Femme FATale


fail: jerry lewis.
February 8, 2009, 11:37 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

jack assi’ve been writing a post for the past 3 days, on and off, trying to articulate what i’m feeling these days about the overall reception/treatment of femmes in some parts of the queer community and trussing it to some experiences of my own lately that have left me feeling pretty raw and dissatisfied. i’m hoping to finish it up tomorrow and to hear back a bit from my extended femme family and allies about our experiences.

in the meantime, though, my very dear, very brilliant friend emily and i wanted to help get the word out on legendary problematic comedian jerry lewis and the petition that is circulating to protest the anticipation of his receiving a humanitarian award at the oscars on feb. 22nd. lewis is well-known for his telethons for kids with muscular distrophy, which are really, truly eye-raising (in bad, bad ways). here’s more on that from emily:

Jerry Lewis has long been protested by disability activists for his infamous telethons for “Jerry’s kids,” children with muscular dystrophy. Though Jerry Lewis may have good intentions, his telethons are deeply problematic, as they encourage pity for people with disabilities and paternalistic charity. Many in the disability rights movement have come together to protest the telethons, but Lewis refuses to listen to those he supposedly seeks to help, and Lewis once responded to a protest, “You have to remember they’re sitting in chairs I bought them…. These 19 people don’t want me to [raise money]. They want me to stop now? Fuck them. . . Do it in caps, FUCK THEM.” Yet, he will be honored this year at the Oscars and receive a humanitarian award. Check out http://thetroublewithjerry.net/ to sign a petition and find info about how to protest the event. Pity is not progress. It is especially relevant that people support this protest in the name of Harriett McBryde Johnson, a disability activist and writer as well as one of Jerry Lewis’s earliest and loudest protesters, who passed away this year. Here’s one more offensive Lewis quote to leave you with: he said that a disabled individual is “half a person,” and snapped, “[If] you don’t want to be pitied because you’re a cripple in a wheelchair, stay in your house!”

clearly, jerry lewis is the last person who should be receiving a humanitarian award. we’ll connect the dots some more by noting that as if his pity partying of disabled folks isn’t problematic enough (and oh, is it ever!), lewis is vehemently homophobic, having used the word “fag” derogatorily and repeatedly in on-screen appearances in the past few years. need even more? he’s also an old misogynist to boot, quoted as having once said: “women should be having babies or naked, oiling themselves up at home. they should be waiting with bated breath for their man, the rightful heir to the throne and ruler of all mankind. only a strong man in a bear-skin bathing suit back from a long night at the clubs can rescue the weak, docile, female of the species.” barf. go sign that petition, no?

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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.



mpls is angry today.
September 4, 2008, 8:57 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

for those of you who don’t know it, i live in minneapolis. i love it here. it’s usually a friendly, progressive city that moves a little slow at times for my jersey blood, but makes up for it with it’s summer thunderstorms, fried cheese curds, and lakes. i’ve been here nearly four years now as i work on my ph.d. and while i occasionally miss the northern east coast and its very different way of life, i’m happy here.

the last few days in mpls have been angry though…and scary. for those of you trapped under a rock, the republican national convention is in town and while you won’t see a ton about this on your mainstream news channel, it’s really fucking up my home. mere whispers of dissent are, apparently, enough for the cops to bust into your house and arrest you, it seems. there have been a number of houses in the twin cities raided over the past few days for suspected protest activity and “terrorism.” at one point, the local food not bombs group was raided in a search for…bombs.

what’s more is that, at present, there’s a reported 400 people being held in jail right now for protesting and over 100 of them are being held on bogus, inflated charges of terrorism under the patriot act. did you know that it’s against the patriot act to cover your face when demonstrating? that means that any attempt to shield oneself from the onslaught of tear gas and pepper spray used by police is not allowed. mere bandanas = terrorism these days. of the remaining prisoners not yet charged, many are being held past the state’s 36 hour law for being able to detain uncharged persons. reports have come out from other protest groups that many of their members being held are not being given medical care and that transgender prisoners, especially, have not been allowed to visit with lawyers or make phone calls.

as i type this, the news playing in the background, cnn was showing the arrest of two protesters on bicycle and even the on-the-ground reporter exclaimed “i don’t even know what they did! there doesn’t seem to be a reason for their arrest!” these are scary, angry times here. below is information on who you can call, what you can do to help per an email that’s been circulating amongst groups and folks who believe in the right to protest and who oppose this kind of horrendous treatment of others. even if you’re not in the minneapolis/st. paul area, you can still call and demand their release.

