Stop Using Me and Say What You Mean

[Content Note: Appropriation; homophobia; transphobia; anti-immigrationism; racism; misogyny; class warfare; war on agency; sexual assault; guns.]

There is a particular strain of political discourse that I despise: The use of "the American people," or "voters," or "taxpayers," followed by some assertion of what we want, or need, as if we are a monolith. It's a lazy and mendacious rhetorical tool, at best—and, at its worst, it implies that anyone who cannot read themselves into agreement with what "the American people" supposedly universally support is not a "real" American, a no-account, a traitor.

It makes my teeth grind, every time I see it, this insistent pretense that a diverse populace is in unanimous agreement about anything.

Worse yet is the monolithization of groups who are subsets of "the American people," groups whose presumed agreement and asserted collective need is frequently used, especially by conservative politicians and pundits, for the explicit purposes of justifying discrimination.

My identity, and my experiences, are appropriated over and over by conservatives in this very way—and I want them to stop using me.

Stop Using Me to Justify Homophobia

I am a woman married to a man, and "the sanctity of my marriage" is not undermined by same-sex marriage. In fact, my marriage isn't even sacred: God has nothing to do with my marriage; religion has nothing to do with my marriage; none of the things associated with sanctified marriage have anything to do with my marriage.

Our marriage is a contract taken out in a courthouse between two atheists, each of whom made a commitment contingent on continued happiness and fulfillment, not on some terrible belief that ending a dysfunctional relationship is a galactic failure while grimly sticking it out for "eternity" is a success.

We are not interested in a consecrated union. We are not delighted by the idea that we were ordained to be together. We have no need of the weight of eternity resting upon the foundations of our partnership. We want the choice to be together, so that we may choose every day whether to be together.

There is nothing sacred about my marriage—and I like it that way, thank you very much. It is earthly and profane and eminently human by design. And by virtue of the two people who comprise it.

The blanket assertion that marriage—any marriage, my marriage—is sacred, as long as it's between one man and one woman, undermines my ability to define my marriage outside of religion. And that redefines my marriage in a way that same-sex marriage does not and never could.

Not only does legalized same-sex marriage neither demean nor diminish my different-sex marriage, I am of the very firm opinion that expanding legal access to marriage makes my marriage worth more, not less, by virtue of the value conferred by inclusivity.

I have absolutely none of the desperate insecurity held by privileged bigots about their super-special relationships losing the shimmering, golden glow that only denying equality to same-sex couples conveys upon their gloriously gilded unions. They want marriage to be a members-only country club. I want it to be a rave under the stars across an expansive desert, to which anyone who wants to dance has an invite.

Stop using me.

Stop Using Me to Justify Transphobia

I am a cisgender woman who uses public bathrooms, and I am well aware that there are trans* women, some of whom might well have a penis, using the same public restrooms I do—Spoiler Alert: AND I DON'T FUCKING CARE—and anyone who's under the misapprehension that no trans women ever currently use women's bathrooms is a cloistered ignoramus who may well have been deliberately misled by a transphobic asshole with an agenda.

Trans* women and men and cis women and men already share bathrooms. This is not a tragedy or cause for alarm. OH NOES BATHROOM PANIC! is unmitigated bullshit. The End.

As is any other transphobic shit that is peddled under the auspices of "trans* predator" memes, and justified under some variation of the argument that I need to be protected from trans* people.

I am a cis woman, and a survivor of sexual violence. I am exactly the type of person who is routinely invoked as needing protection from trans* predators. I don't need your protection. No one has my permission to pretend that they're "saving" me by endangering trans* people

I am not in danger from sharing a bathroom with trans* women. But trans* women could very well be in danger from not being allowed to share a bathroom with me.

Stop using me.

Stop Using Me to Justify Anti-Immigrationism

I am a white person, who is married to a documented immigrant, who lives in a place with too few jobs and a not-insignificant population of undocumented immigrants. In a very real way, Iain and I are the people with whom anti-immigration rhetoric should most resonate. We live in an economically depressed area and Iain is a documented immigrant whose citizenship was secured through a time-consuming and costly process; he had to wait several months for a work permit after arriving; he had difficulty finding work in this area; I had difficulty finding work in this area when I still did office work; we have friends who have had difficulty finding work in this area. We're supposed to take the scapegoating bait and be irate, or feel cheated, or something.

And we do—but our ire is not directed at the undocumented immigrants who live in our community. It's directed squarely at our jackass governor and his conservative cronies running the state (into the ground), who discourage businesses from opening their doors in our state by making the state hostile to female and LGBTQI employers and employees, for fucking the state infrastructure via defunding and privatization, and for trying to dismantle our public education system and social services, just for a start.

