A Respectable Riot

26 Nov

Saw lots of opinions about riots on twitter which is strange because I don’t think many people on twitter have ever been in a riot. Anyway, having lived through a riot, here’s what I think.

Riots suck, except if you’re of age, then I can imagine them being incredibly cathartic. I imagine the ideal age for a riot is maybe 16-22? And the ideal gender is male. Lots of things have to occur for you to be of age during a riot, unfortunately for the majority of people, like me, we’re either too young or too old when a riot occurs.

A lot of rioters are jerks, but it doesn’t mean they are necessarily wrong. A lot of righteousness is mixed in with a riot but also a lot of defeat. Riots are derided by assholes to defame a community with boots on its back, but they’re also used to romanticize a struggle. We say that riots spark movements, but it isn’t that clear cut. Riots spark certain people to start movements, but the starters of a movement are rarely the rioters. This is why I have been drawn to Victor Hugo’s characterization of the fictional french revolutionary Enjorlas:

a charming young man who was capable of being terrible

The terribleness of Enjorlas is incompatible with society, and even if he was right all along, he has to be put down (mega spoilers, sorry!)

There are people who don’t riot but who share the anger of the rioter; academics, scholars, writers, celebrities, protestors, pre-existing organizations dedicated to your cause. That they don’t riot, and that they can express this anger in un-terrible ways makes them the leaders of a movement by default. Their anger is palatable.

The movement ends up eventually eating the rioter, or whitewashing them. We forget the nefariousness of a looter and we want the public to forget too, and the cycle of respectability starts up again.

I was too young to riot, and even if I was of age, I wouldn’t have rioted, but my anger isn’t above a looter’s. My anger also isn’t any more respectable because I can express it in writing and they can’t. And because of that anger I can’t help but see red when I hear that communities in pain should behave. 

I think whitewashing a riot is irresponsible because it dehumanizes a complicated population. I worry that, as a movement starts, the rioters are forgotten.

The last thing I have to say is about Sylvia Rivera, a trans woman who was there at the Stonewall Riots AND who took a seat in the subsequent gay liberation movement. Here in her own words are what happened in the movement after the riots:

After Gay Liberation Front folded and the more reformist Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) became New York’s primary gay rights group, Sylvia Rivera worked hard within their ranks in 1971 to promote a citywide gay rights, anti-discrimination ordinance. But for all of her work, when it came time to make deals, GAA dropped the portions in the civil rights bill that dealt with transvestitism and drag—it just wasn’t possible to pass it with such “extreme” elements included. As it turned out, it wasn’t possible to pass the bill anyway until 1986. But not only was the language of the bill changed, GAA—which was becoming increasingly more conservative, several of its founders and officers had plans to run for public office—even changed its political agenda to exclude issues of transvestitism and drag. It was also not unusual for Sylvia to be urged to “front” possibly dangerous demonstrations, but when the press showed up, she would be pushed aside by the more middle-class, “straight-appearing” leadership. In 1995, Rivera was still hurt: “When things started getting more mainstream, it was like, ‘We don’t need you no more'”. But, she added, “Hell hath no fury like a drag queen scorned”

Gay Jail is Magic

19 Nov

Loved this article on LA’s gay jail, but I feel like there’s some subtlety in it that maybe is too subtle. Slate Outward described the article like this:

On Tuesday, L.A. Weekly released an astonishing story and accompanying video about a place that’s so miraculous its existence feels like a mirage: the gay wing of the L.A. men’s central jail. Before I spoil any of the fun, you should go ahead and watch the profoundly humane, often hilarious video. -Outward

Soooo maybe I should make it not subtle:

IF THIS PLACE IS SO GREAT THEN WHY IS IT JAIL?

That they are in jail is a given to a certain class of writer, one that maybe believes that good people are innocent and bad people are criminals.After Ferguson, after statistics like this, who still believes that?

According to the Human Rights Watch, people of color are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than whites, but they have higher rate of arrests. African Americans comprise 14 percent of regular drug users but are 37 percent of those arrested for drug offenses. From 1980 to 2007 about one in three of the 25.4 million adults arrested for drugs was African American.

Despite being in jail, the people in the original article seem to be no danger to anyone, in fact, many of them like the communities formed around their incarceration. Is this because it is a “good thing” or is this because no alternative community or means of support has been presented to them? The people profiled are not the gays on tv, or the trans people in magazines, but they are the rough and tumble brown and black people who are too odd to fit in their respective hetero communities. They are the unintended victims of racist policies that criminalize drug abuse, but because they are faeries, they are magic, and have turned their lot in life into a very meager benefit.

