I’d Ask You To GO But We Never Invited You Anyway

Another day, another attack on Bruce Jenner.

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And this time from a magazine that prides itself on being for the LGBTQ community. Oh excuse me, for the lesbian community. I have come to expect ignorance and transphobia from the heteronormative and cis world; it always hits me harder when I see ignorance and hate coming from gay media. Transgender people, much like Black women, are often left out of the battles they fight for the hardest. For how many years did transgender people walk in PRIDE parades while having to be silent? How often are Black women left out of feminist conversations and recognition?

Let me be clear with my words: Transgender people are no more the punchline of jokes than lesbian, gay, or bisexuals. While I understand that the media is set up in this country for us all to be onlookers to celebrities and makes us feel entitled to knowing all of their secrets. There is a difference between knowing what whiskey George Clooney prefers, or say Kanye’s favorite designer of the moment or what leaf Gwyneth prefers to use this week as garnish to her spring salad. And hunting into someone’s gender or sexuality. The reason that there are so many LGBT suicides is because when we are silent we are bullied and when we are out we are bullied. There is no safe space. You are doing nothing more than being a bully when you feed into Bruce Jenner’s is he or isn’t she. If I see any posts on my timeline I will not only delete you but first deliver you a soliloquy fueled with such passion, anger, and pride that it will not only make your head spin but render you absolutely silent. The same silence that too many of us have to suffer with every day. 

How dare a gay publication make a mockery of someones struggle? By calling Bruce, Belinda there is complete lack of empathy and compassion, instead there is transphobia coated in humor. How disgusting.

I would call for a boycott of GO Magazine, but as they are a free publication run by dinosaurs who have become completely out of touch with the young queer community, I understand that is completely unnecessary. Much like the Chick Fil A’s and Rick Santorums of the world I will let the ignorance guide their already sinking ship directly into the iceberg of educated acceptance and humanity.

The transgender community has representation. We have allies. And we are better than being belittled on the Internet for means of cheap copy and horrible content. The words that you type online stay there forever. And while in your small community you may be affirmed or upheld for you hatred, those outside of your circles look at you with disgust.

If Bruce is trans and comes out I hope that if (s)he than chooses to change their name it is accepted and loved the way that (s)he and every other trans person deserves. How dare you take that away from someone.

A platform of power is a horrible thing to waste. It is a shame that GO Magazine has chosen to do so.

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Monsters

What is a safe space? When you leave your house or the confines of blogs you are familiar with, how can you navigate through life entering spaces that will keep you, uplift you, and ultimately shield you in some way from anything bad happening to you? Be it physical, verbal, or in writing. The truth of the matter is you can’t. You can hope to be surrounded by people with decency and respect. You can hope to be surrounded by people who don’t see you as a target. People who though they might be strangers, would stick their necks out for you, in the event that something went wrong. People who pause before hitting send on a comment, reversing the words they have just written back onto themselves. Asking: Is this ok?

Isn’t that what humanity is?

Last week I was forced to question. I was forced to question safe spaces, feminist spaces, and internet decency. How to make a long story short? I was home in New York visiting friends and family, and had ultimately decided to have the time of my life. Because well, why not? I was homesick for New York, and planned on using my vacation there to visit all of my old dives, my favorite parties, see friends, and for lack of a better word: rage. So Friday night I did what I had done so many Friday nights in the past, I headed down to the west village with a bevy of friends to cut loose, and lose ourselves on the dance floor.

Monster is a west village institution. It is right across the street from the infamous Stonewall Inn. This corner of the west village is an epicenter for gay history and rights. It is my favorite street to walk down during PRIDE, and until last week was one of my favorite places in Manhattan.

For gay and queer people, finding spaces where we can literally just be has no doubt become easier and easier over the years, but that doesn’t mean that we still constantly have our guard up. Gay bars and queer parties are inherently meant to be spaces where the only thing you have to worry about is running into your ex. Monster has proven to be a gay bar that likes to handle it’s patrons like subway rats. Male bouncers, treating lesbians and trans* people like pieces of trash. I have both been a part of and heard countless stories about these men. Until last week these stories were flags they weren’t blockades. I have spent the past week trying to put that night into words. This is what has materialized:

