Are We White?

20 Oct

whitegirls

I’m almost halfway through HIlton Als’ White Girls and I have a bunch of unscattered thoughts that I’d like organize, so why not do it here?

1) Hilton Als writes about race better than he writes about sexuality. He’s black and gay and works at the New Yorker so you’d think he could be a master at both. I’m brown and gay and I think I have a handle on issues of sexuality more than I have on issues of browness. I have astigmatism, so before I wore glasses I had to close my left eye in order to see something clearly. I wonder if being gay and brown is like having astigmatism, like two visions in your eyes, and you have to close one permanently in order to describe the other.

2) Because of point 1, Als is unkind to Truman Capote, accusing him of attempting to be a woman writer before making a switch to big important male writer in his serious In Cold Blood. He’s considerably kinder to Basquiat despite both men being gay/bi creatives who had issues with drugs. Capote’s central sin isn’t his whiteness, but his acting, which reminded me of my idea of gay people being accused of acting. Basquiat seems to be more authentic. He acts the way he is; a black man.

3) Als unkindness to Capote might be something they are bound up in together. Meaning that Hilton Als sees Capote’s failing as something they have in common. The bulk of the initial narrative (which is great) involves Als stand-in and his relationship to a straight black man, and their dancing around whiteness. Als writes beautifully about his experiences as a black man, and most of the experiences are bound up in the white world. On a white girlfriend’s deathbed he is mistreated and seen with suspicion, at white parties they are approached with strange questions. Als understands why these questions are asked even in his frustration, but he never stands separate from whiteness, he continues towards it.

So the big question here is: Is HIlton Als a form of white? Am I white? I’m talking about whiteness as the core of America, the default that we subscribe to. I’m talking about the exact same way Ursula K. Le Guin is a failed state of a man.

Brown and black people in America love to assert our otherness, but it feels internally strained, especially when we do it on twitter which is a very expressively white tool (or “the Masters Tool” if you’ve done the reading). I’m speaking from experience here. Saying that I am Latino is harder than saying I am gay, and I think the question of whether or not I am white is what causes this strain. Some call this post-racial, asserting that we are now colorblind, but this is faulty reasoning. The real nightmare scenario here isn’t that we are colorblind, but that we’re all moving towards whiteness, and some of us are more hobbled and damaged by this move.

I’ve seen activists of all types being accused of merely fighting for white privilege, but isn’t that exactly what we’re all fighting for? A plea for human decency, for justice, for good representation, aren’t all those pleas for white privilege under our current political reality?

Reza Aslan And Religion

14 Oct

Guatemalans and Gays were brought up in an article. That’s what I am!

I’m both!

Yay!

Unfortunately it was for this Reza Aslan interview about religion and how wrong Bill Maher is which are two topics that are really tired already so why are we still writing about them? Wouldn’t you all rather read about Guatemalans and Gays?

^_^

You have Christians in the hills of Guatemala who view Jesus as a liberating warrior who takes up arms against the oppressor, and Christians in midwestern Chicago who believe that Jesus wants you to drive a Bentley. Who’s right? They both are! That’s why Jesus matters.

Jesus matters to Guatemalans because he’s part of colonialism, meaning he was straight up airlifted into the hills of Guatemala so that my grandmother and mother could buy little wooden crosses and little bodega scented candles with the image of the Virgin Mary printed on them. When I think Jesus in the hills of Guatemala I do not think the wonderful varied beauty of religion. Invoking this imagery creeps me out.

I would say, in much the same way today no respectable figure would posit a link between homosexuality and pedophilia, because almost everyone knows someone who is gay, 40 years from now, a lot more people will know Muslims in day-to-day life

This is the interviewer’s sentiment but Reza agrees. In New York Muslims are the minority and you better believe they’re persecuted, but there’s a difference between religion and sexuality. I don’t want to sound like a Lady Gaga parade float but <<points to self>> Born this Way <<points to Religious Person>> Born Into Religion And Hopefully Did The Required Reading And Agreed To The Thing.

Religious people are locked in a war of ideas that gay people are not so the hope that one day the PR machine will just work for Muslims like it worked for the gays probably won’t pan out.

