There are no words…

Me and MomMother’s Day is a little bit rough for me. I’m not spending it with my Mom today, since she’s in the Orlando suburbs and I’m up here in Brooklyn. I’ve also had a ton going on over recent weeks and completely blanked on Mother’s Day imminent approach until late Thursday afternoon, too late for a mailed card to get to her on time.

I panicked. I’d been planning to send her one of the beautiful and powerful Mama’s Day e-cards from Strong Families anyhow, but suddenly I was nervous–nervous that she wouldn’t really like any of the cards, or that she wouldn’t really dig the political nature of the whole thing, or that she’d just be disappointed or hurt that not only had I not made it down to see, but I also didn’t get my shit together to send her something in the postal mail in time.

I sent her an e-card this morning anyhow. Called her up, encouraged her to check her email; her response was lukewarm. But just now she sent me an email and thanked me. Moreover, she shared with me that she’d read an “awesome” letter–now I realize where I get my excessive use of that word from–in the blog on the Strong Families site. Which means she actually went to the site, clicked through, cared; which means was moved.

And therefore, so was I.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

Thoughts on transmisogyny

What do you mean trans women are women? (Meme from Radicallyqueer.wordpress.com)

Meme courtesy of Radically Queer

Transmisogyny–transphobia directed specifically and often exclusively at trans women–has felt continually rampant in many of my communities for an entire decade now.

I frequently witness transphobia against trans women expressed by people who do not similarly target trans men, thus rendering this particular expression of transphobia sexist in a somewhat traditional sense.

I witness transmisogyny practiced most often by cisgendered (i.e. non-trans, female-assigned at birth) women.

I see transmisogyny excused most often by other cis women or other folks who were female-assigned at birth, including trans men, genderqueers, and gender non-conforming women.

As a genderqueer butch, female-assigned at birth person of color, transmisogyny personally upsets me most when practiced by women and gender non-conforming people of color; especially when their transmisogyny ends up being directed explicitly at trans women of color; and most of all when said transmisogyny is practiced by individuals and groups who possess and articulate clear analyses of how feminist and women’s movements have frequently marginalized certain classes of women, including women of color, queer women, and gender non-conforming folks who were female-assigned at birth.

And I dare say that I see folks who claim to be allies to trans women, people of color and white folks alike, excusing or explaining away transmisogyny committed by cis women way more often than those same people would ever excuse acts of racism, sexism, or even transphobia against trans men or gender non-conforming folks who are female-assigned at birth.

These are simply my observations, from my particular perspective, with all of my privileges and lacks thereof. What do you think? What have you seen or experienced?

Editorial note: Facebook comments and shares are nice, but comments and discussion here are even nicer! That way folks who aren’t on Facebook can both read and participate.

I’ve been tempted to write here again for a while, very much so since November. It’s oddly intimidating. Four major challenges: time to write, which is usually scarce but which feels relatively heavy in my hands here in Florida; the pressure of writing for public consumption, which I’m spared when I stick to my journal; a certain alienation from the online writing landscape that’s been so significantly altered by quick-fix, character-limited, opaquely ranked, shallow-dive social networking interactions;  and my eyes, which are undeniably going, and these Duane Reade computer glasses aren’t really cutting it anymore.

In November I a) traveled b) to the Bay c) and then flew to Florida to visit my mom & family down here for Thanksgiving, all three of which tend to prime my writing pump. In recent months I’ve had a few unexpected but welcome reminders that I once wrote decent stuff that meant something for some people out there. (Thanks, y’all.) Nico started blogging more again, which I only learned about through Facebook because I simply do not read any blogs these days. (I read blog posts on occasion, having learned about them via Facebook or Twitter, but I don’t read blogs. That’s different.) I posted a comment on one of his posts on FB expressing my temptation to start blogging again, and he encouraged me to go for it.

So, here I am in Florida again, after only about 20 days at home in Brooklyn; the past three months have included a large amount of travel by my scale. Here I am with a head full of thoughts and time on my hands (heavy.) I’m burning a candle that I’m pretty sure I acquired in high school, in a room dubbed mine in a house full of stuff I know well in a gated subdivision that I’ve known for just shy of a year, listening to Peter Murphy, Trent Reznor et al perform “Warm Leatherette;” what else can I be expected to do but write?

