This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending Skepticon in St Louis. Among other awesome things that happened, I moderated a panel called “What if They Disagree?”
How do we handle it when there seems to be an internal disagreement among a marginalized group. What is our place as allies in trying to advance the causes of racial justice, gender justice, and so on, when we’re confronted with conflicting views from inside those groups. There is right and wrong, but no group is a monolith. Its a difficult question, and one we tried to tackle in this panel discussion.
A full transcript of this episode is below…
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Music by Cloudkicker and Lee Rosevere, used under Creative Commons
Image by Skepticon
Callie Narrating: This week, I’m putting a hold on patreon pitches to amplify the voices and causes of the folks in this episode. Check out the show notes to see how you can help and where you can donate. There will be more info later in the show.
[00:00:13] My name is Callie Wright, and this is Queersplaining
[00:00:17] Last weekend, I had the happy privilege of attending Skepticon in St. Louis. It was a wonderful con, full of fun, affirmation, Community, very challenging and important messages from Community organizers about the work that needs to be done on behalf of marginalized people. On the last day of the con, I moderated a panel called “what if they disagree”
[00:00:40] this week, I’m bringing you audio of this panel recorded live at Skepticon 11 in St. Louis.
[00:00:46] Callie Moderating: Hello, my name is Callie, and I host a podcast called Queersplaining. I am going to be moderating this panel called “what if they disagree.” the idea being something particularly difficult for me to deal with as a trans person is when someone says something really awful and transphobic, sometimes other trans folks will come in and say “hey this person did nothing wrong.”
[00:01:08] And I know there are similar Dynamics within different axes of Oppression and marginalization. And so the topic of discussion today is going to be how we in those marginalized groups handle situations like that, and how people who are in positions of relative privilege and want to be allies can handle those situations.
[00:01:27] So I would like for my panel to introduce themselves. Ashton, would you like to start?
[00:01:32] Ashton: Hi guys, my name is Ashton P Woods, my pronouns are he/him/his.
[00:01:36] Maddy: I’m Maddy Love, pronouns, she/her
[00:01:38] Eli: Eli Heina, just call me Eli, they/them
[00:01:41] Hiba: my name is Hiba, and she/her
[00:01:44] Callie Moderating: I kind of laid out the premise of the problem in being part of a marginalized group myself, I deal with that with other trans people. And particularly, I ran into a situation the other day where I was trying to be, I was trying to be a white ally, and I had a black person come in who was a very Unapologetic pro-trump person, and and so I see, you know the side of being part of a marginalized group and handling that, and also trying to be an ally and knowing what my place is in those conversations and so I’m curious anyone who has thoughts.
[00:02:15] How do you all handle situations like that?
[00:02:19] Hiba: Oh, okay. I guess I’m starting. So I think that, so I guess that, so I come across this issue a lot. So from so, little bit of background. I’m an ex-muslim. I’ve done a lot of speaking and advocating and organizing surrounding ex-Muslim issues and we inevitably run up against the people who go like “well, you know, I the Muslims I know or the Muslims in my life say that this is a myth or this is like an islamophobic thing”
[00:02:52] like, you know, when we’re tal.. Trying to talk about like really important crucial issues like gendered violence, and you know, just the anything related to hijab, God. And modesty Doctrine and just all of the, the problems within our communities that make it difficult for people to dissent, for people to live authentically and so on.
[00:03:13] And then you get these people going like “well, you know, all of my Muslim friends and co-workers and so on they say that these are just islamophobic myths and that you’re just perpetuating islamophobia by talking about this thing and I don’t know who to listen to and I don’t know what to decide”
[00:03:30] So, you know the issue of how to deal with this problem when it comes up is like, I wish I had a quick and easy solution. But here’s, here’s the problem the way that I see it:
[00:03:43] If you’re an outsider to a certain culture or you know, a marginalized group and so on, and you care about things like intersectionality, you might have this, you know conviction that because of your positionality is an outsider you are not, you are ill-equipped to basically determine what’s what. And you should defer to the authority and the the expertise of people who know what they’re talking about. Because they have been engaged in these issues for a long time and so on.
[00:04:13] The problem with that is that no Community is a monolith and you are never going to find you know, a unified opinion that like, “oh, this is what this is. You know, what’s best for Muslim communities.” No one agrees on that. And there’s a whole thing where there’s like, like there’s always a tension between narratives.
[00:04:33] There are always going to be people within a certain community that perpetuates a certain narrative, and and other people who perpetuate counter narrative. And if you’re someone who cares about things like positionality, one of the things that you have to consider is the positionality of the people who you are trying to listen to within the community.
[00:04:51] So, if you’re, if an ex-muslim tells you something, and then you have this like Muslim spokesperson who’s like really vocal and active in their community, and they’re like at the Forefront. And they are the person who who has the type of privilege, of representation within the the the face that the Muslim Community is presenting the world, then you have to like try to ask yourself.
