Tag Archives: Racism

Post the Fifty-Third or Toxic

He tells me that he doesn’t Pay

Mexicans

The voice in the back of my head

Tells me to

Breathe

But how can I draw breath

When I’m drowning

In this sea of Racism

She asks

Pointing at my head full

Of wild curls and thick roots

“Is that all yours?”

And I want to scream

Who else would it belong to?

The white man who enslaved me?

Or the white woman who is complicit

With white man’s racism?

Or the brown sister

Who drank the white supremacy Kool-Aid

And assumes that anyone with natural hair

Would straighten it

or Buy it.

The stranger asks

How long have you been living as a woman?

And I am gagging

 On the bitter taste of

that briny water

The transphobia of that statement

Suffocating me

Depriving my brain of oxygen

The urge to strike mounting

And I try to breathe despite myself

But I wonder

Is it healthy for me

To breathe air

To exist in water

To live in a medium

That is so toxic?


Post the Forty-Eighth or Enough

I am fucking pissed

Pissed that I am the legacy of a 400 years of

Colonialism

Slavery

And Genocide

Pissed that after 400 hundred years

It hasn’t gone away

It’s just disguised itself in a million different forms

Like youth of color being pushed out of their schools

Or communities of color being microcolonized by gentrification

Or how I can’t walk down the street without some asshole thinking that because I’m pretty

And brown

That I should be his whenever he wants

Or that I have to yell

And scream

And stamp my feet

And get upset

Before white queers will listen to what I have to say

Or how people can make racist jokes

And pass it off as not racist

Or how when I say enough is enough

And I claim a space for my own

And I stop letting white people’s privilege slide unchecked

They call me racist

I’m fucking pissed

And I am done apologizing for it!

I have a right to my anger

And sorrow

I have wounds that will probably never heal

And fuck you if you can’t deal with that

Fuck you if that makes you upset

Fuck you if you can’t handle my anger

Because while you can just walk away

And ignore it

I

Never

Can


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 Forty-Fifth or Experience v Opinion

There is a big difference between experience and opinion. When you experience something, you know it on a much deeper level then someone who read about it or was told about it second hand. The difference between reading about sex and experiencing sex is clear to almost anyone. When you experience an event, all of your senses are engaged and to forms a memory that is much more tangible and reliable then opinion or hearsay. Don’t get me wrong; opinion is all well and good. We certainly wouldn’t be able to have many conversations without opinion and conjecture. But if you are gonna do brain surgery, you need to have the experience of study and practice and not just an opinion about it.

Why is it, then, that white people think that their opinions on racism are more valid then the experience of a person of color? Or cisgender people thinking that they know better then trans*people as to what is and isn’t offensive?  I can’t tell you how many times someone has told me that such-and-such isn’t offensive because they know better and why are you so sensitive? Can’t you just take a joke? And those people are usually ones with privileged identities who haven’t actually experienced that form of oppression but rather, they have an opinion about how that experience looks and feels like. They don’t actually know and they will never actually know.

The thing that most people fail to realize is that their opinions carry less weight than the experience that someone has. More often then not people who have opinions not based in experience are just wrong. This is because they just don’t know what they are talking about. And when they insist that they do, or they insist that their opinions exist on the same level as those with experience, they are perpetrating those systems of power and oppression that started the discussion to begin with. It’s a vicious cycle where the perpetrator can deny the existence of not only the crime but also of its consequences. And the perpetrator can do this because they already have the institutional power to do it.

Moreover, the mark of a good ally is that they are willing to admit that they don’t know. They admit that they will never truly know and that they can never truly understand what it means to go through that. But that doesn’t stop them from advocating for justice and working along side those effected by oppression. That doesn’t stop them from acting strategically to end white heteropatriarchy and capitalism. The mark of an ally is someone who does what they can to mitigate their privilege.

However, the fight for liberation will not be won with allies and it certainly won’t be won with opinions. It is only through experience that we can learn how to most effectively dismantle those systems of power and oppression. Hard earned experience is the teacher we need to fight back. The reason for this is because experience is real. It is tangible and you can hold on to it. Opinions are none of these things. And it is experience that gives birth to radical theory and action. And when radical thought is grounded in experience, it is the most insightful and most effective. The fight for liberation will only be won by those who suffer from oppression and even then only with radical action and radical thought.

So if experience is vital to know how to fight oppression, then what class of people generally experiences the worst forms of oppression? In other words, which class of people knows the most about fighting oppression? And what do we mean by oppression anyhow?

