Long-term outcome studies show that autistic people lag behind other groups with potentially disabling conditions in employment, with employment mostly limited to unskilled positions, and outcomes poorest for women. I spoke about this recently at the annual conference of the National Association of Disability Examiners, and you can read more, in a new blog post on my forensic practice site.
Announcing my Forensic Practice!
Coming up: An Aging Rainbow
I’m so sorry I’ve been away from blogging as I’ve been building my business and serving clients across the country. I’m catching my breath from a wonderful but quick trip out to Cedar Rapids, IA, to work with some wonderful organizations there, including my friends at Tanager Place. If you’re a Grand Rapids, colleague, and you’re involved in elder care, please come see this great event I’m doing with Caregiver Resource Network, a service of the Area Agency on Aging of West Michigan and so many other wonderful partners.
Brock Turner, Hillary Clinton, and the Need for Representation
A little less than four months ago, when Michigan had its primary and I cast my absentee ballot, I indicated that I was not going to publicly indicate who I endorsed at that time, although I indicated that I supported a Democrat and I previously indicated that I would be Uniting Blue. Tonight, Hillary Clinton will become the presumed Democratic Nominee, the first woman ever to win the presidential nomination in a major party primary, and I’d like to tell you about my support for her.
Since February, and even before that, I have rarely, if ever, posted articles in favor of either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, although I have posted many articles in support of progressive principles and the Democratic Party. Reading the tea leaves on my comments, you might suspect that I support Ms. Cinton. And I do. Now. In February, I cast my ballot for Mr. Sanders. That choice was difficult for me, because I admired (and admire) both candidates deeply, but I was swayed by the level of enthusiasm I saw in young people and people who normally perceive themselves as disenfranchised. As an aside, this is what truly won me over for Mr. Obama eight years ago – a story I have told several times, seeing African American elders waiting for the bus in Hyde Park and Kenwood, with Obama tees over their dresses, I fell in love with them immediately, and Mr. Obama by extension. Although I support Mr. Sanders’ positions on many, if not almost all topics, this is really the way that I personally “felt the Bern.”
Fast forward a few months. Tonight, Ms. Clinton will win the nomination, and she will be beset by attacks on her clothes, her voice, her experience, her qualifications. The system that put her in that position, by dint of a sizable majority of voters in Democratic primaries, will be cast as rigged. There is little appearance that her nomination, at this phase, will be met with any grace by most supporters of Mr. Sanders. In fact, my Facebook timeline is full of people commenting on how they “don’t know a single person who wants Hillary to be president.”
Well, I’m one, even though I voted for Mr. Sanders. Why? Because she is perhaps the most experienced, qualified candidate ever to run for the office, especially in foreign policy. Because she has devoted her life to helping children and families, something you all know I’m incredibly passionate about. Because she’s a unifying force within the Democratic Party and she will work effectively with teammates in the House and Senate to, yes, “get stuff done.”* Because she will build on Mr. Obama’s gains of the past eight years, and she will lift up progressive candidates, including women, who will change the dialogue in Congress. And yes, because she’s a woman, and I don’t find that insignificant in a country that’s never had a woman President.
So what does this have to do with Brock Turner?
Although Brock’s violent rape of an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, a crime in the process of which he was caught by passing cyclists, who had to restrain him until the police arrived**, happened some time ago, it burst onto the national conscience, just in the last couple of days. From the judge’s absurdly lenient sentencing (leading now to a recall campaign against him), to the remarkably callous and indifferent excuses given by his friends and father, to the deeply sexist, racist, and classist way in which this entire situation was treated***, this particular rapist’s case is unique only in that, due to the courageous voice of his victim, people are taking notice. The truth is, this happens every day. Most victims of rapists like Brock don’t even get their day in court. And when they do, they generally face the male gaze – from the judge, from the jurors, and from the media. And, just like with Brock Turner, their rapists are too often made into heroes while they are vilified for being women.
So, yeah, we get it, Brock is an asshole rapist, and the deck is stacked in favor of asshole rapists. But how do these stories come together?