[00:05:19] Which of these people do you think might be silenced more? Which of these people do you think might basically be trying to, be upholding status quo, and have a kind of vested interest in that. So, whenever someone goes like “well, you know, all these Muslim feminists say this this and this” and we don’t hear anyone saying that like, oh the hijab is oppressive and so on.
[00:05:44] Well the reason you don’t hear those things because those voices are silenced and they’re marginalized. And so like when you have like different levels of marginalization within a marginalized community. That just makes everything harder because you, it makes it really difficult to know where to turn.
[00:06:00] I don’t want to like go on continuing monologue. I want this to be more of a conversation so we can get back to this. I can say more later
[00:06:07] Ashton: so
[00:06:08] Eli: too.
[00:06:09] Ashton: you want to?
[00:06:10] Eli: To add on to exactly what Hiba was saying about, you know, ex-muslims versus mus- Progressive Muslims on certain issues.
[00:06:18] (clears throat) Excuse me.
[00:06:19] The number one thing I tell to, people to look for is to look at the communities themselves and not the PR representatives essentially. So you see, essentially the person whose charismatic, usually attractive in some way. Well, you know has educational privilege who is sort of called upon to be the spokesperson for Muslims. And they’ll say things like “oh no, we don’t have a problem with LGBTQ people. Go to their mosques and see if you see any out LGBTQ people. You probably won’t meet any.
[00:06:50] But they’ll invite white gay guys to come have Iftar with them. So that’s the difference you see. They’re playing a certain role for outsiders to be, to accept them. And in times like this, you can see why they might, you know. I don’t necessarily blame them too much for trying to play the game and try to be more accepted by what they see is more mainstream American society, but look at their own children.
[00:07:12] Look at their own communities and are they as accepting, as progressive, as liberal? You know, there are mosques that I have personally attended, you know, in the past where they would say “oh, we don’t have a problem with gay people. We don’t believe they should be put to death.” Yet, did I come out to those people when I found out I was queer? Hell no. Hell no, I didn’t.
[00:07:35] So, look at how they treat their own, versus how sort of the image they present to outsiders. I think that’s one way to sort of decode those types of situations.
[00:07:44] Ashton: So, I make no apologies about what I’m about to say. Blackness in and of itself is not a monolith. So, there are black conservative people out there, right?
[00:07:57] Now, I’m on the left of left. And to be completely honest with you, I make no apologies because I could care less about how they feel. So the person who happens to be a black Trump supporter. I’ll start there. They have a right to their opinion. And this is illustrative of the thing that keeps popping up in my mind, acculturation and assimilation. If you don’t know what those mean you should Google them because I’m not going to help you today.
[00:08:23] The issue at hand is, is there are people out there who feel like they should buy into what white men describe or prescribe as societal standards. The best way to put this is without calling them the C word, the O – O – N, not the other one is just this: some folks can play Financial privilege with making the American dream.
[00:08:51] Some folks conflate that we’re pulling up the bootstraps. But at the end of the day, your Ben Carsons of the world, the Clarence Thomases of the world. they are detrimental to people who look like me, *and* you. Because they’re going to make decisions, even though they’ve assimilated to you to make you comfortable in your skin if you happen to be white and you and you follow along those lines.
[00:09:12] That is a danger to all of us. So the way that I address it is I don’t spend my labor on people who already have their minds made up. I focus on the people who need the help, whether they be conservative or not. Because at the end of the day the humanity behind the politics is what really matters.
[00:09:29] And as I stated in my talk friday night, we are in a critical situation right now, where we can’t be worrying about frivolous shit. And if that black Trump supporter wants to invalidate your transness and they want to invalidate someone else’s transness. That sounds like they’ve cosigned with Donald Trump.
[00:09:50] And at the end of the day, be unafraid to dismiss those people if they’re in your family, if they in your friendships and your circles,. And any other place it might hurt but. Be unafraid to let those people go. Be unafraid to take a stand and say “this is who the hell I am, and if you don’t like it, you can kiss my entire black ass!”
Callie Moderating: (crowd appl [00:10:08] auds)
[00:10:08] [00:10:08] Maddy, thoughts?
[00:10:13] Maddy: I mean, I just, we run into trans people that are for Trump is like, just white trans people typically
[00:10:20] I’ve to the point where most of my interactions with those people are on Facebook and social media. And I have no problems with just blocking them. Because I have, there’s, when I was Christian I was told, you know, there’s a Bible verse like don’t throw your Pearls Before Swine.
[00:10:32] Ashton: Mmm.
[00:10:33] Maddy: It’s like, I’m not going to waste my time trying to get to somebody, like you said, that’s already made up their mind. If I’m gonna argue with somebody on Facebook, I want it to be in public and I want the people around that are on the fence.
[00:10:45] Ashton: Sis, did you say you was trans?
[00:10:47] Ashton: if you argue with somebody about your existence, you make sure they pay you
[00:10:52] Maddy: (crowd laughing and applauding)
[00:10:52] usually, I’m usually arguing with, if I’m gonna argue with somebody that, the payment is, it is the, to reach the people around that are looking in on that conversation. And those are the people I’m trying to reach. I don’t care about that other person at that point, because like you said they’ve already made up their mind.
