Thursday, December 25, 2008

More stuff to do

You may find my to-do lists tedious and boring. I am putting them online in an attempt to pressure myself into actually completing them. Nothing like commitment to a largely anonymous and nebulous audience, right?

More stuff to do:

13) Make mix CD's for friends
14) Get back in contact with people I've abandoned
15) Have Important Conversations
16) Call Family members
17) Clean room
18) Clean car
19) Sell car
20) Read something fun

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Hanukkah Y'all

I made a cute hanukkah card and thought I'd post some images from it here.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Goals for the Break

So here I am in Brattleboro where it seems that living in VT is catching up with me. Recovery from the ice storm is sill challenging many of the residents of Marlboro and snow is piling high everywhere I look. This time it's the light fluffy kind, cotton snuggling around the cars, and dandelion fuzz collecting in heaps at the end of driveways.

Knowing that I may bes tuck in my house for more of this break than I'd like, I am reverting back to old habits. I am making lists. Here is my list of things to do before I go back to school.

1)Write a submission for La Revista, a feminist-anarchist publication in Barcelona
2)Do my take home final exams and final papers
3)Write an article about polyamory for a zine
4)Turn my Trans Pride paper into a zine
5)Start up the queer resource library at school
6)Intern at the Sexual minorities archives
7)Make a proposal to organizations in town for internships
8)Edit together Jamie's plan performance
9)Send holiday cards
10)Sell my car
11)Edit together interview clip for my website
12)Do something really sweet for my girlfriend

Monday, December 15, 2008

Weathering the storm

Despite days without power and a full campus evacuation, things are settling down. There is a provisional power line up at the college so the administrative building is there and we can make contact from town.

The college sent everyone who could work remotely home. An all-community meeting gathered to hear the president give a belated fire-side chat.

The hum of chainsaws emanate from the recesses of the Marlboro woodland. Carpools are heading into town to restock cupboards. Men with cranes will be picking up wires for days yet. Vermont has risen again in community and kindness, with a slightly more pronounced survivalist undertone.

My email works.

My final exam was canceled and my other deadlines got way extended.

And the world turns...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ice Storm Wreaks Havoc on Marlboro College

It's been days since Marlboro, VT has had power. Power goes out in our backwoods corner of the universe fairly regularly. Students stop working and start drinking. The campus becomes a playground of sorts with sleepovers in unlocked buildings with better insulation that the dorms. We joke about it. We got Marlboro College flash lights at registration one year. But this is not the normal power outage.

Two days ago there was a huge ice storm. They closed Route 9, the only main road to the college. It's one of the largest roads in this part of Vermont. I hear from an EMT that there are hundreds of trees down on the 3 mile stretch of South Road, upon which the college is located. power lines, cell towers, even landlines are decimated, lying acros the road in frozen heaps.

I have a friend who cannot get into his driveway because there are three trees down before you even get there.

The dorms are all equipt with electric heating and the only stoves on campus are electric too. The water stops when the power goes out because we depend on an electric pump to get the water up the mountain. We only have a back up generator for one of the dorms and for the Dinning Hall. After two days, the students have been ushered from their dorms. Several are sleeping on the dining hall floor in sleeping bags. Others are crowded into the common spaces of the dorm. Professors and staff members are taking kids into their personal houses. Despite the road closures, the college took a van of kids to hotel rooms for the night.

The server (read e-mail and website) is down, so the school has no way to contact the students like me who live in town and have heat, water, etc.

Finals were supposed to be this weekend into early next week. I have no idea what we're gonna do.

Stay Tuned for more.

Fucking Queers: A Dream

I just had a fucked up dream:

I was in a large building. Marble-lined corridors and stone archways made me feel as if I were in some lesser-known of Jefferson's creations. I emerged from the voting booth in time to hear a voice from above me say that the NAACP had endorse this candidate. I looked around in confusion and closely-shaven black man on the second floor veranda. It was Zorn (a real person I know, believe it or not) dressed in a black general's coat with gold buttons that stretched almost to the floor. He strolled down the elaborate, sprawling staircase with them.

Zorn is an african-american liberal. Why wasn't he supporting Obama? Furthermore, why was he tricking voters into thinking he was with the NAACP? I walked over deliberately, assuring myself that if I confronted him, he'd stop misrepresenting himself. "The NAACP doesn't endorse political candidate. It's a political action coalition. It pushes legislation, not candidates."

His eyes lowered, "Oh. Oh well, that's cool." He took of the jacket that had given him some aspect of importance and esteem. He put on his red hoody, and he was gone.

A security guard sitting in a fold out chair summoned me over. "Hey kid, did you know thatwe have the original charter for the NAACP in this very building." The excited whisper with which he told em this information mad eit seem somewhere between telling me a secret nd braging to me. "we once had this guy working here. e was crazy. he tried to destroy it! It took several fulll-grown men to save it from him." I was vaguely intrigued, so I indulged the old man in tell-me-more faces. Then a friend fo mine passed by and offered me a ride back to wherever the hell w came from. I was disappointed to not hear the ending but I couldn't remember how I got there, so I decided I'd go with them.

"I'll be right there." I hollered and turned to the man oping he could consolidate this story for my trip. When I finally left to catch up wit them, I walked out into a parking lot, were there were about 70 people hanging around. Majority of the crowd were people of color, and I didn't see my ride anywhere around.

Assuming that most of them were Marlboro people (even though my college has nowhere near 70 people of color associated with it. More like 10.) I walked up to one of the drivers ad asked him, "Have you seen Charlie and Clire and Gabrielle."

"No, those chicks are probably bitches anyway." He made a contemptuous face before being corrected by some woman in the back seat,

"They're two dudes and girl, you idiot."

"Fucking Queers!" I back away from the car hesitantly. He was murmuring under his breath and was increasingly agitated. I decided to go stand over by where other people were, hoping that would minimize the chance that he would come after me.

As I walked up, I was looked around for someone, anyone who would acknowledge what had just happened. I just wanted to get out of here. Then, two large black women emerged form behind a car. "Fucking Queers!?!?!"

"What the Fuck's wrong with you?"

They approached the crowd, and at once there was a mob. I felt uneasy, they seemed to be on my side, but I could have been interpreting the situation wrong. I backed up to the outskirts of the crowd in response to her rallying cry. All at once the crowd poured forward beating on his car. One of the leading women held open the passenger door as he scrambled to unlock his driver door. They drug him out of the car. Part of me was exhilarated that an army of strangers was coming to my defense. Part of me was scared of how this was going to end. I knew it was beyond my control.

The man yelled out, "Hey white boy, you know you're gonna tell the cops what you see. You Ain't gonna turn your back, you ain't gonna stickin' up for any of them." The only white man in the crowd turned around in veyr deliberate fashion. He planted himself with his back on the whole scene for a few minutes before he casually walked away.

It seemed as if the stage was set. Like the point where they get to the barn in the Emit Till story or Bredan Teena. This is when bad shit happens.

The man managed somehow to break free of the people long enough to wedge himself into a weird padded box in the hood of his car. It looked almost like a squished up coffin. But it had a built-in helmet, the kind runway directors use. The mob closed in on him. The continued to beat into the frame of the car. People were trying to pull him out. A woman picked up some piece of detris from the parking lot and was wailing on the helmet.

At this point I was sure that no one would notice if I left. What would it mean to go get help? Had I settled upon a self-regulating community and this was how they settled things? What if he died?

And then I woke up. Pretty fucked up, eh?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

HRC is not for me (poster)

I just finished a thirty page paper and am putting in some original graphics. Here is a United ENDA poster I made using GIMP and a youtube video of people protest at an HRC banquet. If you want to find out more, look it up. Short story: the Human Rights Campaign fucked over trans people.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Activist Rehersal

I haven't been posting because I don't feel like I don't have much to tell you most days.

Unless you want to hear about Jewish Anarchism, about a history of radical political counter-culture in America, about assimilation and whiteness making, about radicalization through construction of the Judeo-Christian tradition in the armed services.

Or trans activism. How when we aren't explicit about our motivations, we can undermine them through our organizing. How the trans movement is endebted to second wave feminism. About how empowerment, consciousness-raising, and community building are ways of resisting transphobia in it multifront battleground. About how we forget this.

Thus is the life of an academic I suppose. Here's a try...

I remember the moist air that clung to my jugular as I climbed the stairs to a mod at Hamshire College last semester. Sweat mingled with pizza fumes as I pushed my way through the patch-clad clusters of grunge hold-outs and trannarchists. The room settled for the concert. Young people sprawled haphazardly around the anarchist with a guitar. Piercing matted faces hung in the doorway. Women in flannel sat Indian style, flowing over into cuddle piles on the floor. I came as I had spent most of my days since I moved to Northampton-alone.