To the girl on the floor at the bar we know well

I don’t know if you know what happened

After your body fell

My friends and I saw you laying there

Alone and asleep

Dancers were dancing around you

The DJ didn’t stop a beat

Amongst my friends we had a doctor

And those trained in CPR

You could have died there and no one would have cared

I guess a free party only gets you so far

We made a circle around you

And breathed life back into you

In the background the venue shook with music

The drinks continued to flow

With their illegal over pours

I asked the DJ to lower the music

So we could get some order

He told me that the music had to stay on

I turned to a bouncer

Who was standing over you looking onward while my friends did what they could do

He put his hands on me

And threw me aside

He did this while

Doing nothing to make sure you would survive

You should know that no staff member check on you

Until the EMT’s came it was your peers who tried to rescue you

You should know that the bar manager was twenty feet away serving drinks

He never stopped for a second to make sure your heart was still beating

He never bent down over you to see if you were in fact still breathing

He let your body shake to the beat

I wonder if you had been a white man

If the staff would have cleared out the dance floor

But upon seeing another black body laid out

They did what white people usually do in these moments

Ignore

You should know that the group of people that tried to save you

Are as diverse as could be

We have been attacked by the bouncers here

Based on who we are and what these men apparently see

Attacked both physically and mentally

They have made it clear that we are not welcome here

And after the other night

Showed us that even our lives are disposable

I do not know your name

There were no friends around to tell it

You fell alone

But please know that we did all that we could do

So that we would not lose you

I have had a heavy heart since that night. How can we make sure that the spaces we are in, the spaces we create as queer people, are spaces where we uphold each other? As I sat reeling from that evening another event was happening in my life. My good friend was throwing a 25th birthday party. One in which she was welcoming 60 queers to a strip club. I won’t use this space to talk about how I personally feel about strip clubs, I will instead present the series of events that ensued. After weeks of hilariously fun posts on the group event wall, we began to get serious about the fact a collective of lesbians and queer individuals would be entering a mostly cis space. A space dominated by cis men at that. Many conversations followed. How would we fit into this space? How would we as feminists act in this space? Was there a right way? There was definitely a wrong way. Let’s be responsible adults and talk about these things. This event wall is a safe space. It is a private, by invitation only space, these are our friends, we get each other. Who knew that our conversations would end up polarized by the public?

My friend throwing the party, decided to make a bullet point list of the conversations we had been having. In hopes of bringing forth both clarification and comfort. After the events that had happened the previous Friday, this space felt uplifting. No one in our party would be that girl. No one would have to deal with aggressive and insensitive security. How you ask? Because my friend went to the club prior to let them know about the diversity of this crowd. Their would be trans* people, there would be girls kissing girls not for sport but because of love, there would be straight men who were feminist. This was a different crowd than who would normally walk through those doors, and we wanted to be safe. Imagine our surprise when our very private conversation ended up on Jezebel:

http://jezebel.com/dont-be-an-idiot-at-the-strip-club-a-strippers-guide-1681793887?utm_campaign=socialflow_jezebel_facebook&utm_source=jezebel_facebook&utm_medium=socialflow

Jezebel has always been a place I have seen as an internet safe space. They even did a story on me after I did Barneys Spring Campaign. They were the women warriors of the internet. But just like Monster, they have fallen. They have become bullies, articles feel more like click bait, authors seem more like Regina George’s than Bell Hooks.

When I spoke to the bar manager at Monster he was more concerned with getting back to bartending. This was not managing, it was working for tips.

When I read the comments on Jezebel, the author was more concerned with generating “likes” on her post and making snide remarks. This was not journalism, it was a high school locker room.

I’m not sure if these events collide for you, as much as they do for me in my head. But both occurrences have made me realize that feminism is not inherently good. That feminism is not just a word you can slap on anything an empowered woman says. Because you write for a feminist blog, it does not mean your core is that of a someone who is both strong, and trying to create safe spaces for other women: for all women, no matter their race, class, or birth gender. With that said we must do everything we can not let feminism become a bad word. But how do we do that when some of the loudest “feminists” are actually just bullies that hide behind avatars on blogs?

I realized that just because a bar is historically gay, the people that work for it can not only be transphobic but strongly anti-woman. It is then imperative for the queer community to call out these spaces. It is our responsibility to demand fair treatment, even if that isn’t the popular rally cry. Even if you are then calling out a party you have frequented for years, thrown by one of your friends. Silence will not only destroy you personally, but your lack projection will destroy countless others. We can not speak in absolutes, we have to always leave room for others, you must always leave space otherwise there literally is no room for growth. And what is the point of living if you are not also growing?

*My friend responded to Jezebel on Medium and her words are well worth your time.

https://medium.com/gender-justice-feminism/what-happens-if-you-plan-a-strip-club-birthday-when-youre-a-lesbian-the-idiot-speaks-52121eee099c

The Party

It’s like constantly showing up late to a party; my life that is. A party where everyone else already knows each other. They have inside jokes and stories, have known each other’s partners, had dinner with each other’s parents. A party whose guests accept you yet don’t really know you past the game of flip cup you just played together.

I have always felt late to the party.

My family is my family. There is no confusion in my heart or head that the people who adopted me as an infant fill the roles of mom and dad, of aunt and uncle, of grandparent. They talk of a past that isn’t mine. My ancestors weren’t Russian immigrants. My birth family were never called kykes or denied jobs because they were Jewish. They knew no Holocaust.

They looked like me.
Black like me.

My parents divorced when I was still a baby, and both remarried. Two new families where I felt the outcast. My dad and his wife had a child together and suddenly my life at home was divided. I was a tag along. The third wheel of a family whose house I happened to share. I was a target, and on my own. I threw myself into friends, people who had known each other since they were babies. This was the suburbs, you had your friends from childhood but I was new. I came from the city, wide eyed and mystified by these tight knit circles.

Late to the party once again.

