Trigger warning for: response to events in Orlando/Pulse, trauma within queer communities. Hold yourself (and eachother) tenderly in the coming months, my loves.

(written directly following Orlando/Pulse shooting):

Alone in the basement my ma and I are staying at in Portland and watching NBC coverage on Orlando, feeling chest deep in grief like a granite mudslide, pressure on my heart and lungs like heart failure, the loss of my first queer chosen family member to meth-self hatred-family estrangement, the loss of a nearly a whole generation and a whole way of life to the AIDS epidemic, loss of so many incredibly vibrant trans women (most black and brown) to bashings-murders-imprisonment-deportations-suicide, the loss of those forced into the closet by the forced vulnerability of interdependence (very young-very old-living with illness or disability—why it is so important that those who do care work support the autonomy of those they care for).

And I am crushed by silence. I have had ONE straight friend touch base with me to ask if I am ok, how they can support me/other latinx queers/queers of color right now. You waved your rainbow flags for marriage because you thought it the best thing, that we finally win the right to be just like you. But we’re not! I’m not, anyway. I am devoutly and proudly culturally queer: a culture that grew in direct opposition to compulsory heterosexuality. How could I be the same as that rigidity? I am the same as you most in my difference, in the diversity of experience and belief in my communities.

But please, move up for me! I need you now. We need you. We need you to speak and vote against transphobic laws like HB2 and 1515, to talk to your family and friends about hatred (and moving beyond acceptance or tolerance to embrace, to RESPECT), to lift up our voices beyond the walls of our communities, to escort us into the bathroom so we can pee safely, to fight against the criminalization of homelessness, poverty, black and brown bodies.

Please don’t just wave a rainbow flag for a single victory, light one lavender candle in silent lip service to grief, and call it good. You have not served change if decoration is your only demonstration. There is so much more change to be won. And I’ve seen you—you have a lot of light in you, are capable of so much.

Move with me, take this grief as an invitation to dance!

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Today is the Transgender Day of Rage (though some may call it a day of remembrance): Today I rage on behalf of my people, who have been murdered, raped, and incarcerated in the name of cis-normativity, who are still regularly portrayed in media not as people, but as commodities and objects for homophobic violence, and who are routinely discriminated in housing, healthcare, employment, immigration, education, and many other arenas.

Today I rage for Leslie Feinberg, who died this week of multiple chronic illnesses, who (in the words of one friend) had been writing for 20 years about not being able to access healthcare as a transgender person–and that lack of access finally killed hir.

Today I rage on behalf of the myriad young women, many of them women of color, who have either been incarcerated for defending themselves against transphobic attackers like Cece Mcdonald, or who have not survived these racist and transphobic attacks, as Islan Nettles, whose absences in the lives of friends, families, loved ones, lovers, and fellow activists and community members are deeply felt, as we await another sunrise without their incredible spark beside us.

Today I rage for gender variant teenagers and adults who will not live to see another day because the stigma of being gender variant in a world that sees gender solely as a binary became too much, and they succumbed to suicide, or were murdered by a friend or family member that they thought they could trust with their difference.

Today I rage on behalf of trans* and queer youth and adults who are faced with homelessness and poverty, many of whom can not even sleep in shelters when they are available, because there is no shelter I know of that has had a truly trans* sensitive policy–they are all stopgaps, and it is never safe enough.

Today I rage on behalf of those who in their disability live lives of interdependence, whose identities may be kept close for fear of retribution by their caregivers. I see you, I am waiting for you in the reaches of the internet and beyond. We are building bridges that no one can burn. We are all interdependent.

Tonight I will light no candles and I will not be silent–silence can not quell my fury, my fury is the truest expression of my grief. We must rise up against those who would try to silence us, we must exercise solidarity on behalf of one another. Rather than a moment of silence, I envision a world where as part of a continual course of action, we have set fire to the prisons, banished borders, restored sovereignty to indigenous communities, and opened the millions of foreclosed homes stolen by bankers’ greed and dishonesty to those disenfranchised by the wages of late capitalism.

I will not be satiated by the pink-washing of gentrification, political campaigns, and products or gay marriage. I will stop for nothing short of full-fledged revolution that wrests power from the sullied hands of the state and restores it to the people.

Trigger warning for slutshaming and radscum. ’nuff said!

Recently I volunteered to perform at a Take Back the Night rally. A friend had invited me to a feminist book club that also includes an online presence on Facebook, and someone associated with TBTN had put up a call for performers. I’ve been thinking for a few years about wanting to create space specifically for survivors of violence to share our stories and let go of some of the shame that (for me, at least) sometimes accompanies surviving violence, and so I responded to the call with a few pieces. One of the organizers responded enthusiastically and said they’d be glad to have me perform, and gosh, it was really useful to have my pieces ahead of time for the ASL interpreters. ASL interpreters! I have been performing as a hearing person for over 10 years at this point, and I have never performed with an ASL interpreter, so I was excited by the chance.