[00:11:08] Ashton: Mmmhm.
[00:11:09] Callie Moderating: The line that I always try to walk is that you know, if I’m, as a white person in the space with other white people, trying to advocate for racial Justice. And, you know, people like well, they bring up the “black friend,” right? And that’s a trap, because I have like, I listen to what Ashton has to say, and they can point right back at me and say like “well, you’re doing the black friend thing too” right?
[00:11:32] And in some ways, being able to walk away is a privilege, right? Being able to exit those spaces, and not have those conversations is an exercise of privilege. And I want to make sure that I engage in the conversations in a way that helps. But I also don’t just want to run away because it’s uncomfortable.
[00:11:51] And so for me, it’s trying to find the balance in that line there because I want to advance that work. I want to use the privilege that I have to advance the cause. I don’t want to do damage. I want to help. And I don’t want to just walk away because it’s uncomfortable.
[00:12:05] And I think because of societal programming and whiteness, there’s there’s a lot there that clouds judgment in our cultural programming there. And so, thinking where to, how to walk that line is what I’m…
[00:12:17] For example, I gave a talk once about trans issues. And I mentioned that black Trans women experience the disproportionate level of violence and basically every, every bad thing that happens to trans people happens worse to Black trans women.
[00:12:31] And we know that economic disparities exist because racism, right? And someone during the Q&A said like “I don’t think that’s true.” And that puts me the position of I’m on stage, and I’m going to argue with a black person about racism. As a white person, I’m not going to do that. That’s, I don’t feel like that’s my place.
[00:12:51] So I just said like “okay” and I had a conversation with him later. And so, you know, for those of us who are trying to be Advocates, what are your thoughts on how to handle situations like that, anyone on the panel…
[00:13:03] Ashton: So just just the ballpark shot.
[00:13:07] At the same time this is not an out. At the same time, this is not an out for you, or any person who is non-black, for that matter, because we also have to talk about non black POC in that situation too. Because racism and
[00:13:18] anti-blackness exist in those communities as well. And if you are someone who is an accomplice or a comrade, you also have to take and measure the fact and like I said, this is not a out, the battles that you pick.
[00:13:30] No one’s saying that yeah, you should just walk away, but you should also be protecting yourself. Because you are still a trans person. And while you you while you may not be along the lines of a black Trans woman who is most likely to be murdered before the age of 30, be unemployed. There are still trans people in general who still are in danger.
[00:13:51] There are still trans people who still need to be able to, be able to go home and actually be able to sleep. And sometimes I think that, yes, the fine line is this: no, you don’t argue with black people about racism. But what you can do is send them, like you did, talk to them and give them resources, and people to talk to who look like them to give them that information.
[00:14:11] But, there comes a point when someone says that in 2019, that I have a visceral reaction to that, regardless of how you look. If you say you don’t believe someone’s experience. It sounds to me like you are coming from Academia and you’re treating someone’s lived experience as anecdotal. And in that instance you no longer exist to me.
[00:14:33] The issue is this: we have choices to make. We have to decide to help the people who need, it instead of arguing with the people who have no power except for the fact of their vitriol and maybe any physical harm they might cause us. We have to start educating people, and talking to the people who are in the movable middle and on the left and maybe even some people on the right, who are more willing and malleable to listen to us, and say “listen, you know what? I don’t agree with who you are, but I see this as true, and I don’t like it. And we’ll work on it together to fix it.
[00:15:06] But at the same time, its also not your burden to take the responsibility to argue with someone about issues of transness because regardless of whether the person was was black, they invalidated your gender identity, and that is not right
[00:15:22] Callie Moderating: other thoughts?
[00:15:23] Eli: Well, one thing I find helpful in certain situations too is to like, you know, you said offer resources. Is to say “well, you know, I’m not the expert here. I can’t speak for any group. But you know bam, here’s a really great sociological resource from a black person that includes a ton of Statistics have fun arguing with Statistics.” You know, basically saying that because you know, I don’t want to be that person, and I get where you’re coming from, Callie, especially coming from a community that while I’m not white, is still perceived as the better kind of non-white.
[00:15:59] I’m you know, Desi Indian so, you know. And there are plenty of Indians who are very pro-republican, very Pro conservative. And white people are often shocked by this its like, no, actually if you give people enough, just enough, just enough of a taste of whiteness. They really get hooked. You know, forget cocaine, this is the real addictive white substance whiteness.
[00:16:25] Hiba: I think another thing that’s important to consider is what’s at stake. With you know, whatever the issue is. Like, like if, what would the consequences be if you turn out to be wrong? Versus you know, if in dismissing someone versus if you’re right?
