b. binaohan

The Illusion of Power and Space

i still find myself vexed by this conversation i had on twitter about #thistweetcalledmyback and critiques.

the interlocutor is one Black woman who was in the tag and talking about whether or not there is any ‘room’ for critique. i’m vexed bc so many of my questions were left unanswered (and not just by the Black woman in the convo or Riley, i’m not just speaking of this one convo).

one of the things i said/repeated last night is that ppl have the right to set their own boundaries. this includes boundaries for engagement. no one owes anyone direct, involved engagement. at all.

and so one is left with the question: what is this ‘space’ being spoken of such that within it there isn’t any room for critique?

part of this speaks to the scope of the HT and what it is about… and it feels like general crtiques i’ve seen make two general errors of scope. one type of critique is hyper localized and focused on single individuals within the collective as a way to discredit the entire collective. the other type critiques the HT as an abstract, general concept that is about exploition and lateral violence in general.

these are scope errors because the first creates a monolith out of the collective and acts as if they are a single unit, rather than individual agents working together. which only serves to prove their point (ie, that they aren’t being taken seriously as individual human beings). the second erases the actual collective from the conversation. so instead of the HT (and the issues it raises) being about the experiences of this finite group of ppl, the HT is already undergoing the exact process they are attempting to resist (ie, the co-optation of their work and their subsequent erasure from conceptual frameworks they helped build).

and the thing is, is that pretty every critique i’ve read of the HT and the collective commits one of these two scope errors. and in so doing, misses pretty much the central tenet of the strike and the HT to begin with (since u can only commit these scope errors if ur disregarding one of their key points).

and so… when looking at the scope, we can get a clearer idea of what the ‘space’ is. and also what it means to make demands or comments about the fact ‘valid’ critique is being erased.

erased by whom?

since the scope of any critique must consider both the individuals of the collective and the collective as a whole at the same time, the only real conclusion we can draw from this is that critique is only ‘heard’ if one of the women of the TTCMB collective responds or acknowledges it. this is the ‘room’ or ‘space’.

but this brings us back to the prior point about setting boundaries. if one can admit allow that ppl are allowed to set their own boundaries and that no one is entitled to engagement, how does this reconcile with this understanding of the conceptual space created by the HT?

which also sort of brings the HT into focus. since the primary scope of the HT is how it refers to the collective of individuals who created it as a way to signify their specific set of concerns. the secondary scope of the HT is the discussions everyone else is having about it.

so one could also say… perhaps the ppl in the secondary scope (this conceptual space) are the ones erasing or pushing out ‘valid’ critiques. but then… if this is the case, then the collective has no responsibility for what anyone outside of the collective does. or what they say about the HT or how any of us (who aren’t in the collective) engage with the HT and any of the other ppl outside of the collective.

i’ve also been scare quoting ‘valid’ this entire time… bc my other question is about ‘valid’ critiques.

who decides what is valid?

like. i get ppl thinking their own critiques are valid. i mean. i think all of mine are valid, otherwise i wouldn’t write them. so like.

but it feels like validity in this case is being considered as ‘critiques that are listened to/paid attention by the collective’ and i’m like… this isn’t a great way to base ur own understanding of the value of ur words. like. your valid critique will be true regardless of whether or not the ‘right’ ppl see it. validity adheres in the truth of ur words and this truth isn’t dependent on others.

and…

like. it can fucking suck when it feels like ur the one screaming and no one is listening, but like… so many of us struggle with this. all the time.

but this shouldn’t stop u from speaking ur piece.

Concepts I’m Rethinking Bc of #thistweetcalledmyback

Since #thistweetcalledmyback started about a week ago and the ensuing discussion, I’ve had a lot of cause to rethink how I’ve been understanding certain concepts. This post is really just me working through and articulating these reflections.1

1) grassroots

The first thing that the HT has made me realize is that I didn’t, not even a little, understand what ‘grassroots’ means (or is supposed to mean). Previously, I thought that grassroots = small organizations focused on local community. Or something to that effect. They keyword here is ‘organization,’ of course, since this is part of what is being contested in the HT.

The way the collective of thinkers of the HT conceptualize ‘grassroots’ is community-focused work that is ‘unaffiliated’ with any organization (of any size). Essentially, individuals (working alone or together) outside of any formal structure.

In some of the responses to the HT/collective, I’m seeing that my former understanding of ‘grassroots’ is reasonably common.

So I guess, my questions are (at this point):

  • What, exactly, does ‘grassroots’ means?
  • How does it operate?
  • What does it look like?
  • Why has ‘grassroots’ become a site of such contention?
  • What is gained by framing your self/organization as ‘grassroots’?
  • What is lost by this framing?

2) ‘organizing’/‘the work’

One of the key aspects to the HT/collective is the general devaluing of online community-centered…. (I want to say ‘work’ here, but it isn’t the right word, since ‘work’ implies compensation within a capitalist society and the labour of many online ppl is not compensated. I guess the more appropriate word might be ‘organizing’ but… I also hesistate with this one since this term is also a contested site…)

The sad thing is, is that a lot of the criticism (not all) of the HT/collective has only served to prove the point that online activities2 are generally devalued.

I’ve seen people say, almost word for word, that ‘communities’ essentially cannot exist online and, thus, any activity you do to support your ‘community’ that is online doesn’t count. Not really. Not in the important and meaningful ways (however defined). The key point is that doing stuff online is not as important or meaningful as doing stuff offline. End of story.

