Archive for Queer

On the cover!

Of the Gay and Lesbian Times (exclusion duly noted):
“Race Relations: How racism exists in our community”

On the cover no less.

In the feature article Palmer and Pena draw on specific instances of racism in our community as well as larger systemic issues. They draw on interviews with Prof Chong-suk Han (“A Different Shade of Queer: Race, Sexuality and Marginalizing by the Marginalized”) to explore the status of People of Color in Lesbian and Gay communities as double minorities. Johnson (Guide to Gay Life on About.com) is also quoted when contesting the privilege implicit in the idea that “We’re assumed to be gay first, and then our other identity second.” Preach on!
The paucity of non-white gay images is discussed as well as the systemic ‘whitewashing ‘ of the community.

I have to say I was impressed with the depth of discourse in this article and very much heartened to see it as the feature article in one of the main l/g publications in socal. In fact I’ve picked up extra copies to share with peeps.

I’m hoping this feature story, along with the many voices speaking out in our community help to bring about the difficult discussions that are necessary to foster truly inclusive communities.

Now if we can work on adding the Bisexual and Transgender in there that would be so very fabulous. *sigh*

Long Beach Rally November 15th: One Latina’s Voice

The Long Beach Wed-In and Rally was a great success. I was not able to stay till the end due to another commitment with the South Coast Chorale to sing at the Well’s Hospice Memorial Service, but what I saw was empowering, well attended, and entirely encouraging.

My message was well received and I’ve been asked to share my message so, here it is, minus the energy of the crowd, the embellishing, the cheering, the righteous response, but nonetheless my truth which I was blessed to share today:

“Like all of you I was wounded by the passing of Proposition 8. I am hurt by it.

As a Queer Femme I am hurt by the fact that voters in the State of California have chosen to take away my civil rights–OUR civil rights. I’m hurt by the suggestion that my rights are debatable, expendable and not in fact INALIENABLE.

As a Latina I am hurt by some of what I’ve heard in the LGBTQ community. It hurts me to hear that as a person of color my membership in the Queer community is suspect. I’ve heard a lot of anger toward people of color, specifically African Americans and Latinos. I’ve heard blame, saying that we were responsible for the passing of Prop 8. Not only is that statistically inaccurate–if anything we helped close the gap, from 22% in 2000 to less than 4% this time. Not only is it inaccurate but it is divisive. It denies the diversity of the LGBTQ community. It denies our allies. And it puts us in the position of US versus THEM when many of us are both us AND them.

As a Latina, si cuento. I am an integral part of the community. We all are. All of my communities. I am not the other. We are one.

It hurts me to hear intolerance directed from my people to my people.

I honor the pain we are all feeling but I see it as an invitation to change.
I see it as a wake up call to our community that is bigger than Prop 8. That speaks to justice and community and inclusion.

We have an opportunity to continue to organize and advocate for change.
An opportunity to look at our comunidad and make sure that No Queer is Left Behind.
To ensure that the legal rights we have already gained are being upheld:
the laws that protect us from discrimination in the workplace
laws that protect youth in schools from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
We need to KNOW our rights and make sure we are protecting ALL of our freedoms.

And we can learn from our history. Stonewall has been brought by many people, I see signs and images commemorating our past. Let’s not forget who started the movement: it was butch women, queens, transgendered people, people of color and white people. United. Let’s stand and recognize.

We have an opportunity to build unity and inclusion. To see not only how can we get support from our potential allies but how can we BE allies to other disenfranchised communities.

A few things have been proven through our protests, vigils and marches in the state of California and now, nationwide:

We are a diverse and beautiful community. An amazing familia.
Our community includes all ages, races and ethnicities, socioeconomic class, religions, abilities.

We are a powerful community. And amazing familia.
We are a resilient community.
We will not be silenced. We will not be overlooked. We will not settle for less than igualdad. Equality.

We can share the energy and see that every issue is a lesbian issue, is a bisexual issue, is a gay issue, is a transgendered issue, is a queer issue
Immigration reform and rights is our issue
Homelessness is a queer issue
Drug addiction is a queer issue
Affordable housing is our issue
Education is our isse
Racism is our issue
We are everywhere

We are being called to action. Prop 8 is one piece of the picture and we will stand firm, we SHALL overcome.
And we can use this to build stronger communities, to ensure that all members of our familia are included and honored.
And we can take this chance to build bridges with allies to eradicate bigotry, eradicate oppression, eradicate senseless hatred and division in ALL of our communities.
We can be agents of change
for equality
for peaceful vibrant communities
and for diversity.