I squeezed in. Loud, opinionated, but soft hearted and funny; it was never hard for me to hop from group to group at school.

I never opened up about my family. My friends were from cookie cutter homes with moms who cooked dinner and dads who played basketball on Saturday mornings with them in the driveway. But every family is good at pretending. Every kid goes to school with secrets slammed behind their locker doors. In reality so few of our families were perfect. So few marriages were working. But being an outcast at school, would make being one at home too even worse.

What does it feel like to have people tell you that you look just like your brother? Have the face of your mother? Your fathers laugh and your families knack for sports?

Tall and black. Thin and athletic. Emotional and sympathetic. Scared and anxious. An extrovert with overwhelming needs to be alone. They are not like me.

My acting teachers always said that I had excellent projection. My dad and his father are easily better than me. Anger that resides in me results in words on paper. Either reading or writing, for me the fighting gets done between a book cover. I want to talk to you for hours. I want to your voice, your past, your choice, what led you here. Why that thing I did triggered you then. And when and if it happens again, how to deflect the tension. Amend it. Jesus would they yell. To see red in someone face as they storm around and pace. My dad would throw tantrums like a child. Break things and curse like a fuming bull charging through the streets. And then he would break. And sigh and often cry and hold me.

If this is the party, I would like to leave.

We deal with death. But we really never deal with death. If life is a joke, death is the punch line that went over everyone’s head. Everyone should feel the feeling of being on a roller coaster without a harness. Because as you feel yourself falling, grieving, twisting and screaming, you realize that you’re going to be ok.

I don’t know what her last words were. But I can guess her thoughts. Summers spent outside painting each other’s nails. Christmas stockings whose contents overflowed on to the mantle. Trips to bookstores where hours were spent, where I was allowed to roam and explore. The smell of coffee every morning as we shared the bathroom getting ready. Flowers.

Always fresh like Spring. Colors like a Pollock. A laugh that was louder than most car horns. Eyelids that were always ready to shed tears. Arms always willing to cuddle. A mouth unafraid to sound off. Love times a million the kind that radiates from so deep within, that you wonder if their is a trap door.

Fall off that coaster into darkness. But realize that breathing eventually becomes easier and the wind around you dies down. As you finally touch down.

I miss you at the party.

If I ran into one if my siblings on the street, would they notice me?

Have we ever crossed paths?

We have the internet now. This is could be so easy.

But do I want it to be?

Do I want to crash another family? Another group that’s had it’s history. Who know each other inside and out and maybe have always thought about; that baby that left them years ago. Maybe wonder how that kid came to be and if they had grown, tall like their father. If they have laugh lines like their mother. Passing thoughts as they have moments alone. But not enough to press the issue. And what about my other set of parents? The ones whose genetics make me into whatever it is this body can be.

Sometimes I walk for hours to quell my anxiety. If I leave town for a day or two when I get back the mundane will feel new. I often feel like a polka dot. The literal black sheep. I fear that they can’t hear me, that I showed up too late for them to get me. I am a vortex of change in every way. My gender picks up where nature left off and strays. My sexuality is magnetic towards so femininity and beauty. The men of my family are so different than the boi I’ve come to be and we all know there’s love there. But it can be so hard to show it.

The backgrounds of our slide show keep changing so rapidly. The projection of his light and not my light and the colors don’t exactly feel right when they bounce off the wall together. Yet they have been told that they are bound and belong together. So they stay illuminated for the party.

Waiting for the guests to leave.

Maybe Sometimes

I have an idea of my true self
But I have no idea where that self will take me
I know that this self
This person
Is ever changing
I just want to be seen
In the light I project
Which isn’t always the clearest
Or the brightest
My worried mind will often interject and leave me with feelings of anger or worse thoughts that I was either not enough or was much too direct
I get this really bad feeling
When I feel tension
When I feel like my words are misinterpreted
Or your tone was taken out of context
The simple complexities of conversation
What is taken
What is given
What is left as a question
If only we asked
So then we would know
Why that silence just got longer and longer
Why nothing dissipated
But instead chose to grow
Why we distance ourselves from those we once loved
And still do if we were honest
Friends lovers and in betweens
We are whatever we were
We are has been
Used to be
But if we take away the negative
And holes in our conversation
Could we get back to something
Get back to simplicity
Simply

Silently sensitive
I am
Not too proud to be emotional
But
Too cautious to show hurt

But still most things eventually hurt
And because we are not here forever
Maybe we should try not to say words that could break us apart forever

Maybe apologies should come easy
For me they never have
But maybe part of growing up
Is learning lessons we always knew we had to
But never took the emotional space to

Because really who wants to admit they were wrong
Because really who wants to dig into that space that you tucked so far away
That trunk in the attic of your parents house
That you know contains both euphoric memories
And thunderstorms that caught you off guard
And wrecked you in that moment
For a few days
That trunk exists for a reason
Burden can be entirely too much to hold on to
But clarity is something we’re all entitled to

Dust forms on the things we leave untouched
But it doesn’t make them worthless
They aren’t worth less

