underthewillows: (Default)
Warning: definitely Too Much Information ahead. If you don't want to go "I really didn't need to know that about you", skip this one.

Some stuff in here I've only told my sister. Some stuff I've not told anyone ever, either in Real Life or online, partly because I would have died of embarrassment and partly because I didn't have the vocabulary, knowledge or context with which, and in which, to express it.

I get the greatest links (she said sarcastically) from the various places I hang around on, am active in, or just innocently wander across. Here's one of them.

I know nothing about the FCKH8 campaign, its founder or founders, its purpose, or whoever runs the Facebook page linked above. I do have an opinion on this particular comment, however (I have an opinion on something I know little to nothing about? There's a surprise!)

I asked you to educate us. How are asexual people oppressed under the law? HOW is it an identity. I usually jack off with my right hand and not my left. Does that count as an “identity?” Are asexual people bullied, harassed and rejected by their friends and family because they don’t get hard ons or something? confused. Educate or quit whining. LGBT people had to do it, now it’s time for A people to step up to the plate and explain because it seems like an emo fad and a way to be different without being gay and to have a chip on your shoulder. So put on your activist hat here and teach us all so we get where you are coming from :)

Quite aside from the charming analogy used, I don’t owe these clowns an explanation for anything. But I’ll do this much, and reveal this much of my privacy, in reply to the question posed:

Are asexual people bullied, harassed and rejected by their friends and family because they don’t get hard ons or something?

Short answer? Yes.

Longer answer: Has any LGBT person ever been told “It’s a phase”, “You don’t know your own mind”, “You’re confused”, “You’ll grow out of it”, and the kicker “But I don’t want you to be lonely and alone when you get older”? It’s just as much denial and ignoring our decisions, our choices, our orientation, when it happens to asexuals.

We get the “Oh, you don’t really mean that”, when we’re younger, the “Isn’t it cute - just wait till he/she gets older and discovers boys/girls, then he/she will change his/her mind!” when we say we’re not interested in marriage and kids, then as we get older it develops into the “So, when are you getting a boyfriend/girlfriend?” questions, that keep on for years. ”When are you getting married?” ”You know, you really should be thinking of settling down now”. ”Any news?” (meaning, ‘Have you succeeded in becoming part of a couple?’). ”I’d like grandkids while I’m still able to enjoy them!”

Seeing all your friends, your age cohort, getting married or settling into relationships. Everyone saying “It’s your turn next!”

Then the earnest “Look, if you’re gay/lesbian, I don’t mind, really; you know you can tell me anything?” phase of questions kicks in.

Finally the questions peter out and stop, not because it’s been accepted that no, you’re not interested in being part of a couple, but because it’s too sad and desperate to keep on arguing over it.

If you’re lucky, you don’t get the awkward “Em - this doesn’t mean you like weird stuff like animals or little kids, does it?” attempts to understand why you’re not interested in ‘normal’ love, romance, sex or any combination of them. If you're lucky. If you're not, you may get it said to your face, or it may be whispered behind your back. But the notion that 'there's something wrong with him or her/that one is a weirdo/what a creep/loser' hangs about you.

In the Bad Old Days, not being interested in sex meant that women were labelled as frigid (which was a psychological problem, and probably even meant they were secretly lesbian or suffering from penis envy), and men were labelled as impotent (and therefore less than men, or even effeminate/possibly homosexual). However it was, the aim was to medically treat you so you would be ‘normal’, you would fit in.

Modern society isn’t all that much better. Modern society is saturated in sex, and whether you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing, it’s unavoidable. That means there are no places for those not interested in sex.

Valentine’s Day - a whole official celebration of ‘tonight is the one night you are sure to be gitting sahm!’ and ‘today is the day for love and romance and coupledom!’

If you’re single and want to be part of a couple but haven’t managed it, you’re a failure. If you’re single and not looking to be paired off, this is unthinkable, unimaginable.

Yes, there is bias and prejudice in society against LGBT people. But imagine an official day in the calendar that exists to rub your nose in your pariah status. Imagine all the novels, songs, movies, TV shows, that make the single person the outsider, the weirdo, the failure until he or she achieves success by finally getting that guy or girl.

I don’t want to reveal my age, so I’m not going to tell it here. But I’m considerably over the age of twenty, let’s put it at that. Here’s more fun experiences from the life of an asexual: going for the first appointment with a new gynaecologist. Doctor takes medical history (so far, so normal). Asks about any kids, ever been pregnant, what birth control used, etc.

Gets a “no” to all of the above. Repeatedly, because doctor keeps trying to get sexual history that does not exist, because doctor does not accept that adult female has no sexual history to recount.

