Tag Archives: space

Post the Ninety-Eighth or On Family Dinners and Whiteness

Family dinner is something that my community does regularly. The host of family dinner rotates and everyone brings food, booze or cash. They are integral to community building and safety. At these dinners, we talk about everything from radical politics to what art projects we are working on to the escapades of the night before. We share stories about ourselves and connect with each other in authentic, life-saving, world-changing ways.

I’m not sure how we got onto the subject, but at the last family dinner we talked about the problematic nature of transnational adoption and how white folks are just not equipped to raise Black and Brown babies. The main reason for this being that white folks are socialized to be racist by default. They live in a world that privileges them over people of color and they often cannot, or will not, see it. So, they are just not prepared to teach a Black or Brown child about the harsh realities that this world will subject them too. Further, there is nothing to stop a white parent’s subconscious racism from harming their child of color. Case in point, there was an article in a magazine recently that talked about a white dad caring for his Nigerian daughter by combing her hair out with a fork. A motherfucking FORK.

Needless to say, we all agreed that transnational adoption is the wackness.

However.

There was this white Latina there who asked, “But what about all of the Black children in foster care who need parents?” Basically, she was asking why Black folks don’t just take care of their children.

This lead to a shit storm of frustration and trauma. Instead of having a nice pleasant dinner with familia, we had to spend the whole time trying to get her to shut up. She even had the audacity to say, “If you don’t like it, why don’t you do something about it?” As if building community and coming together in solidarity and talking about our experiences wasn’t “doing something”. Because its not like we live in a world that wants to silence and erase us. Its not like speaking our truth to one another is not a revolutionary act. No, according to her, we were just sitting there with our thumbs up our asses griping about the world.

She went on to say that the solution of racism is education and that she, the daughter of two Mexican immigrants, worked hard to get scholarships to go get an advanced degree. She, a teacher who works at a private school, thinks that if we all got our education we would be just fine. She worked hard for what she had and if she could do it, why couldn’t everyone else?

The only thing I could do at this point was laugh because she was so ridiculous.

The thing is, even though she is Latina, she was still hella light skinned. In fact, I didn’t know she was Latina until she told us that she was Mexican. And it was clear by the bullshit she was spewing that she walked through the world being perceived as white.

That’s the thing, just because you are Latin@ doesn’t mean that you don’t have white privilege. White Latin@s are a thing. They exist. And white Latin@s benefit from white supremacy. Their prosperity is often made on the backs of Black and Brown Latin@s. And more often than not, white Latin@s take up space in the ways that Anglos do. They have been socialized to think that they are entitled to all spaces so that when they do enter PoC-centered spaces, they often are the ones fucking up. They are the ones dominating the conversation and what was once a safe space is now a battleground.

So I implore my fellow Latin@s, check yourself.

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Post the Ninety-Fifth or The Root of Violence

As some of you may know, I’ve recently started working at the National Domestic Violence Hotline. It is an amazing organization that is open 24/7 and provides support for victims, as well as family and friends, of domestic violence. We do everything from connect callers to local resources to just providing a space to listen. I also really enjoy the work. It is nice to be in an empowering space that is committed to worker wellness. Advocacy work is very satisfying for me and it allows me to deepen my analysis around social justice and liberation. I’m learning so much here and I know that I also have a lot to give.

One thing that I’ve gotten some more nuanced understanding is around the topic of space. I’ve written several essays here, and in other places, about the necessity of space in order to thrive in any situation. We need living space, work space, social space, emotional space etc.

In cases of domestic violence, the survivor is often robbed of most, if not all, space. All of the tactics that the abuser uses to maintain power and control in a relationship center around stealing space. Whether is it keeping someone isolated from friends in family or not allowing them to get a job or sexually assaulting them, they are all a robbing of space and of agency. The survivor is not allowed the space to have meaningful, loving and supportive friendships. They are not allowed the space to work and be economically independent. They are not given the space to make their own, unconstrained sexual choices.

And I got to thinking about this. What if the root of all marginalization, of all violence, was the theft of space? I began to think about colonialism and the displacement of indigenous people. Was that not the theft of space, the robbing of land? Colonist comes in and steal the space that once belonged to others and with that theft also stole their agency. I thought about slavery and how that is probably the greatest theft of space. And of course, domestic violence is a theft of space.

Even the most recent shooting in Connecticut is about the theft of space. The lack of funding for mental health programs create a situation where there is no space for someone who has a mental disorder to get the help they need. The abundance of gun access creates a situation where people who are violent for any reason can restrict and control the space of others. And all of this is 400 hundred years in the making. The latest iteration of violence created by a system that controls and steals the space of certain kinds of people. The theft of space, and violence itself, is more than just individual acts. It is a systemic inevitability. The way our society is structured makes it so that violence cannot help but happen. The system is rigged for it.

One of the things that we learn here as advocates is that we aren’t here to fix the caller’s problem. We are not here to save them or rescue them. Rather, we are there to empower the caller to solve their own problems. Because in the end, saving them does nothing to address the root cause of the problem.  We connect them to the resources near them so that they can decide what the best course of action is for themselves. We use active listening and empathy to facilitate the creation of space. And if the root of violence is the theft of space, than facilitating the creation of space is counteracting that violence. The space that is created allows for movement. And with movement, comes change. The creation of space allows for empowerment and the beginning of unconstrained choices.

The key to fighting violence is the creation of space. If we are going to bring justice to this world, then we need to facilitate the creation of space for ourselves. We need to carve out our space. We need to engage in deeply listening to one another and become stewards of one another’s trauma. This also means that we need to take care of ourselves. This also means listening to ourselves, to our bodies. It means that we trust ourselves and build community with those around us.

In the end, we cannot save the world. But we can try to open up space so that it can save itself. We can open up space so that each individual can save themselves.


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-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 Twenty-Forth or Carved

I carved my name in the the Earth

And they kicked me out

Robbed me of my dignity

And expelled me from the place that I call home

They assaulted me

With their words

And their actions

They broke my legs

And twisted my arms

They gouged my eyes out

And ripped my heart out

They left me out in the heat

But they did not kill me

They could not kill me

And slowly

Slowly

I re-grew those limbs that I lost

And I found beautiful creatures

As lost and hurt as I was

And we banded together

United in our shared vision

In our shared hope

Of a better world

And together

We will return to our homes

And make them ours again

I will carve my name

On to their chests

So that they never forget