When you write about gay misogyny, it is them you talk about, the drag queen, the uneducated ones, the brutes, the ones without a home. You say they dislike you, I say they have good reason to.

Latasha Harlins

18 Nov

I think I’m just doomed to swim around the topic of the LA riots until I’m old and sick of thinking about it, then I’ll think about it some more.

Today I’m stuck reading about Latasha Harlin’s murder by Soon Ja Du. The short of it is Latasha tried to buy some juice but store owner Soon Ja interpreted this as an attempted robbery. Soon Ja attacked Latasha then shot her. A court tried Soon Ja, found her guilty, but gave her no jail time. This all happened when I was nine-years-old so I was pretty clueless as to why the subsequent riots included destroying stores owned by Koreans, or why all my local businesses suddenly had big signs reading “Black Owned.”

Cluelessness a running theme in Los Angeles at the time. Most of my friends were Chicanos who didn’t know much about their heritage. Many of them listened to the local Power 106 radio station, they embraced a mixture of old world and new world machismo, but were clueless of the more queer aspects of Mexican culture (it took white people to teach me about Frida Kahlo, and her face contextualized the painted faces of cholas).

I mention Power 106 as a very central cultural thing. They played hip-hop non-stop, Tupac in particular. California Love was on repeat when I was a kid, but Power 106 lacked nuance. It was itself steeped in pop culture, only interested in pushing the image of hyper black and brown masculinity, only interested in selling that image to white suburbs. I don’t remember them playing this song by Tupac – Keep Ya Head Up

As you can see, it is dedicated to Latasha Harlin. It is an almost overly sensitive painful and emotional rap ballad. It doesn’t parse well with the image of the gangsta rapper. And I never really listened to it until today.

After the riots were over, Soon Ja’s store was burned to the ground.

Kim Kardashian: Slave To The Rhythm

14 Nov

This article is good, so very very good, so please read it.

First off, those of you declaring that these pictures are “history-making” need to chill out. There is nothing new or even original about this spread. Renowned French photographer Jean-Paul Goude just dug into his archives, pulled out some of his old favorites and recreated them with reality TV’s reigning It Girl.

Which led to me googling Jean-Paul Goude. Which leads to this

Ahh the iconic photos of Miss Grace Jones! I’ve seen them before of course. That search then leads to the music video Slave To The Rhythm. Apparently the music video (music by Grace Jones) is constructed from several Jean-Paul Goude photographs. Grace Jones was his muse.

I’ve seen this video before, and I loved it when I was younger. Now I see things I didn’t see before. The blackface, but not only the blackface, the insistence of blackface, the promise of communal love and acceptance if black people can live alongside blackface.

It’s kind of disquieting. Wrong. Racist. This is racism borne from love. Jean-Paul Goude says he loves black bodies, but all of the black bodies in his art are disfigured, exaggerated, and ripped apart.

Read on Goude’s original shoot:

“The subject wears an ‘exotic’ hairstyle and ‘smiles’ for the camera in the pose of a ‘happy savage pleased to serve,’” she says, “which suggests her complicity in having her body depicted as a literal object, a ‘primitive’ vision to provide pornographic pleasure and intoxication presumably for a white male spectator.”

And a Daily Dot writer’s reaction to Kim Kardashian’s face in the shoot meant to mimic the original shoot:

She looks almost innocent: playful and unrestrained. She looks happy, she even looks kind of funny. 

Something is very very wrong with us.

Overheard in A NY Barbershop

13 Nov

[scene: 2 barbers and a patron]

Patron: You hear what happened last night? An actress killed her husband. I think her name was Reese…

Reese…

Reese.

Barber 1: Witherspoon? Reese Witherspoon?

Patron: HAHAHA NO WITH A KNIFE! HAHA <<makes stabbing motions>>

Barber 2: Reese Witherspoon killed’er husband?

Barber 1: Oh boy people are crazy nowadays huh?

Patron: HAHA That was a good one. This guy told me that joke….

Barber 2: <<scrolling through an iPad not paying the patron any attention> Says here she’s dead. Reese Witherspoon is dead.

Barber 1: She’s dead? She killed her husband or she’s dead? Which ones is it?

