Tag Archives: liberation

Post the Ninth 2 or On the State and Activism

It has been a hard week.  Yesterday, the Supreme Court gutted the Voters Right Act. They basically said that the high voter registration of people of color and the fact that we elected a Black president means that we no longer need to ensure that people of color are not disenfranchised. Now, states do not need to submit their voting regulations to the federal government for approval. This means that states have the autonomy to change their procedures as they like, like instituting literacy tests and having a voter ID. It is the a huge blow against all of the work that the Civil Rights Movement built. It amazes me how so many decades of struggle can be undone in one day. It amazes me how many people died in Selma and other places in the South to try to vote and how easily the Supreme Court spit on their legacy. Our elders went through hell to pass that bill and in the blink of an eye it is gone.

Already, several states in the South have vowed to implement voter ID laws and early voting restrictions that were prohibited by the sections of the VRA that the court struck down. Because thats the thing; as much as the State and the Media would like to tell us, we are not post-racial. We do not live in a world that doesn’t see color. And anyone who tells you that is a fucking liar. The evidence that racism is still institutional is plain to see. From higher incarceration rates for Black and Brown folks, to Native families still being torn apart, to the higher rates of violence and murder to trans women of color, to the constant attack on reproductive rights, one can plainly see that racial justice has not been served. Almost 50 years since the start of the Civil Rights Movement, we are still not free. We are still struggling against colonialism and genocide.

But even though it is plain to us, it is not plain to white people. Because they don’t have to experience it like we do, they do not need to look at it. In fact, the system is set up so that white people can ignore it. This is called systemic white ignorance. In a nut shell, this means that white folks are choosing not to believe that these things still happen because to do so would admit being a guilty for the subjugation of others. On top of that, people of color are dehumanized at every turn and so white folks can more easily ignore the injustices made against us because we are not seen as fully human. They choose to ignore it because they can.

One of the goals of the Civil Rights Movement was to gain full access to State participation. They were struggling for recognition as full fledged citizens of the United States. They wanted to be fully protected and equal under the law. They were organizing to have full voting access, to be represented in legislative bodies. And I want to honor their struggle. I know that I am here because of them. I want to honor their legacy. However, if I’ve learned anything in these short years of my life, it is that the State will not protect me. The State, which is one of the biggest perpetrators of racial, gender and class violence will not fix the problems that it created. The State is predicated on colonial, patriarchal and genocidal logic. You cannot fix a system that was never broken. The system was designed this way. It was intentional.

The only reason why SB5 didn’t pass last night in the state legislature is because over 2000 people were holding the State accountable. Otherwise, they would have passed that shit, no problem.

So as I see the State continue to legislate against Black and Brown bodies, against women, against queer and trans people of color, I am continually reminded that the Masters tools will not dismantle the Masters house. I am recommitting myself to the revolutionary actions of my ancestors. I am recommitting myself to the collective liberation of all people. I am recommitting myself to dismantling the Masters house from the outside, using art and collective struggle across difference to bring down those systems that want to destroy me.


Post the Eighty-Third or On Where I Stand

The following is a bit of reflexivity that I feel I needed to own up to on my blog. I think its important that I articulate my social location because it affects what I see and where I am coming from when I write. I’ll probably repost this in my about page, as well. Enjoy!

I am a pansexual, Pagan, kinky, able-bodied, neuro-atypical trans woman of color. I am a first generation american. My mother emigrated here without documents from Colombia shortly before I was born and my father was born in Florida but raised in Puerto Rico. I was born into a working class family but have recently joined the middle class due to my mother’s employment at a bank. I suffer from major depressive disorder and I am a recovering alcoholic. I was born and raised in Boston.

I went to one of the best public high schools in Boston and got many scholarships to attend Northeastern.

I feel that I occupy a strange space within the classroom as well as in the world at large. I have been very, very fortunate. When I came out as trans, my mother did not kick me out of her home. I have a lot of educational privilege as well as class privilege. Thus, I have been able to escape much of the violence that my sisters are subjected too. I have never had to resort to survival sex work. I’ve never been homeless. I’ve never gone hungry. I’ve never been assaulted, although I have been frequently harassed. And I’ve had the time, energy and resources to pursue a college degree.

Because I have health insurance, given to me through my mother, I have been able to pay for the hormones for transition and have undergone some electrolysis. Three years into my transition, I read very well. The only ones, usually, who read me as trans are those who know what they are looking for; namely, other queers and trans people. Many of my sisters do not have that luxury.

I am also light skinned so while racism still affects me, I am treated much better than my sisters with dark skin.

