Friday, December 29, 2006

I'm Beautiful Damn It

The messages that I’ve received since coming out have consistently suggested that I do not deserve to love myself. At every turn within Black gay community, in clubs, at discussion groups, on the street, on internet dating sites there are messages and messengers waiting for me to inform me that I do not have the right to like my body. “How dare you be a sexual being,” is a constantly reoccurring message drummed at me from every corner of Black gay community. While I have attempted to be strong I have internalized many of these messages.

Just this evening I was on a popular website for Black gay men to “chat” with one another. I’ve been in Oakland for three months and have not found a club or other venue for meeting men that suites me so I decided to give the internet a try one more time, after a long self imposed period of exile. So I got my pictures together, got them posted and wrote a blurb that advertised me in what I thought was the best light. I finished my profile, closed the window (to give it a minute), and waited to get a message or two that I could respond to in the hopes of having a date for this weekend.

While I was going through the dozens of pictures of myself on my hard drive and selecting the ones that I consider the most flattering I was feeling particularly good about myself. I had looked at the pictures, of my face, my body, my sense of style and once again, against all conventional wisdom, decided that I am beautiful. This has become a seemingly annoying habit of mine that I am apparently more susceptible to after long extended periods of absence from Black gay male community.

After an hour or two of “giving it a minute,” and feeling my resolve that I am beautiful begin to weaken, I decided that I would be more proactive. I started reading the profiles of the cute guys in the thumbnails on the left hand side of the page. About half of the profiles saved me the trouble by designating “no fats, no fems” I spent a bit of time pleasuring myself by rating them and selecting zero for every “pic” on their profiles. The other half of the guys that I found attractive got a short message from me expressing that I found them attractive, sexy or cute and that they should “hit me up” as the online jargon goes. Of the four or five guys that I sent messages to three responded negatively. One sent a message that simply said “no thanks,” another sent an email stating in, so many words, that I was fat, undesirable, and that I had nerve sending them a message, yet another sent a message that simply said “you’re fat.” I responded politely to two. The third guy who had said simply “you’re fat” I learned had blocked me when I attempted to respond. Wow!

I didn't know what to do. I thought for a moment, letting the feelings of rejection marinate and wondering why people felt like they could talk to me as if I'm a person without feelings. What is it exactly that would empower someone to feel entitled to saying hurtful and damaging things to another human being?

After a while of this musing I decided a couple of things were going on. The first thing is the devaluing and dehumanizing, by black gay men, of other black gay men who do not offer sexual value. The other thing that I recognized is the cultural norm that allows small people to mock and make fun of fat people without worrying about being held accountable for hurt feelings (we don't have feelings). The third thing that I realized was empowering these men to treat me the way that they were treating me was my silence. My silence allowed them to go on believing that I had committed a crime by being attracted to them, that I did not experience hurt when I was rejected with such vigor. This situation of my silence held in place by the shame attached to these feelings of rejection was the perfect place for the incubation for inhumane behavior toward fat gay men within Black gay male community.

I posted the following statement on my profile:

Damn! What have I done to be treated so badly? You don't know me, I've never done anything to you but I send a message to say hi or compliment you and you block me, don't reply, or reply saying mean things about me and my body? Why? Because you're not attracted to me? Here's a suggestion: If you're not attracted to me don't fuck me. All that other shit ain't necessary. You may not like my body but this is what the creator has given me and its the only body I have regardless of what you think about it. I haven't hurt or wronged anybody on this site. Please don't attempt to hurt or wrong me.

The anger, malice, and hatred that I am met with in Black gay male spaces when I attempt to be a sexually realized being in those spaces has always perplexed me. The communities that I’ve existed in have reacted to me with anger when I have asserted myself as a sexual being and abused me when I’ve owned my sexuality. I have experienced little more than rejection from Black gay male community and have relied largely on Black straight identified men “trade” for sexual affirmation.

While I have been a warrior for the rights of fat-fem me to be sexy, beautiful, attractive, and wanted I have often contributed to my own oppression by accepting the rejection of Black gay men wholesale, and acting complicitly with my silence. Silence and self imposed exile from clubs, internet sites, and other sexualized spaces has been the result of my own painfully internalized oppression.

My Promise to myself

As of today, I will no longer participate in my own oppression with my silence. While being rejected is shaming and while shame is powerful I am committed to making sure that Black gay men that treat me badly know that they are treating me badly and know that their treatment of me has consequences. Its only if I pretend nothing happened that people who treat me badly get to feel like they are the good people that they describe themselves as on their profiles. Maybe if we all (Fat Black Gay Men) react to the vigorous and unnecessarily vehement rejection that we often receive by expressing the feelings that we experience the shame will belong to those who abuse us and not to us.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Gay Racism At It's Best

Chris Crain, the good ole boy former editor of Southern Voice is at it again with his special brand of radical race bating and white man cluelessness. His article "Where's The Truth in Humor?" which appears in the San Franciso Bay Times skirts dangerously close to advocating for the public use of the "N word" among lesbians and gays; at least until Blacks stop being homophobic.

Read the full article

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Anti Racist White Allies

Recently a friend of mine who is white, a drag performer and a former anti-racism trainer wrote me, through an email group that we’re both on to say that Shirley Q Liquor was going to be performing at the drag bar where he performs.

The reason, he said, for his writing the note to the web group was to get feedback, input, and advice about how those of us on the email list thought he should proceed. He announced that he was going to tell the owners of the bar that he would not perform with Shirley Q Liquor because of her racist portrayal of an older, southern, black woman.

This was interestingly conflicting to me because the bar that he performs in is owned by one of Atlanta’s legendary white drag performers who is notorious for her racism and misogyny and has been challenged at least a dozen times over the years for such.

I wrote to my anti-racist drag queen friend that I didn’t think there was a difference between performing with the racist-bar-owner-drag-queen and performing with Shirley Q Liquor. My reasoning was that they are both racist assholes and that performing with one while refusing to perform with the other did not make much sense to me.

His response was twofold:

1- Shirley Q liquor has gone too far by performing in Black Face and is more than he can take.

2- The reason that he remained as a performer in the bar of the racist-bar-owner-drag-queen is that he is the loan white voice of reason and that it is important to him to be in spaces where people do not necessarily have access to the rhetoric of movement. It’s worth it to remain in the racist-bar-owner-drag-bar because someone needs to be there to tell the other drag queens when they are being fucked up.

My problems with his argument are many and varied. I’ll try to be brief about articulating some of my problems here.

1- It seems that an anti racist ally would take his cues about what is “too racist” from people of color. I’d like to know what his criteria for “too racist” are. If the bar owner has been challenged many times, multiple people of color have expressed that her racism is intolerable, and very few people of color will visit her show more than once, why is this not too racist for my conscious friend?

2- Assuming that there is merit to this argument, my question is this: what is the difference between being the lone voice in the wilderness of the racist-bar-owner-drag-bar and being the lone voice in the wilderness at the Shirley Q Liquor show? Are there not just as many, if not more, unenlightened white people waiting for our angelic drag queen friend to deliver them from the wilderness into the higher—ground-holy-land of anti-racism?

I have written all that I’ve written thus far to say: It all rings a little false to me.

That being said, lately, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the privileged whites who call themselves my allies. I’ve identified a couple of truths and identified some ways to hold those who call themselves our allies accountable.

First the truths:

Very few of the white people who call themselves anti-racist remain anti-racist after college or college age. This is because it is simply easier to be radical when someone else is paying your bills. Tryna get a job as a blue haired, ripped jeaned, queer radical could prove difficult for our fully grown “allies.” So they jump ship.

Further its way too easy for privileged white people who call themselves our allies to gain “street cred” among us, all to willing to accept massa’s love, Black folk.” Refraining from saying racist stuff, calling everyone by the most up to date and current identity marker (African American instead of black), and hanging out with a few people of color (usually snow-queens) is not anti-racist. This behavior is nothing more than politically correct, hollow gesticulation that amounts to absolutely nothing.

My new philosophy is this:

A real anti-racist is a philanthropist.

This is why:

In America the most tangible effect of racism is the huge disparity between the incomes, and lifestyles of Black people and white people in this country. This disparity is actually the reason for and the end result of racism. Racism means that if I am white, I have better access to education, better access to health care, better access to credit, and better access to employment. I am further less likely to be shot down in my neighborhood by the police or a fellow, and less likely to serve time in jail. I will be paid higher than people of color for the same jobs and get better interest rates on loans.

So the only place for racism to lead is to a disparity in wealth. White privilege then is tangible. The culmination of all white privilege is INCOME. There is no “Invisible knap sack.” The knap sack is in fact quite visible. So those white people looking to distance themselves from their privilege need only take out there check books, credit cards, wallets, and start giving. Distancing one’s self from white privilege means, at the end of all the bullshit gesticulation, distancing one’s self from one’s money.