I recently encouraged someone very close to me to live more fully for themselves, for their own happiness. In what I see as an essential tandem for them, I also encouraged them to consider new possibilities for happiness than the ones to which they’ve limited themselves in the past. I try not to give advice that I don’t take to heart myself these days; as I write this, that advice is on my mind. I think I’ve made good progress on these fronts in recent years in many areas of my life, but one’s got to stay mindful to keep good practices up.

As such, if I’m gonna keep writing I’ll have to commit to write in an authentic voice without too much self-conscious performance; to not feel pressure to fit a particular profile or style at all times; to strike that necessary balance in my writing between the public voice (here) and the private voice (elsewhere), both of which I crave; and, in the end, to write primarily for myself. That may sound funny coming from someone who’s putting their shit out there for anyone to read, but writing for oneself doesn’t necessarily mean writing only for oneself to read. I need both.

Anaheim youth speak out

It’s heartbreaking and awful that these kids had to experience and witness police brutality in Anaheim. But it’s also amazing to hear this group of young Latin@s of many genders speak about their experience. They were scared by what happened to them — the girl in the preview frame was hit in the leg by a rubber bullet — but they’re not scared to speak up, to come up with their own opinions about the situation, and to demand justice. It might sound corny or trite but youth like these give me hope for our future.

Compiled: mostly mainstream media coverage of recent police violence in Anaheim and Brooklyn

I really did mean to go to sleep early tonight. But I didn’t, and at around 1am I started seeing hints of what’s going down in Anaheim via my Twitter stream. I’d actually seen — and even retweeted — some very specific and worrisome info on Anaheim earlier today, but it was while I was working and trying to stay as focused as possible. Yes, I’ll admit, I sometimes retweet even big deal things without getting to peruse them thoroughly. Probably not the best idea.

Anyhow, this tweet from Liz Henry tipped me off again:

RT @: "@: Reports from @ and @ of more police mobilizing in #Anaheim"
@lizhenry
Liz Henry

I started doing some more research and was shocked by what I saw. First, the video I’d actually retweeted about earlier but never fully processed or watched (which I’m somewhat ashamed and appalled to admit):

My reaction on Facebook: “What the HELL. This is on the regular old channel 9 news. Earlier in the day in Anaheim the police shot a guy who was one of three men who ran away from the police. Not drew on the police, not NOTHING, just ran. Then the community dared to meet about it, dared to demand ACCOUNTABILITY from the cops, and they opened FIRE with rubber bullets. They let a K-9 loose and it went at a woman CARRYING HER BABY and then brought down a man, a cop trying and failing to control this dog. Towards the end there is a heartrending, enraging image of children carrying a seemingly unconscious child — un nene, carajo, un chiquito — away from the mayhem. Everyone there under fire is brown, so many Latinos, apparently no one armed at all. “Dozens of people had their cell phones and at least four different people told me that police officers offered to buy their videos from them with no explanation,” the reporter on the scene says. This is terrifying and real.”

Next: this article from the Washington Post that describes the event that sparked the community outrage: the Anaheim police’s killing of an unarmed man who had fallen to his knees as tried to run away from the police. They shot him in the back of his head.

The 16-year-old niece of the man who was shot and killed, Manuel Diaz, said her uncle likely ran away from officers when they approached him because of his past experience with law enforcement.

“He (doesn’t) like cops. He never liked them because all they do is harass and arrest anyone,” Gonzalez told the newspaper after lighting a candle for her uncle. She cursed at officers who were nearby and a police helicopter that hovered overhead.

As I posted on Facebook: “Again, this is what the plain old mainstream media is reporting about what’s going down in Anaheim. Usually I assume that the mainstream media version is the watered down version. In this case, that’s just frightening.”

After that, a friend provided this article published Sunday by the Orange County Register. It’s very long and detailed; included is some background on the long history of police violence and misconduct in Anaheim:

Saturday’s shooting was the latest by the Anaheim Police Department, which is under scrutiny for several recent officer-involved shootings.

For nearly two years, families of others who have been fatally shot by Anaheim police in recent years have been holding protests at Anaheim police headquarters each Sunday.

Those protests led city officials last month to order an independent investigation of “major police incidents,” several of which resulted in suspects being killed.”

