Tag Archives: QPOC

Post the Ninety-Third or A Breath of Chocolate

Anger comes easy. Anger is something that I’ve always known. It is a hard, bristling carapace that keep out things that hurt me. A scab that has been ripped off and reformed so many times, I no longer feel it. But even still, I don’t mind it. It has its uses. It keeps me safe. I thought that I was impenetrable. Until I met him.

The day was hot. The kind of hot that gets into your lungs and brain. Sluggish heat that makes it hard to breathe and even harder to find motivation to do anything but lay on the floor like a salamander. Stretching one’s limbs so that one can find some whisper of coolness. And yet, the cafe still managed to be filled with regulars. Yuppies and hippes rubbing shoulders in a house turned coffee shop. The wooden floors worn from years of domestic and buisness related traffic. Art of varying degrees of skill adorned the forest green walls. I had just finished cleaning the counter for a second time and I stared at the clock, willing it go faster. It was with relief, than, that he was here. Finally something to do.

“What can I get you, sir?”

He stood with his arms crossed as he studied the menu. “What’s good here?”

I rake my eyes across his body, up and down once, smirking “Well, I really like a tall cup of hot black coffee. Drink you- I mean, it, all day”

He gives me a look that says, you-are-either-trying-really-hard-or-are-you-this-corny-all-the-time.

“I also make a mean Americano. Two shots poured over ice, with a cool breath of chocolate.”

He smiles, “Sounds refreshing. But does it taste as good as it sounds?”

I lean over the counter, trying to emphasize my clevage, “You’ll just have to taste it to find out.”

He licks his lips, looking slightly uncomfortable. “I’ll take one, then.”

I smile wickedly and set about making his drink. I steal covert glances at him over the espresso machine as I grind the coffee and pour the shot, hot and fresh. I noticed the way he carried himself, how he interacted with his surroundings. Gentle, yet I could tell that he did not suffer fools. He seemed cuddly but I knew he could cut me just as easily. It hit me, he was trans*.

The ice melts slightly as I pour the hot shots over it and drizzle the chocolate. I can say without ego that it was probably the best drink I had ever made.

“Here you go, sir.” I say, as I pass him the coffee. Our hands brush past each other, his rough with shared history, mine soft with hidden experiences. He grabs my wrist tightly, turning my hand so that he could examine my palm. He looks up and our eyes meet. A shiver runs down my spine.

“Any-Anything else I can grab you?” It’s my turn to be slightly uncomfortable. And yet, I was strangely aroused. Who was this man?

“No, thank you. How much is it?”

“It’s uh… On the house.”

He smiles, “Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it. Hey, what’s your name?”

“Säyn.”

“Säyn…” I repeated, feeling the way his name sounded on my tongue. “I’ll be seeing you.”

We saw each other a few more times, that summer in 2010. I was working at this queer coffeeshop and he would come in every once and a while, always when I was working. He would get the same thing and I would always give it to him for free. We would flirt a little, chat about small things. We even exchanged numbers at one point. But for some reason, we never got around to getting together outside of the shop. Sometimes he would come in with his partner, sometimes he wouldn’t. But every time he came in, he smiled and my chest got a little tight.

And then I left, went back to Boston. I reenrolled in school and got several part time jobs. It was a cold winter and I knew with even more certainty that Boston was not the city for me. I was going through the motions but I was never fully present there. I kept looking for a way out, for something different. I knew I need to return to Austin. And I didn’t see him for almost a year.

Its September 2011 and I’m back in Austin working at a queer youth community center. But my time there as an organizer is a story for another time.

At the time, I was leading an effort to restructure the organization and so we need a space to hold our meeting. One of my co-workers offered her home, which she had recently moved into. We, of course, agreed. It was a cool, clear night and the place was packed with young people, adults and queer organizers. I was in the middle of facilitating a discussion about strategies and tactics when the front door opens and who walks in but Säyn.

I stand there dumbfounded, mouth agape. Here was someone who I never thought I would see again, walking into a meeting that I never expected to have.

Once the meeting ended, I moved quickly.

“Hey, Säyn!”

He smiled, eyes brightening with recognition. “Hi, Morgan. Its good to see you again.”

“Its good to see you too. What have you been up too?”

“This and that,” He replied vaguely “You?”

“Oh you know, saving the world, one queer youth at a time.” I returned slyly. I knew that I would have to chase a little harder if I wanted to get anywhere with him.