Shake up a snow globe and watch a million pieces of sparkly nothing illuminate a fairy tale scene
For a moment everything is beautiful
Perfect
Serene
But eventually the glitter falls
And the music stops
What do you then make for that snow globe
Is it now just nothing more than a paper weight
Or is it just as useful when it isn’t putting on a show
When it just is

We can illuminate ourselves
We should illuminate ourselves
But we should remember life isn’t just about the show
You are the shell that holds a million pieces
Shake them wrong
Shake them right
Sometimes calm
But not always
Sometimes strong
But not always

Because nothing
Is always

Beyond the Surface of Gentrification Lies a New Generation

I’ve been thinking a lot about gentrification. About people and the spaces that they occupy. Why they occupy them and who they are disrupting by staying in them. I’ve been thinking a lot about our countries prison system. I’ve been thinking a lot about mental health, and how the poor don’t have access to proper doctors and treatment. This is what I would call a freestyle essay. It is free verse. Free thought.

I think we have quickly categorized gentrification as a: black and white thing. White people moving into areas and “colonizing” them. Young white post college kids moving into areas that are minority filled; white washing them. I have many times scuffed at white kids living in areas that are predominantly black. Scuffed at the businesses that follow them. The rent hikes that they’ll bring. The ignorant and those who are unaware of their privilege; I can’t stand them. The broke and just trying to make it in the city of their dreams? I can’t blame them.

Do I because of the color of my skin deserve to move into certain neighborhoods while those of equal economic status do not belong because they are white?

I have come to see gentrification as a clear induction that our government and political system are both racist and classist. That our banks are built to support those two groups and therefore small businesses are run not by young minds with brewing ideas but big those with money. Or those who look the right “American” way.

Cops are always around. They are always around black neighborhoods policing the every moves of black youth. They are present in gentrified communities to do the same thing. The NYPD as far as I’m concerned exists to protect white people. The jail system in our country is in place to enslave black people and minorities. To literally lock them up an throw away they key.

Black people have always had it (to put it very lightly) bad in America. Racism still exists in our country it is absolutely impossible to deny that. But in the same breath we must acknowledge that the gap between classes has become disgusting. Racism in 2014 means more than white vs black, it means rich vs poor, the educated vs the non educated.

White people have tried again and again to strip black people of their roots. When I fill out a census or a health form I am asked to check “African American”. As if it is a constant reminder that as a black person I must have come from Africa. Meaning I must be the descendent of slaves. Meaning I am less than a Caucasian.

I was having a conversation with someone about how much her neighborhood has changed. She is white and moved to a part of Brooklyn she could afford. A neighborhood mostly Hispanic. She said a line that stuck me: I make the same as many of my neighbors, I don’t have healthcare, economically we are equal. Young white people maybe for the first time in our history are broke and have similarly disadvantaged situations. The difference is our visual privilege. Race.

Business owners don’t pay attention to certain neighborhoods. They do not see opportunity with young black people. They don’t see profit from minority families. Police see crowds of brown people as threats. Doesn’t hostility breed hostility?

If an event like St. Patricks Day existed for POC I can not even begin to imagine what cops would do. Being that a tremendous chunk or the NYPD and the FDNY are Irish it makes, beautiful, disgusting, enraging, sense that the absolute ridiculousness and drunk tomfoolery that is the St Patricks Day Parade is allowed to exist.

Can you imagine a city filled with drunk, loud young black people? Replace bag pipes with African drums. Hear that noise. See stumbling brown people. Loud harassing brown men. Scantily clad brown women barely able to walk. HOW DO YOU THINK WHITE PEOPLE AND THE POLICE WOULD REACT TO THAT?

I’ve lived in New York all my life. We have parades for different brown nationalities. They are not the no holds bar fun and brew that the St. Patricks Day Parade is. Cops present at the Caribbean Day Parade feel like wardens. Their presence is not celebratory, it is hostile. Watching the police watch the Caribbean Day Parade feels much like what it would have been to watch plantation owners looking over their slaves. With a combination of fear, disgust, ego, and hate.

The structure of our country needs to change before our country implodes on itself. It is no longer the era of Jim Crow, and while we can’t say that racism is gone we must realize that it has manifested into something else. Our country is a buffet for the rich. White or black if you have money you have power. The poor haven’t been forgotten, they have almost been played. Giant corporations in our country keep the poor employed while ensuring that they will never become rich.

Take McDonalds or Walmart, both billion dollar businesses who profit of of those who work for them. College kids protest sweat shops in China and Malaysia yet little is said about corporations in America that are essentially of the same caliber.