Today, California will hand Ms. Clinton the right to campaign as the first woman nominee of a major political party for President. This will be the first time in more than 200 years that a woman had even a shot at being President of the United States. As clear as that message is that we are reaching a new phase in the empowerment of women, that same week, that same state, California, through the bench of Judge Persky, sent women an unequivocal, equally inescapable message, that our histories will not be trusted, our experiences will not be validated, and that justice will not be ours. It’s hard for me to ignore the simultaneity of the presence of these events in my consciousness.
There are many things that must happen to end what feminists collectively call Rape Culture****. Men must act – rape is almost entirely committed by cis men, and thus it is men and not women who must stop raping. The issue of unprocessed rape kits (and women sometimes being forced to pay for their own rape kits) needs to be addressed. There are many, many other things that continue to need to be done in changing the way we teach consent, empowering the voices of victims and survivors, and making sure that they have access to the services they need.
But we also need representation. Let’s be clear. For all the male allies we have, the hegemonic culture of men still does not take rape seriously. Like, at all. A woman presiding over Turner’s case might have produced an equally lenient sentence, but it’s hard to imagine a woman trivializing the situation to the extent that Judge Persky did*****. Not all women consider rape a hate crime, but most of the people who see it this way are women. As long as the bench rarely looks like us, as long as the legislature rarely looks like us, as long as the Oval Office has never looked like us, we are fooling ourselves if we think that men will carry the torch in its entirety to hold rapists accountable. We are fooling ourselves to think that rape victims will see justice in a system run almost entirely by men.
This is where it’s not really about Ms. Clinton. Don’t support her? Fine, although think carefully about what could happen if Mr. Trump were elected. Think it’s not just about putting one woman in one office? You’re absolutely right. But we must support putting women in positions of governance and power. This moment, which is just one of many more that have already come and must keep coming, was not brought to us by magic. This moment was brought to us by decades of hard work. Before Hillary Clinton, there was Shirley Chisholm. Organizations like Emily’s List, the PAC that supports pro-choice, progressive women in critical races, need our support. Organizations like Emerge America and its state affiliates, who are grooming future generations of women to run for office and win elections, need our support. The fact that we, as women who support Ms. Clinton, are dismissed as “vagina voters” covers over the fact that men simply cannot be trusted to create a world that is fair to women, by themselves.
This also goes beyond women and beyond rape. For very similar reasons, we need more Black and Latino/Hispanic voices in our legislatures and on our benches. We need more queer people. We need more disabled people, more people with lived history of mental illness, more in short of everyone who has experienced marginalization. Where we are those people, we should step up and look for opportunities to engage – locally, at the state level, or even nationally. We should consider more critically the need that we fill the progressive bench. Whether or not we can do that, the organizations and groups working to make these things happen need our support. Support as many of them as you can, support the one you like the best, but support them.
Whatever your feelings, and whatever your healing process needs to be, if you’re a supporter of Mr. Sanders who isn’t ready to unite, yet, or even if you never do come to support Ms. Clinton’s bid for the presidency, get engaged in some kind of activity that increases representation of people who are “othered” in governance. Even if you can’t see yourself living in a world with Hillary, get engaged in making sure that, someday, we might live in a world with no more Brocks.
* Bitches (yes, I said bitches, and I’m proud to be a bitch) get stuff done.
** Just in case you thought I’d be content describing it as “twenty minutes of action” … yeah, … no.
*** Particularly when compared to the equally absurd sentence (but in the opposite direction) Jasmine Richards of Black Lives Matter received for “felony lynching,” let alone the sea of mostly brown and black faces serving long prison terms for non-violent drug crimes.
**** Although the term is admittedly cissexist, some feminists, often including myself, choose the alternate term, Dick Culture, that emphasizes the hegemonic nature of the cis white man (and his dick), and which emphasizes that rape is one terrible consequence of a system of hegemony that causes many, many ills to society.
***** And it’s no coincidence that a woman is leading the recall campaign.
Making Sure Smoking Cessation Works for Everybody
Thank you to Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan for giving me the opportunity to share the story of what we’re doing at the Grand Rapids Pride Center and other LGBT organizations in conjunction with the State of Michigan.
…Although I’ve been an advocate for public health for some time, smoking cessation hadn’t been one of my core issues, until the last couple of years, when MDHHS and this project helped me realize how important it is. I’ve also been thinking about how all the work I do on public health topics – on helping Michiganders be healthier and helping Michigan communities be more inclusive — intersect with my own desire to start a family. Mother’s Day came and went recently, and alongside thankfulness for my own mother, it is a time for me to renew my commitment to seeing a world where all people can choose to have or not have healthy, loving families, on their own terms, just as I wish to be able to do.
