Election 2017: Caucusing & City Races

So there’s a declared candidate for the St. Paul School Board who’s (a) a TERF (trans-exclusive radical feminist), (b) apparently also an anti-vaxxer, (c) this is apparently just the tip of the iceberg of her overall awfulness, according to people who know her from Facebook neighborhood groups and so on.

I do not normally start blogging in March for a race that’s going to happen in November, but she’s upsetting enough to have already attracted a bunch of attention. And in fact, there is something worth bringing to the attention of my St. Paul readers that they can participate in if they’re concerned about making sure that TERFs (and other potential assholes) don’t slip by and onto the St. Paul School Board: the DFL Caucuses and City Convention are both still upcoming.

 

https://stpauldfl.wordpress.com/

Caucuses are being held next month: which day depends on your ward (if you live in St. Paul). It’s possible that you went to the caucuses a year ago and are already cringing. Just put that thought right ouf of your mind. Caucuses that are not trying to be a presidential primary are completely different events. They are calm, pleasant, celebratory little meetings, and you will be able to drive right over, find a place to park, stroll in, and chat casually with people who are running for School Board and Mayor and who want to earn your support. (And you can ask them things like, “so. Trans kids. Any thoughts?” and see what they say.)

At a lot of caucuses, you basically just raise your hand and sign up if you want to go to the convention to Be a Big Powerful Decider of Endorsements. This is not guaranteed, however. If you have more people who want to go than you have slots, you figure it out with Walking Subcaucuses. But you can, among other things, propose your own Walking Subcaucus for Undecided St. Paul Citizens Who Support Trans Kids and round up a bunch of likeminded people and send some of you on to the City Convention to focus on this particular issue. (Also, if you don’t get to be a delegate, you can easily sign up to be an alternate, and with a City Convention, odds are extremely high that if you show up on the day of the convention, you’ll get upgraded. I mean, for one thing, it’s June 17th. There will always be committed delegates who get up on a nice day in June and think, “fuck spending an entire day stuck inside the Washington Tech high school cafeteria. It is June in Minnesota and I am going to spend the day in my garden.“)

The City Convention is on June 17th, at Washington Tech High School, and will likely be a fairly long day, as they will be endorsing both School Board people and a Mayoral candidate. (Or possibly they’ll fail to endorse a mayoral candidate! That can happen, too. I expect they’ll settle on some school board candidates, though.)

But you can go to your caucus, and you can either sign up to be a delegate, or you can go to a walking subcaucus to send delegates who pledge not to support a transphobic asshole, and you can make absolutely damn sure that this woman doesn’t wind up with DFL endorsement.

(I think she’s very unliikely to get it. VERY VERY VERY. For a whole lot of reasons, including the very basic one of, “when neighbors who barely know you dislike you so strongly that they are actively out there warning people against you, your odds of finding diligent, helpful volunteers who will help you get through the endorsement process are really quite low.” But also, most of the people who show up at the DFL City Convention are quite progressive, and this woman’s views are not going to be a selling point that will impress many people. Note, I have no idea whether she’s even going for DFL endorsement; I don’t get the vibe that she actually knows what the hell she’s even doing politically. She could, I suppose, ask for Republican endorsement, instead, but most St. Paul residents consider that endorsement to be a big old warning label, so that certainly won’t get her any closer to the school board.)

DFL endorsement is extremely important in St. Paul for down-ticket races like school board, because the list of DFL-endorsed candidates get printed on ALL THE THINGS that come from the DFL, and lots of people just use those brochures as a checklist. There’s money that comes from the DFL, and volunteers who drop lit for everyone, and lots of other stuff.

Here’s a post I wrote last year about how a caucus runs:
https://naomikritzer.com/2016/02/28/minnesota-caucuses-what-actually-happens/ Ignore the stuff about (a) crowds and (b) counting presidential preference ballots, that’s no longer current.

And here’s a post I wrote about political conventions, and why you might want to go:
https://naomikritzer.com/2016/02/29/political-conventions-and-why-you-might-want-to-go/
This includes a detailed explanation of Walking Subcaucuses, but one additional note I’ll make: if you’re at your Senate District Convention picking delegates for the State Convention, you’re trying to divide up like 30 seats between 500 eager volunteers. Whereas if your precinct caucus DOES have to run a walking subcaucus to sort out delegates to the City Convention, it’ll be something more like, “50 people want to go and we only have 40 slots.” Very different dynamic.

