Monthly Archives: September 2011

Post the Twenty-Third or On #OccupyWallStreet

A revolution is coming to this country. A revolution the likes of which this nation has never seen, both in scale and in non-violence. And it’s spreading. Quickly. What started as a midsize protest of Wall Street in New York has quickly been taken up by many cities including Boston, Chicago and San Francisco, with many more being organized and started. A few hundred have rapidly expanded to a few thousand and more people are joining everyday.

For the first time in a generation people are standing up and saying No to corporations.

People of all stripes are rebelling against those systems and organizations that keep us downtrodden. They are rebelling against banks and corporations that have almost complete control over our country and that pursue global empire. They are rebelling against those forces that have made a mockery of the democratic process and make our lives so much harder to lead. They are rebelling against those institution to revolutionize this world and make it fully equitable. They are gathering and participating in a revolution that is consensus based with voices for all.  This is a grass-roots movement at its finest.

More importantly, however, is its effectiveness and the reaction it is eliciting from mainstream America. For almost the first week of the Occupation, there was a total media black out. None of the major news networks were running the story and even now, 13 days into it, very few are talking about it. This blackout speaks volumes because who owns the major news networks? They know that the revolution is starting and they are hoping that a media blackout will stall us. It seems that that is not the case. Not only that but its interesting to note that those same news stations were quick to speak on the populist revolutions in other countries like Egypt. They were quick to applaud those people who were throwing off the shackles of tyranny and creating for themselves the country that they envision. A country that they created on their own terms. The hypocrisy is galling.

The other thing that is very interesting is the police response to non-violent protestors. I’m sure many of you have seen the videos, and if you haven’t please go here, of a white collar police officer macing a group of protestors at point black range. Not only that but there were over 80 arrests that day, most of which were overly aggressive. There are photos and videos of folks being slammed against the ground, of getting dragged into the middle of the street by the hair, and one instance of someone being arrested merely for having a professional camera.

On last thing to note is how this movement reflects in many ways the movement here at Out Youth to change things. Young people and community members are using consensus-based decision making and grassroots organizing to revolutionize how Out Youth is run and to change the dynamic to put the power back in the hands of the young people. Like those at Wall Street, we are trying to revolutionize the systems so that they work for us and not keep us oppressed.

For the first time since the 60s, people are mobilizing and saying enough is enough. And its happening everywhere. I would encourage all of my readers to join their city’s Occupy movement so that we can change this world to make it a fully equitable place. It is going to take all of us working together in solidarity to revolutionize this world. And we will succeed.

We are too big to fail.

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Post the Twenty-Second or On Why Sluts are Awesome

I am a slut.

There. I said it. I said the unspeakable and admitted to the gravest of sins. I admitted that I enjoy sex. I admitted that I enjoy sex with many people, sometimes at the same time! I admitted that I have ownership over my sexuality and that I can choose who I have sex with and, more importantly, who I don’t have sex with.

But being a slut is more about than just enjoying sex. It’s about enjoying pleasure and my body for its own sake. It’s about recognizing that pleasure is good and allowing myself to enjoy pleasure. It’s about denying a sex- and body-negative culture that teaches us every day to hate our bodies and the beautiful things it can do.

Being a slut means that I prize consent. It means that I know yes only means yes and no always means no. It means that when someone says no, I don’t ask or cajole them to change their minds. It means that no is a complete sentence and requires no justification or explanation. It means that I always ask permission before hugging someone. It means that I know that consent is fucking sexy.

Being a slut means that I am honest about my emotions and where I am coming from. It means that when I’m angry or upset with my sexual or romantic partner, I tell them. It means that I disclose any pertinent sexual history that I have to my sexual or romantic partner. It means that I make sure that I communicate my boundaries and limits clearly. Being a slut means that I advocate for myself. Being a slut means I take care of myself.

Being a slut means that I know how to keep myself safe. It means that I know how to put on a condom and use a dental dam. It means that I know the risks involved in certain acts and I can revaluate whether I want to take that risk at any point. It means that I take the time to protect myself and my partner and still enjoy myself.

Most of all, being a slut means that I love myself.

At this point you may cry, “But Morgan!! How can sluts love themselves? They are indiscriminate slatterns who wreck homes and only have all this sex precisely because they don’t love themselves! They use sex to boost their self-esteem!”