He laughed, “Step up from slinging coffee, then.”

“Several. We should kick it sometime soon.”

“No doubt. No doubt. I’m having a music video release party this Saturday. You should come.”

I smiled, “Wouldn’t miss it.”

The next 4 weeks were a blur of late night coffee, chain smoking and iPod make out sessions. We would always find some sort of pretense to see each other. The second night we saw each other, he stole my lighter. He said it wasn’t intentional, but I knew better. He would pick me up after work and we would be up until 4 or 5 o clock in the morning, talking about everything from radical politics to the way we liked our Brussels sprouts cooked.

I remember being in his car on those first few nights. He said to me, “I’m in an open relationship. But we can’t have anything serious. This is just casual.”

Famous last words.

For those first weeks, we didn’t kiss. We barely had any physical contact at all. The first night I slept over at his house, I made sure to sleep stark naked. But we didn’t fuck. We didn’t even cuddle! At first I was worried that he was only interested in a platonic relationship but then I would look into his eyes and feel how his body reacted to mine. I knew he wanted me, could feel the intensity of his ardor for me. But it was one of the few times that anyone wanted my whole self, not just my body and what it could do for them.

It was a strange and not unpleasant sensation, feeling that want for me that was deeper than the skin.

I, of course, was throughly in love. Or at the very least, in very, very, very deep like. But one thing was certain; there was nothing casual between us.

He quickly and insidiously worked his way beneath the prickly steel that I encased myself in. He eased his way gently into the soft chinks of my armor, pried them loose and tranquilized the raw, chafed skin underneath. By the time I noticed that he had gotten past my defenses, it was already to late. He had me.

And I had him.

We had each other and our passion for one another opened my eyes to knew ways of being. Suddenly, I was thinking about babies and houses and what particular dish I wanted to cook for dinner and would you mind if we used the purple tablecloth tonight? I, the jaded radical who laughed at the thought of anything so soft as love, was in love. But the open scorn I had for love was merely a facade that masked my desire to be soft with someone. I would wake up some nights cold with the longing to have someone near me. Anyone to press their tender flesh against mine and share those intimate parts of myself. Something different than the raw, animal fetishization that I was used to.

I longed to be seen. Wholly and holistically seen.

And so I was. Seen with a clarity that still scares me, excites me, makes me smile. Sweet, secret smiles that arise unbidden, tugging the side of my lips up in spite of myself.

Anger still comes easily. But the contours of my anger are angled differently, today. Sharpened in some places, tempered in others. Encased in suppleness.

Being loved in spite of my fear has allowed me to breathe.

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Post the Seventy-First or On Rewriting Narratives

This week is Boston’s LGBT Film Festival. Held over many days and in many different theaters, the festival screens films that celebrate and shed light on the queer experience. And while most of the films are centered around white queers, there were a number of films that featured QPOC only cast. Yesterday, I saw one of those films. It’s called Leave It On the Floor. The program billed it as a black gay musical inspired by the groundbreaking documentary Paris is Burning. There were gorgeous boys and sickening queens, voguing and lots of singing. And, for the most part, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was the perfect mix of campy realness and torrid love affair drama.

About half way into the movie, however, one of the characters dies. I’m sure you can guess what her identities were. She was a poor, black, trans woman. And this really, really bothered me. And while she wasn’t murdered, she died in a car crash, it still frustrated me. She was also the only character in the movie to die. Why is it that many, if not most, portrayals of black and brown trans women in the media have them dead? Without fail, when a trans woman of color is introduced into a film or TV show they are dead before the end of the movie. Even in the news, we never hear about the victories or successes of trans women of color. We only hear about their murders, if we hear of them at all.

On top of that, the protagonist of the movie was kicked out of his home for being gay by his mother. Her character was completely one dimensional. She was callous, completely unremorseful that she was sending her kid to the streets.  She verbally assaulted and insulted the protagonist for being gay. She was written in such a way that her only defining characteristic was her hatred for her son.

The reason for this is because that is the narrative that society has given to us. The script, if you will, that is given to all trans women of color. We come out, we get kicked out of our homes and we are killed. Since PoC, apparently, have the patent on homophobia and transphobia, there is no other result to our coming out. What is particularly egregious about this instance is that the writer and director of the film were both gay white men. These two men were not only operating from two of the worst of QPoC narratives but they were also doing so with complete lack of analysis as to why they are problematic. It is an extremely sneaky form of racism because for all the audience knows, this film was a production for black queer and trans* folk for black queer and trans* folk. The cast was entirely black. And this makes it easy for the audience to miss the implicit racist stereotypes.

