Category Archives: queer

An uncomfortable inclusion, rejected

This morning I found myself sitting in my favorite neighborhood spot, Akat Cafe Kalli, where the politics are as palpable and potent as the coffee. I sat here, eating my breakfast sandwich, drinking my café de olla, reading my book , nodding my head along to the music, which I was growing increasingly aware of and was increasingly digging, but also increasingly scared to trust it. As I listened to the explicitly political lyrics on police violence, racism, sexism and homophobia that seemed to speak directly to me as a queer, leftist, womanish person of color, my suspicion grew that I might feel significantly less in tune with other, yet unnamed politics of the artists whose album was playing. The feeling increased as the words, now in Spanish as well as English, continued to resonate as much as the music to which they were set.

A few more tracks in, and I was digging the music too much to not know whose it was. I searched online for a snippet of the lyrics–“i’m a bird who sings in the springtime”–and found that it was indeed Climbing PoeTree, and that I was indeed right to feel betrayed. (In short, Climbing PoeTree performed at Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival despite a longstanding call for a boycott because of their exclusion of trans women; the duo’s public response, the only one I know of, was weak, as was their response to me in real life after I yelled for them to stop selling out trans women while they were on stage at an organizational event I attended.

Despite feeling so seen, heard, included and even centered by this music and these words, I couldn’t stop thinking of those who are not included in the circle of these artists’ politics, those whose exclusion these artists have endorsed and even embraced–trans women. I couldn’t let myself go with this music, as much as my ears and body wanted to, because I cannot leave my sisters and siblings behind in order to enjoy my own inclusion.

 

TFW your tech work needs a trigger warning

It happens sometimes. I do web work and other kinds of tech support for community organizations, some of whom I work with outside of paid work. Working at this intersection of technology, my activism and my communities means I get shaken up at unexpected times.

Today I was working on a plan for a new website for the Audre Lorde Project, an organization I’ve worked with both professionally and politically for more than a decade now. I was checking out their site analytics to get a sense of what their site traffic might indicate about who’s coming to the site, and for what.

I pulled up a report of their site traffic over the past year and saw two huge spikes. I started looking into the first one. I got real nerdy excited over the rapid increase in traffic, jotting down some notes:

March 30 – 127 visits
March 31 – 340
April 1 – 1167
April 2 – 1586
April 3 – 634
April 4 – 244
tapers off from there

Next, of course, I had to see what was generating all that traffic, what was getting hit and why.

At the top of list of pages sorted by unique page views, I saw this URL:

http://alp.org/breaking-isolation-self-care-and-community-care-tools-our-people

I felt physically jolted, a little winded. I suddenly realized what I was seeing: the massive flood of people to Breaking Isolation: Self Care and Community Care Tools for our People, a resource that ALP posted after Taueret Davis, a community member I’d known of for years, a dear friend to many dear friends, committed suicide. So many of my friends, fellow queers, community members were amongst the unique visitors generating all of those page views. I was responsible for at least one of those page views.

I alt-tabbed to the work timer I had running and stopped the clock. I couldn’t just work past this. It brought up a barrage of memories and feelings, not only about Taueret’s death but about the other suicides we survivors have lived through this past year.

As I’m wont to do, I turned outward. Talked to my coworkers about it, a few of whom were similarly impacted by Taueret’s death. Tweeted about it. Wrote this.

After I’d expressed the contents of my head and my heart enough to keep going, I returned to work, now with even stronger inspiration for the work, plus a suddenly deepened understanding of why it’s so important to make sure that URLs don’t break when sites are upgraded.

http://alp.org/breaking-isolation-self-care-and-community-care-tools-our-people can never, ever break.

Thoughts on transmisogyny

What do you mean trans women are women? (Meme from Radicallyqueer.wordpress.com)
Meme courtesy of Radically Queer

Transmisogyny–transphobia directed specifically and often exclusively at trans women–has felt continually rampant in many of my communities for an entire decade now.

I frequently witness transphobia against trans women expressed by people who do not similarly target trans men, thus rendering this particular expression of transphobia sexist in a somewhat traditional sense.