Patron: She died? When did she die. That’s awful. She’s really beautiful.

Barber 2: Very beautiful.

<<Patron and Barber 2 whisper to each other while Barber 1 cuts my hair>>

Barber 2: Oh it was a joke.

Patron: Yeah it was a joke.

Barber 1: It was a joke? haha she’s not dead?

Barber 2: She didn’t kill her husband.

Barber 1: Haha that’s how rumors get started.

FIN

Michael Sam’s Dad Is Not Thrilled

12 Nov

“Michael Sr. is never going to be the spokesman for Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. He’s not thrilled about his son’s sexual orientation. But he also hasn’t disowned his son. He never says his son is going to hell. He doesn’t talk about trying to cure him or make him straight. In his own rough-hewn, coarse way, Michael Sr. has accepted that his son is gay. “I love my son,” he said, “and I don’t care about what he do.” – Buzzfeed

Let’s talk about the awfulness of the statement, because it is awful,and it is one of those things I see in thinkpieces–however well written–that reveal deep ignorance.

Do LGBT kids (especially of color) require their parents to be anywhere near spokespeople for PFLAG? I didn’t even know what PFLAG was in my neighborhood. And as POC Queer folks are we cursed to be responsible for our parents lack of “thrill” about who we are? Because being gay, or being any sort of way that isn’t 100% macho or of your gender, causes ones parents not to be thrilled.

I recognized the un-thrill in my Mother’s voice when I told her I was getting married.

“Congratulations” She said. That was it.

A lot of my white gay friends and my partner were incredulous about my relationship with my mother. “You mean you haven’t told her you are gay?” I hadn’t, at least not directly. I told her directly that I was getting married, and she said congratulations, and she told my sister she was upset that I hadn’t “come out” to her in person.

Being gay, you get a lot of barriers put in front of you, barriers of propriety, about how you didn’t do something the right way, or you didn’t say the right thing. My mother is “not thrilled” and “hasn’t disowned me” and she also “loves me” in her “rough-hewn” way, but it is a love that is exhausting to accept because it speaks in code to avoid any direct truth.

Is that how love is supposed to be?

Exhausting?

We are cursed, because we look like them, so we are required to explain them; by the middle class, by academia, by thinkpiece writers, by the upper-crust, by white gay friends. When we succeed in any way, we are asked to explain our own parents. If we do we are apologists, if we don’t then we are poor victims of abuse, regardless of the situation. Meanwhile the burden of their love weighs on our successes. We are our family’s victims and we are their educators. We come from them but we must always be a higher form than them. We must be perfect.

I plan on inviting my mother to my wedding. I hope she makes it.

On Your Kid’s Culture

12 Nov

I read this article yesterday with great interest. Thanks Fluttersnipe!

I tell prospective adoptive parents to take a good, hard look at their social circles, their neighborhoods, their churches, their communities and think about how those places and spaces will look and feel to their child. I ask them what they’ll say when their kids hear slurs and taunts from bullies, and how they will answer tough questions about the persistence of racism and a playing field that is far from level. I recommend books and blogs by adoptees that don’t mince words about the fact that love has never actually been enough for anyone.  – The Toast

And this wisdom was so good that I don’t think it should be limited to adoptive parents.

My mother did all of the right things. I was born in America but have roots in Guatemala, so she sent me there on several Christmas trips with the hope that I would understand myself through the culture, the land, and my extended family. Being a first generation America kid, of course, I only felt terror.

Like Mufasa, she showed me my country of origin and said “this is all yours,” but unlike Simba I took a good long look and said “well this is shit.”

Guatemala was the home of my deadbeat father who slithered up the gate of my grandma’s sister to introduce himself. Guatemala is also remarkably poor, corrupt, and violent as all hell. There was no real queerness there, only what passed for queerness in cartoonish movie characters (lisping spanish actors accompanied by a laugh track). I did not take to this supposed culture of my own. First it repelled me, then I was disgusted at it, and my mother noticed and her offers to take me on trips became playful threats.

Don’t want to make my Mom sound like a bad guy. She was lovely. This was just one point of difference, but one that stuck and repeated over and over again. I also don’t mean to sound ungrateful of Guatemala, but I want to emphasize that I was maybe too young to properly intellectually disagree with aspects of a culture, like Central American Machismo. And disagreeing with my own culture made me feel awful until my little sister was born and she looked upon the land (like Simba) and also said “well this is shit.”

