About Tom Léger
Stephanie Schroeder’s memoir Beautiful Wreck: Sex Lies & Suicide will be released Monday, September 10. On the eve of the publication, I interviewed her about her captivating personal narrative of mental illness.
I can imagine that writing this book, or any book, would be especially difficult while dealing with mental health issues. How did you know that this was the right time to write your book?
I started writing Beautiful Wreck in 2004, in the middle of suicidal episodes, a bad relationship, and it was hard because I couldn’t even really deal with what was happening right under my nose. I worked on it on and off until 2008, when I became unemployed.
Since 1989, the Lambda Literary Foundation has awarded the best LGBT literature at the Lambda Literary Awards ceremony. Tonight, beginning at 7pm, we’ll be live-blogging from the sold out event at the Proshansky Auditorium in New York City.
Here are the nominated titles this year: http://www.lambdaliterary.org/awards/24th-annual-lambda-literary-award-finalists/
The creation of a list is the creation of boundaries in a way that is necessarily normative and anti-queer.
When I was an undergraduate English student, the field was going through an anticanon phase and the way that this played out for students was thusly: at no time during my studies was I ever expected to read, write or know anything about the play “Hamlet,” but I was asked to read, and was tested on Shakespeare’s lesser-loved work, “Cymbaline.” I will leave it to scholars much more intelligent than me to discuss the relative literary merits of the two works, but the intention was to improve the education of the students by expanding our literary horizons to works we would have been unlikely to encounter previously, or ever again. However, this attempt was seriously flawed in that while it made the professors feel that they had caused a great shift in perspective, in fact it only proved to reascribe Mr. Shakespeare’s work at the center of the English-language literary tradition.
These cycles and pitfalls of canon/anticanon play out in any number of media arenas, from art galleries to The Huffington Post, and queer media is far from immune to the dangers of reifying the normative through attempts to counter it. Nowhere is this effect more insidious than the “Top 10” list format published by nearly every queer media outlet, most recently in today’s Autostraddle Hot 100 2012: The Hottest Queerest Women In All The Land. It is not enough to point out that this list fails to include an appropriate number of trans women, of women of color, of women above a size 16, of poor women, of disabled women. Autostraddle’s use of the word “Hot” instead of “powerful” such as Out or “under 40” like the Advocate is a false indication that it is able to subvert the paradigm by simply redefining the word hot to include various kinds of hotness. The problem with these list formats is that there can never been a list that is properly inclusive, because the form itself is necessarily exclusive. It would be politically impractical or even impossible to create a list like this that is truly inclusive, not because of the debate around who should judge such hotness but the idea that one person or group can judge the hotness of all queer women and elect a top 100, or top 1000, or top 10,000 for that matter. The creation of a list is the creation of boundaries in a way that is necessarily normative and anti-queer.
Queer people in America have an unhealthy addiction to institutional approval.
In 1989, John Silber, then president of Boston University, devised a plan for the University to purchase life insurance for the students. The plot would name BU as the owner and the sole beneficiary of the policy. Based on actuarial data about the average rate of death of about 1.7 students per year, this plan would have added $350,000 to the endowment for each student death, or about $600,000 per year.
Although Silber never was able to implement the plan (the student government was not convinced), it would have been completely legal. What does this demonstrate to us about the relationship between universities and students? The student relationship is often misinterpreted as a consumer/provider relationship, in which students exchange cash for classes, libraries, dorms, and ultimately a diploma of varying prestige and value. However, university students function less as customers than as assets. While a customer is someone who trades cash for a corporation’s product, an asset is something that a firm owns that it can use to create value. If the corporation is a bookstore, an asset might be books (inventory) or the bookshelves or fixtures in the store. Likewise, a farmer might have 100 acres of land, an asset, and that land would have a specific value over a period of time. For instance a farmer may be able to predict that a certain acre of land might yield $100,000 of strawberries over the course of ten years.
The end of CeCe McDonald’s trial did not end the activism surrounding her case. Immediately after the announcement of the plea bargain, local activists began organizing a noise demonstration outside the jail, which took place at 10pm on Wednesday night. Nearly 300 activists marched around the jail that CeCe is housed in making enough noise so that she could hear the commotion from within the confines of the facility. The group also marched to the nearby juvenile detention center and back, under heavy police presence, but no one was arrested.
Guards know that they can’t give someone a black eye and then have four people come in to visit and witness that.
Local activists are in the process of regrouping after the close of the trial but organized actions are anticipated before the June 4th sentencing hearing, as well as on CeCe’s birthday on May 26th.
Activists who aren’t close enough to attend actions are being encouraged to write letters to the editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Dean Spade, legal scholar and founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, was in attendance today in Minneapolis at the CeCe McDonald trial. PrettyQueer was able to interview him hours after the announcement that she would be accepting the plea deal that will take her back to prison. Dean’s first-hand account is recorded below.
Tom Léger: Why don’t we start with what happened today in court.
Dean Spade: Yesterday was jury selection, and that hadn’t finished. They had only selected ten jurors by the end of yesterday. And then today, what was anticipated was that they would continue jury selection and begin the trial. I got here, along with the support team, at around 8:30 in the morning and we waited in the hallway.
I have never worked with any trans woman locked up who is in a women’s facility. Trans women are in men’s facilities all across the US facing enormous violence.
At about 11:30 or 11:45, they brought folks in and it was to do a plea deal. They did not continue jury selection. Basically what that means is that CeCe took the stand and her lawyer went through with her the facts of the evening she was attacked, and then the prosecutor and judge asked her a few questions and she pled guilty.
The plea deal is second degree manslaughter and a sentence of forty-one months. All of the time that she has served since last June will be counted, and also people here anticipate about one-third of the sentence will be given as “good time,” so she’ll probably serve about twenty-one months or twenty months.