And smoking and family planning are related.
Read the rest over at Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan. And please support Planned Parenthood! They’re a resource our communities depend upon, and we must stand in solidarity with them and shut down the baseless attacks made against them.
A Guaranteed Income Minimum?
A New Kind of Sustainability Crisis: Eliminating Minority Stress to Grow and Nurture Truly Sustainable Communities
The following lecture (sorry, this is long, about 7,500 words in several segments) was delivered as the 2016 Elizabeth Lockwood Wheeler Lectureship at Central Michigan University, on Wednesday, April 20, 2016. Thank you so much to Dr. Leah Markel, Eta Sigma Gamma, and the entire CMU Public Health department for the privilege of discussing this topic with you.
What is sustainability and what does it have to do with embracing difference?
Tonight, I want to push you to think about the embracing of difference as not just a social justice issue, but as truly an immensely under-considered public health issue, and an untapped reservoir for public health initiatives that can build better community health, both in the sense of making individual people in communities healthier, but also in the sense of making the community, as a gestalt, healthier.
I hope that what I can do is not teach you public health, but rather to contextualize your work in this area, and maybe even convince you that your field is important in ways you haven’t thought very much about. Continue reading
The implicit value equations of feminism
This follow-on piece to the workshops and blogs in which I have previously used the concept of “Queering the Value Equation” (see here and here) was originally intended to be a chapter in the book I am currently working on. The working title for the book changed, and with the change in perspective (funny how that is, one loves changes in perspective), this chapter now really didn’t fit in the book any longer, so here it is, for you, my dear readers. And let it be a slight apology that life events have not made the late winter / early spring conducive to writing, and so this blog has not been updated very often.
I have recently given a couple of iterations of a presentation I decided to call Queering the Value Equation. I introduced this idea of a queered value equation in the context of ending discrimination in the workplace against LGBT people, but truly, it applies very well to a conversation about girls and women. In its simplest form, in the business world*, a value equation is a very simple decision making tool. Value is defined as the ratio of what you get, to what you give — high value is getting much and giving little, and low value is getting little and giving much.
My fundamental “unqueered” value equation argument was that, when companies thought about LGBT inclusion, they understood the benefit to them poorly, and they exaggerated if not fabricated the cost. As a result, they approached inclusion from the perception that it offered very poor value, and even if they were not conscious of it, this caused them to drag along, struggle, and as advocates of inclusion (since they advocated for it, even though they perceived its value to be poor), placed them in a defensive, ineffective posture.
That queered value equation, in the context of the LGBT community, looks a little like this:
In essence, the only reason that (straight) people were advocating for LGBT inclusion in the workplace was because it made them feel good about themselves, or even more particularly, better about than others. That’s fine and good, but it’s a weak business motivation. They perceived, and very clearly the depiction above is meant to make fun of this, some fairly absurd costs associated with inclusion, most of which circle from wanting to include LGBT people without actually understanding us or appreciating the way we think or act. You could see how this applies to women. Indeed, when women were not in many kinds of American workplaces**, and we began the process of changing this, this value equation seemed much the same. Of course water cooler conversations became awkward — many of them were about objectifying women, and it is certainly more awkward (although this seems to stop no one) to objectify us when we are standing right there. There were increased costs — many offices didn’t even have a women’s room, and certainly, those bins for tampons cost, well, a prohibitive amount. And the fun in work was, sometimes, rooted in the idea of the workplace as a man cave, to which a man went to avoid his wife***, and this would certainly be shattered as well.
A concept, dear readers, I wish to consider, is that this problem occurs not only when patriarchy, men, society, consider women, but it exists inside feminism, too. It is at the root of, say, exclusionary movements inside feminism. There is a perception that the “cost,” for instance, of accepting me as a co-advocate, because I am trans, is too high — you know, my “male privilege” and “male energy” polluting the environment like I’m leaching bisphenol A into the water, etc.**** — and the value, is too low, if even existent. Or there is some strange idea that if feminists were to include sex workers in their ranks, we would somehow have to move our meetings to strip clubs, or, I don’t know what. There is a perception that, if we talk about economic marginalization, “we” distract ourselves from “real” women’s issues. And certainly, there is a perception that we want more “women like us” to be part of the sisterhood, and if we don’t have anything in common with other feminists, we think it should be no fun at all.