The fact that this is still an prevelant idea makes me want to scream. I mean… I think I’ve seen at least 1000 (give or take a few) posts/tweets/etc telling people that privileging offline activities over online is ableist. And it is.

And this is a distinct (sort of) issue than what the HT/collective is talking about and, apparently not something that their critics want to actually consider. So I’ll say it again:

Privileging offline activity over online activity is ableist

This is literally not up for debate. All you manage to say when you claim that offline interactions/activities matter more than online ones is that you happily (willingly) exclude disabled people from whatever offline shit you do. Which, cool, I guess this is good to know since I know right away that your claims to caring more/better for your community is just words. Words to make you look good.

Additionally, since I’ve also literally seen people assert that ‘the work is bigger than you or any single individual’ and it stuns me the level of… cognitive dissonance is must take to utter that sentence while claiming to care about your community. Or any community. Again, there is the conceptual problem of framing uncompensated labour as ‘work’ mentioned above, which really invokes a capitalist framework of the commodification of labour and human beings (esp when directed towards Black ppl).

But this notion that the more important the ~work~ is, the less we have to care about protecting/supporting individuals, so long as the ~work~ continues. More or less stating that individuals can and will be sacrificed to ensure that the ~work~ does not end. But then I have to wonder… how do we choose who gets sacrificed? Why is the sacrifice always demanded of others? Why are we valorizing an organizing principle that depends on burning people up and tossing them away?3

3) community

This is really really the big one for me. And it relates to the inherent values implied by the claim that ‘the work is more important than you’, since it usually is framed around a notion of community that requires that individuals are continuously subsumed (erased) into the community. A notion that community is more important that individual people.

Now…

This is a tricky thing to talk about without falling into an (from my perspective) orientalist binary of ‘invidualism vs collectivism.’

Yes. There are many problems with the way that white supremacist culture focuses on and elevates the individual as being the prime site of value (and agency). And it is equally true that white individualism has been (and continues to be) disruptive in the many iaopoc cultures that aren’t nearly so individualistic.

But, and this is (for once) me speaking from my educational background, insisting that there is a strong distinction between ‘collectivism’ vs ‘individualism’ along racial/cultural lines is actually a orientalist artifact. I’ve literally had to sit through cultural psychology lectures who continue the proud tradition of scientific racism by attempting to demonstrate that Asians are literally cognitively pre-disposed towards collectivism vs white people’s disposition towards individualism.

This orientalist construction of Asians as collectivist goes so deep that it is expressed within popular culture all the time. But also in academia. I’ve literally read whole books about how Chinese nouns are all mass/collective nouns, which has the effect of saying that there is only really one Chinese person with many different instances/containers. Which also feeds into a famous philosophy of mind thought experiment where if every Chinese person were to perform a single pre-determined action at the same time, a momentary singular consciousness could arise (ie, that if each Chinese person were to act as a synapse could they produce a momentary consciousness?). Which feeds into things like Cloud Atlas where the future parts of it has masses of identical Asian robotic women…. which is all based in the old notions of the Yellow Peril as a faceless wave of people that could threaten white individuality… which feeds into me living with a white supremacist roommate who would literally say that Asians almost had a kind of insect intelligence like bees or ants…

And it is so weird to me, seeing/experiencing this brand of Orientalism since my own experience as a person from a collectivist-oriented community is that there is more than enough room for individuality (and individuals). And not as a lesser priority or of lesser importance to the collective, it is just that individuals are situated and conceptualized in a different way.

It feels like, to me, that a lot of iaopoc ppl push a hard notion of collectivism because of the way that it so neatly contrasts us with white ppl and how they form and understand communities. But doing so prevents us from really exploring and articulating how our communities are so much more complex than this.4

And then we get into this current situation where people think that people saying “I matter as an individual human being” is buying into the white system of individualism. And all I can think is… I don’t want any part of any community that fundamentally wants to tell me that I, as individual human, do not matter. Or that I matter less than the community, such that if the situation arises where they/the community needs to pick between protecting the community or supporting me, that I’ll be sacrificed without a second thought and not a single twinge of remorse.

Note: what I’m not saying is that I think that the community ought to be sacrificed for my sake or that I as an individual matter more than the community. Not true…

But I don’t see how some people don’t get that what they say entails that individuals don’t matter (or matter enough) in the community.

And then this only gets me to thinking:

Okay… but then who is the first to be sacrificed in the name of the community? How does this framing of ~community~ necessarily leave people out of the community who’ve been told all their lives that there are part of the community? Why are people so concerned with not only gatekeeping the community itself but the notion of what gets to count as a community?

While dealing with complexity is harder and messier, this is the space we need to be in.

I’m done with ‘communities’ until I see more nuanced discussions about the role of individuals within collective communities. One thing that I’ve learned from the HT/collective and the ensuing discussion is that a lot of ppl’s conception of ‘community’ legitimately terrifies me.

At this point, I claim membership to zero communities and no communities are allowed to claim me.

The sad thing is, is that I know no one will miss my absence… bc I now realize that I was never included in the first place. I mean. According to some people, my disabilities make it impossible for me to be involved within any ~real~ community since a lot of what I do is online.

And life goes on.


  1. By ‘ensuing discussion’ I not only mean from the women involved in #thistweetcalledmyback but also the criticisms of it (and, yes, I’ve been reading them).

  2. I guess ‘activities’ is neutral enough for now.

  3. This last point is pretty important giving the way that some people have been framing critiques of the HT/collective by saying they don’t support considering people ‘disposible’ — even though I don’t ever really see anyone actually elucidating on what they actualky mean by this claim. The claim that ‘the ~work~ is more important than you’ is a claim that you are disposible, if the work requires it.