Will say this: Reza’s notion that people bring their values into their religion is just as simplistic as the New Atheist notion that religion is the master of a follower’s thoughts. It absolves religion too quickly of its imperialism, violence, and subjugation. I don’t think religion is solely to blame for atrocities like American slavery, but I think it’s so wrapped up in it that it would be hard to disentangle it.

The Revolution Will Be So Raven

8 Oct

Raven-Symoné‘s comedy was the first time I felt the comedy of Bugs Bunny, Lucille Ball, and Carole Burnett belonged to my generation. Comedy in that regard isn’t just a way of delivering a punchline or making a joke, but a way of moving and talking that embraces absurdity.

What’s Up Doc?

“Waah Ricky”

Carole Burnett’s Tarzan Yell
and

Ya nasty

I showed my little sister That’s So Raven and we straight up bonded over it. I don’t remember the plot lines, but the way the characters on the show talked is marked on my soul. To this day, 2014, I look at things (like my poop happy kitten) and say “YA NASTY” the same way Raven said it.

I took that love into my adult years. When my sister paid me a visit in New York I took her to watch Raven star on Broadway in the Sister Act musical. It wasn’t the greatest musical, but Raven killed it, buried it, it came back to life, then she killed it again. Just as recently as a month ago my fiancbae and I watched Cheetah Girls on Netflix just on the strength of her presence.

Raven the real life actress said some things recently that pissed people off. She said them about the perception of herself. She, apparently, said the wrong thing. I can’t keep up with the hate she received, and I don’t see it or agree with it. I’m too far deep into the comedy she started. Raven isn’t gay and isn’t African American. She stands, stage right, chewing on a carrot sayin’ “Ain’t I A Stinker?” and not only do I understand her, I need her to be there.

We need Raven’s rebellion, her not wanting labels. We need her talents and her comedy and her subversion. My generation was drafted into a war we didn’t ask for, and handed a script by people with an addiction to solidarity. Well I’ll tell you here that race solidarity never did anything for me. When I escaped to Bugs Bunny, Lucille Ball, and Raven, I escaped to a world where absurdity and intellect could save the day.

Back here in reality we had the never-ending suffering of our ancestors, of our parents, of our skin colors, of our orientation, of our genitals.

I’m not saying Raven is right to say what she said. I’m saying she’s right to express what she’s experiencing NOW, and that she has the right to change her mind later. If your movement (whatever it may be) rejects Raven for what she said, then it rejects my generation and the questions we bring with us.

If you will not have Raven then you will never have me.

Gay Marriage vs Gay Charity and Gay Everything Else

6 Oct

I realized that the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been spent on the campaign for same-sex marriage over the past two and half decades would have been better utilized saving lives. Same-sex marriage will not solve teen homelessness, economic disparities, HIV/AIDS, the prison industrial complex, healthcare access, pinkwashing, violence against queer and trans* people (mostly of color), and racist immigration laws.

- Andrew Núñez

I’m getting married next year (hurray), and while I have never given money to the same-sex marriage cause I did spend money in a similar fashion: I moved to New York. Not only did I pay my gargantuan one-time fee, but I clawed at low-paying jobs and made the decision to stay here and suffer high taxes and rent.

Why did I do that?

Self-preservation. Sanity. Because New York is better than gay-friendly, it’s gay-doesn’t-care. I feel at my most normal here.

You could not say that the money I spend to stay in New York could (or should) be easily transferred towards a charity, but I feel like that is what writers are saying when they write the above quote. The difference here is between moneyed self-interest and charity. My giving to charity is rarer. It’s a mood that strikes me during Christmas or when I need to feel good about myself. What I give to charity is always lesser than what I give to myself.

The “hundreds of millions of dollars” given to gay organizations can’t all be considered charity. Many couples, moneyed, and older have fought for marriage as a means for self-preservation, and if you don’t live in a state that allows it then the clock continues to tick.

These funds are not the same that would have been given to a charity, but we should ask ourselves what it is that we can do to funnel more interests towards charities and causes that aren’t gay marriage. I’ve talked about the issue of whether or not LGBT homelessness is an LGBT cause here and many of the issues above are wrapped up in other problems. When we talk about homelessness we are talking about class, and race, and in America people don’t want to see those as problems.