To which I would reply that yes, people like that do exist. People use sex to harm themselves and others. Just like some people use alcohol to harm themselves and others. I’m not denying that. What I am denying is that all sluts are like that. What I am denying is the heterosexist, monogamy-centric culture that tells us that the only healthy way to have sex is in a committed monogamous relationship. What I am denying is the erroneous assumption that sex should only be had as a means to an end. That sex should only be used to get a relationship. What I am denying is that I can’t be a healthy, well-adjusted (whatever that means), young adult and also have a lot of sex and enjoy it.

What I am affirming is that sex is a means in itself. What I am affirming is that I love myself because by making the conscious decision to have sex with who I want, I am affirming ownership over my own body. I am affirming that I can do what I want with my body. Conversely, by consciously making a decision to not have sex with someone, I am reaffirming that ownership by withholding sex when I want to. I am affirming that I won’t let anyone have ownership over me, unless I consent to it.

Don’t get me wrong. If monogamous relationships work for you, then I encourage you to follow your bliss. I merely would like to motivate you to think critically about the narratives that you have been given by society, and question whether those narratives reflect what you truly desire. If they do, fantastic. If they don’t, that is also fantastic and I would say that it’s time for some exploring and experimenting. Its time for all of us to create our own narratives.

For can we truly consent to something if we don’t know all the options?


Post the Twenty-First or A Eulogy for Troy Davis

I am Troy Davis

A man was murdered this week. A man was murdered at the hands those who purport that they pursue justice. This week was the culmination of a whole system of inequity that claimed the life of an innocent man. And this murder was not the first and is unlikely to be the last of its kind.

Troy Davis was lynched.

Let’s not mince words here, Troy Davis was killed because he was black. He was killed because of the racism endemic to the Prison-Industrial Complex. He was killed because of a system that keeps people oppressed and creates slave labor. He was killed because we operate under a system of legalized murder.

There was no weapon found, no DNA that matched his and 7 out of the 9 witnesses recanted their statements. It all pointed to, if not innocence, than enough doubt that capital punishment should have been out of the question. But did Georgia give him clemency? No. Would he have gotten clemency if he had been white? My intuition says yes. Troy Davis’s case exemplifies perfectly the horrific nature of the Prison-Industrial Complex.

The Prison-Industrial Complex has a history of convicting and imprisoning more people of color, poor people, young people and queer/trans people than their straight/cisgender, more affluent, older and white counterparts. Moreover, people in prisons are oftentimes treated without respect and dignity. They are confined in tight spaces with very little freedom to move about. They are more often than not the last to get evacuated in natural disaster situations, if they are evacuated at all. People who can’t afford bail are trapped in jails even though they have not been convicted of anything. Trans people specifically are denied the clothing of their corresponding identity and are placed in cells with people of their birth assigned gender. They are also denied access to the hormones that they might want and are either address with incorrect pronouns or with epithets or both.

On top of that, there is often a very strong police presence in low-income communities and in communities of color and people who live in those communities are often suspected of wrong doing even when they aren’t doing anything. Not only that but the police have a history of using excessive force on people who aren’t older, white, straight and affluent. How many times do we hear about another police officer brutalizing a young person of color and not having to face any reprisals?

And a lot of this oppression is motivated by capitalism. It is motivated by a desire to make money. Not only because prisoners are forced to do slave labor, but also because prisons are being privatized. As this privatization occurs, more and more people are convicted to populate these prisons which then increases the company’s profit.

At the end of all of this violence is capital punishment. Capital punishment is the culmination of this great big hate machine. It is the final act of violence. The final act of a depraved and dehumanizing system.

Capital punishment is both morally repugnant and degrading to all people involved.

It does nothing but continue the cycle of violence that many people are born into. Moreover, it does little to prevent crime. This is because negative reinforcement is much less effective than positive reinforcement. And it doesn’t get much more negative than capital punishment. Capital punishment does nothing to “rehabilitate” the prisoner. It adds nothing to the fabric of society. It can only take away. It is expensive and ineffective.

Aside from all that, however, is the fact that killing is always wrong. Let me repeat that. Killing is always wrong. It doesn’t matter what the person in question did or what they will do, killing for any reason is wrong because that person is still a person. This is the fact that I want to drive home, people who commit crimes are still people with hopes and dreams and fears. They are still people who experience suffering and joy, love and hate. They are people who’s dignity must be respected. The minute we dehumanize someone is the minute we think that we can do as we like someone. We must always remember that humans never lose their humanity.