  4. And, tbh, the notion of a purely collectivist community where the ~work~ matters more than me is terrifying. This honest to god just sounds like hegemony to me. And, in my experience, it feels that way to.

There and Back Again

So a little while back i wrote about how i’m using neutral pronouns again (‘they’ ‘them’ ‘their’). And now I’m officially stating, for the record, that I’m done with ‘twoc’ and ‘trans woman of colour’ as a way to locate myself within discourse and as a self-referrent. Also, importantly as a ~community~.

Everyone can continue on as they have been. You don’t need to worry or care about whether or not your shit includes me (to the extent that you may have been caring).

I’m out. I’m not in teh twoc ~community~ any longer. You can do your thing and I’ll do mine.

Reasons…

By and large, most twoc groups/communities/events that I know of aren’t organized with any intent to include girls like me. My identity as a bakla ladyboy (and how i embody it) is just as incoherent within most of these spaces as it has been in most other spaces. Which is fine. I don’t actually think that twoc spaces necessarily need to be spaces for me. I truly understand now that these spaces aren’t designed for me and I’m perfectly content to walk away from trying to be included. Especially in those cases where my desire to be included might be (or have been) harmful.

Anti-Blackness.

This is actually a big one for me atm. i wrote a while back about the AMC and how using ‘poc’ necessarily means to centre Black ppl. ‘twoc’ should be the same. Any non-Black trans woman who claims the identify of ‘twoc’ should be 100% about dismantling their anti-Blackness and about centering Black trans women in their discourse. As ‘woman of colour’ is a gift given by Black woman to other women impacted by white supremacy as a way for us to be included in their resistance… taking this gift and not centering anti-Blackness (and Black trans women) in your discourse/lives is outright anti-Blackness.

If i call myself a trans woman of colour but my only relationship to living Black trans women is to use their experiences of oppression (ie, tdor stats and the violence they experience), then i/we are no better than the white trans women who do the same. And, yeah, this happens a lot the decontextualizing and generalizing of Black trans women’s experiences into some nebulous ‘twoc’ narrative. But I rarely see any real discussion about this from non-Black twoc (like me, or like i used to identify as).

There are other, perhaps more personal, reasons that I don’t much feel like getting into. I’m kind of annoyed with myself since from the beginning i’ve been careful to purposefully not identify with or align myself with any kind of movement. I should have done the same with ‘twoc’ as an organizing concept.

Abuse culture is such that it appears impossible to create a community of any size that doesn’t also instatiate it. Twoc as community is no different. And… tbh, i want no part of it. My experiences within the twoc community let me know (as I suspected) that these types of communities are no different from any other kind. Susceptable to predators and abuser dynamics. Fuck, I’ve been complacent and complicit in my own way for supporting these structures and frameworks within twoc circles. I hate myself for it. This is another reason I’m walking away. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry to the people I’ve harmed in this way.

From now on… I have friends and everyone else. That’s it. I’m not in any communities. I’m not part of any movements. Don’t unconsentually assign me to one.

I’ll try to adjust my language and frameworks accordingly, although I can’t do much about stuff that is already written…. so.

Meaningful Accountability

with the recent thing that went down re: Suey Park and her abuse of Yukio Strachan on twitter and the re-airing of darkmatterrage’s anti-Blackness on tumblr, i feel like it is time for a really serious discussion about accountability for non-Black asians with a platform.

i really really want to focus on that last part the ~platform~.

bc there are a lot of different ways to be accountable and accountability is often something that will depend on the ppl ur accountable to (as in, centering what they think is meaningful accountability, not what you think it might be). sometimes, we are left to make decisions for ourselves, though, since the people we’ve harmed may not have any desire to have any further contact with us and our personal accountability is not the responsibility of our victims.

some ppl know that i used to blog/tweet/etc under the username ‘biyuti’. this is actually still me… when i picked my pen name for publishing my books (b. binaohan) that ‘b.’ actually stands for ‘biyuti’.

yes. i could’ve just change my username on tumblr as i did on twitter. but. i actually deleted the tumblr after i got called out for doing something anti-Black. i reblogged and commented on a post and spoke over the Black ppl in a conversation about Black people’s experiences. but it was actually the nature of the call out… since i got an anon callout from someone who didn’t want to identify themselves because they didn’t want to open themselves up to abuse from my followers for calling me out. even though i was the person in the wrong.

it is this aspect of the incident that convinced me that i needed to delete/rebuild whatever ~platform~ i had. because…

i’d become to comfortable. too used to thinking that my voice was super important. important enought that, for whatever reason, i felt — despite knowing better — that my voice was more important than Black ppl on their own experiences.

this comfort came from the fact that, in general, there are a few Black ppl who i admire a great deal who (to some extent at least) trust me and think that i am worth listening to. while my ~platform~ has never ever even close to being as large as theirs or as large as dmr’s or suey park’s, thinking about platforms as merely being about the numbers (how many followers i have) and not thinking about influence… is to be disingenuous. ppl with significantly greater number of followers than me do listen to me. and sometimes they amplify my voice, giving it far great reach and influence than can be quantified by my paltry number of followers.

but we live in a capitalist society. an economic structure that is designed around the fungibility of Blackness and the theft of land from Indigenous ppls (inclusive of Black ppl too).