I witness transmisogyny practiced most often by cisgendered (i.e. non-trans, female-assigned at birth) women.

I see transmisogyny excused most often by other cis women or other folks who were female-assigned at birth, including trans men, genderqueers, and gender non-conforming women.

As a genderqueer butch, female-assigned at birth person of color, transmisogyny personally upsets me most when practiced by women and gender non-conforming people of color; especially when their transmisogyny ends up being directed explicitly at trans women of color; and most of all when said transmisogyny is practiced by individuals and groups who possess and articulate clear analyses of how feminist and women’s movements have frequently marginalized certain classes of women, including women of color, queer women, and gender non-conforming folks who were female-assigned at birth.

And I dare say that I see folks who claim to be allies to trans women, people of color and white folks alike, excusing or explaining away transmisogyny committed by cis women way more often than those same people would ever excuse acts of racism, sexism, or even transphobia against trans men or gender non-conforming folks who are female-assigned at birth.

These are simply my observations, from my particular perspective, with all of my privileges and lacks thereof. What do you think? What have you seen or experienced?

Editorial note: Facebook comments and shares are nice, but comments and discussion here are even nicer! That way folks who aren’t on Facebook can both read and participate.

Spike, Mike, Slackers & Dykes

Tonight at about 1am I decided to watch Slacker by Richard Linklater. I’d first heard of it years ago and have had my eye on it for a while. It was damn good: funny, riveting, and just plain smart throughout. It was set in Austin, where I visited this past March for SXSW Interactive, so it was neat to have a smidgen of context for the landscape of the film. Yeah, I was on South Congress that one time!


At some point when I was a teenager I found Bravo on TV. This was way before Top Chef and The Real Housewives series. This was back when Bravo was more like the IFC. Or maybe it was the IFC that I actually found. The point being, this channel, whichever it was, showed tons of independent films all day and all night, and it was awesome.

One of the first movies I remember seeing on this channel was Salmonberries. I remember being in my computer room and it coming on the TV that was in there; it started late at night and I stayed up til the wee hours watching the whole damn thing. It was a strange move that starred k.d. lang as some sort of butch/genderqueer person living in the middle of nowhere Alaska and having an affair with a much older European woman. At some point I think they actually ended up in Europe together for a time, though I have no idea how. The soundtrack consisted primarily of Beethoven’s “Spring” sonata for violin and piano and k.d. singing this song that went “I’d walk through the snow barefoot if you’d open up your door, I’d walk through the snow barefoot.” In retrospect I think the movie was probably not so good, but back then, it totally had me hooked.

After that I was “into” independent film. As with most things I got “into” when I was younger, this primarily consisted of me reading a lot about independent film on the still-nascent World Wide Web and getting my Dad to buy me books and magazines about it at the Barnes & Noble on Route 22.

One such book was Spike, Mike, Slackers, & Dykes: A Guided Tour Across a Decade of American Independent Cinema. I bought it because it seemed like some sort of authoritative bible of independent film history. I never actually read it, though I flipped through it often. I think that was around the time I was also really “into” the Beat Generation too, so my attentions were divided. But what mattered to my 15-year-old-self was not whether I’d read the book so much as that it was on my bookshelf, clearly demonstrating my dedication, rebellious nature, and good taste to all.

When I packed for college a while later, Spike, Mike, Slackers, & Dykes was one of the books I packed to take with me, along with a bunch of the queer books that I’d managed to acquire through friends’ smuggling and sneaky Barnes & Noble purchases. These, plus my books on and by the Beats, seemed like Appropriate Books to Take With One to a Liberal Arts College (my extensive collection of fantasy books, not so much.) Into boxes they all went, and most of those boxes stayed behind while I headed to school a week early for a Tri-College Institute for new students of color starting at Swarthmore, Haverford, and Bryn Mawr. Only the books I was currently reading and the ones I couldn’t bear to be parted from (probably 5-10 books all told) came with me for that first trip.

