Subject: Fwd: Claim & Substantiation
From: TheCallan (email@example.com)
Date: Wed 06 May 1998 - 13:41:38 BST
>From my archives
Subj: Claim & Substantiation
I feel like I have talked about my viewpoint on this before on this list, but
once more might not hurt.
The question is asked: What are we to think if someone says that I am
Maybe that's I am butch, I am woman, I am man, I am bisexual, whatever.
Can someone just announce that they are something and be that?
Clearly, when someone says I am X, we will judge the credibility and the
context of that claim to see how we are to take it. If, for example, David
Letterman announces "I am a lesbian" during all the Ellen hype, we know that
is a joke. How do we know that? We look at the choices David Letterman is
making, and know that in no way (other than maybe sleeping with women) is he
making the choices of a lesbian.
In the same way, if he announced "I am itchy" or "I am Polish," we would have
to decide what he meant by that, see it in context.
To say, for example, "I am for personal liberty" and to then campaign for more
search and seizure powers for police may make us wonder about the validity of
the claim. Our choices contradict the claim. To say "I am financially well
off," and then borrow money from someone seems to have a choice tht
contradicts the claim, unless of course the borrowing is substantial and from
a bank -- you then know how to use OPM (other people's money.)
We make claims and people evaluate our choices in the context of that claim
and decide the validity of the claim.
Now, when we claim membership in a group, like "I am a member of this tribe"
the same process happens. We evaluate peoples choices to decide if this is
probable. The premise of assimilation is to adopt the choices of a given
group in order to be accepted as a member of that group.
In some groups this is a formal procedure. If you want to be a plumber, for
example, you have to take a test, prove your plumbing skills, before becoming
a liscensed plumber, an offical plumber. You won't be accepted by other
plumbers until you have your certificate.
Of course, to non-plumbers, you can make the claim you are a plumber, and
people can then judge that claim. If you validate it by doing good plumbing
work, you can then be a gypsy plumber, working without a liscence, not
accepted by plumbers as a plumber, but still accepted by most people as a
Another example might be people who claimed to be Indians (Native Americans,
as we would call them today) in Wild West Shows in Europe around the turn of
the century. Because most Europeans only knew stereotypical images of
Indians, anyone meeting that image would be accepted, even if they were not
Native American by birth. It may even be true that some people of Native
American blood would not be accepted because they didn't look enough like the
However, to other Native Americans, there was an essential and an assimilated
component to being a Native American. You both had to be born of the
bloodstock, and raised in the tradition. Is it possible that some of the
bloodstock who were raised in another envrironment, say a primarily Anglo
boarding school, were seen as not "real"? Is it possible that some who were
not born of the bloodstock but who showed their respect and understanding of
tribal ways, who made the choices of the group, were welcomed in and seen as
somehow "real?" I suspect both are true.
If you wnat to make a claim of an attribute, you have to back up that claim by
making the choices that substantiate the claim. If you want to claim to be a
member of a group, you have to be accepted by members of that group as one of
them in some way.
Sometimes this is easy. It is easy, for example, to make both the choices of
a Hawaiian and an American -- they do not conflict. But if Hawaii decided to
bring back the royal family and seceed from the Union, then the choices of
being a Hawaiian and an a American would be in conflict and choices would have
to be made. It is only when the choices contradict that we have to make
For transgendered people, this is a hard point. If we minimize the conflict
between being a woman and being a man, then we don't have to make those hard
choices, we can be both. This has happened over the years -- there are many
more choices that are seen as apporopriate for women then there were just 25
or 50 years ago.
But, if we erase the differences between being a woman and a man, then we
erase the differences that attract us. Like many converts, TG people often go
overboard in proving their alleigance to their chosen group. I remember the
story of Claire Booth Luce, a converted Catholic, who was said to have been in
a meeting where the Pope was overheard saying, "But, Mrs. Luce, I already am a
We stake our claims. We then substantiate our claims by our choices, let
others decide on the validity of our claims. If we want to be accepted by a
target group, we let members evaluate our claims and see if they will grant us
the benefits of membership in that group, knowing that the less formal the
evaluation, the less formal the acceptance, and the less formal the benefits.
Becoming a lesbian, for example, has less formal rules than becoming a
plumber, though the rules exist.
Sometimes, people dispute our claims, usually because they see our claims as
infinging on their claims, lessening their label value. "Hey! You can't
claim to be smart! I'm in MENSA, I'm smart! People like you claiming to be
smart without a certificate give all smart people a bad name!"
In some ways this is good. I like plumbers to keep a watch out for bad
plumbers -- it protects my investment in plumbing.
In some ways this is bad. Some people brilliant at plumbing may not be able
to do it because they can't hack the politics of plumbing.
It is social pressure that requires us to substantate our claims, to actually
make the choices we say we are making, to be more honest and forthright in
connecting words and actions, claim and delivery. That pressure may help us
be more honest, or may erase us.
We make claims (symbolize) and then we act on those claims. It is the harmony
between our words and our choices that let people understand who we truly are,
see the shadows of meanings behind us -- be they shadows that affirm or
contradict our own self view.
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