and desires that intertwine with power, determining one’s access to resources. This has nothing to do with how much money one has, but how someone uses power to meet their needs. Identity, desire and power intersect; building up one of them, raises up the other two as well.
Social norms or rules influence identities and desire, with most individuals obeying the rules of society; however, these rules can be deadly if the person doesn’t fit into them, creating a hierarchical system of oppression. The kyriarchy, or intersectional top of the identity heap, comes out on top.
Binaries, like the gender binary of male and female, are social structures used to marginalized people.
“Binaries mark systems of oppressions,” Bornstein said. “The only time two elements of a binary are equal is in a vacuum.”
Race is also a binary: A person is either white or not. There are lots or different races, but the binary system masks the inequalities between the two. These either/or situations can become very dangerous.
Bornstein indicated deconstructing these binaries is the key to overcoming them.
To deconstruct these binaries, coalitions must be built among groups fighting to end all types of oppression. Bornstein denounced the notion of allies; she wants community members, suggesting we add a few more letters on to LGBT:
The either/or binary occurs when a culture or community tries to improve life, so how do we make our community a safe, fun place to get real and live queer? Bornstein advocates one mantra: Don’t be mean.
“I know how to stay alive in a world that would rather see me dead,” Bornstein said. “Please do anything it takes to make your life worth living, except be mean.”