There is no such thing as benign economic conservatism

Hello kittens,

I’ve got just one more thing to say before elections this Tuesday.

If there’s one thing I wish everyone could understand, it’s that there is no such thing as benign economic conservatism.

As I’ve discussed before, many people are relieved to discover someone is ‘just’ a fiscal conservative. The idea being, I suppose, that economics are complicated and one might reasonably divorce fiscal and social issues.

As though the economy weren’t a social issue.

Economic policy is and will probably continue to be the absolute cornerstone of conservative thinking. It is not a fluffy, ethereal intangible for other people to argue about. It is the actual battleground on which conservatives wage their war against us.

Economic policy represents the real dangers conservatives pose to women and people of color and queers and poor people and especially people who are any combination of the above. Everything else is, in fact, a studied and wildly successful attempt at being big-tent.

Conservatives dangle whatever people are afraid of – gays, sexually and economically autonomous women, people of color, poor people – in front of them and say, ‘we’ll keep all these people in check if you just agree to let us use your pension funds to buy boats, derail the economy, and blame the whole fucking thing on you when it happens.’

As I’ve noted many times, I doubt very much that the one percent really gives a flying fuck about gay marriage or abortion or gun control or whatever. They’ve simply identified the part of the voting public that will trade their fiscal futures for maintaining systemic inequalities, which, incidentally, were created and are perpetuated by the richest members of society.

There are not magical people who become billionaires by just working really hard. This wealth is sometimes inherited, but it has to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is systemic theft from everyone else. Resources are plundered, ecosystems ruined, poor people exploited – and then told that they’ll like what they get, or their jobs will be given to even more desperate people.

(Oh, and then they launch racist campaigns against the people they say they’ll give your jobs to so that you’ll work more for less. Nice, huh?)

The wealthiest are wealthy because they have succeeded in divesting others of what is theirs. There is no leech class but the upper class – people who benefit from the public education of their workers and public infrastructure while playing golf and insisting that they only way to make them happy is not to pay for the benefit they derive from the public purse.

(Oh, and those horrible teachers! Let’s pay them less! Yeah, they’re really the problem. In fact, if we just got rid of the whole thing, people could start working for me a lot younger!)

It is a handy trick to fuck the economy into the ground and then ask for a bonus. We have to stop letting people off the hook for “fiscal conservatism.” Fiscal conservatism creates the systemic inequalities that the social net was designed to protect against. Newsflash: the solution to a welfare state (whatever the fuck that’s supposed to mean) is not simply keeping people poor.

We have to work harder to show what fiscal conservatism really is: the engine that drives the inequalities in our society.

keep on coming out

Hello kittens:

Happy National Coming Out Day! I was never entirely sure what the idea of the day was – mass comings out? Does that happen?

Not that it’s stopped me from feeling warm fuzzies about this day. Indifferent hipsters haven’t (yet) tamped it out like an American Spirit on the asphalt, and, more importantly, it’s a day to celebrate and support people in vulnerable situations. I like that.

I gave an NCOD speech on the Diag when I was attending the University of Michigan, probably in 2007. (Sorry, remembering dates hasn’t always been my strong suit.)

I don’t remember exactly the message of my speech, but I do remember the context. It was Sukkot, the Jewish festival of tabernacles, and Ann Arbor Chabad House had a sukkah set up in the center of the Diag, mostly to help Jewish students observe the custom of the lulav and esrog. I knew Chabad House was going to be there, and I briefly vacillated about even giving my speech. See, I wasn’t out to my ultra-Orthodox rabbi.

Not that I personally was ever Orthodox, but Chabad House is a sort of outreach organization for Jewish youth – they’ll teach anyone who wants to learn, and I was wont, from time to time, to pray and study with them. (If you met me after I got out of my last religious phase, or you just know me through this website, you’re probably a little confused right now. Just imagine how confused I was!)

In the end, I gave the speech, starting by wishing everyone a happy Sukkot and acknowledging the Lubavitchers in the center of the Diag. I waved, they waved, and my world didn’t implode. It was a couple of years before I went back to Chabad House – for one Rosh Hashanah service in the rain – but my world didn’t implode.

The point is, I guess, you never stop coming out. You’ll hear a lot of people say that, but this is my spin on it.

I’ve come out as things I didn’t know existed when I came out as gay: genderqueer, polyamorous… Things that aren’t in the Firefox dictionary. Things that might scare you a little, not to mention the people you’re coming out to.

I half-jokingly think that, just like people my age are far less likely to have one career than our parents, we’re also less likely to have just one gender and sexual identity throughout our lives.