The fragrance was distantly reminiscent of a place I could not stand to be anymore but the contrast was real. I felt at home here more than I had in months. Brattleboro hung on their tongues shaped in words like ecology and sustainable agriculture, but they fell silent as he began to wail. Indictments. Patriarchy and corporations. Train-hopping through tunes that laid bare my frustrations. I felt too vulnerable to make eye-contact. I felt to cozy not to.

I invited Evan Greer to my college hoping for a sense of community that always falls short of my expectations. I hoped he could some how jump start my commitment to this place I'd turned my back upon. For all of his charm, he could not. I choreographed the privilege walk effortlessly. I sketched the outline of social justice with my eyes closed. I day dreamed through the mind map of climate change. I was a learned yet terrible activist. I was bored. The exercises felt passe', rote, self-congratulatory even. I feel like I'm stuck in an activist rehearsal, and I'm waiting for the stage call...

Always Pretend You're Shopping

Lifted verbatim from a friend's blog (twice removed):

Two months ago 800 people were rounded up and arrested simply for sitting around in a park nearby a protest nearby the Republican National Convention, and charged with "conspiracy to riot."[Dane's insert: one of them was a poet-acquaintance who is currently fighting the charge]

Today 2,000 people trampled a Wal-Mart worker to death, and continued to harass and trample the police officers trying to give him first aid. Nobody was arrested or charged with anything. No rubber bullets were shot. Nobody was tasered. Nobody thought riot gear would be necessary.

The lesson? Always pretend you're shopping.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Transgender Oral History Exhibit


I started The Transgender Oral History Project as a means to uncover the rich, though often invisible history of transgender political activism. Stories including trans people often become a tiny portion of a subgroup that is largely dominated by normative elements who marginalize them in order to create an image that is more palatable to the mainstream. Furthermore, the narratives Americans are exposed to are so limiting—they are the stories of an individual who struggles with their own body or else the story of victimization by illogical violence. I want to tell different stories… ones that highlight how trans people have been pushed out of self-proclaimed safe spaces and have been abused by the psychiatric and medical establishments under the guise of treating them. I want to talk about the violence that happens when our entire society operates on logics that systematically force trans people to exist on the margins of society—refused healthcare, left out of government programming, and refused gainful employment. But I it would be missing the point to tell a history of oppression without the correlating history of resistance. I want to tell the stories of riots against police brutality, volunteering services in trans-specific health centers, reclaiming public spaces for people who have nowhere else to go, and civil rights marches for legal protections—a legacy of empowerment through community organizing.

Overview: The Basic Idea

I would like to create a multimedia historical exhibit that leads the audience in exploring the
issues that have fostered the evolution of the trans community over the past fifty years. I hope to engage viewers in the passage of time by creating a spatial representation of a timeline that they move through as they move through space. The timeline will portray the events and conditions trans people were operating within, but also the collective responses that enabled trans people to deal with these circumstances. I hope to make viewer think about how this community necessitated by a hostile environment that is not of its making but more importantly, to see the means by which this community has constituted itself.

I plan to accomplish this through using a combination of text, photography, ephemera, audio, and film. The central three AV elements will be video clips of vignettes from the Transgender Oral History Project situated within the context of the time period as created through the timeline. I am concerned with showing how the historical moment frames what is possible for people’s lives by showcasing stories that exemplify how this intersection is experienced.

Audience: Marlboro and Beyond

I see two distinct audiences for my piece—one of normative people with liberal political sympathies and one made up of people who understand themselves as gender-variant.
Of primary concern to me are people who understand themselves as gender-variant. I believe collective action and movement building begins with seeing ourselves as having common experiences and drawing from a shared sense of history as well as having shared ambitions for the future. This project is, at least in part, my own search for community, but I want it to extend further than that. I hope that I can engage other people who identify as transgender as seeing themselves as part of something larger. I want to reach people for whom exploring how the trans community has been shaped and where it is going, is a profoundly personal matter.
My goal is that I can communicate the continuing need for community while encouraging collective action.

My secondary audience is the Marlboro community. I anticipate this exhibit being different in two major ways. First of all, I intend to have more contextualizing information, more explanation and analysis. The purpose of the Marlboro version will be to introduce this community to the transgender community’s struggle and to make connections between the trans community and other communities we study or may even be a part of. In the process of exploring how transgender activism has intersected with, been co-opted by, and collided with the womyn’s and Gay and Lesbian rights movements, I want the community to think about inclusion within their own social circles and subcultures. Secondly, I will be hoping to address to concern stated above about how limited the portrayals of trans people are in mass media by presenting competing narratives. I want viewers to see a more multidimensional version of how trans people understand themselves within the context of broader society.

Logistics: Venues and Timing

Because it will be more of an overview, I feel like I already have access to the material I need in order to create this exhibit on campus. For this reason I would like to explore creating the exhibit next semester. I also understand the drawbacks since it would be more competitive to get gallery space and it would mean my outside examiner could not experience it. I am not even sure that the gallery is the best space for the project because of acoustics (I am concerned about how loud it will be if there are multiple, differing AV components), monitoring (I will be using electronic equipment that is expensive and am unsure of how to ensure it does not get stolen), and space (movement is central to my idea and I am unsure of how to create the kind of movement I want to in that open of a space).

Because my target audience is necessarily a scattered population, I do not know what kind of venues would be most appropriate for this exhibit. There is a yearly conference put on at UVM that I have attended for three years now: the Translating Identities Conference. It seeks to build community and provide a forum for the exchange information among trans communities throughout the northeast. I see my project as being very in line with this goal, so I think it would be a good fit.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Financial Aid... maybe improving

Financial Aid has been driving me crazy. I'm stressed about meeting tuition. I've vented some of my frustrations with the school about various policies in well-crafted letters. about our compulsory health care plan that forces students to be on it even if we are already covered by parent(s) health plan(s). Today, one of my professors whom I had confided some of my frustrations in told me I should go to Fin Aid again, that the president had been on a soap box at the most recent faculty meeting talking about wanting to make sure that students can still afford to go here even during this time of economic crisis. She urged me with fingers outstretched and eyebrow elevated as if she knew something.

I trudged up to the attic of the admissions building, where the people that I like to think of as the Powers That Be reside. I approached the office sheepishly, gathering up the wear-with-all to bear my financial soul in a plea for institutional humanity. I breathed in deeply before crossing into line of site of the head officer's door in an attempt to fortify myself so as to avoid showing the disappointment I assumed would ensue. As soon as I entered, she leaned over and said "I think I know why you're here." I'm a trace of "thank god" meshed with the usual skeptical gestures that take hold of my facial muscles.

She gave me a form. She said I can ask the school for more money if my situation has changed. She said I had to be detailed enough but not too much. She said be honest and ask for what I need. The anger, the frustration and resentment I have been carryign arounf with me for the lst week dissipated as we went on to talk about work I've been doing with my Transgender Oral History Project. I felt like things might be okay for the first time in days.

Towards the end though, our conversation returned to what I needed to put on the form. My living expense and income. Not money I don't report to the IRS. Not my mother's information. She was specific about that last one. She said I needed to include a letter explaining how my situation had changed. She phrased in such a way that I knew she was thinking it had something to do with gender/sexuality (after all aren't they one in her mind?). At the very least, it had something to do with some new development. I took the form and am filling it today tonight and turning it in. I hope that the sympathy can get me somewhere. I'm a little conflicted that she is going to resume something that isn't directly connected, but I am not going to state it. I am after all a good student struggling to come here just as I've always been; maybe economic meltdowns are good for something...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

beginings of a poem

There are mornings when I wake—
my mother’s hands firm in my mind
her jagged skin, split nails,
engine grease lodged into their cracks.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Class Issues and the Transgender Community

I've been at the task of making generalizations about the trans people I've met over the last 6 months of researching and being fairly active in trans communities in the area, and the one set of issues that comes to the surface most blantantly is class issues.

If the standard of living of normative society could be measured on a 1-10 scale, I think the whole spectrum of transfolk could fit within 1-6 and probably would cluster around 2-4. What does it mean that I was part of an organizing body whose six core members were mostly underemployed or unemployed despite having marketable skills (the group included a lawyer, a marketing executive, a web developer)? These are the leaders. They and others like them are the people in our community who have the most education and stability who are most willing and able to start families. These are our success stories. And among the people I admire most in our community, none of them have health insurance. Many of them are married to bio-women who make more money than they do (we all know that bio-women make 75% of what bio-men do). Many are part-time employees. Few own the houses they live in. Most do a little bit of a lot of things to barely make ends meet.