Thus my note to my friend in the racist-bar-owner-drag-bar concluded, I don’t care about Shirley Q Liquor making fun of Black people and I don’t care about the racist-bar-owner-drag-queen making fun of people of color either. I actually think that our so-called anti racist allies often rely on people like Shirley Q Liquor so that they can position themselves against them. They can be seen white as snow against the black background of Shirley’s odious rhetoric thereby removing themselves from scrutiny. We recognize their street-cred without asking why they live in so much privilege, with the big car (maybe a hybrid), the big house in the bleeding heart liberal (the expensive) part of town, the $500 cell-phone, the $400 Ipod, the newest Lap-top, the IRA, the off continent vacations, the study abroad in Spain etc, while they declare that whites must distance themselves from privilege.

In her Black Men and Love series bell hooks suggests that the sex lives of straight men are the last stronghold of male privilege that “feminist” men rarely release. I’ll argue that the pocket books of whites are the last stronghold of white privilege that white people, even the staunchest anti-racist, will not release easily.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I knew my girl was still the deal!

So all of you doubters and haters can back up off my girl Whitney! She has some shit that is going to have you all gagging! I'm the only one that stood by her, declaring that she is no crack-head and that Bobby-Christina is a perfectly well developed young girl.

Speaking on behalf of Whitney in the words or my wise and wisend sister Londyn "Learn me bitches!"

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Charles, Heru and Kevin: On Sexual Desire, Sexual Desire Politics, and other things

Below is the result of an online interview conducted by Charles Stephens. Charles compiled the following 8 questions to be answered by him, Heru and myself. My hope is that this can become the begining of a conversation about how our desires so often reflect our oppression and how our liberation depends on the interrogation of everything we believe.

>1. How would you describe the current state of sexual politics in the black gay communities you are a part of?

KEVIN: I want to say first that sexual-desire politics in the black gay communities that I am part of extend far beyond the bedroom. While I believe firmly that our [Black Gay Men] seemingly collective obsession with two or three archetypes of manhood is extremely problematic and counter revolutionary I want to draw a clear distinction, in this conversation, between personal-desire and sexual-desire politics. To the extent that the personal is political, it is important to discuss the ways in which we exercise our desire. When I talk about sexual-desire politics I’m talking about a collection of norms within the Black Gay Communities that create exclusion and marginalization for an entire group of men that have endured, like all Black Gay men have endured, the oppressive forces that act against us as Black men and as gay men . This, to me, is unconscionable and serves as a barrier between US, Black gay men, and true liberation. As Audre Lord suggested, I believe that, “The masters tools, will never dismantle the masters house.”

Sexual-desire politics have too much of a role in within the communities of Black Gay Men. I’ve witnessed too many times, working within Black Gay Male communities for most of my adult life, Black gay men of influence dismiss promising young Queens or promising young fat boys. While I cannot claim to know why these people were dismissed I can say that I’ve seen some chosen and some not chosen to be mentored, to be the youth board member, to be the poster child, because of where they lay on the scale of “aesthetic beauty.”

HERU: I'm not a part of any black gay communities. I don't subscribe to the concept of black gay communities. I think there are black gay spaces in which groups--affinity groups--of black men who practice some version of same-sex desire and black women who practice some version of same-sex desire inhabit, oftentimes simultaneous with groups of other black men and women who practice some version of same-sex desire. So based upon that way of framing black same-sex culture, I would answer your question for a description of the current state of sexual politics with two words: fucked up. Fucked up because too many of us have adopted a reality, an identity, a worldview that is not only not our own but also antagonistic to our cultivation and development on personal and collective levels. When I think of the word politics, the word power comes to mind. Observing the sex in porn featuring sex between black men, listening to the conversations of black men who have sex with men, reading the online profiles of black men who have sex with men, I see and hear an attempt to play with very specific, very narrow notions of power. Power is confined to the expression of hardness, aloofness, emotional unavailability and distance, and numbness. Power is also confined to dick sizes 8 and above and abdominal muscles that form a 6 or 8 pack. Power is confined to lower tones of voice, sneers, snarls, and smirks. The Black brute, originally conceived in racist movie images to justify Jim Crow segregation, has reappeared in our bedrooms, our sex parties, our porn, our parks, and our tearooms. One of the more interesting things is how we have merged the sociology of the Black brute with the epistemology, axiology, and ontology of house/ball culture. One becomes the Black brute by wearing timbs even if one is a 50 year old queen with a corporate job. One becomes the Black brute by spending several hours a day, 3-4 days a week in the gym to sculpt one's body into the laborer's body even if one is an attorney without the knowledge of how to fix a car, repair a household item, or build anything other than biceps. It becomes equally important to downplay, obscure, or completely hide one's intellectual abilities and capacities. So I return to my original two words to describe the current state of sexual politics among black men who experience same-sex desire: fucked up.

CHARLES: I want to be hopeful. I see some courageous brothas in some spaces and places challenging the body politics, resisting these sorts of homonormative sexual scripts, embracing femininity sexually and socially. My experience has been that many of us are kind of conflicted. It’s very difficult to move through the world, even in our queer communities, without defining your value and measuring yourself against the more widely circulated notions of masculine beauty. I see some of us at least struggling to put forth wider and more democratic notions of desirability, even as we do so with ambivalence. I would like to see our communities move more toward challenging these sexual scripts that many of us are handed: muscles and masculinity. It’s not to say that brothas that walk in those bodies are horrible people, or even the people that aspire to or construct their desires around that. However, I wonder if our community circulated wider notions of desirability and beauty, would there be such an urgency to attain such a narrow ideal of beauty? Would the lines be so very rigid and defined? Final thing…. any revolution against heterosexism will have to begin in our own bedrooms. The promise of queer sexuality is to question the ways our oppression and our desires collide.

>2. Why do you think it's important for us to challenge the sexual apartheid, to use your phrase Kevin, in our communities?

KEVIN: It is in our best interest as oppressed people to go to great pains to ensure that our communities, our community institutions and our community co-inhabitants relate to people as people, with the humanity of those with whom we share the world as our first concern. The sexual apartheid of Black gay community is a system that creates exclusion from humanity for individuals who occupy marginalized bodies and present marginalized genders. This conversation goes beyond who one dates and who one fucks. The sexual apartheid of black gay men extends to who we choose to be friends with, who we let into our lives, who we hire for the job, who we chose to mentor, who we chose as our mentor, who we as a community advocate for, who we select as our leaders etc. The sexual apartheid (no fats, no fems culture) alienates and places on the margins of marginalization many HUMANS who are real people with much to offer. Not just sexually, but holistically.

Our survival depends on one another. Our community has been stripped almost bare by AIDS. Many of our most talented have fallen. “When my brother fell I picked up his weapons.” We cannot afford to throw anything away in this struggle for life and liberation in which we find ourselves engaged. When I see talent ignored and men of great experience, skill, education, passion and ability relegated to the role of back ground singer, peanut gallery participant, or fan club president for the “pretty” I am disgusted. We do not have the resources to require our leaders to have the six pack of LL Cool Jay, the masculine appeal of Tupac Shakur, and the face of Nelly. It may very well be the brother with the six-pack of Cedric the entertainer, the masculine appeal of Patty Labelle, and the face of Ru-Paul who lead us forward the choice that we have is very simply to, “Live free, or die.”

HERU: You might want to define the phrase sexual apartheid using Kevin's previous comments as a reference. Having said that I will say that I think it is important for me as a social justice worker to challenge any form of apartheid. Therefore, sexual apartheid is one of the forms of apartheid or (internalized) oppression that I feel called to examine, discuss, critique, and work to dismantle. I work for social justice and against oppression (internalized and imposed) so that I can experience freedom and so that I can have better relationships with the people I love. For me, oppression in any form prevents any of us and all of us from fully being who we are, fully loving, fully engaging with each other. So I believe that there is a way of being, a way of living, a way of loving that I have not yet experienced with anyone because those ways exist on the other side of the wall of oppression. I want to get to that other side. I want to get to that place where I live and love in the absence of oppression (internalized and imposed). I can't even begin to imagine what the sex is like on that other side but I want to feel it.

CHARLES: I think we need to have a serious community-wide “come to Jesus” meeting about the messages we receive from the hetero world, and how they play out in our world. Many of us feel alienated, isolated, alone. Many of us are suffering. I talk to brothas constantly that have these feelings. They are suffering. They think because they don’t fit into this mold, they will be single forever, or unworthy. We can’t blame everything on the big straight boogy man, especially when we perpetuate the messages that wound us. If we are serious about community building the overriding message shouldn’t be no fats and no fems, but to invoke the thrilling words of Joseph Beam “we are worth wanting each other.”

>3. Why do you think the blog revolt ended up being so huge?

