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The Monster Called America

Let’s spare ourselves the establishment’s tiresome and specious post-mortem, desperate for a scapegoat demographic to explain How Did This Happen? We all know how this happened. We saw it every day during the campaigns, and we see it every day in our daily lives. The tendrils of capitalism, exacerbating and intersecting with any and all systems of oppression it can to perpetuate itself, to perpetuate each other. Its propaganda, and the sensationalism and censorship of corporate media, widespread racism and misogyny both personal and systemic, disenfranchising the populace from resources, health, and education.

Behold what the Invisible Hand hath wrought. With the election of Trump, it has become easier to recognize than ever. This is what the American oligarchy looks like. The poisoned heart of global capitalism. Take a good look.

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A Jump to the Left, A Step to the Right

Trans Representation and Respectability in Rocky Horror

 

How D’You Do

Rocky Horror is messy. Always has been. Some people love it, some people hate it. Some see it as liberating. Some see it as insulting and misleading. For transparency’s sake, I’ll state at the outset that I’m a lover. It was and is a positive celebratory thing in my life as a queer, AMAB transfemme kinky person. But I also have queer, AMAB transfemme kinky friends who loathe Rocky Horror as a degrading, damaging stereotype of our existence. And that’s fine. I get it. We can all have different feelings and experiential lenses that inform our view of it and they can all be true. There’s good reasons on all sides. And these multiplicities hold true down the demographic line — there are other people under the queer and trans umbrellas who hate it and some who love it, and there are some square cishet people who hate it and some who love it as well.

The recent remake starring Laverne Cox as Dr. Frank-N-Furter is fomenting these arguments again, particularly in the public realm of social media. So let’s take the opportunity to examine the value and drawbacks of the late night double feature picture show. What makes Rocky, well … Rocky? What makes Frank, for better or worse, one of the most enduring trans characters in media? What distinctions can we make between the two characterizations, and what are their implications?

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This is Not an Essay

Art, work, and identity within capitalism and disability

 

  1. Descending

I want to write. So badly. I want to create something out of my experience with transness and disability. Particularly out of my pain, my shame, and my struggle, so that other folks struggling with the same things I am can maybe feel a little less alone, a little less ashamed, find ways to love themselves a little more and hate themselves a little less. So we can identify and find each other and build more nurturing spaces and subcultures for ourselves. So we can figure out how to more effectively resist and navigate oppression. But I also want to produce writing because it feels like I’m doing something, like I’m tangibly contributing something to my communities and to the kind of world I want to live in. One that, ironically, doesn’t value or identify people based on traditional capitalist standards of production.

Usually, these days, I can’t write or create much of anything. The most my body can manage is paragraph or two on social media. Usually I’m too stymied by a variety of things. I’m only even able to write these words out of some paradoxical loophole my brain has overlooked — that I’m somehow permitted to write about not being able to write, because that’s not really writing about anything, not anything important anyway. The only way I can cheat some feeling of having produced something is by the pre-emptive concession that it will have no value.

It’s a clearly toxic swing back and forth from creation/production being important to a ridiculously intimidating degree, to having no value to anyone whatsoever. I know this panic-denial loop is unhealthy and unsustainable. I know that the most one’s work can be is ripples that contribute to a larger cultural swell, and that that’s good. True appreciation and value is relative and personal, not institutionalized. But within a culture, not just an economy, that is capitalist in nature, the degree to which we consider work successful or essential to personhood to begin with is insidiously associated with capitalism’s prohibitive standards. Despite years of identifying and deprogramming these associations, I still can’t shake them entirely. Which is why I must tell myself that this is not an essay. Because right now, it’s the only way I can escape the punishing weight of those internalized standards and actually get something written.

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Don’t Fall In

The danger of trans military inclusion

 

This is an essay I never felt I had to write. I’ve said the things I’m about to say so many times to nodding heads in queer and trans community and among friends on social media, in person, in activist circles. These are facts, statistics, and policies I thought we were all at least aware of on some level. I always felt like the vast majority of us were on the same page. But the recent news of the Pentagon deciding to openly welcome transgender people in the U.S. military proved me wrong. Publications, organizations, and people I know and respect trumpeted the announcement as a victory, a step forward for trans rights. Not just mainstream people and sources either. Queer ones. Trans ones.

