Archive for the 'queer' Category Page 2 of 3



From Alas, A Blog: Race, Opposition to Equal Marriage Rights, And Homophobia

Sometimes, when I’m off on someone else’s blog debating something or another, I get a bit anxious because I’m spending a whole lot of time there instead of right here. At times, I also wind up writing comments of such substance that I think they’re worth reposting here on ABB. So, to allay my anxiety and bring my outside writings here, I’m going to start posting about debates, discussions, and arguments in which I’m participating on other folks’ blogs, drawing out a few choice comments and posts to put up here. In addition to generating some much-needed content here (whew!), this even has the added benefit of giving other bloggers (and fellow commenters) props and linkage.

So, to begin: Ampersand at Alas, a Blog recently posted about a New York Times article regarding race and attitudes around same-sex marriage. In the post, Amp asks, “So why are blacks more likely to oppose SSM — and gay sex — than whites?” Discussion ensues. I chime in:

Conversations like this about the racial nature of homophobia always make me nervous, because they often turn into a whole lot of white or other not Black folks hypothesizing about what makes Black folks tick. And that’s never a fun path to go down.

Not that such phenomena should be ignored; I just think it’s a lot more productive and a lot less prone to awfulness for communities of color to talk internally about how to deal with their community’s homophobia.

I also think that it’s important to note that, while these statistics may be true, the politicians and legislators who actually wield the most clout in determining what rights queer folks do or do not get are, for the most part, a bunch of white men. So maybe, statistically, a larger percentage of Black folks believe homosexuality is wrong and are against queer marriage, but that smaller white percentage probably has a lot more power to doing anything about it, at least on a legislative level.

And later:

I think the key thing here for me is the racial power dynamic going on when/if white people begin discussing why Black straight people, not just straight people in general, are homophobic. The conversation shifts from a discussion about straight people discriminating against queer people to one about Blackness itself, and whenever you’ve got white folks making assumptions, speculations, and pronouncements about Black people, you’re almost guaranteed to get some racism seeping in there, whether overt or subtle.

Another thread of the conversation focused on making distinctions (rather dubious ones, in my opinion) between moral disapproval of homosexuality and homophobia. One commenter, RonF, writes:

My point is that people are taking a term with an agreed-upon meaning and are using it to try to change the viewpoint of what other people are saying. Yes, homophobia is being used to refer to anti-gay bigotry. But it’s also being used to refer to other things as well in an attempt to make anything that’s even mildly dissaproving of homosexual behavior to look like anti-gay bigotry or worse.

My response:

I suppose that it’s possible for someone to believe that homosexual behavior is morally wrong and yet not be homophobic/heterosexist/whatever word will get you past your semantic quibbles.

However, far too often, those moral judgments lead to actual discrimination against and oppression of queer people, not limited to physical violence. (And, by the way, I find your reference to the “stringing up” of Matthew Shepherd to be rather insensitive, coming from you.)

Many people use their Christian faith as justification for their disapproval of homosexuality. And many of those people will act on that disapproval in pushing for legislation to ban state-sanctioned gay marriage, gay adoption, domestic partner benefits, etc.

However, that very same Christian faith also strongly disapproves of premarital sex and divorce, amongst other things related to sexuality and relationships. And yet, I don’t see those Christians rallying to restrict state-sanctioned marriage to virgins who have never been married before, or to bar people from adopting if they’ve had premarital sex. People who have sex before marriage and divorcees are not singled out as classes of people to be barred from partaking fully in society’s institutions, whereas queer people are indeed singled out for their sexual orientations and activities.

Therein lies the homophobia, therein lies the heterosexism. It’s not because homosexual behavior is prohibited in the Bible; tons of activities in which heterosexuals partake on a regular basis are similarly prohibited and deemed immoral, but you don’t see anyone trying to take away those heterosexuals’ rights. This isn’t about faith or morality, really; it’s about continued prejudice and discrimination against queer people.

NYC Department of Homeless Services: Stop discrimination against domestic partners!

The NYC Department of Homeless Services is riddled with ineffective and discriminatory practices that wind up doing homeless people a lot of harm; this is just one of them. Take a few seconds to send the DHS a postcard calling for them to stop demanding an unfairly high burden of proof of domestic partners who are seeking to enter shelters together, as a family. Because this proof is very difficult to provide, homeless couples who are not married are often forced to choose between staying together on the streets, and being split up in shelters. Here’s the link from the LGBT Center in NYC.

post-post-Pride recap

Trans March photo from Workers World

Here I am, blogging about my Pride activities from more than two weeks ago. Oops.

I frame my conversation with pictures that people took of me at the front of two very different marches. Above, a photo from Workers World of the march that occured on the Trans Day of Action (TDOA). I’m the nearly-bald one making a weird face and wearing the dorky cell phone earpiece.