Our prisons. Jesus Christ our prisons. We have young men spending lifetimes in jail for drugs. They are not rehabilitated, they are not taught valuable skills, or how to re enter society. They are not given a plan. There is a section on most job applications that most of us barely see. “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” Here are the top 20 felony convictions in our country: ” #1) Drug abuse violations are exceptionally common, often the most common felony offense, with about 2,000,000 violations annually. #2) Property crimes include auto theft, burglary, larceny, arson, and theft. #3) Driving while intoxicated is so common that every one of the states spends an incredible amount of law enforcement time and expense on preventing and catching DUI offenders. #4) Larceny (theft), under the category of property crimes, is by itself one of the most common felony crimes in the U.S. #5) Assault is, tragically, tremendously common, with well over 1,000,000 offenses each year. #6) Disorderly conduct is a category that includes various crimes that pose a risk to society. #7) Liquor laws that limit the sales of alcohol, such as sales to minors, are broken regularly across all of the states. #8) Violent crime is another category including manslaughter, murder, robbery, assault, and forcible rape. #9) Public drunkenness is still considered a crime and is rather common. #10), #11), and #12) consecutively are the individual crimes from the violent crime category, namely: aggravated assault, burglary, and vandalism. Each of these holds a spot in the top 20 felony offenses. #13) Due to media raising awareness, most Americans are aware of the commonness of fraud in the business and political arenas. #14) Weapons violations include carrying a concealed weapon, or possessing a gun without a license. #15) Curfew and loitering laws exist in certain areas for different reasons, such as controlling gang activity. #16) Robbery is next in line, which is theft involving direct contact with the victim. #17) Domestic violence and child abuse are sadly pervasive crimes in every city in the U.S. #18) Stolen property violations include being in possession of stolen property, whether or not the possessor is the one who stole the property. #19) Motor vehicle theft is common enough that car alarms are a must-have item in many neighborhoods. #20) Finally, forgery and counterfeiting include writing checks on someone else’s account and printing fake money. Together these 20 most common felony crimes cost taxpayers billions of dollars a year and are the focus of much political debate on prevention and reform.” – http://www.schatzanderson.com/information-and-resources/20-common-felony-crimes-u-s/

I feel as though America has set it self up in a way, that the rich will prosper, no matter how many dirty things they do to succeed. The poor on the other hand must live by the book. Otherwise there is a lovely home waiting for them in jail. Our prison system is not set up for you to never return, on the contrary it wants you to return.

There are approximately 2 million inmates in state, federal and private prisons throughout the country. According to California Prison Focus, “no other society in human history has imprisoned so many of its own citizens.” The figures show that the United States has locked up more people than any other country: a half million more than China, which has a population five times greater than the U.S. Statistics reveal that the United States holds 25% of the world’s prison population, but only 5% of the world’s people. From less than 300,000 inmates in 1972, the jail population grew to 2 million by the year 2000. In 1990 it was one million. Ten years ago there were only five private prisons in the country, with a population of 2,000 inmates; now, there are 100, with 62,000 inmates. It is expected that by the coming decade, the number will hit 360,000, according to reports.

What has happened over the last 10 years? Why are there so many prisoners?

“The private contracting of prisoners for work fosters incentives to lock people up. Prisons depend on this income. Corporate stockholders who make money off prisoners’ work lobby for longer sentences, in order to expand their workforce. The system feeds itself,” says a study by the Progressive Labor Party, which accuses the prison industry of being “an imitation of Nazi Germany with respect to forced slave labor and concentration camps.”

The prison industry complex is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States and its investors are on Wall Street. “This multimillion-dollar industry has its own trade exhibitions, conventions, websites, and mail-order/Internet catalogs. It also has direct advertising campaigns, architecture companies, construction companies, investment houses on Wall Street, plumbing supply companies, food supply companies, armed security, and padded cells in a large variety of colors.” –  http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-prison-industry-in-the-united-states-big-business-or-a-new-form-of-slavery/8289

Maybe it is because I am a queer person, or maybe it is because I am black, or a Jew, maybe because I am trans*, or maybe… I am composed of many minorities. The histories of each of my parts have faced insurmountable levels of oppression. It is all of those parts of me that make me question nearly everything. It is those parts of me that make me distrust the mainstream, the government, the police.

I walk by the projects that exist all over New York, that exist all over our country. I see isolation. I think of Apartheid and the Jewish Holocaust. This “government housing” is no longer in place to help the poor. It is in place to keep them that way. It is a a country within our country, much like our prisons. I hear people toss around the word ghetto. People with privilege using a word that represents the poorest of the poor. I hear white people talk about privilege, talk about white guilt. Part of me is extremely happy that they get it, that they understand that the color of their skin gives them priority. That they are the privileged few in our country. But then I see parties being advertised as “queer” a word that I have come to realize in many cases is a mask for racism. If a black 20 something hears about a queer party, they do not feel welcome. How do we take that word back and mean use it to include all races?

I see Facebook invites flash across my Timeline, I see white promoter after white promoter creating spaces that are exclusionary in neighborhoods that have never seen white LGBTQ people before. YET do not include those who live there. I see them mindlessly engaging in cultural appropriation or even worse using the plights of black people has HALARIOUS promotion tools. Most notably done here: https://queergrub.wordpress.com/2013/09/09/if-youre-from-africa-why-are-you-white/

I do not know how to fix these problems. I don’t know how our generation can in essence: get it together. I see more and more so a division occurring between races. No we no longer have government laws telling us to be separate, but we are doing it to ourselves. We were always taught that you should not judge someone based on the color of their skin. But thousands of years have proved that humanity simply can not do that. White people are put on a pedestal that no brown person will ever even begin to grasp. So what now? Do we racially divide ourselves again? Should our government be made up of a representative from each nationality that exists in our country? Has the racism of our past crept so far into our subconscious that it is naive for any of us to ever think it will go away?

