Archive for August, 2008

Dream come true

The first time I remember articulating this dream was in a purple hard bound journal 11 years ago.  I wanted to teach in the Corrections System.  Writing.  I wanted to bring the process of writing to the jails, to be part of the process of encouraging people to find their voice.  I wanted to be able to share the empowering and healing process of taking pen to paper, to share the sheer joy of self-expression, the critical self-discovery and critical exploration of social conditions that influence our lives.

I came close a few times but had never actually had the chance to do it.  And now, here I am, my name signed with a flair on the contract with Inside Out Writers.  I am going through the process of getting security clearance and doing observations before getting started and I’m so excited and honored.

I know this is going to be a difficult process, I’m not coming in this unrealistically and I’m well aware of the challenges the youth and the system will present, and aware that there are some challenges I’ll face that I can’t even imagine yet.  The biggest difficulty for me coming into this lies in dealing with the Juvenile Corrections System.  I have serious issues with the so-called justice system.

Recently I was given a chance to articulate some of these views in a documentary on the Lawrence King murder in Oxnard, CA.

Brandon McInerney, the young man who shot him, is being tried as an adult and faces the possibility of life in prison.  I was asked how I felt about that development.  That question made me pause.  I had come to the interview with a lot to say about education, schools, including my own experiences of homophobia as an adult within high schools.  That question made the already complicated discussion about education and the responsibility of schools even more difficult.  Ultimately my answer is that I don’t believe in the current system of corrections.  I don’t feel like locking McInerney up serves justice, nor does it serve community or the life of a young man who, having committed a heinous crime, is still alive.  Nothing can bring Lawrence King back and while the murder was a hateful horrible act, McInerney’s life is also valuable (he was 14!) and the pain, ignorance, fear, that led to his actions is also real.  I can’t just think in terms of good and bad.  Nothing excuses violence against another human being.  But a lot of circumstances can condone, and even encourage it.  The crime was a reflection of the inaction of the school, community, society.  It’s easy to try a 14 year old and lock him up.  It’s not as easy to confront the root of the problem, which we all participate in.  Which is one of my major problems with the so called justice system.  It’s not about rehabilitation, education, empowerment.  While we should all be held accountable for our actions on an individual level, punishing the individual makes it easy to leave larger social problems unexamined and to forget that a human life has been affected by social conditions that we all share responsibility for.

I’m not just vehemently against capital punishment, I’m also highly critical of a system that simply throws human beings into an institution where systems of oppression and dysfunction are reenacted and fundamental.  The answers can’t exist outside of larger community, which is affected in unacknowledged way by the incarceration and systemic abuse of our children, our mothers and fathers, brothers, sisters, cousins, neighbors, friends.

So knowing that in addition to my reactions to cops, guards, military and generally all figures of authority in a system of violence and oppression I also have a problem with the construct of the system.  Yet I enter it eagerly more than willingly. Why?  Because I believe n the youth and in my ability to have a positive impact, to empower and to participate in their growth.  It’s worth it to me as a way to challenge the system, even as I enter into an agreement to abide by its rules.  Whether I agree with them (no gang colors or script) or not (cursing is not allowed in the institution, although it is not censored out of their writing).  The young people can’t even keep the pens that they use in class because they can be used as weapons or as pipes.  The idea of not being able to have a writing implement makes my skin crawl.  More than the consideration of other restrictions on freedom– not being able to decide what or when to eat, when to get up, no privacy even when going to the bathroom– more than all of the restrictions, the idea of not having a pen makes my heart ache.

Incarcerated AND silenced.

I am eager to get in there and start the work.  I know it’s something I’m called to do and part of a larger journey.  This is spiritual work to me.  It’s a blessing and an honor to be able to finally act on this dream.  For a few hours a week I will be of service and be an instrument of change.  And for a few hours a week these young people will be able to unlock their voice and be heard, be seen, I’ll be a witness.

SOFFA Anthology

My essay “Wonderful Queers” has been accepted for publication in a Significant Others, Friends, Family and Allies of Transgender or Non gender conforming Anthology!

Fabulous news in my world, and more fabulousness on the way.

Details forthcoming for your book wishlist.

Expanding

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.

Anais Nin


My life is expanding in the most delicious ways.

I have everything I need

Sometimes all it takes is a gentle reminder that I really do have everything I need in this moment.  Instead of worrying about what I don’t have, or what I’m gonna need, it’s good to have moments of gentle certainty that right now, all is well.

I have a place to live right now, a space to call home, a comfy bed, art by myself and others on my walls.  It is well.

I have friends I can call on when I’m hurting, when I’m scared, when I want to share life’s joys and sorrows.  Friends who call me just because they love me.  It is well.

And I have friends who look out for me, who buy me a meal just because, who send me job postings, who put in a good word, who pray for me.  It is well.

I have a much better relationship with family than I have in years.  I’m blessed.

I have groceries in the house.

I have a library card.  Yipee!

I am striving toward my goal of publishing more this year and making significant progress.