KEVIN: Many of us have been touched by this phenomenon. There are those of us who have been marginalized by this situation and there are those who have been privileged by it. Wherever we are in this conversation we all have a huge stake in how it turns out.

What I witnessed during our Blog conversation was a group of men who had much invested in lifting the secrecy away of from this phenomenon and unveiling the human faces of those who are hurt by “no fats, no fems,” and those who had everything invested in maintaining the secrecy. Just like white people often react with rationalization and justification to avoid acknowledging there privilege, I believe that many of the brothers who participated in the conversation that we had were acting to defend there privilege.

I am also very aware of an attempt to intellectualize and academize the conversation, to this end. The rhetoric of those who challenged the idea of sexual-desire privilege and marginalization amounted, in the end, to circumlocution and circumnavigation. To put it plainly they talked in circles around the issue of privilege which made the conversation that much more laborious.

HERU: What blog revolt? LOL. Revolt implies that there was a state within which several of us challenged the status quo, the established order. I don't think that was the case. There is no governing order in the blogsphere. I don't believe in a blogsphere hegemony either. I believe that many more people read my blog and the blogs I enjoy than I realize or know. I also believe that there are some blogs out there that are a waste of the skin cells that get discarded when the authors of those blogs using their fingers to type out the content on them. The fact that many more people read and respond to those blogs than I feel the quality of their content warrants is just one of those things in life that I have had to just accept as a not surprising but a bit the re-election of George W. Bush to the US presidency in 2004. I'm also not sure how "huge" it was. How many languages was it translated into? Does the US Library of Congress have a copy? In how many works has it been cited? Hopefully it was huger (more huge...I don't know which is the appropriate term) than the egos involved. I can speak to why I think it got heated. It got heated because one individual wanted to enter the discussion with very little to say of substance or originality and very much to offer in terms of ego, arrogance, and effect. It, however, would not have been so bad if I had not treated that person with disrespect and dismissal, however well deserved. Prior to the entrance of that individual, I felt the participating group was really getting into something in the face of our differences in the discussion. I think we still salvaged some parts of an important discussion despite the intrusion.

CHARLES: Because it was time. Painful but necessary lines were drawn.

4. Do you have any final thoughts about your experience being a part of it? What did you learn? How do you think the discussion landed with other folk listening in?

KEVIN: What I learned is something I’ve known for a long time: Academics are often separated from there common sense by there obsession with rhetoric and data.

HERU: I was really disgusted by the back alley commentary made by people who knew one or more of the parties yet decided to not comment publicly. I got wind of the existence of some of these DL-commentators and considered their silence to be intellectual and social weakness. To me it's one thing for someone to decided they are not going to participate in the discussion by not commenting OR reading the discussion. It's another thing altogether for someone to read and discuss the content of the discussion and not make their intellectual and social contribution or give-back by posting their own opinions. In my opinion, blogs represent social sometimes intellectual communities and in these communities we should be engaged
in mutuality, sharing ideas not just taking.

CHARLES: Perhaps revolt wasn’t the right word. I will say that I was disappointed that some of the brothas listening in were so utterly antagonistic. Or so willing to trivialize it all. It’s stunning when your alleged comrade’s come at you with scorn. But disagreement can be constructive, I’m not sure if it was this time. Leaving the experience though, I am hopeful. There are brothas that have started to question this whole gay clone machine, praise Jesus.

5. How have you found yourself challenging masculinism and body fascism in your own sexual journey?

KEVIN: This is a big one. While I am fat and fem myself much of my sexual life has been spent replicating my own marginalization, within my own desires and desire politics. It was my acquaintance with Transgender, Genderqueer, and Gender fuck culture that first brought me into contact with “pansexuality.” Pansexuality is the belief that sexual desire need not rely on gender. In other words a penis on a woman does not make her any less of a woman and a vagina on a man does not make him any less a man. Pansexuality is a sexual expression that embraces all genders as desirous. I am not claiming to be pansexual. I’m mentioning this because it is in the pansexual workshops, and at the transgender conferences that I came into contact with thinkers, activist, and sex partners that challenged me to interrogate my desire. To ask myself the critical questions of where my desire comes from. When I began to understand that my desire comes from somewhere that I couldn’t have just arbitrarily decided that “bad boys” are sexy when 90% of women and gay men share my desire I also began to realize that Some one has been telling us all this time how to shape our desires, what desires are acceptable and who we should seek to be desired by.

My liberation walk began with seeing myself as sexy. It went from there to acknowledging the sexiness in everyone that I meet. What I’ve learned is that I can be attracted to many kinds of people and many kinds of bodies. What I’ve learned is that big men can fulfill my fantasies just as much as muscle queens. I learned that some of the best sex I’ve had has been with people that my instinctive desire would never have allowed me to consider. What I’ve learned is that fem boys make some of the best tops. That old men are some of the most energetic lovers, and that two fat people can do something together other than “make grease.”

What I’ve begun to consider, at your urging Charles, is whether I can experience pleasure in the absence of any desire. Ultimately the answer is yes. I am continuing to grow more mature as a sexual being.

Why is any of this important? Because I believe that our desires are connected to our oppression. The someone that has been telling us how to be sexually attracted is the same someone who has been telling us how to regard women, black people, queers. I’ve learned that the collective desire that we experience is the result of a media that has endeavored for a long time to tell stories about black people, women, other people of color, and poor people that are simply not true. The way that this collective desire manifests itself correlates with the stories that we have been told by the media and larger society. The men we are attracted to look a certain way talk a certain way dress a certain way etc. What’s more important though is that the men who we are sexually repulsed by look a certain way, act a certain way, dress a certain way etc. And all of us are repulsed by the same people. The Black men that are valuable are those who can lift 100 pounds, how far does this divert from the philosophies of our masters? The gay men who are valuable are those who act straight. When I look up and find myself in agreement with my master, as an oppressed person, this is my cue to change.

HERU: Masculinism? Is that a word? I just live. I am conscious in my practice of various Africanisms so I do certain things that my challenge masculinism without being deliberate in that challenge. For example, I wear sarongs and lapas at home and in Afrocentric community. I feel more comfortable wearing them than wearing pants. Some might see this as a challenge to masculinism because men in this society are not conditioned to wear sarongs or lapas. In terms of body fascism, I don't think I do much to challenge it. Though I have a belly/gut I have dated men and women who liked my belly/gut. I don't hang out in spaces in which my belly/gut would be problematic for others or challenging to their aesthetic. Nor do I wear by Black Panther regalia in redneck communities or tongue kiss men at Fruit of Islam meetings.

CHARLES: Hmmmmm…..I have found not hating myself or my body and eroticizing a range of other bodies as being the best I can do….for now. And finally, questioning everything.

6. I know you both, Kevin and Heru, have challenged mainstream HIV prevention and been critical of groups and forces that have been critical of barebacking. Could you clarify your thoughts about barebacking and gay men....why we do it, why it's such a hot button issue now, and what does sexual health work look like for these communities?

KEVIN: Sex without condoms is hotter. For decades we have been telling this lie, that we can have sex with condoms that is just as hot as sex without condoms. We have been telling this lie, as HIV prevention people, that sex without fluids, sterile sex can be just as fulfilling as sweaty, greasy, slimy, cum bucket sex. It’s a lie!

What we know for sure however is that sex with condoms significantly reduces one’s risk for acquiring or transmitting the HIV virus. We all know this. Black gay men have heard, more than anybody, the messages that have been yelled at us for the last two decades. But what is also true is that many Black gay men do not want to use condoms. Even in light of these scientific truths there are brothers, and others, out there that would take the risk for a chance to fuck. What we are missing is that this is not new. What is new is that Black gay men are revolting against the stigma that The HIV Prevention Industrial Complex has erected around condomless sex. A peek at the prevalence of HIV and AIDS among Black gay men should tell us that the desire to bareback is not new in our communities. As an HIV Prevention community we have failed. We’ve failed because we failed to seek input from the communities that we served. When we heard that brothers were having sex without condoms we shamed them. We created a climate in which those most at risk for HIV infection would never talk openly too those who are best placed to help them remain negative. We have created a climate in which black gay men lie about there sexual behavior to those who could help them plan there sex lives in a way that created the highest level of safety that the actions they are wiling to take can create. So what “barebackers” know from HIV prevention pros is that “they’re crazy,” or “have a death wish,” and not that using lots of lube can reduce your risk, that pulling out does reduce your risk, that just sucking it with no condom is safer than getting fucked with no condom, that most HIV positive men, when asked, will answer honestly about there HIV status, that 70% of new infections are attributed to HIV positive individuals that don’t know they are HIV positive, that getting tested and treated for other STDs significantly reduces your risk of becoming infected when exposed to HIV. So many of them are dead because we told them what we thought of them and not what we know of their risk factors. So many of them are dead because so few HIV prevention workers have educated themselves about the biological realities surrounding HIV transmission.