Many did this with explicit celebration, positing trans people, or just more people and diversity in general in the military as a good thing, a step forward, a mark of justice. Many others did this with a tacit endorsement — neglecting to present any critique from those in the trans and queer justice movements themselves. This is often justified as an attempt at some form of just-the-facts journalistic neutrality, which does not actually exist. It is merely a reflection of the privilege and bias of those with the power to shape the discourse cherry-picking which “facts” they think are relevant. Or more to the point, knowingly or unknowingly choosing which facts will safeguard their continued financial security and power to shape discourse. As such, we only heard one side of this story: Trans people can serve openly now, and the military will treat them with respect and meet their needs!

Since the full, contextual story of what a minority faces in the military, what anyone faces in the military is criminally underrepresented in this discussion, we have to create it ourselves. Many of us already do this. Conversations happen between us in community regularly, but less so in more mainstream, accessible media. The few critiques that do circulate about this issue, fortunately, also call out why this is the case. But those critiques, incisive as they are and as often as we publicize and distribute them, are still an overwhelming minority, easily overshadowed and lost amid the mainstream media machine, with LGBT outlets increasingly part of it. We need more.

This is, apparently, an essay I very much need to write.

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The Irony of the Fourth

Something in particular bugs me about how we treat the Fourth of July. So many people I know are conscious of the vast destruction done by the U.S. to its own residents, to natives, and to foreigners, and don’t fall into that blind jingoist “Proud to be an American,” “USA is the greatest country in the world!” delusion. And that’s good.

But I also see so many people “celebrate” the day ironically. Even socially conscious folks in my own community. Wearing it like costume, poking fun at it. “Hey, isn’t it funny that people think this and act like this?” It’s no different than bigoted jokes told for that shock-value humor — “Isn’t this so horrible that it’s funny? Isn’t it hilarious that people believe this bigotry?”

But it doesn’t come across as funny, and it doesn’t come across as satire. It comes across as blind privilege. The same way those racist or homophobic or misogynist or transphobic jokes do. The same way appropriating offensive stereotypical costumes of racial minorities does. It comes across as people who haven’t felt a red, white, and blue boot on their neck thinking it’s funny to stomp around in them for a little while. The is true for the many others who simply find it harmless to adopt the fanfare for the same reason — because it has never harmed them, only others.

Let’s not celebrate and laugh about how great our country is. Because it isn’t. It was and is quite a horrific place to live for many and a destructive force against those living outside it. And let’s not celebrate and laugh about how horrible or out of touch our country is either. For the exact same reason. As disturbing as it is to celebrate the U.S. jingoist propaganda as true or helpful or even neutral, it’s just as disturbing to celebrate its lies as funny and entertaining.

Say no to glorifying and celebrating a whitewashed history of the U.S. Say no to pretending its current state is one of liberty and justice. Say no to nationalism in all forms, from blatant jingoism to ironic distance. By all means, gather and celebrate. Celebrate your friends, your families, your communities. But gather in resistance. Gather and say no to the propaganda of the Fourth.

Tragedy and Queer Healing Through Eggs

The night of the Pulse shooting, I went barhopping with a genderqueer friend I’d become flirty with. I went out as my full gender-nonconforming transfemme self for the first time in a while. Pink dress with an accompanying subtle pink pop of eye shadow. I looked good.

Sitting in bars and walking the streets of our New Orleans neighborhoods, I instinctively raised my situational awareness, as I always do anywhere when I’m looking femme or particularly GNC. As per usual, nothing too terrible happened. We were together, so we were confident. A random strange cis man interrupted our conversation by tapping my shoulder and smiling at me creepily. I gave him a death stare. We were catcalled by cis men on the street a few times, and we taunted them back. My friend made noises of disgust loud enough for them to hear, and I mustered up a sarcastic and loud, “Oh, thank you!” in my deepest voice. We laughed at the ignorance, we talked gender, we talked sex.

We ended up back at my place, and for the first time in roughly six months, I stripped myself bare with another person. Another trans person. Someone who gets it. Someone who could value the vulnerable desires we only show to each other, because only we understand each other.

We bared the parts of ourselves and our longings that we were so often taught to be ashamed of and hide. And we revelled in them together, through words, through touch, working our bodies to that place where everything else drops away but core desires and self.

It’s easy to forget how essential intimacy is to our well-being, our survival. Not just sexual intimacy, but some sort of connection with people who experience the world the way we do.

The next morning I woke to the news of the massacre. As the events of the previous night unfolded for me, queer and trans people (predominantly Latinx and other people of color) were enjoying similar moments of connection during Latin night at Pulse. I laid in bed with my laptop, not knowing what to feel, or even how to feel. It’s sad to say that I know from news of past killings and attacks, that this is a standard reaction for me. It usually takes a few hours or more before any sort of emotion surfaces in response to tragedy.
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