Call for submissions – new project!

CW: mental health issues, suicide

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Hello kittens!

I am writing today to invite you to be among the first group of contributors to a new project I am launching called I Won’t Commit.

I Won’t Commit is a site dedicated to addressing suicide in marginalized communities, with a focus on practical ways to keep us alive.

The site is launching as a solo venture under my editorship, but it is my immediate goal to publish diverse, strong voices to support our communities. No one, including myself, will be making money on this venture at this point, but it is my goal to become a paying site for marginalized writers and artists in the event that the site develops revenue.

I’ll keep it brief here since you can learn much more at the new site. I encourage you to visit the Submit page on I Won’t Commit, have a poke around, and see if it’s something you’d like to contribute to.

Thanks for being the readers of this site! You are amazing. And now you can share some of your amazingness in a new way.

Ever love,
Big Mama Schlomo

Is the LGBT community a myth?

Hello kittens,

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about queer ‘mavericks’ lately – people like Azealia Banks, Bret Easton Ellis and Caitlyn Jenner. People who by various turns are othered by or other themselves from the “LGBT community,” and my thoughts keep returning to a common theme:

that the LGBT community itself may be mythological.

To wit: if you can be othered by or othered from an identity-based community despite having that identity, can that community be said to exist?

I will make the perhaps bold claim that there exists no organization or group which itself claims to represent the LGBT community, and will state with even more confidence that there exists no organization or group of which the same could be said.

This is perhaps both to our credit and our detriment. No organization or group could represent the LGBT community because it is so diverse.

For some reason, we understand this plainly when we say something like “the gay community” or “the transgender community.” For some reason, it is very easy for us to understand that these must almost necessarily be understood in the plural – “gay communities,” “transgender communities.” For what could be stated so facilely as to include all gay people? All bisexuals? All transgender people?

Virtually nothing.

And yet because an umbrella community might be imagined, we seem to share the common illusion that such a community exists.

One needn’t argue about whether or not an umbrella community should or should not exist, but one may very well need to consider that it simply does not.

What has ever been meant by “LGBT community?” It is most easily imagined as a contrastive collective identity.

It is very easy to argue that all people who are not exclusively heterosexual and/or cisgender and who do not comply with all social mandates therein have enough in common with each other to combine forces to fight certain elemental oppressions.

One may – and indeed I have – argued that things could or indeed ought to be this way until any manner of ungulates come home. But continuing to traffic in the idea of an LGBT community would seem to imply a belief that things are that way, which is a very hard belief to defend.

I contend that a more descriptive evaluation of reality leads to the conclusion that there are instead largely independent communities trafficking alternatively in money and/or limited ideologies, none of which are interested in representing or, moreover, even could represent something like an “LGBT community.”

This is not in itself an inherently bad or harmful thing. But continuing to ignore this reality is.

Instead of actively engaging in coalition-building, the mythological concept of an LGBT community continually enforces and reinforces the seemingly completely false idea that the coalition has existed, exists, and, a priori, must necessarily continue to exist.

And yet ask even two LGBT people what the LGBT community believes, needs, wants, or envisages, and the cracks in the argument are as plain as day.

Again, this is not inherently bad. In fact, I would argue that it’s fucking spectacular. But as a shared illusion, we have not as yet dreamt up a means of accepting a diversity of belief.

And so, what the notion of community lacks in objective reality is made up by dialectical reasoning.

[In fact: I would argue that most any conception of an “LGBT community” has been coerced into existence via dialectical reasoning.]

One of my treasured quotes in life stems ultimately from Terence, who wrote: “Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto”, or “I am human, and nothing of that which is human is alien to me.”

A lot can be and has been gleaned from this. I personally first encountered this quote in a review of Joyce Carol Oates’ novel Zombie – a book in which a young man commits a number of gruesome murders in his attempt to create an idealized sex slave.

Where am I going? Somewhere, I promise.

By obliquely referencing this line from Terence, the reviewer invoked – in me, at least – the chilling knowledge that one could not simply other this murderer as something other than human. Different as he might be from me, I could not simply expel him from the human community. His actions were part of the possible actions of the human community, and as such reflected back at us all.

