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: http://www.isna.org/faq/. 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: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synecdoche.]
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.