(1) Doctor asks if I have ever had penetrative sex, with helpful accompanying hand gestures* because it seems I must, even at my advanced age, not know what that means. Obviously, it’s perfectly possible I have had sex and not known I was having sex, even though I am of average intelligence and not suffering any developmental or cognitive impairment so that I would not know what ‘sex’ means.
(2) Doctor then tries to find tactful way to ask if I am lesbian.

Because an adult female, in this society, cannot possibly not be having sex with someone. Cannot possibly never have had a sexual partner. What are we, Victorians?

So for you to say that asexuality is not a real thing, that it’s no more of a distinction than which hand you use to masturbate with (and how would you like someone telling a young guy first identifying as gay that being sexually attracted to men rather than women is no more a ‘real’ distinction than “jack(ing) off with my right hand and not my left”?), that asexuals do not get bullied, harassed and rejected -

- you and your campaign are full of shit.

Note: yes, there isn’t ‘one size fits all’ for asexuals: some of us are sexual but not romantic, some are romantic but not sexual, some are neither, others are in varying proportions of both at varying times. Being asexual doesn’t mean we don’t have sexual feelings (we have ordinary physical bodies, of course biological influences affect us), it doesn’t mean we don’t like people, it doesn’t mean we don’t have sexual fantasies, it doesn’t mean we don’t masturbate, it doesn't mean we don't have a sexual or romantic orientation: for instance, I've known I'm heterosexual, ever since the age of twelve when I started making lists of cute boys I saw on the telly/in magazines/in movies. But I've known since the age of nine that I wasn't interested in marriage and a family, and no, that didn't mean I wanted a partner but no kids, it meant I didn't want a spouse or a lover. I may not have had the words to express what I meant, but I knew it.

But primarily it does not mean we’re only going through an emo, attention-seeking phase trying to be as cool as the gay kids without incurring the stigma of being gay or lesbian. It is genuinely only in the last couple of years that I have become aware of asexuality as a "thing", that I received enough information to go "Yeah, you know what? I think that's me." It explained so much to me: why I had the feelings I had, more importantly why I didn't have the feelings I didn't have, why I could experience sexual arousal, have sexual fantasies, find men sexually attractive and yet still not want a relationship, either physical or emotional.

Saying "You lot are just emo kids wanting to be cool without paying the price" is peddling the old Freudian pop-psychology line from the early 20th century of "You're just a frigid woman or impotent man who needs therapy". It's telling me "No, it's religious guilt about sex that indoctrinated you that it's dirty is what's the matter!" Ironically, religion rather than Modern Sexual Liberation has been the most helpful to me in this; Matthew 19:11-12 where Jesus is giving the teaching on divorce:

11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

That let me feel "So, I'm one of the 'eunuchs who have been so from birth', and this is also is part of the natural order. I'm not a problem, I'm as valid as the rest of it."

It's telling me "You're repressed" and nowadays, to be sexually repressed is the worst sin possible. A little pink pill for the girls, like the little blue pill for the boys, will fix me right up.

It's telling me that I need to be 'normal', that what I am now is not 'normal'. It's telling me I don't know my own feelings, that I can't trust my own reasoning.

It's telling me all the things that a campaign about homophobic bullying should know better than to say, because they've heard it in their context, but seem perfectly happy to repeat it in another's context.

*Yes, a gesture along these lines. I had a moment of staring in disbelief and mentally going "This is my life now?"
underthewillows: (Default)
So our Minister for Justice has been speaking about the cases of the two children who were taken from immigrant Roma families on the basis of concerns that they were not the biological children of those families (with the implication that the children were stolen or kidnapped).

"Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland Shatter said that the “international backdrop” of the case in Greece “that has been under the spotlight for sometime may have had possibly some undue influence in the decisions that were made” in two cases in Ireland this week."

The fuck you say, Alan! Who would have thought it? How did at least one of the cases happen? Why, a public-spirited citizen contacted (by leaving a message on Facebook, as some accounts have it) a TV crime show, who then got the police involved. In the second case, a member of the public got onto the cops directly.

Now, let's have a look at the legislation under which the children were taken out of their homes and put in temporary care:


Protection of Children in Emergencies

Power of Garda Síochána to take a child to safety.

12.—(1) Where a member of the Garda Síochána has reasonable grounds for believing that —

(a) there is an immediate and serious risk to the health or welfare of a child, and

(b) it would not be sufficient for the protection of the child from such immediate and serious risk to await the making of an application for an emergency care order by a health board under section 13,

the member, accompanied by such other persons as may be necessary, may, without warrant, enter (if need be by force) any house or other place (including any building or part of a building, tent, caravan or other temporary or moveable structure, vehicle, vessel, aircraft or hovercraft) and remove the child to safety.