In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice EVERYWHERE.”

We will not stand for injustice.”

From the heart…

I’ll be speaking at the Marriage Equality Peace Rally and Wed-In tomorrow in Long Beach (flyer below). I spoke at the rally last week and I’m not yet ready to process that. So now I’m doing preemptive processing. When I was invited to speak I asked what focus would be best for the event given the balance of speakers.

When I helped with organization for last week’s protest I expressed my concern over the divisive and racist rhetoric circulating in the community over how poc voters caused prop 8 to win. Not only is this untrue but I’m hearing really distressing comments. Really ugly assumptions. And a lot of misunderstanding. I was invested in ensuring that the event last week was able to unite and heal and so I spoke to that effect.

So, back to the answer to my question, what should I speak about. I was asked to speak from the heart and asked to address my concerns as a person of color.

I agreed to do this knowing that I am going to this protest alone.
I agreed to do this knowing that I am going to talk about some difficult painful and ugly issues and that in doing so I will be baring my soul, the deepest realest parts of me, exposed for the crowd.
I agreed to do this knowing that I have been called to do so, that I have a responsibility to do so, that I have an opportunity and I have to honor it. I must honor my commitments, my integrity, my values, my beliefs.
I agreed to do this with an instant knot in my stomach knowing that it will be raw. And that I can do it.
From my heart.
De corazon.
Y si se me escapa una lagrima, ni modo.

Latina. Queer Femme. Not willing to be fragmented. Not willing to have my identities pitted against each other. No more. Nunca mas.

So, I’ll be representin’. Will you be there?

Marriage Equality Peace Rally and Wed-In

The Center Long Beach in coalition and solidarity with community leaders and activists will join cities all over America for the National Day of Support for California Marriage Equality.

This peaceful rally will take place this Saturday, November 15th, 10:30am-1:00pm, at Long Beach City Hall, in the courtyard area.

The event will include a current legal status update regarding Prop 8, what your marriage means now, as well words of hope from our interfaith and political communities.

WE ARE PLANNING A “WED-IN” (Wishing to End Discrimination & Inequality Now) AT THIS EVENT…wherein we will have a minister symbolically marry all those in attendance (LGBTQA) to the commitment of ensuring Marriage Equal Rights for all!!

Attire: We thought it would be fun for those in attendance to wear “wedding attire!” This is completely up to you (What do you all think?).

Additional info:

Parking: Parking is located in the City Hall parking structure on Broadway/Chestnut….also at the Pike parking on Shoreline/Chestnut (South of Ocean) and along Pine Ave.

Intent/Purpose: We ask all in attendance to remember that the underlying tone of our event is PEACE….This is not intended to be another protest but to unite in solidarity toward our common goal of Marriage Equality and community support through understanding.

Legal Compliance: Those in the Long Beach Police Department are our friends. We have been working closely with many of them regarding this event. It is important that we listen to their instructions and follow all laws.

Ingress/Egress: Make sure you enter and exit the premises in an orderly fashion. When the event is over at 1pm, it is important that you disperse in an orderly fashion. Please obey all traffic laws and do not obstruct traffic.

Safety: Please do not bring signs with sticks. Sticks are considered a weapon by law enforcement officials statewide and should not be brought to the rally.

This event was organized by community activists, leaders and workers from Prop. 8. They include:

The Center Long Beach; Elisa McConnehea, Police Chief’s Advisory Group; Long Beach Lesbian and Gay Pride; Human Dignity Program; Kevin O’Grady, ADL; Choices of Long Beach; LB Lambda Democratic Club; Rene Castro, CCEJ; Long Beach Nicherin Buddhist-Soka Gakai leaders; Robert Garcia; Justin Rudd; Diana Lejins, gigi Acevedo; Tom Crowe; Brian Frederick; Jordana Nichols; Cory Allen; Dr. Becky Kuhn; Kristen Sifers; Tim Campbell; John Pill; Thea Mateu; Jamie Hall; Jake Orlando; Rev. Sandra Olewine; Rev. Sunshine Daye; and Rev. Jane Galloway

This was also attended by the offices of Mayor Bob Foster and Council Member Tonia Reyes-Uranga

Also in attendance were Commanders Jay Johnson and Cynthia Renaud, and Sergeant Razo

For more information or to see the agenda for the event, go to http://www.centerlb.org

Femme mentoring

I hate the (misogynistic) stereotype that femmes are vicious and catty to each other, that we can’t be friends because we are too busy scamming on each other’s butches.