We need to be rewriting this narrative. We need to take our stories into our own hands and rewrite it to reflect our own lives. We need to be telling our own stories for ourselves, for others like us. We need to stop blindly accepting the messages that white supremacy, heteropatriarchy and capitalism would have us consume. We need to start telling stories that demonstrate our lived lives. We need to write poems, short stories, plays, screen plays that celebrate our identities, that reflect our experience has survivors. We need to make art and space that is meaningful for us. That accurately represents us. I’m not saying that we should erase the hardship that surrounds our lives because that would be just as bad. What I am saying is that we need to be talking about our victories, our loves, our hopes, our accomplishments.

What I am saying is that we need to rewrite the narrative so that we become human and not just corpses.

My story used to end with my early death at the hands of transphobia. I had no doubt that it was a question of when, not if. And that is because I accepted the narrative given to me. I won’t lie to you; I still often worry about that and I know it is a very real possibility. But it’s different today. I know that I am given that narrative so that I give up before the fight has even started. And I know might story might still end up that way, but I am determined to make sure that it isn’t a certainty. I am determined to rewrite the ending so that women that come after me can have hope.

I am determined to rewrite my narrative for myself.


Post the Forty-Seventh or On Taking up Space

I went to a party the other night for a friend of a friend who was celebrating his first anniversary of being on T. I was in a room full of gender-varient queers with awesome music playing and lots of hotties to look at. Why, then, did I feel so alone in that space? These people, ostensibly, are my peers. They are my comrades-at-arms against cissexism and heteropatriarchy. What was the problem?

And then I realized that there were only 3 women of color (you know we were in a group the whole time) at the party, myself included, and no transwomen, brown or otherwise. The room was full of white transmen and queer women. And many of them live in JP, the same neighborhood that the party was held. A neighborhood that has been historically a community of mostly Black and Latin@ working class people. And yet here are all these white, upwardly mobile queers gentrifying (read: internal colonization) the hood and they didn’t even have the decency to have any sort of real diversity?

More to the point, this party was explicitly billed as a queer/trans party celebrating someone’s transmasculine identity. And while the party in and of itself isn’t bad (aside from my reaction to if being on of discomfort), you can invite who ever the eff you want to your party, I think that it says a lot about that general trends of what is visible in the queer/trans community. And that is that it is mostly white and mostly transmasculine.

And don’t give me that, “Oh we reached out to communities of color but they didn’t come! It’s their fault for not participating!” Because that is just bullshit. The reason why POC don’t show up for your event/party/campaign etc is because there is no space made for them. Why would anyone want to enter a space where their voices, histories and thoughts are ignored? Why would anyone want to enter a space where folks were committing microagressions left and right? Moreover, who would want to be in a space that has historically excluded them?

I think one of the things that the white queer/trans community fails to realize is that there are many communities held within the queer community. And as such, one can’t expect the queer experience to be universal or think that all queers want the same thing. I couldn’t care less if middle-upper class white gays get to marry. That’s just not salient to me. I do care about non-discrimination legislations (although not hate crimes legislation cause that shit doesn’t work and it just adds black and brown bodies to the PIC). I do care about affordable housing and access to healthcare and educational/job opportunities. These are the things that are important in my life.

But all the time, energy and money is spent trying to get marriage equality and why is that? Because it is the thing that effects white people the most. The folks who participate and run Gay, Inc (read: HRC) already have access to safe housing, healthcare, education etc. The single issue politics involved in advocating for marriage equality just alienating and frustrating because the purport to speak for the whole of the queer community when, in fact, they only speak for a small section of it.

And to add insult to injury, if one creates a space for black and brown queers only or focus on the accomplishments of queer people of color, white people get butt hurt and insist that they be included because it would be “racist” otherwise. They won’t make a space for us with them (and if they do it tokenizing) and when we do it for ourselves, they feel entitled to that space.