Also notable from this article: the Anaheim Police seem to love the label “documented gang member,” as demonstrated by how often they threw it around, as if to justify their acts of extreme violence both during the shootings and the severe crackdown on unarmed community members. I’ve never seen the word “documented” being used to refer to Latin@s so much outside of the context of immigration. To what agency does one go to get their gang papers, one might wonder.

UPDATED: 9:36am ET, 7/23/12

A few things to add since I signed off last night:

Gustavo Arellano of the OC Weekly posted a video of the immediate aftermath of the shooting of Manuel Diaz. The video is graphic. It shows Diaz laying on the ground, still moving, with no one attending to him; the police on the scene are milling around, then focus on pushing the crowd back away from the scene. You hear people telling the cops that Diaz is still moving, asking why no one is helping him. At around minute 3:13 of the video the cops pull him over roughly, his face a mask of blood. The video cuts off immediately thereafter.

Earlier this morning, Arellano sent out this tweet:

2nd man killed this weekend by #anaheim police ID'd as Joel Acevedo, Mother had Facebook premonition of his death http://t.co/aPw3pL6s
@GustavoArellano
GustavoArellano

Yes, this is a report of another Latino being shot and killed by the Anaheim police department just last night.


While reading through all of this, I couldn’t help but think of another recent incident of police officers violently and indiscriminately cracking down on unarmed people of color. As I shared on Facebook: “Take what’s happening in Anaheim, then connect it to this account of NYPD cops’ violent response to what amounts to standard swimming pool horseplay at McCarren Pool in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Pepper spray was involved; a kid got maced.” Chavisa Woods’ accountaccount begins:

It was one of the hottest days of the year. I went to McCarren Pool at six oclock. I’d always imagined what it would look like as an actual pool. This was beyond my expectation. It looked like a paradise (although there was a heavily imbedded police presence). I didn’t know I was about to witness people wearing nothing but swimming suites getting brutally arrested, slammed on their stomachs, shoved aside and to the cement, children and adults being haplessly maced and rushed by very large, enraged police officers, all because some people, most of whom were kids, decided to do a few flips into the water.

Aside from this account, which I only saw thanks to a few friends who shared it online, there has been very little coverage of this incident. What little is out there leaves out much if not all of the detail and analysis that Woods’ account contains. I did find and appreciate “The Politics of McCarren Park Pool,” a lengthy and detailed history of the pool, the surrounding neighborhoods, and the race and class tensions therein. One quote shocked me:

One Parks worker even floated the idea of charging for pool use. “There will be fights and problems throughout the summer—because it’s free,” he said. “They need to charge a little money to keep the riff raff out.”

Because being broke, even in this decrepit economy, automatically qualifies you as “riff raff” who doesn’t deserve to access the public city pool on a boiling hot summer day.

(Autobiographical aside: my mom spent some of her early years in the states living in south Williamsburg. I often wonder how shocked she’d be by what the neighborhood has become.)

Now it’s 2:39am ET, and I’ve really got to get to sleep. I’ll sum up by saying that as shocking and upsetting and frightening as all of this police violence leveled at unarmed people of color is, this is nothing new. This heightened policing, automatic suspicion, and violence is an everyday fact of life for people of color, especially low-income and poor people of color, in this country. That’s the sad, sick truth. But that’s why we’ve got to keep working so that solidarity, struggle, community and justice are also our everyday facts of life, as hard as we need to work to get it.

Spike, Mike, Slackers & Dykes

Tonight at about 1am I decided to watch Slacker by Richard Linklater. I’d first heard of it years ago and have had my eye on it for a while. It was damn good: funny, riveting, and just plain smart throughout. It was set in Austin, where I visited this past March for SXSW Interactive, so it was neat to have a smidgen of context for the landscape of the film. Yeah, I was on South Congress that one time!


At some point when I was a teenager I found Bravo on TV. This was way before Top Chef and The Real Housewives series. This was back when Bravo was more like the IFC. Or maybe it was the IFC that I actually found. The point being, this channel, whichever it was, showed tons of independent films all day and all night, and it was awesome.

