Femme FATale


fail: kanye west
February 21, 2009, 5:49 pm
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i’m going to start this off by saying that i love kanye west and his music. i appreciate a lot of the politics he incorporates into his tracks. i think he has an incredible knack for combining wit and truth and packaging it up with some beats that you never, ever want to leave your head. i’m a long-time kanye fan from back in early 2000 when an indie hip-hop boy from a neighboring college attempted to woo me with the promise of mix cds featuring “unheard of” artists. kanye was on there and i instantly fell for him and not the hampshire boy who thought i could be so enamored with the new music he was giving me, that i’d forget he was a male-born dude. it might have killed him a little to know that his very cds became the soundtracks to the makeout sessions with my handsome then-gf. oh, the irony and sadness of unrequited collegiate love!

have i convinced you though of my fondness towards kanye west? because i require this preface in order to say that he managed to piss me off this week and in a really backhanded way at that. i say backhanded because i initially found his praise of gay folks as “really, really extremely dope,” a nice show of allied support. this awesome tidbit is, however, couched in an article focusing on how kanye west is, single-handedly, taking steps to “reinvent” the word “gay” from one that is, supposedly only negative to one that is positive. as a response to mainstream straight folks’ use of the word “gay” to describe anything that sucks, again, i appreciate the effort.

but kanye west wants to do more than just make “gay” positive again. he wants to, as i said earlier, “reinvent” it to be a positive portrayal of good taste in fashion, specifically. why? because all us homos can dress ourselves well, apparently. he’s been quoted in a pink news article as saying:

“I haven’t gone to a gay bar, nor do I ever plan to. But where I would talk to a gay person, the conversation would be mostly around art or design, it’d be really dope. […] From a design standpoint, kids’ll say, ‘Dude, those pants are gay.’ […] If it’s good, good, good fashion-level, design-level stuff, where it’s on a higher level than the average commercial design stuff, it’s gay people that do that. […] I think that should be said as a compliment. Like, ‘Dude, that’s so good it’s almost gay.'”

i don’t know about you, but i don’t want any words that people use as identifiers, especially marginalized identities at that, to be “reinvented” by a) someone who doesn’t ascribe to that identity and b) detaches it from its original meaning and attaches it to something as, trivial in comparison, to fashion. truly being an ally would, in this case, be kanye west stopping after calling gay folks dope and speaking out to reclaim gay as positive and to thwart those who use it to describe something as stupid or bad. defining a whole new meaning and interpretation to an identity and distilling it down to a superficial quality of some gay folks, is not only arrogant and appropriative, but just insulting. i much more appreciate the ad council commercials (two of which feature wanda sykes and hilary duff!) that specifically target the bogus and rampant “that’s so gay!” with some wit and snark.

kanye, i heart you and your music and, as a queer, i appreciate you aligning yourself with queer struggle and calling out folks for repeatedly equating “gay” with “bad.” i’m thrilled to have such a high-profile powerhouse on our side, but dude, don’t be stealing identities, introducing new meanings, and simultaneously erasing an entire history of struggle for folks to proudly call themselves “gay.” you are the leader of the hip-hop world, but your reign doesn’t allow you to be appropriative. we’re not forever on the outs, kanye, but this week, you get a fail.



remember a lot, heal a bit

i read leo’s post last night about feeling a little bit stuck post-election, not knowing what to say or write next, and found myself tearing up in agreement. i think what leo is articulating so honestly in this post is what a lot of us are feeling right now – happiness and shock over barack obama’s win and then disbelief and anger over all that’s happened since. and i’m trying to move past the prop 8 stuff, but calling out the scapegoating by queers on people of color has me tethered to it tighter than ever. my stomach lurches every time i hear someone else mention those reports of queers protesting, slinging slurs at black folks in the midst. and it hasn’t stopped with those early stories. the advocate, one of our most renowned glbt (i will *not* use “queer” to describe the advocate. ever.) has the most truly offensive cover one could imagine right now. “gay is the new black?” really, advocate? are you going to play this appropriation game? are you really going to further pit queers and black folks (as well as other communities of color) against one another by making *this* the slogan of the gay marriage debate? the subtitle of “the new civil rights struggle” does little to soften the message; in fact, it feels unclear to me whether or not we’re supposed to interpret gay rights as the “new civil rights struggle” or the growing tension between queers and people of color. when did it ever become a good idea to compare and contrast oppressions across difference?

