Perfect

Lately, my music player has been playing a lot of Doria Roberts and every time it happens, it takes me right back to the first few weeks of college. Arriving at Mount Holyoke College and, amongst other things, being so overwhelmed at living amongst some many queer people for the first time. It blew my little mind. So I went to see Doria Roberts play on campus and being so thrilled (women like this come and play at MY college?!?) that I found myself wandering down to Hampshire College to see her play again a few days later. I just could not get enough of how political and angry and romantic and attractive she was. I remember with so much fondness the unbridled joy of it all that I wanted to share a tiny piece of it with you.

Hope y’all had a great Coming Out Day yesterday!

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Fighting for racial justice IS queer

Mia Mingus is amazing and if you don’t know who she is, you should definitely go and check her out. She is “a queer disabled woman of color korean american transracial and transnational adoptee working, creating and loving towards wholeness and connection, love and liberation” and one kick-ass activist.

Her recent blog post “Intersectionality” is a Big Fancy Word for my Life pares down the keynote address she recently gave at MBLGTACC 2010. I think I’m in love. Listen.

We have to confront white supremacy within LGBT and Queer communities.  A queer politic MUST include solidarity with people of color; it MUST include fighting racism and white supremacy.  Because we aren’t queer OR people of color; queer OR white; queer OR able bodied; queer OR working class.  We can’t just decide to come together as queer people and expect that we are all going to be united and work together—or that we’ll even feel comfortable.

We must be willing to have hard conversations as queer people with each other about how we are different as queer people.  It helps us to expand what “queerness” is—to see that there are many different ways to be queer.

This talk about intersectionality is my kind of politics. The more I move out in the world, the more I realize that thinking in this way is part of a radical politic. Also, the more I grow the more I know without a doubt how absolutely necessary this kind of thinking is.

Racism and white supremacy are so pervasive, that we don’t even have to be consciously or intentionally doing anything to participate in them.  It’s in the air we breathe; it’s how the machine rolls; it’s the default.  It’s backed by everything in our society.  That’s the thing about oppression, power and privilege: unless you are actively challenging it, you are colluding with it. We live in a heterosexist society, we live in an ableist society and we all have a responsibility to actively work against it. We can’t guarantee that things won’t be ableist or won’t be racist (that’s not the world we live in right now); but we CAN guarantee that when there is racism, when there is ableism, that we will do something about it.  We will LISTEN to those most impacted; we will listen to people of color, we will listen to disabled folks; we will listen to trans folks; we will listen to queer disabled people of color—and hear them.  We can guarantee that we will act and communicate with each other.  And maybe we will make mistakes; and we will learn from them.

There is no such thing as neutrality.  If you have privilege, you can never be neutral, because you are constantly benefiting off of that privilege—even at the same time as you are also being oppressed. That is what “intersectionality” (for lack of a better word) is about.  It is about moving beyond single-issue politics; it’s about understanding the complexities of our lives.  It is understanding that fighting for racial justice IS queer; fighting for disability justice IS queer.

Intersectionality informs the type of student midwife I am and the type of midwife I hope to be. How can we wake the birth community up to the necessity of this expansive way of thinking?

Dyke

I got a haircut the other day at a student salon because I am a poor midwifery student. I went in with the intention of getting a stylish, short hair cut a la Natalie Portman. Instead, I got a very very very short haircut that looks like someone gave me a buzz cut. I look very much like the hair I had after I was growing out my shaved head in high school. I’m getting used to it. It’s not so much that I don’t like my new hair as much as it’s not at all what I asked for. I also find myself almost unconsciously preparing myself for unfriendly remarks – probably because that was my experience when I last had hair like this.

What is it about a haircut that gives people permission to violate your sense of self and safety? Today I was called a dyke for the first time since high school. I could see it coming a mile away. Parking our car outside of our tiny apartment, I could see the two guys across the street staring at me. They were about my age and lounging against the side of their car, enjoying the rare Maine sunshine like any sensible person would be doing today. I glanced over, they were still staring. I got out of my car to their laughter, and then one of them calls out, “Dyke.” I ignore them and keep walking.