Moreover, capital punishment does not address the underlying issues why crime occurs. It does not treat the cause, it merely ineffectively treats the symptom.

If you want to reduce crime, reduce poverty.


Post the Twentieth or On Understanding Intersectionality

I went to an Out Youth event last night and it was fucking amazing. There were many amazingly talented young queers and a warm fuzzy sense of community. It showed me once again why it is that I do what I do. It reaffirmed my belief that inspiring queer youth voices is life-saving and life-changing. And it was really nice to have everyone like my poem.

There was one problem, however. Well, there were two problems but I’m only going to go into one of them. That problem was the emcee. The emcee was a gay white man, and from what I could tell he was middle-upper class. This emcee, who’s name escapes me at the moment, made two comments that really bothered many of us, and he was mis-pronouning our trans youth left and right. The first comment went something like this:

Performer:”This song is about a chicken.”

Emcee: “Is it a Chinese chicken? You know, like chickity china the Chinese chicken?”

And the second comment went something like this:

Emcee: “Just a shameless plug for my event blah blah blah which happens at this place on the east side. Its on the corner of 7th and homeless! No really, the ARCH center is right down the street.”

At that point, I had had enough of this guy so I booed him and told him that the “homeless” comment was not okay. Those two “jokes” were inappropriate because they were racist and classist. Moreover, the audience was mostly queers and a lot of them queer people of color. Homelessness and poverty effect queer young people, and queer young people of color more strongly than their white and straight/cisgender counterparts. That makes the comment even worse because some of the young people there that night have been, or are presently affected by, homelessness and poverty – either because they were kicked out of their homes for being queer or trans, or because they were raised in impoverished neighborhoods.

The other comment is also problematic because of the way it objectifies and dehumanizes Chinese folks, and, by extension, all folks of color. It exotizes Chinese people, which, in turn, perpetuates the exotification of different cultures and all people of color.

This behavior is endemic to the gay white male community. The reason for this is that since they are gay, they think that they are an oppressed group. And rightfully so because gay people are oppressed. However, the problem lays in the fact that because of their gay identity, most of them fail to understand that they still possess a whole hell of a lot of privilege. They still have the privilege that comes with being white and being male. And since they don’t examine their privilege, they think it’s cool to make racist and classist comments; not to mention giving transfolk all kinds of shit from mis-prouning to invalidating their identities.

This, then, is where intersectionality comes in. By understanding that the multiple identities we hold can afford us different privileges, or subject us to different forms oppression, we can see how they interact to keep each other in place. Let me make one thing clear: this is not about comparing dick sizes. This isn’t about seeing who can win “the Most Oppressed Game.” This is about understanding the realities of the world we live in and how different forms of power and oppression work together to keep them in place. It is about how we all contribute to the status quo in one way or another. And by achieving that understanding we can attack those systems that keep us all oppressed.

Another thing that I think must be understood is that the emcee in question is a product of our society. He can, of course, go through the transformative process necessary to fight against these systems, but it would be very difficult to do that on his own. I don’t write this as a personal attack to anyone. In fact, nothing that I write should be seen as an attack. Rather, it should be seen as a critical call to action for all of us so that we can continue to grow and, in the process, save lives.

Understanding and dismantling power and privilege is something that needs to be done everyday. It is something that needs to happen if we are going to change this world for the better. This is especially true of ourselves. We need to understand our own privilege and how it manifests in order to dismantle power.

We need to understand that we are all in this together.


Post the Nineteenth or Black Clouds

We kissed

His lips were like two dark soft

clouds

Dancing high in the air

They seemed so unattainable at the time

But here we were

Locked in a struggle of labial dominance

What was I do to but float with him?

Soaring through the air

Cresting and falling in turn

My breath catching in my throat

My heart beating ever faster

And still

We kissed

For what seemed like an eternity and a day

Stars were born and died

In the space of that moment

Glaciers froze and melted

Continents shifted and broke apart only to rejoin

And still

We kissed

And I knew that a kiss like this could

topple empires

and raise up gods

A kiss like this

I knew would change the world

I can only imagine what the sex will be like


Post the Eighteenth or Dismantling Power Part II

In my previous post, I wrote about my experiences at Pride and how they were lessons in power. I mentioned that there was another intimate instance this week about power and it was at the Out Youth board meeting.