Your kid’s culture, yeah they should know it, but be prepared to not have it be this magical salve that makes him or her just make sense of their world.

I guess the other thing I’m also saying is that pretty much every situation is miserable, and as long as you’re aware of that then you’ll be a great parent.

That Hateful Thing Lefties Do All The Time: Policing Behavior and Victim Blaming

10 Nov

A thinkpiece on Rose McGowan and Gay Misoginy:

But at the end of the day, drag is (usually) men dressing up as women in a way that often opens the door for ridicule, exaggeration, mockery, grotesquery.

This is on an article explaining misogyny in gay men, and the writer, strangely, goes to Drag.

Drag. Urban performance art form mostly practiced by PoC in campy bars. Drag. An art form that LOTS of middle class masc gays hate and accuse of misrepresentation. Drag, used often enough by people who don’t fully identify as cisgender as an exploration into other genders.

It’s a revealing turn because it falls in line with a pattern that I recognize lefties falling into, and since the Dems lost the Senate maybe now’s a good time to turn that particular shiv.

That hateful things Lefties love to do is tell you how to behave with the implied reward of rights and protections.

Here is Obama telling you to pull up your pants

Or a NY Oped telling women not to get drunk

This is what you can call victim blaming where there is no victim. It’s a performance in its own right because it never really explicitly draws a line from behavior to protection, it’s just implied that if you follow the rules, behave, and are a good person, then good things will follow. It erases our defiant spirits, our anger, whatever it may be. I’m not sure if it comes from politicians and is amplified by the media, or vice-versa. It’s a lazy thinkpiece cliche that only buys institutions more time in denying you rights. Have a look as to what the white people of St. Louis think of Mike Brown’s killing.

Or look at how one drag queen was shot at here in New York

But the culture of the stinkpiece is just littered with delaying justice in favor of nitpicking the behavior of people who can’t afford the education of a stinkpiece writer. Relegating a population’s suffering to a dinner party jibe and an upturned nose at impropriety.

Further Reading: Blaming The Victim by William Ryan

EDIT: Right on cue. Thank you Piers Morgan for another shitsample of this that happened as I wrote the above.

EDIT 2: Oh and here is Conservative Ben Stein getting in on the action Jesus H guys I don’t need any more examples. Please stop.

Rose McGowan’s Rich White Feminist Entitlement to Gay Lives

7 Nov

Rose McGowan wrote a thinkpiece, of course she did, because Gorillas who use sign language weren’t available.

I said what I said about the inter-personal struggles between gays and women already. The fallout that followed Rose’s statements has led to a quite a few gay media folks going on web-only media shows giving their hot takes on whether or not Rose McGowan was right that I’m sure no straight person cares about.

What hasn’t been covered is the weight of Rose McGowan’s threat. Because gay men in her life were rude to her (and it seems, because a friend of hers said Blance Devearaux is a slut which…oh dear God this is stupid) she took that as enough of a point of conflict for her to support the Sultan of Brunei’s Beverly Hill’s Hotel.

The Beverly Hills Hotel protests are a celebrity cause du jour that is pro-gay in nature, specificially, it is anti-Sharia Law:

The Sultan of Brunei, who since 1992 has owned the Beverly Hills as part of his Dorchester Collection, which includes nine other luxury hotels, announced in October 2013 that he was adopting the harsh and ancient Islamic penal code called Sharia in his country. Sharia calls for, among other punishments, public flogging of women who have abortions and amputation of limbs and death by stoning of homosexuals, adulterers, and thieves.

It would be wise to be critical of these protests. Who are they actually hurting? Is this a righteous cause or is it one primarily used by celebrities for PR? Are these protests helping activists under the Sultan?

Nevertheless, Rose McGowan hosted a party at the Beverly Hills, breaking the boycott earlier this year. Her comments about gay men being misogynists came only after Brett Easton Ellis (noted anti-gay dude) and her discussed her party and shit on gay men for a good portion of the podcast:

Owned by the Sultan of Brunei, the Dorchester Collection came under fire shortly after the Sultan implemented a change to the country’s penal code that was scheduled to come into effect on April 22, 2014 and could make homosexuality punishable by stoning to death.

