Femme FATale

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.

homonormativity, negligence, and duanna johnson

i’ve taken a bit of a break from blogging over the last week or two because of these exams of mine coming up that will pretty much determine whether or not i can/will continue with this ph.d. program and move on to (finally) beginning my dissertation research. i have a set of three “publication ready” papers due next monday and then the oral exam, which terrifies me, on december 8th. but my blood pressure is not the topic of this entry. all of this is to say, instead, that i haven’t been writing not because there’s nothing to write about or because I have nothing to say. in fact, there is so much to say that i’ve been dying to put out here, but that my workhorse way of life right now has not been allowing me. i realized this morning when i woke up, unplanned, at 7am after only being able to fall asleep at 3:30, that maybe i at least need to get this one post out of me that has been aiding in my insomnia, especially this past week. i might catch a lot of shit for this entry, but since I’m in major-exam-fighting mode these days, bring it.

i’ve acknowledged on this blog and offline to friends and family too, as many of us have, that november 4th was an exciting and historical day for the u.s. electing barack obama, but a disappointing day in terms of the myriad of anti-affirmative action and anti-queer rights ballot measures that passed, including of course, the number of bans on gay marriage. i’ve been surprised to watch, between coffee breaks and citation searches, this unification amongst members of our “queer” communities to rally in support of gay marriage. (sidenote: i’m purposely putting “queer” in quotes here because of the, seemingly, changing definition of this word recently. one that i used to acknowledge as being tied to a particular, transgressive kind of politics that now, in light of these recent events, seems almost remiss) surprised not because marriage rights are not important to many gay people and their allies, and not because i doubt the ability of folks in these communities to organize around such an issue; the hrc, amongst other organizations, has been telling us to do so for the last 5-10 years after all and we are certainly a community of ralliers. i’m surprised, more so, because over the past week i’ve watched my queer friends across the country, people who are part of my “radical” queer community, that have for so long been outspoken about homonormativity, about the monopolization of the gay marriage debate, and about the negligence paid to more pressing issues like trans rights, queer p.o.c. rights, and hate crime legislation, organize against prop 8. and i worry, is this the new “queer” politics?

let me clarify something before i, unintentionally, wind up devaling the efforts of folks who came together since november 4th and, especially, those who turned out nationally in most major cities across the country on saturday. i don’t think going out and rallying against prop 8 this weekend was a bad thing. at all. i think that, in light of what just happened, national organizing and public disavowal of anti-gay rights ballots in all of the states that passed them, not just california, is an important thing. no doubt the number of demonstrations and, what jointheimpact.com is counting as, over one million people protesting across the country is exciting and shows incredible solidarity.

my concern is that in all of this outrage over prop 8, in all of the organizing, what has “queer” politics left behind? why, post-november 4th, is homonormativity, and all that it overshadows, not still one of the queer community’s biggest gripes? and if you want to tell me it still is and that the outcry against prop 8 since election night doesn’t change that, how and why did we not organize and demonstrate over the recent murder of duanna johnson, a black transwoman of memphis, tennessee? how did we, the people who claim to be so attune to what national gay rights conversations consistently leave out, allow gay marriage to trump issues of transphobia and racism right under our noses? in the midst of all our rallying over the *institution* of marriage (and yes, i support all of us having that option even if i’m *institutionally* opposed to it), we obscured a woman’s, a member of our larger queer community’s, death.

duanna johnson was brutally beaten by memphis police in a hate crime incident that occurred in february of this year when she was arrested for prostitution. last sunday, the 9th, she was found murdered, shot to death, with last i read, no suspects in custody. how do so many of us queers still, a week later, not even know her name, let alone what happened to her? the queer community i’ve been so proud to be a part of was one that would have spread duanna’s name from coast-to-coast in order to raise awareness around this incredible loss and around issues like the intersection here of gender, sexuality, race, and class; hate crimes; police brutality; transphobia; and violence against sex workers. and all of this while simultaneously calling bullshit on organizations like the hrc that continually make marriage the locus of their attention and financial support, while programs that look at more marginalized groups within queer communities, and the issues that pertain to them, are consistently overlooked or cut altogether in the name of producing a white, affluent, normative image of what gay looks like. this is the queer community i love and support and that doesn’t require quotation marks to qualify its meaning.