i am awe-struck by what we are witnessing and have never felt more detached from my community as a result. earlier in the week i wrote about what is at risk in focusing only on homonormative issues like marriage and ignoring others, citing the murder of duanna johnson as the worst kind of example of this. last friday, another transwoman of color was murdered in syracuse, new york, teish cannon. that’s two transwomen in barely two weeks. my brain can barely process it, let alone my heart.  racialicious noted in a post this week there was an increase in racially motivated hate crimes during and post-election season, as well. we are funneling so much energy and money into having the right to marry, but so many of us are overlooking physical violence and death. what are we in the midst of here? despite a win in the white house, the aftermath is terribly frightening to me.

today is transgender day of remembrance and i’m going to attend services to remember those whose lives have been cut short because they’ve dared to be themselves. i’m going to go and remember duanna johnson, teish cannon, 15-year-old lawrence king, and the other 26 named and the however many who are unknown and unaccounted for. in this space, with fellow queers and allies, i’m going to try and feel like part of a community again. one that is able to think across sexuality, gender, and race to realize how these oppressions operate in tandem with one another; they are not separate to the point of dividing us so starkly. i’m going to hope to feel part of a queer community that is capable of wanting equal rights, including marriage rights, for everyone and simultaneously challenging what it means to make our relationships and our love “normal.” what’s at risk when we strive for this? who and what goes unnoticed?

today is a day for those we’ve lost, to remember them, and their place in or queer communities, or queer families. it’s also a day to heal a bit, soak up some love and strength, and figure out how we manage to move forward, fix this terrible rift we’ve caused, all while honoring the memory of queers who have lost their lives so violently in fighting this fight to just be.



solidarity is (not)…
October 29, 2008, 1:40 am
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i know that this can’t be a phenomenon with merely my friends because i’ve noticed the same thing going on with friends of friends of friends – you know, people who are, like, three times removed my friend. halfway-to-kevin-bacon sort of people. and at least amongst the people i know who are doing it, it’s all the more shocking because of the fact that these are folks i usually consider pretty righteous when it comes to their politics, i.e. they’re “progressive,” people – queer or queer-friendly, anti-racist/classist/sexist/sizeist/ableist, you name it. so what’s the grave offense?

i have, at present, several facebook friends who have changed their names to be as follows: [first name] hussein [last name]. before you roll your eyes at me over the fact that this post is about facebook, take a look at it. need i mention that all the folks doing this are two things: 1) obama supporters and 2) white folks with western european and/or american ancestries? what this means, in my opinion, is that while all of these people claiming the middle name “hussein” are undoubtedly doing so in an act of “solidarity,” they are simultaneously appropriating not “just” a name, but one that is tied to very particular histories and cultures that are not theirs. cultures which have been dominated, colonized, invaded, and oppressed by this country and other western european countries for hundreds, thousands of years.

while these people then also go and try on “hussein” as a middle name for the sake of the election season, in an attempt to shed light on the fact that links between barack obama and any sort of “scary”, middle eastern culture are ridiculous, they wind up playing cheaply and dangerously, putting colonized cultures at risk. because for black, brown and mixed folks in this country and abroad, as well as middle easterners cross-culturally and across region and religion, they don’t get to step away from the bullshit ignorant westerners have attached to the name “hussein” once next week comes and goes. for white supporters of obama to take this on for the sake of solidarity is to ignore an entire complex history of oppression and suffering that white people are responsible for.

your cultural appropriation is not cool. it’s irresponsible and it wounds. show your solidarity by voting. not by coopting something that does not belong to you, something that has been unjustly and negatively inscribed by the very culture you live in every day.