The fact is, there's plenty of room for me to have a job along with my community's undocumented workers—which, I admit, is easier for me to say since we're not competing for the same job. But most US workers aren't competing for the same jobs generally held by undocumented immigrants, and not because they're "jobs no American wants to do," as John McCain would have us believe, but because the employers actively seek out an exploitable workforce comprised of people who don't know their rights and who can be easily controlled via the threat of deportation, a category out of which most US workers would self-select in favor healthcare benefits and livable wages, even if the crummy employers who exploit migrants would consider hiring citizens in the first place.

Iain came to the States not because his life was dreadful or his family was starving or because he couldn't find work. He came on a fiancée visa (a resource, btw, still only available to us because we're of different sexes) because he fell in love with an American. He had the great fortune of being born in a country with lots of opportunity, and moving to one with the same. He doesn't need to be here to survive—and yet he is routinely regarded as "deserving" to be here specifically because of the fact that he was privileged in the first place.

Demonizing people who are our neighbors as somehow less American because of geography and law doesn't resonate with people like us. Being "American" is more than that, and sometimes the people who weren't born here seem to understand that better than many of those who were.

The truth is, if conservatives were interviewed to see exactly what qualities lay within the soul of a Real American, their idealized Civis Americanus—fearless, adventurous, independent, enterprising, entrepreneurial, optimistic, indomitable, visionary, and irrepressible—would look an awful lot like the undocumented immigrant who makes hir way across the border in search of a better life, risking deportation and detention and bodily harm to realize a dream arbitrarily denied on the accidental circumstances of one's birth.

Would that it took at least walking across the border to become a US citizen. We'd certainly have fewer citizens who used the gift of their unearned citizenry as a justification to behave like intolerant, isolationist assholes.

Stop using me.

Stop Using Me to Justify Defending a Racist Justice System

I am a white, middle-class woman; the granddaughter of a cop and a victim of both random and not-random crimes; I live in a majority-white community which is increasingly ethnically diverse, which sits in the middle of a drug-trafficking corridor, and which is near a majority-black community with a high crime rate.

People like me are incessantly invoked to justify the war on drugs, the criminalization of need, the militarization of the police, minimum sentencing, three-strikes-and-you're-out laws, the death penalty, the school-to-prison pipeline, conceal-carry laws, Stand Your Ground laws, the acquittals of white citizens and white police officers who kill black men and women to keep "us" safe.

It's all necessary, I'm told, all of these law enforcement policies that disproportionately target people of color and wreck black communities in particular, in order to protect me.

I do not need this kind of protection. Even if it weren't aggressively ineffective, I would reject these policies on the basis that they are colossally indecent.

Protecting me from some vague possibility of harm, a possibility conjured into existence from a bubbling cauldron of stereotypes and fearmongering, is not necessary and it is certainly not a valid justification (there is none) for teargasing children and incarcerating recreational pot smokers and manipulating grand juries until they see dead teenagers as the ones on trial for their own murders.

It's mendacity in the extreme—invoking people like me and the manufactured fears of people like me in order to mask what is nothing more than the exploitation of racist institutions to generate revenue from for-profit prisons and put more money in the pockets of war profiteers by putting their weapons of war into syndication with local police.

I don't need protection. The people who are being harmed under the auspices of "protecting me" do.

Stop using me.

Stop Using Me to Justify Voter ID Laws

I live in Indiana, which has a shitty voter ID law upheld by the Supreme Court, and has been justified on the premise that it's necessary to protect the integrity of the voting process; to make sure that my vote really counts.

There is virtually no history of documented voter fraud in the state, but reams of evidence that voter ID laws disproportionately disenfranchise poor, minority, and disabled voters.

I have absolutely zero need to be "protected" from voter fraud that doesn't exist, especially at the expense of other voters (who, ahem, happen to largely lean Democratic).

Stop using me.

Stop Using Me to Justify Gutting the Social Safety Net

I am a taxpayer—and thus I routinely hear how my "tax dollars are being wasted" on social programs, and on the people who need them.

Never mind that many of the people who depend on government assistance are themselves working people who are paying taxes, which makes this entire line of reasoning (such as it is) bullshit on its face. I don't need to hear fairytales about rampant fraud, and about welfare recipients being lazy, shiftless, unhelpable moochers who can't be convinced "that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives," and about the jobs that working poor people work not being "real jobs," and about how raising the minimum wage kills jobs and ambition.

We don't get a say in how our tax dollars are spent, but, if we did, I would not seek protection from the taxes I pay being used to robustly fund a comprehensive social safety net; I would seek protection from the taxes I pay being used to buy bombs and build drones and fund interminable wars that are themselves justified on the need to protect me from a threat that isn't fucking real.