As I wrote earlier, the organizers of the TDOA were denied the requested permits to march down 8th Av. When I arrived at the starting point and rally location in Chelsea Park, I was greeted by two sharply contrasting sights. First, I saw many people, trans & gender non-conforming folks and our allies, gathered together, energized, enthusiastic, strong and ready to make their voices heard. A bit off to the side of them, I saw a large group of cops, standing around with clusters of plastic handcuffs dangling from their belts.

Now, you may think that plastic handcuffs sound more mild than metal handcuffs, but let me tell you, they hurt like a motherfucker, especially when you get to wear them for hours on end as I got to when I was arrested during the Republican National Convention, and especially when they’re cruelly tightened so that they cut off circulation and cut into your skin, as was done to many of my fellow arrestees. They’re also cheap, plentiful, and quick to put onto someone’s wrists, and are therefore well suited for situations where the cops expect (or, perhaps, hope) to be arresting large groups of people. Ever since the RNC, I’ve felt more wary, nervous, and even scared than ever before whenever I’m around cops, especially when they’re in a large group. And the dangling plastic handcuffs seem like nothing so much as a threat, a message of warning to protestors: “Hey, you – stay in line, or these will go on all your wrists real quick.”

Screwing up my courage so that their presence didn’t make me veer off to the side, I walked right past those cops and joined the gathered crowd. There was a good turnout and the energy was positive and high. We started chanting to get folks focused and enthused, and then had a short program of speeches by folks from various community organizations. I was called up to speak first as a representative of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. I was really nervous, and what with the heat, the sun, and the shouting to be heard by the crowd, I felt like all the blood was rushing to my head and I might pass out, but it also felt great to be speaking up and out and to feel SRLP’s and the TDOA’s messages being echoed and applauded by the crowd. This is part of what I said, written together with other folks from SRLP:

“The City of New York has demonstrated time and time again that it will never take meaningful action to stop the discrimination and abuse of trans people unless they are forced to do so. The fact that TransJustice was denied the permits to march down Eight Av only reaffirms the city’s disregard and disrespect for the trans community. But this demonstration, our presence here today proves that our community will not be silenced or pushed aside. We can and will make the City of NY pay us heed and pay our community the respect that we deserve. We can create the world in which we want to live, by showing our power in the streets, by building our communities, and by making our demands known loud and clear.

“We want adequate and affordable housing
We want our communities to be protected from police violence
We want equal access to health care, including trans health care and health care for trans youth
We want our community out of prisons, jails, and the juvenile prison system
We want trans people to have equal access to jobs
We want our community to have equal access to jobs and to welfare benefits when we need them
We want to be able to access services and housing in the genders we are, not genders that are forced on us
We want access to real avenues for immigration that allow people to work and live free from harassment and government surveillance

“We want true justice and true respect for all trans and gender non-conforming people, in NYC, across this country and around our world, and we will not stop struggling, we will not stop speaking out, we will not stop fighting until we get it!”

I got down, successfully not passing out, and the program continued, filled with great speakers who all drove home messages of true justice for trans and gender non-conforming people, as well as all oppressed people. One of the best things about the work of Trans Justice (the trans people of color group that organized the march) is how they tie together all forms of oppression and discrimination; they address racism, classism, poverty, sexism, and homophobia, not only as they affect trans folks but as they affect all people who are oppressed.

After the speakers finished, there was a bit of waiting and then the announcement: we would march, permit be damned. It was exciting but also scary – certainly important to stand up for our rights and be heard no matter what, but also a little worrisome, given the cops and their plastic handcuffs and the big arrest wagon that they drove alongside us as we marched down the sidewalks of 8th Av (we weren’t allowed to take the streets until we were a couple of blocks away from our ultimate destination, the LGBT Center.) But as we stepped off and started marching through Midtown, chanting all the way, my nervousness was replaced by that funny mixture of joy and controlled, focused rage that happens during a march or a protest; a sense of community strength and power, a sense of being joined together in struggle, committed to continue despite fierce opposition and repression. It was a long march, snaking uptown on 8th Av somewhere into the 40s, then turning around and coming down 7th Av and marching all the way down to the Center at 13th St. We got some crazy looks and some hostility from evening commuters as we passed Penn Station, and the cops were ever present and ever obnoxious; one cop was heard to say “You’re missing a great transgender rally. Only in New York. I got he shes and she hes.” But, all in all, it was a tremendously succesful, energizing, and empowering event.