Take Back the Night has its roots in the mid-1970s second wave feminist movement, as a direct action protest against sexual violence against women. At the same time that these actions were taking place, a woman-led effort to do away with pornography was also taking hold and became closely linked with TBTN. The era of the so-called Feminist Sex Wars is of particular interest to me as a feminist, a pervert*, and a trans person. Several of my favorite writers (Dorothy Allison, Gayle Rubin, and Pat Califia among them) have written fairly extensively about this era and the various witch hunts that ensued, from the exclusion of masculine-identified people from the women’s movement (Leslie Feinburg writes about this in Stone Butch Blues) to the rise of a pro-censorship and anti-pornography faction called Women Against Pornography (WAP), the vilification of the practice of BDSM and beyond.

To be honest with you, I knew all of this history when I volunteered to perform at the rally. But I also thought to myself, “RD, it’s 2012! We’re in [liberal West Coast port city]! We’re known for our sex-positivity! Besides, this rally is supposed to be about survivors, not about political analysis.” Well. I guess I was wrong.

The first speaker to take the mic was the college president, who seemed genuinely glad to be there and said that he “look[s] forward to the day we no longer have to have these rallies, because there is no more violence!” Unrealistic, maybe, but okay. Hopeful. I like hopeful.

Pass the mic, next speaker. My blood ran cold when they said that they were with WAP. It is 2012, right? I found myself frantically checking my wrist and looking around me to see if I was having a nightmare as the tirade was launched. The speech was fairly long and it felt a bit flailing, to be honest, but it certainly riled up the crowd. The first piece of rhetoric that I can recall was “If you can’t imagine pornography without sex, you’re fucked!” My friend W., who was also present, tells me that she noticed people wandering the room beforehand with stickers with the same troubling quotation on it, but I didn’t see or hear it until that moment. What?! As if fucked is the worst thing we could be? I like getting fucked. And I bet I’m not the only one in the audience who does. Next up was the tokenization of queers. The speaker continued, repeatedly checking “LGBT people,” seemingly without actually understanding that hey, we’re right over here, and we can speak for ourselves! It’s hard sometimes when being tokenized to not stand up and start yelling You don’t speak for me! in one’s big voice, but I held my ground. And then they came for the kinky ones, and began deriding “torture porn,” and spoke of being in tears upon seeing the bruises on models’ bodies. As an occasional sex worker and a person who likes bruises, likes bruising others–after all, it is the consent that makes all the difference, this was the last straw. I got up and left in an absolute quaking rage.

I don’t disagree that a significant amount of pornography is exploitive and symptomatic of a violent, misogynist society (not to mention racist, sexist, ableist, etc…class, we remember the terms kyriarchy and kyriarchical, right?) , but it’s just that, a symptom. Trying to do away with a symptom without getting to the root of the illness is simplistic, foolish, and likely to do more harm than good (Comstock Act, anyone?). I felt like the speaker was denying people their agency while making sweeping generalizations about “men” and “women” as somehow homogeneous groups, with men playing the part of the aggressor and women playing the part of the victim. This tactic denies peoples’ agency and erases people who live outside that binarism, and that’s just to start with. W. talks much more about why the arguments used were problematic here.

Overall, I was incredibly frustrated and disgusted. I spent a large portion of the day thinking about and discussing this happening with various friends who frequently act as support to me. I had really hoped to share part of my story as a survivor with others as a part of the healing process of removing shame from those experiences by bringing some of mine out into the open, telling our truths in a safe place, but it turns out the safe place was anything but safe.

Did I deserve to be sexually assaulted if I had had kinky sex with my abuser? Did my father assault me because he could see my perversion before even I knew about it? Are my experiences with violence still important/valid as a masculine-identified person? There are a lot of victim-blaming and slut-shaming narratives that start pounding in my temples when I’m feeling shitty, and I didn’t really need to hear those again. I’ve spent a lot of time in therapy and a lot of time doing personal healing work for myself to put those questions down like an insurrection, so to speak. I know the answers to them now. But this event made them pop up and it’s gonna feel like whack-a-mole for a few days with the bad brain voice, I think. Ugh.

Anyhow. I think I’d like to organize a speak-out about sexual violence. No politicking about banning pornography or slutshaming about sexual preference allowed. It’s the consent makes all the difference.

ps. this was pretty much all I could think all day: 1982 called and it wants its shitty second-wave analysis back. just sayin’!

