Monday, November 28, 2005

talking doesn't cook the rice

this from a Chinese proverb...

There's been a lot of talking going on, namely from those who assume they represent queer communities of color. Mostly because of the No Nonsense in November campaign's response to the KKK's recent visit here and to the recently passed Proposition 2, which formally defines marriage as one man and one woman.

I am enjoying my time away from allgo now that I'm not working there. It's cleared my head. Maybe people didn't say anything before because I was working there. Maybe I just didn't hear them. Still, so many have come around to me with words of understanding - understanding in that allgo has developed much like most dysfunctional families do - some how still surviving.

When I began as a board member for allgo, then working there, I connected with the philosophy of liberation for queer people of color. I soon realized, however, that philosophy doesn't feed anyone. As working class people know, who has time for rhetoric when you are working paycheck to paycheck and sickness could mean you can't pay the bills.

Spread by local email was the last response to an apparent dialogue the NNN campaign had with one of the former executive directors of allgo. Of course I got it in my mailbox too. Nothing that was in this response was inappropriate or an outright lie. Lying also means, though, that you don't reveal all your truth.

It's so good to be away from an organization which belittles those who founded the organization as well as paying members (predominantly Latino) all the while continuing its bilingual "look" in media and programming. Tell me, how do you maintain a bilingual look and feel but push a people of color theory? Easy : hire other ethnicities for appearances, say that those who are currently supporting don't truly support, and claim the membership is lax. Yes, blame it on the people.

The response to the campaign's tactics fell short - from day one FUNDING was the most important thing to this nonprofit, dictating who would receive HIV/AIDS information by determining what spaces were chosen for outreach. Likewise, it was funding which dictated the organization's inability to actively take a side in any issue. For just $5,000 we closed our mouths to saying Prop. 2 would make it harder to gain services for domestic violence in our families, or make already hard-to-access protections potentially meaningless. Heaven forbid a queer people of color organization look political, say what it really needs.

On the plus side, we didn't have to commit membership involvement because that meant activating our membership. We also then, as an organization, got to sit down and talk, endlessly sometimes, about how all the other HIV, queer or cultural organizations were doing it all wrong.

There have always been two camps to bringing in people of color to issues like Prop. 2. One would say they have to be there from the beginning in the planning, development and leadership of every aspect.

The other proposes that mainstream groups will never understand people of color and so why help them in a struggle is we'll be dealing with their homogenized viewpoint?

Beyond these, people of color need to look at an issue for themselves and say "fuck these white people if they can't get us - this issue affects us more than it ever will them."

Too often, we choose to sit around instead. Talking is easy. Pointing fingers is easy. Apparently running an organization is easy too if the board is weak, the staff is not supported and those who talk more than work are paid plenty to kick back and create more theory.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

queer femme

I was in denial - it's occurred to me that, despite my self-identification, those living in butch/femme or gay worlds would define me as they chose. I came to realize this in some recent or recently understood displays of sexism.

I continually end up in a space where, because I am deemed "femme", I must contend with butches who sexualize me or ignore me - neither allowing for me to appear within their mind as a complete person.

Worse, dealing with femmes who will only communicate with butches, in that coy/head tilted way, which diminishes both them and the butch.

Yes, butch/femme is a way of life, is a natural expression of our characters, a way to connect with others but the inherent sexism and machismo that takes root in these expressions is hard to slice away from the natural expression.

I've seen femmes dismiss other femmes because they aren't femme enough, or classify someone without truly asking how they might identify. I worked with a woman recently who, in discussing a potential volunteer, stated she "was cute but, oh, she's femme so never mind". What does it mean to be woman-identified? How many queer women do you know who fuck their own gender but aren't woman-identified? Imagine how revolutionary we would be if truly working to empower and enable other women.

Why have we learned, albeit slowly, to ask those who are queer or trans what pronoun they prefer, but cannot ask another what identifying label they prefer - if any? Is it the sexism, that old friend, which seems so hard to dismantle? Is it that which allows us to accept trans because they either originally carried or now newly carry male privilege? And who the fuck decided (and continues to decide) that male-identifiers were strictly male gender expressions? Or that these expressions hold more power than any other expressions?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

new poem : bundling


what fire in the belly keeps you
keeps your love’s ass against your hips
now that fall’s set in?

so much fills your head you cannot wear a hat
you know you should
otherwise, the wood floors will catch fire,
occasional words rubbing the paneling,
the kitchen table, the Chinese lantern

who left the tuba at your doorstep
when you asked for more air
the living room carrying too much earth,
rocks clustered at every corner

don’t think about putting your shoes away
leave them by the door
with this much going on
you’ll need to plan an escape
and post it on the back of the entry door.