so note the way i’m framing my platform. it should be pretty clear that a great deal of whatever influence i have is actually do to my relationship to certain Black ppl. i’m not a sycophant (lol, which is why they do listen to me occassionally). i don’t tailor my writing/thoughts to please a Black audience (although, i’ve frequently mentioned how deeply influenced i am by Black thinkers).

i also know in the case of suey park too… Black ppl helped her build her platform. a non-trivial portion of her reach and influence is due to her relationship to Blackness and/or Indigeneity. and i’m not just talking about individual Black ppl who’ve boosted her voice and discussed with her… but i’m also talking about the intellectual inheritance that many of us enjoy from Black thinkers throughout the ages, since Black ppl have always been at the forefront of conceptualizing liberation.

so. yes. i do want to ask those of use with ~platforms~, and no matter how small or trivial you think yours might be, to really think about what it means for us to be accountable to the Black ppl we harm with our anti-Blackness when it is Black ppl who helped build these platforms….

for me… this was tearing down my platform and rebuilding.

and… i’m truly embarrassed and ashamed to think of how hard it was for me to make this decision. part of it was practical… i occassionally need to beg for money on the internet. deleting my previous tumblr did mean that begging in the future would be much more difficult…

but then… this is what i mean. my livelihood isn’t tied to my blogging/writing. i’ve been pretty firm in the past that i don’t want to be an activist for money. part of this is because of the way that capitalism corrupts all relationships. if giving up my platform that was beginning to cause real harm to Black ppl was hard for me bc of my occassional financial dependence on it, how much harder if i needed it to regularly pay my rent?

but all this means is that, if you reach this point, where your continued survival requires this platform that was built off of Black and/or Indigenous ppl’s work… this is the point in which your platform starts to exploit those people. also the point where real accountability becomes too costly, since dismantling your own platform of exploitation and oppression might actually be the end of you… this is esp. a dangerous thing when you, as individual, are tied to the platform.

and since there isn’t any real ethical way to participate in capitalism, you might think to yourself ‘well… why not then just hold onto the platform?’. for me the answer is… if your platform is about liberation and oppression, it necessarily needs to be held to a higher standard that, say, working at a fast food restaurant. yes. both are complicit under capitalism and contribute to the exploitation of someone. but… if your whole things is about liberation, you have to live/embody this, not just talk about it.

this means walking away from your 30k followers and nonprofit job if it means that you’ve become so… convinced of your individual worth that you think maintaining an audience, that your voice is so critical that it matters more than the individuals your are directly harming, well…

yes. there are ways to be accountable that don’t require this. but… if you’ve been dodging accountability in the ways that dmr and suey park have been, this is pretty much the only meaningful gesture left to you. bc, so far, all you’ve been doing is talking the talk but… now it’s time to walk it. to actually show that you are willing to live by the principles and things you talk about. and, worse yet, the things that you actually feel other people should be accountable to.

and i do know how hard this decision is… and the difficulty that doing this presents is actually what should give you pause. it is what finally convinced me, sadly (since what should have convinced me is that my platform and anti-Blackness were beginning to do real, direct harm to Black ppl). the difficulty of making this decision represents all the capitliast, anti-Black, bullshit oppressive ideology that i’ve/we’ve internalized.

because it really shouldn’t be so hard to think to yourself

“wow. i have 10,000 ppl who listen to my every tweet and i’ve used this to abuse/oppress a Black person, maybe i need to step away and reconsider my priorities”

this should be the easiest decision in the world to make.

On What I Learned From Riley

yesterday, Riley gently took me to task for how i’ve been crediting ppl with how they’ve influenced me and my writing and perspective but have yet to substantively address how they’ve influenced me.

which is…

yeah. totally something i’m guilty of. as i told Riley yesterday, part of the problem is that their contributions are so general and fundamental that it is (or was) hard for me to take enough steps back to really concpetualize their influence on my thinking. perhaps more than anyone else i’ve read/met/spoken with over the past 4 or so years, Riley has fundamentally changed my worldview… so in a way, everything i articulate these days is influenced by them.

but let’s get specific, shall we?

Here are some ways that riley has influenced my thought:

1) my work on binarism literally started from a conversation i had with them and givne that this is perhaps some of my more influential writing work, in the ways that it has substantively impacted the ways that ~teh trans community~ discusses the gender binary and binarism, ppl should note that this is also Riley’s influence on trans/gender theory.

2) anti-Blackness. now… i did credit so_treu yesterday for her contributions to my… um shall we call it ‘formal’ understanding of anti-Blackness, but Riley has been just as important for truly getting me to a place where I really understand both the pervasiveness and insiduous nature of anti-Blackness. the example that is coming to mind is the way that they’ve always been super vocal about the parallels between how trans womanhood is oppressed and how Black womanhood is oppressed. and more generally, the way they have staunchly refused to allow Blackness to ‘disappear’ into generalizations discourses about oppression.

3) genderessense/genderescent. again, riley was a big part of the original discussion and deserves just as much credit for it as i do. or anyone else involved in the original (and ensuing) discussions about this conceptual space.

4) disability stuff. Riley has been critical for my own process of coming to understand and accept myself as a disabled person, as well as giving some of my first exposure to poc disability discourse. like… i remember the clashes they had with disabled white ppl on tumblr (before they finally just washed their hands of the entire group).