There are men out there with perfectly alright self esteems, who know how HIV is transmitted and who have made a quite conscious decision to have sex without condoms. As someone who has been involved in HIV prevention for as long as I have been I know that it is not my job to judge but to help these brothers reduce there risk, within there own parameters.

I was disappointed by the actions of those who marched with picket signs outside of the sex party for no other reason than that I thought it was short sighted, thoughtless, reactionary and silly. A much better strategy would have been to embrace the brother who throws the parties and create opportunities to educate the brothers who attend the parties. But what those organizations that picketed that party let the brothers on the inside know is that those organizations are not places where there CHOICE will be honored or where they will find support for preventing the acquisition of HIV.

HERU: Whoa. I devoted two years of intense study and research to answer these questions. The knowledge I have gained will the subject of several journal articles and a book or two that should be coming out in the next couple of years so stay tuned and I'll give you the bibliographic information on them.

CHARLES: My own thoughts about barebacking have been informed by the community organizer/scholar Eric Rofes and echoed by the blogger geekslut and the novelist/essayist Edmond White. For me the question we should ask ourselves is how can we promote and support sexual pluralism in our communities, but at the same time encourage support and care for each other. That is to say maybe there are models of barebacking we can create that are rooted in trust, in communication, and in mutual respect and care for each other. I completely get how anonymous “don’t ask, don’t tell” barebacking can be appealing, though maybe we can find ways to expand the possibilities where we can be our brothas lovers/tricks/fuck buddies and keepers. Also, I think we are a diverse community that attaches diverse meanings to our sexual practices. We have to find ways to meet those communities where they are, encourage self-care and not shaming their particular brand of pleasur.

>7. Why do you think it's difficult for man folk in our communities to think critically about how we construct our desires, and the meaning we attach to what we desire. More so I have found that when we challenge each other, there is a lot of
anger and resentment that builds. What has your experience been in such situations?

KEVIN: I agree. Challenges to desire are met with anger. I think this is probably because it takes a lot of work to even interrogate our desires, let alone expand them.

I also think that homophobia has made sure that our desires are challenged from the day that they come into being. Most gay men have worked very hard to get to the point where we can accept our desires, and find affirming for our desires. For most of us that are "Out" there is an activist spirit attached to expressing our desires. So, it’s not always easy to distinguish between a condemnation of our desires and a call to explore how our desires are varnished with the residue of the very oppression against which we shape our desires.

HERU: I think that most people are not critical thinkers. In fact, I believe that too many people are fool ass ignorant. So anytime that you apply pressure to their cognitive systems and processes they are gonna get a bit anxious if not downright pissed. The educational system in this country has really fucked up people's heads. It's a damn shame how many dumb ass motherfuckers are running around here thinking that they can think or know what that means.

CHARLES: I think to challenge the more dominant notions of desirability is still extremely radical for gay men. Because so many of us are wounded by masculinity, and try to work through that by identifying with it and desiring it, to challenge that desire is to pour salt in the wound. Rather than question the source of the pain and go internal, they would rather go externally. Further, anytime you challenge a myth that someone holds dearly, it’s like pulling the rug from up under them. Their concept of reality gets shaken, and to stabilize they have to cling to the myth. It’s kind of like when you tell poor people there is no American dream.

>8. Final thoughts.

HERU: No final thoughts because my thoughts are not finalized. I'm still learning, growing, and developing.

CHARLES: As queer men I believe that it’s all right and even expected that we eroticize big dicks, big muscles, and masculinity. At the same time I think it would be very beneficial if we widened our scope of what’s desirable. Finally, I would encourage all of us to rethink what we are told what’s desirable, and how we measure our own value with regard to those messages.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Market Street

Beneath big buildings
full of commerce
and the manufacturing of realities
street sweepers cast the bristles of their brushes into
broad unending ciphers
that dig deep into black asphalt
throwing trash
into the green certified vacuum powered
mouth of the machine.

abandoned coca cola bottle
swept away
fallen leaves, a knapping pauper, a child’s lost mitten,
a prostitute-or-poet-or-mother
a scrap of unidentifiable paper,
a vagrant, M & Ms,
that boy I cruised moments ago,
spent cigarette butts,
and other discarded and sundry annoyances

beneath the stars and stripes
fluttering in the wind
atop the big commerce making buildings
that preside over United Nations Plaza
where Universal Human rights were declared
right outside of Carl’s Junior

a street sweeper casts omnipotent bristles
into the asphalt
to remove brilliantly black, brown, urban, hip-hop,
that the commerce makers
from the tall, important, reality constructing buildings
are too big
to be bothered
to step over
on there way to BART

Monday, November 06, 2006

Gay For Pay: In The Bay

I've recently relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area. I'm working in San Francisco and living in Oakland California. Initially I did not think that this would be the culture shock that it has been, considering that I grew up in California's San Francisco Bay Area and went to Junior High school and High school in Oakland. But boy was I wrong!

After living for 12 years in the "deep south," I've developed a way of being that is not necessarily compatible with the bay area. Particularly my way of being around justice issues and issues of social equality are incompatible. In the south, one can trust that white people who talk about Social Justice are a little more than rhetoric. Racist white people certainly do not come in liberal packages in the south.

Race issues in the Bay Area are completely FUCKED UP! The trick seems to be that if liberal white people can make you believe that they do not have race and class benefits then they can keep their feminist, anti racist, anti classist identity, from college, and do not have to give up their race and class benefits. It's all a bit too much like having one's cake and eating it too.

Every white person that I've met here considers themselves anti-racist. Columbus Day is instead, "Indigenous Peoples Day," black people are instead "African American." Everyone is for the abolishment of prisons and the eradication of homelessness, and everyone is pro-Palestine. Public schools in the bay area are named after such American heroes as Cesar Chavez, Malcolm Ex, and June Jordan. Every home has copies of the Bluest Eyes, or By The Light of My Father's Smile proudly displayed in there libraries. Every organizing initiative tries to include representatives of people of color communities. The Mexican celebrations of Day of The Dead and Cinco De Mayo, along with Junteenth and Kwanza are on the calendars of every liberal home, white, black, Asian, and Latino/a alike. I should say White, African American, API and Latino alike. Everyone rides bikes, shops at thrift stores and co-ops, grows there own food and smokes "home-grown" weed.

This is the liberal capital of the world!

San Francisco and its bay area is "The Myth of The Level Playing Field." This myth is powered by the bike riding, food growing, pot smoking, room mating, kwanza celebrating, liberal white queers who have post graduate degrees, make over $100,000 in a year and live in bungalows on the co-op land. Everyone is fake working class. Those that don't make over $100,000 in a year can afford to make less. For example, all of the nonprofit jobs pay below $40,000 which here in California is considered low income. While shopping for jobs I've begun to wonder "How do these people survive?" Then I go back to the nonprofit lessons given to me by my friend Shira, a Progressive Jewish Clergy Woman. Shira says that "movement" nonprofits are all about white guilt. See the rich whites play this game where some of them work in the nonprofit and get their rich white friends to donate to the nonprofits and everyone gets to fix there guilt. The low pay is part of that guilt fixing mechanism.

This is something that folks who use their jobs as there primary source of income and in my case ONLY source of income don't really understand. How can someone live off of $40,000 a year in the bay area? Is it because of the roommate culture? Is it because of the wonderful public transportation and bike lanes? No. The real answer is that one cannot afford to live off of $40,000 in the bay area. Those that seemingly afford to live on this kind of income have other income sources like parents, trust funds, and investments that allow them to work for the pennies, identify (because of there "income from work") as "Working Class," and get to be absolved of guilt by penance.

What is annoying about this whole set up is that while everyone is an anti-racist and feminist change agent, poverty is just as devastating here as it is anywhere else. With all of the wealth in this area, and for all of the progressive politics of the bay area it is troubling that more money does not make it into the hands of the poor and those that serve the poor. But rich whites don't have to help the poor here because they are working in nonprofits for $20,000 a year and are poor themselves. Right? While walking down the street with a group comprised of former welfare reform worker, homeless advocate, and a few other social justice types a woman approached us with such a look of anguish on her face I thought that she might pass out on the spot. She asked for help. Not for change but for help. I was hurried into the room by the Welfare reform worker, the Homelessness rights attorney, the troubled-youth advocate, and the Human rights trainer, the door was slammed behind us. We stepped over the woman.

This is how I see the bay area. People full of rhetoric about fairness, equality, and justice, who are immensely politically correct and who work in the "movement" all while stepping over and forgetting the poor.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

More on Sexual Desire

I think it was Frued who suggested that the object of our sexual desire is actually what we want to desire us. That our sexual desire is more about the desire to be desired than it is about actual desire of bodies. So I am attracted to the people I am attracted to because they are the ones that I most want to be desired by and not the other way around. This bring to mind for me a question:

Is our collective-desire, as Black gay men, for convential and frankly stereotypical male bodies telling of a desire to be affirmed by the heteropatriarchy that has rejected us?