My position as a queer, light skinned trans woman of color allows me to see the many ways that the various systems of power and oppression operate but my class and educational privilege allows me to mitigate the ways that they affect me. While I struggle against cissexism, racism, heterosexism etc, my middle class and educational privilege allows me some wiggle room. While it might be harder for me to get a job than a white man, I will still have the qualifications to apply. Because of my light skin and the fact that I talk “white”, folks with privileged identities are more likely to listen to me than they are to my sisters with darker skin and less access to education.

My experience is informed by my identity and my identity informs my experience. They are the two sides of the same coin. I cannot tease one out and say that one aspect of my identity as informed my experience the most. They are not separate strands of the same cord. Rather, I think that my identity and my experience are a multi-layered portrait. Its existence, and resultant beauty, comes from their unity. This is because I experience them all at the same time. The types of experiences that I have are, at times, a direct result of my identity. And my identity is a consequence of my experiences.

I think that my “purpose”, if you will, is to open the way for others like me to have their voices heard. I feel that because I’ve had the opportunity to study the work of feminist authors/philosophers/poets that have come before me, via my education, I am able to integrate their analyses into my cultural organizing. I want for other trans women of color to have a visible, articulated presence. I want to open the way for other girls like me to liberate ourselves and smash the systems that keep us oppressed. I want the radical theory, the radical vision for a new world to leave the academy and enter the hands of those who will use it to make this world a better place.

My job is not to educate or coddle white people, straight people, cisgender people. My job is not to convince would-be “allies” to “help” us. My job is not to be liked.

My job, as I see it, is to blaze a trail with poetry and art for a space for trans feminine people of color. My job is to work with other Q/TPoC and our comrades (whether straight or queer or PoC or white) to create a self-sustaining community that loves and affirms its own existence and struggles against all systems of oppression. My job is to hold people with privilege accountable. My job is to love myself and protect myself against those systems that would co-opt me, silence me and destroy me. My job is to surround myself by people who love me.

            My job is to struggle for the collective liberation of all people.


Post the Fifty-Fifth or On the Necessity of Space

We all need space to survive and thrive. Living space in which we can rest and recuperate. Working space in which we can produce. Recreative space so that we can enjoy ourselves. Many of these different kinds of space can, and often do, overlap so that our living space can also be our recreative space or working space or both. There are, obviously, many other divisions and manifestations of space that I haven’t mentioned but you understand what I’m getting at.

Space is holistic. By that I mean, the different kinds of space that we occupy effect one another. What happens in one space, effects the rest. What happens at work, you bring home and what happens when you are enjoying yourself is brought to work. They are all interrelated and interdependent on each other. Obviously, one can compartmentalize one’s spaces so that the external factors don’t effect each other but they are all still connected within you. The internal factors, namely your thoughts, emotions and reactions to the space all effect each other.

There is one type of space in particular that I would like to explore here. That is, what I like to call, social space (if there is a better term I would love to hear it). Social space is the energetic, emotional, psychic, and physical space that allows individual’s voices to be expressed and heard. It allows for an articulation of a specific experience and a platform from which that experience can be articulated. This space is, more then all the others, is vital for the thriving and longevity of those who occupy it. It is through this space that we meet others like us, where we see our stories reflected in each other and where we can find our spiritual ancestry, our elders. This  space can manifest many ways, from an anthology of writing or media program to a party to a protest.

For many folks, social space is given to them. Especially if one is white, male, cisgender, able-bodied, straight etc. The more privileged identities that one possesses, the more space society gives you to live and express yourself safely. Conversely, the fewer privileged identities that one possess, the less space one is given. Further, not all privileges are equal. The privilege that you get for being white, and thus the space that you are given, is a lot larger then the lack of space that one experiences if one is gay (especially since the rise of Gay, Inc). Put in another way, one experiences more privileges for being white then disadvantages to being gay. If one is white and gay, one still has it pretty good.

And yet the ones who need to most to even survive are often denied it. They have to carve that space out for themselves from the margins of society. They have to fight tooth and nail to not be subsumed by those elements that would rather that they don’t exist. Those spaces are hard to find and when one does find them, they are often hard because they need to be for their continued existence.

I write this piece to, hopefully, start the conversation about having a space for trans feminine people of color. If this was the 80s and I lived in New York, I would just have to go to the Balls to get that space. Or I could be a street-based sex worker to get that space. But these are both not open to me for many reasons. These spaces, while at the same time life-saving and risky as hell, are tucked away and inaccessible to those who don’t live in a major city. Further, it seems that where there is community and space for trans feminine POC, there is no articulated body politic about what it means to be trans feminine and brown in this world that is male and white. (If this isn’t the case and this exists somewhere, PLEASE TELL ME.)

