The Desire

The Desire

If you lay down your head and feel The Desire

It may be a for a few seconds or fall into a while

Know that even though it has lived inside so many of us

We are still strangers

Trying to fight each other’s desires

 

I have always felt like the freshman, like everyone around me already had their place and were just being polite; making room for me in a space that was already full. That with my addition would be cramped.

 

I haven’t felt much like pushing words out recently. Because that is exactly how they feel, pushed. My brain this year has been more than ever affected by my body. This brown boy walking. This brown boy living. This brown boy existing. This boy pushing. Trying to be a voice, but one that doesn’t push away or disrupt those in the positions of power of the places where I want to be to excavate my thoughts to the audiences that…who I hope that, need to hear me. I am that, I am that ellipses. Omitting words to ensure that I am not upsetting. Leaving them somewhere in the crevices of my own brain, so that I don’t have to shove them into the forefront of yours.

 

I am getting used to it.

 

Did you know that blankets can feel like concrete anchors; binding your body to a bed, already consumed with – covered by your tears, your anxious sweat, some crumbs from late night binging, and above all else your desire. No not sexual – The Desire. The Desire to get up and go off into the world. The Desire to answer a text, to return that call. To engage. It isn’t for lack of want, nor the lack of need, but it can get tricky. Tricky when the brain tells us it wants nothing more than to be alone; tricks us into thinking we are alone. Tricks us into saying our friends don’t really want us, that we are not needed. That we, “us” were just a fleeting moment in time. Add to that the fear of existing in this world as an other. Even worse, as a target.

 

You are alone with your concrete anchor and The Desire is taunting you.

 

How do we demolish the shadow that for many of us is ever present? It goes by many names,for some of us is it our actual self. We can treat some parts of the shadow with pills and substance. But there is no fulfillment. How can there be when the world itself is changing with you? For you?

 

You are filling a cup with tiny holes at the bottom. The stronger the substance the more rapid the water flows from the faucet , overwhelming the holes – and in that moment your glass is suddenly full. But you have never known fullness before. And it proves to be just as overwhelming as being entirely empty. You exist knowing that having far too little is exhausting; and having it all is something you are not worthy of. You walk a tightrope of understanding that it is your place, to always feel out of place. You are a freshman. We allow the faucet to get out of hand from time to time, and allow ourselves to feel excess but we know no limitations for the things we have never had, and won’t be able to hold on to, and so either  we or society decides to reduce the flow, and just like that our cup begins to drain. And just like that we are back to living with the shadow of The Desire.

 

I feel pain that you are gone. That he is gone. That she will be too. I feel, no, I am sorrow – a state that feels constant, familiar, and somehow like a friend harboring in an enemy.  Lingering in everyday life are the reminders of those who used to walk with us. A laugh that sounds too familiar. A hairstyle that you knew well. A story you’ve just read, a movie you want to see, a moment that would have instantly turned into an inside joke; but you take it in alone.

 

So, on those days, when the concrete anchor is on top of our chests. When the cup is all but fully drained. When we are lost in the memories that have brought us to this place. How do we, how do I get the words out to tell you? How do I dig into the crevices I possess, and give you a flashlight? How do I share with you that The Desire lives inside of me? That while I seem like a freshman, I have been here for so long. Purgatory that is fueling The Desire.

 

This brown boy is trying. While I watch so many of my brown skin folk dying.

 

Though we have been here for centuries. America treats us as freshman. So many firsts. Because we have never been given the chance before.

 

This trans boy is trying While so many of my brothers and sisters are being silenced by violence. The Desire of others and theirs as well.

 

Though we have been here forever. We were not always in view. And now our pride, our celebration of self, it is killing us.

 

My black life matters.

Her trans life – which is charged with the same heartbeat as yours.

It matters.

Maybe even more.

 

So we push out these words even though we are tired. Even though we fight The Desire. Even though we. are. so. tired.

We have made ourselves the brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and even the mothers and the fathers

that many of us have lost along the way.

 

If I breathe a day longer, I am fighting.

 

The Desire may take you, as it has taken so many. And if it does please know that we’ll miss you. But that we understand.

While the world never let you move past being a freshman; know that you were in fact a professor.

 

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The Way That We Live

This has been a long time coming. The L Word ended in 2009, so it has in fact taken me about 1,000 rewatches to get here, I wish I was exaggerating. The L Word fucked us all up. Whether it was creating grossly inaccurate expectations for living, to grossly inaccurate portrayals of how to relationship. We all walked away from the L Word thinking that we could cheat, lie, do all the drugs, and somehow live in gorgeous duds in LA with girlfriends and best friends who would love us anyway. Which ok, everything in moderation; but The L Word was everything in extreme excess. And yes, that is what t.v is for, except so much of The L Word felt real. It wasn’t so much like watching fantasy, for a young lesbian it was watching what could be. Which is why, it fucked us all so hard. Let’s explore how, character by character, The L Word totally screwed us all.