It's not just that the trans community are poor, but that we are one of the only downwardly mobile communities I can think of (if you ave others then please leave a comment). This means that on average trans people have less wealth than their parents. Whereas most people maintain the same level of wealth as their parents or even gain wealth (because they have access to cultural capital that helps them accrue wealth) to pass onto future generations. What does it mean that our children are less likely to go to college than we were, less likely to own a house, less likely to have access to any number of opportunities purely by virtue of their parent's gender identity/expression?

Most frustrating of all is that I don't know where I'm going to end up even within this community. I know that my life (materially and in other respects) will probably look a lot more like the trans activists I interview than like my mother's life. However, I don't know if I'll end up transitioning. I don't know if I'll ever get that male privilege. I doubt that I'll ever get straight privilege or even gender-normative-woman privilege. I guess the more I think about the future, then more I feel oppressed.

Muslim Children Gassed after Documentary Showing

I try not to repost things but this article is all I can think about at the moment. I will try to write a response later...

Muslim Children Gassed at Dayton Mosque After "Obsession" DVD Hits Ohio

Sun Sep 28, 2008 at 08:50:29 PM PDT

(From the diaries -- kos)

On Friday, September 26, the end of a week in which thousands of copies of Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West -- the fear-mongering, anti-Muslim documentary being distributed by the millions in swing states via DVDs inserted in major newspapers and through the U.S. mail -- were distributed by mail in Ohio, a "chemical irritant" was sprayed through a window of the Islamic Society of Greater Dayton, where 300 people were gathered for a Ramadan prayer service. The room that the chemical was sprayed into was the room where babies and children were being kept while their mothers were engaged in prayers. This, apparently, is what the scare tactic political campaigning of John McCain's supporters has led to -- Americans perpetrating a terrorist attack against innocent children on American soil.

I read the story as reported by the Dayton Daily News, but this was after I had received an email written by a friend of some of the victims of these American terrorists. The matter of fact news report in the Dayton paper didn't come close to conveying the horrific impact of this unthinkable act like the email I had just read, so I asked the email's author for permission to share what they had written. The author was with one of the families from the mosque -- a mother and two of the small children who were in the room that was gassed -- the day after the attack occurred.

"She told me that the gas was sprayed into the room where the babies and children were being kept while their mothers prayed together their Ramadan prayers. Panicked mothers ran for their babies, crying for their children so they could flee from the gas that was burning their eyes and throats and lungs. She grabbed her youngest in her arms and grabbed the hand of her other daughter, moving with the others to exit the building and the irritating substance there.

"The paramedic said the young one was in shock, and gave her oxygen to help her breathe. The child couldn't stop sobbing.

"This didn't happen in some far away place -- but right here in Dayton, and to my friends. Many of the Iraqi refugees were praying together at the Mosque Friday evening. People that I know and love.

"I am hurt and angry. I tell her this is NOT America. She tells me this is not Heaven or Hell -- there are good and bad people everywhere.

"She tells me that her daughters slept with her last night, the little one in her arms and sobbing throughout the night. She tells me she is afraid, and will never return to the mosque, and I wonder what kind of country is this where people have to fear attending their place of worship?

"The children come into the room, and tell me they want to leave America and return to Syria, where they had fled to from Iraq. They say they like me, ... , and other American friends -- but they are too afraid and want to leave. Should a 6 and 7 year old even have to contemplate the safety of their living situation?

"Did the anti-Muslim video circulating in the area have something to do with this incident, or is that just a bizarre coincidence? Who attacks women and children?

"What am I supposed to say to them? My words can't keep them safe from what is nothing less than terrorism, American style. Isn't losing loved ones, their homes, jobs, possessions and homeland enough? Is there no place where they can be safe?

"She didn't want me to leave her tonight, but it was after midnight, and I needed to get home and write this to my friends. Tell me -- tell me -- what am I supposed to say to them?"

When acting as a representative of Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), the 501(c)3 non-profit organization that I work for, I cannot engage in political activities. The distribution of Obsession, however, although a political campaign scheme, clearly crosses over into the mission of MRFF. So, I'm going to make two statements here -- one in my capacity as MRFF's Research Director, and another as an individual whose disgust at the vile campaign tactics of John McCain's supporters completely boiled over when I opened up the email about children being gassed.

My statement as MRFF's Research Director:

The presidential campaign edition of the Obsession DVD, currently being distributed by the Clarion Fund, carries the endorsement of the chair of the counter-terrorism department of the U.S. Naval War College, using the name and authority of an official U.S. military institution not only to validate an attack the religion of Islam, but to influence a political campaign. For these reasons, this endorsement has been included in MRFF's second lawsuit against the Department of Defense, which was filed on September 25 in the Federal District Court in Kansas.

My opinion as an individual and thoroughly appalled human being:

John McCain has a moral obligation to publicly censure the Clarion Fund, the organization that produced Obsession and is distributing the DVDs; to denounce the inflammatory, anti-Muslim message of Obsession; and to do everything in his power to stop any further campaign activities by his supporters that have the potential to incite violence.

[article from]

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Freewrite: How did your family produce gender?

I grew up with a mother who was a jet engine mechanic. When I think of her, I think of greasy fingernails and engine oil. She wore a dress to church because her theology demanded it. She got a nose ring when she retired because she could. I think of intelligibility.

I learned how to hate shopping during adolescence, against the backdrop of a perennial argument over which section to buy my clothes in. She couldn’t bear to buy her only daughter (the only child) clothes in the men’s department. “They didn’t fit well” she reasoned, and when logic would fail her, she knew shame could always do the trick, “why don’t we just forgo the pants and save up for the operation.”

I never knew what the operation was. I knew it only as a cue. I was supposed to roll my eyes and laugh…to protest that, of course that wasn’t what I wanted. It was a mysterious character evoked to loom over my decisions. The operation was a threat placed precariously on the brink of desperation—hers and mine—when we entered into split-in-down-the-middle mall stores.

I remember the day I told her I was jealous. She was admonishing me on how I’d need to grow up someday and wear woman’s clothes like an adult. “But Mom…you don’t,” I pointed out. She wore combat boots and dungarees to work. She got to shop in stores that didn’t even have a woman’s section. I felt more like her failure than my victory when we walked out of the store, cargo pants in hand, towards a silent ride home.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Freewrite: When do you pass?

I’m more aware of when don’t pass than when I do.

I pass when I pass out of danger. When mistakes and assumptions make me more safe rather than less. I passed in grade school when boys were too afraid of loosing to fight me. I pass when I came to college and northerners confided in me about how racist and ignorant those southerners are. I passed in grocery stores when I was on food stamps and I went to the self-check out line, so friends assumed I was using my ATM card.

I pass when I escape scrutiny. When people don’t imply that I secretly want to be something I don’t allow myself to be. I pass in Pride meeting when lesbian couples want to adopt me. I pass when other people make my life easier because they think I’m like them. I pass when I’m hitchhiking and mothers stop their cars because they wouldn’t want their daughters to be picked up by skeezy truck drivers.

I pass when I want to and when I don’t. I pass when other confer a privilege on me that I have not come to expect.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Halloween circa 1990

I've been working on a documentary about the military and my family (see previous post entitled documentary abstracts for synopsis). Only recently did I start asking for pictures. I was nervous about asking for any kind fof compliance. I'm still scared of my mother.

There are so many stories I could tell (and have told) about my mother, but for a moment today, my mother sent me a picture of the two of us, and I could have sworn we were a family...

It was Halloween circa 1990 (as if you couldn't tell by the hair) and we were living on base in Sicily. Dressing up for Halloween is a quintessentially American thing to do of course, so it was only celebrated in the barracks with the handful of kids at the school on base. The correlary, of course, was that there was no place on the whole island where she could buy me a costume. Even the NAVY exchange (a government owned and operated department store) didn't have costumes in my size except princesses. I was pretty clear that I would rather not go than be a princess. My mother, wanting for her daughter to be able to celebrate with the other kids, decided to make my costume for me. It took months of gathering appropriate materials (they were exotic and therefore expensive. Also, she earned very little since she hadn't made rank yet). She would sew it together on weekends. But finally it was done. I sat through painstaking hours of make-up application. I was a clown for all three years we lived in Sicily. It's a great picture, no?