I would argue that any definition of oppression has to be grounded in the material experience of the oppressed. It is not enough to have theoretical ideas of how oppression and power manifest. It is not enough to have theoretical ideas of who experiences oppression and who has power. It needs to be real. And it needs to be situated within its own context. For example, I can’t count how many times a white gay man has cited their gayness as being the reason why they are so oppressed. And while it is true that their gayness makes them susceptible to certain forms of oppression, the fact remains that they are still white men. Moreover, for the most part, being gay doesn’t show on the surface and so they can skate by with just being perceived as white men. The oppression that they “feel” isn’t real.

With that being said, what does oppression look like? I would argue that someone who experiences oppression is someone who has markedly less access to resources then other people. By resources I mean not only money, jobs and education but also social capital, access to public space and access to a safe living environment. This includes an environment that is free from pollution, toxins, and violence (both violence directed at the person and violence in general). This lack of access is rooted in white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, colonialism, and capitalism but it can manifest in ways great and small. From not being hired because of skin color to white people coming up and touching your hair without consent to being bashed for being perceived as the “wrong” gender. Obviously, gay white men do not fit this bill.

I would argue that the class of people that experience the worst aspects of oppression are transwomen of color. If you are fat, disabled and/or poor, even worse. Transwomen of color literally get the shit end of every stick. Transwomen of color often have very few opportunities to get a decent education or even find a job. They are often kicked out of their homes and forced to do sex work to support themselves. On top of that, they often killed by their johns for their trouble. Transwomen of color are assaulted and killed more often then their cisgender and white peers. And even if they survive their assault, the police and healthcare professionals often ignore or write-off the attack. Often times, the police themselves are the perpetrators of anti-trans violence and they act with no reprisals. Whether its through anti-sex worker policing or racial profiling, transwomen of color are often arrested or assaulted by the police for doing nothing but trying to feed themselves. What’s more is that if they aren’t physically assaulted, they are verbally harassed. They are denied their identity from almost every class of person. Whether its the Christian right or so called radical second-wave feminists, the existence of transwomen of color is erased time and again. What’s worse is that if someone doesn’t kill them, the stress of living such a life will. I know of no transwomen of color who have reached old age.

Why is this? Why do transwomen of color experience such devastating forms of oppression? Because they exist at the deepest intersections of white capitalist heteropatriarchy . They are effected by racism, classism, sexism, cissexism, xenophobia, heterosexism, and if you are an immigrant, imperialism.

At this point you might say something like, “Ok Morgan. Transwomen of color have it bad. I see that. But what does that have to do with experience and knowing how to fight oppression?”

And I would reply that it has everything to do with fighting oppression. If we want to effectively tackle all those systems of power that keep us oppressed then we need to keep the concerns of transwomen of color central to all of our organizing, whether it is queer organizing or otherwise. Moreover, since the experience of transwomen of color is framed by such desperate oppression, they will intuitively grasp what needs to be done to make the world better. Being on the bottom, or near the bottom, they can look up and see the dirty, fucked up underbelly of society. They can see where and when to strike to topple that monstrous beast.

If we are to make this world truly equitable, then the needs of the lowest need to be prioritized.


Post the Forty-Forth or On the True Nature of Racism

The other day, I got into a huge Facebook fight about the nature of racism. (As a side note, this shit seems to happen to me ALL the time. Although I must admit that I have a hard time letting things slide). To the white commenters, racism is individual. It is one person, regardless of color, hating another. One person in particular was complaining about being discriminated against because he was white. And oh those mean brown people, how could they do that? How could they be so mean? Don’t you know who I am?

I was struck, not the first time, the difficulty of talking about racism with white people. Especially white people who don’t recognize their privilege. I often get very frustrated, angry and hurt. Frustrated because they don’t understand where I am coming from, angry because it’s just another manifestation of racism and hurt because it reminds me how fucked the world is. Moreover, it seems that I have these conversations with people I consider friends and it hurts me to be so invalidated and ignored. Most of all, however, it hurts because they are often implying that I’m the racist for calling them out on the white privilege and that is the king of ironies.

The other thing that struck me was that there was a part of me that wanted to agree with them. There was a small voice in my head that said, “What if they are right? What if I’m the racist one?” I quickly called someone to talk about the experience and was brought back to myself in short order. It reemphasized for me, however, the importance of being surrounded by a strong community. For like the sea beating upon the shore, if I don’t have some sort of insulating and protecting factor, I will be washed away like so much flotsam. The medium of racism that all people of color exist in is caustic to our being and personhood and if we hang out in it unprotected by community, our identities, our-selves, are quickly washed of any definition. We become a round, indistinct blobs that have no purchase and no personality. And the result of that is a soul crushing alienation from our-selves. At least, that is my experience.