In my LGBT inclusion work, I argue that the antidote to this is to — substantially — revise the value equation. I argue that, in fact, there are a host of benefits and hardly any costs to LGBT inclusion in the workforce. And, importantly, I argue that one should do it because it delivers benefits, not because it is the “right” thing to do. This is actually really critical. Oh, I like it when people feel good about themselves because they help me. But I also believe that charity as a model is ephemeral and unsustainable. It lasts through the feast and not the famine. And I really do believe that inclusion is something that works. In this same way, we need an inclusive value equation for feminism.
My queered value equation may actually serves as a good starting point.
With respect to ending sexism, although I focus on girls and women, I do talk about men, too, like my blog, “Sexism is Bad for Men, Too” from 2015. But consider some concrete examples. Quantopian did a study of Fortune 1000 companies between 2002 and 2014. The study, summarized by Forbes Magazine, found that women CEOs outperformed the S&P 500 benchmark by a staggering 226% over eight years. Lest you think we just do well in the “big box” (where I, myself play) Forbes also reported results from a Centre for Entrepreneurs study in 2015. The Centre found that women make better entrepreneurs, too, because they are better at managed risk and self-monitoring. Outside of business, a 2015 Washington Post piece summarizes decades of research that shows that putting more women on the police force reduces police brutality. These, and many others, are “mainstream” benefits — not some medal given out by us as feminists.
And like my queered value equation, if the “I” in the equation is men*****, the result actually improves men. I’m not saying that women are just intrinsically better CEOs, for instance. Rather, the systematic differences in performance in this role that are seen when women hold it are relatively underrepresented, because there are few female CEOs, and men do not particularly have to worry that, say, their board will read the results of these studies and fire them in favor of a woman who will outperform them. Because of this, men are incentivized to act “like men” in this role, as well. Imagine, for instance, a situation in which 50% of Fortune 1000 CEOs were women, instead of the <10% in the article. In that situation, while it is still probably unlikely a man would explicitly be fired because replacing him with a woman would improve company performance******, men would be frequently compared to women, his processes to her processes, and his outcomes to her outcomes, and men would likely be strongly motivated to emulate the winning strategies of women (which are probably not, at least not entirely, immutable characteristics of something like our different cognitive architecture or our hormonal milieu).
Inside feminism, similarly, we need to think about these challenges I’ve been highlighting as signs of inborn error in our value equation. The value equation is not an attempt to commercialize feminism. This is, itself, an important discussion. The authors of the #FemFuture report and others have coined the Non-Profit Industrial Complex (a term that seems to go at least as far back as Ruth Gilmore, Dylan Rodriguez, and others at the initial The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex, on my birthday in 2004, more than ten years ago, and before that, goes to a much longer discussion of shadow states and shadow governments. There are important consequences of deferring important, mission critical (if one’s mission is sustainable, ethical society) work to a diffuse network of non-profit organizations relying on donor funding, and, when the state feels like it, grants, much as there are serious consequences for privatizing things like the military, police force, or prison system (not that we’d do that). On the other end, Dan Pelotta, in his 2013 TED Talk, “The way we think about charity is dead wrong,” argues that nonprofits are hampered from efficacy in many situations because they play by a different set of rules than for-profit entities, limiting their access to capital (from a capitalistic / entrepreneurial standpoint, access to capital is the lifeblood of innovation) and limiting their access to great talent or world-class solutions. Both of these arguments are important arguments*******.
However, economics does not just apply to money. Economics is much more broadly an analysis of the way things work (and the ways they don’t work). The value equation isn’t about money, although that is the way it is usually considered. It’s about decisions you make about whatever you value. A slice of your time. Your energy. Your thoughts. Your voice. Your heart or passion. Rather than making a capitalistic argument, I hope, like me, you value at least some of those other things way more than your money. And the value equation is about decisions you make about whatever demands whatever you value — causes, movements, issues, not just how you spend your cash or where you swipe your credit card or tap to pay.