(2) The provisions of subsection (1) are without prejudice to any other powers exercisable by a member of the Garda Síochána.

(3) Where a child is removed by a member of the Garda Síochána in accordance with subsection (1), the child shall as soon as possible be delivered up to the custody of the health board for the area in which the child is for the time being.

(4) Where a child is delivered up to the custody of a health board in accordance with subsection (3), the health board shall, unless it returns the child to the parent having custody of him or a person acting in loco parentis, make application for an emergency care order at the next sitting of the District Court held in the same district court district or, in the event that the next such sitting is not due to be held within three days of the date on which the child is delivered up to the custody of the health board, at a sitting of the District Court, which has been specially arranged under section 13 (4), held within the said three days, and it shall be lawful for the health board to retain custody of the child pending the hearing of that application.

So what was this "immediate and serious risk to the health or welfare of a child" that meant the police and the health services had to remove the children?

(1) The seven year old girl in Dublin:

The message that prompted the case was with the Paul Connolly Investigates programme on TV3 on Monday.

It read: “Hi Paul. Today was on the news that blond child found in (named ethnic group) camp in Greece. There is also a little girl living in a… house in (named suburb) and she is blond and blue eyes.”

(2) The two year old boy in Athlone:

In the second case, a two-year-old boy was removed by gardaí from his family home on Tuesday evening in the Midlands.

His father was invited down to the local Garda station and on arrival was informed his son was being taken from him after concerns had been expressed, by a member of the public, that the boy was not the biological child of the man and his wife as they insisted.

Yep. That's it. Nobody said "These children are being beaten by their parents". So far as we know (we'll have to wait for the reports from the Guards and the Health Service Executive for the details), when the guards arrived on the doorstep, nobody said "Aha! Evidence of neglect and abuse!" So far as we know, there were no previous reports or concerns about children at risk in these households.

So why did the police use what the Minister for Children has described as exceptional powers for exceptional cases to remove two children from their families? And why, if there was an abuse/neglect risk, did they not take the other children in the houses as well from a place of endangerment?

The ugly fact of the matter appears to be this: the sole basis for reporting these suspicions in the first place and acting upon them in the second appears to be based on nothing more than "The parents are dark, the children are fair" (and with the overtones of "Not alone are the parents dark, they're foreign and not alone are they foreign, they're Gypsies").

Tabloid coverage and sensationalism about the case in Greece (and we still don't even know what exactly is going on there: the girl in the Greek case is not related to the couple raising her, but they claim she was handed over in an informal adoption), coupled with generations of stories about Gypsies stealing children, acted upon the simmering prejudices and blatant racism in Irish society, stoked by politicians (including members of the present government) being willing to use vote-catching mantras about "welfare cheats" and "dole scroungers" and petty criminality (all those foreigners coming in here living off welfare at our expense is why the social welfare bill is so high and why we, the hard-working Irish, are being taxed and charged out of existence and have our benefits and allowances cut).

The police in Dublin obviously reacted as they did because of the involvement of the TV journalist. Faced with the possibility of negative publicity if they did not do the maximum, the fear of a big splashy story by a tabloid journalist and lowest-common-denominator broadcasting TV station panting for a juicy scandal "We reveal shocking truth about child trafficking!" special broadcast, hanging the police out to dry if they did not investigate and remove the child, of course they decided to take the story seriously, question the family, and take the child into care.

Their colleagues in Athlone probably were motivated by the same concerns: being pilloried in the press and on TV for falling down on the job where children were at risk.

So the blue-eyed blond(e) children were removed from these shady characters - while the dark-eyed brunette children were left in their care. There might be some fig leaf of rationale if all children in the houses had been taken into temporary care on the grounds of suspected risk, but to take the 'white' child and leave the Roma-looking one - that's pretty damn blatant.

These parents were lucky that DNA testing proved they were telling the truth. The trouble is, what happens next? Are we going to have a serious debate about racism and prejudice in Ireland, and the role that the media (all of them) have to play in stoking these kinds of scares? Or are we going to retreat from facing these questions and leave it so that people are afraid to report genuine suspicions for fear of scaremongering, the police and social services are seen as agents of oppression not of support, and children at risk will be left to sink or swim depending on if they're lucky enough to catch the eye of someone who will do something about it?
underthewillows: (Default)
I've mentioned several times a referendum held in 2012 in Ireland to introduce an amendment to the Constitution.

