This is the text of the author’s keynote address at the Fazendo Genero conference in Santa Catarina, Brazil, delivered today, September 20, 2013 at 6PM EST.
The author extends her thanks to Jasbir Puar, Christina Handhart, Tim McCaskell, for foundational influences and TL Cowan, Alexandra Juhas, Jasmine Rault, Michelle Pearson Clarke and Zab for textual suggestions.
Thank you so much for this incredible honor and opportunity to meet with you, to visit Brazil for the first time, and to share with you some of my experiences and insights on where we are now.
The given theme is “The Challenge of Feminism” and I have to ask myself “What isn’t the challenge of feminism?” Not only are we talking about how women live and feel, but we’re also – now- using the word to mean a value system, a way of doing things. So, when we look at the materiality of women’s lives across the globe, we see a continued exclusion from power. But also, when we look at human methodology, in general, we see an eclipse of justice from the governmental to the personal.
So, in the long period of preparation for this talk, I decided that I want to focus on the very dramatic transformations in the gay movement/the LGBT movement/the queer movement, in a very short period of time, and its relationship to feminism. How concepts and self-concepts have evolved that eclipse “feminism” – a system rooted in justice, equal opportunity, access and the value of both the individual and the community. Some of these ideas are already in circulation and some are new. Some are solid and some are tentative. I am grateful in advance for your attention and very much look forward to our discussion.
Editor’s Note: Yesterday Gay City News reported that the LGBT Center of New York City would bar lesbian author Sarah Schulman from reading and discussing her new book, the subject of this review. Hundreds of people from around the world have already signed a petition urging the LGBT Center of New York City to end their policy of censorship and allow Ms. Schulman, a veteran activist, decorated scholar and author of 18 books, to appear there.
Schulman believes in queers to solve the world’s problems.
Israel/Palestine and the Queer International is a queer memoir from Sarah Schulman in which she uses her journey as a lesbian American Jew overcoming ignorance to illuminate the most “encouraging progressive development in grassroots global politics of our day”: the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel. What excites her about the campaign—which aims to end the occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantle the “Apartheid Wall”; to recognize the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and to respect, protect, and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194—is the playing, and need to play:
It has been many years since I have become aware of a political movement with so much potential for progressive change. Not since ACT UP in the 1980s—also a movement of severely oppressed people facing hugely distorting mythologies with no right. And just as ACT UP was able ultimately, to change the world, I see that kind of radical potential in the Palestinian queer movement today.
I understand what it means to be indigenous to a land and to feel the spirit of our ancestors calling on us to return in the face of ethnic cleansing and colonization.
Ever since my childhood, I have always felt a deep connection with Native Americans. At the Ramallah Friends School, a Quaker institution established in Palestine over a century ago, we learned about our shared history as indigenous peoples who have faced ethnic cleansing by European colonists and the importance of nonviolent resistance for freedom and dignity. Many Palestinians and those in solidarity with our struggle had hoped that Joy Harjo would be principled in heeding the calls of another subjugated people. We have been profoundly dismayed by her recent decision to accept funding from Tel Aviv University, an Israeli state institution, and to not only perform there on Monday but also to serve as a Writer-in-Residence. Soon after hearing this disappointing news, Native American peers of Harjo, including Robert Warrior, called on her to boycott the event. The Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) sent an open letter to Harjo imploring her to honor the boycott. A USACBI petition generated over 2,000 signatures within 36 hours. Harjo disregarded these requests and announced that she would proceed with the performance. Her statement expressed sympathy for Palestinian and Jewish suffering without acknowledging that many American settlers—like their Israeli counterparts—had also faced persecution in Europe, and that Jewish and Israeli voices have been invaluable to the BDS movement. Harjo crossed the picket line. She helped provide legitimacy to an institution that sits above the ethnically cleansed Palestinian village of Shaykh Muwannis while supporting the Israeli military occupation which is illegal under international law.
Pride Parades are organized around the notion of marching and, therefore, requires that people are able to physically move to showcase their belonging.
Our daily existence as two black queer men—one a (dis)abled queer femme man and the other an able-bodied (sometimes) masculine queer man—informs our belief that our quest for liberation from oppressions based on sexuality and gender expression must also account for the ways that ableism also often subjugates some queer people. Ableism shapes attitudes, policies and systems that ultimately dehumanize, pathologize and criminalize people whose bodies do not fit into socially constructed notions of what constitutes a ”normal” human being. Indeed, ableism shapes our understandings of gender expression.