from the email:

Please call the following offices and continue calling until all arrestees have been released:

St. Paul Mayor – Chris Coleman (651.
266.8510)
Head of Ramsey County Jail – Capt. Ryan O’
Neil (651.266-9350 ext 1)
Ramsey County Sheriff – Bob Fletcher (651.
266.9333)
County Chief Judge Gearin (651.
266.8266)

Demand the following:
– Immediate medical attention as needed for ALL arrestees;
– That the prisoners who haven’t given their names (Jane & John Does and Jesse Sparkles) have access to
group meetings with a lawyer in jail;
– Dismissal of all charges;
– Release of all minors; and
– Ensure trans prisoners have access to phone and attorneys, and are held in gendered facility of their
choice.

Donate!
Money is needed to help cover legal costs and get people out of jail. Any amount you can give is greatly appreciate
d.To donate by Pay Pal visit https://coldsnaplegal. wordpress.com and click on the donate button.

For more details and up-to-date information about jail conditions and prisoner status, please see:
http://submedia.tv/
http://coldsnaplegal.wordpress.com

http://twincities.indymedia.org



butch vs. femme, or why it’s not ok to play "i have it harder than you."

after a fairly successful weekend of fun, i was visiting my usual online haunts before getting ready for bed and came across the most recent vlog by resident youtube butch, AJ on her sister channel, the Beaver Bunch. i don’t know how popular AJ, of Ask AJ Anything fame, is amongst us tech savvy queers out there, but basically she gives advice and makes a lot of “top 10” lists. i’ve never found her much to write home about, but that’s just my opinion.

anyway, this week’s vlog was about sharing coming out stories, which was all well and good until about 4minutes and 45seconds in when AJ starts talking about being visibly queer and how she can never not be “out” because of her appearance. shortly after this, she relays the following message that has had me fuming for the past hour. basically, this: femmes have it easy. maybe my anger is misdirected. AJ is only one of many butches i’ve heard voice these sentiments in the past few years and i’m officially over it. so, to AJ, and all those who might agree with her, here’s my rant:

so, check it. unfortunately, most of us who are queer have had homophobic speech slung at us at least once in our lives. whether it was directed to us individually, as part of a couple, or with a group, the impact is still the same. for me personally, this usually isn’t what i get called out on the street for when i’m on my own or with a group a friends. if i’m going to be heckled in broad daylight in the middle of downtown, it’s going to be because i’m fat or, the way i like to think of it, because i’m a hot fat girl who defies every convention of what it is i’m supposed to do – cover up every inch of skin, wear dark colors, talk quietly. basically, do everything i can to keep attention away from me, to fade into the woodwork. though truth be told, assholes on the street would find me there too.

when i’ve been the target of queer bashing though, it’s always been in the company of others. a big group of my homo friends at a non-queer bar or arm-in-arm with someone i’m dating who, because i always date on the more masculine end of the gender spectrum, tends to be more visibly queer than myself, thus drawing attention to us. those times have mostly been scary, some downright terrifying and, later, when safety is certain and blood pressures have resumed a normal range, angering for everyone involved. never, though, have i sat down afterward with my significant other or with my friends and deliberated which one of us motivated the attack, who’s most queer in appearance, or who has it easiest/hardest…and i, frankly, can’t understand anyone who would!

i know all about the differences of visibility and invisibility when it comes to butch and femme (or anyone queer who doesn’t pass as straight and anyone queer who does – the labels don’t matter here); i deal with what it means to be invisible to a straight world, and even a queer world sometimes, on a regular basis. for example, there are few things more infuriating to me than my lack of recognizability as queer and the swiftness with which that changes based on who my partner is. far too often, my entire gender and sexuality become about the gender identity of the person i’m dating rather than anything about me. all this being said though, i also know that i’m privileged in passing because my queerness is rarely a visible target of staring, behind-the-back whispers, or violence, and that those are things butches and other masculine-identified, female-bodied folks are forced to deal with constantly. i don’t deny AJ, or any other person who exhibits female masculinity of any kind, the fact that their visibility is always more dangerous. the ways in which they bravely navigate that on a daily basis will always have my utmost respect and appreciation.