Motions Still Pending
The two crucial outstanding motions that judge Daniel C. Moreno has yet to rule on are still unanswered at the end of Day 1 of the CeCe McDonald trial. Supporters are still waiting for a decision on the motion to admit into evidence the swastika tattoo of Dean Schmitz, the 47-year old who died after the altercation on June 5, 2011. The defense motion to present this information to the jury could assist in making the case of self defense by showing the state of mind of Mr. Schmitz at the time of his attack on Ms. McDonald. It was announced that Mr. Moreno has decided on this motion but that the ruling has not yet been made public. It is expected to be announced on Tuesday morning.
Also pending is the defense motion to present an expert witness to testify to the “climate of violence” experienced by transgender people. Hersch Isek, the attorney for the defense had previously proposed OutFront Minnesota’s Anti-Violence Program Director Rebecca Waggoner at an earlier hearing, and has now offered an additional expert witness, clinical psychologist Dr. Cesar A. Gonzalez, Ph.D, a research associate at the Program in Human Sexuality at the University of Minnesota. It is thought that Mr. Moreno is reviewing the credentials of Dr. Gonzalez overnight and will rule on this motion on Tuesday as well.
The judge presiding over the CeCe McDonald case, Daniel C. Moreno, has worked in the legal system for nearly 25 years, and much of his career has been devoted to public service and improving the lives of people of color in Minnesota.
According to Mr. Moreno’s official biography and an article published soon after he was appointed to the bench in 2006, Mr. Moreno’s prior career included 15 years as an Assistant Public Defender with the Hennepin County Public Defender’s Office, where he was also an intern and Law Clerk for several years during law school.
Mr. Moreno’s parents immigrated from Mexico in the late 1950s and eventually raised Mr. Moreno and his siblings in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, a vacation hamlet roughly equidistant from Milwaukee and Chicago. His father worked in construction and his mother in a factory, and Mr. Moreno’s jobs prior to law school included a meat-packing plant and construction work.
The trial for trans woman CeCe McDonald officially began today at 9am in Minneapolis. We will be doing our best to follow the case closely and post updates here on PrettyQueer. If you have additional items to report, email firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet us @prettyqueer.
Starting at 11am we’ll be live blogging the events at the ACT-UP 25th anniversary demonstration below.
A leaked internal report regarding the protests targetting Frameline has exposed clandestine arrangements between the film festival management and Israeli government officials. The report includes a series of emails that show Executive Director Kenneth C. Price colluding with Israeli consul general Akiva Tor to counter protests by anti-occupation activists targeting the 35-year old film festival. Frameline, the longest-running LGBT film festival, accepts payments from the Israeli government as sponsorship for programming Israeli films, an exchange that violates the international boycott of government-sponsored cultural and academic events from Israel. Independent Israeli artists and their work are not targeted by the call to boycott.
The private emails reveal an intimate personal relationship between Mr. Price, who has been with the San Francisco-based festival since 2008, and Mr. Tor, including discussion of film programming months before the films were officially announced. While Mr. Price was publicly defending Frameline’s practices regarding the 2011 protests to The Bay Area Reporter by insisting, “Frameline is an arts and culture organization, and we don’t take political points of view,” his private messages show the opposite is true. In the emails, not only does Mr. Price make no attempt to divest from political bias, but that he specifically reaches out to Mr. Tor and others for assistance in fending off the attacks from QUIT. Frameline’s efforts included encouraging a vigorous public relations campaign and Mr. Price’s personal attempts to censor MUNI advertisements purchased by QUIT to raise public awareness about the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine and Frameline’s complicity.
Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald is a young African American trans woman currently being charged with two counts of second degree murder following an incident on June 5th, 2011. Her case has drawn international attention and sparked a groundswell of community support. CeCe spoke to PrettyQueer on December 12th.
You can also sign the petition to free her.
By the time the Contract With America was written, I was an eighth grade Republican.
When I tell people that my girlfriend and I sleep in separate rooms, they get a worried look on their face, as if they know that this is code for “we’re about to break up.” But sleeping in our own bedrooms isn’t a bad thing, I reassure them.
“We’re both terrible sleepers,” I say.
That part is true. She tosses and turns all night. When she finally does fall asleep, her HIV meds give her violent, realistic dreams and she sweats through the sheets. Sleeping at all is fairly stressful for her. While I, by contrast, do sleep soundly all night, I have a strange ritual that I absolutely must carry out when I go to bed. In order to fall asleep I have to listen to talk radio. To clarify: I absolutely can not get to sleep without the radio on. For the girlfriend, the combination of the chattering and my deep, comparatively easy sleep just frustrates her even more. In the end we’ve just figured out that having two separate beds is better for our relationship.
Says organization was “unaware” Out!Wear was offering logo merchandise.
If you’re the type of person to spend a lot of time in libraries and archives, and I desperately hope that you’re not, one day you might stumble upon a dusty, yellow, copy of the biannual literary magazine of Stuyvesant High School called “Caliper” from 1977. On pages 9 and 10 of this thin volume, you would find an essay, and I hope you don’t find it, entitled “Are You A Boy Or A Girl?” about a young person who, in modern times, we would call a gender non-conforming female-born native New Yorker.
The thought of toiling away in obscurity, like some lesbian artist, is so depressing that I have lost my will to flex my biceps, while asking my girlfriend, who totally passes as a straight woman, to touch them.
The text is a narrative retelling of the experience of the author, age 18 at the time, who, on one night on the New York City subway finds themselves approached by a person who (in today’s terms) is a cisgender, male-born person. The author is interrogated rather aggressively about their gender presentation, and the story ends abruptly and in somewhat arrested violence.