Bette – Let us start with the matriarch. Bette was The power dyke. Educated, strong willed, cultured, independent, fiercely loyal, and wealthy. In many ways she was a total inspiration, and someone not only to look up to, but aspire to be. But lord was she a tyrannical mess.

Masculinity and Double Standards – As we see often in life and on The L Word, “masculinity” is often used as a free pass to be, for lack of a better word: a jackass. As the main breadwinner in the house for years, and the one who did not carry Angelica, Bette was written as the “man”. Take for example when Tina was caught cheating, the world ended, she was ostracized from her friend group and seen as a confused bisexual who just couldn’t seem to make up her mind about her sexuality. Bette least we all forget was a serial cheater, and was allowed to be just that. She was allowed to throw tantrums when Tina challenged her power or questioned their relationship, but allowed Tina no such space. Granted Tina was far from perfect (we’ll get to that), but if we were to assess the one who had the most strikes in their relationship, in my opinion it would be Bette. Bette’s unwillingness to meet Tina on equal levels is on par with many heteronormative relationship structures. Tina should of course not be pardoned for her cheating, but it should be noted that when Tina strayed, it was for love, while when Bette did, it was for power; she fucked her TA for gods sake. Bette was always allowed the space to excel at work, even when she was fired she ended up on top. With the series ending with the viewer knowing she had a job waiting for her in New York. Bette was always wanted, where as Tina was constantly punished for being a strong femme.

Mixed race – So I really have never understood this aspect of Bette’s character. Mainly because the only time Bette ever felt the need to state that she was mixed, was when she was up against a wall. Being POC was never a full part of Bette’s life. It was a tool she used when all other tools were too weak to help her win an argument. It also linked her to the extremely problematic mess of a character that was Kit. That these two possibly grew up knowing each other seems like the most ridiculous stretch in the history of character plot lines. Kit’s world is one of Black stereotypes; while Bette’s is of higher education and elitism.

Responsibility and Accountability –  Lol. Much like a white male of privilege, Bette never seemed to be held accountable for her actions. I am a firm believer that she killed Jenny. She saw someone who was going to challenge the perfect life she had finally been able to create. A job, a wife, and a child. There was no way she was going to allow anyone, never mind a powerful femme to destroy that. She did what she had to do, and felt no remorse for it, because this is Bette’s world, and the sooner you understand that the easier it will be for all of us.

Jenny – Is apparently the shows main character, which is funny because usually the main character of a show is the most likeable. This is a good place to say that if you are a Jenny apologizer, you will not like one word I have to say about her, and should probably bypass this character assessment cuz like I hate her. Where to begin.

Self Centered – GOD HAVE YOU EVER ENCOUNTERED SOMEONE AS SELF ABSORBED AS JENNY SCHECTER? If you have I am terribly sorry for both you and your therapist. It is safe to say that everyone in Jenny’s life was there for her entertainment. And solely for her entertainment. In essentially every relationship Jenny is in, it is for her benefit or amusement. Funny how she admits her love for Shane, when every other person in her life has finally had enough of her. Jenny needs to be needed. Max was a fun project when they first met. Maura was new, she was different, and she needed guidance, much like all of Jenny’s lovers. Jenny wanted to date those she could sculpt and mold, because honestly if your life was together why the holy fuck would you date her? Nicki was a young and naive actress, trying to figure out her sexuality and where her power in this world lay. Shane, well Shane never grew past being a puppy. And the poor vet she dated. Jesus where to even begin with that storyline – Jenny killed a dog in order to get back at the author of a bad review. She killed. A dog. And then proceeded to string someone along who was feeling vulnerable and unloved in her relationship. Which leads right into her other biggest flaw:

Narcissist – There was literally nothing Jenny would not do to come out on top. From dog murder, to stealing the film of her movie, to screwing over every single one of her “best friends” in the last season. And the thing is, the reason it is so easy for me to outright and fully hate Schecter, is that she shows absolutely no remorse for her actions. None. Her last thought before death was probably: No great artist saw success during their lives. In death, I will become infamous.

Sexual Assault – The L Word handled Jenny’s childhood and sexual abuse, in the most confusing and matter of fact way. While it never specifically victim blamed, it did allude that because of her past Jenny was now this insanely fucked up human. There was no space for conversation, because we were shown her abuse in an almost fairytale like way. Other than flashback scenes, Jenny never addresses what happened to her, and how or why it has shaped the human she is. Much like with so many other important topics, the writers dropped the ball on what could have been an eye opening discussion on what sexual abuse during childhood continues to do to adults. By presenting her abuse in such a fantastical way the viewer never got the seriousness of how powerful and life changing sexual assault is. You instead saw a manic pixie dream girl with no concrete understanding of how much her assault shaped her life.