It is not that I have no hope for humanity, but our struggles run deep. Some of them run so deep that I wonder if something as great as an apocalypse is necessary. A total clearing of our history. A clean slate for all new life. I hate to think about what our children will be indebted to. Beyond social issues, they will inherit environmental issues that we can not even fathom. How do we start to fix these things? How do we get the selfish and the greedy on board with the rebuilding of society. Is it time we realized that those selfish and greedy can not be changed? That they were in actuality born and bred that way?

The Lucky Ones

This piece is a compilation of many feelings. Of many thoughts. It is the pouring out of the things that have been going through my mind for the past 5 months while interning. They have all come to a head now that I have left my internship feeling no more connected or accomplished than I did when I started. The length of my internship had no limit or minimum. Other interns had been there for going on a year. Seeing no employment opportunities within. The company I worked for was lovely and our work atmosphere was amazing. But the underlying fact is we were working full work days without pay. In a city like New York it is almost impossible for 20 something’s to make ends meet with entry level jobs. Never mind no source of income. Does “experience” really override monetary payment? I worked at a pizza place in high school. I had no experience working in a restaurant. I quickly learned how to answer phones, make pasta dishes, top pizzas, and handle money. I also received a paycheck every week. I gained experience while earning. And to this day can still make pretty delicious Italian food. In 2013 only 37% of grads who worked unpaid internships received jobs from the companies they worked for. Who can afford to work for 6 months to a year for free? That question is mainly rhetorical as we all know the answer is: The Rich.

Many jobs now require intern experience as a prerequisite to being hired. Entry level which is what an intern used to be is now a notch above being an intern. Which means in many fields you should expect to work for free well after graduation without anyone thinking anything about it.

New York is a city that will test you in ways that you never even thought would come across. From judging the correct way to side step the person yelling at you on the subway, to dealing with a bug bed outbreak in your apartment. New Yorkers deal with shit daily that would break most people down. But we keep on grinding. You don’t move to New York by accident, you’re here for a purpose. To fulfill some dream no matter what it may be. The problem with dreams is that sometimes they are just that. We all imagined our lives going towards a certain trajectory. If we put the time in, networked with the right people, and worked our asses off we would get to where are parents always told us we could.

Right off the bat I will say there are some factors that immediately get in the way of my trajectory going as planned.
1. I chose to work in the arts and activism.
2. I’m black.
3. I’m transgender.
4. I think way too many people are full of shit.

Let’s attack each of these bullets.
The Arts and Activism/Non Profits
LOL
So you’re a musician, a writer, a designer, an actor, an artist, a…you catch my drift. This world was not made for you to make a shit ton of money. You’re a professional activist? Good fucking luck. No one is trying to pay you. You’re fighting battles because the government and mainstream don’t give enough of a fuck to. Which means you will forever not have enough funding and will be climbing what will feel like a metaphorical Mount Everest for the rest of your life. Some artists get lucky. Some musicians and actors go on to fame. And some writers find themselves in great positions. But those are the very small, fortunate, lucky few. Activists much like teachers will always fight the biggest fight and always make the least. That’s it.

Being black.
I mean I don’t even know how much of this I have to explain. More often than not when I talk to an older white person they look back at me and reply: Well aren’t you articulate? I’m surprised good for you.
I think that about sums up what my skin color attracts and pushes away.

I’m transgender.
Remember puberty? Remember how shitty that was? PUBERTY WAS THE WORST. Now let’s imagine shall we coming out of the closet, and also realizing that the gender you were born wasn’t the gender you wished to be. This happened for me around 20 and for the last 4 years I’ve ben trying to piece together who the hell I am and how I want to present to society. Which let me tell you, is super fun. I haven’t changed anything legally. My ID still has my very feminine birth name and says Female. I however present as a male. This causes daily anxiety and fear. Now the good thing about New York is that for the most part people are either too preoccupied with their own shit to care about yours or are extremely LGBTQ friendly. But that does not mean that a percentage of ignorant individuals and homophobes does not exist. And those motherfuckers, well they are motherfuckers.

When I apply for jobs online there is always a moment of hesitation before I send out my resume. If I land an interview how will I explain within the first few moments meeting that I am trans*? Will the interview than shift from my skill set to my gender? Will it kill my chances of getting a job altogether? And if I do get it, what will life in the office be like? How often will I have to correct pronouns? Or have awkward conversations?

Do not think for a second that I pity myself. I don’t. I pity neither being gay or being trans*. In fact I am thankful. I realize for instance that my climb in the nightlife world would not have been as easy as a straight person. Being gay often is horrible but if you tap into your community and win their support you will thrive. It is a lot easier to be a big fish in a little pond. Being gay and trans* in New York definitely makes you a big fish, but as a big fish you are also a bigger target.