i worry about its survival and i worry about what else, who else, we’ve failed to see in the past few weeks and whether or not this is what “queer” is truly at risk of becoming. in the meantime, this thursday is the international day of transgender remembrance where, surely, duanna johnson’s life will be honored and represented amongst the many other folks whose lives have been lost in the struggle that it is, not to marry, but to just live.

you can check out events happening all over the world and, hopefully, in your area at www.transgenderdor.org

also, because i’m 100 years behind in my blog reader, check out jack’s (of angry brown butch) post from earlier this week about this exact topic.

what’s hot.


y’all, we have a soon-to-be-president and first lady who give daps*.
that’s hot. just sayin’.

*conservatives, you might be familiar with daps as “a terrorist fist jab.”
also, sorry about that whole “sweeping the election” thing.
xo, hussy red.

from where we find strength

last night, i went to bed with a full heart and mind over the success of president-elect, barack obama, only to wake up with feelings that are bittersweet because of the passing of several ballot iniatives that proffer hate and discrimination – gay marriage bans in california, arizona, and florida, a ban on gay couples adopting children in arkansas, and a ban on affirmative action in nebraska and, possibly, colorado.

as a queer person who, institutionally, finds marriage unappealing, but who very much supports the rights for everyone to make that decision for themselves, to articulate relationships in any way they see fit – whether that be through an “official” marriage ceremony, sworn commitment amongst only one another, living together in relationships or couples of two, three, or twelve folks – i am heart heavy. again, as a queer person, but also as a white person, a woman, a fat girl who works diligently to engage with her own privilege – race and other, who works to promote anti-racism, anti-homophobia, anti-ableism, etc., in her communities big and small, who is overwhelmed with joy to have a young, more progressive, black president, i can’t help but be crestfallen over actions taken to eliminate access to education and employment that have been so improved by affirmative action.

for the sake of delineating what is at stake, i describe these ballot initiatives to ban the rights of queers and affirmative action as separate incidences, but they’re not. difference, whether it be racial, class, sexuality, gender, ability, size, etcetera, is in the cases of these ballot initiatives as well as beyond, under assault collectively. barack obama may be our next president, but colorado, a state he won last night by 7%, may be, as i write this, overturning affirmative action. california, notoriously progressive, which obama won by 24% of the vote, passed proposition 8. while we hugged and cried on the shoulders of strangers in the streets last night, and as we watched eagerly the writing of history as our first black president gave us his victory speech, a lot of us missed what else was happening until we woke up today. as queers, as persons of color, as part of any marginalized group(s), it is imperative we see the links between each other’s oppression in order to draw strength across issues in our moments of success and defeat; moments like today where both are so present.

i am thrilled about the results of last night’s presidential election. i am for, probably, the first time in my life, honestly proud of saying i am american. i love that voter turn out amongst people of color and young people and young people of color was unprecedented – i read a statistic today that 4 million more youth voters participated in this election that in 2004. that’s huge and nothing to sweep under the carpet. we deserve to continue celebrating this victory even while we mourn our losses and what they mean to us personally and beyond. we are not “just” queers or people of color or queers of color who, last night, were wounded. we’re a nation of “other” people, people who are different across a whole host of identities and in this there is so much present and so much potential love, warmth and strength. that is, if we continue to, and in many other cases figure out how to, harness it.

November 5, 2008, 1:23 pm
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what a beautiful family, our new first family.

maddow mania & the new poll tax
November 4, 2008, 12:45 pm
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if you’re not twitter friends with me and this little blog crew of ours, you should know that we’ve all got maddow mania. as a regular viewer of rachel maddow’s show and as someone obsessed enough to make her my desktop background, there is no denying she’s the handsome. she’s also incredibly smart though (i do prefer my butches with brains) and passionate about progressive politics (also a requirement. applicants, take note!). so smart and so passionate that if you’re even thinking *for one second* that you can’t afford to spend the time and effort in line waiting to vote today, you need to watch rachel explain how waiting and inaccessibility have become the new polling tax meant to disenfranchise you.