That is the issue at hand, not that money should move from self-interest towards charity, but that few people can grasp the humanity and suffering behind these causes.

(That’s so) Raven-Symoné and Multiple Labels

6 Oct

“I don’t want to be labeled ‘gay,'” Raven says. “I want to be labeled ‘a human who loves humans.'”

“I’m tired of being labeled,” she says. “I’m an American. I’m not an African-American; I’m an American.”

-Raven on Oprah

I empathize with the feeling. Juggling multiple labels doesn’t make you an expert in them all, in fact, it might curse you with a deficit. Being gay as well as an ethnic group compounds the feeling of isolation and estrangement. You don’t just come into your race or your sexuality without massive road blocks. Zora Neale Hurston wrote about the strangeness of seeing yourself as black for the first time in a photograph, and similarly I know the feeling of touching your hair to try and get it to look like hair in movies (read: White) and failing.

Jamelle Bouie writes about “acting white.”

In other words, she isn’t being mocked for the English as much as she is for her refusal to code-switch and use informal language for an informal conversation.

The article is great but it lacks a queer reading. Why would someone refuse to code-switch, is it because they don’t know how or because what is being discussed informally is alienating, homophobic, or transphobic? How much of our estrangement from straight society is due to our ethnic group and what we heard people say about our sexuality who looked exactly like us?

I’ve had a rough time relating to Latinos and to being Latino, and it has taken effort on my part to “come home” in a sense, to own my ethnicity and to scrub it clean of homophobia and machismo. I can see why Raven thinks what she thinks.

Gay Latino Macho Short Angry Weird Goth

23 Sep

glatino

Her son, she said, would be a man, not a maricón, a derogatory term used to describe gay Latino men or any man who is effeminate. – Gay Latino Macho

I was trying to describe to a writer friend of mine why the misogyny in Juno Diaz’s work was so vital to the story; trying to communicate the impact of a of seeing a scoundrel character like Yunior depicted so well.

This gay latino macho article helped gather some thoughts. To talk about machismo culture in Spanish circles is to talk about something separate from American chauvinism, misogyny, and rape culture (but not altogether divorced of those  things). For Latino people “machismo” is a guidepost for life and a community effort. There’s nothing subtle about it and nothing is implied. The rules of being macho are passed down clearly and they are enforced by women, men, and children. To fight machismo is to fight your nature, and leaving it is like abandoning your religion.

I was lucky enough to be raised by a family that didn’t believe in it, but I saw machismo at work when I went to visit a friend’s house. I witnessed mothers and fathers cajoling their sons into behaving like men and of upholding manhood. It was a visceral shock, and the shame my friends felt when I witnessed it was the same shame I felt when they learned how poor I was.

I think that part of what fuels machismo is a fear of Western culture and old country nationalism. The irony is that old world machismo intermingles very easily with Western conservative belief about the pussification of America. It is possible that machismo informed those opinions as well (though I can’t be sure of that).

It’s a scary thing to be Latino and not be macho because it is like consciously separating from your race. This is what it felt like for me at the time, that is until weird angry Latinos started to make themselves known. I had goth friends and friends who didn’t listen to the right music. We never talked about race or raza because we understood that we existed outside of it.

Nowadays I’m sure that machismo was never a part of my ethnicity, and that no one will miss it when it’s gone.

Might not mean much to you but it means the world to someone

22 Sep

In 2008 gay writer Andrew Sullivan blamed the passing of Prop 8 on America’s black population, specifically California voters.

It was a tough time to be non-white and gay. Time and Ta-nehisi Coates would prove Andrew Sullivan’s data wrong but when this was all happening you couldn’t help but feel that Sullivan was right somehow. I remember brown and black people being homophobic, I could see religious POC like my own family voting against gay rights.

This was because of two things: Writers like Mr. Coates weren’t on my radar. In fact no single black or Hispanic ally was on my radar. I wasn’t aware of them as a unified force for gay rights, and if I saw them on television then they didn’t speak to their beliefs on gay rights, and if they did then those beliefs wouldn’t get repeated enough for me to catch them. I wasn’t too familiar with twitter at the time, and wasn’t able to find the voices who would RT those sound bytes or articles.