[00:16:46] Is it worth, Is it worth taking the time to you know, check the sources and look into something. Because if a person is right and then they’re really speaking about, you know, some kind of systemic phenomenon where there is oppression that needs to be remedied, you need to throw resources at it, and they’re trying to Advocate and convince people. There’s a problem here that needs to be addressed
[00:17:08] And, what would be at stake versus you know, in terms of taking that seriously, versus you know, just because someone else tells you that “no, I am X person and I represent my community and I’m saying this isn’t a problem.” What if they end up being right?
[00:17:29] Okay. I mean it’s possible. But, you know, the risk and the, what you stand to lose, and just the inherent dangers are so much different in in either case. And so, and so sometimes it’s worth erring on the side of if someone tells you there’s a problem, take it seriously. At least up to the point where you’re going to like, you know, look into it.
[00:17:53] And you can look into it. No one saying that like, you know, if you’re a white person, you’re not allowed to you know, read up on things and in fact check and so on. If someone is citing statistics and then someone says “I don’t think that’s true. I don’t believe you.” Well, you can check. I mean there are some things that are controversial and that are not easily proven and so on. But there are other things are very very clear cut.
[00:18:14] A lot of times there’s just an overarching ignorance about certain things because there’s just a common public perception that like, “oh this isn’t an issue.” But if you actually start looking at the people who do research and look into this problem, you realize “oh, it is a problem, it’s just that people don’t know about it. Because the kind of like mainstream or, or like, common wisdom thing just like, it contradicts the actual facts and that happens a whole lot.
[00:18:42] And I think that another thing that I think is useful is that the same like especially like at Skeptics/atheism… The same critical thinking that we end up applying to like, you know, Christian apologists or something else that we are really really are like, you know, anti-feminist discourse, something that we’re like really familiar, we can we catch the fallacies and we know where the arguments breakdown. Honestly, all of these arguments end up taking the same structure in the same kind of form across, you know,…
[00:19:12] But somehow that kind of like, that kind of like, willingness to engage critically, and think critically about it. People tend to kind of like suppress that when they’re dealing with with another group, because they don’t want to overstep and it’s a very, I think it’s a very admirable impulse, but it can also be very harmful if you use that as an excuse to, to disengage.
[00:19:35] Because the truth is that you know, especially when we’re talking about racial issues, white people in general, I don’t think they realize how powerful their voices are. Just how much space you guys take up by existing. Everything that you say is elevated in a way that like, you know, so many people of color have to work and struggle and strive to get even like a tiny bit of that representation and and the impact that it has.
[00:20:08] Which is why you know Dawkins writes a book, and suddenly he is like the freaking Godfather of atheism and there is like like I mean, For everything that you can say about The God Delusion and how many lives it has changed. There is nothing that is so original in his arguments that have not been said by other thinkers and and so on.
[00:20:33] And there are so many different people whose voices are essential and need to be heard, but no one, no one hears them just because they don’t have the same de facto visibility as white people. Especially white academics, especially white men. And you really, you really have to like I, it’s, I know it’s a very very uncomfortable realization. But as a white person you have to really realize just how much space your voice takes up with just what you’re choosing to listen to and what you’re choosing to elevate and so on.
[00:21:08] And so, and so when you’re thinking about dismissing something that a person of color is saying or whether to take something seriously, you know, you, I think that you have a responsibility to engage critically, and like not just like, like, you know, off shoulder the responsibility of I don’t like “well I’m going to defer to the authority of this person or this person.” No think about the arguments and whether they make sense.
[00:21:35] You know just like, just like, you know, any marginalized group, you always have people within that group perpetuating the, the dynamics of oppression. Everybody knows this. And we you know, we don’t forget it when it comes to like feminism. Like if someone points out “well women perpetuate these gender, uh, what’s the word, roles, these gender roles as well. It’s like “no shit they do, that’s how systemic oppression works.” But then you turn around and you’re talking about a similar phenomenon with like a community of color and a white person goes like well, okay. I can’t like, I can’t speak, no, you know what the dynamic is. You know how this thing works think about it just think about it and look up resources and just really engage
[00:22:21] like, this whole thing where like “hands off because I am not you know, because I’m not part of the group” that is not being a good ally. It’s the coward’s way out.
[00:22:35] Ashton: Yeah, there’s an expectation, real quick, to add to that. Everything I said plus that but also know that the responsibility is on you to actually challenge people, when its people who just look like you in that room.
[00:22:47] When, if there’s not a black or brown person in that room, y’all need to be holding the people who look like you accountable. Not just deferring, like you said, but if you’re not doing that you are not holding yourself accountable either.
[00:23:01] Callie Moderating: Yeah, It’s important to do the work previous, right? You have to have done the work, put in a lot of work in unpacking your own thoughts and feelings and cultural programming so you can bring that to the discussion and you know what the facts are. So you’re not stumbling when you’re unexpectedly faced with that. And that was the one piece of advice that I got.
[00:23:19] If you’re confident that you really know what’s happening, then assert that. But there’s a lot of work to be done and you have to make sure that you do that well before you actually run into the situation.