"Activists are my people"

My girlfriend asks me good questions. It’s one of the reasons I like her so much. She asks me why don’t I ever talk about personal growth outside of political growth. I try to explain that for some people personal growth is inextricably intertwined with a social and historical moment. For some people personal growth is melded seamlessly into the times, into the reciprocal relationship with their environment shaping and reshaping one another in their own image. For some people, community is movement in a way that nothing else can be. We argue over whether or not my answer if just some updated version of “personal is political.” I don’t know how to explain to her that jews are her people and queers are her people but activists are mine.…

Sunday, October 5, 2008

acknowlege defeat

So here's the part where I acknowledge defeat. My blog's not going to be what I want it to be. The content is what I want. Te fequency isn't as I had hoped. I am feeling utterly uninspired. I feel like my life is going nowhere, and I have nothing insightful to say. Basically, I'm feeling depressed in a huge way.

Oh yeah, and I'm thinking about going by Dillian.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Coming Out Headaches

I'm thinking about being "out" and what the hell I should be out as. I realize that on campus, people from last fall know I am asexual because I lead a discussion on it (which was only attended by 2 people, btu which provoked consistent individual inquiries). Now that I am back, many people notice that I display a lot of interest in transgender topics and I am open about being involved in several related projects. However, newbies (especially freshmen who met me at pride) have incessantly felt the need to refer to me as a dyke, carpet-muncher, and bulldagger (in a jestful, accepting way but in a none the less something-I-don't think-of-myself-as-kind-of-way ).

I'm thinking about coming out to my mother and father, though its been months since I talked to either of them, and I have no idea what to come out as. I feel gender is more important to who I am than any kind of identity based on romantic relationships. I think about gender in every interaction I have, whereas I've has three crushes in the last three years. The catch is that I do have a girlfriend now, and I feel like I have to choose between acknowledging how much I care about her and anyone thinking of me in any of the ways I think of myself. I feel like her existence makes dyke trump trans in the public eye. I feel like our relationship undermines my claim to asexuality. It's as if she is everyone's confirmation that everything they assume about me has always been right. Now, how much are people really thinking about my sexual identity and gender identity? It's not that I think they are, it's more that there are a lot of unspoken assumptions that are coming into play more directly as I'm being more open. I feel like I'm on the defensive with this whole coming out process, doing damage control, dispelling myths, and disarming rumors. As I sit down to script out another conversation with a friend about it all, I can't escape the nagging condemnation that I make things this complicated on purpose...

What I've Been Thinking...

WARNING: This is going to be a rambly as hell post.

I've been thinking a lot about relationships, about what self-exploration can do for you versus the kinds of growth and learning that comes from interactions with others. I've been thinking about how I've spent 19 years figuring out everything on my own, a years debating what the place for others was in this schema, and now that I've decided to let other people help me, I'm confronting the possibility that I am leaning too much on others to challenge and push me. Is it true that I have ceased to push myself?

I've also been reading a sweet blog by a kinky anarchist genderqueer on the west coast (they always are). . It makes me think I should post more about kink...

Monday, September 8, 2008

To My Adoring Public

With school starting, I will be posting less. My goal is once a week. Let's see if I can keep up with that mediocre pace.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I can't get to sleep...

Our hot water heater ran out of oil two days before I left. We figured out that's what the problem was the next day, but I was too busy getting ready to leave to do anything about it. I offered to schedule it if anyone would tell me a good time. no one did.

A week later someone started rounding up the money. By time I came back, I expected it would all be settled. Disappointed. The tank had been filler, but it had been a few days and no one knew how to light the pilot light. I came home to cold showers.

This morning I woke up and started complaining. I was pissed that I had to pay 80 dollars for oil I'll never use, and I still can't take a damn shower. I started cleaning to sooth my anxiety about it. The fridge smelled, and I didn't know why. I usually clean it out every three or four days, but I had been gone for a while. SO I started to unload things that looked too familiar. I wanted to clean out the veggie drawer before p
Publish Post
utting my vegetable in because its gross to store food in a dirty space. Then I saw brownish water in the space beneath the drawer and the bottom of the fridge. I took them out to wipe it up and saw mold floating in it. I gagged as I sopped it up, freezing cold with a towel I had found wadded up on the floor. This place was disgusting.

I spent the better part of an hour muddling around with the furnace down stairs to no avail. I grumbled under my breath as I moved bags of clutter out of the way to find the tools to work on it. When I finished, my pants were stained and my hands reeked of oil. I couldn't believe some people had lived here for a year and didn't know how to do this damnit.

I went on the porch to update people on the situation and hint that someone else needed to pick up where I left off. My room mate's cigarette smoke rolled into my space. I coughed a little and then went inside.

As I lay in bed on the edge of sleep, I'm unable to go under. I'm kept awake by the smell of oil mingled with stale cigarette smoke, by annoyance translated into compulsion and neurosis, by the insistence that others have wronged me. I'm going to bed disappointed, critical and alone. I'm going to bed the same way my mother went to bed for the last 20 years, and I can't get to sleep because I'm a little scare of how I'll wake up when I'm through.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Disappointment Strikes Again

I pressed my greasy finger against the cool glass of the airport check-in kiosk. I’ve been sweating since I woke up this morning and now I’m enjoying the AC in another over-sized glass building where I’ve spent too much waiting since I’ve been here. I was in a bad mood because I had only slept about an hour the night before and for no good reason either. “This flight may be full. Would you be interested in volunteering your seat for compensation?” the kiosk offered.

“Sure.” I thought in my easily impressionable state, “Why not?”
I arrived at the gate moments after the agent pushed the little red button of the walkie-talkie and articulating my name in a perfect accent into the speaker. My timing seemed too good.

“Soy Chlirissa Perez”

“Do you still want to give your seat?”

“Yeah. I mean, wait… when can I get another flight.”
He described to me how I’d have to spend a couple hours here and then couple in Chicago. I’ve slept in Chicago. Really, it’s worth the flight to an unemployed soon-to-be student. Whatever vague thoughts I had about the situation, I was registering value not experience… what was my time worth not where would I go. Last year I had wanted to visit Ashley and Tessa, but they didn’t move. They broke up, and neither of them are leaving the East for a while. Instead, I went to Detroit for a conference because the ticket was on the verge of expiring.

When I’d done this before, it seemed like it could be the kind of adventure I dreamed about as a child toppled over in a fort between the couch cushions. Moreover, under the pretense of dharma, I was carrying out an ego-driven quest to prove to myself how rugged and resourceful I could be. Groundless ground had grown less novel in the interim since though, and I had had more than my share of spiritually challenging travel stories. All the same, I nodded my head at the man and grumbled that I was fine with it. What is a couple more hours of waiting if I’m going to be dazed out on miserable already?

It was only after I sat down and begun typing that I remembered I have someone I want to see who lives a plane flight away. I’m sure this seems an absurd detail to overlook, but it wasn’t until I returned to my niche (I’ve learned to treat any seat within two feet of a power plug as a home away from home at this stage in my life) that I remembered how desperately far away the West Coast loomed. I remembered how sleepless I had been since she told me she had made that final decision to move. I let myself begin to imagine what it might be like to share another first with her, to stretch further across the country than I’ve ever imagined myself going. I’ve said before that the West Coast might as well be another country, and I set to work in my mind illustrating my passport so as to make it more believable.

My day dream was interrupted as the agent announced that the plane was to leave late. I strolled up to the desk to get information so that I could leave an excited message on her answering machine. He told me he had changed his mind. Why had I let myself indulge that daydream? A woman once told me expectations are premeditated disappointment. It sounded cheesy at the time. But as I sat sulking in my missed connection and the hours of waiting that ensued only to learn that I had to take a plane the next morning, I damned myself.

She's been dangerous from the beginning. She challenges me to want, to know what I want, and to let myself entertain my wants. She makes me want to have dreams. When I think of her I give myself permission to believe in things just because I dream them. And the airline is just the latest co-conspirator…

Going Everywhere Going Nowhere

“Where do you want to go? The beach? The water park?” the daily inquiry fell on my ears stale from the first time.

“No me importa. I’m not here to see Puerto Rico, I’m here to see you.” I responded as honestly as I could, fearing I may hurt her feelings by not giving her the answers she wanted.

“Well, you’re seeing me and Puerto Rico. Just tell me where to take you. I want you to tell me how you have a good time.”

The harder we each tried, the farther away we got.

“I just like to explore… take walks... see how people live”

“Oh, explore and walk. You want to go on a tour of the rainforest.”

