Tag Archives: queer

Post the Seventh 2 or On Social Capital and the Queer Community

Last Monday I helped organize a town hall about race, class and transmisogyny in queer performance in Austin. The weeks leading up to it were stressful and frustrating. We, as the organizers, were getting a lot of push back and critiques on how we were organizing the event. And often times, we were down right harassed and called names. It was hard for me to continually get updates from the Facebook event page with mostly negative responses.

But we pulled together and really carried each other through each moment. It was a very intense bonding experience and I have grown to appreciate these people in ways that are profound. I know I would not have been able to get through it if it were not for them.

Something that really struck me through this entire process was the amount of social capital involved in creating this event and in calling out the folks who were being fucked up. Social capital is loosely defined as the relationships and networks that people have that allow them to do certain things. Conversely, it talks about the way that the social networks that we have allow us to avoid doing certain things, like survival sex work etc. It also defines the ways in which certain folks have access to social capital and social support and what that access looks like. And in a lot of ways it talks about who gets a pass on certain kinds of behavior and who doesn’t.

Of course, we as organizers had access to social capital in order to organize this event and get people to show up. We definitely reached out to our friends and networks in order to mobilize folks to come and to speak. The fact that we were the organizers gave us a measure of power over how the event looked like and what was gonna go down.

However, on the Facebook page for the event, there were constant demands for transparency in the organizing team. Those folks with greater social capital in the community came for us about our accessibility, what our intentions for organizing this event were, and who we were. There were even calls to postpone our event so that full community accountability and participation could be achieved.

Don’t get me wrong; I think community accountability  transparency and participation is hella important. And in many ways, we as organizers strove to be all of those things. My issue, however, is that other organizations and events, and even the person who was posing most of these questions, are not being held to such a rigorous standard. Nobody was asking the organizers of Poo Poo Platter or Queerbomb to be fully transparent about their intentions, who their organizing team is, to ensure complete safety and community participation.

The other thing that was occurring was that the folks that we were calling out, the folks who had racist or otherwise fucked up elements in their performances, were being commended for their bravery. They were commended for the fact that they were present. And while I definitely recognize that it takes courage to show up to something you know is going to be uncomfortable and challenging, I can’t help but wonder how much of this adulation is actually deserved. When I step on someone’s toe, I don’t get a special award for apologizing or being present for someone else’s pain. This is just what decent human being do when they have harmed another. So why are they praised so highly for doing something that should just be expected?

The answer to this, I think, is their access to social capital. As prominent and well liked performers, they are going to have access to much more social capital then we have. As folks with more community power, they are going to be able to get away with much more than we would. Moreover, as mostly white or light-skinned folks, they are going to be seen in a more sympathetic light than we were.

The other thing too was that we were painted as divisive. We were the ones who were causing the trouble. While at the same time, it was the fucked up performances that started these conversations and isn’t that so great? The feats of intellectual acrobatics to hold both of those things is rather boggling. We are at the same time held as the source of the problem and the ones reacting to the problem.

I was also amazed that through this whole process I was, arguably, the most fiercely attacked of all of the organizers. Detractors were calling me out by name, saying how much of a liar I am, how I had an agenda against the folks we were calling out and how I should be removed from the organizing of this event because I am not a credible source of information. I was the only trans woman of color on the organizing committee and I got the most shit.

Over and over again, in the town hall, I heard white queers say, “If we don’t come together to have these conversations than nothing will change. If we stay segregated, nothing will change.” And it frustrated me because that again elides the fact that we are not on a level playing field. White and light skinned folks have greater access to all kinds of capital than people of color and dark skinned folks. Those in power will have more leeway and be able to dictate the terms of the conversation. We cannot come together to talk about these things without acknowledged the differences of access and power.

The biggest lesson that I learned through this whole process is that I cannot commit my energies to talking to white folks. I cannot focus on trying to change them because I can’t. And because it just creates more trauma for myself, for my partner and my community.

What I need to focus on is creating community with other queer people of color. Because in pouring my energy into that, I can begin to heal and start to form those networks that contribute to my survival and my flourishing.


Post the Eighty-Forth or For Cherríe

I am not

Your daughter

The apple that slipped

Through your brown

calloused mouth

Was never meant

For me

But I see

You

Within me

Our vision clouded

By the heartache

De nuestra Madre

Gritando

¿Por que?

¿Por que?

¿Por que?”

Why did they

Take

my Daughters?

Nací

With a body

That betrayed me

Mi india

&

My gender

@ odds

There is no factory setting

But they told me

I was built

Wrong

And so

Do you

Pero

Yo sí sé

Que somos

Hermanas

Because who else

Could see

Inside

My queer brown (trans) woman

Heart?


Post the Sixty-Eighth or Forced Silence/Forced Speech

My body is like the land

Lush and wild

Untamed and beautiful

The hairy expanse of my thighs

Mirroring the long rolling hills of forest

The smooth perkiness of my breasts

Reflecting the heartbreaking heights of mountains

The soft brownness of my skin

Matching the fecund loam of the earth.

My body was once untouched by the white man’s Rapaciousness

And then

They came with their guns

And their ships

And their Pox

They came with their Great White God

And their Great White Book

They came with their promise of “civilization” in one hand

The lash in the other

Civilization always seems just out of reach

The lash is always too close

 400 hundred years

And 1600 seasons later

She says

I don’t see race!

He replies

Will someone please think of the white Man!