The board meeting was a badass example of community organizing. We flooded the meeting with our thoughts, our voices and our hearts. Young people and adults alike stood up bravely and spoke on behalf of the family as well as the organization. It was moving in many ways, not the least of which because I was social justice orgasming left and right.

At one point, people began to talk over each other and the board was attempting to take control of our meeting when Gabi raised her voice and passionately declared the types of strategies that everyone should be thinking about and basically calling them inept. She shouted down the board as well as the community members who were clamoring to be heard. It was an awe inspiring sight to see. It felt like Gabi was speaking with all our voices.

The board responded in turn by saying that they felt that they had been abused. Which is interesting to me because being abused seems to me to involve a lack of power. If you are abused you are generally disempowered and yet the board are very clearly empowered. They are the ones who wield all the legal power at Out Youth. Moreover, those community members who were there felt that Gabi’s action was appropriate and righteous.

But that’s the nature of power. If you have it, it allows you to ignore it. It allows you to not see it because by its very nature power is subtle.

Not only does the Board of Directors have legal power and privilege they also have adult power and privilege. So when they have the audacity to say that they feel abused I can’t help but react negatively. Not only because they can’t really be abused but also because they, and the institution they represent, have inflicted abuse on those without power for years by not listening and by making decisions that are not in the best interest of our community.

So the next time you are upset at a young person passionately voicing their feelings remember that we are all a product of the world we live in.


Post the Seventeenth or Dismantling Power Part I

The past few weeks have been an intense lesson in power and how it manifests. In many ways, this lesson is much more intimate and closer to home than the other daily subtle lessons in power for reasons I will mention later. Two events stand out in my mind. This post will address the first, stay tuned for the next one.

The first was Pride. The Pride parade was itself fun. We had kick ass young people and amazing volunteers and staff there. We had a phoenix puppet and a banner and I was equipped with a bull horn. We marched, we chanted, we rabble roused. There are three reasons, however, why that morning was a lesson in power. The first was the spectators, the second was the corporate sponsors and the third was the lack of people of color. The Pride parade was originally intended to be a celebration of queerness. It was to fly in the face of all the heteronormative institutions. It was one huge middle finger to heteronormative and cisnormative society because it said that we would not conform. It said that we would live out loud and that we demanded acceptance and celebration of our identities. And it was filled with trannies, people of color and poor people. Back then there were no spectators and no corporate sponsors.

The fact that there are now straight and queer people watching from the sidelines is very telling. It tells me that for many of those people, whether consciously or unconsciously, the battle is already won. We have assimilated into mainstream hetero culture. It tells me that they have accepted the privilege of heteronormative culture. To them, Pride isn’t about rejecting heteronormativity and class privilege. To them it is about showing het culture that we are “just like them.” It is about acceptance through assimilation.

The fact that there were corporate floats and corporate sponsors and the fact that you have to pay to get into the parade (and festival) shows me that our community has been in many ways transformed into a commodity. We are a community to market to and because of that there is a media illusion that most queer, or rather gay, people are affluent. Again, Pride isn’t a celebration of our myriad identities but rather an event where corporations can sell shit to middle-upper class white folks. Pride has become the biggest symbol of queer assimilation.

Not only were there a preponderance of corporate sponsors but there was also a dearth of people of color. This speaks to me the most because it says that in many ways we have forgotten or failed to take into account the intersectionality of identity and we fail to stand in solidarity with people of color. The fact that there were very few people of color and organizations of color marching in the Parade highlights the fact that Pride is not about queer culture but rather about white heteronormative culture that includes gay people. It perpetuates the illusion that the only gay people that exist are white. By not be people of color inclusive Pride perpetuates racism and classism which in turn supports heteronormativity and queer and transphobia.

You might at this point be asking what this has to do with dismantling power and I would argue that if we are going to dismantle power, if we are going to make a world that is truly equitable for all we need to recognize the privilege of those sitting on the sidelines. The very fact that they can is indicative of the kind of privilege that runs rampant in the gay community. And it is that privilege that keeps the status quo in place and keeps progress from happening.

In the struggle for liberation, there can be no spectators.