In this light, the value equation is just an attempt to uncover a process that is already happening, of which we are unaware, but, like gravity (or sexism) affects us anyways********. This makes it much like classic feminist analysis tools, such as inverting a gendered statement about the world and examining our reaction to the statement when applied to men in the way it is to women, and to women in the way it is to men. The more we recognize about our current value equation around inclusive, proud feminism, the more we can understand why we are not achieving it, and what we haven’t been ready to admit we believe. The more we create an inclusive value equation for future feminism, the more we can center ourselves on the benefits feminist movement derives from inclusion, which give us robust, sustainable reasons to improve feminism. And like the effects of ending sexism, itself, on men, I believe and intend to demonstrate that an inclusive feminism actually has more, and not less, to offer all girls and women, including the “bluebloods” among our sisterhood (of whom I may be sometimes a one*********) who are frequently most resistant to inclusion and who (when they are motivated to include) do it from a sense of noblesse oblige and not from a perception that it will make feminism better.
* There are numerous jokes to be made at this point about men liking to measure things, etc.
** Certainly, we have always worked, and much more often perhaps still than men, have essentially no vacation, ever. For instance (and I love my Teri very much), where we go on vacation, it’s incumbent on me to… make hotel reservations, pull up directions, find lists of sights to see and present them to Teri, go back and find alternate sights to see because I haven’t found what Teri wants, find restaurants Teri will like, and even in our case, do most of the driving. So, I quip, evenwhen we are on vacation I am working. As I take the week off, at the moment, for writing time for this book, I am still responsible for making the meals, grocery shopping, getting issues with the house addressed, cleaning, and so on and so forth.
*** There is an engineering joke in bad taste, although it really is more making fun of engineers than misogynistic, that goes like this: Why should an engineer always have a mistress? Because his wife will think he’s with his mistress, and his mistress will think he’s with his wife, and he can go in the lab and get some work done.
**** Something you should know about me being trans is that I made the least convincing pretend man, ever, and this I think contributed to why no one was particularly surprised when I came out. Teri and I have a game — I tell him, “I could totally be a guy,” and he laughs in my face.
***** Which, one quips, it is — that’s kind of the whole thing about patriarchy.
****** One does feel the need to point out that, just weeks before I wrote this, Ellen Pao was forced from her role as CEO for an internet darling, Reddit. In her time there, she was well known both for changing company policy in innovative ways that improve diversity, such as eliminating salary negotiation, as well as for reforming Reddit as a service, by eliminating areas, or subreddits, that were perennially used for sexual harrassment. She stepped down after an epic wave of misogynistic trolling against her. Ironically, after a random feminist post, I did some reading through “The Red Pill” on Reddit… and, well, I’m not going to link it. It’s easy to find. Be forewarned.
******* By way of disclosure, my employment was in the non-profit sector when I wrote this, although I currently own and operate a small, for-profit consulting firm. The NPO world was new to me — as an engineer, I worked in large for-profit companies, mostly publicly traded — Ford, Visteon, Textron. I’ve spent a significant portion of my adult life at universities, too, though, mostly public (the Universities of Michigan and Florida), but also private (the University of Chicago), which operate according to their own philosophy that is not exactly like cause-based non-profit work nor like for-profit enterprise.
******** And feminism is dedicated to the radical notion that sexism is way more endable and way less a basic reality of the universe, than gravity is.
********* I said sometimes, when I wrote this last Fall. Now I hasten to admit, quite often.
My Public Testimony on the Proposed Michigan Board of Education Guidance for Serving LGBTQ Students
So Done With Primaries Rancor
I feel a little badly complaining about this. I mean, the Democratic Party candidates for President are really good. And the majority of the debate is really civil. Whereas, on the Republican side, when anyone actually has anything interesting to say, it’s a rare exception to the rule of foolishness. A really rare exception to the rule of foolishness. Like, I don’t know that anyone has said anything interesting yet. Some of them haven’t said anything interesting in their whole lives.
I wrote last year about how I finally joined the Democratic Party and exited a lifetime of being a self-declared (and practicing) independent. This was a work in progress – a year ago, I wasn’t ready to make this kind of commitment, but a few months later, I was ready. Although I still value tremendously the local options to work across the aisle (they seem fewer and further between in Washington), I’ve generally thrown my voice in with those who are focused on being “all in” for whomever wins the nomination.