Me at the Dyke March

The picture above, taken by kaitlyn is of me, with my sign, at the front of the Dyke March on Saturday. The side of the sign that’s visible in the picture reads, “Dyke March Committee: Am I welcome here? If I am, THEN SAY IT!” The other side has a list of check boxes next to the following words: woman, womyn, wimmin, genderqueer butch, dyke. The boxes next to woman, womyn and wimmin are X’d out; the boxes next to genderqueer butch and dyke are checked off. (If you’re confused as to the purpose of my sign, read what I wrote earlier about my thoughts on the Dyke March. The weird face I’m making is because, by this point in the march, my sign was nearly falling off the pole and was held fast primarily by chewing gum; I’m looking up at it and willing it to not embarass me by falling off during those few minutes that I spent at the front of the march. (It didn’t.)

My girlfriend and I arrived in the vicinity of the march later than we’d expected, so we didn’t go all the way up to the starting point by Bryant Park. Instead, we waited for the march to come to us, down near the Empire State Building on 5th Av. It was the first time I’d ever seen the march coming at me instead of being in it from the start, and it gave me a little thrill to see the banner coming my way. That is, until I read the banner: “Women Wimmin Womyn.” Which, in and of itself, would not be such a big deal, but when combined with the “women only” gender policing of the march itself, was something of an unpleasant sight.

As the march approached, I held my sign high, despite feeling nervous and vaguely sheepish. There were a bunch of photographers and videographers up in front, and a few of them ran over and snapped pictures or took footage of my sign when they saw it. I got interviewed by a few folks, too. I was surprised – I definitely didn’t expect that kind of attention for me and my sign.

The march began to pass by. As usual, I saw many people I knew dispersed among the crowd. As my friend and Lt. Governor candidate Alison writes, the march “has the feel of both a powerful protest march and the largest class reunion you could imagine attending.” I saw both people I knew and strangers looking my way and taking in the sign. Lots of people smiled, clapped, or gave me a thumbs up. Some people thanked me for bringing the sign and that message to the march. A few folks told me that of course I was welcome at the march, and when I explained the women-only policy and my issues with it, some of them were surprised – they probably didn’t even know about the policy. That’s the thing about it – for all the Dyke March Committee wants to create its gender policing rules, most people never even hear about them, and many of those who do just don’t give a damn.

My sign was addressed specifically to the Dyke March Organizing Committee, so I wanted to make sure that they saw it. It seemed like the best way to do that was to march right up front. I’d mostly stayed on the sidelines until then, but down around 23rd St, I rushed up to the front. It took a little while for me to screw up the courage to step off of the sidewalk and into the street, directly in front of the big banner, but eventually I did.

After a few minutes, one of the organizers – actually one of the committee members to whom I’d spoken last year about these issues – came over to me and said that I couldn’t march in front of the banner. I pointed to my sign and asked her if, since she is a member of the committee, she could answer my question to them – was I, in fact, welcome at the march? She told me that the march was for women, for dykes. I told her that I was a butch. She responded, “Well, butches are women.” I couldn’t help but laugh a bit at this disregard for my right or ability to define my gender for myself. I told her that I identified as a butch, not as a woman, and then she told me that, in that case, she supposed that the march didn’t speak to me, and that I needed to move. I told her that I was going to enter the march, and that she should ask all the dykes around me if they wanted me to leave. As I stepped behind the banner, she told me that she wouldn’t waste her time, saying, “This march is for me.

I continued to march, eventually stepping to the side again for the final triumphant entry into Washington Square Park. This year, the construction on the big arch in the park was finally cleared up, so for the first time in the years that I’ve been attending, the march came right through under the arch and into the park. It was a terrific sight. I stuck around for a little while, watched the crowd, and spoke with some friends. After some time, my girlfriend and I walked to the subway; I abandoned my ailing sign in a garbage can near W. 4th St; we went home.

And so ends my long, rambling, weeks-in-the-making entry on Pride. I now feel like I can return to my regularly scheduled blogging. Stay tuned.

not all rainbow balloons and frolicking gay boys

Not that there’s anything wrong with either of those things. But below is a press release from the Audre Lorde Project, an organization for queer people of color in NYC, that addresses a far less joyful and celebratory incident that occurred at Sunday’s Pride march. It’s a good reminder that, despite the raucous celebrations and flamboyant displays that take over Manhattan for a day or two, we queers are still targets, some of us more than others.

Pride Celebration Marred By NYPD

Youth of Color Arrested While Participating in Annual LGBT Pride Parade

New York City, NY, June 26, 2006: The annual Heritage of Pride Parade celebrating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender communities in New York City was marred this year by the unjust arrests of two young marchers.