My parents drove down to Swarthmore a week later with all the rest of my stuff, including the boxes of books I’d packed before I left. After they saw me settled in and headed out, I was unpacking my boxes and realized that certain books were missing: to be precise, all the queer ones plus one — Spike, Mike, Slackers, & Dykes, which was in fact not particularly queer, but one can understand the mistake. At the time, though, that just pissed me off even more. Also missing — my blue velvet cloak made especially for me by my high school friend (and first major queer crush.) Clearly, someone had edited my college packing choices.

I never saw those books, or that cloak, again. But every time I visit my mom in Florida these days, I spend some time going through the boxes upon boxes of old stuff and reminiscing about what I find with her. I’ve got a feeling I’m going to find all that stuff in one of those boxes one of these days. When I do, I’ll reclaim the cloak for future ren faires, I’ll probably tease my mom about the now fourteen-year-old confiscation, and I’ll finally read that damn book.

So, Catholic nuns kinda rock.

Today a high school friend of mine shared this NPR piece on Facebook: An American Nun Responds To Vatican Criticism. In the NPR interview, Sister Pat Farrell, president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, speaks to the issues being raised by the Vatican’s current patriarchal attack on the organization; the Vatican has announced that three American bishops have been appointed to oversee it. According to the official Vatican assessment, the Conference is promoting “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

An excerpt of the interview with Sister Farrel, in response to criticism regarding the organization’s attitude towards sexuality:

We have been, in good faith, raising concerns about some of the church’s teachings on sexuality. The problem being that the teaching and interpretation of the faith can’t remain static and really needs to be reformulated, rethought in light of the world we live in. And new questions and new realities [need to be addressed] as they arise. And if those issues become points of conflict, it’s because Women Religious stand in very close proximity to people at the margins, to people with very painful, difficult situations in their lives. That is our gift to the church. Our gift to the church is to be with those who have been made poorer, with those on the margins. Questions there are much less black and white because human realities are much less black and white. That’s where we spend our days.

Preach!


This recent news coverage of apparently social justice oriented Catholic nuns has fostered the most pronounced positive feelings about anything connected to Catholicism that I’ve had in a long, long time. It’s also making me think fondly of my high school education by the Sisters of Mercy (and their fellow teachers and administrators who were lay people).

It’s funny — my all-girls Catholic high school was actually not the most horrible context in which to realize that I was queer.1 By senior year I was explicitly out to the directress (ie. principal), quite a few teachers, the school psychologist (VERY supportive and VERY helpful), my good friends, and a few classmates.

I imagine that quite a few other people knew as well; who knows if people guessed it. As for gender, it’s actually quite easy to be a stealth butch in an all-girls’ Catholic high school. We all wore the same uniforms, many people didn’t bother with makeup or go through any great lengths over appearance, and there was even a widespread trend of wearing boxers under one’s uniform kilt (a late root?) Outside of school I pretty much wore t-shirts and jeans unless forced not to for some occasion or another; since in our society masculinity is the default and is considered universally desirable (either desire of or desire to be), you can get away with that for a pretty long time as a person who’s assigned female at birth.

All of that is to say, my Catholic high school was in some ways astoundingly chill. I mean, I went on a school trip to see Rent on Broadway — as part of my senior year religion course named “Living and Dying.” I didn’t experience a single incident of homophobic harassment or teasing. My college essay had something about how coming out was a form of overcoming adversity in it and my guidance counselor and another teacher reviewed it for me; both were nothing but supportive. This wasn’t limited to acceptance around sexuality; hell, I can thank a high school religion teacher for my first introduction to Buddhism and meditation.

And yet, when it was all said and done, we were always “ladies,” one and all. We all had to own a white gown and wear it on command for special occasions. Religion classes and attendance at religious functions during school days were compulsory. Heterosexuality was absolutely the norm, though with no self-identified boys around I mostly got to ignore that.2 Except when I couldn’t, like when we had to create “wedding albums” for a religion assignment. (My ideal groom as depicted therein was John Lennon circa White Album.) There as a pro-life club but never a chance of a pro-choice club.3 A student two years above me got suspended — or was it expelled? — when she punched another girl in the Senior Lounge after she called her a dyke. (No punishment for the slur, so far as I heard.) I sure as hell wasn’t throwing a campus Pride parade any time soon. It was definitely Catholic with a capital C.