5) understanding what actual solidarity between Black and Asian ppl. like my posts on #notyourasiansidekick (one and two). are a great example for how deep and transformative my discussions with riley has been regarding both anti-Blackness and solidarity. like… those posts literally might never have been written if not for Riley. importantly, the fundamental change in how i conceptualize ~Asian~ as an identity indelibly changed after i saw their experience with claiming their Asian heritage and the subsequent rejection from non-Black Asian Americans… who largely continue to ignore a huge chunk of the Asian diaspora bc it would complicate and obviate their current hegemonic discourse on ~asian american~ as an identity.

um… those are the five quick/identifiable examples that come to mind…

as we can see with number 5 re: Asian as identity, the influences Riley has had on how i conceptualize and interact with the world tend to go quite deep and are (in retrospect) a little difficult for me to tease out.

also important is… perhaps what i might call their influence on my ‘disposition’ towards discussing oppression, particularly in interactive sense.

(ugh. i’m totally failing to articulate what i mean here, but it is about the approach i have to concepts. like. the way my brain works is the way my brain works and how i analyze things is pretty much stable but… idk. this applies to the emotional? dispositional? texture of my writing? I think Riley described it on skype yesterday as ‘not giving a fuck’ which is partially it. but… deeper and more than that. i know one thing i say all the time — and i think one of my earliest ‘popular’ posts — was about ‘not debating my humanity’ and this is the basic disposition/attitude that i really believe has been influence by Riley. because, once upon a time, i was willing to get into debates over my humanity with people and Riley gave me the… deep understanding both as to why this is a bad thing but also why i very much should not do it)

oh.

and one last thing.

Riley has also been so fucking critical in helping me contextualize and understand some of my experiences with abuse, particularly online.

Pulling the Threads of White Supremacy Together

nica linked me to a blog post about Asian anti-Blackness and its historical roots, where it states:

This idea that Asians are just stuck in hierarchies set by white supremacy and not just independently hostile to fungible black bodies on the global scene is ahistorical in some fundamental ways. White supremacy does organize the world around antiblackness. But you can state that and still be remarkably wrong in your assessment of its significance. One of the things we must do is to utilize basic chronological analysis. Before the transatlantic slave trade that made white supremacy the dominant world order there was an Arab slave trade.

The bodies of Africans sold into large parts of Asia established antiblackness independent of white supremacy. We must keep in mind this was happening for centuries before the transatlantic slave trade. Historians like John Henrik Clarke tell us that not only did this slave trade inform the transatlantic but actually made it possible because Africa was too weak to defend itself from what was really the first world war… What is clear is that the whole world has agreed that Africa was the land of slaves or undeclared property, lost, waiting nonblack purchase.

So any black-asian solidarity must account for antiblackness within AAPI black communities independent of white supremacy.

I hope people will forgive the long quotation, but I really want (especially) non-Black Asians to read and internalize this.

nica linked me to this post because of an earlier post on tumblr where I note that some people conceptualize their oppression as racism, even though it predates racism/white supremacy. After that post butchrobot asked me if I meant anti-semitism, which I said might be the case but I’m too ignorant about the issue to really want to comment more on it. Butchrobot then asked what I did have in mind and I said it was stuff like anti-Blackness and Orientalism, which also predate white supremacy (as a globally structuring and oppressive force). Then, bad-dominicana tweeted a thing about how anyone who didn’t look white ever became ‘white’ after 1492. I’ve been saying the reverse for quite some time, that white ethnics have always been white.

I’m putting all of this out here so that people can undertand where my following ideas/comments are coming from. They are the context for what i’m about to write.

i guess the question that was going around in my head was: if anti-Blackness and Orientalism existed before the rise of global white supremacy, how do we understand how white supremacy has become one of the dominant organizing principles of today?

It is actually bad-dominincana’s tweet that gave me the final clue… Settler colonialism. Now, if ppl recall Andrea Smith’s three logics of white supremacy: settler colonialism, orientalism, and anti-Blackness are the three logics of white supremacy. And the beginning of (modern) settler colonialism in 1492 provided the final leg for the stool upon which white supremacy sits.

in other words: white supremacy provided the organizing principle that took three (seemingly) distinct oppressive logics and created a global structure that continues to frame all modern relations between peoples and states.

this also explains to me why the four race system emerged as the dominant one over the five race system. one logic of white supremacy per subjugated race, with white ppl sitting atop the entire structure. Within this global framework, there wasn’t any real room (or need) to have a fifth race of Malays (brown). Instead we were subsumed underneath Asian (yellow).

the other motivation for having a four vs five race system is that white supremacy/racism is a reductive logic and organizing principle. By its very nature and intent, it is purposefully designed to reduce individuals peoples to discrete and non-overlapping racial categories, such that as bad-dominicana and i point out, people who were designated as white 500+ years ago have always been white. And those who are not-white have always been not white. Yes, as this little explanation shows, there is some mobility and shifting between those who aren’t white, but they don’t become white.

One of the interesting liminal points for what is described in the above category is West Asia and/or North Africa, essentially the ‘Arabic’ parts of the world1. In the US census peoples from West Asia (eg, the Middle East/Gulf) and North Africa are supposed to mark themselves as white… In the case of North Africa, this is clearly a ridiculous notion and not something that manages to make a material difference outside of the US census. But the re-imagining of the Gulf/West Asia/Middle East as ‘white’ has had some material impact… despite the very real facts that a lot of people from that area aren’t white and are not treated as such under white supremacy.

this is an especially important thing to keep in mind when you read Smith’s comments on Orientalism:

Consequently, orientalism serves as the anchor of war, because it allows the United States to justify being in a constant state of war to protect itself from its enemies. Orientalism allows the United States to defend the logics of slavery and genocide as these practices enable it to stay “strong enough” to fight these constant wars. What becomes clear, then, is what Sora Han declares: the United States is not at war; the United States is war.5 For the system of white supremacy to stay in place, the United States must always be at war.