If you’ll pardon the extreme example, this thought has nevertheless had a huge impact on my beliefs about inclusion and belonging.

This is not the kind of inclusivity you get through dialectical reasoning.

In failing to wish an LGBT community into existence, the dialectic – or indeed dialectics – create the infallible and yet ephemeral bylaws of particular LGBT communities.

The money one makes. The books and think pieces one has read. The strict adherence to this platform or that.

The LGBT community could be an HRC dinner or a Gay Shame cabaret show – or for that matter, literally anything manifested by LGBT people.

But in failing to recognize our own virtually limitless variety, the “LGBT community” is argued out of existence. Either there is a correct way to be LGBT or the LGBT community exists, but you can’t have both.

I mean, you could. But this presupposes a world in which a transgender republican is left to her own wildly misguided devices. I mean, of course I’m editorializing. But I don’t have to like Caitlyn Jenner’s politics to see that they in a perverse way mean something wonderful about our so-called community:

I’d rather see a famous trans republican than live in a world where one pretends to be liberal because one is trans.

Likewise, I thrill to live in a world where Azealia Banks and Bret Easton Ellis take to Twitter to say bizarrely, wildly, perhaps ironically hypocritical and terrible things about gay people, because the alternative implies coercive silencing of LGBT voices.

On a personal level, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to genuinely consider oneself a part of this “LGBT” or “queer” or whatever community. As I’ve discussed at length in the past, I don’t feel like I’m represented by either the mainstream gay rights movement or by ivory-tower queerness, and I likewise refuse to represent the ideology of either.

Of course, I’m much closer to one than the other, but the passage of time doesn’t shrink my conviction that I am not merely a collection of the books and think pieces I have read, the slogans I have learned and the pins I have sported.

I am a person, goddammit.

And any notion of an LGBT community that I could really get behind would extend that opportunity to every person. There is no talking cure for the queer condition, because the queer condition is infinite.

The LGBT community could be a broad and deep coalition of people who stand opposed to a myriad of oppressions. But just saying it exists does not make it so.

The “I’m an ally, so” trope, redux

[content note for discussion and use of transphobic language]

Hello kittens,

Every time I think I’m done writing/talking/vlogging about this issue, the world reminds me that I will never, ever be done writing about it.

It thought I was done with it a couple of days ago when I made this video. No such luck.

The “I’m an ally, so” trope won’t die. That’s probably why it’s a trope. (*Ting.*)

[Note: the next six paragraphs are taken from this post.]

The “I’m an ally, so” (or IAAS) trope relies on your knowledge that the person with whom you are interacting is an ally of such and such a group, allowing them, in their minds, to act in any way they see fit. This trope is used to justify some very un-ally-like behavior. Because, hey, you know we’re cool, right?

The IAAS is closely related to “some of my best friends are.” “Some of my best friends are” is used to show that, because you have (alleged) friends among the group you are maligning, your words or actions are somehow acceptable. For instance: “I think gay people are a dangerous menace to society and they don’t have the same rights as us normal folk, because God said homosexuality is an abomination. But hey, some of my best friends are gay, so you can’t call me homophobic.” A similar trope is “you know I’m not racist/sexist/homophobic, but…”, which is always used to contradict itself.

The difference between “I’m an ally, so” and “some of my best friends are” is that a person employing IAAS has committed hirself as an ally to a community, but wants to share prejudiced, biased or hateful views about that community which ze thinks should be covered by hir ally status. Let’s take a look:

“I love gay people, and I fully support their rights, but like, okay. Why are lesbians so grumpy? And why do flamey gay guys act like that? Like, just be yourself! But you know, like, I really love gay people, so don’t get mad.”

You can see the danger this trope represents. The ally in this situation thinks ze can wrap all hir beliefs up in a bundle, making anything ze says ally-worthy.

It’s just not true.

When someone – or thousands of someones – tell you you’re being a bad ally, “but I’m an ally” is not a legitimate or even cogent response.

As others have written about at length, being an ally is not an identity. It’s a series of actions, and it is incumbent upon you to maintain those actions to continue to be an ally. (Or to work in concert with people, etc.)