But flawed, repressive, and normative as my high school was, I got to experience a different side of Catholicism, the side that’s being highlighted in this article and the rest of the recent press coverage: the side where women are central, where women are in positions of power and leadership, and where an explicit part of the mission of the institution was to educate, enrich, and empower young women. You know, the actually kinda cool side of Catholicism.



1. OK, as soon as I wrote that I had to laugh. Yeah, being attracted to girls at an all-girls high school wasn’t the WORST thing in the world. Heh.


2. I did try to fit in my freshman year by tearing out the page from an issue of Superman in the “Superman’s Dead” arc where you see Superboy looking all fierce and muscular in his leather jacket and yelling “Don’t EVER call me SUPERBOY!” and putting it up on my locker door. But somehow putting up a picture of a comic book character didn’t go over so well. From then on I stuck to pictures of the Beatles.


3. I went to the March for Life in DC because I had a huge crush on a friend who was going; I got there, felt totally traumatized by all I saw, hid inside government buildings for most of the day with said friend, and never attended another pro-life event again.

A must see (to me): rapper Murs’ new video for “Animal Style”

This is Murs’ new video for “Animal Style,” a track off his 2011 album Love & Rockets Volume 1: The Transformation. A small portion of the accompanying explanation from rapper Murs, who plays Roderick in this video:

…I just felt it was crucial for some of us in the hip hop community to speak up on the issues of teen suicide, bullying, and the overall anti-homosexual sentiment that exist within hip hop culture. I felt so strongly about these issues and this song that I had to do a video that would command some attention, even if it makes some viewers uncomfortable. Even if it came at the cost of my own comfort.

Warning: depictions of extreme homophobia-fueled intimate partner violence (a murder-suicide) between two young men of color are included.

Edited to add: I’m really grateful to my partner M. for pointing out my initial blind spot: this video depicts intimate partner violence driven by homophobia. She added that “it’s important to note that all oppressions [including homophobia, racism, and classism/poverty] are ‘outside stressors’ in relationships.” Very, very true.

I am generally feeling more emotional than usual today; that said, this made me cry, because it was very moving, beautifully done, heartbreaking and very difficult to watch, and because I was glad to know that this exists. I know the video is probably worth a closer look and deeper analysis, but for now, this is what I’ve got.

PS: Murs’ album is called Love and Rockets, which rocks. Murs was at Comic Con, according to his Twitter feed. I gotta check him out more!

La piratería y el pillaje y los hot dogs: reflections on July 4th

Bandera de Estados Unidos, yo no te saludo, porque aunque sea cierto que tú eres símbolo de una patria libra y soberana, en Puerto Rico representas la piratería y el pillaje. -- Pedro Albizu Campos
English translation of Pedro Albizu Campos’ words: “Flag of the United States, I do not salute you, because while it is true that you are a symbol of a free and sovereign country, in Puerto Rico you represent piracy and pillage.”

Right when I was starting to wrap up work today, I saw Maegan post this image of Pedro Albizu Campos on Facebook. Her accompanying words: “It’s hard to celebrate the freedom of a country that prevents the freedom of so many others.” (See Maegan’s post on VivirLatino for more of her July 4th reflections as a Puerto Rican born in Queens — they resonate with me & my own experience deeply.)

I shared it on my wall as well, even though I was a little nervous about what some of my Puerto Rican family members, born both stateside and on the island, might think of it.

An aside: the May First/People Link server that this site is hosted on a server named “albizu.” Makes me happy.


I emerged from our office/library/storage space/dumping ground/guestroom to find that M. had already done laundry, gone to the grocery store, taken out both grills so we could choose which one would work best, set up the plastic chairs, prepped food, and cleaned up the house a bit. All in the first few hours of her day off. I started trying to hustle to try to do something resembling my fair share, which of course meant calming the fuck down first. I get unreasonably stressed out about throwing any event that involves prepping or cooking food. Rock Band, beer & ordering food in, now that I can handle.