I write this so that my white sisters and brothers (and others with privileged identities like being able bodied, wealthy, male etc) will understand that they take up space by default and that their voices, histories, thoughts and opinions are given precedence over POC voices. I want my white allies to not only be anti-racist but to be aware of how they are taking up space. I want my white allies to be able to co-create room for POC voices.I want my queer/trans white allies to have the concerns of POC in the forefront of their minds while the plan campaigns.Most of all, I want my white allies to check other white people on their white privilege and tell them if they are taking up to much space so that a POC doesn’t have too. This is because it is not our responsibility to educate white folks on white privilege, which is often a very pain process for us, it is yours.

And I also want my fierce queer/trans people of color to come together and make space for ourselves. I want to see more transwomen of color coming together in sisterhood. I want to see transmen of color come together for brotherhood. And I want us all to come together to keep each other safe, supported, and loved. I want us to come out of the alienating space of white queerness that doesn’t have a critical analysis of race, which tokenizes us and keeps us separated, and unite so that we can create self-actualizing communities that feed us.

Communities that give us the strength to fight this battle called racism in america and win.


Post the Thirty-Third or On the Importance of QPOC Space

This world is not safe for most of us. For most of us, we are constantly being harassed, assaulted and otherwise harmed, either overtly or covertly. This world is constantly attacking us; through messages from the media, through small, seemingly harmless words. Through physical murder and rape. Through the continued colonization of Third World people, both here in Ameríca and abroad.

Moreover, we are constantly carrying the baggage that that history of oppression, colonization and subjugation gives us. And we always have our armor in place. Armor that chafes and restricts us from growth. Armor that keeps us from making a true connection with other people, people like us. But it is an armor that is absolutely necessary. For without it, we are defenseless against those everyday assaults. We are naked before the sword of oppression. And we are torn to ribbons. There are many draw backs to that armor, and it isn’t a perfect defense, but it at least keeps us safe, keeps us from losing our minds in this world that hates us.

And most of us don’t even know we have it until the opportunity to take it off presents itself to us.

We’ve had this armor on for so long, since our earliest childhood days, that it becomes normal. The armor becomes a seamless part of our being. How could it not, when it has always been there? Perhaps we feel its tightness when we get close to someone, feel the armor scrape against someone else’s but its so commonplace and so subtle that we dismiss it. We fail to realize the way we restrict ourselves.

In my case, it wasn’t until I entered a space that held only Queer People of Color that I finally realized the heaviness of the armor. It was only when I was surrounded solely by people who have experienced the same type of oppression that I had experience, who had baggage and armor similar to mine, that I realized how much SHIT I carried around with me everyday.

And in that space, I was finally able to put it down. I was able to let go of the armor and the baggage and allow myself to be vulnerable. It was in that space that I was able to grow and expand in ways that I never thought would be possible.

This is why QPOC only space is so important. Because it allows a healing that is not possible when white, straight, cisgender people are present. This is because even if they are the staunchest of allies, even if they are the most amazing of anti-racists, the history oppression and colonization that they hold in their skin, a history that cannot be erased or forgotten, is made apparent in many, many subconscious and subtle ways. Because we have been socialized since birth to place white people first, whether it be the first helpings of a meal or the most space in a conversation, we do not even know that we are doing it (and at times neither do they). And this subconscious knee-jerk reaction makes it impossible to put down the armor and baggage and allow for growth and expansion.

Now, I know what you are going to say. You are going to say, “Morgan! You are being a reverse racist! White is a color too!” And to that I would respond that reverse racism is impossible. It is impossible because racism is a system that involves institutional power. That power is held by white people. I can’t be racist against white people because I don’t have the systemic power to be racist. The other reason for the exlusion of white people, other than the ones already mentioned, is because every space that one walks into is a white space. This is because white is the societal default for people, spaces, things. When I say person, the image that pops into your head automatically is a white man (specifically heterosexual and cisgender). So it is with spaces. When I say “we all got together at my place”, the hypothetical “we all” is primarily, or all, white.

For that reason, it is important to state that it is a POC space. We need to carve out that space for ourselves because it is not given to us. We need to delineate those boundaries because no one else will do it for us. Not only that but any space given to us by white people is not a claiming of safe space. It is a segregation and ghettoization. It is relegating us to the back of the bus. When we claim that space for ourselves, by ourselves we creating a thorny island within the greater, mainstream, white context.

And if we are going to do the work that needs to be done to transform this world into the truly equitable world it needs to be, then we need these safe spaces. We need them to recharge, to facilitate self-care and healing. We need these spaces to regroup and come together as family so that we can be effective and transformative in our work.

We need these spaces to live and thrive.