Ulester Douglas, a friend and a professional therapist in Atlanta, suggests that we are attracted to the places in our lives that hold the most pain. Another question:

Are the bodies that have most often carried rejection for us the bodies to which we are most attracted?

Is Black Gay male obsession with a patriarchal picture of "masculinity" and "man hood" about the fact that these are the entities from which we have experienced the most rejection and from which we carry the most pain?

Is our obsession with hip hop bodies and masculinities about our experience of rejection from the working class black men in our pasts?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

What the hell is wrong with ITLA?

Southern Voice recently published an article about allegations made by In The Life Atlanta (Black Gay Pride Organizing Group)that AIDS Services Organizations in Atlanta should "Be ashamed of themselves," for not giving large amounts of money to the Black Gay Pride celebration. The text of this article appears on the SOVO website.

Below is my response:

August 25, 2006

It’s extremely egocentric for ITLA and Greg Smith to suggest that because AIDS Service organizations (ASO) don’t support there thing that they’re doing nothing about HIV among Black gay men. National AIDS Education and Service for Minorities (NAESM) and AID Atlanta have spent millions of dollars and decades fighting AIDS in Black communities. AID Atlanta dedicates most of it’s, seemingly begrudged, 6 million dollars supporting the life needs of people living with AIDS. Medical care and housing are commodities AID Atlanta spends its money on. These organizations have employed scores of employees with the expressed intention of curbing HIV among Black Gay men. To suggest that because ASOs don’t give money to Black Gay Pride they’re not concerned about Black Gay men is ridiculous and offensive!

Black LGBT people will spend millions with companies that have never spent a dime supporting BGP. Where are ITLA’s allegations against the scores of corporations that have never supported BGP but reap the benefits again and again? If ITLA spent the same amount of time soliciting corporations as they spend trying to tax the scarce resources of other nonprofits they would easily raise there alleged $75,000 budget. Where are ITLA’s admonishments against the hotels and clubs that will pack themselves to capacity thanks to BGP? If ITLA used the same advocacy against the huge companies that rake in the dough and snub their sponsorship requests, as they use against ASOs they might be able to demand support from these companies with the same entitlement with which they demand support from struggling charitable organizations.

While ITLA seems happy with DHRs donation to them, in 2006 though they are the most affected by AIDS, DHR did not give a grant to a single group to support HIV prevention among Black Gay Men within the metro Atlanta area. Maybe some of ITLA’s media advocacy skills should be directed at breaking that story instead of trying to Gestapo NAESM and AID Atlanta into breaking there banks.

I am greatly offended by ITLAs attacks against organizations that have supported the actual lives of many Black Gay men who are living with HIV. ITLA has misdirected the frustration, that comes from scraping together scarce resources, at charity groups while they should be going after some of the huge companies that will once again reap benefits and not write a check to ITLA.

Sincerely Bothered,

Kevin E. Bynes

Friday, August 25, 2006

Divide and Conquer

Aron Ranen's Black Hair Documentary Part One

I recieved this video in an email from a Yahoo group called 'Black Young Professional Public Health Network'and I was disturbed for obvious reasons. Below is my emailed response to the video. I think the enteprising of the Jews in Germany was a reason used to murder 6 million. What treatment of Koreans will be justified because many of them own Beauty Supply Stores? Please read below:

“The same dog that bit me bit you, we look like fools fighting each other, lets go get the dog.” –Elijah Muhammad-

I would be much more interested, particularly on this public health list, in hearing what proportion of health care services consumed by Black people are provided by black people. How has the health industry profited on Black peoples health disparities?

I would be much more interested in hearing, on this public health list, what proportion of housing consumed by black people is provide by black people. How have inner city housing owners profited by Black people lack of home ownership?

What proportion of primary, secondary and post secondary education consumed by black people is provided by black people? How has the education industry profited by Black folks lack of ownership of education institutions? Did you know that a good number of the HBCUs that we attend were founded by white men? Did you know that many of those HBCUs have white dominated Boards?

What proportion of food that we consume is produced by black people? How has the food industry and the grocery industry profited from the lack of black owned grocery stores. Is Koolaid and Churches Chicken owned by Koreans?

I realize that black people really want a reason to hate Koreans and I sympathize. But targeting Koreans because the have captured a large share of a particular market as “unfair” and some how against black people is silly. Attempting to paint Koreans as predators or oppressors is misguided. There is nothing more wrong with Koreans owning most of the hair shops than there is with Koreans owning most of the nail shops. Koreans cannot be placed at fault for the lack of Black entrepreneurship. I would have thought we would have learned our lessons during the Rodney King riots. Remember us destroying our communities to get back at Koreans while the areas where the police who had abused Rodney lived, were left unscathed? Koreans are not to blame years of social inequality that have driven black people into ghettos and that have driven Koreans into ghettos are to blame.

The question then remains: Are the above industries dominated by Koreans too? If they are not who do we blame? Mexicans? Japanese? Jews? What other people of color group should we target instead of targeting the systematic oppression of us all?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Craig Washington on Peter Jennings Out Of Control AIDS Special

Below is a very honest and passionate critique of the recently run Special Edition of ABC News 'PrimeTime' with Terry Moran and Peter Jennings, Out Of Control: AIDS in Black America. This is an email sent in the dead of night by veteran Atlanta Social Justice and AIDS activist Craig Washington. Because I was very busy (watching South Park re-runs) I did not have time to watch the show that Keith Boykin prophetically predicted would be a dangerous return to the Gay Baiting DL conversations of last year. Enjoy your reading:

Way Out of Control

The highly publicized Peter Jennings ABC TV special on AIDS in Black America (aired August 24th) was quite aptly entitled "Out of Control". Because that is what it was. A fool. With the exception of some cogent remarks by Phill Wilson and David Malebranche, most of the commentary about Black gay/same gender loving men was obviously edited to depict us as the harbingers of disease for Black innocents-women and children. The focus on Black gay men being conflated into yet another down low diatribe--out of control. Peter Jennings shaming gay brothas about infecting their wives--portrayed as if they were helpless victims destroyed by their no count triflin sexually depraved husbands--out of control. One of the few dignified moments came when brother Michael Banner called Jennings out on his self righteous indictment. Oh and did you catch the sequenced dl baiting of sanctimonious Black women who blame the plague on men who have sex with men? Notice how their sweeping statements went unchecked, and way out of control. I gagged at the paternalistic nerve of the reporter who asked Jesse Jackson, whom the white media has apparently crowned as King of Black America, how this could have happened on "your watch." I guess they forgot to mention how President Ronald Reagan, the "great communicator" avoided mentioning AIDS for years while gays and people of color were ticking off like mayflies during his watch. White men like Jennings and his cohorts who have controlled the media for the span of the epidemic and are just now getting around to having a Primetime special about the subject, they exemplify the height of white supremacist arrogance--out of control and off the chain. Let us not forget Passa Megapimp TD Jakes excusing the silence, judgement, and misinformation promulgated by black pastors by claiming that AIDS was not in the Bible. Coon, thou art loosed--Jakes is a laughably tragic clown--a dangerous minstrel in the conservatives' court. Throughout the whole self congratulatory program, there was little acknowledgement of the symbiotic connections between homophobia, misogyny, class oppression and AIDS. No critique of prevention dollars for gay men being held hostage to puritanical ideologies. No examination of young Black gay and bisexual mens lives, those who are much more profoundly affected than Black women or any other population in the U.S. No queries about flat funding for Ryan White dollars in the face of increasing needs and shrinking resources. This mess was hella out of control. And so are we. Black People. Have we reached a new low in our willingness, our readiness to be bought off to tell lies or bossed to say nothing?I need a community of people who are capable of doing whatever, whenever as Essex Hemphill challenged. At this point, I do not think I have the luxury of particular preferences about the sexual orientation, race or ethnicity of those who are willing to make real the vision for our salvation.