At approximately 2:30 in the afternoon, while marching with Manhattan Pride Parade People of Color contingent two young people of color were arrested as they sought to re-enter the parade. The two young people had left the parade briefly and when they attempted to return they were placed under arrest by the NYPD. Marshals with the People of Color contingent repeatedly informed the police that the two young people were with the contingent and asked why they were being arrested. The police refused to respond. Witnesses stated that the police used unnecessary force when arresting the two young people. Kris Hayashi, Executive Director of the Audre Lorde Project, witnessed the incident. Hayashi states, “I observed the police brutally throwing one of the young people into the police van. This incident of unnecessary, unjust arrest is part of an ongoing pattern of harassment and brutality by the NYPD towards communities of color and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two Spirit, Trans and Gender Non Conforming people of color in this city. We must hold the NYPD accountable.”

The two young people were taken to the 6th precinct where the younger of the two was released while the 19 year old was held at the 6th precinct with a charge of disorderly conduct. Despite pressure from elected officials and community leaders to release the 19 year-old the young person was held overnight at Central Booking and to date has not been released.

Concerned community members and the Audre Lorde Project called a press conference the day of the parade at 9:30 PM in front of the 6th Precinct. Representatives of the Audre Lorde Project, Maua Flowers Institute, and
FIERCE spoke at the press conference, which was attended by 50 community members. Speakers called for the young person’s immediate release, for the charges to be dropped, for the NYPD to be held accountable for harassment and brutality, and for the community to stand up against ongoing harassment and brutality towards our communities.

“In the wake of recent violence against the LGBT community, it is an outrage that the NYPD has responded with a message of more violence, sadly against a young person of color marching the annual peaceful LGBT Pride Parade, ” says Rickke Mananzala, Campaign Coordinator of FIERCE, an LGBT youth of color organizing project in New York City.

Community members packed the court the morning of Monday, June 26, calling for the young person’s immediate release and for the charges to be dropped.

The Audre Lorde Project (ALP) is a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two Spirit, Trans and Gender Non Conforimng (LGBTSTGNC) People of Color (POC) center for community organizing, focusing on the New York City area.

Ain’t I a Woman/Womyn/Wimmin?

Dyke March Card

Maybe not.

While at Brooklyn Pride this year, I was handed a postcard for this year’s NYC Dyke March. In bold, red letters, the postcard proclaims: “Women! Womyn! Wimmin!” and, below, says “This march is for women only. Allies should cheer us from the sidelines.”

The postcard left me wondering where I belonged – in the march, as I’ve been every year since moving to NYC in 2002, or on the sidelines.

Last year, there was something of a campaign at the Dyke March. People handed out stickers that said, “A Dyke March for All Dykes.” These folks were primarily calling for the inclusion of dyke-identified trans men in the Dyke March.

Something about this protest rubbed me the wrong way. I think it had a lot to do with the people who were most visibly involved – mostly white, mostly thin, mostly “good looking” by typical standards trannyboys who seem to occupy a particular scene in NYC – the scene in which (certain) trans guys are omgsohott!!! In my limited interaction with this scene, I’ve felt a lot of entitlement and a certain amount of privilege, namely racial and male, (though I’m quick to acknowledge that the male privilege that a trans man may possess is thoroughly complicated by the lack of privilege that comes with being trans.) The crowd that seemed to be calling most loudly for trans male inclusion in the Dyke March, and the particular way in which they went about it, did not make me so sympathetic to the cause, despite my understanding of and, in large part, agreement with their points.

There was a pretty big debate last year with (and within) the Dyke March Planning Committee over whether the march should be explicitly women-only, or whether it should be opened to dykes of many genders, including dyke-identified trans men and genderqueers. The portions of the debate that I witnessed were thoroughly upsetting; there was a whole lot of transphobia lacing the entire thing, and a whole lot of wilful ignorance and reductionism around people’s gender. I myself went to the beginning of a Dyke March planning meeting and spoke to some of the organizers. One particularly prevalent message that I heard was that genderqueers, and maybe even trans men, could attend the March as long as they came to it identifying with and embracing whatever part of them was still “woman.”

This notion – that, deep down inside, all trans men and genderqueers still have a “woman” side – really pisses me off. It is completely invalidating of many people’s gender identities, and is an attempt to reinforce a gender binary that dictates that, when you get down to it, everyone is really either a woman or a man as determined by whatever gender they were assigned at birth. Some trans men and genderqueers who were female-assigned at birth might embrace or acknowledge a female or woman side of themselves, which is a completely valid and wonderful individual choice. (Though, actually, who am I or anyone else to say whether someone else’s understanding of their gender is valid or not?) However, that choice cannot and should not be forced upon all trans men or genderqueers. And when the organizers of the Dyke March or any other space say that, somehow, they’re welcoming trans men and genderqueers when they say “women only,” that’s exactly what they’re doing – stripping people of their right to gender self-identification and pushing them into one of two predefined boxes.