Stop using me.

Stop Using Me to Justify Abortion Restrictions

Every single thing about the anti-choice movement is terrible and exhausting, including the intractable assertion that people who seek abortions haven't thought it through. Study after study has found that this claim is categorically not true—and the reported lived experiences of people who have gotten abortions also reveal its manifest dishonesty—but still we get legislation like fetal heartbeat bills and mandatory ultrasound bills and required waiting periods.

If only these wicked women (it is always women in their framework, despite the fact that not only women need access to abortion) hear the heartbeat…! If only these wicked women see that there's a "baby" inside of them…! If only these wicked women are forced to think about their decision…!

And thus we are in need of "protection" from ourselves, and our own lack of thoughtful consideration about our choices.

Further, we need restrictions and regulations to "protect" us from predatory abortionists and unsafe clinics and evil feminists who love killing babies. Just an endless parade of men who propose legislation to rollback abortion access, giving garbage speeches on statehouse floors about "protecting women."

They need to "protect" us, they say, by robbing us of our agency, of our bodily autonomy, and of our consent.

I have previously noted on many occasions that I'm hard-pressed to see why I should be any less contemptuous of a man who sits at a big mahogany desk in a government building making decisions about my body without my consent than I should be of the man who used physical force to make decisions about my body without my consent.

It is an observation by which anti-choice legislators are outraged. They are horrified to be compared, even obliquely, to sexual predators. As well they should be. I am horrified to have to make it. But anyone who holds the position that zie should be able to legislate away my bodily autonomy and supersede my consent about what happens to my body shouldn't be too goddamned surprised by the comparison.

Especially when they are claiming to be "protecting" me as they do it. I do not need their protection.

Stop using me.

Stop Using Me to Justify the Presence of Guns on College Campuses as "Rape Prevention"

I am a survivor who was assaulted by someone I met in a classroom. Thus, my experience is often invoked to justify urging female college students to wield weapons as self-defense and rape deterrence.

Many of the objections to these proposals I laid out here: "Five Reasons Why 'Teach Women Self-Defense' Isn't a Comprehensive Solution to Rape." Particularly sections 4 and 5: Women who deter rape with violence, especially women of color, are often punished for doing so, and not every woman is prepared to use violence against her attacker, especially since many victims of sexual assault know the person assaulting them.

Further, making weapons more available in more places empowers people who are going to use them to commit violence at least as much (and, realistically, more so) than people who are going to use them to deter violence. If someone is seriously concerned about rape prevention, then limiting rapists' access to guns is a good place to start.

Even a rapist who might not rape at gunpoint may later use a gun to enforce his victim's silence.

And what of a rapist who is attempting rape at gunpoint? Is a woman supposed to pull out her own gun and have a shoot-out on campus in order to defend herself?

At what cost to the safety of other students does such a scenario come? It doesn't matter to the advocates of gun-slinging as rape deterrence.

Because they don't actually give a single, infinitesimal shit about rape or victims of rape. All they care about is guns everywhere all the time.

And if that comes at the cost of the people they invoke in fantasy narratives about rape prevention, they just hope no one will notice.

Well. I see you.

Stop using me.

Stop using me to justify disablism (more fraud rhetoric; more people who are "taking advantage of " people like me); to justify class warfare (protecting my "middle-class family" at the expense of people in poverty); to justify union-busting (because unions are job-killers; sure); to justify tax cuts, employment discrimination, housing discrimination, environmental devastation, nationalism, sanctions, war, all manner of fuckery from which I allegedly need protection.

I do not want your protection, and I want no part of your contemptible rhetoric suffused with faux concerns for my well-being that puts a thin veneer of compassion on your campaigns of discrimination and hatred.

I will not sit quietly while I am co-opted as part of a despicable strategy in which one group of people is monolithized in order to harm another group of people. Conservatives may say that "taxpayers" or "middle-class families" or "voters" or "women" want this or that bit of legislated bigotry, but they will be lying.

So stop using me, and say what you mean: You simply don't believe that same-sex couples deserve equal rights; you loathe and fear trans* people and want to keep them away from you and out of any spaces you might inhabit; you don't like brown immigrants; you don't believe black lives matter; you want to disenfranchise as many likely Democratic voters as possible to win elections; you are greedy and just don't want to give money to people in need; you hate women having control over their own reproduction, or control over anything at all, really; you love guns; you hate people.

My identity, my experiences, my life are not yours to appropriate. Especially under the guise of protecting me.

The primary thing from which I need protection, conservatives, is you.

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