I’ve met tacky femmes who do tacky shit like hit on your date, I’ve met tacky butches who hit on their buddy’s date, I’ve met tacky femmes who hit on butches while out with a butch, and I’ve certainly encountered enough tacky butches who think it’s smart to hit on me while they are out with a grrl. Tackiness knowns no gender presentation or id.

I was pondering femme networks as I reread an essay in Bergman’s “Butch is a Noun” where ze described the process of “Passing it On” and butch mentoring. And my initial reaction was one of envy and sadness at what I first though was an utter lack of parallel relationships in the femme community. But then, upon further examination I realized that it doesn’t look the same as Butch schoolin’ but I have experienced Femme mentoring on both ends.

When I first came fully into Femme (ooh that sounds fun doesn’t it?) I was part of a community in NYC that was very strongly butch-femme. And while I give a lot of credit for my ah-ha! moment to my first butch lover, once I realized it was something that was mine and not just something that depended on this incredibly hot butch I started the process of truly owning this identity that encompassed so much that I had always been and done and never had language for before.

Some older femmes in the community gave me pointers, usually in the shape of small comments about how to keep our butches in line. That sounds squicky but the context in which they were delivered and the way in which these graceful femmes imparted their wisdom made it clear that it was a dance, that they were showing me their steps so that I could incorporate them into my own instinctual sway.

And then there was a femme who I saw as competition (yes the same one who wore the hot shirts). And in a way she was. We were both interested in the same butch who flirted with us both and probably bedded us both. But I quickly realized that I wasn’t threatened by her because she was gorgeous, which she was, but so was I; I was threatened because she had something I didn’t and I wanted it. She had this air about her, this energy that demanded to be worshiped, she was a high femme and she condescended to teach this fledgling femme, 10 years her junior a few of her own tricks. We had a tenuous friendship, causal, cautious, not entirely devoid of competition, and not yet at that place where competition is part of the game fierce femmes play with each other where we compete with the knowledge that we are equally fabulous and that the butch being admired is lucky to have our attention. I wasn’t there yet. She taught me how to honor my natural instincts to elicit adoration and worshipful attention. She taught me how to work my charms and how to be unafraid of using my sexuality as a playground. She taught me most by example, by letting me sit in her presence, arrogant shit that I was, yet respectful of my elder and fellow goddess.

A lot of what goes on with butch mentoring as I know it, some of which I learned first hand having gone from a shortlived butch (adjective) phase, but most of which I get second hand from friends, a lot of it has to do with presentation, with fitting into gender identity, and of course some of it is about grrls. Things I’ve known to be workshop topics are the delicate issue of chest gear, whether it be binding or finding the prefect sportsbra; there’s packing: how to find the perfect equipment, how to strap, how to go out packing, how to use said equipment in the bedroom (like the euphemistic approach?), underwear is also a topic of discussion I know of. There’s the issues of dealing with the pressure of being butch in a society where that marks you as other and as potential threat. There’s the difficult territory of gender identity. And there are brotherhood codes that are taught, often subtly. Some of the old fashioned old school points of etiquette are also shared.

As femmes, we don’t need as much schooling in these areas. Having been socialized to be feminine, we’ve already learned how to do our hair and makeup, learned about mani pedis and other grrly rituals. Some of us went through one of the schools of feminism that teach us that femininity of this sort caters to the patriarchy and that to empower ourselves we must eschew lipstick. So, some of us have to go through recovery for that. But that process of owning and queering femme presentation is, in my experience and observation, a largely individual one. We share hair and makeup tips after getting to the point where we own it. So, a lot of femme mentoring has to do with the Care and Handling of Magical Creatures — ie butches. A lot of it has to do with sisterhood and power. A lot of it has to do with building allies in invisibility. A lot of it has to do with the cohesion of an identity that is so superficially similar to conventional heteronormative femininity and yet so radically different.

