diabola in musica

because perfection isn't easy

Janani Balasubramanian, a South Asian American, performs their spoken word piece “trans/national”. They are also a trans person and this is their experience communicating their gender identity to their family, becoming complicit in violent global politics to be more comfortable with their body, and creating a masculinity that is not the white American default.

There is so much going on in this poem. I can’t encourage you enough to watch the video. This is a perfect illustration how issues such as gender identity are more complex for POC. This is also a beautiful piece of art.

Update: This post originally identified Janani as FTM and used male pronouns. Janani has confirmed that they use they/them pronouns. The pronouns have been changed and FTM is removed as an identifier. Details of this correction here.

If we accept that racism is a creation, then we must then accept that it can be destroyed. And if we accept that it can be destroyed, we must then accept that it can be destroyed by us and that it likely must be destroyed by methods kin to creation. Racism was created by policy. It will likely only be ultimately destroyed by policy.

Former US representative Gabby Giffords spoke at today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence. These are her hand-written notes. Her words are painfully deliberate, and her struggle to speak them is painfully familiar. Our injuries are very different, but I know what it’s like to be trapped inside yourself, when you have ideas but you don’t have the means to express them. That frustrated look on her face when she is trying to speak is my secret frustration and fear every day when I interact with the outside world.

I know that there are much larger issues here, but reading her words and hearing her speak and watching her face, I can only see a reflection, a mirror image of someone who had so much, lost it, and then made the journey back from a very dark place. I’ve been so very alone on that path, and seeing someone else, a national figure, travel it as well .. it’s just .. it’s just too much.

I don’t have the words for this.

Just a reminder, ladies, that you may graduate from Wellesley, then Yale Law School, become one of the most powerful and influential lawyers in the country, then the First Lady of the United States, then a U.S. Senator from New York, come this close to being the Democratic nominee for president yourself, and ultimately serve as the Secretary of State, but you’ll always be a woman — an emotional, unhinged, woman.

Given the weak economy, American voters were open to firing President Obama. In Europe, in similar circumstances, one government after another lost re-election. And, at the beginning of this year, it looked as if the Republicans might win control of the United States Senate as well.

Yet it wasn’t the Democrats who won so much as the Republicans who lost — at a most basic level, because of demography. A coalition of aging white men is a recipe for failure in a nation that increasingly looks like a rainbow.

Schadenfreude may excuse Democrats’ smiles for a few days, but these trends portend a potential disaster not just for the Republican Party but for the health of our political system. America needs a plausible center-right opposition party to hold Obama’s feet to the fire, not just a collection of Tea Party cranks.

So liberals as well as conservatives should be rooting for the Republican Party to feel sufficiently shaken that it shifts to the center. One hopeful sign is that political parties usually care more about winning than about purism.

I have been overwhelmed these past few days, hosting an election night party and then heading straight to the library to prepare the presentation for today. (I believe there were several hours of sleep in between, but I may have dreamt that.) Between the slides, I peeked at the post-election punditry, and was surprised, pleased, and deeply moved by how the country changed overnight. Americans voted in favor for gay marriage for the first time, and in three states. Marijuana is decriminalized in two states. Openly queer people, people of color, people with visible disability have all become representatives. Black people, Latin@s, APIAs, women, single people all voted overwhelmingly Democratic. Two-thirds of the white male population voted Republican, and they still couldn’t get their guy into the White House.

Tuesday night was deeply symbolic.

It is still early for voter turnout data (or I am still too busy), but a cursory glance at the early numbers imply that all these people who are not white straight cis men, these people who face oppression and silencing in American society, these “minorities” told the “majority” that they will not have their lives determined by the ruling class. The “minorities” lawfully exercised their right to choose the vision that they thought right for them. We were not just re-electing a Democrat or America’s first black president. We “minorities” more confidently used our voices, and we have been heard. We are not “minorities” anymore.

More, we “minorities” re-elected one of us. Obama is half white but he is also half black. He is both Midwestern and Pacific Islander. He comes from a single parent household where he watched his mother raise two children while working to make ends meet and then towards a Ph.D. He himself worked as a community organizer, then becoming the first black president of Harvard Law Review, and now he is President of the United States for a second term. He is a product of love and sweat. That is a very American story. However, there is an additional overlay. Obama is biracial, but he is also multicultural.

Obama is the first black president, but he is also the first president who embodies this new America, this majority of minorities with complicated backgrounds, who are slowly having more opportunities because we have fought for them. Even if you disagree with his policies, you must understand that he has become bigger than just his title. He is an icon of hope and change, because having him in the White House, not for just one but for two terms, shows that the American fabric has changed, that there is hope for even the smallest of us to do great things, and that one’s path, no matter how hard it will be, is always onward and forward.

No, Mr. President, thank you.

Masochist Me

ME: Hold on. I'll get to watching the satire of the Romney clan's awkward attempt to connect to NYC youths after I claw my eyes out with Taylor Swift's newest music video.

SAM: Why would you DO that to yourself? That's what people do TO you when you're tied up, not something you just watch.

ME: I used to watch The Bachelor because I was deeply curious about pop narratives on dating. I think I like the pain.

President Obama spoke at the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies Annual last Tuesday and explicitly mentioned how important it is to recognize the diversity within Asia America to honor its peoples and to better target policy for each demographic.

And I know it can be tempting — given the success that’s on display here tonight — for people to buy into the myth of the “model minority” and glance over the challenges that this community still faces.  But we have to remember there’s still educational disparities like higher dropout rates in certain groups, lower college enrollment rates in others.  There’s still economic disparities like higher rates of poverty and obstacles to employment.  There are health disparities like higher rates of diabetes and cancer and Hepatitis B.  Those who are new to America — many still face language barriers.

I am still processing the speech. I was in tears when I heard him understand that Asia America is diverse and that each experience is valid. I can’t explain how much it means to me that there is someone not Asian American who understands this, that there is one person for whom no explanation is needed.

I also can’t explain how much it means to me to have that person be the President of the United States of America.