The other thing was representation. If America’s black population wasn’t extraordinarily more homophobic then where were black gay stars? Artists? Actors? Where were the gay people on BET? Where were gays on Univision?

So imagine my surprise when this Kiki-ing video played on BET’s website for me last week. Or when I saw this tweet yesterday. Or reading this article about Hispanic trans people.

How we measure exactly how things have “gotten better” must be different from person to person, but I’ve found that the above representation has greatly influenced how I feel, overall, with how things are going. I see the brown and black faces and I acknowledge their bravery, and I feel that a piece of their courage is part of my own.  The struggle to be seen was exactly that, a struggle, so to have more than one voice speaking about these issues means the world to me (plus we got Laverne Cox on our team).

“But the number-one hurdle to LGBT equality is religious­-based bigotry”

4 Sep

The Rolling Stone report on Homeless Gay Teens is pretty good but even pretty good reports on this issue have a tendency to fall back on some lazy ass tropes that savvy writers and editors should be questioning using the information given in their own articles.

1) LGBT people should be responsible for LGBT homeless problem. Let’s do some math shall we? (I can’t believe I just said that).  From the article

Highly religious parents are significantly more likely than their less-religious counterparts to reject their children for being gay – a finding that social-service workers believe goes a long way toward explaining why LGBT people make up roughly five percent of the youth population overall, but an estimated 40 percent of the homeless-youth population. The Center for American Progress has reported that there are between 320,000 and 400,000 homeless LGBT youths in the United States.

The Williams Institute Review places the adult LGBT population in the States at around 3.8%. Now, an important note here, not every single LGBT person is an advocate, so the amount of advocacy in the LGBT population is going to be LESS THAN 3.8% So how in the hell is less than 3.8% of the total population going to be responsible for 40%  of homeless youth? The Rolling Stone article, displaying all this info, nevertheless quotes Carl Siciliano of the Ali Forney Center
How many tax dollars do gay people contribute? What percentage of tax dollars comes back to our gay kids? We haven’t matured enough as a movement yet that we’re looking at the economics of things.
How does it make mathematical sense for less than 3.8% of the population to be responsible for 40% of homeless lgbt youth? Or to make us responsible for the mess caused by seemingly broken religious straight parents? Two myths are at work. One is gay affluence the other is the belief that “gays” are akin to an ethnicity that is responsible for each other. Our communities exist because of the general population’s haywire belief that Yahweh sent his super son to Earth to convince you all to abuse your own gay children. We are grouped out of political necessity, but in truth, we are your blood.

 

And I say all of this as a donor to the Ali Forney center. It’s my #1 charity as I came perilously close (several times) to needing a shelter in NY myself. I deeply respect Carl Siciliano’s work and the Ali Forney Center but…come on.

 

2) Being Religious Vs Liking Gay People. <– This is a false-ass dichotomy.

But it becomes so natural to vilify parents who’ve abdicated­ their duties or alienated their kids that it is often forgotten how very hard it can be to change one’s worldview in the face of deeply ingrained religious beliefs. “It’s easy to see kids as victims and parents as perpetrators,” says Caitlin Ryan of the Family Acceptance Project. “But most parents would not want to make a Sophie’s choice between their faith and their child. These are parents who have been given misinformation for years.”
Talking about parents who abandon there children like this in “que sera sera” dulcet tones isn’t helping, especially when it contradicts the sheer brutality of the narratives experienced by gay kids in the first half of your article. What LGBT kids experience isn’t “abdication” it is abuse, call it what it is, then try and explain it away as an all sides are tragic. This paragraph is also plainly insulting to religious families who do not abuse or abandon their gay kids, and it’s just dropped on us with no explanation.
Also I’m sure Caitlin Ryan of the Family Acceptance Project is just thrilled that this is the only quote of hers that made it into the article (lol).

 

3) LGBT Homelessness is solely an LGBT advocacy issue.

No. It’s a straight religious issue. If you are a religious organization then you have caused this issue, and you do not get to tell adult LGBT how to run our lives because many of us are survivors of your bullshit.

