A conversation with THEESatisfaction about their MWMF and AMC performances

Scroll down for screenshots of the full Twitter conversation.

On May 28 I started a conversation on Twitter with THEESatisfaction, musicians of whom I’ve been a fan for a bit, about their upcoming performance at the Allied Media Conference, which I’ve been deeply involved in since I first attended in 2011.

I wrote in response to their tweet about their upcoming performance at the AMC, a space which to me has long worked to be a safer space to trans women, other trans and gender non-conforming folks. This community ethos was especially visible in 2014, when the AMC was the site of the first International Trans Women of Color Network Gathering , a beautiful, groundbreaking and vital part of last year’s conference. Because of that, I felt it was important to ask THEESatisfaction about their participation in a transphobic and specifically transmisogynist institution despite a boycott called by trans women and their allies.

I recently learned that THEESatisfaction played at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival in 2013. The festival has had a longstanding practice of excluding trans women from participation as performers or attendees. In response, boycotts and other protests of the festival and its policies have been happening since 1992. In 2013, a widely publicized petition was circulated asking the Indigo Girls and other MWMF performers that year, including THEESatisfaction, to boycott the festival until trans women were fully included.

Below are screenshots of the rest of the conversation. The tweets that came from me and Jessie, another AMC participant, are still available on Twitter; THEESatisfaction have deleted all of their tweets and quickly blocked Jessie and I, cutting off further dialogue.

To date, THEESatisfaction has made no further statements with regards to their performance at MWMF, transmisogyny, or how it relates to their performance at the AMC.

AMC organizers have been aware of the situation since May 30 at the latest. Though they have engaged in conversation with myself and others about the topic, they have also made no public statements about this situation. THEESatisfaction is still set to perform on Saturday night.

thee_screenshot_1thee_screenshot_2Fourth set of screenshots of conversation with THEESatisfaction

 

The next screenshot should be read in reverse order, from bottom (earliest) to top (latest.)

Finally, a tweet from the personal account of one of the members of THEESatisfaction, which has since been made private.

thee_screenshot_5

 

For Aubrey

After a webinar on blogging for social change earlier today, I found myself on the home page of my old blog, AngryBrownButch. Scrolling down the page, I was jarred to read these words from November 18, 2008:

Since writing about Duanna on Friday, I’ve learned about the killings of two more trans women of color in recent months. Ebony Whitaker was murdered in July, also in Memphis. In August, Nakhia Williams was killed in Louisville, Kentucky. GLAAD and the Kentucky Fairness Alliance report that not only was there minimal news coverage of Williams’ murder, but the coverage that did happen was transphobic and disrespectful. And just this past Friday, Teish Cannon, a young Black trans woman living in Syracuse, NY, had her life cut short at the age of 22 because she was trans. Again, the media coverage has been both sparse and disrespectful, identifying Cannon as a man who was killed for being gay, not a woman who was killed for being trans.

(It took me maybe ten minutes to type that last paragraph. It made me feel nauseous. I’m not sure how I’m managing not to cry at this point.)

Those words, written just over six years ago, are a terrible echo of words I’ve heard, read and helped write in recent weeks. Not even two months into 2015, at least nine queer or trans people of color have been killed, the majority of them trans women of color. We mourned those nine people on February 14 at a Valentine’s Day Action for Murdered Trans and Queer People of Color in downtown Oakland. Since then, the heartbreaking list of murdered trans women of color has continued to grow at a horrifying rate.

This epidemic of violence against trans women of color does a tremendous amount of collateral damage, beyond the devastating losses of the victims themselves. The toll this violence takes on communities of trans women of color and their allies is immense, immeasurable, and too often as severe as the murders themselves.

Hours after the dismay I felt at reading such similar words on my blog from all those years back, I received a text message from one of my housemates. He asked whether I knew Aubrey. I responded that I did; I’d met her and had gotten to know her through weekly hack nights at the POC-led, gender-diverse makerspace I’m involved in. I asked my roommate why he asked.

As I waited for his reply, I felt my stomach sinking. Aubrey was a young trans woman of color. I knew that with those overlapping oppressions and the other challenges she faced, she didn’t have an easy life. I’d seen my roommate post a question about suicide on Facebook earlier in the day. I knew what he would tell me before I received his next message: Aubrey had taken her own life.

The internet has created some strange new rituals of mourning and coping. After more texts consoling each other and planning how to share the awful news with others who knew Aubrey, I looked for her on Facebook, feeling odd about it but not knowing what else to do. We weren’t “friends,” so I could only see her public posts.

Towards the top of Aubrey’s wall, posted the day before she died, is an article about Sumaya Dalmar, a young trans woman of color found dead in Toronto on February 22. Below that, an article about how some trans women had created a now-defunct Facebook event declaring the last week of February “Worldwide Don’t Kill a Trans Woman Week.”

Aubrey’s comment on the article about Sumaya Dalmar: a crying emoticon, and the terrible question I’ve heard far too often from trans women of color in recent weeks: “me next?”

My heart is broken tonight, again, this time for Aubrey. I fear the next heartbreak. I feel like my community keeps bracing itself for the next heartbreak. It takes a terrible toll.

Three things keep going through my head:

The words of Mother Jones: “Pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living.” I will.

The words of Assata Shakur: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and protect each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” With all of the loss that we experience, it’s important to remember that it’s not the fight that creates that loss; the fight keeps us alive, gives us strength, brings us hope in the face of these heartbreaks. And, oh yes, we must love each other and protect each other. We must protect each other. We must love each other.

Finally, the memory of Aubrey the last time I saw her. I can’t say I remember exactly what we talked about that last time she came to hack night; I won’t pretend that I have more than a vague memory, most likely an amalgamation of that and all the other times I’d seen her in the space. We were only acquaintances, not close. But we were still kin. We were still community. I remember her smile, her laugh, her awkwardness, her earnest enthusiasm. I remember looking forward to seeing her again.

I’ll fight like hell for the living, and for you, Aubrey.

On the passing of Maya Angelou

As I took my usual morning scroll through my Facebook feed, I saw one, then two, then more and more quotations from Maya Angelou. After the third I realized this was no fluke and most likely meant one of two things: today is her birthday and she’s getting way more wonderful tributes than I’ve seen for her in the past; or today Maya Angelou died. I think I knew it was the latter but held out hope until I saw the first post confirming that she has died. Rest in power, Dr. Angelou.

The news hit me hard, not just for the loss of Maya Angelou herself, but for the ever-increasing understanding of how many brilliant artists and activists will die during my lifetime. It’s one thing to treasure the work and life of someone who is already gone; it’s another entirely to share time on this earth with them and then have them go. Thinking of those losses that have happened already and the ones yet to come made me feel overwhelmed and a bit despondent–how can we possibly recover from so many losses?

Then I remembered that brilliant artists and activists are being born every day, that I’ve had the good luck of being surrounded by them and by knowledge of them in my life, and that we won’t run out of beauty and brilliance so long as we continue to tend to it. I’m left with a renewed commitment to seek out and support those cultivators of beauty, truth and justice in my own life and world.

Originally posted on Facebook

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.

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