Craig Washington
"Your crown has been bought and paid for. All you must do is put it on your head." James Baldwin

Michigan Women's Music Festival Controversy

August 22, 2006


Hart, Michigan - Seeking to correct misinformation widely distributed by "Camp Trans" organizers, Michigan Womyn's Music Festival founder and producer Lisa Vogel released the following clarification:
"Since 1976, the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival has been created by and for womyn-born womyn, that is, womyn who were born as and have lived their entire life experience as womyn. Despite claims to the contrary by Camp Trans organizers, the Festival remains a rare and precious space intended for womyn-born womyn."
The facts surrounding the interactions between WWTMC and Camp Trans organizers are as follows:
In the months preceding this year's Festival, held August 8 - 13, there was communication between a Camp Trans organizer named Lorraine and Lisa Vogel.
Letters from Lorraine continued during the Festival, when they were hand-delivered to the Festival's front gate from Camp Trans, which takes place on Forest Service Land across from Festival property. On Tuesday, August 8th, Camp Trans organizers inquired at the Box Office about Festival admission. They were told that the Festival is intended for womyn-born womyn, and that those who seek to purchase tickets are asked to respect that intention. Camp Trans organizers left without purchasing tickets. They returned the next day and were given the same information. Lorraine at that point chose to purchase a ticket.
On Wednesday, August 9th, Vogel sent a reply letter to Lorraine which stated in
"I deeply desire healing in our communities, and I can see and feel that you want that too. I would love for you and the other organizers of Camp Trans to find the place in your hearts and politics to support and honor space for womyn who have had the experience of being born and living their life as womyn. I ask that you respect that womon born womon is a valid and honorable gender identity. I also ask that you respect that womyn born womyn deeply need our space -- as do all communities who create space to gather, whether that be womyn of color, trans womyn or trans men . . . I wish you well, I want healing, and I believe this is possible between our communities, but not at the expense of deeply needed space for womyn born womyn."
Page 2 of 3
Vogel's written request that Camp Trans organizers respect the Festival as womynborn- womyn space was consistent with information provided to Camp Trans organizers who approached the Festival Box Office. "Does this represent a change in the Festival's commitment to womyn-born womyn space? No." says Vogel. "If a transwoman purchased a ticket, it represents nothing more than that womon choosing to disrespect the stated intention of this Festival."
"As feminists, we call upon the transwomen's community to help us maintain womyn only space, including spaces created by and for womyn-born womyn.
sisters in struggle, we call upon the transwomen's community to meditate upon, recognize and respect the differences in our shared experiences and our group identities even as we stand shoulder to shoulder as women, and as members of the greater queer community. We once again ask the transwomen's community to recognize that the need for a separate womyn-born womyn space does not stand at odds with recognizing the larger and beautiful diversity of our shared community."
* * *
In an effort to build further understanding of the Festival's perspective, answers are provided to questions raised by the recent Camp Trans press release (which contains misinformation):
Why would the Festival sell a ticket to an individual who is not a womonborn womon if the Festival is intended as a space created by and for womyn-born womyn? From its inception the Festival has been home to womyn who could be considered gender outlaws, either because of their sexual orientation (lesbian, bisexual, polyamorous, etc.) or their gender presentation (butch, bearded, androgynous, femme - and everything in between). Many womyn producing and attending the Michigan Festival are gender variant womyn. Many of the younger womyn consider themselves differently gendered, many of the older womyn consider themselves butch womyn, and the dialogue is alive and well on the Land as our generational mix continues to inform our ongoing understanding about gender identity and the range of what it means to be female. Michigan provides one of the safest places on the planet for womyn who live and present themselves to the world in the broadest range of gender _expression. As Festival organizers, we refuse to question anyone's gender. We instead ask that womon-born womon be respected as a valid gender identity, and that the broad queer and gender-diverse communities respect our commitment to one week each year for womyn-born womyn to gather.
Did the Festival previously refuse to sell tickets to transwomen? The Festival has consistently communicated our intention about who the Festival is created by and for. In 1999, Camp Trans protesters caused extensive disruption of the Festival, in which a male from Camp Trans publicly displayed male genitals in a common shower area and widespread disrespect of women's space was voiced.
The following year, our 25th anniversary, we issued a statement that we would not sell tickets to those entering for the purpose of disrupting the Festival. While this is widely pointed to by Camp Trans supporters as a "policy," it was a situational Page 3 of 3 response to the heated circumstances of 1999, intended to reassure the womyn who have attended for years that the Festival remained - as it does today - intended for womyn who were born as and have lived their entire life experience as womyn, despite the disrespect and intentional disruption Camp Trans initiated.
Is the Festival transphobic? We strongly assert there is nothing transphobic with choosing to spend one week with womyn who were born as, and have lived their lives as, womyn. It is a powerful, uncommon experience that womyn enjoy during this one week of living in the company of other womyn-born womyn. There are many opportunities in the world to share space with the entire queer community, and other spaces that welcome all who define themselves as female.
Within the rich diversity now represented by the broader queer community, we believe there is room for all affinity groups to enjoy separate, self-determined, supportive space if they choose. Supporting womyn-born womyn space is no more inherently transphobic than supporting womyn of color space is racist.
We believe
that womyn-born womyn have a right to gather separately from the greater womyn's community. We refuse to be forced into false dichotomies that equate being pro-womyn-born womyn space with being anti-trans; indeed, many of the womyn essential to the Michigan Festival are leaders and supporters of transsolidarity work. The Michigan Womyn's Music Festival respects the transsexual community as integral members of the greater queer community. We call upon the transsexual community in turn to respect and support womyn-born womyn space and to recognize that a need for a separate womyn-born womyn space does not stand at odds with recognizing transwomen as part of the larger diversity of the womyn's community.
What is Camp Trans? Camp Trans was first created in 1994 as a protest to the Festival as womyn-born womyn space. Camp Trans re-emerged in 1999 and has been held across the road from the Festival every year since. A small gathering of people who camp and hold workshops and a few performances on Forest Service land across the road, Camp Trans attempts to educate womyn who are attending the Festival about their point of view regarding trans inclusion at the Festival. At times they have advocated for the Festival to welcome anyone who, for whatever period of time, defines themselves as female, regardless of the sex they were born into. At other times, Camp Trans activists have advocated opening the Festival to all sexes and genders.
What is the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival? It is the largest and longest running womyn's festival in the United States. Since the first Festival in 1976, tens of thousands of womyn from all corners of the world have made the pilgrimage to this square mile of land in Northern Michigan. The essence of the Festival is that it is one week a year that is by, for and about the glorious diversity of womyn-born womyn and we continue to stand by our labor of love to create this space. Our focus has not changed in the 31 years of our celebration and it remains fixed on the goal of providing a celebratory space for a shared womyn-born-womyn experience.

This statement was sent out by the organizers of camp trans and later debunked by the organizers of the Michigan Women's Music Festival

For over a decade the Michigan Women's Music Festival has descriminated against transgender women by barring them from the festival. This year that tradition of exclusion has ended!

Once again, I think there are lessons that Women's communities have to offer larger "Progressive" and "Radical" communities.

Read on:

HART, MICHIGAN - The Michigan Women's Music Festival began admitting openly trans (transgender/transsexual) women last week, bringing success to a longstanding struggle by trans activists both inside and outside the festival.

"Seeing trans women inside the festival for the first time brought me to tears," said Sue Ashman, who attends the festival every year. "It's restored my faith in women's communities."

Ashman said "I have friends who have already committed to bringing themselves and others for the first time next year."

Organizers of Camp Trans, the annual protest across the road from the festival, say that every year at least one trans woman at Camp Trans walks to the festival gate with a group of supporters, explains that she is trans, and tries to buy a ticket. In past years, the festival box office has produced a printed copy of the policy and refused.

"This time, the response was, 'cash or credit?'" said Jessica Snodgrass, a Camp Trans organizer and festival attendee who spent the week reaching out to supporters inside the fest. "They said the festival has no policy barring any woman from attending."

The woman purchased her ticket on Wednesday and joined supporters inside the festival. Another trans woman, Camp Trans organizer Emilia Lombardi, joined on Friday to facilitate a scheduled workshop discussion on the recently-retired policy.

"This kind of discussion has happened before inside the fest," said Lombardi. "But for the first time in years, trans women were part of the conversation. Over 50 women shared their thoughts about what the inclusion of trans women means for the Festival and how we can move forward."

"We didn't expect to change anyone's minds in the workshop - but in the end we didn't need to. The support we found was overwhelming."

Both trans women say they were moved by how friendly and supportive other festival attendees were.

"We spent all day inside the festival, talking with other women about how Michigan has grown to embrace the diversity of women's experience," Lombardi said. "The attitudes of festival goers have definitely shifted since the early 90's."

With their original mission accomplished, organizers say Camp Trans will continue to be a place for trans people and allies to build community, share ideas, and develop strategies for change. And they will keep working together with festival workers and attendees to make sure trans women who attend the fest next year have support and resources.

Camp Trans will partner with a group of supporters inside the fest next year to establish an anti-transphobia area within the festival. Representatives from Camp Trans and A group of festival workers and attendees, organizing under the name "The Yellow Armbands," plan to educate people on trans issues and provide support to trans and differently gendered women. Festival attendees have worn yellow armbands for the past three years as a symbol of pro-trans inclusion solidarity.

Both Camp Trans and supporters at the fest say they are excited to be working together to welcome trans women and support a trans-inclusive, women-only space.

"This is not about winning," said Snodgrass. "It's about making our communities whole again. The policy divided people against each other who could be fighting on the same side. We want to be part of the healing process."