As far as I understand it, one of the primary motivations behind the Dyke March has always been visibility – the visibility of dykes and other queer women within a larger queer movement that has often completely ignored them or pushed their needs and issues to the side. Therefore, it makes me profoundly sad that the Dyke March is making increasingly invisible those people who have long been part of the lesbian/dyke/queer women’s communities, but do not, perhaps, fully or even remotely identify as “women.”

I, myself, am included among that number. When people ask me my gender in a free-form manner, I always respond with “genderqueer butch.” That’s my gender, to a T. It fits me better than any other gender label that I’ve come across. The term “woman” is so loaded down with so much cultural and societal connotation that I’m not really all that comfortable with it, under most circumstances.

Somehow, “woman of color” is different. It doesn’t bother me nearly as much, it’s something I can identify with much more easily and it’s an identity that I embrace. A lot of that is about kinship, about shared experience, and about solidarity. It’s far easier for me to be proud of being a woman of color, to be comfortable being a woman of color, than it is for me to be comfortable just being labeled as a woman.

And it’s not as if I don’t identify with the label “women” at all. I do. I function in this binary gender world primarily as a woman. I am denied privilege and discriminated against as a woman; I receive privilege as a non-trans woman. I am seen by most as a woman who doesn’t act like a woman should, but a woman nonetheless. And, when pressed, when given the choice between two options, man or woman, I will (at this point in my life, at least) invariably choose woman.

That’s the thing, though – I don’t like having to choose between two boxes and squeeze myself in, however bad the fit may be. I am perfectly content identifying as a genderqueer butch, full stop. I don’t feel that I need to tack “woman” onto that to preserve my connection to women’s struggles, to women’s cultures, to women’s communities. I don’t feel the need to do so in order to share the kinship and community that I do with other women of color. And I certainly don’t think that I need to call myself a woman in order to prove my allegience to women or to feminism.

It sucks that I’m so often forced to choose between the two, or that the choice is made for me when people make assumptions based on how I look or sound. It’s something that I deal with almost constantly – any time I meet someone new, speak to someone on the phone, or am forced to choose a gendered title like Ms or Mrs or Mr; any time that I walk into a public restroom and get the double-takes, the questioning, and eventual approval after I reluctantly say “Yes, I’m a woman;” any time someone calls my office asking for me after only reading my name in an email or on a website and I hear those few moments of confusion before they decide, “Oh, this must be a woman named Jack.” However, I’m fairly used to all of that. I expect it from mainstream society, and those low expectations make it a little easier to deal with.

But it’s a whole other story when it’s communities that I expect more from, like queer communities. To be pushed into boxes by people who struggle against being shoved into boxes of their own, to be made to feel invisible and disrespected by people who know what it feels like to have to fight to be seen and respected for who one truly is – that’s a special kind of hurt right there.

So, will I march this year, or not? I don’t know. I sure as hell won’t be cheering from the sidelines like I’m apparently supposed to. I’m either in it or I’m not. I know that the Dyke March isn’t really about the policies that some small, select group of women come up with; it’s about the collective power and often disparate voices of all of the people who show up to march. I know that it’s not likely that anyone will try to enforce this policy, and I know that, even if they did, I’d be lucky enough, in a way, to be read as a woman and let be. But I don’t know if I’d be able to really have fun and enjoy myself without having that queasy feeling that comes when you’re forced to pass for something that you’re not.

If I do march, I think I might make a sign to carry. I’m thinking it’ll be a list of labels with checkboxes next to them – woman, womyn, wimmin, genderqueer butch. The checkboxes next to the first three will have a big red “x” through them; the checkbox next to the last will have a big green check through it. And then the sign will say, “Am I still welcome here? If I am, then say it!”

*****

I’m writing about my own experience as a not-exactly-woman-identified person, but I’d also like to point out that many people who very happily identify as women are not truly welcomed or included in many women’s and dyke spaces and communities – namely, trans women.

Yes, the NYC Dyke March, like many other similar spaces, is “officially” open to all women – as their website reads, “biological or otherwise,” because, you know, all those trans women out there are inorganic or mechanical or something. (Trans women are women, just as biological as any other women. The term “non-trans” is far more respectful and accurate than “biological.”) But there’s a big difference between talking the talk of including trans women, and walking the walk of truly making a community or space welcoming and inclusive of trans women. The former is easily about posturing and empty declarations; the latter is about changing personal attitudes and overcoming individual, collective, and institutional transphobia.

Some friends of mine have posted a petition to demonstrate community support of trans women that will be circulated at the Dyke March on Saturday. I encourage you all to read it and sign on if you’re down with it. There’s no automated way to sign online quite yet, but if you email me (see “Contact Me” on the sidebar) or leave your name and location in the comments, I’ll be sure to pass it on to them.