“Sure…I guess…”

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Biolumenescent Bay

As the sun sank behind the picturesque horizon, we paddled two by two into a single file line. I thought of baby ducks clad in yellow life vests advertizing our tourism company. My uncle and I struggle for control of the boat. Our paddles clanked with the stubbornness of him refusing to take my lead, and me insisting on leading anyway.

As the entrance of the mangrove approached, the wind grew still and the water shallow. The ripe odor of stagnant water mingled with our repellant drenched bodies. As was swerved back and forth, zigzag with and against the channel, we did our best to avoid the roots that stretched out into the inlet. Did you know that Mangroves are the only trees that can stick their roots in salt water and thrive? I wonder they can ever feel it burning and still continue.

We could hear whistling and hooting, the hollowed sound of some special kind of frog. When we’d reach a particularly intergrown bunch of threes they’d form roofs over our heads that blocked out the light in a perfect display of blackness. We had been seeing little glitter like specs of the bioluminescent creatures we had come to admire through the clear bottom of our kyaks. In these enclosures where we couldn’t even see one another or the shore, we began to see our paddles like up as the swept through the water. We kept paddling.

After twenty minutes, we finally came to the opening in the tunnel. We could see the light of the full moon brilliant on the surface of the bay. And as we broke through that curtain of light, the creature greeted our paddles fervently. When we lifted them out of the water, a glistening streaks of light would flow down, leaving bright green drip marks all over the surface of the water. My hand felt the water warm and smooth like melting butter as I swooshed it around to reveal a trail of glow like fireflies and light sticks. We splashed the shimmering water at one another and I found a strand of vegetation from the bottom that when I ran it through the water appeared like a comet trailing my finger tips.

We paddled to the opposite side of the lake and turned around for the most picturesque moment imaginable. The moon peaked up gradually through the densely interwoven branches. It was so many layers of beautiful piled on ontop of the other. The moon, the silhouetted mangrove trees, the serenity of a secluded bay brought alive by the playful kyakers splashing around in amazement. Wonder filled the moment like magic.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Puerto Rico Prelude

I've gt lots to say about this place, but for now I will elude to upcming srticles that I will hopefully post.

Tags for my experience thus far in Puerto Rico…

Early morning, Planes, missing love ones, the l word, coast line, No walks, not safe, gated communities, vegetarian, wheel chair, not safe, hording food, Spanish, English, Spanglish, mas espacio por favor, corporations, new party, eco-tourism, amigo, Wal-mart, parking lot guard shack, toys r us, not safe, largest mall in Caribbean, separate cars, traffic jam, not safe, steak house, Caribbean cruise, not safe, beach, motorcycles, high-femme, moonlight, bioluminescent bay, mangrove, beautiful, manicured…

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Advice to my fifteen year old self

my advice to my 15 year old self...

Drop out of school--you spend too much time there trying to please other people because it hasn't occurred to you yet that you need to figure out what you want. Besides, you can make your own reading lists and project assignments.

Learn to surf before you leave Virginia Beach. I know you hate the potheads, but learn anyway. It's fun.

If you think someone's cool, there is probably a reason. You should connect with them.

Don't stop writing. If you do, then one day you'll meet someone who will remind you how much you loved it, and it will make you sad.

Drive someplace other than school and work. It's hard to imagine that other places exist, but actually, there are people who care about things you don't know you care about yet and when you meet them, it will be awesome. (not to mention that if you listened earlier, you wouldn't have a school to drive to)

Skip the NATO dinners and get politically active instead.

Tell your mom to get lost. Maybe not in such a way, but realize that she has her own family issues she's dealing with. Realize you're a worthwhile person regardless of what she says, and that the problems you guys have are largely based in a major difference of values.

Spend more time with Daniel. One day you won't be able to.

Read Stone Butch Blues--it will help you make sense of experiences you're gonna have later on.

When you go to Peru, stay there a while. College can wait.

But most importantly... don't be afraid of people just because they care about you. It doesn't make them sick, delusional or untrustworthy. Just accept it dude.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Updated Children's Book list

I have once again been spending time bumming around the children's shelves of politically correct new england bookshops (this time at Raven used books; all under $10). Aside from fawning on some dyke families (I will never grow tired of seeing women with inch-long hair pushing double strollers on Northampton street corners), I also accomplished adding a few titles to the my list of children's books that promote radical values.

In case you haven't noticed the pattern, I'm updating it at the beginning of each month (the link is in this article title, so you don't have to dig through the archives for June) and the newest set will appear in burnt red. Share some ideology and indoctrination with a child you love today. Or maybe just start a conversation about something you care about.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cats in Krasinski Square: a review

The Cats in Krasinski Square The Cats in Krasinski Square by Karen Hesse

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
This recounting of the Warsaw uprising tells the story of a little girl from a family outside the ghetto trying to help support the jews inside who are resisting the nazis.

It's a story of small heros that deals with issues of privilege, passing, and resistance in a manner that is age appropriate. A great book for starting a conversation about social responsibility and how people who have safety can help those who are in dangerous situations. I'd recommend it to any kid, but especially to anyone looking for people's history.

View all my reviews.

Beyond, beneath, and in search of our means

My mother and step father got divorced years ago. They were both working the same job, living in a brand new condo in a beach town, and making about 80,000 a year together. They split up and I ran off to college, so you could say we each struck out on our own. Our interpretations and performances of class couldn’t be more different.

My mother moved to Michigan because she couldn't take the hour and 1/2 commute while being a single parent. She's remained unemployed since she’s been there, collecting 1,200 a month in retirement (before taxes). Her income is now 15,000 a year, but when I went to visit her, everything in her house seemed new. She was installing oak encasements on the windows and doors, she has custom designed sinks put into the bathrooms, she drives a new envoy (read SUV that gets 15 iles to the gallon), she bought another TV and DVD player (even though she hadn't figured out how to use the one I bought her years ago), and the list goes on. She spoke of how she was poor a lot. She lamented about all the things the house "needed"-- like plusher carpeting, tile to replace the linoleum, another TV for the kitchen, etc. She obviously believed it and yet, in my mind there was excess in every inch of her new 21,000 square feet of house.

My step father stayed with the company and now makes 4,000 a month. He lives in a house in NC that is half the size of hers. Moreover, it has gaps between the wall and the ceiling, that has no door knob on the front door, that has broken windows. He eats out every night at olive garden, his house has nothing of value in it, and he owns a junky, old (20+ years) car and a similarly beat-up truck.

It’s inconceivable to me that either of them can live the way they do making the amount of money they do. When they were together, they mediated one another’s excesses, and so my home life was more or less congruent with their income—we ate out often, but they had the same cars forever; we had TV’s in the living room and bedroom but only basic cable; my mother bought expensive tools but did all her own home and car repairs.

I’m sure my upbringing has been formative for my worldview (whether I like it or not), but we must also remember that my attitudes and practices are heavily influenced by the ideologies I embrace as a Buddhist and an anti-capitalist. I don’t buy new things. I rarely buy old things. I sometimes collect free things. And I always make sure I get rid of one thing for everything I acquire.

I’ve been unemployed for 6 months now. I’ve made $760 total in that time and supported myself entirely. I buy fresh produce and go to coffee shops on my credit card. The first thing that sticks out to me is that I think of these as luxuries, and sometimes I even feel guilt about them. However, I rationalized that when you find yourself in a period of extended deprivation you have to afford yourself “luxuries” because they are important to your sense of well being (honestly, I am rather successful at staving off the feeling of being deprived by allowing myself my luxeries). The second thing to note is that I have 1,000 worth of credit card debt to show for it. That means my cost of living for the entire time I’ve been out of school is on average 550 a month in a town where I pay 400 in rent w/o utilities. I’m not sure which sensibility I take after more since I’m living beneath the poverty line but above my means.

Now I think about how my 6 year old brother is growing up with two reference points that are each imbued with their own sense of class unreality. I wonder how he will make sense of money, of finances, of budgeting. I wonder more how he will connect those things with social standing, which excesses he will indulge, what he will think he needs, and how will that compare to what he can afford to need…

Monday, July 28, 2008

Updated Children's Book list

I have once again been spending time bumming around the children's shelves of politically correct new england bookshops (this time at Raven used books; all under $10). Aside from fawning on some dyke families (I will never grow tired of seeing women with inch-long hair pushing double strollers on Northampton street corners), I also accomplished adding a few titles to the my list of children's books that promote radical values.

In case you haven't noticed the pattern, I'm updating it at the beginning of each month (the link is in this article title, so you don't have to dig through the archives for June) and the newest set will appear in burnt red. Share some ideology and indoctrination with a child you love today. Or maybe just start a conversation about something you care about.