06/05/2012

Dear reader, like most folks these days, I’m pretty dubious of online petitions, but just in case I hope you’ll sign this, read this, and read the following. -RD

ps. oh, do you have money? neat! you could donate it here. being in prison is E-X-P-E-N-S-I-V-E.

 

PRESS RELEASE Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald & Leslie Feinberg 6-5-12

by FreeCece Mcdonald on Tuesday, June 5, 2012 at 6:49am ·

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MEDIA ADVISORY

June 5, 2012

Leslie Feinberg Arrested in Solidarity with Chrishaun McDonald

Hundreds Take to Street in Protest

Contact: Katie Burgess, Executive Director, Trans Youth Support Network, transyouthsupportnetwork@gmail.com, (612) 363-7574; and Billy Navarro, Jr., MN Transgender Health Coalition, mntranspr@gmail.com, (612) 823-1152

Leslie Feinberg was arrested last night amidst hundreds of Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald supporters protesting outside of the Hennepin County Public Safety Facility. Feinberg is being held at the Public Safety Facility in downtown Minneapolis and is facing charges of property damage. The protest was held on the eve of McDonald’s transfer to the state prison system, where she will serve out a sentence of 41 months for defending herself against racist and transphobic attackers. Although McDonald initially faced two charges of second degree murder, earlier this month she accepted a plea agreement to a reduced charge of second degree manslaughter due to negligence.  Outraged supporters took to the streets, blocking traffic for over an hour in protest of the violent abuses McDonald has faced at the hands of our legal system.  Feinberg joined demonstrators in making noise loud enough to be heard within the facility McDonald is currently being held at, and marching through the streets in a show of love and solidarity with CeCe McDonald and with all incarcerated individuals.  Feinberg was the only person arrested, and is excited to draw more attention to McDonald’s story and to the prevalent racism and transphobia within the criminal system.

Feinberg has given the following statement:

Many people across the United States and around the world are watching, and history will record what happens on June 4, 2012.  CeCe McDonald survived a fascist hate crime; now she’s sentenced as she struggles to survive an ongoing state hate crime. As Martin Luther King Jr. reminded: “Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.”

As a white, working-class, Jewish, transgender lesbian revolutionary I will not be silent as this injustice continues! I know from the lessons of histories what is means when the state—in a period of capitalist economic crisis—enacts apartheid passbook laws, bounds up and deports immigrant works, and gives a green light to e white supremacists, fascist attacks on Black peoples—from Sanford, Florida, to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to a courtroom in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The prosecutor and the judge are upholding the intent of the infamous white supremacist Dred Scott ruling of 1857.

The same year Fredrick Douglass concluded: “Without struggle, there is no progress!”

CeCe McDonald is being sent to prison during the month of Juneteeth:  celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation—the formal Abolitionist of “legal” enslavement of peoples of African descent. The Emancipation Proclamation specifically spelled out the right of Black people to self-defense against racist violence.

Yet, the judge, the prosecutor, and the jailers are continuing the violent and bigoted hate crimes begun by the group of white supremacists who carried out a fascist attack on CeCe McDonald and her friends.

CeCe McDonald is being sent to prison in June—the month when the Stonewall Rebellion ignited in the streets of Greenwich Village in 1969. From the Compton’s Uprising to the Stonewall Rebellion, defense against oppression is a law of survival.

This is Pride month, and will be bringing the demand: “Free CeCe—now!” to the regional Pride march where I live. I believe many other individuals, groups, and contingents will thunder that demand in Pride marches and rallies all over the world—informing millions who take part, and millions more who support.

The prosecution hopes this struggle is over. But it is not over: Free CeCe—now! An injury to one is an injury to all! Come out against racist, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ and sexist wars at home and abroad!

Feinberg’s arrest is symptomatic of growing anger and frustration at the disproportionate targeting and abuse of young transgender women of color in our society.  The actions Feinberg took last night were in solidarity with McDonald and all prisoners to let them know they are not alone.  Feinberg is excited to garner attention to how McDonald is treated today as McDonald is transferred to the prison intake facility in St. Cloud, MN.

McDonald’s case does not reflect an isolated aberration in the functioning of the U.S. legal system, but rather business as usual within a society that has, for hundreds of years, profited from the incarceration and exploitation of people of color and trans/gender non-conforming people.  McDonald’s sentencing sends a very clear message to all those following her case across the country: transphobia and racism are alive and well, both in the violent verbal and physical attacks on trans youth of color in the night as well as in the legal system which makes surviving this violence a crime punishable by years of incarceration.  Nevertheless, we look forward to joining all of McDonald’s supporters in continuing to fight against these systems of power, for CeCe and for all transgender women of color targeted by the prison-industrial complex.

With love and rage,

The CeCe McDonald Support Committee

For more information on McDonald’s case, visit http://www.supportcece.wordpress.com.

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