Take a moment to think about how many wars the US has fought (and is currently fighting) in the Middle East… it becomes pretty clear that despite the US trying to reclassify this geographic region as ‘white’, it is still very much the Orient — as classically defined by Said. And since it is the Orient, it isn’t functionally white, regardless of what the States tries to claim.2

what i’m trying to communicate here is that race as a global organizing conceptual framework is pretty fucking stable. especially if we do as Smith suggests and look towards how it organizes and mobilizes power, rather than focusing on specific geographies or state policies like the US census. the reality and impact of white supremacy is best observed in the consequences it has for the peoples it subjugates. so long as white supremacy itself is stable, the people who are unhappy with being called ‘white’ despite the very real existence of their oppression (pre or post global white supremacy) and the people who are unhappy with being non-white really just have to deal. or dismantle white supremacy.

however… what should also be clear from this discussion of how certain kinds of oppression pre-date white supremacy, even if they are race-based (like anti-Blackness), is that dismantling white supremacy should always be seen as the first step. part of my current argument is causal. it is the logics of white supremacy which created a context and space that allowed white supremacy to emerge, rather than white supremacy constructing these three logics as a means to subjugate ‘inferior’ races. this means that dismantling white supremacy will still leave us with the realities of settler colonialism, anti-Blackness, and orientalism.

if white supremacy were to disappear tomorrow, this would not change the fact that I am a settler on stolen land. the removal of the organizing principle that allowed this land to be stolen and allowed me to settle here, won’t actually mean that i magically disappear from the land either. nor would the disappearance of white supremacy suddenly mean that my anti-Blackness magically disappears either. how could it when anti-Blackness is the structural principal of the modern world?3

Of course… one wonders if the path forward then, ought to be dismantling the individual logics of white supremacy rather than white supremacy itself. If we borrow my stool metaphor from earlier, if we knock out all three legs, then white supremacy will have nothing to sit on…

Maybe. Maybe. i’m hesistant to say that this is the ‘right’ way mainly because white supremcy is very much about power, force, and violence. it uses the logics to justify and contextaulize the violence and its right to power, but it isn’t clear to me that removing the ability for power to justify itself equals dismantling the power itself.

in many things, it is likely that the answer is ‘both’. As in, we both need to dismantle white supremacy while working to dismantle the individual logics.

I think this latter is pretty crucial in explaining why calls for solidarity from Asians so frequently falls flat. Both via our denial of responsibility for constructing the logic of anti-Blackness separate from white supremacy and via our denial that it is something we need to actually address. Asking for solidarity from Black and/or Indigenous peoples by saying “we are all subjugated under white supremacy” is asking them to ignore how we contribute to their oppression of our own volition and as a distinct force outside of white supremacy.

And if any Asians who aren’t Arabic are thinking to themselves “well, I’m not Arabic, how can I be held responsible for the Arabic slave trade?”… We can because we both benefit from the anti-Black logic that informed the slave trade but also because we perpetuate it today. Also… if you don’t like the reductive logic of white supremacy, I suggest you take it up with white ppl. The way this works is that if all Black ppl lives are impacted by anti-Blackness (regardless of whether or not they had ancestors who were enslaved), then all Asians are responsible for creating and maintaining anti-Blackness. The only way out of this bind caused by the reductive logic of racism is to, well, dismantle white supremacy and its logics. Only then might we have the luxury of saying “well, it wasn’t my ancestors who did this”. We don’t accept this excuse from white ppl and it isn’t acceptable from us.


  1. Although, as with anti-Blackness and slavery being a major thing within Asian/Arabic culture before white supremacy, so too is the case with Arabic settler colonialism in North Africa. freshmouthgoddess has had some really interesting things to say about this, but I don’t have any links handy.

  2. And while Smith is specifically talking about the States in the quotation, the reason i’ve been claiming that orientalism pre-dates global white supremacy is because these wars with the orient have been continuous and ongoing long before there even was an america. just as anti-Blackness in the form of the Arabic/Asian slave trade pre-dates global white supremacy.

  3. I don’t have a link handy, but I do want to credit so_treu for this turn of phrase and for being the person who really got me to understand what it means. Her words and thoughts have left an indelible mark on how I understand anti-Blackness and I want to acknowledge this here.

Tdor and Ownership

So thinking about the commercial aspects of tdor, i’m now also thinking about concepts of ownership and credit.

This is partly informed by my post on ‘owning’ community derived ideas.

So it is a fairly established ‘fact’ that the trans day of remembrance was started by Gwen Smith, yes?

Okay. Quiz time though, can anyone remember without googling, the name of the Black trans woman whose death prompted the first TDoR vigil?

You know what the sad thing is? I can’t remember. I’m literally about to google for the name right now.

Wikipedia tells me the name is Rita Hester.

Rita Hester.1

Can anyone tell me why Gwen Smith’s name is mentioned in every single article about TDoR but not Rita Hester’s? Why is Smith’s name so closely connected to the yearly day of remembrance for all the trans women of colour who’ve been lost to violence, but not Hester’s? Why is it that Smith is allowed to continue to assert ownership over the day and its ‘brand’ and, yes, continue to profit from this?

These are rhetorical questions, of course. We know what the answer is.

But I want to point out that every single non-Black person who has ever written about TDoR and not mention Rita Hester has helped participate in this historical erasure. This includes me. I’ve written about TDoR and while I haven’t spoken of the history, I have spoken about the appropriation of Black and/or Latina trans women’s suffering by white ppl. And about the appropriation of twoc suffering globally.