My pride cup overfloweth…

Puerto Rican Day Parade, painting by Martin Wong
Puerto Rican Day Parade by Martin Wong

This weekend was a little overwhelming with the pride in my various identities. On Saturday, Brooklyn Pride exploded in all its queer glory. Me, my girlfriend, and Bessie the dog went out and were queer. This basically consisted of walking up and down Prospect Park West, getting about ten steps at a time before stopping to greet people we knew (Bessie got pet a lot), dodging the countless solicitations from Democrats and assorted mainstream queer organizations like HRC (we didn’t dodge the coller organizations, though they were also far less in-your-face), and eating overpriced, greasy street fair food. Later that night, we attended the somewhat abbreviated night parade, which was a lot of fun and had much more of a neighborhood, chill feel than the craziness that is the big Pride march in Manhattan.

OMG, speaking of pride, I need to interrupt myself to CHEER via blog because Cynthia Nixon just won the Tony award for Best Performance by a Lead Actress in a Play. My girlfriend and I were hoping that she’d thank her girlfriend in her speech, which she did not, but she did something even better – she kissed her! On camera! Woohoo!

Today I found out that Cynthia Nixon and her partner were at Brooklyn Pride. And I missed them. This, my friends, is a tragedy indeed. I met her once; she actually knew my name and used it a few times over the course of said night. This tells me that maybe I could have said hi to her without seeming overly “Hi I’m a huge fan of yours and I’m going to bother you at this random event!” Maybe she would have even pet my dog. Le sigh.

Anyhow.

Today was the Puerto Rican Day Parade. An estimated three million people attended. I was not one of them. I had to speak on that panel (which I’ll write more about tomorrow, hopefully); afterwards, me and a few of my friends tried to catch up to the parade, but we thought it was travelling south when it was actually going north, so we wound up quite far from the tail end of it. I could have hopped on the subway and gone uptown, but we were hungry, it was getting late, and the crowds seemed far too daunting. So I did not go. I didn’t even get to watch it on TV, as I usually do.

On my train ride home, I saw tons of people coming back from the parade, entire families bedecked in various renditions of the Puerto Rican flag. A Mexicana friend of mine always says that we Boricuas love our bandera more than anything, and with all the flags I saw today, that seems quite true. It made me happy to see so many proud Boricuas all over the place, but sad that I’d missed all the festivities. I was, however, wearing my own Puerto Rican flag armband, have worn my Puerto Rico World Baseball Classic t-shirt all day yesterday and part of this afternoon, have my big flag flying outside my apartment window, and have had my ringtone set to “Que Bonita Bandera” all weekend. So I’ve celebrated in my own little way, but next year, I’ve got to find some other Boricuas to celebrate with.

As an aside – maybe only other Puerto Ricans will find this as amusing as me – today on the train I saw this guy wearing a t-shirt that said “Boricua” and featured a big cartoon coquí, standing upright in front of a flag, wearing shades, a PR flag do-rag, and a tank top that exposed its muscley, green, tattooed bicep. ¡Que loco!

P.S. I finally got around to responding to many comments that had been lingering for a few days. So, if you’ve written one recently, check back, I’ve probably responded.

AngryBrownButch in the flesh

This weekend I’m going to be sitting on a panel at the New Fest, the big queer film festival here in NYC. The details:

Masculinity In The Lesbian Community
1pm on June 11, 2006
The New Yorker Hotel
481 Eighth Avenue (at 34th St.)
Grammercy Park Suite
$6

As seen in NewFest 2006 films like Boy I Am and Gender Rebel, there’s a lot to say about FTMs and genderqueer people and how they do and don’t fit into the larger lesbian community. With such diversity now present, is it still the lesbian community? Filmmakers Sam Feder and Elaine Epstein and activists continue the dialogue.

I’m one of the aforementioned activists, along with my friend Naomi; we’re both coming as representatives, so to speak, of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, though we won’t really be talking about SRLP’s work and therefore won’t be speaking as official representatives of what SRLP’s official positions on these issues are.

Note that the premise of the whole panel is a bit weird and is reflective of a problematic trend in “lesbian” communities to focus on the presence of trans men and female-assigned genderqueers and generally ignore the issues and presence (or lack thereof) of trans women in the community. It’s also a bit odd that we’ve gotten to this point where the synopsis of a panel entitled “Masculinity in the Lesbian Community” (and, at one point in the NewFest guide, is even simply called “Lesbian Masculinity”) includes nary a mention of butches, studs, AGs, and other masculine folks who have traditionally been a part of the lesbian community.