On the scale of harassment, this is a pretty minor offense. I’ve had people do things that actually scared me and made me worried about my safety – I’ve had people follow me for blocks at midnight in a neighborhood where it was commonplace to beat up queers, I’ve had people corner me on public transportation and say things to me that were so dirty and disgusting I would never repeat it to anyone else. All in all, I count myself extremely lucky. No one has ever hurt me physically, and what queer person hasn’t these things or much much worse done to them? Still, I say to myself, this should not be a commonplace experience. It should not be my experience. I should not have to steel myself against these sorts of intrusions when I am in public spaces.

There’s something about the word dyke, though, that I can’t let go. It ricochets me right back into high school and a whole separate world of rules. I have since worked hard to reclaim that word for myself – preferring it as a term to describe myself over all others, even enjoying at times the momentary looks of shock when I describe myself as a dyke to people who never hear that term used in polite company. But in high school, it cut deep. It immobilized me. Unlike now when I hear that word verbally hurled at me and I keep walking, more aware of my surroundings perhaps, but essentially unfazed. In high school, though, I couldn’t. Senior year I had a girlfriend and I couldn’t be anywhere on campus without being called a dyke and being told that I was going to hell (oh the creativity of high schoolers). At that time, I was a loud vocal opponent against anything I perceived to be racist or sexist (I have since learned the subtle art of nuance and a whole lot more about the actual manifestations of racism and sexism in our daily lives), but when it came to standing up for myself or other queers I was paralyzed. It cut too deep to the bone, I couldn’t say or do anything. Plus, there was the phenomenon of the power of anonymity where the only people who said nasty things to me were nameless people I didn’t know and couldn’t track down again. In my small high school, no one I knew ever said anything derogatory to me (even those I knew did not approve of my queerness), only folks from other classes who didn’t know me.

So I’ll keep trucking, but I can’t say I’m thrilled about this latest development. But I am pleased that I don’t feel as powerless and paralyzed as I used to. And looking on the bright side, I can always channel that anger into something positive – like continuing to queer up midwifery. Because what else is a dyke to do?

mother poem

mother poem

by Miranda Mellis

Originally published in Queerly Classed: Gay Men and Lesbians Write About Class, edited by Susan Raffo.

pouring juice from a blue jar
braiding my hair
throwing a paint bomb at a billboard
sweeping up anguish
broken glass from a fist through a window
with her wing-tipped broom
she’s been told she leaks a poison from her heart.
i inherit the feeling, and her barricade, like a fence
that only spirits get past
she was framed and so i, unnamed
redess. because i can’t live that silenced way
-daughter of the shamed-
so i honor her.

sequence of events:
burrowing into her bare back
p o l i t i c s filet of sole j u s t i c e
blueberry pancakes p o r k c h o p s solidarity d y k e .
all those churches housing banner-makers at night
we wore gauchos and tried to feather my curly hair
cut off our barbies’ heads
while she postered/smoked/wept for sunrise tanks
she
consulted oracles on her children’s behalf
availed herself of the opiates of the masses
went on strike/wore combat boots/taught at high schools called
Sunshine, and Opportunity.
she had a girlfriend
named diana that
disappeared
i was eleven
(something to do with retributive armed robbery
by which i was inspired to dream
of redistribution
of wealth)
diana was a goddess, right
underground like persephone (and in case you’re a cop maybe
diana’s night
Her Real Name)

guerrilla
third generation axis/con/artist
there is room for
all that scavenging pain, knowledge, and depression
mind a stinging hive and longing for human liberation
the mural in the hall, and the welfare check for toast today

and your voice downstairs i heard
(when politics was just a word)
she threaded my young mind incrementally
with simple values, like
always fight back
only steal from the biggest stores
work the landscape as outlaw
view it as mutable
imagination is the weapon of choice
your will is not the measure of all things
we are masked by contingencies
and revealed in action.
i perched on her bed
to drink desperation’s wisdom
precious like untold history
a circuitry
of mated worlds-tenderness, war, abuse, and resistance
vanity and insurrection, poverty and extravagance
joy and beauty in a terrible state
and despite governments
this is one who knows her mother from the frame they give her

“it has not paid to cherish symbols
when the substance is so close at hand”*
earth, beneath concrete skirt;
fill my mouth and eyes with your daughters
i am taking a very old way

*Audre Lorde, “Walking Our Boundaries,” in The Black Unicorn: Poems (New York: Norton, 1978)