It was touted as recognising, for the first times, the rights of children as individuals in their own right and not as secondary to their parents. Everyone who was anyone in children's advocacy bodies, from voluntary to the state sector, was all over the place pushing for this.

Some people were not so enthusiastic. I was one of them. Because I'm a bitter old hag who wants to force children to remain in bad homes where drunken, violent adults beat, starve and rape them.

(I mean, that's the only reason anyone could not want the sunshine-and-puppies amendment passed, right?)

Here's what was passed, as a result of the majority "Yes" vote on the referendum:

Article 42A

1 The State recognises and affirms the natural and imprescriptible rights of all children and shall, as far as practicable, by its laws protect and vindicate those rights.

2 1° In exceptional cases, where the parents, regardless of their marital status, fail in their duty towards their children to such an extent that the safety or welfare of any of their children is likely to be prejudicially affected, the State as guardian of the common good shall, by proportionate means as provided by law, endeavour to supply the place of the parents, but always with due regard for the natural and imprescriptible rights of the child.

2° Provision shall be made by law for the adoption of any child where the parents have failed for such a period of time as may be prescribed by law in their duty towards the child and where the best interests of the child so require.

3 Provision shall be made by law for the voluntary placement for adoption and the adoption of any child.

4 1° Provision shall be made by law that in the resolution of all proceedings—
i brought by the State, as guardian of the common good, for the purpose of preventing the safety and welfare of any child from being prejudicially affected, or
ii concerning the adoption, guardianship or custody of, or access to, any child, the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration.

2° Provision shall be made by law for securing, as far as practicable, that in all proceedings referred to in subsection 1° of this section in respect of any child who is capable of forming his or her own views, the views of the child shall be ascertained and given due weight having regard to the age and maturity of the child.

Call me old-fashioned, but the language about the "natural and imprescriptible rights of the child" seemed rather vague. Just imagine two sets of lawyers duking it out over what that means in a nasty custody fight!

And I didn't quite like the notion that the State could put a child up for adoption without the consent of the parents after a "period of time" to be defined by the State. How long? Six months? Three years? Some families need help and support to get things back to normal. There are plenty of condemnations of the Bad Old Days where when a woman died and a father was left to raise a family, the Authorities (Church and State) swooped in to put the kids in an orphanage or industrial school if they judged he wasn't up to the task. How is this any better?

The rationale was that there were loads of kids in care and foster situations where families wanted to adopt them but couldn't due to the parents not giving consent, yet they would realistically never go back to their natural families. I was sceptical about that, firstly because we never got any actual numbers of these alleged potential adoptions and secondly, I wonder how many foster families do end up adopting one or more of the children in their care?

But mostly I was opposed to expanding the powers of the State in this area based on my experiences with the social workers, health boards, and other state agencies that I underwent in my time working as clerical support in a school.

Now there are a lot of hard-working people out there trying to do their best, but the system as it is set up is not one bit helpful. I know that "anecdotes are not data", but one example may help you see where I'm coming from.

A particular girl in the school had a social worker appointed to her case. Over the five years, it went like this:

Social Worker A phones up or calls to school. Hi, I'm X's social worker, tell me all about her. Deputy Principal (who interested herself in X's case and did the lion's share of looking out for her) would give me all the notes to date to type up in confidence and hand them over.

If needs be, we would ring up Social Worker A for any problems/discussions involving X. Always a crapshoot as to whether A was available; often the Deputy Principal ended up making the decisions about X for want of anyone else around.

Six months or so down the line, when X had finally established some kind of relationship with Social Worker A, trusted them, had a rapport - we might need to ring A, or ask A to call into the school, or A would write to notify us.

Hi, I'm not on X's case anymore, that's been handed over to Social Worker B.

We might not even find that out until we rang up looking for A and were told "No, it's B dealing with X now."

Social Worker B phones up or calls to school. Hi, I'm X's new social worker, tell me all about her. Entirely new set of notes gets typed up because apparently old set weren't handed on. Rinse and repeat as above over five years.

For a child in a vulnerable situation, without a stable home life, how is he or she to develop any trust or expectation that the adult in charge of making decisions about them is going to be there to take care of them with that kind of carry-on?

And this is why I voted "No" in the Rainbows and Kitties Referendum. And as we see from the two recent cases, the existing amendment to the Child Care Act

"Where a member of the Garda Síochána has reasonable grounds for believing that—

(a) there is an immediate and serious risk to the health or welfare of a child, and

(b) it would not be sufficient for the protection of the child from such immediate and serious risk

would seem to be saying that "reasonable grounds for believing" means "you have blue eyes and your parents have brown eyes".
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