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Make Room for the Non-Binary

I am a Baby Boomer, born in 1957, who grew up in a very binary world. Everything from party affiliation to music preference was simplified down into an “either-or” mentality. Most of the time, what this really meant was that either you fit in or you didn’t.

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Person holds non-binary flag/Creative Commons

I am a Baby Boomer, born in 1957, who grew up in a very binary world. Everything from party affiliation to music preference was simplified down into an “either-or” mentality. Most of the time, what this really meant was that either you fit in or you didn’t.

Until recently, every form I’ve ever completed had two boxes to check for sex: male or female.

One can imagine the physical and mental health challenges that non-binary people face when their identities non-binary status are not recognized and instances assaults and abuse are underreported.

Everywhere I go, a similar dichotomy presents itself. Non-binary folks, whose gender identities are neither male nor female, are being erased and excluded from traditionally gendered spaces.

I identify as cisgender, which means that my birth sex (female) and gender (woman) align. I’m a Blesbian — Black lesbian — too, and, as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I want to help by being an advocate for non-binary people, both within and outside of queer spaces.

Since 2020, many folks now introduce themselves with their name and pronouns: he/him, she/her, they/them, etc. This might be in part due to a year and a half of Zoom calls, where awkward clarifications of one’s gender identity can be easily avoided by listing pronouns next to names.

For cisgender allies of trans and non-binary people, stating your pronouns in your Twitter bio, office meetings, or the like is a way to help normalize the gender identities that exist outside of male and female. Gen Z-ers are leading this cultural shift towards tolerance of non-binary people in classrooms, on college campuses, and in the workplace. But some things are still the same.

In the first broad-based population study of non-binary folks, the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law concluded there are 1.2 million non-binary LGBTQ+ adults aged 18 to 60 in the United States. That’s 11% of the LGBTQ+ population.

The study found that the majority of non-binary LGBTQ+ adults are young, urban and white. More specifically, 58% of these non-binary folks are white, 16% are multiracial, 15% are Latinx, and 9% are Black. Non-binary people are also less likely to be straight than their cisgender counterparts: most identified as queer, bisexual, pansexual or asexual.

Non-binary (abbreviated enby), gender fluid, and/or genderqueer are terms for gender identities that do not check the male or female boxes. They/them are often the pronouns they use, though some people use variations of she/they or he/they or others like ze/hir, xe/xem, hy/hym or co/cos.

Among LGBTQ+ non-binary adults, 82% reported experiencing emotional abuse during childhood, 53% were bullied and 11% were exposed to conversion therapy. Nearly 94% say they have considered suicide; 39% have attempted it, the study found.

We know that Black transgender women are being murdered at a high rate in the United States, with many of those deaths being underreported and those folks being misgendered. Of the non-binary folks in the study, more than half reported being physically or sexually assaulted.

One can imagine the physical and mental health challenges that non-binary people face when their identities non-binary status are not recognized and instances assaults and abuse are underreported.

As our racial reckoning in this country continues, it should be inclusive of genderqueer and non-binary folks, because not everyone fits neatly into a category or box. This lesson applies to everything, whether it be in discussions of race, gender, or other socially constructed identities that inevitably leave someone behind.

Healing should be inclusive. Here’s to more education and acceptance.

This column was produced for The Progressive magazine and distributed by Tribune News Service.

Community

Oakland Officer, Suspect Wounded in Shootout

A suspect was shot by an Oakland police officer early Wednesday and a police officer was also wounded before the suspect discarded his gun, barricaded himself inside a building and eventually surrendered, according to officials.

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Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong

A suspect was shot by an Oakland police officer early Wednesday and a police officer was also wounded before the suspect discarded his gun, barricaded himself inside a building and eventually surrendered, according to officials.

Police had received a report of a man armed and brandishing a firearm, who was determined to be on the 2200 block of Telegraph Avenue.

During a Wednesday morning news conference, Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong said that another officer returned fire after the male suspect opened fire on arriving officers.  

“The suspect immediately began to fire shots at the officer,” said Armstrong. “The officer was struck with that gunfire and through our investigation, we know now that our officer, (an) additional officer, did fire back – so we do have an officer-involved shooting that we’re also investigating, striking the suspect with non-life-threatening injuries.”

The suspect, who had a knife, barricaded himself inside the lobby of a multi-residential building. Patrol officers established a safety perimeter and advised residents to shelter in place.

OPD patrol officers, negotiators and the Mental Health Crisis Team established communication with the suspect, who was still armed with the knife and had begun stabbing and cutting himself.