Like I said, it’s only half a joke. But I don’t think it’s a sign that we’re flaky, or ‘special snowflakes’ or some mumble-grumble about the intertubes and how fast they move. I think it’s a credit to us and the people who have gone before us that coming out isn’t a destination, but a journey. (Ugh, sorry, but it’s true.)

Do we go through phases? Hell, maybe we do. Which is not to say that lots and lots of people don’t have stable, underlying sexual or gender identities – but those of us who don’t are starting to take our place, to say that phases might not be such a bad thing. Why would I want to cling to something I’m not anymore – and why should I pretend the thing or things I am now will be the thing or things I’ll be in the future?

I’m so happy to see the strides the queer zeitgeist has made just in the 15 years I’ve been a part of it. People are going to keep coming out as things we’ve never heard of, because everyone’s coming out builds on the coming out of people who came out before. Any one instance of coming out reenforces us as a queer whole, giving us new strength and vigor. And while I hope that the generations to come won’t pretend their new names don’t make ours outmoded or old-fashioned, I hope, too, that we give them the support and space they need to become authentically themselves – whatever that might be at any given moment.

I see a day coming when we introduce ourselves a lot more often – when we say things like “what are your identities and pronouns today?” When we, at least amongst ourselves, stop boxing people (including ourselves) in to whatever the first thing we came out as was. When we stop expecting others to present a recognizable, socially acceptable face to the world, even while acknowledging that what’s recognizable to society is informed both by prevailing norms and the ways we react to them. When established queers and new generation gender warriors stop staring each other down across an artificial divide and see that each once was or will be what the other was or will be – and that there will be no one aha moment, but an ongoing series of losses and gains, of sorrows and triumphs.

And did I mention coming out feels fucking great? Not for everyone, not every time – and only you know if it’s the time and place for you. And even after you do it that first time, you’re going to have to keep doing it, over and over again. But it gets easier. And you heal the world a little every time you do.

EVER LOVE,
Big Mama Schlomo

(not my) new normal

Hello kittens:

I was casting around, looking for something to watch today, and I ended up face to face with the pilot for The New Normal, NBC’s brand-new fuck you to Modern Family.

I had known this show was going to be problematic ever since I saw the first ad:

I said I would buy the first person to correctly identify the plot of the show based on this picture alone coffee. And while I didn’t end up buying anyone coffee, my best friend’s observation more or less sums it up:

abercrombie statues with big gay erections, big gay stepford wives and a wutchu talkin bout willis reality ‘star’ kidnap children from appalachia to sonoma to build big gay family cult in unincorporated juarez, leaving a trail of blood and heartbreak across america

In reality, the premise of the show is that a successful white gay couple wants a baby, finds a surrogate with a sassy homophobic/racist grandmother, and has a sassy black assistant who sasses sassily.

Let’s just get down to it.

IS IT REALLY TWO THOUSAND AND FUCKING TWELVE AND I HAVE TO POINT OUT THE ONLY PERSON OF COLOR ON YOUR SHOW IS A SASSY BLACK ASSISTANT.

IS IT REALLY?

I’m done with all caps now.

Sorry.

NeNe Leakes delivers a great performance on your show. So why don’t you give her some more air time? Why are her only lines about stealing from her white boss or interacting with the racist grandma? (Although admittedly, her smackdown of racist grandma was probably the best part of the show.)

In fact, I’d probably watch a show about NeNe Leakes and racist grandma. I’ll never understand the sitcom formula of having the only funny/compelling people be supporting roles.

Moving on in my notes, we come to “vapid femme/grounded butch.”

So tired of this one. So tired I don’t even want to talk about it. Nexus of homophobia and misogyny, etc, etc. It’s not like there aren’t flighty femmes and grounded butches who find each other and make happy lives, but ohmysweetjesus does this representation need an overhaul. Love, my grounded femme drag queen ass.

Speaking of things that need to be overhauled, how about gay men getting away with saying UTTERLY MISOGYNISTIC CRAP on TV? You really won’t want to see the adoption agency rep. It’s cringe-worthy. Oh, and let’s not forget the fatphobic gag that continues into the next act. (“100 pounds down!” Click. Ugh.)

Oh, what was that, a joke about how scary vaginas look to you? Oh, ok, fuck you, too.

There was probably one funny joke about the appearance of vaginas. It was probably made in like 1945, NOW MOVE THE FUCK ON. Also, if you want to rent someone’s uterus for nine months but can’t bear the thought of seeing a vagina for 5 seconds, you probably aren’t ready to have a child. Just sayin’.

Also, PS, amputee joke?

I’m going to end where I probably should have started with The New Normal.