The Shitty Ones.
The quicker you learn how many people are full of shit, the easier your life will be. This is not to say that there aren’t wonderful beautiful people out there. There are. Treasure them. But in a city of dreamers, in a city of people working towards fame, money, power, or all three you are bound to meet a lot of assholes. A lot of them who will use you and manipulate you as they see fit. Someone can use you and not be an asshole. Those are the trickiest kind. You know who are the trickiest users? Companies using your wide eyed dream having self as an unpaid intern.

First of all working and not being paid is only ok if you are doing charity work OR helping out a good friend or family member. Which even than has its limits. But working a full work day without payment is a crime.

Are you paying for my meals? Or commute? Or housing? Are there jobs open at your company for me at the end of my internship?

Would you date someone who brought absolutely nothing to the table but the promise of CONTACTS and EXPERIENCE? Look I won’t say that internships don’t provide some base of experience of course they fucking do, you are working a full motherfucking work day. Which you should be compensated for. Since when did experience overshadow payment? This isn’t an apprentice position. This is what used to be an entry level job position, that companies realized they could hire rich college or post college kids to do for FREE.

Note that I said rich. I also forgot white.

When I was a wee gay I had a huge problem with the word queer. It felt incredibly exclusive. It felt incredibly high and mighty. It felt incredibly white.

I now feel very similar thoughts to the word “intern”.

The kids who were using this word: queer. Were those whose parents were ok with them going to school for poetry and gender studies. They were white liberals with money who had the patience and time to let their kids find themselves. Which is great I guess; an amazing education is something that should not be snuffed at. But none the less these kids have always made my skin crawl a bit. These same kids who I would later in life be invited to parties with and see what I had thought all along the word queer did in some ways means white. Want to see a party with little to no black people? Advertise it as queer.

This is not to say that queer black spaces and queer black people do not exist. But it has taken some the for the word to spread past the halls of liberal arts colleges and lofts in Brooklyn.

How do I say this without – ah fuck it black people were slaves for long enough. Working in offices for white people for no money just hit very close to home for me. I realized that most of the people around me had parents that were still funneling money into their bank accounts. They could work 40 hours a week for free because some way or another they were being paid for it.

I also realize that I am in a different situation than most black people my parents are white (twist). Granted I did not have a fairy tale childhood, but my family are liberal open minded Jews. My entire life I have been told by black people that I was too white and by white people that I was the whitest black person they knew. You’ve heard the story before so I won’t preach it again. My point being that just like being trans and gay me being black with Jewish parents has lead me to opportunities that I do not think many other black people my age with similar life stories can say.

Black trans people go through hell. From their families. From society. From within the black community. Of all of the people you would see interning in an office in Manhattan a black trans person is probably dead last.

So I guess I’m lucky. Yes I am lucky, lucky in the sense that I am able to navigate through a very white world. I understand this. I understand that I will probably never meet another me working in an office. Because other “me’s” were never afforded the chance. I feel grateful while also feeling angry; feeling sad, feeling used, and being broke.

These are as I’m sure you can imagine a mess of feelings to be feeling while also starting the process of going on Testosterone.

New York is a whirlwind. No where else do people have roommates well into their 30’s. No where else is Happy Hour essentially mandatory at least twice a week. And totally excusable every night of the week. Drugs of all kinds are norms. Adderall to get more work done. Xanax and Ambien to calm the fuck down. Alcohol and cocaine because you either have way too much money and it’s making you sad or way to little and it’s making you sad. Marriage? Children? You didn’t move here to fall in love. This isn’t Paris. You came here to make it. There is something about New York that is beautiful. The amount that people hustle, the communities that flourish here that would not be allowed to exist anywhere else. The food, the entertainment, the breathtakingly beautiful people you see everyday. But New York wears you out. It’s like the rope swing in gym. It takes you years to get anywhere, and you often feel like you’re just dangling in the wind. Waiting for something either really good or absolutely horrible to happen. You get higher eventually, and closer to the top, but what the hell do you do when you get there? To the end of that rope? The ceiling. Are you now the master of your own life? Or have you just spent years climbing to meet a wall?

America The Free

While waiting on SCOTUS to make decisions on Prop 8 and DOMA, I took the time to dive into some of the other cases that they were deciding on this week. Two of which struck me the hardest. The first was the VRA and the second was Fisher vs. The University of Texas (which whhhewwww white America we need to talk) As a black person and otherwise minority (queer, genderqueer, Jew, etc etc) the Supreme Courts decision on the VRA felt a little bit like a punch in the gut.

What is the VRA?