I am working toward acting on some major dreams I’ve had for many years and seeing the results.

I have cute shoes and people to go out with who admire them.

I have full bottles of acrylics, paintbrushes, and canvas.  And for desperate times, good ol’ coloring book and crayons.

I have new networks, new friends, and growing ties to not so new friends.

I walk down flower lined streets.

Even though my beaches may be closed and toxic right now, I can look at the ocean and smile.

I am enjoying my own company immensely.

I am setting down some roots and little by little, tentatively and sometimes timidly, increasing my wingspan.  It is well.

I have courage, passion, intelligence, beauty, dreams, energy, health, talent and I am creating for myself the life I want.  How much better does it get?!

I’m blessed and I celebrate that.  Right now, in this moment, I have everything I need.  Tomorrow will provide for itself.  I am striving and I am staying the course.

What is happening to QUEER?!

I don’t identify as Lesbian. I identify as Queer. To me, the differences between the two identity packages are profound and significant. I wander through the world in a quest for fellow Queers, I seek them out hungrily as friends, allies, dates, play partners, sounding boards.

For a while now I’ve been questioning the usage of Queer, the ways in which the label is being applied, and, dare I say, coopted? I don’t know if I can blame it on media (always a tempting option) a la Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, or I can ascribe my discomfort to my own exposure to Queer Theory, Queer Studies, Gender Theory, and a whole lotta academic schtuff about identity politics. The fact remains: there is a disconnect between what I understand Queer to be and what others seem to mean by the term.

I was recently reading a transcript of a lecture by Laura Antoniou where she was speaking of her journey through sexuality and leather and she said something that stuck with me:

“Long before it became chic for lesbians to get it on with gay and bisexual men, I was doing it and wondering what on earth made my orientation so queer that it made it okay for me to be with a man only if he sucked dick.” (Antoniou, 1995)

Yep, that’s Queer. And fabulous! I’m a big fan of hers but that’s a whole nutha story.

The reasons I identify as Queer, and not at all as Lesbian are numerous.

The first reason is the Gender issue. Lesbian is inaccurate for me: women who are sexually/sentimentally involved with other women. Nope. I partner with people who fall outside of the binary for the most part: Butch identified butches (ie butch as gender identity), woman identified butches, transgendered/transmasculine butches, boys of the trans flavor, bois too, ftm, femme identified femmes (ie femme as gender identity)… I don’t limit my sexual/intimate interactions to women identified women only. So, technically I’m not a lesbian.

And, like Ms. Antoniou I can relate to male bodied people sexually in unconventional contexts. Yet I’m not really bisexual.

I’m Queer because I’m a pervert (in the most positive sense of the word, and why I feel it necessary to add a disclaimer is a diatribe in and of itself), and I don’t hold heteronormative relationships as my model for building my own attachments.

I heart genderfuck, also quite Queer. Femmes in drag tend to be Queer.

I am Queer because I define labels, I don’t let them define me. I tend to subvert them and play with them.

I’m a Switch, which by default enters me into the running for Queer PosterGrrrrrrl.

I was talking to a new friend last night who made a comment about being a “Bad Queer” because of the ways in which she participates in her relationships. And to me, what she was describing was quintessential Queer and I said so! Polyamory? Queer. Check. Kinky? Queer. Got it. Switch? Queer. Check. Long term relationships without cohabitation? Yup, Queer. Butch and bi *tongueincheekgasp*? Quite Queer. That to me deserves a Queer medal! A Queer trophy to put up on the mantlepiece, with or without rainbows.
Perhaps even a Queer Hall of Fame nomination. So, if I use her as a standard for Queer (use me baby!) the dissonance becomes evident between what Queer means to me, and what I am hearing as Queer in daily interactions.

Queer seems to have become a synonym for ‘gay’ or perhaps a shortcut at times to not have to say ‘gay, lesbian, bisexual.’ Queer is used in contexts that are normative, homonormativity is the rule. Queer is used in contexts where boundaries are being solidly defined: Lesbian, not into Butch-Femme (ew!), usually vanilla (or won’t admit otherwise), gay. To me, the essence of Queer (eau de queer) is non-normativity. Eau de Queer smells like leather, stale beer, organic produce, heavy flowery perfume, musk, hairspray, bbq, the beach, threedaysexfunk, cinnamon, hair pomade, nail polish, roses (thorns in), latex. It crosses sexual orientation and gender identity to become more than, to blur lines, and unite under a common umbrella of other. Queer resists binaries. Queer surprises and sometimes shocks. Queer subverts existing models and creates possibilities.

I’m not letting go of Queer. They will have to pry it away from my cold dead fingers. BUT I am a lot more cautious now of the ways in which it’s used. And I’m a lot more given to ask for clarification before assuming commonalities. I delicately sniff around and see if I recognize the tantalizing aroma of Queer. IT’s different each time, but oh so deliciously familiar! Queers rawk and we’re keeping it real. Fear not, we won’t let the Queer flame go out! (had to go olympic with it!)