The face of the gay-rights movement shouldn’t be what I call ’40-year-old well-moisturized couples.’ The face of the gay-rights movement should be a 15-year-old kid that’s been thrown out of his house and taught that he’s a sinner.”
This is the only quote by Mitchell Gold in the whole article, but including it as the only quote makes it sound like the entirety of this issue is on the gay-rights movement. I somehow doubt that the head of organization that advocates for ending the harm of religion-based hate would want the totality of the work to be that quote, but here we are.
Overall the article presents a brutal and realistic narrative of kids being harmed by religious parents, but sticks some (seemingly) out of context quotes to present this issue as a tragedy on all sides. I’m sure many of the advocates thoughts are nuanced, but the quotes as presented don’t paint a nuanced picture.  A stronger article would have followed the logic in this paragraph:
The U.S. government spends more than $5 billion annually on homeless-assistance programs, yet federal laws allocate less than five percent to homeless children and youth specifically (though some money also makes its way to them through more generalized programs under agencies like HUD and the Department of Labor). Most of the dedicated funds are allocated through the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA), which expired last September.

Tech Company Bloopers: You Shoulda Made ‘Em Private Edition

2 Sep

I tweeted this morning that I wanted to read a think-piece accusing cloud computing of being a trap for obtaining women’s nudes half-jokingly because I think there is a measure of responsibility for tech companies wrapped up in third party hacks and harassment of sensitive users.

There’s a lot of talk on twitter and tumblr about the needs of minorities, their lack of voices, checking ones privilege, and all that sort of sociological theory, but there isn’t much talk about the applied ways in which those things can work for technology.

Here are some examples of problems caused by new tech programmed in ways that are negligent of its most sensitive users:

Celebrity Nude Leaks from Cloud Computing

Twitter Harrassment of Women

Grindr Location Based Security Breach for its M4M users

Many of these aren’t just whoopsies, or tiny little cuts caused by hackers. Most of these situations involve a large tech company narrowly designing programming around the needs of its most visible/privileged members without even a hint of imagining what a sensitive users experience would be. In Grindr’s case (as its LGBT focused and that’s the focus of this blog) the needs of white male or urban users are prized above the needs of international users who may require anonymity more than others. To tell these users that they need to turn off their default privacy setting is to blame them for simply using your product, and with that helpful tips also comes the assumption that maybe the product isn’t FOR them.

I get this a lot in tech: The User error. Your users shouldn’t have known about this option or should have known to turn this feature off, to have a stronger password, to not give out this address or that address. This isn’t ONLY victim blaming, it’s alienating. It’s a clear signal that new tech isn’t for a demographic that is bullied and demonized by a larger demographic, despite the fact that new tech can often be a saving grace for people in need. You herd people like cattle to the latest apps, social media, and storage solutions, then you blame them when they find out you haven’t designed it for them in mind.

The solution to this requires listening to feedback and allotting some part of the budget to a response team to fix problems as they arise. Tech companies should also get in the habit of diversifying the people they hire to ensure minority users have advocates within the company.  Tech companies also need to get rid of the White American Man user as default. Go outside for cryin’ out loud.

 

I Am Gabriel Fernandez

21 Aug

I am Gabriel Fernandez and he was me. Living in segregated Los Angeles with a community of latin folk you’d think I’d feel solidarity with them, and sometimes i fool myself into thinking there is, but news like Gabriel Fernandez’s murder is a reminder over what it is I left behind.

Several things are rotten to the core about being latino. Some call it machismo, and others call it a tragic product of colonialism. Whatever you name it, it’s there. I remember the specific way my distant aunt non-chalantly told a joke about “maricons” then laughed and laughed. I remember my mom’s every observation about gay people, all negative. I remember my tio prizing acting like a man above everything else. I remember my friends skirting away from everything womanly with fear in their eyes.

What happened to this poor boy is an extreme example, but it happened, and the people who perpetrated this grotesque violence are only one piece of a very complicated whole. It might not be fair to talk about this as an exclusively brown problem (it’s not), but maybe being fair and dealing with tragedy are incompatible.

If you are brown then you cannot trust the law, and if you are gay then you cannot trust your family. Where does that leave us?

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