[00:23:29] Eli: To give the perfect concrete example of exactly what Hiba was saying. A couple of years ago a young white secular person, I think she’s part of the atheist Community, decided to try out hijab for awhile, which is something people do, they, it’s a fun experiment for them. They put a headscarf on, they try it out. They play oppression drag and then they take it off, and then they go back to their merry lives.
[00:23:53] There’s a lot of problems with doing this, but the number one problem I have with her in particular, was she was using the words of a young Muslim woman that she was friends with as essentially gospel, to mix religions here.
[00:24:07] But she was essentially saying that nobody’s forced to wear hijab because my Muslim friend said so. Also my Muslim friend thinks it’s great that I’m wearing hijab, and all these things. And I had, you know different feelings about them that I wasn’t shy about. And her response was basically to say “oh well, I can only defer to this one person that I talk to, and she says nobody in her community is forced to wear hijab” and nothing, and I think she’s like an outspoken advocate for hijab. She’s the last person anybody in her community would go to to say that they were being forced to wear it.
[00:24:45] Callie Moderating: I think another important aspect is that if we’re going to do this work, we also have to make sure that we’re willing to be checked when we screw up, right? And I think, I mean generally speaking, no one would disagree with that.
[00:24:56] But I think if you’re going into a space and you’re going to be an advocate and you’re going to apply that skepticism, especially like as a white person. I know I’m going to try that and I’m going to screw it up at some point or another, right? And I also have to be willing for people to come to me and say “hey like hey, you got this wrong” and receive that critique as a gift because if they were throwing me away, they just told me to go to hell and never talk to me again, right?
[00:25:18] So I think that’s another important thing is to be, especially as white people, that we need to be doing this work. But we also need to be willing to be checked. Because in a lot of these conversations, I think you kind of like get very close to swerving out of your lane.
[00:25:33] And our whiteness will cause us to do that, I think, regardless of our best intentions, and we need to be aware of that and receive that when checked on it as well
[00:25:42] Ashton: and make sure, If you are going to call yourself an accomplice a ally, or a comrade, that you do not take and turn this shit and Center yourselves. Because when people tell you that you screwed up.
[00:26:01] “Oh, everything’s wrong!” No. You are what’s wrong. Because now you’re trying to get us to console you. I don’t need to console you because you fucked up. I’m telling you what you did, now fix it. I don’t need to hold your hand. It’s not my job. I don’t have to sit with you every day on the hour.
[00:26:18] Do not call me after 10 p.m. or before 10am because you had a question about how something I said rattled your nerves because you need an apology because you were perceived or perceiving that I called you a racist, but innately all white people are racist until the behavior is unlearned. So if that is your Battle, it’s Not My Cross to Bear, said the black atheist, okay?
[00:26:42] And it’s not any other person’s cross to bear, not a black person, not a brown person, right? And then you think about the other piece of this equation is this: no one owes you a damn thing.
[00:26:56] When you walk up to me as a black person, I don’t care if you admire me, but when you when I hear, when a white person comes to me and says “I want to talk to you about some things.” I’m going to turn off. Black people turn off of that, because you’re demanding space and time from me that I don’t owe you.
[00:27:16] “May I talk to you?” “can we have a conversation at some point?” “I’d like to learn some things.” If you’re not doing that, you’re taking up space in that instance as well. So when we correct you on something or give you some advice towards how to handle some things when it’s racially driven. Listen internalize, and then go and seek it from other sources as well. Because sometimes when y’all do that, y’all are taking us from community.
[00:27:41] We don’t get paid. We don’t collect the check every two weeks on a salary benefit. We walked the streets, we bleed, we go to jail and nobody has our backs except for our community. And we are all languishing while you sit here in Comfort.
[00:27:55] It takes a lot to step away from campaigning in the fourth largest city in America to be the first black atheist to be elected to the City Council seat, and to have to contend with people in our community, not the ones in this room, perhaps, who they don’t they don’t care that I’m an atheist, all they see is negro. All they see is black and then in and in that instance, I’m automatically radicalized to you. I’m automatically angry to you.
[00:28:23] And I don’t give a fuck.
[00:28:26] Callie Moderating: I think another thing that’s important to consider when engaging in these discussions.
[00:28:31] It’s not always easy to tell, but it is often easy to tell, if the person you’re speaking with is engaging in good faith, right? Because if somebody is arguing to be trolling, I think that’s a pretty easy decision. We can just walk away from that conversation because nothing is going to be accomplished there, right?
[00:28:44] It’s not always easy to tell though. Especially if someone, you know, five years ago, I was definitely approaching things in good faith, but I didn’t have the language to do it right, and I hurt some people in the process, and so any thoughts on how we, how we navigate that and figure out who is engaging in good faith? And what are the signs and signals that you get from people that say like “this conversation might actually be worth engaging in” versus “I feel comfortable just walking away from this.”
[00:29:12] Hiba: I think that actually Ashton said it, if someone is defensive and centering themselves. That is a huge huge sign.