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. §§ 1973–1973aa-6)is a landmark piece of national legislation in the United States that outlawed discriminatory voting practices that had been responsible for the widespread disenfranchisement of African Americans in the U.S.
Echoing the language of the 15th Amendment, the Act prohibits states from imposing any “voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure … to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.”Specifically, Congress intended the Act to outlaw the practice of requiring otherwise qualified voters to pass literacy tests in order to register to vote, a principal means by which Southern states had prevented African Americans from exercising the franchise.The Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, who had earlier signed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law.
The Act established extensive federal oversight of elections administration, providing that states with a history of discriminatory voting practices (so-called “covered jurisdictions”) could not implement any change affecting voting without first obtaining the approval of the Department of Justice, a process known as preclearance. These enforcement provisions applied to states and political subdivisions (mostly in the South) that had used a “device” to limit voting and in which less than 50 percent of the population was registered to vote in 1964. The Act has been renewed and amended by Congress four times, the most recent being a 25-year extension signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2006.
The Act is widely considered a landmark in civil-rights legislation.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voting_Rights_Act_of_1965

The VRA made it so that there would be less voter suppression. By striking it down it now becomes easier to suppress certain voters. Ie; minorities, poor people, immigrants, and the elderly. So. Basically a win for all white rich conservatives. THANKS AGAIN GUYS. Texas wasted absolutely NO TIME in using this towards their favor.
The strict photo ID requirement blocked by the DOJ and a federal court would require Texans to show one of a very narrow list of acceptable photo IDs. Expired gun licenses from other states are considered valid, but Social Security cards and student IDs are not. If voters do not have an ID — as many minorities, seniors, and poor people do not — they must travel at their own expense, produce their birth certificate, and in many cases pay a fee to get an ID. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/06/25/2212281/two-hours-after-the-supreme-court-gutted-the-voting-rights-act-texas-ag-suppresses-minority-voters/

Super.

What is Fisher vs. The University of Texas about you may ask?

If the Supreme Court is ruling on it, it’s probably a super important big deal right? Like gay marriage? Yeah you would think. Fisher is Abigail Fisher a white woman (girl?) who was denied entry to The University of Texas, and chose to get fucking heated at Affirmative Action because of her rejection. Remember the college application process you guys? It was all kinds of shits and giggles. You had your eye set on one school, no matter how many others you applied to, there was only one letter that actually mattered to you. And on the day that letter came your emotions were going to go one of two ways. There were either going to be ecstatic happy leaps, or a face plant into your bed. Those were pretty much your only options, because you are a sane human person. Rejection sucks, but it is a fucking part of life. Well Abigail Fisher decided that her rejection was actually worse then your rejection because you see she is white, and her spot no doubt went to some black person just because you know THEY’RE BLACK. So what did little privileged Abigail do? Her and mommy and daddy went to their lawyers and got this fucking shit all the way to SCOTUS. Which like, as parents isn’t this the time you tell your kid to maybe stop being such a brat and accept the fact that not everyone get’s what they want? She had a 3.5 GPA. Which, I am no Dumbledore at math or anything but is .5 points away from a 4.0 which means that well Abi isn’t exactly perfect.

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White people like to get good and fucking angry about Affirmative Action, but skate on by when it comes to legacies. You know that system in place in many colleges across the country that gives priority to those who have had families who have gone there in the past? Let us break this down REAL QUICK. Brown vs. The Board of Education happened in 1954. In 1962 the first black student was enrolled in The University of Mississippi. Soooo how many African American kids enrolling in school TODAY exactly can have legacies? Right. But Affirmative Action is unfair. Totally.

Don’t even.

Civil rights are something that we (society) have either been fighting for, or against since we could segregate ourselves. My parents grew up in a time when blacks and whites lived in a very different United States. My grandparents lived and fought in a war that tried to rid the world of Jews forever. And now our generation is fighting for the equality of LGBTQ people. And today we moved two steps closer to not being seen as 2nd class citizens.

As a black person, I have always known that America is not fair when it comes to race. Or shall I say, we have not come to a point where racism is no longer an issue. Of course I did not have to go through what my ancestors or even my aunts and uncles growing up in the 50’s and 60’s had to endure and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for fighting so that I could one day not worry about walking into the front door of a restaurant or sitting anywhere in a movie theatre or a bus. It is almost impossible for me to wrap my head around the thought that when my parents were kids they went to segregate schools. My parents are white. They were raised in a time of segregation, grew up, and adopted a black kid, who then in turn turned out to be gay. My grandparents grew up having to hear words like kike, and Jew said with disgust. My grandfathers fought in a war that sought to end their existence. They won. And now they have a grandchild who can just about say the same for gay marriage.

I knew that regardless of my families background the decisions on DOMA and Prop 8 would strike me, I mean how could they not? It is such a hard thing to vocalize. This feeling. I look back on my families history and all I see is a fight. There has not been one generation that hasn’t had to fight for the right to be seen as an equal. It finally seems like new generations will be born in a truly open and accepting world, well at least here in America.

This country is by no means perfect. But we have been moving towards equality since we began. There have always been those trying to stifle the rights of others and there have always been and I am certain will always be those who won’t shut up until they are heard and seen as equals. And today I can say that as a black, Jewish, gender queer, gay individual one less weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. Thank you to everyone who has fought, and thank you to everyone who will continue to make sure equality is not just a slogan on bumper stickers, but an actual practice that all of our children never have to question.

Happy PRIDE everyone.

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