my frustration instead is about the need to make this comparison, to attempt to outdo eachothers’ experiences of oppression. i would never say to a butch, a trans guy, someone genderqueer, that i experience discrimination worse than they do because of x, y, or z. i realize, in the case of visibility, their identity puts them in a different place, a more volatile place even, than myself, but i’m not going to tolerate them or anyone else telling me that i have it easy. this is not to say that differences in experience don’t need to be acknowledged. of course they do! and in the particular case of discrimination as a result of visibility, i know who has a roughter time. but what’s the point of sitting around contrasting whether the attack on your queerness is greater than mine? what gets accomplished in that? and more so, what significant information gets erased in this attempt? what about the particulars of space and time? or the specifics of the person and the variety of other intersecting identities like race and class and size, amongst others, that operate simultaneously with queerness and how we experience discrimination? are we really going to spend time figuring out whose feelings were hurt more or who was treated more unjustly when a stranger called you a “dyke” and me a “fat bitch”? or are we going to acknowledge the fact that it sucked in a bunch of different ways for both of us, but we learned a bit from each others’ experiences as a result?

if we’re queers and know what that means to us and understand the politics and investments of using that word beyond an identity of being G, L, B, or T, we need to learn what it means to be allies to one another; to be supportive, caring, respectful, self-reflexive, and to know that finger pointing and pitting ourselves against each other is futile. acknowledging the different ways we experience our lives and our identities is invaluable, but the pissing contest of who has it easiest and who has it worst seems to be a game with no actual winner.



Protected: excess baggage.
May 5, 2008, 2:29 pm
Filed under: bigotry, butches, class, exes, fatness, friends, race, resistance | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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i am my mother’s daughter.
March 20, 2008, 7:31 pm
Filed under: exes, love, mom, reciprocity, resistance, therapy | Tags: , , , , , ,

when i started going to therapy three months ago, i wasn’t sure what i was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t what i got – an amazing queer-friendly, sex-positive therapist with pretty progressive politics for a heterosexual professional who looks like a nicer, cuter version of ann coulter. it took only about three sessions until she had me pegged and left me wandering home, mouth agape, with the realization that after 26 years, there was no denying i was my mother’s daughter.

i had suspicions this was going to happen. i laugh like my mother – loud, unchecked, and with legs stomping if you really get me going. when i’m upset, my words pour out 100 m.p.h. and my new jersey accent is as thick as molasses (…or maybe toxic, newark sludge). my feet are near mirror images of hers…save for my slightly wider instep and far superior baby toes. she is strong, she is loving, she is smart, she is beautiful. she is my heart and i am hers.

unfortunately though, being my mother’s daughter also means that i have been witness to a cycle of emotional abuse that i have not only endured personally, but through her pain and heartbreak as well. my father, a manic depressive, has made 33 years of marriage a task worthy of receiving sainthood. i mean, it would be if you absolutely had to stay or, like, you would die. the fact is, though he has caused us hurt for decades, she has only participated in this violence through her decision to stay married to him and living within the same home. despite her reasons for not leaving being (somewhat) understandable, her continued involvement has enabled a cycle of anger, depression, and neglect. years of debating our staying and going manifested itself into an inescapable pattern for her.

and here i am now – 26 years old and on my own, living and loving the butches and the bois that come and go in some repetitious narrative (dare i say it?) of life that finds me – the strong one, the loving one, the smart one, the beautiful one – playing second fiddle to a conductor without ears. the lack of mutuality, the ungratefulness, the emotional ineptness is staggering, but i have taken it from you. i have participated, i have enabled. i have tried, like my mother, to unsuccessfully make good times out of your bad times. i have put my hurt aside to fix you, to care for you. i have loved you, i have listened to you. i have made you lemon bars, pastina, brownies. i have sent you flowers, taken you shopping, made you care packages. i have kissed your eyebrows, i have sucked your dick. i have raised your self-esteem, i have inflated your ego. i have been your saving grace, your biggest fan, your desire, your love. i have been what you said made you feel whole….

to me, you have been a dearth of reciprocity.

i am my mother’s daughter because i believed you, despite the lack of tangible evidence and despite the harsh words, mood swings, emotional voids. i stuck with you. i let it happen again and again.

except then it stopped.

because i was not going to pay one more $200 cell phone bill to hear you tell me that you loved me, but that now was not the time (5 years from now, you say? go fuck yourself!). i was not going to spend one more long weekend/holiday/spring break without you because you couldn’t get time off of work, but could, in fact, find time to go to nyc and see your mediocre best friend…and her harem of strippers. i was not going to spread for you on saturday, sunday, and monday for you to tell me on tuesday that you “hated” me. yes, even if you meant it ironically.

you see, i am my mother’s daughter, but i am not her twin. i have learned from her mistakes. i have meticulously studied her scars.

i say to you now what my mother should have said to my father at 26:

you, sir, are fired.