Past movements have created spaces for themselves. The feminist movement, both WOC and white, have created spaces for themselves. White mainstream lesbians and gays have also created spaces for themselves. The Chican@ and immigrant’s rights movement have created spaces for themselves. Trans masculine POC have created a space for themselves. The list goes on. And trans feminine POC have existed in the fringes of each of these movements but have never, to my knowledge, had an articulated presence. Even in the beginning of the queer rights movement which was started by trans feminine POC, the difference between trans* people and gay people was not articulated until gay people expelled trans* people from their movement.

I want to help create a space for trans feminine POC that envisions a radical restructuring of the world where power and resources are shared equitably. I want a space where our stories, our narratives, our spirits, our desires will be heard, understood and celebrated. I want our art, our poetry, our writing to have a platform from which others can hear it. I want our fucking to cease being fetishized and freaky. I want my sisters to stop being killed for their desire. I want a space where we can develop our body politic for ourselves, not by outsiders. I want to bring our elders out of hiding or create a space for elderhood to exist.

But most of all I want to know that I am not alone.


Post the Forty-Second or On Pretty Privilege

How many times have you interacted with a person and they did something annoying but you let them off the hook because you thought they were cute? Or smiled and put that little extra nutmeg in someone’s latte because you thought they would notice and it would get them to talk to you? Or open the door for some hot young thing to check out their ass? Or took that flyer because the canvaser was hot?

What you were doing then and in so many infinitesimal interactions is something that I think isn’t talked about enough. I think that it’s called pretty privilege. Those that are deemed attractive by society are often given an easier time. Whether through forbearance of punishment for bad behavior or through getting a job over someone else, pretty privilege is a big deal!

The other thing that I think is interesting to note is how much correlation pretty privilege has with white privilege, cisgender privilege and class privilege. This is because those classes of people all adhere most closely to the general societal standard of beauty. Who do you see that are models, actors and superstars? Mostly white, cisgender, rich people. To be sure, there are many POC who are those things but they are a drop in the bucket and, more often then not, those POC are prized for their “exotic” look. It is just another manifestation of tokenization. Moreover, they are the exception that proves the rule.

I think one of the most radical things we can do, as oppressed peoples, is reclaim our bodies as our own and reject those normative standards of beauty. We need to see our bodies, our lives, as beautiful. We need to not only be ok with our bodies but also celebrate them for their difference, their gorgeousness. We need to look in the mirror and be able to masturbate to our own image. We need to see our wild, natural hair and our thick thighs and see them as the epitome of splendor. We need to be able to dance in the street and shout that we are fucking hot!

Is this easy? Hell no! We need to deprogram decades and decades of messages that tells us that we are ugly, worthless and unworthy of love. This is hard work! And it is only done with the gentleness of a community of people that love and affirm us. Because otherwise, the constant batter of hatred that we face in everyday life will convince us that we are ugly, worthless and unworthy of love. We need to have the place to come home to to heal and recover and remember who we are.

And if no one has told you yet today; You are absolutely beautiful.

PS I’m so sorry for the lack of posting lately!! I’ve been working on a semi-big piece and I’ve also moved back to Boston and started school. There is just a lot of craziness right now! But I promise to start posting more regularly!


Post the Thirty Ninth or On the Importance of Labels

Labels are the way that we communicate with other people about ourselves. They save us time and processing power when we are telling others of our experience. Its much easier to say that I’m queer then it is to explain all of the things that are involved in that word. Labels are the maps that we can show others so that they can see where we have been, where we are, and where we are going. But, like a map, the label does not fully convey the essence of the person. It gives a general outline but if one is going to truly see and know what is there, one needs to be on the ground exploring. And I feel that folks forget that labels are just tools or maps to be wielded and that our actions don’t need to always “reflect” those labels. The terrain doesn’t need to match the map exactly and in fact such a project is impossible. Not only do labels act as maps but they also act as boundary markers. When I assert that I’m queer, I am making space for my experience and narrative. I am rejecting the normative narrative of heterosexism and say that I am not that. I am defining myself in relationship with what I am not.

Moreover, labels are empowering. This is because by owning that part of your self, you come to a greater understanding of who you are as a person and you are able to love yourself on a much deeper level. By seeing that part of yourself for what it is, and embracing it, you are rejecting the normative and oppressive ways of being that need your complicit thoughtlessness to continue. By being thoughtful, you are better able to reclaim your power and take action against those systems of oppression.

The other interesting aspect about labels is that many of them aren’t chosen by us. They are placed on us by how society perceives us. For example, the fact that I have brown skin makes it so that people perceive me as a person of color. Regardless if I identify with that label or not, that is still a label placed on me and that is apparent by the way that people and society treat me. Another example is being trans*. Nine times out of ten, I can pass as a cis woman. It is only when I out myself as trans* that folks treat me in a different way because of the way that they perceive me.