If you become a City Convention delegate, you can expect a lot of phone calls and visits from people who’d like to serve on the School Board or be the next Mayor of St. Paul. Candidates will likely call you personally and ask to discuss your personal concerns. So among other things, if there’s an issue you feel strongly about, this is a GREAT opportunity to make sure that school board people and possible future mayors hear about it. (Note that these are not fundraising calls: what they want is your physical presence and votes at the City Convention, and hitting you up for money will just encourage you to dodge their calls. Although possibly you’ll get super excited about someone, and if that happens, they will be ecstatic if you want to volunteer, particularly at the City Convention — they need people to come in super early and stake out table space and hand out t-shirts and tell everyone who asks why you are thrilled to be supporting so-and-so… A lot of smaller candidates rely heavily on family members and personal friends to do this particular work, but when they can get convention delegates who are excited about supporting them, that is great news.)

AND ONE FINAL NOTE:

Everyone in Minnesota has caucuses upcoming! And Minneapolis ALSO has very interesting city elections coming up, so if you are a Minneapolis resident, by all means go to your Caucus, Ward Convention, and City Convention. (The Minneapolis DFL page has a list of who’s running for endorsement — not just for Mayor, but for the City Council, Park Board, and BET positions as well. Lots of excitement upcoming!)

 

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Gender Nonconforming or Creative

In the news coverage of the controversy at Nova Classical Academy, it’s really clear to me that some people have no earthly idea what “gender nonconforming” is and how it differs from being trans, so let me talk about that, just briefly.

I think most people have at least some idea what it means for a person to be trans. A trans person identifies with a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth: if at birth, people thought you were a boy and gave you a male name, and have always used male pronouns for you, but despite this you know yourself to be a girl, you are trans. (If at birth people thought you were a girl and you agree with that assessment, the word for feeling comfortable in that identity is “cis” or “cisgender.” I am cisgender, or a cis woman.)

The best example of a gender-nonconforming or gender-creative kid I can readily point to is C.J., the son of the blogger at Raising My Rainbow. C.J., now eight years old, likes dresses, wears his hair long, wanted a Bitty Baby for Christmas, and prefers things pink or purple or covered in sparkles (or all three). He went through a brief period of requesting that his family call him Rebecca and use female pronouns, then decided this didn’t feel right. His mother, in a recent blog post, wrote about the fact that she’s had people insist that her son is trans, and pressure her to transition him: “My son no longer wants to be a woman when he grows up, like he did when he was four. He didn’t feel comfortable during those days when he was six and we called him Rebecca and used female pronouns. And, after watching his friend transition he declared that he couldn’t imagine being a girl every day.”

One confusing factor here is that a lot of trans kids start out presenting as gender-creative kids, then transition. But if you’ve got a boy who loves to wear sparkly purple dresses and identifies as a boy, that’s also fine. The appropriate pronoun is “he,” the appropriate word is “boy,” and his communities (school, preschool, day care, church…) should take steps as needed to make sure he is safe and respected. It is no more okay for people to tease a boy about wearing a dress than it is for people to tell a little girl, “you shouldn’t play with that lightsaber; Star Wars is for boys.”

It’s a lot rarer that you hear people talk about gender-creative or gender-nonconforming girls, in part because the idea of a “tomboy” is so solidly part of our culture. We have narratives in which tomboys grow up and put away their blue jeans and join the world of ladylike girls — Katie John, Caddie Woodlawn — and narratives where they hold tightly to the empowerment offered by “masculine” behavior — Tomboy, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. While there are many ways that society squashes girls who want to resist the “feminine” box, society in general these days is overall kinder to little girls who want to wear pants and play baseball than it is to little boys who want to wear dresses and play with dolls. Even the 1970s-era empowerment story (and song, in “Free to Be, You and Me”) William’s Doll shows William as reassuringly masculine other than in his desire for a doll, and assures both readers and the other characters in the story that nurturing behavior is still appropriate masculine behavior.

The two books My Princess Boy and Jacob’s New Dress are both about gender-nonconforming boys. The boys in these books are creative and exhuberant dress-wearing boys. (Here’s a really lovely interview with the author of My Princess Boy, by the way.)

In creating safe schools, we need to protect and empower both gender-creative kids and trans kids. (We also need to recognize that protecting a gender-creative kid may mean something different than protecting a trans kid — just as it’s unacceptable for a peer to say to a trans kid, “you are really a boy!” it’s unacceptable for a peer to say to a gender-creative kid, “you are really a girl!”)