Friday, July 25, 2008

Jokes and the Unconscious: A book review

Jokes and the Unconscious: A Graphic Novel Jokes and the Unconscious: A Graphic Novel by Daphne Gottlieb

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book isn't your typical graphic novel. It takes the mundane: a college aged girl loosing her father, and twists it into the surreal.

The story itself reads largely like a written novel with the art adding layers more than detail.

Paced by uneasy jokes, this graphic novel pushes its tale forward with all the pithy desperation of fight club complimented by haunting artwork.

If you're looking for Allison Bechdel, you won't find it here, but if you're up for a somewhat nihilistic walk through the grieving process, then the experience is well worth the read.
View all my reviews.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Food and class

Foods that indicate low status
Anything from jars or cans
Junk food
Fried foods
Frozen juices
Asian food (especially Curry & Stir-fry)
Skim milk
Cooking with oil instead of butter

Foods that indicate high status

Meat (boneless, skinless, and white)
Non-water beverages (coffee, juices, milk, etc)
Cheeses that aren’t cheddar
Fresh produce
Foreign (read European and Mediterranean) foods
Bakery/hard-crusted bread

Varied condiments (ie. More than one type of mustard, salsa, etc.)
It was important to my mother that we didn't eat "like poor people." When I would petition for vegetables (and eventually when I came out as a vegetarian), my mother would scoff and say things like "we can afford meat so we shall have it. Why settle for things beneath you?" It was similarly important that we were not the kind of people who ate processed meat, who ate meat from a can (to this day I’ve never had tuna salad), who ate meat that had been pressed into patties; we were the kind of people who ate white meat, who ate pulled meat, who bought boneless everything. My mother bought an extra freezer to house the bulks of bargain priced flesh. More than any other aspect, food was the way my mother choose to assert her class ascendancy.
When I would complain about chicken again, she would tell me of days when she was of a lower military rank (with a correspondingly lower pay scale) and she would eat an English muffin for dinner three nights a week. I once told her, “You could buy so much ramen for the price of a pack of English muffins” Disappointed that I had missed the point, she embarked to instill in me that if you have to, then you should eat less, not compromise the quality.

What the thing poor people didn't understand was how to shop wisely (buy in bulk) and how to buy foods that were nourishing. Her tone would be full of judgment as she would list the junk food in my aunt’s cupboard (they were on food stamps). Surely I could see that it was a grievous miscalculation on the part of the government to let poor people decide what to buy with their aid.

Things seem to come full circle as I stall grocery shopping in wait for Wednesday, when I can apply for food stamps…

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Quirky Fairytale Part 1

There was once a young Genderqueer who had avoided the pitfalls of romance rigorously and successfully all of hir life. A believer in love but a cynic to romantic relationships (surely the sweet sounds of adoration have a thousand times more range than this single octave), ze could oft be heard sneering at newly weds and scoffing at those who would try to court hir.

Many a year had ze spent enjoying d&d free (d&d = drug and drama, not dungeons and dragons) misadventures punctuated by moments of friendly though transient intimacy when ze moved to the “lesbian capital of the east coast.

Ze spent months alone in a castle-like estate amid all manner of vagrancy and partyers. Ze was in search of employment that never seemed to manifest, in search of stability that eluded hir, in search of something ze had no point of reference for, and it was with a predictable yet all the more virulent strain of frustration that. Ze was afflicted.

When the squalor of the house seemed overwhelming, ze cleaned. Ze did most anything ze could to avoid leaving until one sweltering mid-morning ze woke to an anxious cross-between-a-squeal-and-howl that wouldn’t stop. The neurotic canine lept around in the filthy of the living room, rubbing his head manically into the clothes strewn about the decaying surplus of salvaged furniture. Driven uncharacteristically on edge, ze packed hir books, sketchpad, and laptop and took off.

In search of a path, ze stumbled into a SesamePride planning meeting. Others may have stayed because the event was a first, with all the attendant excitment and intrigue, but ze stayed because it was something to find direction in, something to get lost in, something to get found in…

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Beat of Urban Hip Hop: A review

The Beat of Urban Art: The Art of Justin Bua The Beat of Urban Art: The Art of Justin Bua by Justin Bua

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
The author has developed the art of story telling through the combination of visual and written means. It's a story book for adults that features the history of hip hop through an autobigraphical lens. The composition of words and images is intriguing and brings with it all the vibrancy of city life in a highly stylized and idiosyncratic language.Fun and beautiful book.

View all my reviews.

Personal Update: Job

I won a veggie peeler today.

After 6 months of searching for a job and only finding temporary work, I’ve finally broke down and became an independent contractor with a corporate marketing company. I think that means I sold out.

I’ve spent three days being bombarded by incentive programs, get-rich-quick ambitions, and luxury car examples braided through company lore. I don’t know how to relate in the strange landscape of salesmanship were everything is a contest and success is an attitude platitudes are planted along every path.

It’s not as glamorous as it sounds. I sell knives. Rather, I am getting trained to get paid to visit people who have been referred to me through my social network and show them a few party tricks with high-quality cutlery. As my boss pointed, “They will always want it. That’s not your job. You just ask if they are buying it or get the names of who will.”

I’ll be doing about thirty hours worth of training, which I’m not getting paid for. I had to work through the first weekend. I am having trouble brainstorming people to show because I haven’t been in the area too long. My success is very much in question.

My goal for the night is to get an appointment. For the weekend is to get a sale. For the week, I wouldn’t mind earning a leatherman, but I’d settle for a pay check.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Response to Class Blog

Someone in my life has been keeping a class blog. She writes in it everyday. She doesn't have to. She doesn't even have to think about class. But she's committed to it. I respect that. A lot.

The following is a post she made of an interaction we had, and then my response.

"four cabbage perogies, four potato perogies, and the same for you...together or separate?"


"what do you think?"

"ahh, i don't know."

"you suck at making decisions"

"that's true! ahhh"

"it's up to you - together or separate?"


wtf happened? what does it have to do with class?

What happened was that you offered to pay, and that made me uncomfortable.

I thought of when I worked at Panera, and the couplings of old ladies would doggedly seek out my cash register at the most conceivably inopportune segment of busy o’clock in order to argue teasingly about who would pay. Each would throw their preferred method of payment onto the counter for me to choose while they exchanged strings of compliments and I-owe-you-so-muches with one another, occasionally professing to me, “how good of a friend she’s been to me all these years.” On good days it was coquettish and endearing, but on bad days, I wanted to pick up the damned cash/card and say, “We are getting 6 dollars and hour. We aren’t allowed to accept tips, but why don’t one of you adopt a Panera worker in the other’s name if ya wanna do somethin’ sweet?”

I thought about how you paid before, at Haymarket, and it didn’t seem fair for you to do it again. Fairness means equal, right? Except I know better. And you’ve told me you do too.

I reminded myself that I don’t have a job and you do, and I cashed in my last savings bond to pay the minimum balance on my credit card. I felt frustrated that I don’t have a job. I felt disappointed that we weren’t gonna act out that old lady scene. I wanted that generosity back in my life. I felt like I had lost the opportunity to do something nice for someone I care about. I recognized that that was a freedom you were exercising.

So I joked about my indecision, (which does, in fact exist). I let you pay, and I recognized that those miniature jolts of guilt and shame I was feeling had a little something to do with internalized class oppression. And I decided that having you around was good for my class-consciousness.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Privilege Walk


Privilege walk n. - A clever game devised to raise consciousness, to help people apply abstract concepts to their lives, to their classrooms and workshop spaces. It all begins by standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a row down the middle of an empty room (If you wanna make it more intense, the participants can also hold hands). One person reads off of a list, commanding the others to step forward if ___ (fill in the blank with any given marker of privilege) and to step backwards if they experience x, y, or z instance of oppression. The object is for everyone to take at least one step forward and at least one step backwards. The object is to see how these looming concepts intersect with your experiences. The object is to illustrate how both privilege and oppression apply to all of us, but also to highlight how we experience them differently than other people. Differently from people we already relate to.

So I’ve done a privilege walk or two in my life. Hell, I’ve led a couple. Each time I’ve found it captivating, scary, enlightening, and surprising. Each time I realize I know much more than the last but not nearly enough somehow. It wasn’t until my last privilege walk though, that I got a little hurt in the process.

*The real thing*

Tables eked familiarly across the hard wood floors of the tiny one-room cabin, where I had participated in this exact exercise weeks before. Arriving late but feeling none-the-less prepared, I nestled myself in-between a queeny man and the straightest, blonde I know.