One of the reasons this post is getting a redux is because I fell into a Twitter rabbit hole. It started (for me) with a tweet from Pandora Boxx thanking Kate Bornstein for her response to the current incarnation of the RuPaul’s transphobia clusterwhoops, and from there I spiraled down.

Kate Bornstein is standing behind RuPaul on this one. That’s her choice. Kate Bornstein has also stood behind, for instance, Dan Savage when people call him on his transphobic behavior. That is also her choice.

My initial reaction to *ahem* stuff like this is to be scquicked out by how gross it is that so-called allies run and hide behind their friends in the maligned community and use them like human shields.

I don’t begrudge Kate Bornstein the right to defend her friends. But I’m also pretty sure she’s far, far too smart to be used as a human shield. So she either doesn’t know or doesn’t care what people are getting away with in her name.

That is her choice.

I think it’s shitty beyond compare when we solicit harbor from our friends to avoid being called out. It’s gross to do that to a friend. And it’s gross to suborn in-fighting to deflect the fact that you’re (being) a shitty ally.

When a famous/prominent/wealthy/etc. member of a community says they agree with the person being called out, the person being called out uses that as an excuse to silence other people. “I can’t possibly be transphobic because this prominent trans person I’m friends with says I’m not!”

Woopty. Damn. Doo.

Last night someone was trying to tell me what RuPaul had in his “heart of hearts” like I was just too stupid to understand why RuPaul is above common decency. I’m not stupid. I disagree with you, mmk?

Some people seem to genuinely feel that “allies” should be able to get away with whatever they want because they say they’re allies. This so-called ally will say “how dare you come at me after everything I’ve done? You have much bigger fish to fry!”

Here’s the thing: if I can’t tell the difference between an ally and a bigot, then how the hell am I supposed to trust that you’re an ally? There are no ally laurels, so stop acting like you have something to rest on.

RuPaul says that he has been called a tranny, so he gets to use that word.

Ok: if, on his own time for his own self, RuPaul wanted to use that word? None of my business.

But time and again in my own life, I’ve seen people who have had hate speech “misdirected” at them turn against the oppressed instead of the oppressors. Straight men who experience homophobic taunts often grow up to be at least a little homophobic, because hating queers is easier than fighting the heteropatriarchy, at least in this society at present.

Ugh, blerg, TLDR: communities don’t have hive minds and don’t just follow whatever your friend who’s a prominent member of that community says. If people disagree with you about the extent to which you’re an ally, you can “pay them no mind” all you want, but your ally status is getting downgraded.

Please, GAWD, let me stop having to talk about this shit.

~Big Mama Schlomo

don’t like gay marriage? don’t get gay married.

and yes, I’m talking to you, queers.

Hello kittens:

Today seems like as good a time as any to state/reiterate my frustration with pretty much all leftist responses to gay marriage.

I don’t like marriage or something. Assimilation bad! Can I have my cookie now?

As I watch my little corner or the intertubes today, I’m struck that most of the people with that red HRC logo as their profile pic are straight allies – not all, mind you, but most.

My queer friends are far more likely to be linking to Against Equality’s website or posting that “progressive” alternative to the HRC logo.

This is admittedly because the people I associate with are more likely to be straight allies or radical queers than the friends group of your average American.

As I’ve hashed and rehashed so many times on this site that now I think you can order it at The Fleetwood, I used to be proud to call myself a radical queer – until I realized that radical queerness, in so far as I could see, was beset by the same racism and classism that it was nominally fighting.

No, I’m sorry; I will not support an ideology that hinges on perpetuating the myth that only rich white gay people will benefit from gay marriage/adoption. This is demonstrably false.

Rich white queers with access to lawyers and accountants figured out workarounds for marriage years ago. Their self-interest now lies only in avoiding that hassle and expense.

Radical queers do the worst kind of disservice to their argument by choosing to attack the message instead of the methods of the HRC set.

Gay marriage will actually most benefit poor queers who do not have access to legal/economic workarounds for marriage.

Not that this fits in with the anxious, hand-wringing worldview of radical queers, who insist that all queers live in exactly the same fashion – some Raspberry Reich fourth-wave utopia where queer culture can’t possibly survive without a narcissistic fascination with its own difference.

And the only comfort on offer from radical queers is the sleek, sexy possibility of not assimilating.

Because while radical queers (rightly!) point out that there are other more pressing needs, almost none have offered anything in the way of a plan to divest marriage of its privilege.

We’re all supposed to be dreaming so big, but no one has a vision of how to divest marriage of its privilege?

You have to hand it to rad queers, it’s a pretty good paradox – not giving you a way forward, but labeling you an assimilationist traitor if you’re willing to take the existing way.

Doesn’t choosing not to participate mean so much more when you’re allowed to participate? You’d think radical queers would be so damn jolly about not getting gay married even if they could.

And I know this will fall on deaf ears, but radical queers: I am not anymore interested in forced dis-assimilation than I am in assimilation. My life will not be dictated by anyone – be they beacons of traditional society or white queers with PhDs.

Was radical queer activism derailed by DOMA and the contemporary reorganization of the HRC? Yes.

Is there a long list of other things we could have spent the last 17 years talking about and working on? Yes.

But instead of responding to the racism and classism that allowed the HRC set to organize so fiercely behind gay marriage – because they could understand how it affected them, because it didn’t ipso facto make them need to think about us icky poor people – radical queers chose to fight what the HRC wants, not how it’s getting it.

The rejection of incremental change – and boldly lying to and about the people it will help – creates a self-fulfilling self-satisfaction with stagnation, matched only by deeply wounded shock and offense when the revolution doesn’t take the shape it has in the radical mind’s eye.

Here’s a shocker: the revolution doesn’t look the same to everyone.

I would have thrown in the towel 10 years ago if I thought my job were total and complete social revolution by the end of working hours today.

Everyone has a part to play in dismantling systems of oppression, and the time is nigh to stop attacking realistic progress.

The time is nigh to stop lying about marriage. The time is nigh to stop attacking those who live a different queer life than you do.

The time is nigh to build coaliti0ns to smash all of our oppressions. The time is nigh to foster a new generation of progressive allies. The time is nigh to build each other up instead of tearing ourselves apart.

EVER LOVE,
Big Mama Schlomo

letting our idols off the hook: on fame and problematic behavior

Hello kittens,

As some of you probably know, I spearheaded an attempt to boycott the fourth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race due to RuPaul’s defense of using the word tr***y to hurt people’s feelings.

It’s an uphill battle to call artists to task for their problematic behavior, a fact that I learned long before I boycotted RuPaul for a year (or, more accurately, a season).

You would not believe – although maybe you would – how much shit I got/get for pointing out that a feminist megastar like Kathleen Hanna is guilty of exactly the same kind of hate speech that RuPaul was.

Here’s all the evidence you need (tw transphobic language):

Le Tigre – Keep on Livin’

You’ll note that KH – a straight cisgender woman – doesn’t use slurs for gay, lesbian or bisexual people, only for trans people. And she does it in the terrible guise of supporting queers, which might be the worst part.

So, so, so many people, including my dearest friends, have given me massive gobs of shit for calling KH out for her behavior. And it’s not just this one video. It’s about 20 years of misappropriating queer identity. Need I remind you of:

Bikini Kill – Rebel Girl

In which KH asserts that there is a hot lesbian she’d like to exploit for social cache. How cutting edge. (EYESPRAIN.)

Now, to be clear, I love pretty much everything Kathleen Hanna has ever done. I have all of Bikini Kill’s albums *and* all of Le Tigre’s albums. I hold KH as a kind of heroine.

But if I can’t call her out for her shit – how the hell are we supposed to change things?

And the only defense people can come up with is: “COME ON. SHE’S KATHLEEN HANNA!”

Well, ya know what? The exact same thing could be said of RuPaul. “COME ON! SHE’S RuPAUL!”

And it is no excuse.

The uprising against RuPaul was swift and blinding (and ongoing), while the uprising against me for pointing out KH’s problematic behavior is its only equal. “Come on! SHE’S KATHLEEN HANNA!”

Right. Because KH is a feminist superstar and RuPaul – what? Flies in the face of your anti-femme bullshit second-wave politics?

This called to mind the rightful outrage enacted against Sharon Needles for using the n word.

Sharon Needles shouldn’t be out there using the n word. That’s not her word. That’s not her button to push, as I like to say.

[Sidebar: Sharon Needles also got a lot of crap for appearing in a show in a Nazi uniform, although all of the said crap completely ignored the context of that performance. During that performance, Sharon was performing this song, and as a proud Jew, I wish I could have been there to see that performance. It sounds brilliant. And PS: I never heard one damn Jew who was offended by that. If we can’t use art to critique genocide, then we may as well go back to painting wheat fields.]

Sharon deserves all the crap she got for using the n word. But where in the world was the crap for Justin Vivian Bond (as Kiki) using the n word?

In a bit that can be found on the Kiki and Herb at the Knitting Factory DVD (which, for the record, I recently purchased), Bond says that v and Herb were declared retarded at an institution earlier in their lives. Bond goes on to say (to paraphrase – sorry, I’m not going to watch the whole movie right now to get the exact quote), ‘I know it’s not politically correct to use that word these days, but it’s like when black people say n***er: we own that word.”

To riotous laughter.

Although this hardly warrants saying, I bleeped that word, not the producers of the movie.

To my knowledge, no one has ever (publicly) criticized Bond for using the n (or the r!) word in v’s act. V was also not called to task (although v was hardly the first or the only) when v took to v’s Facebook page to defend John Galliano for his antisemitic tirade – barring a comment I made on said status.

The absentee crap lies (in my opinion, all too obviously) in the fact that Bond is a well respected artist – v was even nominated for a Tony! While all Sharon has done is win a reality show.

That’s the only difference, right?

They’re both white people using the n word. Both RuPaul and Kathleen Hanna are cisgender people using the t word. But one is vaunted in respected circles, while the other is not – that is the sole difference.

This is not a defense of RuPaul or Sharon Needles – this is a critique of the absence of criticism for Hanna and Bond.

Either art is an excuse for problematic behavior or it’s not (HINT: it’s not). But the uneven application of standards stinks to high hell of letting respected people get away with problematic behavior.

We have to be able to critique our own – and just like it is problematic for Nabokovians to deny psychoanalysis of Nabokov’s work because Nabokov rejected psychoanalysis, it is problematic not to subject beloved artists to critique just because they flout said critique.

~Big Mama Schlomo

outlaw padding: carnival ‘rupologizes’ for drag ban

Hello kittens,

Early this morning, prominent (and wonderful) Florida drag queen Misty Eyez posted this letter she got from Carnival Cruise Lines:

This DRAG CRUISE was a joint venture of Carnival, Al and Chuck Travel and LOGO.

According to NewNowNext, LOGO was unaware of the policy:

To be very, very clear, LOGO TV had absolutely nothing to do with this decision or this letter or was even aware of its existence until alerted by someone attending the cruise.

Al and Chuck, for its part, initially took to its Facebook page to deliver this mealy-mouthed defense of the policy:

We are sympathetic to your sentiments that you have expressed via email and social media. As a gay man who has been partnered for 25 years, I have suffered many forms of discriminations because I am part of the GLBT community. But please take note, Carnival’s regulation is NOT an example of discrimination. Carnival is an ally of the GLBT community. Please understand that this cruise could not even be happening on the GLORY if Carnival was not an ally of our segment of society. When they say they are a “family friendly” cruise line they mean it in both the traditional and metaphorical sense of the phrase.

Oh, that clears it up. It’s not discrimination just because you say so!

The bullshittery at Al and Chuck continued:

Ultimately, let’s use this opportunity to set an example so that all the world can see that the GLBT community can follow rules and regulations just like everyone else. Finally, I want to say from the bottom of my heart, we have done our absolute best in creating this event. We have tried to communicate effectively and bring you the best possible experience, which we believe would not be available to you any other way. At the end of the cruise, I hope you will agree with my sentiment humbly expressed here.

It’s difficult to put into words how angry I feel right now. But putting things into words is kind of my job, so let’s go.

This is a DRAG CRUISE. Almost everyone booked on this cruise is booked because they want to see drag queens. Everyone else who is booked on this cruise is at bare minimum chill with the notion that there are going to be drag queens there.

It is not as though a ragtag band of roving drag queens boarded the USS Homophobe and set up shop, forcing padded ass and sequins down the gullets of Republican senators and their coddled future titans of industry. It is a mothertucking drag cruise!

It is shocking and shameful in two-thousand-mothertucking-twelve to see a gay travel agency sticking up for an alleged ally of the community when they throw around words like “family” to shame members of the queer community.

Period.

To see so-called allies use language that has been used for decades to scare people about queers and to see queers excuse it just so they can collect their money? It literally kept me up last night.

Al and Chuck Travel was at least crafty enough to point out that this ban (ALLEGEDLY!) would not affect trans guests:

Additionally, we know that transgendered members of our community will be aboard with us during this event. Please do not worry, Carnivals rule is not meant towards you. Your right to live your identity is always supported.

But what if a trans woman decides to do a smoky eye with an updo for a fancy dinner on your Carnival cruise? What if she – gasp! – uses a wig or a hairpiece? What if a trans woman who hasn’t had permanent hair removal runs out to get some ice before she shaves that morning? Is she suddenly a drag queen? (No, duh, obviously, but I hope you can see where I’m going with this.) Will she be debarked at her expense with no compensation?

AND AND AND. I don’t want to go off the rails on a tangent that really deserves its own post, but everyone who tries to draw this thick line between trans women and drag queens over which apparently no one ever crosses is engaged in actively dehumanizing the many trans women who are also drag queens. That shit needs to stop, and it needs to stop now.

PHEW.

So…Carnival apologized and issued a reversal of the drag ban.

I’m sorry, but that’s the no fucking duh plot point. No shit they apologized and reversed the ban.

But it shouldn’t fucking take the ire of drag queens and their fans to undo this shit, because it shouldn’t have fucking happened in the first place!

Says the apology:

Within the last 24 hours, we became aware of a miscommunication between Carnival Cruise Lines and AlandChuck.travel, who have booked a large special interest group [my emphasis] on the upcoming Carnival Glory cruise departing December 2, 2012.

The group, “Drag Stars at Sea,” includes several performances by stars from Logo TV as part of a series of private events onboard. When the group was presented to us we were advised that only the performers would be dressed in drag during the private events. However, we are now aware that this was not clearly communicated to members of the group and therefore anyone who wishes to dress in drag may do so.

Jim Dandy, y’all, it was a “miscommunication!”

Not the very clearly worded and then strongly defended memorandum that the company distributed to guests. No! It was a “miscommunication!”

EYE ROLL.

At Carnival, we are proud to carry more than 4.5 million guests every year and we welcome them all aboard. We do not practice any form of discrimination against the LGBT or any other community. We sincerely apologize for the miscommunication and for any unintended offense we have caused.

Sadly, not seeing anyone take responsibility for this isn’t shocking. It’s just gross.

Al and Chuck Travel, meanwhile, have of course taken responsibility…for reversing the ban after the fact, that is.

Al has spent much of the day today with the cruise line executives, fine tuning many of the issues our guests have faced from the email and other items brought to our attention.

Al and Chuck’s tea culpa continues, begging their guests to show some respect for Carnival, ‘cos, ya know, they like the gays and stuff. Just not the ones who pay their bills, apparently.

Carnival’s gross retraction included this little gem:

Please keep in mind that our safety and security procedures require guests to present government-issued ID, and to be recognizably that person.

Every genderfucker knows what that means. Fuck, everybody who’s ever changed anything about their face or had anything change about their face (injury, time, gravity, whatever) knows what that means. It means your face better look like the face in this picture, and your junk better look like what I think it looks like based on this picture.

Which is in no way a sentiment exclusive to Carnival Cruise Lines. But emphasizing it in what purports to be an apology letter for banning genderfuckery on what purports to be a cruise dedicated to genderfuckery is just plain. old. fuckery.

You can keep your argument about a post-9/11 world to yourself, Carnival. And Al and Chuck, you can keep your spineless defense of this bullshit, too. ‘Cos I know a lot of gay family/ies that are going to be keeping their travel money to themselves.

~Big Mama Schlomo