I got a crisis call from a friend over a year ago (has it been that long, really?) who having been heterosexual had discovered her queerness and been involved with a woman. She called me for femme advice. She needed mentoring and identified me as the femme for the job. Of course I was honored and was happy to go take her out and teach her how to flirt, teach her some of the steps in the dance that would allow her to take it on and freestyle on her own. And a lot of what I shared with her was by example, the intangibles of being femme that words don’t adequately capture, until you’ve sat and seen a regal high femme work a room.

There’s also the schooling of baby butches by femmes. While it’s a different dynamic entirely, I think it’s also a fun way to initiate baby butches into the dance. A few months ago I was out at a bar with my date. I had been their earlier before he got there hanging out with a friend from out of town who thought it was awesome that I saw “my butches” in shifts with my date arriving shortly after she left. This cute lil butch had been paying attention and happened to be sitting at the table with some guys I was talking shit with. So she ended up participating in my interactions with my date. Suddenly my well seasoned butch date and I were schooling this butch, taking her under our wing for a bit and encouraging her, giving her advice and affirmation. We both gave insight on how to approach the grrl she’d been crushing on, the grrl that made her palms sweaty and her heart race… the butch perspective and the femme advice blending together in the dance we know and love.

Then another young butch wanted to express interest in me. My date, being a great dancer, graciously established that I was with him but that she could approach me regardless, that I was a friendly sort. I so thoroughly admired his suave, confident and respectful move. That was definitely a swoon moment. Young butch #2 also came under our combined tutelage. Fashion, kicking game, confidence, we covered it all. And it was fun to observe the different approaches we had to teaching the dance.

Going back to my initial reaction of envy over butch networks, I think more concretely what I am struggling with is how to create those networks in the absence of strong butch-femme queer community. I have not found my space as a queer femme here, and that can be lonely. And I know it’s lonely for butches as well. I’m trying to find that, I’m trying to foster it and create it, but in the meantime nostalgia sometimes leaves a slightly bitter taste in my mouth.

Femme Breasts

There’s something about Femme Breasts, or maybe it’s specifically Fat Femme Breasts, that always seems to cause a stir.

When I first came into my Femme identity, first discovered, embraced and queered the label, I discovered the power of cleavage. A Femme I admired and despised, ooh I can be trendy and use the word frienemy, taught me a few lessons and I soaked it all in. She was full figured, fat, chubby, whatever where are the lines? And she was gorgeous. She wore the best shirts. Looked like she’d been poured into them. She looked round and delicious and cleavagey. And once over beers she schooled me in the allure of breasts. I went out the next day and bought new a couple of new shirts. Low cut. Sparkly. Close fitting. No more baggy flowing shirts for me. I went out looking curvy and showcasing my breasts and I got all the butch attention I wanted. Bingo!

Now, about the girls… for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of admiring first hand… I’m not especially large breasted for a big grrl. I’m very much pear shaped, and while I do have beautiful breasts (let’s be honest here) I’m not stacked.

I still tend to wear revealing outfits. Many of my ‘going out’ shirts and dresses are low cut, some dangerously so. And that’s not counting my corsetted expeditions out. And I always get attention. But the curious part is the range of reactions I encounter. My breasts elicit a wide variety of responses:

Variations of butch reactions: from frat boy approaches to the more sophisticated and sexy admiration with stops in between

Gay boy responses are usually fascination. They want to touch them. They want to feel them. They often try to do so without my consent. That doesn’t go over well. Sometimes they want to poke them. Sometimes they are kinda scared. Always fascinated though.

Queens usually adore my style.  Birds of a feather I guess…

Straight men. Well, really, who gives a fuck.

Femmes either bond with me as fellow empowered temptresses or hate me. There isn’t much room in between.

Straight females don’t seem to care.

But Lesbians… wooooah! I have consistently found that non butch-femme identified lesbians tend to have the most fucked up reactions. Of course, not all of them but the strongest reactions I’ve garnered have come from this group. They are offended by my breasts. They are offended by my presenting in a very sexual way. They object to my outfits, my nails, my makeup. They are uncomfortable with
my tits.