Camp Trans ( is an effort to end discrimination against trans women within women's communities. For 14 years, Camp Trans has been a site for trans people and allies to protest the policy, build community, and develop strategies for change.


The festival's policy against trans women was first enforced in 1991, when festival security ejected Nancy Burkholder from the grounds of the festival.

As the largest women-only festival of its kind, and as one of the few remaining women's events to openly discriminate against trans women, the
festival was well known for its policy, drawing criticism from trans activists and festival attendees. Two years ago, a group of attendees deployed a 25-foot banner opposing the policy during the headline act.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Pithy Points On "No Fats No Fems"

I thought that Pithy Points, an Intersex person, presented a demension of the conversation that our discussion sorta missed. Please read on.

Beautifully, reading this blog makes it seem like the 1980s again when many, many deeply thoughtful gay and lesbian people of color roundly debated an ever more rich array of issues from complicated perspectives.

I have missed that energy--an energy that seemed to wane as so many of the people I knew and/or respected like Essex, Joe Beam, Jennifer Smith, Miss Pepper Labeija, Marcel Christian, or Mother Dorian Corey died of HIV and other causes. So too did the rising fetishization of theoretical jargon and concept-dropping among gay and lesbian scholars become a means to distance ourselves from issues in favor of ever more ornamental rhetorical displays.

Online communities have facilitated a new renaissance in discussions of African American sexualities. My regret is that sometimes these discussions often collaspe into worthy but also painfully personal jockeyings for position among ourselves. This kind of positioning for leadership-recognition is hardly new: G. Winston James was Essex Hemphill's critic and many still bristle that cults of influence developed around Essex and not other equally wise poets and essayists. Audre Lorde critiqued Alice Walker's concept of Womanism as disrespectful to Black Feminism as a concept and a practice. AIDS among gay men (and women too) and breast cancer among lesbians truly seemed to level the field though. The spectre of death made us work together with more solidarity in different ways.

After the early 1990s, with the rise of important and often wise but also very narcissistic and agressive-cum-passive aggressive leaders like Keith Boykin, I moved away from public discussions. Being attacked by black gay men is a terrible thing, let me tell you--a terrrible thing that is equally as horrible as being attacked by any other group for our ideas or our appearence.

Today, with a newer generation of young college-educated or education-pursuing black gay men in their twenties and thirties, there is, I feel, even more snarkiness, hostility and narcissicism. I found Frank Leon Roberts justifications for that narcissicism on the original June 6th 2006 post on Kevin's blogs very unconvincing and full of the kind of fetishizing of theory and ornamental rhetoric that is so prized in the queer theories that dominate many graduate students' education in sexuality today. However, after his initial response to Mr. Roberts, I found Dr. Heru's increasingly counter-productive rejoiners in reaction to Mr. Roberts to be unworthy of either of these men's erudition and a mistake of reason. Two or more wrongs never, ever make a right.

What has been lost in the increasingly narcissistic and overly personalized exchanges is a deep critique of the exclusionary erotic practices that have always (in my mind) infected gay male sex-worlds (to say nothing of lesbians).

As one of the few openly intersexed people of color who has been active in social justice concerns since the 1980s, the cast of my very genitals and body have stigmatized me erotically among gays. [Please see the following link for appropriate definitions and ideas related to intersexed conditions: No one has stigmatized me more (laughed at me, called me inappropriate names, accused me of lying and tried to pull my pants down or physical harm me, tried to photograph me in bars while using the stalls, placed mean comments online about my body, admonished me for making money off of my intersexed conditions when I performed at NYC's Show Palace in the 1980s while also defaming me for supposedly not being honest as 'not a true gay man' or a 'true lesbian' or a true anything)--no one has stigmatized me more in sexualized situations and elsewhere than gay men.

I thought that being abused in foster care as a child (in part because of my conditions) would be the most trying pain of my life until I tried to chart my own erotic course among gays and lesbians (and men in particular).

Why are so many gay men and straight men so committed to erotic synecdoche: parts for wholes, and penis and superficial muscularity above all). [On the term synecdoche see the following:]

The hurt that I have felt (and sometimes still feel) is real. Having a "perfect" body is so prized among gay men (even when the body is, in reality, hardly perfect) that they seem to forget about the basic hurt of erotic exclusion and the horrible generalizations that arise when we exclude and demean people for being fem, fat, not buff, too black, too Asian, or, in my case, "deformed."

I think in the present discussions of body fascism we quickly moved away from Kevin Bynes' original call to interrogate the pitch and substance of our desire when we exclude others based on very, very superficial and shallow aspects of appearence (like body size, skin color, genital shape, etc) in public forums like personal ads and promotions for sex parties (this was a call that Kevin Bynes and then commenters like Dr. Heru made in the discussion section after Kevin Bynes' original 6/06 post.

Excluding "fats and fems" is a form of discrimination that hurts and diminishes us just as much as excluding (overtly or covertly) "coloreds" from water fountains OR, even more importantly, white gay bars. Audre Lorde was more than right when she said that there really are no hierarchies of oppression.

The problem, for me, is the lack of sensitivity and searching that often arises when the hunt for sex and the "rubber-necking" for beautiful bodies gets turned on. Black gay worlds socialize this problem in different ways than predominately white gay worlds but the basic lack of sensitivity and searching overlaps and persists.

All the depth of thinking that may be evident in a person's life at other times seems to fall away as the person gives into an exclusionary erotics.

Thank you for this belated opportunity to share my view.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

"They're peddling death"

"The promoter of the Raw Dukes sex party in Harlem in May banned safer sex, hoping to maximize his profits. A loud protest shut him down, but the underground industry of largely condom-free parties aimed at men of color is still thriving in New York City. AIDS educators have barely begun to fight back, while health advocates fear the trend could spread across the country."

The above quote is from a cover story from this months Advocate a Gay Men's Magazine. Please read the entire article by clicking on the above link.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

McKinney Election Night Remarks

"The news media didn't tell you about that because they wanted you to focus on my hair!"

In the film American Blackout, you saw that I say that my district needs jobs. And so, in partnership with faith-based organizations and labor, I put together a program to train my constituents to acquire the skills for jobs that won't be outsourced overseas, and that pay more than a living wage, with health and retirement benefits. Last month, we took in 500 students. Who at the end of their training will have transportable skills, internationally-recognized certification, and a chance to live the American dream, supporting their families and our community.

The news media didn't tell you about that because they wanted you to focus on my hair!

Tonight my mother was hurt by someone in this room, a member of the press. My staff assistant was hurt by someone in this room, a member of the press.

I first got into trouble when I was compelled in 1991, while serving in the Georgia Legislature, to speak against George Herbert Walker Bush's war against Iraq. And during a point of personal privilege, I declared that I could not support *any* of George Bush's reasons for war.

My colleagues got up and walked out on me, I was vilified in the press, and compared to Julian Bond, who too had spoken out against an unjust war.

Ladies and gentlemen, there comes a time when people of conscience are compelled to dissent.

Bobby Kennedy said, "The sharpest criticism often goes hand in hand with the deepest idealism and love of country."

We love our country, and that is why we dissent: because we care.

We care about the dignity of all the world's people.

We care about minimum wage workers; we care about no wage workers;

we care about the homeless--too many of whom are veterans;

we want a healthy future for all our children;

we want our seniors to live in dignity.

Our country is too rich to tolerate such poverty in our midst.

We have more to give to our people and the world than DynCorp, Halliburton, and the Carlyle Group.

We care about the air and the earth and the water. And so we reject George Bush's science lessons that distort the facts and justify policies that support drilling for oil in Alaska; exacerbate global warming; and allow more human consumption of known toxins and pollutants.

We care about the projection of US power around the world. Either we can be a force for good in the world; or we can rely on force and upset the world.

Sadly, this Administration has chosen the latter.

At a time when this country has failed to train enough certified teachers to educate our children, George Bush is spending billions, nearly one trillion, dollars for war. And in a point of personal privilege right now I echo what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "A time comes when silence is betrayal; we are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation, for those it calls 'enemy.'"

One year to the day before Dr. King was murdered, he declared that the greatest purveyor of violence in the world was his own country.

With Israel's invasion of Lebanon, there might even be a call for more US or UN troops to be stationed in the Middle East, we--here tonight--say to our Commander-in-Chief: Sir, No Sir.

And so, before we engage in yet more war, I declare tonight that we stand with the families of our hurt soldiers and the hundreds of thousands of innocent hurt and dead Iraqis.

We stand with the homeless Vietnam and Gulf War veterans.

We stand with the Agent Orange victims and the 160,000 sick Gulf War veterans.

We stand with the 37,000 green card soldiers, not even citizens, but willing to trade their lives for a chance to live and work in America because our foreign policy has failed to uplift their hopes and aspirations in their own countries.