To be fair, primaries have traditionally been hard for me. I didn’t really have a strongly held opinion even by the early summer of the year Mr. Obama was first elected, although when I saw the elderly ladies in Chicago waiting for the bus with Obama tees over their dresses, I kind of fell in love with that. In fact, again, this time, I did enjoy getting to learn the positive side of how Ms. Clinton and Mr. Sanders make people excited about our country, and I think probably in the end I am more swayed in my ultimate decision by how the candidates move the Americans all around me and stir them to make this a better country, than the relatively fine points of the differences between the two of them in policies or views.
For a while, I likewise enjoyed the debate process, because it showed that Democrats can be civil and fierce at the same time. It didn’t teach me anything much that I didn’t already know about the candidates, but I liked the conversation the debates engendered, and I learned things from that conversation.
That’s maybe something I’ve learned, very slowly, about myself. I have strongly held opinions on all kinds of things, and I think about all kinds of ideas all the time, and about how to solve all kinds of problems, but the thing I personally value the most is how people feel. A president who can help make Americans feel like heroes and help us get back to acting like heroes is what I want, more than anything. Because I think there’s so much more hero in so many more people than they realize, and leadership is about helping them embrace the truth about themselves. I want to be a heroine, and I want to live in a world full of heroes and heroines.
With respect to the Primary process, though, we’ve gone past the point where we’re doing much of that.
Over the past several weeks, I have simply gotten sick of what is left. I’ve gotten sick of the bickering and the posturing and the attacking. It’s not that I want to keep Democrats poised to attack Republicans … it’s that I think we have an immense amount of work to do — I think there are many ways in which this is a pivotal election, and things could go good, or they could go crazy bad. I’ve gotten to the point where we’re not really building people up anymore, we’re just trying to bully people to get them to endorse “our” candidate. And I’m just not interested in tearing other progressives down.
So I’m done…
Done with the BernieBros.
Done with the BernieBashers.
Done with questioning someone’s feminism because they say, “I’m with her.”
Done with questioning someone’s feminism because they “feel the Bern.”
Done with arguing about whose campaign team is cheating whom.
Done with questioning speakers’s fees.
Done with pulling out LGBT rights histories and measuring them like they’re, you know.
Done with criticizing Millenial voters for being young and dumb.
Done with criticizing women of the second wave for wanting a woman in the White House.
Done with disputing whether Mr. Sanders was active in the Civil Rights Movement.
Done with questioning whether Ms. Clinton is all about the Benjamins.
I have to vote by absentee ballot, which is actually the first time I’ve ever done this, and thank you to my friends at the Michigan Democratic Party for helping me through the process. And I’m not going to talk about who I endorsed in here, although obviously, it wasn’t any of the Republican buffoons. I did something like this once before, when it came to using my own life as an education into HIV prevention, and I ended my article by noting that I got tested, but my results were none of your business.
Here it goes again. I endorsed one of the two of them. I’m not going to tell you which. The way things are right now, I feel like this is the radicalest thing I can do, and you know I love being radicaler and radicaler (and I still love neologisms). I’m not making this choice because I’m better than anyone. I get into fights, and I have to make pledges to myself not to pick fights — not in the sisterhood, and not in the Democratic Party. My call to other Democrats: please, please, engage in the rest of the Primary Season, and then really, really engage after that. Be proud, if you’re a strong supporter of either candidate. But just like we must protect our sisters, let’s keep our eyes on making a stronger country, and a stronger Party, and a little less on being right or beating other Democrats.
I had the opportunity last week to speak briefly, on television, about inclusion of LGBTQ students, particularly focusing on transgender students. This comes in the context of a draft guidance from our state Board of Education, and I want to share more detailed thoughts on that topic.
Thank you so much to WOOD TV 8 for having me out to discuss the need for schools that are safe and empowering for all Michigan kids
Below is the text of my public comment on the Michigan Board of Education’s Draft Statement and Guidance on Safe and Supportive Learning Environments for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ) Students (you can read the guidance here). Public comments are being accepted through May 11, 2016, and if you have something to say, I strongly encourage you to speak. You can make your comment and read comments here.