A recent majorly fucked up interaction just added to this perception. In the midst of conflict over disgusting racial epithets, some monumental ignorance and disrespect, this woman had nothing better to say than to bring up my outfit: a rather revealing hot pink shirt and the fact that my breasts were spilling out. Apparently that is offensive to lesbians (according to her). The logic of that evaded those of us who tried to make sense of it. It’s not the first time I’ve run into that logic though.

Going back to my babyfemme days I participated in a few lesbian groups that were not butch-femme in membership, and having my authenticity contested based on my dresses, my exposed cleavage, my red nail polish. The incongruity of it baffled me then and has baffled me since. Having had my outfits boycotted by a group of people in the recent past, I understand that something about my cleavage is disturbing. But I’m still not sure what. It’s not like I’m going out wearing nothing but pasties. Okay not in these contexts at least. It’s not like I have EVER made a move on another person’s lover using my rack as bait. Nor would I. It’s not like the beauty is so simply astoundingly unparalleled that people are crazed by lust and envy. I am simply a beautiful fat grrl with low cut shirts and dresses. Not posing for juggs. Not in the next victoria’s secret fashion show.

And here’s where I get stuck… is this just a fat femme thing, or do all femmes get this? I know from some friends that they also experience it, but I know a lot of voluptuous grrls and not so many slimmer grrls. Is it fat sexuality or is it femme sexuality that is skeery? If I were more modestly proportioned would my tits be less of an issue? Is it a queer problem?

I know this much:

People in the butch-femme communities don’t tend to get their knickers in a twist about my rack, and furthermore I’m usually modest in comparison to some of my sisters.

People in queer communities don’t tend to get their knickers in a twist about my rack, I either get admiration or just a sense of live and let live. Generally people don’t give a fuck.

People in kink communities don’t tend to get their leathers in a twist about my rack. Even in vanillaish contexts, I’ve never encountered negativity about my attire.

People in the poc communities I participate in don’t seem to be phased either. As in the other categories I’m not counting unwanted sexual advances. Bigger women are sexy in black and brown communities I interact with and cleavage is not scary.

So. Is it just white lesbians that I offend? That might be what it boils down to. Something about a fat brown femme being unabashedly sexual is threatening.  Something about my lack of shame or false modesty seems to be threatening.  The fact that I am confident and sexy seems to be threatening.  The fact that ultimately I don’t give a fuck if others like me or not because I like myself, seems to be threatening.

And I wonder why that is.  I wonder why my presentation is so uncomfortable for people.  Why my comfort can elicit so much discomfort.

I may wonder, and really would like to understand but the fact is, I can be wearing sweat pants and a fucking tshirt and I’m still sexy, I’m still sassy, I’m still threatening.  The part of this that bothers me is the assumptions that seem to get piled on to justify the reactions.

The assumption that I’m catering to male sexuality, which in fact I couldn’t give a flying fuck about.

That I am a slut, when in fact, I’m very selectively slutty: very much so with whomever I’m involved with, and I’m picky then.  And while I’ve been in open relationships and poly relationships, I tend to be monogamous (albeit sometimes unconventionally so)  by nature, I don’t do emotional multitasking well.

That I am going to hit on people or their partners when in fact, I don’t roll that way.  I’m respectful of other people’s relationships and my own, honest to a fault, and I don’t do the downlow.

That I am a slave to patriarchy.  My femininity and my sexuality are mine, I celebrate them, queer them, recreate them, transgress and reshape them.  The patriarchy does not live in my push up bra, and my mascara wand is not a phallic symbol (not that I have ANYTHING against phallic symbols, that’s a whole nutha story though).

That I am less intelligent, moral, ethical, capable because my tits are partially exposed.  How that makes sense is beyond me.

Or, one of my favorites: that I’m in denial about being fat, because heaven forbid I be both big and sexy.  Maybe when I squeeze into a size 12 I can be sexy, but not now, plus sized means wear tents or cutsey tigger or tweety bird oversized tees that hide my yumminess.  Cause then you won’t be able to see that I’m fat whereas my outfits that don’t hide my curves, that show off my beautiful round belly as much as my breasts are a sign of denial, not empowerment.  If I just layer enough,wear shit tacky enough and big enough, you just won’t be able to notice that I’m big, because big is never sexy.  Mhmm.