[00:29:18] So, to go back to the example that Eli gave, so this this person like wore hijab for like a week and walked around in it, so she could like feel what it’s like to be, like and how you’re treated like as if all the thousands of ways hijab affect your life, you could actually like experience it if you like actually just put it on your head and walk around for a week. It was so insulting, but she like made this blog about it, and like it was on, hosted on the one of the atheist channels.
[00:29:47] Callie Moderating: Patheos, or Freethought Blogs, or…
[00:29:51] Hiba: on Patheos, yeah
[00:29:53] and it was like this whole thing, and it was so clearly about how like, like and she was like presenting herself as like an ally in doing this like for like, oh I’m a white atheist woman, and I am doing this in solidarity with Muslim women. But then when Eli Heina and I respond to her she just double down and got defensive.
[00:30:14] And her whole shtick was like “well my Muslim friend who wears hijab is saying this is okay” and like completely ignoring the fact that you have two ex-muslim ex-hijabis in front of you who have, how long did we both wear the hi- like, I wore it for 15 years
[00:30:34] Eli: 10 years for me.
[00:30:34]Hiba: Yeah, and like, like this was our life, and, and we are right there in your face telling you. And you are being, making it about yourself. Making about defending what you did, and making about how you know, you had good intentions. And this is not someone who’s engaging good faith. It’s not someone who actually cares about the issue at hand. They only care about presenting themselves as someone who is, you know, Progressive or whatever, for like brownie points or whatever it is.
[00:31:02] And so I feel like, I feel like, whether or not someone’s engaging with good faith, whether they’re listening, willing to listen to criticism, whether, when you end up telling them “you’re wrong,” whether they step away and think about it and do their own research, or whether they basically bug you and you know, put it on you and then do the whole white tears thing and so on like, you know
[00:31:26] I feel like even if you’re ignorant and even if you’re coming from a place where you have made a huge misstep. If you are engaging in good faith, you will be the type of person who will step back and be appalled at the idea that you may have been wrong about this very important thing, instead of, you know behaving in a way in which you just are defensive and double down.
[00:31:46] Eli: I mean I kind of wanted to offer her the full ex-hijabi experience when she took it off, you know, get some older people from my family to yell at her about how much of a hoe she is now…
[00:31:58] Callie Narrating: I’m cutting in here because at this point Eli’s mic becomes very distorted, and the audio is hard to hear. But they followed with a very good point that I wanted to make sure was heard.
[00:32:09] One of the most important signs of good faith is when someone approaches you with the humble attitude of being a student. At their workshop earlier in the conference Eli used the analogy, if you approach me as a trans person and you demand proof of my existence and refuse to accept anything that doesn’t fit with your preconceptions, then I’ll never accept that you exist and you made it all up.
[00:32:34] And they further compared it to education in an academic sense. If you raise your hand in science class and say I need you to convince me personally that the mitochondria is the PowerHouse of the cell and if you don’t do it in a way that I find personally convincing if you don’t use the exact right words, I’m going to write you off.
[00:32:55] All credit to Eli for that perspective and that analogy. I really thought that was an important point, but their mic was a bit too hot and the audio of them saying it got distorted pretty badly.
[00:33:05] Back to the panel…
[00:33:06] Callie Moderating: Other thoughts,
[00:33:07]Maddy: I don’t have a lot of extra thoughts to add to this for some weird reason. Trying figure out why. But I feel like that’s kind of what, sort of our role is in this as a white person, and up here with a bunch of people of color.
[00:33:22] Sit down, shut up. Let them talk. Hear other experiences and then get my communities and my family at my dinner table, at my Thanksgiving table to you know, Amplify the voices that I’ve heard.
[00:33:33] Share the resources. Point, not necessarily to you, or to you in particular, but to a voice that I’ve heard. I mean some of us out there when we talk about racism, even if I can look at easy statistics and go.
[00:33:45] “Yeah. Well explain this incarceration rate, explain this ticket rate in this County. Like how does that work if not for racism? Like I just when we, I feel like our, is my position as a white person, is really just to amplify the voices around me.
[00:33:58] Eli: I feel the same way as a non-black person of color.
[00:34:01] Like, you know, let’s talk about Thanksgiving right? Like you said, you know, right, you know, we all don’t want to start arguments at Thanksgiving but who is more equipped to disseminate information to people who are resistant and maybe are somewhat open to some education than our own family members, right?
[00:34:24] You know, my family isn’t going to invite Ashton over for Thanksgiving dinner and listen to what he has to say, but I can maybe amplify some of what he says to some of my, you know, terrible relatives including the cop cousin. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:34:41] Ashton: Sorry to hear that.
[00:34:43] So the other thing is have you, by a show of hands how many of you seen the color purple?
[00:34:50] so y’all know who Miss Millie is don’t y’all? Y’all remember how she acted? How she, the Christmas scene? A lot of us see that in many of the folks who call themselves allies.