It really frustrates me, then, to hear folks say things like “I hate labels. I’m just me.” More often then not, these people are white, straight, upper-middle class, cisgender etc. They usually hold many privileged identities and labels. And they reason they can just “be themselves” is because the labels and identities that they hold are the societal norm. They have never had to think about their identites and labels because they don’t need to define themselves against the norm. There is no need to delineate that space because society has already given them that space. Moreover, it is very invalidating to people with oppressed identities because it says to them, “I can just be me. Why can’t you just be you?” And the fact of the matter is, I can’t just be “me” because of the history of oppression that surrounds and defines my existence as a human being. The me that I am is informed and created out of that oppression.

Not only that but saying that “I’m just me” reinforces the false idea of individualism. Put in another way, it says that we all exist in alone in a vacuum and that we don’t effect one another. It insists that there are no greater systems of power at work in our lives. It says that we are the sole mover in our lives and that our success or failure relies only on how hard we work. It also downplays the individual’s role in upholding and perpetrating systems of power and oppression. But that isn’t the case, is it? The fact of the matter is, there are systems of power and oppression at work that make being successful easier or more difficult depending on the kind of body that you possess. The world is much more complicated then just individuals moving through the world. Society takes and forms us and we have more agency in this world if we are white, rich, male, straight, cisgender etc. Individualism, and by extension the denials of labels, fails to see that.

Saying that you “Just want to be me” is one of the biggest sign of privilege and lack of awareness as to how the world works. It speaks to an absence of recognition of one’s relation to the world. And it’s just plain ignorant.


Post the Thirty-Eighth or Essentials

There are two things

An activists needs

In spades

Intelligence

and

Compassion

Intelligence

To perceive and understand

The vast and complex systems of power

And oppression

To see and comprehend that

Monstrous dark machine

Whose gears grind you to dust

And set that dust to work

Intelligence

To detect and know

That this machine is

Subtle and invisible

Compassion

To see all that great monstrosity

And still have the strength

The wisdom

To love the world anyway

Compassion

To stolidly stand up

To that machine

And say

No

I want a better world


Post the Thirty-Forth or On Rewriting Myths

Myths surround and inform our existence. From the myth of the American Dream to the myth of how George Washington cannot tell a lie. In many, subtle ways they imbue our subconscious with the values and ideals of American society. However, many, if not all, of those values and ideals are oppressive. Because this country was founded on colonialism and the backs of brown and black people, the values and ideals that spring up from that foundation are bound to be rotten. From the ideal that hard work always pays off (you can ask the people on the Rez if thats true) to the value of profit over people, its obvious that the framework that America operates under is flawed.

Much of the work that we do challenges and attempts to transform those ideals. We use a variety of tactics to ameliorate the damages that those ideals cause, such as create community centers, get stolen wages back, and provide free therapy. We used education and leadership engagement to enlighten folks to the reality of the world we live in and give them the tools to change it. Which in turn leads to a lot of work to create change systemically so that those direct services are less necessary, such as direct action, protests, and grassroots organizing. We use those tactics to create a more equitable world. And while many of these address the underlying issues that cause inequity, I believe that we a missing an important element. That is, we aren’t challenging the framework, the myths, that inform and support the inequitable society that we live in.

How, then, do we challenge that framework?

We challenge this framework by challenging and changing the myths that inform that framework.

Take, for example, the myth of Thanksgiving. The myth states that sometime in November the pilgrims had a grand feast, back when the pilgrims were new arrivals, and invited the Natives. They threw this feast because they were thankful for the Native people for teaching them how to survive in their new and harsh environment. They joined together in peace and harmony and parted as friends, in happy coexistence.

The reality is that, after the Civil War, Lincoln wanted a holiday that would bring people together, especially a holiday that would help reintegrate the North and the South. So, he produced the Thanksgiving myth to foster a sense of community. However, its clear that the “event” that inspired Thanksgiving is a fabrication. Did Native people help out the pilgrims when they first landed here? Maybe. But despite that, the pilgrims were harbingers of a colonization and genocide of those  Native people. A colonization and genocide that is still going on to this day. And it is essential that we recognize that. Otherwise, this false ideal of “everyone can just get along” will be given currency when its clear that oppressed people cannot “get along” with colonizers because of that history of colonization.

So, how do we reclaim Thanksgiving? We must first recognize that we can’t divorce the holiday from its history; indeed we can’t divorce anything from its history because it is that history that gives the thing form. Instead, we need to acknowledge that history and endeavor to change it, moving forward. In the case of Thanksgiving, we can say that the holiday is about getting together with queer familia and not about pilgrims and Native people. We can say that Thanksgiving is about the radical action of gratitude, because capitalism has taught us to always want more, more, more. We can say that it is about honoring our madre tierra for supporting and sustaining us. In short, it can be about whatever we want it to be, as long as we remember the history.

It is by remembering our history that we can move forward and rewrite our destinies.