The Amaranthine Sacrarium Journal

ecofeminist. metacostal. unapologetically queer femme.

Count me out of your sisterhood.

May 23, 2018 | Personal reflections

(I originally wrote this as part of a larger article, but I am splitting it into multiple articles. This portion of what will be a multipart series largely deals with my own personal reflections and recent evolution.)

As I look back, I was at a very different place in my life merely one year ago. Previously alienated by what I thought of as a fringe radical element of queer activists who, I felt at the time, was engaging in counterproductive disruptions of the Occupy movement, I vowed not to have anything to do with the LGBTQ community again. I was an assimilationist and a loud proponent of respectability politics, naively hoping that currying favor with the white middle-class liberals and middle-of-the-road Republicans will "get things done."

Although I am a queer person of color with an immigrant experience, I put the interests of white, middle-class Americans first for many years in a false belief that it would help build a rapport with (what I thought as) the most potent political force in the United States: the business owners, soccer moms, and movers and shakers of society. Nearly all of my friends were white, living in the "whitest metropolitan area of the United States" Portland, Oregon. I openly criticized and shown contempt for queer activists and the Black Lives Matter movement. I sincerely thought to put the small minorities first was "divisive." Even when Donald Trump was elected, I blamed it on the racial justice activists and transgender activists, thinking that these uppity fringe minorities drove the "Middle America" to Trump's America First platform.

At the same time, I was quietly undergoing a major identity crisis and inner turmoil, in the midst of my social circle that was populated nearly entirely by the people who had very little in common with me.

Ultimately, I willingly became a useful idiot. A lot of what I did was probably to distance myself from my own pain and to somehow shield myself in the safety of white middle-class America. There was no excuse for what I did.

I had no way of articulating what I was and no way of finding kindred spirits.

In the end, my narrow-mindedness and lack of consciousness-raising not only harmed others but also my own psyche.

About half a year ago, I made a conscious decision to remove myself from all women-only groups and organizations that I was part of. This was a difficult decision that I did not make lightly, and to a degree, a painful choice because I was part of them for the majority of my adult life. I made quite a few friends through such groups, and at times, they were the only social outlet that I had. But I could no longer keep participating in women-only spaces with a good conscience.

The truth is, that I felt no safer in a women-only setting than in a mixed-gender setting. It was always awkward, and I was still an outsider looking in. It did not matter if it included a small, insignificant number of POCs and/or queers -- they were just tokens to justify the group's facade as something purportedly "inclusive." It never changed the fact that, in the United States (and perhaps also in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and much of Europe), whenever there's a "women-only" space, it is inevitably centered on white, middle-class, heterosexual ideas of "womanhood" and "womanliness," which in turn is essentialized and universalized as if their narratives of "womanhood" apply to the entire world.

There are very little, if any, in common between the lived experiences of Sheryl Sandberg, Hillary Clinton, or Ivanka Trump -- and those of the inner-city, working-class African-American lesbians in Chicago, for example, and certainly those who live in colonized and impoverished third-world countries.

There is no such thing as a "global sisterhood." There is nothing in common between Ivanka Trump and a houseless queer Latina youth, as the humanity is divided far more along the racial and class lines than being united by a false, romanticized idea of "shared womanhood" created by those who are part of the systemic oppression.

The very idea that females share universal traits solely because they are females is a form of colonial hegemony that has long been pushed by the white women in the Global North. It's quite telling that the proponents of such an idea also engage in all kinds of cultural appropriations to market their lifestyle brand.

I have seen or heard no critical thinking and genuine consciousness-raising within the white lady woo-woo sisterhood.

For anyone other than white, middle-class, heterosexual women to take part in the white lady woo-woo sisterhood is a sign of capitulation, a sell-out, and assimilationism; one cannot in good conscience do it because to do so means throwing under the bus those womxn and femmes who live on the forgotten margins of society to which they are relegated precisely because they are not profitable or politically useful to the white capitalist interests.

For too long, I had internalized this idea of "womanhood" and "womanliness" as a universal aspirational ideal and the measure of judgment against which I evaluated myself and the others alike. In doing so, I also became a worse oppressor than the oppressors themselves.

But how good is it when my very identity was based on something that is utterly foreign to me, something that I am not and cannot possibly become?

When I woke up to this reality, I also felt very dirty, disgusted, and ashamed of wasting a significant chunk of my life actually working against the POC, houseless, queer, non-binary, and trans folks all in a misguided attempt at gaining respectability points.

And I was also left devastated.

I've met and seen and worked with too many white "liberal" and "progressive" women who would in private say all sorts of racist, ageist, transphobic, classist, sexist, and xenophobic stuff -- and sadly, they did not even possess enough self-awareness to realize what they were saying were unacceptable.

No thanks. Count me out of your so-called sisterhood. I'm not interested in your culturally-appropriated "goddess" circles and self-exalting "rituals."

I'm not one of you.

The last time I had consciously referred to myself as a "woman" was 2002. Ever since I had questioned the notion of myself as a "woman" and never quite felt comfortable with that idea. It was just that I still lived in a backward society (in 2004, Oregon's voters overwhelmingly supported a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages, for example) and there weren't a lot of options back then.

Even within the so-called LGBTQ community, there were a lot of rigid, sexist social expectations. It was as if I had to behave exactly this way and dress exactly that way. It was a different time and it wasn't a long time ago.

In recent months, I have made a conscious effort at re-engaging myself with the queer community. The more I have done it and having interacted with more individuals on a personal level, the more I feel at home with the company of non-binary queer femmes. (It was unfortunate that I did not even know their existences until about eight months ago.)

The experiences led me to reassess everything that I believed about myself, and the value system that I held, and how I articulated them. In turn, I began thinking a lot about feminist thexlogy and queer thexlogy once again.

What would thexlogy -- the ultimate study in culture-making -- look like from a distinctively queer femme perspective, informed by lived experiences of a non-binary femme? What cultural assumptions are still left unchallenged even after half a century of feminist thexlogical analyses? Are feminist thexlogy unintentionally (or even intentionally) reifying the sexist norms and stereotypes instead of deconstructing them -- and giving them an aura of divinity? And how do they also intersect with the liberatory thexlogical analyses in the embodied experiences of immigrants, people of color, dead-end minimum-wage laborers, sex workers, the impoverished, the houseless, refugees, and so on? These are the questions I'd like to wrestle with.

These are serious topics that I contemplate every day and in light of these challenges, whatever the white lady woo-woo sisterhood does seem incredibly shallow and purely self-serving.

I have no interest in being part of their ersatz consumer lifestyle brand disguised as "sisterhood." No thank you.

Next in series: Breaking free from sisterhood: Creating a liberatory movement space for non-binary queer femmes.