Dr. King told us that in order to stop the madness we would have to match actions with words. Mario Savio before that told us that we have to put our very bodies against the wheels and the gears and the levers of the machine and we have to say to those who own it, that they must stop it, or we will stop it.

Tonight I am joined by noted men and women activists who have put their bodies against the wheels and the gears and the levers of the machine and they are trying to stop it. They are not tricked by red herrings that the corporate media throw to us. They are focused on our objective to make America a better country.

Something is happening around the world: countries with little or nothing are standing up, rising up against the utter and complete domination.

Thank goodness for the people in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Venezuela, Malaysia, all standing up and speaking for the weak and the voiceless in their countries. A change is sweeping the world. And America must not be left out.

So my new friends are the mothers who have lost their sons in George Bush's war and we say to them hold fast to your faith--your suffering will not be a stumbling block for us. We will make this stand with you--you are not alone.

Denise Thomas, daughter went to Iraq once and when they tried to send her a second time, Mama got political. She's now the founder of the Georgia Chapter of Military Families Speak Out. First told her story at a prayer vigil organized by Ann Mauney. Prayed at by Reverend Timothy McDonald.

Then one mother who wasn't so lucky. She couldn't save her son from the War Machine. The first Georgia soldier to die in Iraq came from the 4th District. Patricia Roberts, Jamal Addison's mother, now politically active and my new friend.

Another mother, lost her son, Casey, and decided to take her case directly to President Bush. Cindy Sheehan.

There's something special about these women. Their names aren't Deborah, or Esther, or Ruth. But they are women for these times. Women, called to make peaceful revolution.

President Kennedy warned us that "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

Electronic voting machines are a threat to our democracy!

So let the word go out: we aren't going to tolerate any more stolen elections; we're watching you. And we want our leaders back--or we will become the leaders.

And not only do we want our country back, we want our Party back.

There *is* a growing force for peace in this country. And the peace movement that we are building is backed by millions of young people. I want to thank the hundreds of people who volunteered in our campaign, especially the young people who were excited about getting involved in something good.

Thank you all for a lot of hard work, thank you for the thousands of volunteer hours, thank you for helping to make a stand in Georgia.

I wish the new representative for the 4th Congressional District well.

A snake in the bush is easy to fight. But one already in the house becomes a problem!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A Dark Day For Georgia: McKinney Voted Out

Ever since I came to Congress in 1992, there are those who have been trying to silence my voice. I've been told to "sit down and shut up" over and over again. Well, I won't sit down and I won't shut up until the full and unvarnished truth is placed before the American people. –Cynthia Ann McKinney, (US Congressman 1993-2006)-

August 8, 2006- At 12:30 this evening, Cynthia McKinney conceded the race for the Georgia’s Fourth Congressional District Representative seat. According to reports McKinney received 41% of the vote while her opponent, Hank Johnson, received 59% of the vote in the Democratic Primary election.

Johnson ran a campaign condemning McKinney for being too controversial, claiming that McKinney, during her years of representing the Fourth Congressional District, stirred up controversy rather than advocating for her district. Johnson appealed to voters by calling into question McKinney’s effectiveness as a legislator claiming that she does not have the political clout to realize legislation.

Much like Denise Majette, who defeated McKinney in a 2003 primary, Johnson presented himself to voters as the more conservative Democratic candidate and has received thousands of dollars in campaign donations from Republicans who want McKinney out of there hair. He has also been vocal about his support for Israeli attacks on the Lebanese people stating “Israel has the right to defend itself.” An assertion that won Johnson thousands of campaign dollars from Conservative Jewish PACs. Johnson’s success is credited, by some, to whites in the district rushing to the polls. Johnson who is a 2 term Dekalb County Commissioner and a 12 year associate judge, defends his record as a “Life long Democrat.” ;)

McKinney has been criticized lately because of a claim by a Capitol Hill police officer that she attacked him. While a Capitol Hill police investigation allegedly found enough evidence to charge McKinney a Grand Jury did not. Although McKinney was exonerated she has never been truly vindicated and her opponent was able to capitalize on the controversy generated by the incident.

McKinney lost a race once before because of national controversy. In 2002 after controversy that flared when she informed the American people that George Bush and his administration had information that could have prevented the 9/11 attacks on the country, she came under unprecedented attacks by the media liberal and conservative alike and lost the Democratic primary to Denis Majette. In 2004 when the 9/11 report was published McKinney was once again not vindicated within the court of public opinion. McKinney was able to regain her congressional post in 2005.

Apparently the controversy that Mr. Johnson has been referring to is the back lash that McKinney often faces for telling the truth and standing up for her constituents and the American people. In our politically corrupt nation of Oil Industry mogul presidents and the highest gas prices in history I can see how some might be concerned about a person like that holding public office. A politician that represents the interest of her constituency might very well seem ineffective, controversial and even dangerous.

Hank Johnson must face a republican opponent Catherine Davis, who is not heavily favored, in the November elections.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Policing Desire = Race Card

My recent critique of a post on LarryLyons II was met by a flurry of words meant to fatigue me; which they did. Lots and lots of words and answers posed as questions that I was not supposed to answer. Like:

“Is it impossible for John Stewart to critique white privilege if he benefits from it?” (can you hear the implicit answer that one is supposed to arrive at?)

Yes, certainly.

(But there is another question)

Is it possible for me to accept his critique as authentic when he is working (4 times a week in the gym, is it, Larry?) to keep his privilege in place?

No, AB-solutely not.(LOL)

Thus, exhausted I ended my participation in the blog discussion. Then the discussion continued on my blog.

Larry commented that drawing the connection between “No Fats No Fems” and Jim Crow laws was overly simplistic, strategically worthless, alienating, and dangerously close to “policing desire.”

I thought it was beautifully simple, striking, empathy inducing, and dangerously close to letting desire off the hook. It was an image coupled with four words that are popular within the cultural language of black gay men. And the intention of having a conversation on my blog about No Fats no fems was realized months later, thanks mostly to Larry’s abs.

Social Justice Lessons

I’ve learned through years as a Social Justice trainer, who made a cute penny at white college queer alliance conferences, that no matter how well intentioned people who come from privilege or people who have privilege are, they have every reason to protect by struggle and fight-to-death their privilege. Whether we are talking about Men, White people, people from class, heterosexuals or able bodied people, the above is true.

The second thing that I learned is that silence is the glue that keeps oppression in place (NCBI). If we don’t talk about it disenfranchised people who know of their oppression, will never truly know the full impact of that oppression or the differences between the lives they live and the lives that the people of privilege live. This means, to me, that in the struggle to defend privilege the people of privilege are wedded to silence. We do not discuss, in proper taste and proper places, race, class, disability, women’s rights, etc. We do not mention whiteness. We do not discuss body privilege or question that people who are conventionally attractive have privilege. Be clear that when I say privilege I mean benefits that are undeserved and unearned. We certainly do not discuss the disenfranchisement of Fat people, black people, feminine people, women, disabled people, and what those listed and those not listed, lose as a result of there being outside of convention, or being fringe. If we do discuss these things we are accused. We pay dearly. We are lashed by people of privilege.

The third thing I learned is: There is an inherit complicity with the abuse and subsequent suffering of the disenfranchised whenever one, consciously or unconsciously “accesses” (accepts the benefits of) privilege.

The fourth thing that I remember from my social justice work is this: As a way to deal with the guilt that inevitably arises from knowing about one’s own privilege and knowing about the impact of one’s own privilege on the lives of the disenfranchised, people of privilege do a couple of things:

1) Deny that the privilege exist all-together and reduce the voices of the disenfranchised to complaining (Race card). This method usually involves blaming the disinfranchised for their condition as well.

2) Attempt to associate themselves with the disenfranchised group which amounts to cooption of the disenfranchised identity. White wigger identified individuals and skinny big-gurl identified gay men fall into this category. Also those "allies" who's alliance is always rhetorical and never active.

3) Declare themselves disenfranchised and hold up the ways in which they are disenfranchised as a shield to being challenged about their complicity with the disenfranchisement of others. "I am not a receipient of white priviledge I'm a poor woman." or ???Intellectuals in sexualized positions are subversive???

Protecting Privilege

1) Others and I who critique the use of body privilege by one who identifies as feminist and queer, are accused of being in pain and reacting to “our own stuff.” This is not unlike the habit of white people accusing black people who acknowledge racism of having a “chip on the shoulder” or “playing the race card.” This is not unlike calling women who advocate for there rights as humans bitches. Disinfranchised people must not dare mention there disenfranchisement! When they do, it is because of their own anger and bitterness and not because of “what had happened.”

3)We are accused of policing desire? I believe that the term “policing desire” is equal to the term “race card” in this instance. It’s a term used to say "shame on you" when people who are on the outside challenge people on the inside of privilege.