And my head is pounding

 ‘Cause My body is still colonized

The land of my foremothers is still being desecrated

And I am still struggling to survive in a world

That hates all things

Trans*/Brown/Queer/Woman

Pushing my way against the swiftly-moving river

Of violence and lack of resources

That somehow has managed to make itself invisible

They say that we’ve come a long way

That so many things have changed

That hope has come at last

But now I’m fighting for recognition of my oppression

On top of the oppression itself

And it’s like trying to scream

When your attacker is already at your throat

Like trying to escape a thousand tiny pinpricks

While your whole body chained to the ground

Like having rocks tied to your feet

Being thrown into the sea to drown

And never dying

Say something in Spanish for me

He demanded

As if the language of my people was a

Circus trick

  That I was required to perform at his request

As if my vocal chords were his to command

How’s this

Come mierda y muérete

Colonization is the stuff

Forced Silence/Forced Speech

Is made of.


Post the Sixty-Sixth or Why I am a Fierce Bitch

Every morning I paint my face

With three words stuck on repeat

Fierce

Devastating

Sickening

Every day I pound the pavement

With three words stuck on repeat

Tough

Hard

Untouchable

My look is my life

And my walk keeps me safe

Because I know what happens to young brown

Trans women

If we are not being harassed

Beaten

Or killed

Then our voices

And the narratives that we have written for ourselves

Are being ignored

Discounted

Or invalidated

Whether I am at a queer party

Or walking home late at night

I need to be read

And read well

Perhaps that’s why I get so frustrated

When the brush doesn’t do precisely as I demand

I look in the mirror knowing

That to fuck up

Is to take a risk I can’t afford

Perhaps thats why my face

Is carefully sculpted into two expressions

“Don’t fuck with me”

and

“Really don’t fuck with me”

I look into the eyes of others knowing

That to show weakness

Is to invite death

They were surprised

When he told them that I was a sweetheart

He told me

I see you

And I am shocked

That anyone has the eyes

To truly see me

And what a blessing that is.

Every night I lay next to my lover

With three words stuck on repeat

Love

Love

Love


Post the Sixty-Third or Feel Me

He said that I write

With a pen dipped in blood

But I wonder

Is it my blood

Or theirs?

I’m angry

That bring down whole buildings

kinda anger

That cut people up

kinda anger

Anger that starts in your belly

Works it way up into your heart

And out your eyes like lasers

kinda anger

Mountains move at this type anger

And whole societies are built

With this kinda anger

This is that anger that yo mama

Warned you about.

My hands are soaked in gore

From beating against this pavement

Trying to dig holes in concrete

With nothing but nails and fingertips

So that I can plant this precious seed

Of rebellion

Given to me as a gift from those

Mothers that came before.

Can you cultivate plants from stones?

The lines on my palms are cracked and hard

Callouses rising to meet the scabrous sandpaper of daily living

A physical reminder

Of memories and histories

That have not passed.

His death is as keenly felt today

As it was 50 years ago

Or yesterday.

The latest felled tree

In a long line of deforested land.

I will chain myself to my lover

And bomb the logger’s machines

And shoot down the lumberjack himself

Before they harm even a limb

I still worry that won’t be enough.

The conversation is the same every time

A corrupted MP3

On repeat for 400 years

Only now

We debate over it’s very existence

Does a colored queer actually rage

If there is anyone around to feel her?


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.


Post the Seventh or On the Politics of Dating

Dating is a complicated and emotionally dangerous activity. It’s rife with uncertainty, vulnerability and anxiety. Its also a lot of fucking fun. The complicated mixture of anxiety and excitement, wonder and arousal can at times become addicting. And I love it.

Recently, I went on this date with this boy and it was rather lovely. We flirted, we talked and we drank coffee after which we than retired to a more intimate setting. It was good.  My favorite part of the date, however, was when he wanted to emphasize to me that he was interested in me not just because I was a woman with a penis but rather also because he was attracted to me as a person. He wanted to emphasize that my body was the least of it and that my personality was the most of it. My heart melted.

Because more often then not, guys who are interested in me are not interested in the fact that I’m first generation American. They are not interested in the fact that I go to school for Psychology and Philosophy. They aren’t interested in the fact that I live and breathe activism. All they are interested is in the fact that I’m a “chick with a dick”. All they want to know is how long my cock is and how big my tits are. They only care to make sure that I don’t tell a soul that they slept with someone as perverted and dirty as a tranny.

And quite frankly, I am sick and tired of being fetishized without my consent! Its one thing if we are in a scene and I have agreed to be objectified and you have agreed to objectify me. In fact, there are many situations in which that turns me on. But its frustrating when I can’t even tell someone I’m interested in them without them instantly being fixated on my cock. And do you know what the worst part is?

They don’t even know any better.

Because the society that we live in teaches us, practically since exiting the womb, that bodies that are not white, heterosexual or cisgender are strange, forgien and forbidden. We have been taught in myriad and sundry ways that those sorts of bodies are OTHER and that people who possess those bodies amount to only their bodies. In other words, those who possess OTHER bodies are not people. They are just things to be had and thrown away.

And people don’t even know that they are doing this because it seems normal. It doesn’t occur to them that they are OTHERING me or anyone else because that is what the status quo is. When oppression is normalized those who oppress can not see it. Not only did I not consent to being objectified but neither have they consented to objectify me. They just don’t know that they are doing it.

Which is why my heart burst open with joy when this boy said to me that he gets it. That he doesn’t want to objectify me. He wants to see me for me. He wants me to know it.

And that gives me hope.