As we began, the game unfolded itself similarly to before, which is to say that I found myself in the back quarter of the room almost immediately but with some company.

A dainty hand tugged on my own a little less with each question, transforming the knowledge of belonging to marginalized categories into the feeling of being left behind. From the beginning I had accepted that it was only a manner of time before I let go of her finely manicured hand. She tried harder than I did to keep contact, taking progressively smaller steps forward until the impending fracture was inescapable.

As the questions grew harder, the flamboyant one on my left was in lock step with me, our bodies shifting uncomfortably as we watched the rest of the class approach the front wall one declaration of security and virginity at a time.

Step backward if you have ever been put in a position to lie about your sexual identity out of fear. We flashed one another an uneasy smile as our feet shuffled in reverse. Comradery felt like our fleshy palms greeting one another warmly.

Step forward if your parents told you that you could be anything you wanted to be. The fissure between us began with a hot wave of shame accompanying my stillness in the face of twenty unhesitating steps. That wasn’t a revelation, but damned if I needed the reminder.

Take a step forward if your parents graduated from college. Another moment of feeling the harness of my past burden me. I thought about stepping anyway, but couldn’t bring myself to lie. I had noticed that any given student had parents who were in medical school or went to far-flung places on business trips, but the cumulative effect of the word “professionals” had not come to bear on my mind yet. My vein attempt to conjure an image of childhood in the context of office jobs and grad placement was interrupted by the nagging sensation that I was loosing grip with the last warm body in my vicinity.

There were a thousand small injuries that more-or-less nicked the surface of my armor that day. They were tiny charges of fear, ounces of memories I’d rather not been subjected to, but all-in-all they were things I knew, things I had dealt with, things I may even have been able to admit. But the questions kept placing us further and further apart. Two separate times the entire class had to take a couple steps back in order to afford more space to those whose noses pressed up against the front wall of the room.

By this point, he and I were several steps behind the others, knowing that two outstretched fingertips stood between us and the obscure form of loneliness that came from participating in a private education that didn’t belong to us. It was as if we hoped that by virtue of extending ourselves we could ward off that moment when one of us would leave the other behind for the last time. No one else would know if we let go. But we would.

Take a step forward if there were more than fifty books in the house that you grew up in. I froze. A sharp intake of breath later, he was gone. Really, they all had fifty books? It suddenly occurred to me that I had never seen my mother read any book. Ever. Surely, I was exaggerating. I searched my mind desperately, probed for instances of newspapers or pop science magazines, on that day even a cheesy romance novel could have been my salvation.

How did I even know she could read? I mean, I’ve always assumed it, but truthfully, is there anything in my mother’s life that would be different, if she were illiterate. I scanned through the list of things I watch her do: carpentry, plumbing, sketching, fixing stuff, cooking- not a single word-centered activity I could think of. I panicked. What if she was?

The space between my mother and I suddenly took on geometrically large proportions. This place I chose to spend so much of my time, her money, and my good credit on suddenly became a symbol of all the things I loved that she never would understand. It wasn’t just that she had never been to college, that she never was given the luxury of space and time to figure out what mattered to her, that she hadn’t been taught what to do with it even if she had ended up with it.

I realized that my mother’s never read a book that changed her life. I’d grow out of it, she told me growing up. Here I was growing into academia, growing into queer theory departments and primary research. Here I was growing into my conferences and workshops, growing into my multicultural education class. Growing into someone she never had the chance to become.

Saturday, July 5, 2008


I was thinking today about the connection between domestic violence and state violence, about violence that comes from desperation and the enforced poverty of our economic system. I was thinking about what role choice plays in violence and whether coercion itself is a form of violence. I was thinking about my relationship with my mother and her relationship with the military, about dependency and abuse, about my past...

Here is a poem I started a while ago but that still isn't finished. I want it to be better- clearer, more direct, more personal. But details are hard these days. I'm working on it.

I tried to write you a letter today
The pen, tossing and turning,
Bold typeface grasping and yearning,
For words that might makes sense
Against the backdrop of our estrangement
Against the space and time we don’t know our way through
Against the walls laid over bricks and years
Mortar bound in custom granite, tears
Mortar rounds in children’s ears
Sound like each time the streets reverberate with
An invocation to bring wars home
landing too close to the home I never had
In the seventeen year old signature
that was desperate enough to exchange twenty years
for security, poor medical care and a pension.
In the throbbing veins of his neck synchronizing
With his grip pressing me firmly against the wall
As spit shrapnel bombarded my face.
In the smoke-glazed eyes that couldn’t find
the courage to soften for your daughter
once in twenty years and counting.
You’d think I would have learned how to write to you
During the absences that permeated my childhood
with the stale bitterness of sea salt and engine oil
Fermented over the six months you lived on
Meclazine* and the conviction that you were better
than those Dirty, poor people.
How much anger can I write away or leave behind
Like not-so hidden mines
Exposed partially but fully loaded?

*Naval generic of sea sickness medication

“I am going to write a poem today”

*Warning weird and the first poem in months. Literary criticism invited*

I am going to write a poem today,
lit by the flickering memory of your gestures,
hunched and buckled, hard-bellied
with tweezers in-hand, oddly akin to
the staunchly stubborn postures we both have taken,
molded our bodies over barbed-wire
that we may escape comparison
to the soft tenderness of a raw sore.
I am going to write a poem today,
Because I feel like punching bruises,
Peeling up the encrusted corners of scabs, and
Plucking each word like an unwanted body hair,
snatching it painfully from the taunt layers,
buried underneath who I’ve learned to be
amidst expectations that guild the silence
in unmistakable shades of anticipation and wax burn.
I am going to write a poem today,
Even though I let us pace ourselves in circles,
Tangential, smooth, going nowhere
while we will poke at spaces in-between
the bent and contorted, turning inwards, spines
that have formed pustules not-quite beneath the surface
and pretend that we don’t have ingrown hairs.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Updated Children's Book list

Inspired by an awesomely sweet person in my life, I've went ahead and added 20+ titles to my radical children's book list. This includes adding categories for latino culture, immigrants, labor, anti-racism, interracial, animal rights, etc. and weeding out some of the primitivist variety.

[Click on the title of this post for easy access to list]

Butch Is A Noun: Audio Exceprts

Okay, this is my last promo for Butch Is A Noun, I swear it.

I know most people will not end up reading Butch Is A Noun, so I thought I'd post the three essays that resonated most with me from it. I guess I feel like they each convey a little shard of who I am, and ones that I'm not necessarily disposed to expose.

without further adoo...

"Wrestling" by Bear Bergman
read by Chlirissa

"When I Can't Help" by Bear Bergman
read by Chlirissa

"Why I'm Not A Nice Young Man (Yet)" by Bear Bergman
read by Chlirissa

Monday, June 30, 2008

A word that does not mean listless

I’m in search of a word.

Often I imagine my life a segmented off into discreet boxes, stacked neatly into columns, packaged into blocks that coincide with some version of time that’s hybrid of linear and whatever else exists beyond it. And when I’m compulsively making my to-do lists, I color code those blocks of time to correspond to whatever I’m compelled to achieve for the moment. Only sometimes, I stand at the precipice of one block, peering into the abyss of undone, unwilling to cross over. It’s then that I push, ever so gently on those flimsy lines that quarantine off what I have done from the web of things I have yet to do in order to make a little space for that yearning to just linger…

What do I call that?

Folksonomy Musings (article and poem)

In a moment of insomnia, I've decided to post the only real pearl of wisdom I gained from the technology portion of the Allied Media Conference, and it can be summed up in the equation: Folksonomy= folk + tagging = more democratic pathways of information.

I know, it sounds so theoretical that you're probably either wanting to click away in annoyance or preparing to commence mental masturbation, but if you make it to the end, then there is a geeky yet kinda cute (if I do say so myself) conclusion.

It seems that even the "experts" find Web 2.0 to be a nebulous concept, but from what I gather, it refers to a new way of creating, accessing, and thinking about information that has come about via the internet, but what makes it 2.0 is how we're using it. When the process of creating content becomes communal like in open source, when the process of distribution becomes social like in youtube, when the process of cataloging becomes collective and democratic like in tagging (the blue highlighted words at the end of each blog entry that are actually searchable key terms), that's when we're operating in Web 2.0 space.