These assumptions bother me because many of them go against the core of who I am.  Who I am is just as much loyal and honest as it is sassy and sexy.  Who I am is just as much ethical and respectful as it is perverted and beautiful.  Who I am is just as much domestic, loving, gentle, as it is assertive, confident, outspoken and righteous.  I’m way too complicated for monochromatic characterizations based on my bra size.  As we all are.

Ultimately though I’m not covering up.  If you can’t handle my low cut shirt, you can’t handle the rest of me anyway so my tits might as well be the barometer.

While I’d like to understand, I’m not holding my breath, at least not unless I’m spilling out of my corsets while waiting.

So sorry bois and grrls: this femme is NOT marriage material…

according to one of the lg *koff* b? t? q? publications’ carefully crafted quizzes.

I was reading said rag (which need not be named, I don’t need to throw Frontiers under the bus, Blade is no better, you get the point) during my morning constitutional and hopefully reading on the can from time to time doesn’t take away any more of the coveted marriageable points.

I’ve been ranting and raving about marriage on a regular basis to those who get to enjoy my vigorous wit irl but it’s time for my blog to be my soapbox on this one.

So, marriage is legal in California now.  Yay.  I will vote against Prop 8 which would eliminate the right of same sex couples to marry.  I’m not hatin’ on those who choose to exercise their rights and get legally married.  In fact, I was once one of them.  My ex and I got married in Oregon while it was legal there, before voters decided we shouldn’t be married and we got a refund check from Multnomah county city clerk’s office.  Fabulous.  Saved having to file for divorce when it turned out she was a lyin’, cheatin’ mess.  But at the time it made sense to us.  I have always been vocally against marriage being THE gay agenda but I decided since the right was available to us and we had already planned on a commitment ceremony, it made sense to be on the books as good little queers.  So, I understand the joy of many couples who have this option become available to them, I am behind the benefits of legal status, like easier access to parental rights and second parent adoption, tax breaks, medical issues, etc.

BUT

My big problem with this is twofold:

Number ONE.  It’s great to get tax breaks.  To get tax breaks you have to have a fucking job first.  Which means, our rights to be employed as queers need to be aggressively protected.  How many butches do you know who waltz right in the door to the interview in their suit and tie and don’t have to deal with the double take, the bullshit over their gender presentation that carries more weight than their experience or abilities?  How many of us have been told at work to keep the orientation thing on the dl?  Or been reprimanded in one way or another for being “too gay?”  We need fucking jobs first.

We need the right to housing without discrimination, and that includes those of us who have the audacity to not only be Queer but also be Out and top it off by being brown.  Add partners, pets, or genderqueerness to the equation and you’re not exactly looking at prime real estate.

We need access to services, to health care, to schools for our children, to so many things that to me, are so much more basic and necessary than the almighty marriage certificate and all it symbolizes and grants.  Maslow my friends, Maslow.

Number TWO…My second MAJOR complaint:  Must I be heteronormative to have rights?  Say I have the cushy job, want the tax breaks, met Mr. Right, want to tie the knot and be Mrs.Mr.Right.  What if my relationship doesn’t look like the cute little gay cake toppers?  What if I don’t believe the only and ultimate expression of love is between two people?  What if I’m poly?  What if I’m monogamously non-normative? What if my idea of “family” includes other people, whether I be sexually involved with them or not?  And what do we do with those queers who don’t want to jump into a flawed institution that even hets are denouncing (and divorcing out of)?  They are bad queers.  They are the radicals.  They become the Others.  So you can easily map out the dividing lines, you have the good queers, they (and their tax breaks) will be middle class, upper middle class for the most part, especially once the excitement of legality wears off.  They will buy cute houses and have pretty picket fucking fences.  They will be nice and appropriately gay, non-threatening gays, gays whose relationships are nice and comfortably modeled after the norm.  Good gays. Good good gays.  They shall be patted on the back by the liberal heterosexuals who can finally see, “hey!  They’re not so bad after all!”  The rest of the gays, the ones who just don’t believe in marriage, the polyamorous, the complicated configurations of blended families, the cynical ones, the leftie ones, they are the bad gays.  They should just be quiet.  They are living in sin, outside the sanctity of the institution of marriage.  Egads!  Burn em!