All without mentioning the very first Black trans woman whose death became a stepping stone for one white woman’s claim to fame. Whose death has inspired a global day of recognition of all the twoc lost to violence. Whose death now provides a platform for cis people, white trans women, and trans men of many colours to consume the bodies of twoc and appropriate our struggles.

So. Yeah. I’m sorry Rita. And I’m sorry to the Black trans women in my life for my complicity in this situation.

The decolonization of TDoR must start with Rita Hester.

Fuck Gwen Smith.

Any and all discussions of the history of TDoR must centre the role that Rita Hester played in it all. Just as any TDoR even must centre Black and/or Latina trans women.


  1. sidenote: i’m actually surprised to see that Rita Hester has a wikipage but Gwen Smith doesn’t. yay?

Wandering Back

In a way… this has been coming down the pipes for a little while.

Like….

About a year or more ago, I made certain decisions which were, admittedly, ones I still feel good about. They were necessary at the time.

now? i don’t think they are so necessary. or not necessary in the same or for the same reasons.

anyway. this preamble is all me just saying that i’m going back to using neutral pronouns

“they, them, their”

if you please.

Politically (and maybe in my heart too), I’m still 1000% with twoc. But. Idk. Going to Detroit last summer for the AMC changed a lot of things and gave me some (i think) deeply needed perspective. As did moving tumblrs and shaking up stuff so that I would stop my slow slide into complacency (and the harm that brings to the ppl I care about).

i’ve mentioned on a few occassions that being an ~activist~ isn’t what I want from my life. and it really REALLY isn’t. at all. Not even a little. part of this is my eternal gullibility and how easily/deeply i’m influenced by the ppl I have in my life. it makes it SO incredibly important that i surround myself with ppl i can trust and who don’t try and bend me to their way of thinking/behaving.

the other problem… is that the little i’ve seen of ~activist~ type communities is that they are just as shitty and horrible as any other community. they permit abusers and sweep the unpleasantness aside out of a desire to keep things moving.

I don’t want to move any more.

I want time to stop and reflect. i don’t want to feel like i have to keep pushing myself to be uncomfortable and go beyond my limits/boundaries/abilities. while i want to keep decolonizing my mind and supporting and fighting for the stuff i believe in, i need to be able to do this stuff within my own abilities and boundaries.

how i’ve been doing stuff has been harming me.

i’ve been so willing to sacrifice my health in order to do what i think people expect me to do….

been so willing to subsume my self as Individual for the common/communal good.

i need to find a better balance between

“yes, i’m not the most oppressed and my privilege does oblige me to do something for those i oppress”

and

“yes, i experience multiple kinds of marginalization and survival is a fucking struggle”

idk.

this post was just supposed to be me telling everyone to use

‘they them their’

again.

Further Musings on Third Gender

(before i start, now that this old post of mine is going around again i want to note that it used the massively problematic framing of west/east, with ‘west’ literally used interchangeably for ‘white’. it is possible that it is after i originally posted that something like a year and a half ago, i first got called out for my participation in the erasure/genocide of the Indigenous ppls of the ~west~. i was sorry then and i’m sorry now. i’m leaving the post as is bc i don’t really believe in removing past stuff like that, for the sake of accountability. moreover, given that the resonance of hurtful shit you say lasts far longer than the moment in which you expressed it, any Indigenous person who calls me out for that post has a right to it. and i’ll listen and apologize every time)

The thing that really can get to me about how white non-binary people use the term is just how much history, bullshit colonialism, and outright erasure goes into their ability to happily and without much thought, use the term to describe their gender.

As an anthropological term, ‘third gender’ is already, always embedded within a white supremacist and orientalist discourse. For those unfamiliar with Orientalism as a theoretical framework, I’m not using this term to speak of specific areas of the world, rather in this particular post, it applies to any iaopoc culture where ‘third genders’ are said to exist. What I’m reference in using this term is the way that white academics/scientists/researchers set themselves up as ‘authorities’ over the discourse they claim is ‘knowledge’ about the peoples they study.

As an example, one of the more prominent scholars on ‘third genders’ or ‘transgender’ in the Philippines is Jack Winters. He is a white cis man working at the University of Hong Kong. If you attempt to do any amount of English language research on trans/gender in the PH, you bump into his work. I think I even read something by him in the HuffPo recently. He is an acknowledge ‘expert’ or ‘authority’ on the subject.

I’m sure you’ll note how ‘authority’ in this is doing double the work, since it is purposefully meant to mean ‘academic authority’ but also ‘colonial authority’. This is, above all, about relationships of power. And how colonial powers have continuously sought to ‘know’ and ‘understand’ its subjects in order to control us. This is the sort of thing that is captured or contained by the term Orientalism.

So this is what white nonbinary people are doing when they decide that ‘third gender’ is the right word to describe themselves… they are putting on themselves this term that was specifically designed by to construct a representation of a certain group of peoples as inferior and that facilitated our subjugation under colonialism.

This isn’t to say, though, that white nonbinary people are then othering themselves as subject of the colonial gaze…

Rather, what this signifies is the completion of the colonial project. Under colonialism there can be only two genders, just as heterosexuality is compulsory. That a term steep in violence and oppression like ‘third gender’ comes to be sanitized and neutral sounding to colonists is precisely the point. Academics (and anthropologists for a long time) sat around in their ivory towers thinking that their work was the objective and neutral creation of knowledge. Many of them still think this is what they do.