[00:35:04] Because if we don’t do something a certain way that is acceptable to someone who looks like you. We’re suddenly problematic, we’re angry we’re these things, but listen.
[00:35:17] Black people have a proxy to be angry, and we get to decide why we’re angry, and how we get called angry. Just because our approach, and the way we speak. Our passion.
[00:35:29] Our anger is ours to own. And if it’s towards someone who looks like you, or towards your group. No, black people are not racist. We did not create the concept of race, kay? Brown people are not racist in the context that they didn’t create the concept of race.
[00:35:46] But remember, black folks can be prejudice. They can be a lot of things. But we’re not actively running around like people are protraying us as in we hate white people. No, we hate your fuckin privilege.
[00:35:59] We hate the fact that we have to use you to get into a damn door without being able to walk in, without being checked or pushed through an extra security check, like we going through some fucking TSA or something.
[00:36:10] We shouldn’t have to pass litmus tests. We should not have to go through the Hoops that you feel that you need to be made comfortable in order for us to be accepted by you because we don’t want to be accepted by you. We want to be respected. (applause)
[00:36:29] Maddy: I’ve seen something similar, obviously not to the same degree in like in the trans Community. Where there’ll be somebody who’s very outspoken for their trans rights and I’ll hear them say “well, yeah, but you know, they’re turning me off.”
[00:36:42] Maddy: no, it’s women like this, like, like me, like Marissa was on here.
[00:36:47] Like that’s why Trump is going to get re-elected. It’s because of people like you that are soft spoken.
[00:36:51] Callie Moderating: You’re hurting your own cause
[00:36:52] Maddy: yeah, it’s like “no fuck you.” Like if I’m not out here saying something it’s not going to get said. If I’m not out here projecting my you know, the the trans narrative as I see it.
[00:37:04] Ashton: MMhmm.
[00:37:04] Maddy: It’s not going to get heard. My story isn’t going to get told if I’m not telling it.
[00:37:08] Ashton: Every time I hear somebody says that, especially they’re a white woman, I hear “53% 53% 53%” 53% 53%.” What does that mean? Everybody know what that means?
[00:37:20] All right. Do I need to say anything else?
[00:37:22] Callie Moderating: Nope?
[00:37:24] Hiba: I think that with this thing particular, history is on our side.
[00:37:28] The no… Like if you want, like if you really want, have someone actually like arguing with you that this is not the way to get things done and you’re just going to alienate people? No, there is no other way to get things done. Nothing has ever changed in the history of humanity without people being you know, like riling and like raising hell against the status quo.
[00:37:52] Being loud, being obnoxious, being too angry, being inappropriate and all that means is inconvenient. You’re just inconvenient for the people who are comfortable in their position and don’t want anything to change. And there is no way to enact change unless you actually stand up and you are vocally different and you are unapologetic about it.
[00:38:15] So, the whole thing where like, you know, respectability politics is like, oh “you’re not going to get anywhere unless you basically tow this line.” No, we have to cross the line if we want to get anywhere
[00:38:27] Eli: and I think…
[00:38:32] And I’ve had it argued to me many times, because if you couldn’t tell I’m a little abrasive, maybe.
[00:38:39] But I’ve had it argued to me about race issues, about ex-muslim issues, about gender issues, especially that “oh, why can’t you just quietly live your life and be respectable and upstanding and people will therefore give you respect?
[00:38:55] And to me that’s so ahistorical because there have been trans people throughout history. There have been strong women throughout history. There have been people who have defected from religion throughout history who did leave quiet strong lives. But we didn’t see the progress that we need because of it. They just sort of quietly died. And that’s why people like me, you know, who for example come out as you know, trans or queer we feel alone at first.
[00:39:24] And it’s because their lives were so quiet and sometimes we’re even deliberately erased by history. That’s how we end up feeling so alone. You know, you gotta Raise Some Hell, not just to create progress now, but through the future so that the next generation’s know they were not alone, and they have absolutely the right to exist, to persist, and to resist for, you know, generations to come. (applause)
[00:39:53] Callie Moderating: And I think there’s a lot to unpack there too in like, lots of us don’t have the option to do that. If we deeply deeply wanted to just like, live a quote-unquote “normal” life and kind of Fade Into the background. There are lots of us who wouldn’t be able to do that if we wanted to. And so the answer to the question when someone says like “why don’t you do this?” “Because people like you won’t let me”
[00:40:16] So, obviously we could continue this discussion for weeks if we had the time, but we are coming up on time. I want to thank all of you for your insights and your perspectives. If you have any parting thoughts on the subject, things that maybe you think are very important to say that maybe we hadn’t had the chance to get across yet.
[00:40:35] And also if you have a blog, podcast, political campaign you want to plug before we get off stage, please, please do so, so we can start at this end with Ashton.
[00:40:45] Ashton: So the first thing that I would recommend you do is if you think you don’t know anybody, that’s trans, you do. I expect each and every one of you to take the responsibility to support a trans member of your community, because you don’t know how much they need you right now.