I, myself, tend not to identify as a lesbian anymore; my sexuality is queer, though I still do identify with lesbian community and culture, if that makes sense. And I certainly wouldn’t say I belong to a lesbian community, given the wide range of genders and sexualities in the communities of which I’m a part. But the question, “is it still the lesbian community?” is an odd one. It all depends on what you mean by community – is it just a general term applied to all people who share an identity, or is community an actual, localized social group of people who know and support each other? I’ll be speaking to these points and more on the panel. I’ll let y’all know how it goes.

Another reason to scrape that blue equal sign sticker off your bumper

No to HRC
image from bloggy

This past weekend I drove in a friend’s car. While loading up the trunk, I noticed that there was a very faded, barely discernable Human Rights Campaign sticker on the bumper. I was quite amused, especially since, given my knowledge of her general politics, she probably likes the HRC about as much as I do. Which is to say, not at all. For folks who aren’t familiar with them, the HRC is, in a nutshell, an extremely mainstream, pandering, assimilationist LGB”T” organization that seems to work primarily for the rights of the most privileged, white picket fence (and just plain white) sort of queers. Well, not queers, seeing as “queer” is not their sort of word. They are decidedly lesbian, gay, bisexual I guess, and let’s throw in transgendered so that it looks like we care. In fact, their chosen acronym on their website is GLBT, not even LGBT. Clearly, they’re making no bones about who comes first in their hierarchy of gay importance! HRC does not serve the interests of me and many of my friends and many other folks who supposedly fall under their “GLBT” rubric. Last year at the big Pride march here in NYC, my friends and I hollered at them from the sidelines – “Racist, sexist, anti-trans, HRC, we’re not your fans!” We also squirted them with water guns. It was fun times, but it’s also unfortunate that one of the biggest, most established, resource-laden LGBT organizations has such skewed priorities.

They primarily focus on homo marriage to the exclusion of the many other issues that affect many queers on the daily. Now, I’m not an opponent of gay marriage, but I also don’t think it’s the most important issue facing the wider queer and trans communities, and I don’t think it’s going to be some amazing event makes life subtantially better and easier for most queers and trans folks. Of course, I think that the institution of marriage is pretty fucked and fairly discriminatory in terms of deciding which kinds of families are legitimate and deserve certain rights and protections and which are not, and that goes far beyond queer issues. I mean, if you’re not a traditional nuclear heterosexual family unit, you’re fairly screwed under this country’s current laws. So gay marriage, while it will have important benefits for many people, will still primarily benefit those people who want to work within that sort of two-parent rubric. Any other less conventional family formations and you’ll still be out of luck, and it seems rather unwise to push for something that will privilege and legitimize certain queer relationships and families while in turn continuing to delegitimize many others, queer and not queer.

So yes, anyhow, HRC pretty much sucks, and now they’ve evidenced it even more, as bloggy over at the Daily Gotham writes in an entry entitled “The Human Rights Campaign: dangerous to homos”. Apparently, the HRC has decided to endorse Joe Lieberman’s run for reelection as senator of Connecticut. I’m missing how he can be called pro-gay, given his stances and voting record on various issues. (Though, apparently, the “homosexuality is wrong” comment quoted by bloggy is in dispute, so I won’t comment either way on that – his record says enough, I’d say.)

The worst of it, though, is that the very narrow, single-issue focus that the HRC seems to have has pushed them to support Lieberman because, in the weird parallel universe in which the HRC seems to operate, Lieberman is somehow “pro-gay.” Does this perceived pro-gayness somehow counteract his continued pandering to the religious and war-mongering right? Does HRC really think that someone who doesn’t miss a chance to snuggle up to the GOP, as bloggy so amusingly put it, is going to hesitate before completely selling out all queers, from the ones who HRC really looks out for to the ones it purports to represent but doesn’t?

Who knows. Maybe the HRC just likes good ol’ Joe because he’s as much a panderer as they are – Liberman to the Right, the HRC to the straights.

*****

p.s. I know I’m a bit behind on responding to comments, but I’ll be trying to catch up in the near future. Thanks to everyone who’s read and commented. Also, just as a note, I got my first truly out of control comments, the kind where someone doesn’t just diagree with you, but writes a lengthy rant that is largely composed of ad hominems. Apparently this person is really upset about my post on the West Point girlfriends website (which was really rather mild as far as my posts go, probably because the whole topic doesn’t matter much to me and was merely a source of mild amusement and intrigue).

They also seem to think that I am either a hipster, or like hipsters at all, and plan to force my children to be vegans. Uh… sure. (Just for the record, I am an inveterate carnivore, though I do make attempts at obtaining meat from humane sources when I can.) Anyhow, getting comments like that for the first time, I feel like I’ve graduated to some new level in blogging! I mean, I clearly can’t be doing my job well if people aren’t calling me names.

how the Radical Feminists™ made me mad today

A brief change from writing about gentrification (just wrote a response to Paul Brady’s comment in my last post that is basically a post in itself, with how long it got.)