So, going right along with my normativity issues I run into this quiz.  I grew up reading Cosmo way earlier than I should have and masturbating stealthily to the hot stories they used to print back in the day before it just got trashy.  But I digress.  Bad Queer!  Okay.  So, I heart quizzes.  I suddenly must know, am I marriage material!?  Must. Know.

Well, I’m not.  Questions included things like your ideal Friday night.  Because, unless your ideal Friday night is spent on the couch with your luvmuffin, you aren’t marriage material.  Heaven forbid you think for a second of being married, and still going out partying, or having a grrrrlz night out, or whatever.  Being married means your identity is consumed by the wifeypooh or husbutch.  Vacations was another question (because of course we all get paid time off at work and can afford to plan vacations).  Unless it’s a romantic getaway for two and nothing but two then you lose points.  Vegas lost points even!  I have a friend who says her ideal honeymoon would be for her and her partner to go cavort with strippers and sex workers and get it on.  Tsk tsk.  Not marriage material.  Other people I know think a good vacation would be spent in the dungeon at play parties.  Nope.  Not marriage material.  It’s tea for two or bust.

The number of people you have been sexually intimate is also a factor.  Too few bad.  Too many you are a hopeless whore and you should be going to a sex addict’s group on Friday, which loses you even more points unless you go with your honey (awww).  Going out to dinner was another question, if you go to the same restaurants all the time you lose points.  Go figure.  Do we want stability or not? sheesh!  Or if you have dietary restrictions you are also out of the running.  Only those with sturdy digestive tracts who aren’t on diets can get married.  Take notes here mah deahs.

So, in order to be ‘marriage material’ (a phrase which makes me shudder in and of itself) you must have money, be ready to be consumed by your partner, and not party.  Your parents must be accepting but not too involved in your life.  You have to like variety in restaurants, but not too much variety.  You have sweet vacations with your partner (read: vanilla only).  No mention of kids.  Of course.  Which makes me wonder if it’s just a gay male thing or if it’s a reflection on age demographics… or if it’s just that only bad queers have kids as single parents or coparents.  Oh and you have to have a successful corporate modeled job.  Yup.  Funny they didn’t mention being hung like a horse.  I could get serious point then.

Eeeenteresting.  That’s what marriage is?

If marriage material means being normative, being crammed into existing models of what long term relationships should look like, feel like, smell and sound like… then I am proudly nothing of the sort.  Nor are most of the people nearest and dearest to me!  Go figure.  Queers of a feather flock together.

I think relationships have to make sense to the people in them.  I don’t think they have to be lived in a way that conforms to ridiculous standards.  So, whether it be like a few friends I know who had significant long term relationships of years without cohabitation, or like other friends I know who do cohabitate happily: all three of them, it doesn’t have to be normative to be profoundly right.

I propose (pun optional) we take a collective minute to step away from the marriage frenzy, take a collective minute before running to the sale at David’s Bridal, and really evaluate our own personal values, our own personal agendas, how our relationships support and sustain us, and how they fit in with the community, how they create community, and how they support community.

I do love the romance of it all.  I love it when a couple who has been together 15 years is able to have their relationship legally consummated and recognized.  I get all schmoopy from them just as we all do.  But, what is right for that couple does not have to be right for all couples, or all triads… etc.  Can’t we embrace different models of relationships under the queer umbrella?

This wasn’t even a butch-femme quiz, in which case I’d just confuse the system.  Hard packing high femme, loves to cook for “her butch” but isn’t submissive, expects doors to be opened for her but doesn’t expect the butch to be the “boss” or even necessarily allow them to be… Oooh I could have fun with that one!  Deviant domesticity is fun.

I don’t want to be a cookie cutter queer.  If being marriage material makes sense to you and is relevant to your life then enjoy and be blessed.. .

If not then maybe we should get together for a drink sometime and leave our imaginary fiance(e)s at home and go queer it up on the town!

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.

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!)

Black Lesbian Assaulted by Long Beach Police

I think the video speaks for itself.

I wish I could rant about this and spew the venom this incident brings up for me, but words fall short.

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