watch. get angry. and then go vote if you are physically and financially able to do so…though i can’t believe i even have to type that. voting should be accessible to everyone. arrrg. seriously. go watch the maddow, stealer of queer hearts everywhere!

at 8:23am CST today, i voted.
November 4, 2008, 10:54 am
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for the 2004 presidential election, i was living in washington, d.c. and working at a women’s political action committee that raised money for the campaigns of progressive, pro-choice women candidates across the country. from the start of 2003 to the day after the election when john kerry conceded to george w. bush, i lived, breathed, slept politics. part of it was because i loved it, was excited about and part of it was because even if i wanted to completely hide from it, living in d.c. during a presidential election cycle makes that an impossible feat. i loved my job, enjoyed the work i did, saw where raising a few thousand dollars online and in the mail made a difference on the ground to campaigns struggling against conservative incumbents. still, i was working 60 hours a week and getting paid for 40 on my $25,000 salary in one of the nation’s most expensive cities.

when kerry conceded the election the day after election day, i sobbed uncontrollably in the conference room with my co-workers. kerry was ok, far from my favorite, but frankly, a candidate for the u.s. presidency who has politics as left/radical as i do will probably never see the ballot. still, i wept, disappointed, overworked, and exhausted. i left d.c. about eight months later to spend a month or two in jersey with my family during my dad’s first cancer surgery before moving out to minneapolis for school. washington, my job, that last election had drained me. i still cared, obviously, but i didn’t want to talk about what had happened and where we’d be four years from then.

with this a big part of my very young voting, living history, it took me a while to get excited about this election. i’ve liked barack obama since i saw him speak live on the floor at the 2004 democratic convention in boston, but i was afraid to put my heart into this. even all of the stories and youtube videos forwarded to me over the last year or two failed to tug at my heartstrings that are usually more than willing to be tugged into producing a teary-eyed, sentimental hussy red. not this time. i’m sad to write that i’m so jaded at only 27, but i find faith in that two weeks ago, my heart finally kicked itself into alignment with my brain who was going to vote no matter what. better late than never, old heart of mine.

so on only three hours of sleep, with not even a shower, let alone a drop of make-up (usually unheard of for this high-maintenance-and-proud-of-it femme), i left my apt. at 6:30am this morning to stand in the chilly minnesota morning for over an hour, with literally *hundreds* of other folks up that early, to go and cast my vote for: barack obama and joe biden for president/vice president; al franken for u.s. senate; keith ellison for u.s. representative – district 5; state representative – district 60a, margaret anderson-kelliher; mpls school board, carla bates, lydia lee, and sharon henry-blythe; associate justice to the state supreme court, paul h. anderson; seat 16 on the judicial court of appeals, terri j. stoneburner; seat 9 on the 4th district court, philip d. bush; seat 53 on the 4th district court, jane ranum; and the soil and water supervisor of district 3, james wisker.

now it’s your turn:

progressive voting guides; these go state-by-state! click here to access full lists of who is running, who lines up with your politics, and why you should or shouldn’t vote for a particular candidate

– if you’re in the twin cities, here’s the link to ballot information composed by young/pissed off voters. this isn’t an excuse to not do your homework, but it does help to guide you. props to my girl becky for sending this to me weeks ago! xo!

– at least in the state of minnesota, you *are* allowed to bring yourself in a cheat sheet of sorts. this might seem obvious for many, but is unclear to some old and new voters.

find out where you vote and get there before the polls close.

– be diligent and report voting difficulties that seem like fraud and/or attempts that keep you or others from the polls. take this number with you to report issues from the scene: 1-866-VOTE-411.

– when you can, vote on a paper ballot. sure, this is slightly archaic and yes, the scanner you insert your paper ballot into can be rigged and tampered with or produce it’s own errors as much as voting machines can, but at least with paper ballots, there is always (if they don’t go missing! ahem!) a paper trail.

enough with the preaching, you all know what to do. in 2004, the election was decided by a mere handful of votes. don’t be complacent and think we’ve got this just yet. now go listen to j. smooth of illdoc who always says it way better than most others ever can: