Category Archives: queer

Pride and Shame

Bradley Manning pride contingent from a past parade.

Bradley Manning pride contingent from a past parade.

I don’t get out to the BIG San Francisco events these days. Where once my eyes looked up and watered over from hope and stray glitter, now they tend to look elsewhere for SF Pride and Folsom Street. There’s all the waste, the trash, the dominating force of Big Booze ™ shilling Absolut Vodka and Budweiser, and the huge crushing crowds, terrible food, and the heart palpitations all of this gives me. No, I don’t care to see a parade of massive corporations demonstrating how tolerant they are despite whatever implications their brand and profits might mean for people, animals, water, and the globe at large. No, I don’t care for the tons of plastic crap manufactured with pride.

Daniel Ellsberg

Daniel Ellsberg

Pride and Folsom have had brave sexual components because of the illegality of what they were displaying in public. It was a protest. I’m all for Bacchanalia, believe me. It’s also important to remember that it was about taking something that people were being arrested and brutalized over and putting out in public view. It was about challenging how and why people were being marginalized for what they were already doing in private. Blowing someone in public was the reminder that the sun didn’t turn to blood, the streets weren’t suddenly cracking open, and there was no legitimate reason why people were being pulled from their bars and bedrooms and subject to a criminal record and all the damages therein.

I heard about “Gay Shame” when I was in college and I didn’t disagree with them totally but I wanted to have my day in the sun, a party celebrating something that had isolated me as a kid and a teenager, and most of all a good goddamn time. I wanted to put down my politics, pick up a beer, and just let it all go. Those Gay Shamers seemed a little uptight and political to me. Sure, corporations had some pretty bad policies but having Bank of America come out to the parade meant that others would to, right? Mainstream acceptance meant safety. If those stodgy old banker dudes could see why an event like pride where they knew there’d be drag queens and naked guys in cock rings and little baby dykes stomping around in their first pair of big black boots and a miniskirt trying on subversive in public for the first time ever then surely “we” were winning, right? Right? There were too many politicians in convertible cars waving to the masses for us to be losers.

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Filed under activism, censorship, community, culture, gender, opinion, politics, queer, sexuality

Of Sex And Drugs

Despite the porn, I’m terribly naive about why our society has conniption fits when it comes to talking about sex and drugs. Both are very taboo and subject to numerous pieces of legislation and come with deep currents of conscious and unconscious stigma.

Trying to develop a career as a “professional” in either field is a tenuous path. Semantics mark the difference between the suit and coat crowd and the plebeians or worse yet the crackpots. Those who aspire to join the suit and coat crowd can be spotted at their industry’s events with marked civility to the crackpots by their subtle but very nearly ritualistic social performances best described by Roland Barthes and an avian behavior graduate student sharing drinks at happy hour.

In the drug world, the people talking about sex are regarded as the way to ruin the legitimacy of things. The ones who don’t get “the bigger picture.” In the sex world, those who talk about drugs can also ruin the legitimacy of things. Legality is a major issue. Drugs could blow the whole house down.

When you already have to speak in sotte voce about a very fundamental reality, the introduction of another pretty much leaves you to the fragments and the faintest lines of symbols creating galaxies of the inferred. This is the blend of religion, and of disease. The orbit is farther out with a much more tenuous grasp on gravity. The stakes are closer to death and not because of something inherent to them so much as their relationship to codified law that has a very class distinct application on the masses. Having “made it” is so often defined by the cocaine of an appealing ass. It’s not the Benz, it’s the room for a buzz that never ends and never has consequences.

Class is marked by the consequences you face for your own humanity.

Sexuality has been my trade but I keep my personal cards kept more keenly to myself. I do think ones pleasure practices are as sacred (for whatever that word means) as ones spiritual practices. I don’t think I really get a say over how any given individual choose to guide their perception of the world by chemical, religious, technological, biological, material, or what-have-you-tools so long as there aren’t material world consequences on other non-consenting people. You can’t just steal some shit. You can’t just instantly use someone as a tool of your experience. The fact that we imprison people for getting high is, in effect, a thought crime.

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Anarchists & Zines

street grafitti reading 'exercise empathy' on a light pole

So out in Oakland I made my way out to the East Bay Anarchist Book Fair which was a nice treat for a rainy day. I really value talking about social resistance and sharing literature and music and words with one another. The Humanist Hall in Oakland was the hosting venue who are tolerant hippies ready to take on the manarchists and chain smoking in the back.  It was also nice to match some faces to names and to get to re-know a friend I from college. It was strange and wonderful to realize that Laika Fox and I were taking our clothes off in Rocky Horror way back in the day. There’s something supremely awesome about crossing paths again and realize that political wheels in the mind can also be directed into swiveling hips and shaking tits.

This was a cool spread and I really do enjoy being in far left spaces. A lot of this material is niche and harder to find because it doesn’t have mass distribution. It’s true that you can access most of these ideas and many of the zines and books online but it’s also really empowering to create a space to see that others are browsing, too. I picked up books on anarchist queers, I bumped into a Syringe Exchanger that I met years ago at an HIV test training. I had been the one to roleplay his first practice positive test disclosure to and I was the intimidating one who had already been doing it for a long time. I remembered him instantly. I was so proud that he was still fighting the good fight. I totally love and support syringe exchange and overdose prevention and naxolene distribution. Sensible drug policy, to me, has always included overdose prevention as a part of first aid and CPR training. This should be integrated into all of our emergency care models.

Bash Back & Self Defense

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Dawn Of The Dykes

It was 2007 and I was about to graduate from college with a B.A. in hand. I actually skipped the traditional cap and gown for a 50s inspired red and white polka dot dress and a pair of sunglasses but that would happen a few months down the line from one of the biggest collegiate staged queer shows in the country. The “Queer Fashion Show” had actually started out when some gay men decided to host a fashion show to show off their designs. Well, one thing led to another and soon the it became a blowout extravaganza with a cast exceeding 100 and an array of dance, film, song, spoken word, skits, and maybe one fashion entry a year. It was where you wanted to be if you were out in the redwoods of Santa Cruz.

I had been part of previous casts. I danced in a queer retelling of “The Taming Of The Shrew” rebranded as “The Taming Of The Gay” in which a homophobic king reigns over the land with “gaygents” who always entered and danced to Prodigy monitored the kingdom for gay activity, including that of the young prince. In a stunning turn of events, one of the “gaygents” was actually the superheo (and director and choreographer of the piece) SUPERGAY who leads a team of rainbow clad freedom operatives to take on the gaygents, free the prince, and then marry him in a double ceremony with his lesbian sister.

I was also in a piece titled “Drag King Divas” where a huge gender queer cast performed in ruffled tux shirts, oversized bowties, and superfag dance steps to Motown hits. For my time on the catwalk I went to FU Tattoo and got myself a corset piercing by Pat Blackstorm who was a great piercer and willing to work with my weird situation. Another project was about body image and I was in a cast split into those of nearly naked and covered in trashbags thrown out onto the catwalk and ripped out of the bags to be shamed for our obvious flaws and adorned with giant signs before we revolt and tear everything up in an act of self-love and teamwork. That piece was the subject of a parody the following year which was a source of needed humor.

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Filed under About me, art, community, culture, poly, queer, sexuality, theater

Queer Porn Cohort At The Quickies

OFFICIAL event photo featuring Reid Mihalko, Jiz Lee, Allison Moon, and Me!

There was Halloween in the air when the Castro Theater in San Francisco opened itself up as the host for the GoodVibes “Quickies,” this past October 26, 2012. It’s been the home of the festival since 2006. What first started out as rag tag, homemade erotic films has now become an international festival with a focus on sexuality that may or may not include nudity or graphic sexual content at all. There are a lot of upsides to the festival including shorts of the non-erotic variety but as the amount of porno decreases and the number of really slutty (so far as festival entries are concerned) flicks that could be distributed or screen in safe for work venues, I start to wonder if the festival should be renamed “You Tube Videos Gone Wild.”

I say this because erotic films really don’t get to be screen and enjoyed in many places. For one, the audience has to be carded lest the dangerous ideas of sexuality destroy our innocent and vulnerable youth. On top of that, you have to be on the lookout for innocent and vulnerable adults who protest events that screen independent erotic features and try to get them shut down for the over 18 crowd as well.The Adult Video News (AVN) awards focus on a particular segment and aesthetic of a global genre, the Feminist Porn Awards are a burgeoning venue for alternative porn, but I do have hazy fantasies where the best of truly amateur erotic and fetish films are screened because they never cease to amaze me  with the curveballs of bad budget and niche vision they throw at an audience.

What I’m saying is that a curated selection of the “Best Of Clips4Sale” would be a night of unprecedented surrealist, evocative, and absurdist erotic film and it would be well worth the price of admission to see on a big screen in one night.

But we aren’t talking about my fantasy film festivals right now.

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Filed under art, community, culture, feminisms, film, queer, queer porn

Born In Flames: A Film By Lizzie Borden

Real life activist and lawyer Florynce Kennedy in "Born In Flames"

There’s so much I love about Born In Flames , a film written, directed, and edited by Lizzie Borden. It’s a landmark film about some of the different stripes of feminism and how they might work together to overthrow a fictional US socialist democracy established after a bloodless revolution of (presumably) the 1960s. It’s a what-if experiment that has fun with editing and film art. It’s very low budget and homegrown but a fun and inspiring watch.

It’s a good film to watch now in the middle of the Occupy Wall Street Movement taking off because of the way it shows activism happening. Motion and action are the recurring visual themes of the movie as montages of women working, in casual settings, and engaging in activism play constantly. A condom rolls onto a penis in one shot, a woman wraps raw chicken in cellophane for a supermarket, people type, do construction, wheat paste fliers, and on and on.

In one of the most commented upon scenes in the film, the camera focuses on a woman being pestered by two men in a situation that escalates to assault. When it starts to become violently triggering the camera pulls back to an overhead shot of the street filling with women on bicycles who come to the rescue. They fend off the would-be rapists and comfort the victim. They activism begins with community work and street based outreach, one-on-one’s and pamphletting. The verite style of the daily real work of activism mixed with protest footage makes the bicycle action seem plausible even in an age without twitter.

Watching the film with the lens of activism today, it’s easy to dream of what we’re capable of accomplishing for equality. The film asks an important question: what would happen if women’s rights activists picked up arms to defend themselves? One of the protagonists, Honey, recites a Malcom X Speech in a powerful closeup changing the language to refer to women’s issues. Florynce “Flo” Kennedy makes an appearance in the film as a mentor and godmother of the revolutionary action of the film’s army of women.

Flo Kennedy was a brilliant hell stallion of an activist and lawyer. Her work remains very inspiring to me. In the film, her character takes the name “Zella” which also happens to be the name of her mother. Her autobiography is a really interesting take on “radicalism’s rudest mouth” and outrageous pioneer. One of her famous actions was a response to Harvard University’s absence of women’s restrooms. (Because how many women could be expected to be at Hahhh-varrrddddd?) She organized a mass urination to protest. That’s some provocative and effective activism right there. One of the film’s protagonists is talking to Zella about her fears and doubts as a leader and activist and the process of coming to her realization that it is time for her movement to pick up arms. It’s clear she’s worried about acceptance but Zella responds with a dead pan, “What took you so long?”

 The characters do not represent psychologies so much as they represent politics. The trio of female journalists represent the academic feminism which is very often moderate and centrist in nature. There is a brief commentary on this fact as they turn their attention and support to the women’s army. Punk anarchism, black liberation, African feminism, and queer politics are also represented in the film in a fictional harmony of working alongside one another and ultimately together.

The grittiness of the film makes it a very realistic watch. It was also good to see quick moments of eros and a principal character wearing a pro-marijuana shirt during a scene without too much time or attention spent on the backdrop of sex and drugs in the background of the revolution. Flo Kennedy understood the importance of laughter and good times and it’s important to show that radicals aren’t all 24/7 wired for the revolution and do take time to listen to some tunes, crack open a beer, spark up a joint, and enjoy some sexy times. What kind of a revolution could exist without that?

Setting the film in a socialist democratic America after a “bloodless” revolution also hearkened to the way that seemingly progressive agencies use words without action while acting as oppressors. Enemies of the women’s army frequently comment that there can’t really be discrimination against women because they’re an equal socialist democracy. Sure, sure, sure, there are rapes but there aren’t that many rapes. Women’s interests are selfish interests because they don’t have everyone in mind. There is a lot examined in the relatively short run time of the movie.

If you’re interested in feminism or activism or radicalism in general this film is a must see. Great film for discussion nights after a day of filming indie queer porn.

It’s worth checking out at Amazon or instantly on Netflix.


Filed under activism, art, censorship, community, feminisms, Netflix Recs, opinion, politics, queer, sexuality

Queer Teachers

I spent K-12 in parochial schools and suffice to say it wasn’t exactly the right place for a budding “queerdo” like me. Columbine popped off when I was in junior high making it a very bad time to be the semi-goth alt girl in the class. There was no support offered to queer youth. I only possessed a growing idea that I was queer but when you’re a kid you’re just different. The assumption is that in dire straits like these there are no queer teachers but that’s not the truth.

There have been queer teachers around since the age of teaching first began. My Catholic schools were no exception.

It was the closeting that was the issue. In the 7th grade the parish deacon came to give my class the “sex and Jesus” talk. This is when we learned that to avoid masturbating we should read the bible and splash some cold water on our faces. I never thought that was good advice. There’s too much sexy stuff in the bible, really. I ignored most of everything by dragging my pen into my page to doodle and tearing the paper with each stroke. Then he started to talk about homosexuality. Aside from being a deacon (which is kind of like a de-caf priest in the hierarchy of the Church) he was also a therapist with a private practice.

My head jerked up to listen when he talked about working with homosexuals trying to fix themselves as if being queer were like alcoholism. He had 4 people he was “working with” to get rid of those inclinations and lead a godly life. “Sadly, two of them committed suicide and lost the battle,” he said. It was the first time I had ever heard of homosexual therapy in this way. I knew that it had to be bullshit because my parents both worked on a psychiatric ward and I used to thumb through the DSM when I was bored. I knew that homosexuality had been taken out of the big book but my deacon’s words were terrifying and silencing. I had no idea how to process what I was hearing so I just swallowed it and felt grateful that I hadn’t gone around asking questions or identifying myself as a queer. Not reaching out to the grownups for these kinds of issues was a survival instinct.

And yet I had queer teachers. They were always silent around these issues and that’s why I felt certain that I *could not* reach out to them either. I never knew for certain that they were queer because they never came out of made those kinds of announcements to junior high kids at a Catholic school. They always radiated a form of unhappiness. They relayed a message that being queer meant unhappiness and social isolation. It was my first recognition of bizarre politics beyond my understanding at play. When something is taboo, we make the assumption that no information should be provided about it and especially not to children. It’s not that I had advanced gaydar; most of the students could peg that something set something people aside from others. There was an adult world out in the mist and the best we could cultivate was a mythology around it.

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Filed under About me, atheism, culture, feminisms, queer, sexuality

The Sovereignty of Words: Why I Say Queer

I shall therefore, since the rules of stile, like those of law, arise from precedents often repeated, collect the testimonies of both sides, and endeavour to discover and promulgate the decrees of custom, who has so long possessed whether by right or by usurpation, the sovereignty of words. – Samuel Johnson in his plan for an English dictionary.

Words are ideas forced into culture. They exert a primacy of their own, a history of our consciousness. Our use of words is a heated a debate, always. The number of ideas and experiences we have in the world far exceed our vocabulary and there is a strong hesitation by mainstream culture to lend credence to these experiences by giving them a name. Entire identities of people are reduced into derogatory terms. Case in point: before you use the phrase “corporate whore,” for example, could you please consider for one second the fact that whores are hardly a model for people who sell out to join the mainstream. Whores are the ones being murdered and put in jail for thinking far enough outside of the box to see their sexuality as something that they own. I just want to suggest that maybe “whore” isn’t the word you’re looking for to complete the idea of someone who just does whatever they’re told because it’s popular and easy. Just a thought.

Oh, I’m sorry. That phrase is popular because being a whore means that you get fucked for money. People who work with corporations are getting fucked for money. Well, in order for the idea that getting fucked for money is bad then you must also believe that getting fucked is a negative personal sacrifice of some kind. I don’t like making assumptions about anyone’s sex life but there does seem to be a consensus among the people who use the phrase “corporate whore”  that fucking isn’t always bad. Sometimes, if not most times, it’s pretty excellent. It’s fun, it’s pleasurable, it’s good times all around when two or more people decide to consensually engage in it together.

You know you’re in a gathering of people who talk openly about sexuality when you hear things like, “This overdraft fee is ridiculous! They totally fucked me! ….In a bad way! They fucked me in a bad way, without my permission, and no lube in sight!” Those moments are interesting to me because it reveals an anxiety about the limitations of words. We don’t have any other ferocious idioms that capture the anger of being taken advantage of in the same way. When someone says, “The bank fucked me!” I know what they mean and I know that they aren’t saying that fucking is bad. It just makes you really wonder how the hell this delusional idea that fucking is bad came into such popularity in the first place.

The two word phrase, “corporate whore” is a little more complicated than it initially appeared. I’m not saying don’t use it. For all I know you’re referring to an escort on the payroll of a Fortune 500 company. I’m just asking the question, do those words actually convey what you mean?

Once upon a time in college, a fantastic and engaging professor assigned Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language as a text to read in a literature course. Not to have as a reference, not to have something to look back on to inform the reading of our novels, but a dictionary to be read as a novel.

Imagine my delight. That was obviously how I wanted to spend my Friday night as a 20 year old college student smack dab between a giant redwood forest in the mountains and the beach. My dorm room window had a view of both. Like any other 20 year old college student, I possessed the maturity to know that the opportunity to study language up close and personal was more important than a bonfire jam session on the beach. Yeah…

Not a lot of hands in the air that Monday morning when she asked us what we thought of the reading.

Of course she knew that was coming. I should have picked up on the fact that she knew that because she never assigned hundreds of pages of reading with a 72 hour window of completion to undergrads. (172 hours was the standard allotment, if you’re curious.) Either she presented one of the best lectures on anything about the English literary canon I have ever had the pleasure of seeing or I am living in abject denial about something very fundamental about my brain but I’ll be damned if I wasn’t positively fascinated by dictionaries after that lecture. Maybe it was a perfect storm of factors. What I took away the most from my university studies in general is that if you fully engage with hard science classes like biology, physics, chemistry etc while simultaneously fully engaging with critical theory, you should be prepared for an immense amount of anxiety about the world. Staring at this dictionary was just another one of those moments that hit me like a hard punch in the stomach: words are just popular ideas. Most human beings on earth are able to identify something in the world with a symbol that we create but we lend more credence to some symbols than others and some referents are eradicated by silence. If you think about that for too long you’re going to wind up sleeping with a night light.

We need some kind of language, no matter how flawed it will always be. We aren’t psychic yet and so we always have to rely on some kind of intermediary to get our ideas across or we go crazy. The great thing is we can keep expanding language. We aren’t running out of words, we can make more. Sure it’s hard to remember them all and it takes some work but the pay off is fantastic. Words allow us to be introduced to new ideas. English is not a natural language that is coded into our brains that we finally start using when we emerge out of infancy. We speak the language that we are taught and when you’re a child you do have the capacity to learn multiple languages because you don’t have enough of a vocabulary to maintain a bias. When all language is equally new, a second language doesn’t stand out as inherently different in any way to the brain.  All words function as passwords because you do not have control over anything in your environment. You are trained to use the “right” words because something can always be withheld or granted until you do.

I identify as queer not because I am a woman who is attracted to other women but because sexual differentiation extends far beyond two potential manifestations and I am attracted to people with a similar morphology to my own as well as to individuals that have a more dissimilar morphology. More politically, I identify as queer because “LGBT” is often represented by white middle class suburban folks who do not represent my experience and my needs fully. I need more than access to a marriage certificate, I need access to basic healthcare because many “traditional” clinics can and will turn me away because of who I am. If attempt to engage with the criminal justice system I might find that my queerness is more on trial than anything I may have done or the justice that I seek for something done to me. I’m queer because I’m worried that an overwhelming number of queer identified people are homeless right now. They aren’t looking to settle a mortgage–they’re trying to get off of the street and into shelter. I am queer because I see these statistics as emergency situations that mandate a response. Yes we should absolutely fight for marriage across the country but I’m concerned about the fact that there are people dying right now. Since apparently it’s only queer people that care about the needs of other queer people, it’s important to take care of those with the least resources to fight oppression.

If you think that individuals who are activists for homeless rights are always going to pick up the slack for queer identifying homeless people that is not always true. Transgender individuals are routinely turned away from shelters and the number one reason is, “we don’t know which beds to put them in.”

Being an ally is hard. I hear a lot of allies say that they feel afraid to speak because they’re afraid of screwing it up and offending someone. If you’ve taken the time to fight for equality in good faith then it’s OK to speak up and make mistakes sometimes. Listen to people tell you when they feel hurt or excluded from your words. Chances are, they’ve screw it up all the time, too. We can’t experience anyone else’s lives but our own and sometimes you’re going to make a good faith mistake. When someone tells you that they feel hurt by your words or your language it isn’t up to the them to prove it to you. They’re letting you know a better way to reach them that makes them feel safer. It’s something you could not have known if they hadn’t informed you and that conversation is a positive one. At the very least, it means that someone wants to access your ideas. If you want to share those ideas with that person, listen to the road map they show you because you’re both headed in the same direction any way. It’s OK to use words you aren’t as familiar with if they make someone feel more comfortable. It’s OK to name an existence other than your own. I promise you that your own existence will be no less powerful alongside others especially when you’re working together on a common goal.

Queer isn’t about who I’m fucking at any given moment. Queer is about anger. Queer is about forcing the idea that human sexuality exists on a spectrum and not a binary because the variation is a fact and not an exception. Queer is a great word because I’m not going to let you reduce an entire group of people into a slur. It’s all about the sovereignty of the word.


Filed under activism, opinion, politics, queer