Police said the suspect is 50 years old but did not identify him immediately. They also did not disclose what type of gun he had.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Commentary

First in a Series on Jobs in Oakland. City Government; Please Do No (More) Harm

Oakland city government declares war on the unemployed. An overstatement? Not really.

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High Quality stock aerial photos of downtown Oakland with Lake Merritt in the foreground.

Oakland city government declares war on the unemployed. An overstatement? Not really.

City administration professes concern for its residents who need help with access to jobs and training, while at the same time failing to issue contracts to the community organizations that stand ready to provide needed services.

The city council approved these contracts in June. As of late September, they have not been issued by the city administration.

Q: What does this mean? A: Non-profit organizations, operating on shoestring budgets in the best of times, have been required to advance their own funds in July, August, and September to serve the unemployed, with no reimbursement by the city because as the administration says, “Your contract has not been signed yet.”

Another impact: the workers who provide front line job services may not receive their paychecks on time…. creating unnecessary instability in their own households.

And who is responsible for issuing these contracts? Yup…it’s the city…. painfully tone deaf to the needs of the community, particularly those on the economic margins. Most of those served with job help are Black and Latinx residents who consistently suffer double digit unemployment. Many are returning home after incarceration.

And for this level of harmful disregard, the city receives  28 percent of scarce job training funds. Astonishing, since the city provides no direct services to job seekers.

As Oakland struggles with its horrific crime wave, it seems that attention would be paid to root causes, joblessness being paramount among them. Instead, the city administration seems intent on hobbling the very groups who stand ready to help. This happens year after year…. with no apparent consequences to an impenetrable bureaucracy.

Oakland, we can do  better than this.

We must.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

 

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Bay Area

Rosie the Riveter Trust to Celebrate History, ‘We Can Do It!’ Spirit

Tribute to storyteller and park ranger Betty Reid Soskin marking her 100th birthday

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Betty Reid Soskin/Wikimedia Commons

The Rosie the Riveter Trust is celebrating the history of the World War II home front at a September 26 gala, Making History Together. The fundraiser will highlight programs supported by the trust in collaboration with Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park: Every Kid Outdoors, Rosie’s Service Corps, and a documentary about the park’s Rosie Ambassadors, currently in production.

“We have a gem of a national park located right here in Richmond, California, where visitors can come learn about the home front and hear stories told in first person. This includes women and men who worked in the Kaiser shipyards, as well as those who spent years in the internment camps during the war,” said Sarah Pritchard, executive director of Rosie the Riveter Trust. “The history of the home front and societal changes that transpired during World War II are important lessons to preserve and share.”

The gala will also include a special tribute to Betty Reid Soskin, who turns 100 in September. Soskin helped establish the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park, later joining the National Park Service and becoming the oldest ranger in the national park system at 85. 

Soskin’s programs at the park’s visitor center have captivated audiences since the center opened in May 2012. During her presentations, she shares her own experiences as a young woman of color during a time when segregation and discrimination were common, adding dimension to the stories of the home front too often left out of the history books. “What gets remembered is determined by who is in the room doing the remembering,” says Soskin in her 2019 film, “No Time to Waste.”

The gala will be held at the historic Craneway Pavilion, 1414 Harbour Way South (next to the park’s visitor center on the Richmond waterfront). The Craneway, which boasts a fabulous view of San Francisco, is the former Ford Assembly Plant where some 49,000 tanks and jeeps were assembled during the home front era. 

While individual tickets to the in-person event sold out on August 1, tickets to view the live-streamed event are still available. The event begins at 5:00 p.m., followed by a tribute to Soskin, highlights of the trust’s programs, a live auction, a Zoom afterparty, and entertainment.

Major event sponsors include the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Kaiser Permanente, The Marguerite Fund, Chevron Richmond Refinery, Accenture, Bank of Labor, California State Pipe Trades Council, Microsoft Corp., The Honorable Barry Goode, Northern California Carpenters Regional Council, IBEW Local 302, IBEW Local Union 595, and Marathon Petroleum. Event sponsorships are available beginning at $1,000.

Rosie the Riveter Trust is the official partner of the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park, founded in 2000 in Richmond, California. The Park chronicles the explosive growth of wartime industry, the innovations fostered by visionaries like Henry J. Kaiser, and the extraordinary history of people who were challenged as never before and came together to overcome wartime odds with the “We Can Do It!” spirit.

Event proceeds support expansion of educational programs for all ages and preservation of historical resources for the Bay Area and the nation.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the trust’s web site at www.rosietheriveter.org. For sponsorships, contact Executive Director Sarah Pritchard, at 510-507-2276, or by email at sarah@rosietheriveter.org.

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