One of the first movies I remember seeing on this channel was Salmonberries. I remember being in my computer room and it coming on the TV that was in there; it started late at night and I stayed up til the wee hours watching the whole damn thing. It was a strange move that starred k.d. lang as some sort of butch/genderqueer person living in the middle of nowhere Alaska and having an affair with a much older European woman. At some point I think they actually ended up in Europe together for a time, though I have no idea how. The soundtrack consisted primarily of Beethoven’s “Spring” sonata for violin and piano and k.d. singing this song that went “I’d walk through the snow barefoot if you’d open up your door, I’d walk through the snow barefoot.” In retrospect I think the movie was probably not so good, but back then, it totally had me hooked.

After that I was “into” independent film. As with most things I got “into” when I was younger, this primarily consisted of me reading a lot about independent film on the still-nascent World Wide Web and getting my Dad to buy me books and magazines about it at the Barnes & Noble on Route 22.

One such book was Spike, Mike, Slackers, & Dykes: A Guided Tour Across a Decade of American Independent Cinema. I bought it because it seemed like some sort of authoritative bible of independent film history. I never actually read it, though I flipped through it often. I think that was around the time I was also really “into” the Beat Generation too, so my attentions were divided. But what mattered to my 15-year-old-self was not whether I’d read the book so much as that it was on my bookshelf, clearly demonstrating my dedication, rebellious nature, and good taste to all.

When I packed for college a while later, Spike, Mike, Slackers, & Dykes was one of the books I packed to take with me, along with a bunch of the queer books that I’d managed to acquire through friends’ smuggling and sneaky Barnes & Noble purchases. These, plus my books on and by the Beats, seemed like Appropriate Books to Take With One to a Liberal Arts College (my extensive collection of fantasy books, not so much.) Into boxes they all went, and most of those boxes stayed behind while I headed to school a week early for a Tri-College Institute for new students of color starting at Swarthmore, Haverford, and Bryn Mawr. Only the books I was currently reading and the ones I couldn’t bear to be parted from (probably 5-10 books all told) came with me for that first trip.

My parents drove down to Swarthmore a week later with all the rest of my stuff, including the boxes of books I’d packed before I left. After they saw me settled in and headed out, I was unpacking my boxes and realized that certain books were missing: to be precise, all the queer ones plus one — Spike, Mike, Slackers, & Dykes, which was in fact not particularly queer, but one can understand the mistake. At the time, though, that just pissed me off even more. Also missing — my blue velvet cloak made especially for me by my high school friend (and first major queer crush.) Clearly, someone had edited my college packing choices.

I never saw those books, or that cloak, again. But every time I visit my mom in Florida these days, I spend some time going through the boxes upon boxes of old stuff and reminiscing about what I find with her. I’ve got a feeling I’m going to find all that stuff in one of those boxes one of these days. When I do, I’ll reclaim the cloak for future ren faires, I’ll probably tease my mom about the now fourteen-year-old confiscation, and I’ll finally read that damn book.

So, Catholic nuns kinda rock.

Today a high school friend of mine shared this NPR piece on Facebook: An American Nun Responds To Vatican Criticism. In the NPR interview, Sister Pat Farrell, president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, speaks to the issues being raised by the Vatican’s current patriarchal attack on the organization; the Vatican has announced that three American bishops have been appointed to oversee it. According to the official Vatican assessment, the Conference is promoting “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

An excerpt of the interview with Sister Farrel, in response to criticism regarding the organization’s attitude towards sexuality:

We have been, in good faith, raising concerns about some of the church’s teachings on sexuality. The problem being that the teaching and interpretation of the faith can’t remain static and really needs to be reformulated, rethought in light of the world we live in. And new questions and new realities [need to be addressed] as they arise. And if those issues become points of conflict, it’s because Women Religious stand in very close proximity to people at the margins, to people with very painful, difficult situations in their lives. That is our gift to the church. Our gift to the church is to be with those who have been made poorer, with those on the margins. Questions there are much less black and white because human realities are much less black and white. That’s where we spend our days.

Preach!


This recent news coverage of apparently social justice oriented Catholic nuns has fostered the most pronounced positive feelings about anything connected to Catholicism that I’ve had in a long, long time. It’s also making me think fondly of my high school education by the Sisters of Mercy (and their fellow teachers and administrators who were lay people).

It’s funny — my all-girls Catholic high school was actually not the most horrible context in which to realize that I was queer.1 By senior year I was explicitly out to the directress (ie. principal), quite a few teachers, the school psychologist (VERY supportive and VERY helpful), my good friends, and a few classmates.