Ellis kicked off the conversation by claiming the boycott only harmed “the people who simply work at the hotel” and was based on “illusionary and tenuous” reports about the Sharia law. He also categorized the boycott as a “form of narcissistic, self-victimisation, gay insanity.”

McGowan added that those who boycotted were “delusional idiots” and criticized them for failing to campaign against the abuse of women in Arab states as well.

“Gay men are as misogynistic as straight men, if not more so,” she said. “I have an indictment of the gay community right now, I’m actually really upset with them.” – Source

Rose McGowan practices the sort of white feminism that is entitled to gay lives, not only in America but abroad. I have no doubt in my heart that she is the worst sort of Ally, the one who is rich and cares nothing for actual gay lives. McGowan thinks it’s perfectly reasonable to support the Sultan who owns the Beverly Hills hotel because American gays said something rude to her. She thinks it’s perfectly fine to gamble on the lives of brown gays she doesn’t know just because a few of her white friends weren’t nice to her.

The whole story is beyond, and the fact that gay outlets have invited her to write her opinions instead of exposing the whole story sickens me.

“Girls Are Crazy”

6 Nov

It occurs to me that, on a certain level, gay men could just be as misogynistic as straight men. I can’t imagine what this level would be though*, maybe approaching Tim Cook. I’m talking about a Baby Boomer or Start-up Gen Xer who think they’re post-racial and beyond gay (meaning white and straight) and have no need for a less than ideal gay subculture when they’re on top of the world.

I couldn’t really begin to tell you what that 1% is thinking, but I can tell you what it’s like to be me.

When people ask me about my first time kissing a woman I have to describe an assault, essentially. A group of us were going out and the topic came up and I said I had never kissed a girl. I think when a gay man says they never kissed a girl a subset of straight people interpret that as “I always wanted to” and before I could explain that I never needed to a friend of a friend had jumped onto me (she was small) and forced a kiss on me.

We weren’t all saints. We were drinking and on drugs, but I was still in control of myself. My mind is a total blank as to what happened next, but I knew I didn’t want to hurt her feelings while simultaneously wanting to push her off and say “yuck.”

I also remember that all of my friends there were women and they didn’t do anything to stop this or to contextualize it as something that shouldn’t have happened.

Thinking about that also made me think about the time when I was 16 years old, working at a video store, and a girl my age thought it was cute to hassle me for my phone number. She put me in such a corner while I was working that I gave her a wrong number, thinking she would take the hint, but she returned a few weeks later to loudly complain that I’d given her the wrong number in front of my coworker. I was still in the closet there, and I suspect a young gay man who is in the closet sometimes reads as a sexless eunuch, and that this type is a sort of catnip for a few persistent people.

There were many dangers to being in the closet, but one prominent danger was to be outed by a woman. In high school you are supposed to chase tail, so I learned to act “above it,” but even this is coded as gay if you’re saavy enough to see through it and girls moreso than boys could see through it.

That’s the key here, the power dynamic that flows between a girl performing heterosexuality and a gay man who is hiding and even one who is Out. If a gay man is assaulted by a woman who can he turn to? If a gay man refuses to “perform” homosexuality for women then he is suspect. Once you’re out, it’s women who are disappointed you don’t fit the stereotypes, and it’s women who go to gay bars and think its cute to hassle you.

Once I got out of there and went to a gay club there were a lot of whispers about girls

“Girls are crazy”

And if you are a woman maybe that’s all you hear, but you never hear the rest of it, how gay men think every subcategory is crazy, how crazy people are crazy. To be in the closet is to be terrified, and to be gay means the Right vilifies you and the Left thinks you’re rude. Heteronormativity like Patriarchy needs support from all sides to thrive. Gay men are Otherized until it’s time to vilify men, and then they are neatly grouped with All Men but without the benefit of privilege. This is the attitude that drives structural inequality, LGBT homelessness, the need for gay clubs, and the heterosexual population’s abandonment of its own gay children.

My hope is that one day there will be a clear path to enlightenment for gay men, one where we can be free of chastisement and vilification, maybe given more love. I didn’t get to where I got to by listening to the Left or the Right, but by understanding my place in the world and the place in the world of the people who would torment me.

Don’t get any of this twisted. I am enthusiastic in my support for feminism, but I realize that it is a specific branch of feminism that I am drawn too, and it is the idea that women don’t belong to anyone and that they sometimes want to be left alone. That’s all I ever really wanted.

*oh NIck Denton! Definitely Nick Denton!

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