[00:41:02] Support someone that’s LGBTQIA in general. You don’t know how much they need you right now. Support the people who are on the margins, and on the fringes who need the voice. And you open the door, and you bring them in, and let them, you let them speak for themselves. You provide them the resources that they need.
[00:41:19] And I said something before… Organizers, we don’t have fancy 501c3’s and even physical sponsorships. We don’t have offices. Our office is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Signal chats, so that we can get things done, right? The best work has always been on the fly and has always been with coalition-building.
[00:41:41] And I think that in the atheist community and the secular community in general, we need to be coalition building. And we need to be building partnerships to make sure that we can change these laws, these policies, and make things easier for folks, and be a just a little bit more apt to listen to people when they’re talking to you and telling you “this is hurting me, don’t invalidate our existence.”
[00:42:06] I’m going to direct you to my website www.ashtonpwoodsforhouston F-O-R Houston. ForHouston.com. Visit, check out my platform, donate if you want to. But understand that people like us, these are the people at the panel right now and some of the people in this room should be the ones running for office because we’re the ones that are fearless and we need you to have our back.
[00:42:31] Maddy: I’d say pretty much what I said before, if you’re white or if you just have straight privilege, use that privilege. Talk to people around you, don’t be afraid to… Especially like, the white atheist community that is, has a lot of power, has a lot of money, has a lot of fans, push back against that. And say “no they’re, your voices aren’t the most important ones in the room.”
[00:42:55] I know that big names that are famous, but push back against them. Draw a line in the sand and say this is not… “Yes, I am outraged but like I don’t have to deal with this shit anymore.” And then if you don’t think that you know a bigot or a racist in your family, you do. Because there’s that institutional racism if nothing else where they don’t understand maybe their privilege. Maybe they think they’re not racist, try to educate them and just like “Hey listen to the voices up here.”
[00:43:27] Eli: Yeah, I don’t have any parting thought to add to that. But I guess I do have a quick plug. So the shirt I’m wearing which is hilarious if you know anything about Islam, it’s from free thoughts free Hearts free Minds project. Their website is on the back of it. So I’m just going to turn around.
[00:43:50]Ashton: Free Hearts free minds.com.
[00:43:52] Eli: Yes, they support ex-muslims who are trying to get to a safer place. Because a lot of them are in situations, or countries, or families where they can’t be themselves. They can’t, they’re not safe. So they have a Patreon and this is one of the rewards for the Patreon. So definitely throw your support there if you can.
[00:44:13] I don’t really need support as much anymore. I have a salary job now for once. But yes help, help people who need help there, and I blog at the orbit and my blog for now is called Heinous Dealings.
[00:44:27] Hiba: Okay, I don’t have anything like me me to plug because I don’t do much activism anymore. But if you can support the ex-muslims of North America, please do. Literally the only ex-Muslim nonprofit that basically provides support, community support, and help to people who are in dire dire situations. And so many lives have been saved and it honestly boils down to the funding.
[00:44:54] So if you can spare a few bucks, please go to xmna.org, I think? Or I think it’s X. Well, it’s something like that. Ex-mu…. the website keeps changing but ex-Muslims of North America, please donate. All of the money goes to supporting ex-muslims in need. All of it.
[00:45:12] And also do what you can within your community. You don’t have to change the world, you know. Just if you can just be the person who stands up when you see people saying fucked up shit, in your family and your school and your you know, in your workplace if you can afford to. Then do it because a lot of people can’t afford to speak. And it is it is when those of us wh.O.
[00:45:37] It when we come out and we actually put this stuff out there. It really makes so much of a difference for all the people who are closeted and invisible and feel like they have no one in their corner and even if it feels like what you do doesn’t make a difference, a lot of times because you don’t see the way that if it affects people, and just you know, keep in mind that your voice can be powerful and you don’t have to change the world, but you can help by changing a few lives.
[00:46:02] Callie Moderating: Thank you all.
[00:46:04] Callie Narrating: Thank you for listening friend. It’s vital that if we have the capacity, we lend our support to the causes and organizations mentioned at the end of the panel here. There are links in the show notes. If you don’t live in Houston and can’t vote for Ashton, you can still support his campaign, check out his website to see how.
[00:46:30] You can subscribe to Maddy’s podcast. You can help Free Hearts, Free Minds with a patreon subscription or one-time donation. And you can support ex-Muslims of North America with your donation as well. Please check all these organizations out, and see where you can plug in to help them do the work they do.
[00:46:48] Next week. I’m going to bring you an in-depth interview with Ashton Woods about his life as an activist, and his thoughts on how to get things done in the current political environment.
[00:46:59] Before we go, I want you to know that if you’re lost, you’re hurting, you’re scared, if you feel like no one cares and no one understands – you need to know there’s a community out here that loves you, cares for you, knows that you’re capable of amazing things and that you are worthy of love.
[00:47:14] If you’re struggling, please don’t be afraid to reach out. Until next time, friend, my name is Callie Wright, and this is Queersplaining.