I imagine that quite a few other people knew as well; who knows if people guessed it. As for gender, it’s actually quite easy to be a stealth butch in an all-girls’ Catholic high school. We all wore the same uniforms, many people didn’t bother with makeup or go through any great lengths over appearance, and there was even a widespread trend of wearing boxers under one’s uniform kilt (a late root?) Outside of school I pretty much wore t-shirts and jeans unless forced not to for some occasion or another; since in our society masculinity is the default and is considered universally desirable (either desire of or desire to be), you can get away with that for a pretty long time as a person who’s assigned female at birth.

All of that is to say, my Catholic high school was in some ways astoundingly chill. I mean, I went on a school trip to see Rent on Broadway — as part of my senior year religion course named “Living and Dying.” I didn’t experience a single incident of homophobic harassment or teasing. My college essay had something about how coming out was a form of overcoming adversity in it and my guidance counselor and another teacher reviewed it for me; both were nothing but supportive. This wasn’t limited to acceptance around sexuality; hell, I can thank a high school religion teacher for my first introduction to Buddhism and meditation.

And yet, when it was all said and done, we were always “ladies,” one and all. We all had to own a white gown and wear it on command for special occasions. Religion classes and attendance at religious functions during school days were compulsory. Heterosexuality was absolutely the norm, though with no self-identified boys around I mostly got to ignore that.2 Except when I couldn’t, like when we had to create “wedding albums” for a religion assignment. (My ideal groom as depicted therein was John Lennon circa White Album.) There as a pro-life club but never a chance of a pro-choice club.3 A student two years above me got suspended — or was it expelled? — when she punched another girl in the Senior Lounge after she called her a dyke. (No punishment for the slur, so far as I heard.) I sure as hell wasn’t throwing a campus Pride parade any time soon. It was definitely Catholic with a capital C.

But flawed, repressive, and normative as my high school was, I got to experience a different side of Catholicism, the side that’s being highlighted in this article and the rest of the recent press coverage: the side where women are central, where women are in positions of power and leadership, and where an explicit part of the mission of the institution was to educate, enrich, and empower young women. You know, the actually kinda cool side of Catholicism.



1. OK, as soon as I wrote that I had to laugh. Yeah, being attracted to girls at an all-girls high school wasn’t the WORST thing in the world. Heh.


2. I did try to fit in my freshman year by tearing out the page from an issue of Superman in the “Superman’s Dead” arc where you see Superboy looking all fierce and muscular in his leather jacket and yelling “Don’t EVER call me SUPERBOY!” and putting it up on my locker door. But somehow putting up a picture of a comic book character didn’t go over so well. From then on I stuck to pictures of the Beatles.


3. I went to the March for Life in DC because I had a huge crush on a friend who was going; I got there, felt totally traumatized by all I saw, hid inside government buildings for most of the day with said friend, and never attended another pro-life event again.

A must see (to me): rapper Murs’ new video for “Animal Style”

This is Murs’ new video for “Animal Style,” a track off his 2011 album Love & Rockets Volume 1: The Transformation. A small portion of the accompanying explanation from rapper Murs, who plays Roderick in this video:

…I just felt it was crucial for some of us in the hip hop community to speak up on the issues of teen suicide, bullying, and the overall anti-homosexual sentiment that exist within hip hop culture. I felt so strongly about these issues and this song that I had to do a video that would command some attention, even if it makes some viewers uncomfortable. Even if it came at the cost of my own comfort.

Warning: depictions of extreme homophobia-fueled intimate partner violence (a murder-suicide) between two young men of color are included.

Edited to add: I’m really grateful to my partner M. for pointing out my initial blind spot: this video depicts intimate partner violence driven by homophobia. She added that “it’s important to note that all oppressions [including homophobia, racism, and classism/poverty] are ‘outside stressors’ in relationships.” Very, very true.

I am generally feeling more emotional than usual today; that said, this made me cry, because it was very moving, beautifully done, heartbreaking and very difficult to watch, and because I was glad to know that this exists. I know the video is probably worth a closer look and deeper analysis, but for now, this is what I’ve got.

PS: Murs’ album is called Love and Rockets, which rocks. Murs was at Comic Con, according to his Twitter feed. I gotta check him out more!