It’s really nifty that there are places where rich gay white people having babies via surrogate is “the new normal.”

But it’s not the new normal in most places. In most places, it’s very strange, and in a lot of those places, it’s also illegal.

Also, not all gay parents are wildly (mysteriously?) successful and/or white. And while we’re at it, not all gay people are wildly (mysteriously?) successful and white.

And not all gay men are misogynists who only hang out with PoC who work for them.

And this wouldn’t necessarily be a huge thing if this weren’t the preponderance of representations of gay (white) people on TV. And I put white in parentheses because white is the default assumption of gay people on TV.

Here’s the thing: I’m just not entirely sure we need more TV shows about the kind of white people who have the kind of jobs that provide them with ridiculous sums of money for almost no work.

I realize the fact that I feel comfortable criticizing a show about a gay couple – the first show about a gay couple on national TV, methinks – means that things have come a long way in recent television history.

But I don’t think there’s any more reason for a show about gay people to have to make up for it by being at least implicitly classist, racist and sexist.

Just stop sucking, TV. Just stop sucking.

And PS, I totally meant that thing about giving NeNe Leakes more airtime.

don’t fucking shoot people

Hello kittens:

I really have a lot to do today, and I’m pissed off that I have to write about this, but I just can’t get going with my day until I do.

Four words:

Don’t fucking shoot people.

As you’ve by now no doubt heard, a man walked into the Family Research Council yesterday and opened fire, wounding a security guard. The guard then subdued the man.

The man had been working in gay rights activism for a few months and decided that his objections to the politics of the Family Research Council should be translated into an act of gun violence.

What part of this is so hard to understand?

Don’t fucking shoot people.

You don’t fucking shoot people because you disagree with them. You don’t fucking shoot people because you disagree with them.

I apologize for saying this over and over again, but you don’t fucking shoot people because you disagree with them.

Let me restate: you can’t dismantle the master’s house with the master’s tools.

I know people say that a lot. But it is not fucking idle chatter.

One, it won’t work. And two, it won’t work.

Or to put it another way, you shouldn’t even attempt to dismantle the master’s house with the master’s tools.

Attempting to dismantle the master’s house with the master’s tools remakes you in the image of the master while you do it.

Oh, and because I haven’t said it in a couple of paragraphs: you don’t fucking shoot people because you disagree with them.

Use your words. Use you vote. Use your protest and your wallet and your connections and your passion. But you don’t fucking shoot people because you disagree with them.

“I have weapons and am therefore right” is the crux of pretty much every evil argument ever. Now, a weapon need not literally be a weapon: it could be money or land or access to resources.

But you, sir, picked up an actual weapon and shot an actual person because you fucking disagreed with him.

Or more accurately, you disagreed with his bosses. His bosses’ bosses, probably. Now, I suppose the fact remains that his bosses’ bosses are fucking horrible, awful people of dubious commitment to human reality. But you fucking shot an actual human being because you disagreed with his employers.

In case you haven’t caught on, this is not how things operate in a fucking democracy.

You proved nothing but that guns are louder than the human voice. You have shown nothing but that divesting someone of their humanity is still a great way to get attention.

Did you want to punish the Family Research Council? ‘Cos ya didn’t. I bet their donations trebled in the last 24 hours.

Did you want to change their minds? At the point of a gun? What kind of change is that? And how does that make you any different from all the other colonialists and crusaders the world over?

Did you think you could stop hate by killing hateful people? Even the question is illogical. It’s an equal and opposite reaction, ok? Opposite.

When people ask me, as they do from time to time, if, as an atheist, I would like to see all religion abolished, I say no. I say hell no, no pun intended.

One, I think that people have to come to overturning the tyranny of religion in their own time, helped along by people like me who have decided to overturn the influence of religion in our own lives.

But two, and perhaps more importantly, in 100 years’ time, the world would be overrun by religion once again, and these religions have every chance of being more repressive and hateful than the religions plaguing our world today.

You can’t just point a gun at something and make it go away. You shouldn’t just point a gun at something and make it go away. You don’t just point a gun at something and make it go away.

You don’t fucking shoot people because you disagree with them.

I have to keep saying this, because apparently some part of this is hard to understand.

When people hate you and don’t do anything to stop violence against you, you work on changing the minds of ambivalent people and igniting the passion of people who could/should be on your side. You don’t fucking shoot people standing in your way.

I’ve often mocked others for jumping to say “you’ve set back the movement 20 years!” So I won’t say you did that.

But you’ve squandered good will. You’ve made up the minds of some ambivalent people. You’ve given hatemongers something to point at and say, “look, don’t you see how evil these people are?”

The master’s tools can build the master’s house and maintain it. Nothing else. Resorting to violence to make your voice heard is a tool of the master. And so you maintain the master’s house.

You don’t fucking shoot people because you disagree with them.

Don’t fucking shoot people.

Ever love,
Big Mama Schlomo

femmeberjack: futch, bemme, and this ol’ queen

Hello kittens,

Duality is the spice of life. Well, it’s the spice of my life.

There are a lot of dualities in my life. I’m this, but I’m also that.

But ya know one thing I’ve never really doubted, at least within the deepest, most honest part of myself? That I’m a femme.

I am a femme. Hi, I’m Schlomo, and I’m a femme.

[Hi Schlomo!]

Other people, however, have not been so quick to catch on.

Like, even when I tell them.

Lawdy.

In college, someone (very important and influential) told me I wasn’t really trans if I liked my facial hair.

To do their bid for king and cissexism, other people told me my trans identity just reenforced the gender binary.

[If talking to cis people were a drinking game, saying that transitioning was reenforcing the gender binary would be the point at which you give up and chug the whole damn bottle.]

And so I sat there, not doing anything. And I kept not doing anything. Except maybe growin’ that beard out.

That beard.

You’re not going to find this in any butch/femme anthology, and you’re not going to see any femme theorists hop to cop to this, but that beard is your one-way ticket to alienating yourself from the femme community.

What they will instead try to tell you – and, I believe to a great extent that they believe it, or at least want to believe it – is that femme is a feeling, an essence, a way of being, and that a femme is as much a femme naked, without any makeup, jewels or hair.

This is my bullshit card, and I am playing it.

Isn’t this a femmy bullshit card?

I have been told straight (ha!) to my face that I was not invited to femme things because “other people” might not perceive me as femme.

Well Jane Dandy for other people.

Ya know what? It’s true. You can’t see other people’s “feelings,” their “essences,” their “ways of being,” or even their vigantic goddess cores.

But if the relative degree of hair on my face disqualifies me from having a vigantic goddess core, then please stop lying about femme being a “feeling.”

My beard.

What can I say? I was raised by a butch-femme lesbian couple. Isn’t that handy?

There was something so interesting, so compelling to me about my butch mom’s transgressive masculinity. She was high butch, if such a thing exists. She routinely got sir’ed, wore only men’s clothing and men’s cologne, had a mighty mid-Michigan mullet and drove a Jeep. There was something wildly alluring about this genderfuck going on right before my eyes.

And I think the thing is that I knew, as a femme, that when I imitated her, it was almost like I was performing masculinity from that perspective. I adopted a lot of her mannerisms of dress and scent, but I identified more with being transgressively masculine, even when this got lost in the reading for other people.

And it spent a lot of the next fifteen years getting lost in the reading by other people.

In my anorexic depressed fucked-up teens, I did try to throw myself a lifeline by wearing big, brash jewelry. In-your-face, wild, obviously women’s jewelry, sometimes ten pieces at a time.

But the beard stuck around, which is something that I feel like I have to atone or account for.

Ok, first, I had spent all this time as a child fantasizing about the time when I could grow a beard, which I figured would be the moment I would turn into a real boy, and all these thoughts and feelings about being a girlyman would just go away. I ached to walk into class and say, “sorry, I didn’t have time to shave this morning!”

But the reality was that when my beard came in, it came in hard. It really didn’t take long to figure out that I could either have a beard or spend most of every day shaving. I mean, seriously, I develop shadow while I’m shaving.

So I think I took a page out of my butch mom’s handbook and said let nature take her course. This v-neck satin women’s tee and twelve pounds of second-hand gold jewelry will carry the message for me.

Nope. Really, not even kind of. And by the time I got to college, had some really serious beard growth and no longer felt like putting on a truckload of jewelry every morning when I had spent most of the previous night learning Russian verbs of motion, there weren’t any breadcrumbs left for other people to follow the trail to my vigantic goddess core.

I got shut down wicked hard. I didn’t move ahead with my transition, I let that beard roam wild, and I fucked a lot of guys who thought they were fucking some Jewish lumberjack.

I realized way too late on my mission to sleep with all the consenting adult males in Washtenaw County that I was tired of fucking misogynists. You can use fucking as a gerund or an intensifier in that sentence, but I’m looking more at its gerundive qualities.

I wasn’t the only one having this awakening. A lot of my friends who slept with men were looking at their love lives and saying, “do we really have to put up with this shit just because we fuck men?”

No. No we don’t.

Ain’t no misogynists gonna get my candy, ‘cos if you hate women, you hate me. All my fierce femmeness came bubbling back to the surface, and I decided I needed a more enlightened class of man in my life.

I was single and wrapped up in radical queer theory around the time I graduated from college (ok, technically I got dumped three days before I graduated from college ON THE SAME DAMN DAY BEA ARTHUR DIED!), and it gave me the perfect opportunity to sit around, brood, and cogitate on my genda.

In my experience, trying to figure out your gender is about crawling down all the little rabbit holes that call out to you. My first pair of Giorgio Brutinis. Realizing how desperately I needed that sparkly orange scarf back from a friend. Laying in bed at night thinking about nail polish. Actively thinking to myself: how can I make it so that other femmes can read me!?

When I was, oh, probably 23 I did myself a favor I should have done for myself years earlier: I got me a copy of Kate Bornstein’s My Gender Workbook.

It’s funny, ya know, she interacts with the narratives she can see other people having in their own minds surrounding even reading or possessing this book. Does this make me trans? Will I become trans if I keep reading? What will other people think if they see me reading this book?

Over and over, Kate points out that you’re not the person you were five minutes ago – the implication being, at least from my point of view – why bother trying to be something you thought you were ten years ago, or something other people have always wanted you to be?

I got a little surprise when I took the “Gender Aptitude” test, the first big questionnaire in the book. I got a 33, which puts me very squarely in the “gender freak” category:

Whoa! This stuff must seem like kid’s play for you. Either that or water in the desert, huh? (Bornstein, p 17)

According to my score, Kate and I should already have been having a queer ol’ time together – and, queer as I was, I wasn’t sure how I could square not knowing what to do with all my gender biznass with the notion of already being a “gender freak.”

But what I ultimately got from the book is to say: fuck it. Who cares if no one else sees me as a femme? So what if my beard means I can’t go to your party? Your party is probably stupid and boring, anyway, especially if me and my vigantic goddess core aren’t invited. I’m a futch bemme queeny faggot, and you. can’t. touch this.

EAT IT!

Right? Awesome little year of self-actualization I had. (I eventually got down to a 26 on that gender aptitude test.)

Then I became a drag queen.

Who’da thunk it?

I was so gender-actualized when I started getting into drag that I ironically didn’t really realize what was going on at first. But there it was, or should have been, staring me right in the face: YOU’RE A FEMME NOW! Wanna come to our party?

I can’t say when it finally hit me, but I eventually realized that barrier was gone – I was beard-free and could be all the femme I wanted.

After all…I shave everything that shows or has tape on it (ouch!). My caboodle is overflowing, and I have my own vanity setup. I’ve got wig heads and hair spray, and tinted moisturizer and two different grades of exfoliating mask. My eyebrows come out of a NYX palette, and my heels go to the sky.

That ain’t hair honey, that’s makeup!

But now I’m in this weird place – do I even want femme acceptance anymore?

What does it mean to have an ironclad “defense” for my femme identity?

What does it mean to have exterior proof of an interior truth?

If they didn’t want my credentials then, why do I even want to give them my new ones? And why did I give other people so much power to decide what I was and was not?

I can’t tell you how much it would have meant if just one person had just seen me and believe me. Eventually I found those people. But it was only when I decided to stop asking permission to be who I am, whether I’m in combat boots or a sheer orange sequined top.

Oh, maybe it’s all a joke. And I’m big enough and old enough and strong enough and queer enough to laugh it off.

But maybe, just maybe we can make some room for other people’s vigantic goddess cores on down the line, huh?

Maybe so the little ones won’t have to go through the years of head-pounding and identity denial and questioning and fear. Maybe the little ones can say “Hi, I’m a femme!” and have other people take that at face value, whether or not that face is painted for filth.

Ever love,
Big Mama Schlomo

building castles in the shit:

a statement of principle.

[trigger warning for discussion of transphobic and racist violence and self-harm/suicide]

Hello kittens,

You know, it’s funny. I was going to call this an anti-manifesto. But I’m so tired of being reactionary.

I’m just tired, to tell you the truth.

I’ve always been an insomniac. My most vivid memories of the 80s are the late-night music videos I devoured because I just couldn’t sleep.

I want my em-tee-veee!

But that’s not really what I’m talking about.

Or maybe it is.

I carry so much tension in my jaw. Really, it’s crazy. I’m sure if I ever slept for long enough I would grind my teeth.

But mostly I lie awake at night. If it’s not some material crisis –

did I make enough money this month for my $1000 student loan bill? or my rent? or my tax bill?

– well, then it’s everything that’s wrong.

Some people have an interior monologue. Some others have an interior dialogue. Honey, I’ve got a full-on fucking conversation in my head.

The first détente I ever came to with religion was: maybe whatever you believe is true – for you.

‘Cos even by the age of ten I had figured out that, with a world full of religious people who were convinced they were worshiping in literally the only correct way, there was slim to no chance that there was a right way.

I was that atheist for a long time. You know. The Dawkinsite smug mothertrucker who figured being a jackhat was a surefire way to cure the world of religion. But it didn’t get me anywhere, and it got my blood pressure all in a tizzy.

Religious people would always come at me with the comfort and light religion brought to their lives. And you know, religion’s not my bliss, but maybe that’s their castle in the shit.

Now, I don’t think you should be allowed to knock over any one else’ castle in the shit, and that’s why I still have a lot of problems with religion. But if religion could calm the fuck down and just be individual people’s castle in the shit – well, who am I to judge?

What’s a castle in the shit?

Well, what’s the shit? The shit is the constants.

The commodification of our identities to sell books and tickets to lectures and space in classrooms and cable TV subscriptions.

The volleying of our very lives by suits and the politicians they buy to get people who are scared of us into the voting booths.

Being talked about in the media like an issue, not a person.

Being poked and prodded by undergrads who don’t get that you’re a person, not an issue.

Having people tell you you can feed your kid an organic fair-trade vegan diet on the 290 pre-tax dollars you make a week working two part-time minimum wage jobs.

Paying the same tax rate as your multi-billionaire boss.

Our money being used against our will to kill brown people in other countries so that we can take their stuff (and give it to the suits and the politicians they buy to get people who are scared of us into the voting booths).

Our money being used against our will to imprison poor, brown and queer people while rich, white straight people are given get out of jail free cards.

At least three dead trans women of color this year alone, murdered by and for hate.

Another trans woman of color forced to plead guilty to second-degree murder for defending herself against a hate crime, while the murderer of an unarmed black teenager is touted as a hero.

Vicious jockeying for position and privilege, coming down to using each other as human shields in the culture wars.

Marginalized people slamming doors in the faces of other marginalized people once their own margins shift.

Picking streets to walk down based on lighting conditions.

Tailoring your public affection based on fear conditions.

Looking over your shoulder.

Secretly, quietly passing that same old victim-blaming, victim-shaming advice back and forth because, despite our efforts, the world still sucks.

Constantly defending your identity and your person, from enemies and friends alike, because in the end it’s the only thing that’s really yours.

The shit. You know, the shit.

My dad always said I would make a great UN ambassador. He read me as someone who can bring people together, which I guess is kind of true.

But mostly I just hate the fuck out of conflict, and I will do pretty much anything to resolve it.

I guess that’s why I’m so amenable to these castles in the shit.

All right, I told you what the shit is. So what’s a castle?

A castle is your counter-constant.

It’s the literal or metaphorical square footage where you say, “no, fuck it, this shit is mine.”

I guess the first castle I recognized was religion.

But I didn’t name it until recently.

I’ve had this recurring thought for the past few months: I just want to hole up in my house with my partner and say ‘fuck everybody, fuck theory, fuck how fucking awful everything is and the fact that nothing I/we do seems to change that.’

Fuck it, this shit is ours.

Do you know how scared I was to tell people I was in a monogamous relationship? The shit I internalized that made me feel like a traitor for agreeing, for the time being, to only sleep with one person?

Fuck it, this shit is ours.

Or should I say castle?

The preservation of life is one of the most important principles in Judaism. You’re even allowed to break Jewish law in order to preserve life. If someone is starving and the only thing available to eat for some crazy reason is ham, you can give them ham.

I’ve been living with mental illness for more than 15 years. (What’s that got to do with ham? Stick with me for a second.)

The first time I remember planning to kill myself was when I was ten years old. I broke a toy so I could cut myself with it. That’s how young I was.

I finally got help when I was 16. By then I had become a cutter, an anorexic, a compulsive exerciser, and it turns out I was living with bipolar disorder, severe obsessive compulsive disorder, as well as generalized anxiety.

Getting help is one of the castles other people have kept trying to kick over. Either I wasn’t strong enough to deal with the shit on my own, or I was a victim of the Prozac nation.

Almost no one wanted to hear or let me say that, even though I was put on enough anti-psychotic medication to make an elephant woozy, it stopped me from killing myself. It preserved my life. Getting put on psych meds – even the wrong amount of probably the wrong psych meds – was my castle in the shit.

Staying alive is a constant thread in the output of marginalized people. Kate Bornstein’s hashtag #StayAlive. The Le Tigre song “Keep on Living.” The great Nina Simone song “Ain’t Got No, I Got Life.”

Every time the mental illness starts to win, I have to tell myself what other people (mostly my mom) used to tell me: everything could change tomorrow. You never know what chic vintage chair you might get for your castle in the shit.

All right, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. Maybe six moths or a year from now. And you know I’m not talking about a chair. And you know that I know that you could win the lottery when you’re depressed and not be able to crawl out of bed to redeem your ticket.

But it won’t rain all the time. Or it will super-duper rain eventually, if you feel like you’re in a drought.

And your castle – whatever it is – will be there waiting for you when you’re ready to retake it.

Most of everything is the shit. That’s why our castles are so important.

You will get knocked or pulled or pummeled down into the shit. Our castles are the monkey bars built on top of a huge mound of shit. You won’t always be able to make the next rung, but maybe you can walk over some of the shit when you stand back up and get to another, shinier rung.

We have to stop getting down on each other’s castles.

I call for an immediate ceasefire on other people’s castles in the shit.

All anyone is trying to do is build a castle in the shit. If they’re good and kind and not mean, they don’t want to knock over anyone else’ castle – just to hold their own.

Maybe your castle is your domicile, and you want to grow flowers and listen to Roches records and smoke a little grass and try and forget whatever it is that makes you need a castle.

Maybe your castle is being a lesbian-identified transman.

Maybe your castle is self-deprivation. Or maybe it’s indulgence to the fullest.

Maybe your castle is a bottle of wine or internet porn or LARPing or giving yourself tattoos.

Maybe your castle is not giving a fuck what other trans people think about your transition.

Maybe your castle is remixing Adele songs while wearing a stranger’s dirty underwear.

Maybe your castle is plastic surgery or nudist biking or composting.

Maybe your castle is figuring out where to put your castle someday.

Maybe your castle is moving your castle every day so that no one can pigeonhole you.

Maybe your castle is calling people out on trashing other people’s castles.

Maybe your castle is the liminal space between other castles, or castle-hopping for fun or survival.

Maybe your castle is dying, if all else fails. I hope it doesn’t. Dog in kennel above, I hope you find some other castle.

But I’m not you.

I call for an immediate end to queer-on-queer soul violence perpetrated in the name of the queer culture wars.

I call for a celebration of overlapping and intertwined realities.

I call for recognition that strongly held sincere beliefs that don’t hurt anyone can probably all coexist even if they are seemingly mutually exclusive.

I call on the queer dialectic to knock it the fuck off with trying to define queer, instead choosing to delight in living it.

‘Cos ya know, we can help each other build our castles in the shit. And maybe we’ll start developing some infrastructure, necessitating hauling some and maybe eventually all of the shit away. We could build super castles to hang out in. We could build a ministry of fucking castle-building.

What’s your castle? Part of my castle is knowing that you’re here to read this, whoever you are.

Don’t knock over anybody else’ castle. And don’t remodel your castle for anyone against your will.

#BuildYourCastle
-Big Mama Schlomo

buzzword is a buzzword: or, i wasn’t talking to you

Hello kittens,

I got two comments from a self-identified “straight, male WASP” that have been sitting in the queue since I wrote DWD because I felt I couldn’t in good faith publish them without seriously addressing their content.

I will now approve these comments, and then proceed to deconstruct the everliving hell out of them. Because you’re not entitled to like my answer any more than I’m entitled to like your question.

Ready? Okay!

As a straight, male WASP, I was anticipating rhetoric, obnoxious buzzwords, and faulty logic when I read the subject of your post.   I was pleasantly surprised.  The buzzwords were there, but you seemed to find them just as obnoxious as I do.  There is a lot to be said for movements, and it is necessary to identify the group as such in order for them to work, but, as you poignantly explained, it is a shame when the group identity overcomes the individual, especially when the purpose of the movement is to more freely permit individuality.

I’ve never gone in for the argument that outsiders seeing your in-group critique is enough to not engage in in-group critique.

But I’m not above holding myself accountable when my work has unintended consequences.

I wrote what I wrote for me, and because I knew there was (what I thought to be) a small contingent of queers who were similarly pissed off.

It turned out that what I wrote resonated with thousands of people, and while not all those resonances where consonant, I think it was reasonable of me to assume that any assonance would be in-group.

Frankly, I think I’m well within my rights to say that I wasn’t talking to straight cisgender people.

Exactly zero percent of the reason I wrote DWD was to satisfy straight people’s critique of queerness.

Straight people and I are coming at a critique of queerness from entirely different directions.

My critique of queerness comes from 15 years lived experience as a self-aware and publicly living queer, immersed variously in the context of the LGBT rights movement and postmodern queerness.

Straight people, in my experience, are coming at a critique of queerness from a bizarre admixture of homophobia and transphobia, sexism (in the form of lingering suspicion of the women’s rights movement), self-satisfied right-drifting neoliberalism (i.e., liberals for Ron Paul), and the need to say ‘thought police’ at least five times a day.

And ya know what? Putting all that aside, I still wasn’t talking to you.

I was talking to people who have lived the queer experience, whatever that means.

When I critique pomo academic queer feminism, my critique doesn’t end with, “in closing, go make me a sandwich.”

You were expecting “rhetoric, obnoxious buzzwords, and faulty logic”? Well, let’s move on to the next sentence in your comment for context, eh?

My upbringing and sexual identity have been such that I have not been very thoroughly exposed to the gay (or queer?  What is the proper term?  I don’t even know, really.  Whatever, you know what I’m talking about) rights movement.

First of all, for the everloving love of dog in kennel above, all 1793 (!) words in that post were about the distinction between queerness and the gay rights movement.

The implication of your statement is that queer theory makes use of “rhetoric, obnoxious buzzwords, and faulty logic.” I’m going to go out on a pretty sturdy limb and guess your statement doesn’t hail from your desire for clearer communication and adhering to logic trees.

You say that you aren’t involved in queerness, up to the point of not being able to tell LGBT from queer.

You know not from whence you speak, sir, and I offer now this counsel, perhaps useful in life in general: in manners unknown to you and which do not concern you, it likely proper form to shut the fuck up.

Now, sir, I know you’re chafing under the collar now to scream “free speech!” (or “first amendment!” or “thought police!”).

Sir, you’re certainly entitled to have your opinion.

Just as I’m entitled to inform you that your opinion about my opinion of queerness matters about as much as white people’s opinion of Bill Cosby’s opinions about parenting in black communities.

It’s nifty that you give us permission to have movements. And I know you thought you were coming from a good place when you said:

Here’s hoping for a future where people can just identify themselves by their names, instead of needing groups and labels.  Here’s hoping that someday even the word “queer” is no longer necessary, and being queer can be seen by society as just as natural as breathing.  It’s a long time off, but it might come.  Cheers!

But here’s the thing: we don’t need your permission. And you know what they say about the road to hell and good intentions.

You see, sir, you really tipped your hand here. You’re looking forward to a society when people don’t have to use the word queer, when names replace labels and groups dissolve away.

I bet you say, “I don’t see color, I see people!”

Come closer. I want to make sure you get this.

The only people who look forward t0 a future where everyone is the same are people already privileged and enfranchised by existing systems.

There was this great sketch with Candace Bergen and Gilda Radner talking about the ERA. I think it was the first season of SNL. Gilda Radner was parroting the silliest claims of the opponents of the amendment, and Candace Bergen said the most heartbreakingly incisive thing: “we can be equal and still be different.”

You don’t want to consider a day when everyone is respected and honored for the panoply of differences they bring to every table.

You – and a whole fuck ton of other people – at best dream of a future world where everyone is or acts exactly like you, so that you can treat everyone like a straight WASP guy.

I know it’s difficult to imagine from your privileged perch where you (think you) mediate all matters because you’re above them that not everyone wants to be treated like a straight white guy. Because being a straight white guy in this culture kicks total ass – why wouldn’t everyone want a piece of that?

This might come as a surprise, but not everyone is a straight WASP man. In the ideal society, our differences will not disappear. They will be seen as assets in keeping our species vital.

Well, sir, there you have it. About 1000 words addressing some of the points in your comments. I regret that I couldn’t get to your question about corporate sponsorship. But even this Marxist faggot doesn’t have time to explain people’s right not to have their politics with a side of corporate greed.

Likewise, I regret not getting to this gem:

Marriage though…. can’t the solution be simple?  Just eliminate it from the governmental picture.  Give it no rights, no protections, no definitions, no taxes or tax breaks, no legal standing, and call it a religious institution.  Let the churches decide for themselves what to do with it.

Because I’m afraid I won’t even be able to convince you how deeply 1) fucked and 2) ahistoric that notion is. But here’s a fun fact for you to consider: the church only started policing marriage in the middle ages. For most of the church’s existence, religion and marriage were as separate as you and me.

Well, perhaps one more tidbit: if you think turning over decisions on the rights of a minority from one tyrannical majority to another tyrannical majority is going to solve anything, well…I’m not sure what you were expecting to get from reading my critique of queerness.

In closing, sir: go make your own damn sandwich.

-Big Mama Schlomo