[skip this if you want to avoid theory] Let's take a second to deconstruct Folksonomy (folk + taxonomy) or "the practice and method of collaboratively creating and managing tags to annotate and categorize content" according to wikipedia. With tagging, we assign arbitrary associations that, rather than being based upon external, standardized cues, add meaning from our own experiences, allow us to highlight which aspects of a give piece of information are important to us, and allow us to connect with other people who categorize in similar ways to what we do.

Tagging is like identity. It is created based on reference points that shift according to whom is interpreting what and in which context. Content can inhabit multiple varied, intersecting and/or overlapping categories at any one time. There is a portion of it that has to do with the actual content but most of its meaning comes from how the user relate to it- how they call it, who they send it to, what they associate with it. Where as old-school internet searches operated by a tree-like structure, with one category embedded underneath another one (ie. to find soccer scores you would look under entertainment then sports then soccer then statistics), tagging only privileges one way of categorizing information above others in so far as it is more commonly cited and understood.

But is that enough to call it folk? Some of the distinguishers of things that fall under the category of folk in my mind are... it's something easy to teach yourself, something can be done almost anywhere by anyone, something that requires relatively little investment of time, and training, and/or money upfront. Let's remember who does and does not have the access to the internet and under what circumstances (things that make sense to check out on my laptop which I have 24 hour access to are different than what I would check out if I were on a public library computer for 20 min blocks). Let's remember who has the confidence and spare time to teach themselves (I only learned how to use some of these programs when I flew half way across the country to go to a conference). Lets remember that we only occasionally do it in the same room and almost never do it in the streets...

Other neat things to think about:
Zipcode tagging = what’s going on around you? Who could you meet? Possibility of real world connection.
Pivot browsing (browsing by using tags) = conversational flow

[You've made it past the techy part!] Why is this important? Because it means that we are learning new ways to relate to content, we are becoming actively engaged in the media we are consuming at each step of the process. Of course there is the issue that all of the infrastructure we use (like blogspot) is corporately consolidate and sustained mostly through data mining. Even though there are promising alternatives to corporate monoliths (such as instead of youtube), they have only a fraction of the traffic, and in a cyber world where there is too much everywhere all the time, distribution is an important consideration. It's democratic in the way that political parties and lobbying are, which is to say it's easy to bully.

In the end, web 2.0 is not anyones salvation. It is a tool that is less limiting, less consolidated, less inaccessible than television was, but its not local, its not class-blind, and it doesn't belong to us. We should let our imaginations be freed by it in-so-far as it creates new ways of relating to and with each other via technology but we should be cautious that we don't let it technology circumscribe our notions of what community and social networking actually mean.

Tags for my life 06.30.08
Lost, wandering, VA beach, Northampton, Marlboro College, in between, liminal, intersticial, borderlands, genderqueer, queer, white Puerto Rican, abstentia, unemployed, Buddhist, groundless ground, vulnerability, stronger, Afraid, Recovering, compassion, asexual, romantic, intimacy, connection, wrestling, kink, play, boi, post-modern, writing, teaching, Meg Mott, creating, media, documentaries, reflexive, Truth, dysfunctional family, baggage, lies, silence, confusion

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Homade Seitan Recipe

Many of you who are reading this may be familiar with the yummy goodness of seitan, a protein source made of wheat gluten. However, I'm sure there is someone who is not, and this reproduction of what is heralded as the best seitan recipe is for exactly that deprived soul. Enjoy!

by Isa (Recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance)
prep time: 15 minutes | cooking time: 1 1/2 hours - 2 hours | makes about 4 cups
Traditionally wheat flour is washed and kneeded 3 times and over 2 days in order to make the wheat gluten, but this seitan is made quicker by using Vital Wheat Gluten flour. The flavoring for this goes well with pretty much anything, but depending what you are using it for you can change the flavors up a bit by adding finely chopped herbs to the mixture, or if you're making something Asian or Indian, some grated ginger wouldn't hurt.
Large ceramic or glass bowl, Smaller bowl for liquid ingredients, Skiller (Cast Iron is best), Large soup pot with lid

1 1/2 cups vital wheat gluten flour
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes

1 cup very cold water or vegetable broth
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, pressed or grated on a microplane grater
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Simmering Broth
10 cups water or vegetable broth
1/2 cup soy sauce

In a large bowl, mix together Vital Wheat Gluten Flour and nutritional yeast flakes.

In a seperate bowl, mix together reamining ingredients: water or veg broth, soy sauce. tomato paste, garlic, lemon zest.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and combine with a firm spatula, knead dough for about 3 minutes until a spongy, elastic dough is formed. Let dough rest for a couple of minutes and prepare your broth, but don't start boiling it.

Now roll your dough into a log shape about 8 inches long and cut into 3 equal sized pieces. Place the pieces in the broth. It is important that the water/broth be very cold when you add the dough, it helps with the texture and ensures that it doesn't fall apart. Partially cover the pot (leave a little space for steam to escape) and bring to a boil.

When the water has come to a boil set the heat to low and gently simmer for an hour, turning the peices every now and again.

Now you've got gluten. Let it cool in the simmering broth for at least a half an hour. It is best if it cools completely.

What you do next depends on the recipe you are using. If it calls for gluten use it as is. If you want to store some of it for later use put it in a sealable container covered in the simmering broth.

If your recipe calls for seitan cut your peices up as desired. I prefer to use a cast iron skillet for the frying because it produces the best flavor and texture. Use as little oil as possible to coat the bottom of the skillet, 1 teaspoon may suffice. Heat the skillet over medium high and add your gluten. Cook for about 20 minutes, turning the pieces occasionally. And there you have it. Yummy seitan.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Queer Open Mic Moved

This flyer now is no good. I think the 17th would be better!

Ps. flyer desIgned by Chlirissa
with artwork by Christy Road aka Croadcore

Digital Storytelling Scheme

My current mission statement is that I want to explore how to use media in the context of social justice organizing with youth. What does that mean? I want to teach kids from marginalized communities (latino and/or queer to be exact) how to use media in order to tell the stories that are important to them. This means 1) affirming that what they have to say matters 2) sharing a technical skill that has practical applications, and 3) creating media that could potentially be employed towards a variety of educational and political ends.

All that seems great, but what does it look like? Well, I learned about two models when I attended the Allied Media Conference. On was presented by The Center For Digital Storytelling. They travel around doing 3 day workshops with other non-profits.. Here are my notes…

7 Elements: point (why that story at that moment), dramatic question, emotional content, voice, soundtrack, economy (300 wds), pacing.

Workshop Model about 12 students w/ two instructors

Day 1: Elements, writing time, idea discussion, adobe training, production time

Day 2: Scripting, story boarding, photo workshop, voiceovers, DV tutorial Final Cut, Production time

Day 3: Rough edit, special effects, production time, screening

How to use: Silence Speaks National Center for Lesbian Rights compile include w/ manual for outreach to social workers, include with letter lobbying congress, include with grant proposal

Funding: grants through community organizations, work exchange

Website:; decentralized youtube;

Similar organizations: Mass Impact in Boston, Creative Narration in Seattle…

It produces impressive results in terms of stories (which are normally a series of still images put to narration), but not in terms of relationships. It’s training more than growing with the learner, but that being said, it takes a lot less investment from the trainer or the learner. It’s logistically manageable.

I’m thinking that it would be feasible to follow more or less this model in making an afterschool program that would meet a couple of hours a week for a month or so. Perhaps if we were to target a group that already met regularly, like a Queer Straight Alliances, then there would be a group of people who felt already felt comfortable talking about personal things, then it may work. The first step seems like it should be finding a partner in crime...

Short Hair

It’s been so long since I’ve had to be anywhere I didn’t want to be, that I forgot how public space feels against my skin.

“You in the service?” an older man with a worn expression inquires. I look him over, reading the loose threads of his cut-offs, the wrinkles in his over sized shell of an sweat suit draping down from his carefully trimmed neck line to mean he was.

I’d not been asked this question when I grew up in my navy town. In the moment of hesitation, an image of myself registered in my mind, short curly hair above a tall body clad in board shorts and a sports bra. I forgot how reference points shift with cultural territory, how a sense of place mediates the meaning that etches itself into our bodies. What, in Northampton, is decidedly dyke boarding on queer wedges itself into the military discount arena once I set foot within 10 miles of a base.

“Naw, but my mother was an aviation mechanic. She did twenty years on fighter jets at Oceana.”

He nods approvingly in an effort to mask his surprise, “I didn’t know women did that. Ya know…back then” I want to tell him that fuck yeah some women did that, and some still do. Instead, I shrug it off refusing to indulge the novelty of his statement. After all, it’s always been normal to me.