And since the one of the goals of colonialism is to ensure that a binary gender system is the only gender system, we who are third gender must not exist. Must not be allowed to continue to exist. Since many of the gender systems are part of what exists of the pre-colonial, indigenous culture, third genders (and the gender system under which they are coherent) must disappear along with the natives themselves.

Which brings us to today. Where I can open a white anthropology textbook1 to read about how I no longer exist. The textbook boldly claims that bayot and asog (bakla) no longer exist in the Philippines. An interesting claim given that ‘third gender’ beauty pageants are something big, visible, and fairly popular in many areas in the PH. Also an interesting claim given that I’m able to sit here and read about how I, in actual fact, don’t exist.

Actually, scratch that, the situation is far worse. Being told you don’t exist is painful, but it isn’t something entirely unique to people with indigenous cultures2. What is unique to us is being told that we once existed but are all gone now. Reading in a textbook that the Spanish (then American) colonizers where successful in entirely eradicating you and all the people like you. This is a trauma and pain unique to those of us who live under colonialism.

‘Third gender’ is really just white nonbinary people getting in on that colonial action by erasing the violent past of the term (and its theoretical framework) while also ensuring that the myth of our demise stays entrenched in the minds of all white people. Just so that I know I’m being very, very clear: the violence that white nonbinary people do by calling themselves ‘third gender’ is just erasure. It is active and willful participation in a 500+ year old project to ensure that people like me cease to exist. And even that sounds bloodless, ‘cease to exist’. No, they are participating in the actual material conditions that kills people like me.

Don’t be fooled. White people claiming ‘third gender’ is an act of violence and power.


  1. Yes, this has happened and I’m not shaking my head at myself for not keeping the citation.

  2. I’m using the small ‘i’ here to denote the fact that while I do have an indigenous gender, I am not an Indigenous person. Not only because I’m a settler in the area where I live, but also because of internal PH politics and my ethnic background as a Tagalog.

Disability Politics and Mind/body Dualism

just having a sudden thought about the ways that ‘physical’ disabilities are distinguished from ‘mental’ disabilities and the ways that a lot of disabilitity discourse subtly relies on mind/body dualism…

the physical vs. mental distinction is just one of a few different dichotomies that (usually white) disability activists use to frame their discussions around disability as a site of oppression. mind/body dualism essentially asserts that the mind and body are distinct ontological entities. they are related to in each other in certain important ways but they exist independently of the other.

this dualism is a foundational assumption in a lot of white theorizing about the world, the self, and the body. created and formalized several hundred years ago in european philosophy, it continues to live on in trans humanist/science fiction visions of the world wherein, for example, people — given the right technology — could copy their ‘minds’/selves onto the internet and live eternally in cyberspace. i remember reading a horror novel with this essential plotline way back at the beginning of the popularization of the internet.

and for those people who don’t have both physical and mental disabilities, there is usually some important distinctions that are drawn within the disabled community in terms of access, accommodation, and rights. one of which is an admittedly sloppy and not heavily policed assumption that physical disabilities are often more ‘visible’ than mental disabilities… and thus are more overtly oppressed while ‘invisible’ mental disabilities are heavily stigmatized but depend on some level of disclosure or whatever to experience the same kind of ableism that physically/visible disabled people do.

example: that a person using a wheelchair is more oppressed than a person with anxiety, all other things being equal (ie, same class, gender, race, no other disabilities).

certainly, outside of the disability community, this type of structuring logic informs a lot of accemmodations that policy makers focus on (ie, ramps/elevators and such but no real thought for those with anxiety). this sort of thing is usually well critiqued within the community (thankfully).

but i don’t often see people critiquing the underlying assumptions of these type of policy approach or discusive space.

essentially, most of the white disabled people i see writing about stuff are generally happy to believe that there is a meaningful difference between physical and mental disabilities. and they use this belief to structure a lot of the discussion around disability.

however, there are many iaopoc ontologies where the body and the mind are one and the same, rather than distinct entities. in such a world view there can be no meaningful distinction between ‘physical’ and ‘mental’ disabilities…

of course a lot of people (raised within the white supremacist worldview — myself included) have trouble imagining how critical this seemingly small difference in ontology makes.

but if we look to a great deal of non-white systems of healing, traditional Chinese medicine is a great example because one world you’ll hear a lot when researching this healing practice is ‘holistic’. Holism in healing is to view the body/mind as one whole, rather than distinct. but there are some white medical practices that use this vein of reasoning (when people tell you to exercise to improve your mood, they are relying on a fundamental connection between physical wellness and mental wellness).

philosophically, the difference arises too in how, for example, Nagarjuna can argue that because the body is changeable/inconstant it doesn’t exist and, thus, neither does the mind/self and the realization of this truth of the world is to become enlightened.

for a lot of iaopoc, the enforced worldview of mind/body dualism is a site of significant violence done to ourselves (inclusive of mind and body). but most disability discourse is happy as fuck to just reify this as a basic truth about how disability is embodied by individuals….

it strikes me as super interesting and perhaps one of the key reasons why so many disabled iaopoc ppl i know cannot effectively locate themselves within white disability discourse… because it instantiates this same violence that can actively prevent iaopoc from properly understanding ourselves/bodies as disabled.

(i’ll be honest, i got kind of distracted and i’m not sure how to end this post. i just wanted to draw attention to an assumption i see structuring white disability discourse and how this assumption ends up erasing disabled iaopoc but also alienates us from the discourse and communities)