Sunday, May 1, 2011

Language Accessibility

I had a really long workday yesterday. And by long I mean 17 hours. The Network piled in a car and drove down to TAMU Corpus Christi for a training, which went very well. And the drive went well too. That's a strange thing to say, but if anyone has ever driven that, it is a long drive will really terrible radio stations. So we had a lot of time to talk.

There was a young woman that attended our training that was pretty amazing to me. She was involved in a local branch of a national organization, I won't say which for anonymity's sake, and showed us very fast that she knew her social justice. At one point we posed a question to the group asking them to identify a certain privilege, and she and I had a pretty intense back and forth that consisted me digging deeper with a series of "why?" "why does that person have that power?" "why are they part of that group?" and her laying out most of her knowledge of systems of oppression on the line. She continued to impress us throughout the day but what was truly fascinating was why, which I didn't think of until the ride home. She's not in school. She's young, only a couple years older than myself i'd bet, obviously educated, and not in school. It was obvious from her way of thinking and the lens she was coming from that the organization she was affiliated with had given her quite a boost, in much the same way the Network has done for me. But the rest was self directed. Reading, finding out about local trainings like the one we did, and learning.

Debriefing this part of the day in the car led to a discussion about our community and language accessibility. Who's read Judith Butler? I'm going to come out with it and say I have not. Maybe I'm a terrible feminist, queer, geek, and future academic, but I have not. Why? Because that language is like trying to decipher gaelic in a black cave. I know who she is and what she's said and what she's done. I know that I will read many of her works before my college years are over. And I know that I could read it no if I had the time and desire to do so. Why? Because I have access to education. I've had the ability all my life to be a book worm and decipher academic language and jargon. But many people have not.

The above conversation segued into one about the community forum that ALLGO hosted on Wednesday night. I was not in attendance so the opinions I'm expressing are those that were shared with me from people that were attending. The event from their perspective was extremely powerful, extremely emotional, and extremely inaccessible. They expressed the feeling that not only that event but many in Austin are inaccessible in terms of the language used and people often share what they think needs to be said or heard rather than what they actually feel. Having been in attendance at many events in the same community, I was inclined to agree. I absolutely feel that it is everyone's job to pursue their own education, but we should keep in mind who has the ability to do that and who is excluded from what, particularly what conversations, when that privilege is not present.

The night ended on a happy note. There was a benefit in SA run by Project Embrace and sponsored by many local organizations and alliance of all of the queer student orgs from the many colleges. We stopped by to retrieve a coworker who had gone to the event as a representative and to say hello, as all of the proceeds were benefiting us. I briefly ran into three of my friends who are all fellow activists. We hugged, we smiled, I told them I'm moving home and enrolled at SAC for the summer, and they told me what was happening with our queer community. Many many good things and lots of organizing by really fierce students, which I am so excited to be a part of. Many of them had been at the march earlier that day here in ATX and had been feeling the pressure from Austin's social scene and policy makers. They told me they felt pressured to leave part of our community behind and they will not do it, not socially and definitely not in policy. They told me they will not leave out our trans and drag community, the latin roots so much of the community is tied to, the queers that are young, poor, or "uneducated", and that information, especially policy, needs to be bilingual and understandable, and they won't let that not happen, even if it takes longer. I felt extremely hopeful for my summer and for the community in my hometown that is so welcoming and doing such good work around trying to make our community accessible and so excited to be going home to be part of it all. :)

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