As Eli Clare brilliantly puts it, “the mannerisms that help define gender—the way in which people walk, swing their hips, gesture with their hands, move their mouths and eyes when they talk, take up space—are all based upon how non disabled people move…The construct of gender depends not only upon the male body and female body, but also on the non disabled body.” Ableism renders invisible those bodies not privileged by dominant definitions of ability, those bodies that do not fit the conceptions of gender that we often imagine.
Where were you on August 9, 2012? If your answer isn’t “Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in Toronto,” you seriously missed out on history.
TWAT/Fest, the Trans Women’s Arts Toronto Festival (lovingly nicknamed the Trans Women’s Arts Throwdown), conceptualized and curated by PrettyQueer’s own Morgan M. Page/Odofemi, took place this month for the first time. TWAT/Fest was the world’s first ever fine arts festival planned and curated by trans women to showcase the work of trans women artists. The festival featured visual and performance art in a variety of media by talented trans women fine artists from across North America, each piece more stunning than the last.
30 years into the epidemic, exasperated by silence and ignorance, we don’t need AIDSphobia articulated anymore. Sadly, 3500 words later, that is all Rich Juzwiak’s article Please Don’t Infect Me, I’m Sorry, has to offer (how someone can fail to write about PrEP or PEP when investigating their fear of HIV is beyond me). While taking us on a grindr fueled journey of fear and loathing in lost chances, all we learn is sites like Gawker still feel free to trade in fear mongering, lack luster research, and discriminatory points of view. For all of his fear of HIV, he fails to mention evolving prevention technology such as PEP or PrEP, and seems to almost refuse to people living with HIV as anything beyond a positive sign.
Its articles like this that can almost break an online citizen, leave you blurry eyed and wondering what you have to show for yourself hours later beyond a few dozen flaming comments, and online enemies. It’s enough to consider a moratorium on the Internet, or at least on caring. But it doesn’t last, because the straw that almost breaks the camel’s back is nothing compared to the numerous threads, that when viewed together, weave together something akin to an online community.
I have a great idea. I heard about this fast food restaurant, and well, they are bigots. You see, they donate money to anti-gay organizations, and recently their CEO came out and said that while the company doesn’t discriminate against customers or employees as required by law, they actually are openly anti-gay marriage! I think we should boycott them! It doesn’t matter that we have known for years that this company donates money to these anti-gay organizations and campaigns, now we know for sure that the CEO doesn’t support gay marriage! He openly and candidly expressed that political opinion in public!
Pike and I met a few days before the ACT UP 25th anniversary action in San Francisco. I had just been laid off from my job working as an HIV Case Manager at New York’s Callen Lorde Community Health Center after the city’s Department of Health slashed our grant in half. Looking forward to living out the big gay dream on the dole, I sublet my place in Brooklyn and took off for the west coast. With nothing better to do, I reached out to the folks organizing the action in the Bay and was told to meet them on 18th and Castro to flyer for the next day’s events. Pike rolled up on her bike in her customary lanky layers, looking like a hard femme Joan Jett. The rest, as they say, is history.
It was no surprise that after months of late night scheming sessions, incognito public vandalism, and bi-coastal sisterhood, that she would sweep me up into yet another project. Pike and I found early common ground through our involvement in queer health centers on opposite coasts. When presented with the oppurtunity to interview her about Lyon-Martin, San Francisco’s queer health center, the health nerd in me jumped at the chance to satisfy my curiosity about the clinic:
Emma Dilemma: Could you start off by talking about what Lyon-Martin is, who it serves, and how it got started?
Pike: Lyon-Martin has been around since 1979. It was set up by members of the lesbian community as the only health center that catered specifically to lesbians because a lot of folks were facing discrimination going to the doctor. A lot of women were simply not going to the doctor because they felt unsafe and not understood. When it started it was really grassroots, then over the years it got traction and as time moved on it expanded its mission to serve trans folks and any gender variant folks too. We now serve about 2,500 patients a year of a multiplicity of genders. We’re a sliding scale clinic, and most of our patients are uninsured. We provide full scale primary care, gynecological care, and have special programs for diabetes and mental health services.
In what way is the right to the city expressed through the strategies of squatting? How could these actions be considered expressions of society rather than places of utopia?
This was part of the basic theoretical inquiry that gave the skeleton to a strange organism. Its name is “BaBel2. The Independent Biennial of Critical Housing”, an event that happened May 15 – 20 in Rome in a very symbolic location: “C.S.O.A. Forte Prenestino”, a squatted social center representing twenty six years of outlaw history and cultural production in Italy. Here the Queer movement produces an interzone; allowing territorial identities to again be deconstructed, reopened and fluctuating. The Independent Biennial of Critical Housing was a huge effort made by the organisers of BaBel2 as an enormous re-evaluation of 20 years of underground liberation history made by this movement.