So, for the record, racism is a system of oppression (that is given power by white supremacy) that privileges people of European/white decent over Third World people/people of color/brown people. It is the marriage of prejudice and power. It is a complex system that manifests in ways as audacious as apartheid to as subtle as everyday interactions. Racism is the reason why the poverty rate for Black and Latin@s is more then half then that of their white counterparts. Racism is the reason why Black people make up 39.4% of the total prison population and yet make up only 12.6% of the total population in the United States. Racism is the reason why young people of color go to college less then their white counterparts.

But more then that, racism is the reason why people of color experience a deep alienation from themselves. Racism is the reason why we feel disaffected, dissatisfied and depressed. There is a reason why Black and Latin@ have elevated rates of depression over their white peers.  Racism is why we have the soul consuming anger that we constantly have to surpress because otherwise we get ostracized at best or jailed at worst. Racism is a daily reality for people of color. It is inescapable.

The other point I want to make is that racism can only go one way. This is because people of color don’t have the institutional power oppress white people. People of color can’t be racist because they don’t have the power to do so. Can they be prejudiced? Absolutely! But even then the context is different. When I say that I am tired of dealing with white people, I’m not saying that they are inferior to me or that I hate them or that I want to commit genocide on their people. What I am saying is that after centuries of being hated, called inferior etc, I just don’t want to deal with it anymore. And anyone who thinks that that is unreasonable needs to go take a long walk off a short pier. If we lived in a post-racist society then I would totally be in the wrong. If those power differentials didn’t exist, then I would need to revise my position.

But that is the thing; we DO NOT live in a post racist society.

Racism is still real, today. Ask anyone at the Rez if genocide is being committed. Ask anyone who as lived in low income communities for generations if colonization still isn’t happening today (read: gentrification). Ask anyone stopped by the police if Jim Crow is still alive. Ask any families separated by ICE if racism is still real.

So before you go complaining about how you are oppressed as a white person, remember that you will never have to worry about the things mentioned above. And you might not like it seeing all this. This might be painful. It’s hard to look in the mirror and see someone who is implicated in the death of generations of people. But trust me, it is better then the alternative.


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.


Post the Twenty-Ninth or On Why You Need to Mind Your Business

I have a profile on OkCupid, which is a free dating website. For not having to pay for it, its pretty good. Their matching system is decent and there are a lot of hot queers who use it. I’ve been on a number of dates from that site and, while none of those dates developed into something more, neither were they horrible. All in all, I’ve had a good experience with the site.

However.

Once or twice a month or so, I will get a message from someone asking me something like, “So, were you born a man or a woman?” or “You should probably change your gender to male so that there isn’t any confusion.” or “For a woman with a penis, you are really pretty!” Despite the fact that I clearly state in my profile to NOT message me with foolishness like that. I don’t know if its because they don’t read past the part where I say I’m a big ole’ tranny or if its because as cisgender people, they feel entitled to ask/tell me whatever they want in regards to my gender because I am so freakish and unnatural.

Over and over again I get random strangers asking me, after I come out to them, if I am going to get “the surgery” or “how far along I am” or “are those breasts real”. But that isn’t the only instance where people ask me about “myself”. I can’t tell you how many times someone who, having found out that my family is from South America, has asked me to say something in Spanish. As if I were some parrot who learned a new trick. As if because I’m brown or because I can speak another language, I need to perform that “trick” on command for some white English speaking asshat. Or my favorite, “Oh, you speak Spanish? I’ve never heard you speak it.” Yeah, because you don’t speak Spanish and what reason would I have to speak it with you? Just because I’m brown or speak another language doesn’t mean that I go around speaking Spanish at people who don’t understand it. Just like white English speaking folk don’t go around speaking gibberish at people, there is no point because there is no communication. Moreover, its this feeling of entitlement that white English speaking folks have to demand that folks like me “perform” for them.

Notice a trend here?

Good, because it’s a trend we all need to be aware of. Don’t get me wrong; if we are friends and we’ve gotten to know each other and you are curious about my experience, then by all means ask. However, we need to be constantly checking ourselves to make sure that we aren’t putting folks with oppressed identities and backgrounds on the spot and forcing them to “educate” us. We need to make sure that oppressed folks aren’t doing it horizontally either. If we are going to foster safe spaces and supportive communities, we need to make sure that we are responsible for educating ourselves about other folks. Because by asking strangers to “educate” us about their oppressed experience, we are focusing on that experience alone and we are reducing their personhood to that experience. We don’t see their hopes and their fears and their dreams. We don’t see what makes them fundamentally human. All we see is the baggage that our oppressive society has heaped on them. Not only that, but we are forcing them to relive that whole experience again for us. And when we force folks with oppressed identities to “educate” us, we are claiming their experience as ours. We are recolonizing and objectifying them, on top of the colonization and objectification that they have already experienced. This is the most infinitesimal and yet most profound way that we oppress each other.

So before you ask that question, Google it.


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 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.