Any excuse to gather with friends is good by me, though. Even if it’s a fraught excuse like July 4th. Sometimes you take advantage of this sort of holiday (we could all be off!) and try to tune the bad shit out. Sometimes little symbolic and entirely inconsequential rituals of rebellion can help. “Imma wear a black t-shirt today, damn it!”


A successful barbecue (besides melting part of the grill, oops) and at least five mosquito bites later, we migrated back inside and into the cool, soothing arms of air conditioning. When you sit on our couch, the big, beautiful flatscreen — product of my Dad’s jubilant slot machine jackpot at the beginning of the year that he died — beckons. It was only a matter of time. Two of our friends are Katy Perry fans, and she was performing on the Macy’s Fireworks Extravaganza or whatever they call it, so on it went.

First Kenny Chesney was on, so we got to keep it on mute. Then Katy Perry came on, and she was performing especially for The Troops™. She was wearing a sparkly flag dress so I made my usual snarky remark about how a real patriot would never desecrate the flag like that. There were some very excited Marines jumping up and down for her and we created a gay narrative about how they could now be openly gay agents of imperialism, capitalism and death soldiers. But even with the sarcasm, there was some sort of recognition, some teeny, tenuous connection formed.That’s how they get you — you start identifying with it even just a little and it starts worming into your head. I wanted to tweet or FB post “WHY IS THE PROPAGANDA ON MY TV” but didn’t.

An aside: M.2 reminded us that more than 80% of the US military is under the age of 21. I felt shocked, which is pretty silly. Of course. But damn. So young.

Luckily the fireworks started pretty soon thereafter.

It reminded me of one July 4th that we spent at my Tio Bobby’s place. I was really little. It felt like the party went on forever but I’m still pretty sure it was the 4th and not New Year’s because I remember the fireworks on the TV and being told how close we were to them in Englewood, but no ball dropping.

I had a lot more fun watching the fireworks show then than I did today. Don’t get me wrong; I love fireworks. They give me chills every time in person, but it’s just not the same on TV. (Even the magical jackpot TV.) Whenever the fireworks were accompanied by patriotic songs I occupied myself elsewhere. The armed forces medley made me positively flee and when I heard the words “I’m proud to be an American” blare from the speakers I thought I might need to cleanse my house afterward or something. They did sucker me in twice, though: once with Ray Charles’ rendition of “America,” and once with Whitney Houston’s “One Moment In Time.” Yeah, that one got chills from me, as always happens when Whitney hits the high points of her crescendos.

All in all, not so comfy for me. But I didn’t want to be a rude self-righteous little shit and I didn’t want to make my friends uncomfortable or spoil folks’ fun so I only let a little of my disdain and grump leak out while it was going on.

Because that’s apparently what I’ve been taught to think I’d be if I said “nah, this stuff is making my skin crawl and I feel uncomfortable in my own home and I think I actually have good reason to ask that we not watch it.” I’d be a rude self-righteous little shit.

Damn. Their tricks are good.


When you watch television without DVR, you get to see the stupidity they’re putting in commercials these days. But then your DVR lets you take great photos of the stupidity for the world to see.

This one is from a heinously awful commercial from McDonalds where a white artist gets so inspired by eating a spicy chicken nugget thing that he starts painting a mural in homage on the wall of his huge loft. He invites his cool-looking queer-ish friends of color over to admire his work and eat some more spicy chicken nugget things. It’s all about the BIG SPICE. Or is that…

McDonalds ad for Big Spic... hey wtf!Thanks to OMG (one of the few people in the room to whom that particular slur would NOT be applied, amusingly) for exclaiming over what he’d seen so we could rewind and laugh at it. It happens a few times in the commercial, actually.

Then this came up. This is apparently some new show on NBC. By the chaste, barely affectionate way they’re holding hands we can only assume that those two homosexuals on the left are legally married.

Ad for The New Normal, a TV show
A bunch of very white people front and center with one blonde Black woman in an outfit reminiscent of a uniform hidden in the background. Nah, that’s the OLD normal. Plus some gays. #pinkwashing