What homosexuals need are not more and more ways to pretend that we matter, but fewer and fewer occasions to acknowledge the world that real people constantly try and drag us into.
What a terrible, confusing couple of days this has been for homosexuals living in America! Between the rope-a-dope situation presented and then played out by North Carolina’s Proposition One campaign and the stamp of approval President Obama subsequently graced us all with, I can understand why so many of you seem so unhinged. Things are more like they are now than they ever were before.
“You know, not every trans woman is a perv, slinging around a pole and butt-clapping,” says Ceyenne Doroshow, elegant lady chef and author of the new memoir cookbook Cooking in Heels, set to be released this August. “I’m happy being who I am. I have a full life. At the pantry where I volunteer, I hand out condoms to senior citizens. On the 19th of May I’m trying to get a mobile testing unit there for World AIDS Day. I do a lot.”
Doroshow, a trans woman, activist, educator, and, of course, chef, has always been an avid lover of all things culinary. She’s also keen on storytelling and the intersection of cooking and healing. “If it wasn’t for the kitchen, I don’t know where I’d be today.”
She took some time to speak to PrettyQueer contributor Katie Liederman about glamour, mentorship, pig parts, and her new book.
Katie Liederman: What’s the most glamorous outfit you have ever cooked in?
Ceyenne Doroshow: I once cooked in a Dolce and Gabbana wrap gown. When you walk in it, your leg comes out. It looks like Morticia Adams’ gown– basic black. All you need are earrings – not even a necklace. I made tempura in it.
PQ: How do you cook in those nails?
CD: Well, normally my nails aren’t that long. I wore them that long for the video we taped for our kickstarter. But I’ve been cooking for so long. I can burn myself and keep going. I can cook anywhere in nails– even at a fireside by a campsite. I get so much enjoyment out of cooking. Even if I’m upset, I can just tune out everybody and hum.
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.
(These are general suggestions for writing prisoners and are adapted from the guidelines at Black and Pink and the Prisoner Correspondence Project. Always refer to CeCe’s support website for details on writing her specifically.)
When someone hears their name called by a prison guard during mail call it can be a powerful reminder that people on the outside care about them, and it sends a message to guards and other inmates that this person has support and isn’t forgotten.
The CeCe McDonald case has brought a lot of national attention to the ways the prison industrial complex persecutes queer and trans people, especially low-income people, trans women, and queer and trans people of color. The folks at Support CeCe McDonald have done an incredible job of publicizing the case and rallying community support and awareness about the racist, classist, and queer/transphobic practices that have taken over two million people away from their communities and placed them behind bars. The Support CeCe McDonald site is always the best place to find current information about CeCe’s status and what you can do to help.
If this case has inspired you to get involved in prison issues but you aren’t sure where to start, becoming a pen pal to a person in prison, either CeCe or another individual, can be a great way to show someone they aren’t alone. Mail call often happens in public spaces in prison; when someone hears their name called by a prison guard during mail call it can be a powerful reminder that people on the outside care about them, and it sends a message to guards and other inmates that this person has support and isn’t forgotten. This can be a vital harm reduction strategy for people who are locked up, especially queer and trans people. Additionally, many people are incarcerated far from their communities or may not have a lot of support from the outside world; many queer and trans people may be in “protective custody” or solitary confinement and may not have a lot of daily contact with others or time out of their cell. A quick letter of support or a long-term correspondence can be a great way to keep their spirits up and let them know they aren’t alone.
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.
Mara Keisling, the founder and executive director of the National Center Transgender Equality, spoke to PrettyQueer this morning about her experience at day one of the CeCe McDonald trial. Approximately 100 people came out to the Hennepin County Courthouse and, due to limited seating in the courtroom, many were forced to wait in the hallway. The start of McDonald’s trial coincided with the widely publicized trial of Amy Senser, the wife of former Minnesota Vikings tight end, Joe Senser. The hit-and-run case has drawn national media attention, particularly on Monday, when Senser was scheduled to testify for the first time. Keisling indicated that the presence of the national press may have given CeCe’s supporters a false sense that overdue attention was finally being paid to the case, but that the mood in the courthouse remained optimistic and upbeat.
From Leslie Feinberg’s visit with CeCe last night, April 30th 2012.
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.