Lately, I tend to avoid the blogs of self-proclaimed “radical feminists” (in which “radical” apparently means “more feminist/less brainwashed than thou). While we probably agree on a great deal of feminist thought and philosophy, the frequent posts and subsequent debates about how all pornography and BDSM are inherently patriarchal and evil, well, they just give me headaches, so I’d rather not partake.

Yet today, I wound up reading a lengthy indictment of polyamory over on Angry for a Reason. (I got there by following an old Technorati link; seems that there used to be a link to my blog on the blogroll there, but it has since been removed, probably because of my rampant misogyny and all.)

Lost Clown’s article, which was published in off our backs, begins thusly (after the requisite Dworkin quote and a definition of the word polyamory):

I believe in polyamory, but only in a society where everyone is equal, where everyone is allowed to be human. Polyamory, therefore, cannot exist in our society.

I have been a polyamorist all my life, before I had knowledge of the word polyamory. I am still a polyamorist today, but I cannot bring myself to practice anymore, because polyamory as a mutually fulfilling practice cannot exist in a society that does not see me as human. The rise of polyamory as the preferred lifestyle in the radical leftist/anarchist circles parallels the “sexual revolution” of the late ‘60s movement. This supposed sexual freedom for women is done not for our benefit, but for the benefit of men. The ultimate goal for these “radical” men is still the fuck.

The article continues as such, with nary a mention of, you know, polyamory that maybe doesn’t involve men and is not all about “the fuck.” Despite the grand pronouncements of polyamory at the beginning of the article, it looks only at heterosexual relationships (in which, of course, polyamory only serves the interest of the men involved, and women are stripped of all possible power and agency because, hey, the patriarchy exists!)

In the comments, I criticize Lost Clown for this narrow, heterosexist dismissal of polyamory; she responds by saying that obviously she was only talking about heterosexual polyamory, despite never explictly saying that anywhere in the article. Funny, it seems like when you say things like “polyamory cannot exist in our society,” without any qualifications, you might be read as talking about polyamory in general. Unless, somehow, one is supposed to understand that by polyamory, she means heterosexual polyamory – heterosexuality being the default, which is a thoroughly heterosexist approach. If you’re going to completely disregard non-heterosexual relationships, please own that and say it outright, instead of assuming that everyone will just understand what you meant. Or, better yet – just don’t disregard them.

I suppose the whole thing hits a rather personal sore spot for me, since I am polyamorous. And, while I do not think that polyamory is some perfect philosophy, or that it is easy to navigate without fucking up or hurting people, or that it is inherently better than chosen and intentional monogamy, I also think that chosen, intentional polyamory that is pursued in an open, honest, equitable and kind way is far preferable to societally-enforced, by-default monogamy. Everyone always seems to think that polyamorous relationships are destined to blow up in people’s faces, but hey, monogamy doesn’t seem to have that good a success rate, either.

Edited to add: Some dialogue continued in the comments of Lost Clown’s post, in which she wrote that she sees my point and that, if or when she re-edits her article, she will try to make it clear that she’s talking specifically about leftist men’s practices of polyamory. I still disagree with her on many points, but I appreciated her seeing my point and planned efforts to make the article more clear; I also do think that, though I probably wouldn’t take the same approach as her, it is important to discuss the problematic aspects of polyamory. Though I haven’t experienced it myself, it seems like there is clearly a lot of sexism going on in certain polyamorous communities. And one problematic thing I have seen is this faulty view of polyamory as sort of “more radical” than any other relationship configuration, privileging polyamory as an inherently more enlightened practice than monogamy. Um, no.

“Congress passes ban on protests at military funerals; still OK to protest at funerals of murdered homosexuals.”*

*(thanks to my friend Chris for this post’s title)

A while back I wrote about the new outcry over the Westboro Baptist Church’s protests at the funerals of soldiers who died in Iraq. In these demonstrations, they spew their usual, hateful homophobia, claiming that soldiers are dying because america, unlike their twisted version of God, apparently loves fags. (Yeah. Uh huh.)

Today, Congress easily passed legislation barring such protests at military funerals held at national cemeteries. How nice that Congress was so moved and angered that they jumped to stop homophobic protests at the funerals “fallen heroes,” as the act calls the soldiers, when they can’t be bothered to do much of anything for actual queers. Maybe if a whole lot of queers go invade another country and shoot and abuse the brown people there, Congress will start caring about us, too?

The article states that more than a dozen states are considering similar legislation that would cover nonfederal cemeteries. I wonder if their wording will extend to protect all people, including queer folks, from these kinds of protests, or if they’ll specifically limit their protection to military funerals. I fully expect the latter to be the case.