Shane – Where to even begin. Where oh where to even begin. I personally blame Shane’s character for creating a generation of non dateable humans. The L Word, was all many of us had. No other t.v. show or movie depicted LGBTQ life the way that The L Word did. These people seemed like they could be our friends, they seemed like who we wanted to grow up to be. Shane made a generation of lesbians and trans men into walking fuckable yet detached douche bags.

Past – Shane had a rough childhood. She went through foster care, and the system, and therefore did was she had to do to survive. Shane’s teenage years are probably the most relatable to many LGBTQ youth growing up today. Kicked out of their houses for who they are, and forced to grow up much too fast. Unfortunately Shane came out of all of that a sociopath. An often funny and loveable sociopath, but a sociopath all the same. The writers also never showed how Shane was able to escape the streets. All of a sudden you see a human who is admired by all, with a job, money, and women literally dropping their panties for her.

Relationships – Da worst. God, Shane you are the worst. The actual absolute worst. Shane was always dependant on her looks to get essentially everywhere and anywhere. While fucked up, Molly is the only person who points out that Shane basically has nothing to offer. Now it is of course insanely fucked up not to note that of course Shane lacked a strong educational background due to the fact Shane grew up devoid of the privilege. This is yet another area where the writers could have done so much more. What an amazing space to start the conversation about the lack of resources and education those in foster care have to deal with. So what the viewer is left with, is that someone who grew up tough is given the allowance to be a vacant partner, who is rightfully allowed to leave when things get too tough, because poor Shane.

Style – I blame you for my teenage bangs Shane. I. Blame. You.

Alice – A character that started extremely rough around the edges, led to being one of my favorite characters on the show. While she had her flaws, she was one of the only characters that actually felt human.

Bisexuality – The writers killed sexuality on many different occasions. With many characters, on the show that strayed from being lesbians their other “tastes” where either made fun of, villainized, or treated as phases. Alice was probably the most experimental of all cast members and stuck by her choices, even mistakes, strongly. Her because flaw came from the transphobia she directed towards Max. She speaks out against him being a part of Our Chart, only to then shoot a podcast with him apologizing. The problem is, the way this scene is shot makes the entire thing seem more like comedy than a genuine apology. For those who don’t remember, Alice invites Max to a sit down at The Planet, which she has Shane videotape. While a very serious dialogue is going on between her and Max, a very horny Shane uses the time behind camera to zoom in on various women at The Planet. What the viewer than see’s is a butch lesbian obsessing over female bodies, while a bisexual and a trans man discuss how they fit or don’t fit into lesbian spaces. Their voices are in the distance, why Shane’s antics are front and center, ruining what could have been a groundbreaking conversation.

Carmen – It’s funny, while Carmen will always stand out in my mind, she really wasn’t around for that long, and her character really was not super developed. Yes she was Shane’s partner, and yes for a hot second she was fucking Jenny. But we never really got a taste of who Carmen was. She was a piece of many pieces Shane would devour and dispose of.

Latina – The two (and maybe only) Latin American women on The L Word were stereotypes. Carmen was a beautiful, sassy, and domestic woman. Papi was a working class player. Neither was given much substance, while both were highly sexual, and essentially nothing more than bodies. Interestingly enough, while Papis stay on the show was shorter, I feel like we were given a bigger window into her character. She was introduced as a player, but after meeting Kit saw the possibility of partnership. Carmen always just felt like Shane’s hot girlfriend.

Femme – What the writers lacked in giving Carmen a true personality, they made up for by making her bat shit crazy. Shane is a monumental asshole of a cheating douche bag. Dating her would make you crazy. We got to see Carmen freak out at the thought that the person she wanted to spend the rest of her life with, was actually just loving her until she found someone better. Shane’s actions and Shane’s cheating were never really shown in the correct light. That light being, when you constantly fuck someone over, they usually get sick of you. Instead Carmen chose to go down the path of marriage. Everyone woman that entered Shane’s life set out to “change” her, and after Shane fucked up time and time again, the writers wrote these women to be CRAZY FEMMES. Shane always was presented in a fairly calm manner. Artistic even. While these women suffered at the hands of heteronormative limiting stereotypes.

Tina – Tina kind of makes me think of watching paint dry. She was second fiddle to Bette, and therefore had to be written as the whiny wife. She seemed to always just be waiting around for Bette to get her shit together. She was less patient than the women who entered Shane’s life. Bette was given ultimatums, and made to suffer numerous times.

Kit – Ugh. Why write a Black character if you aren’t willing to WRITE a Black character. Very similar to Max, Kit’s character failed miserably. She remained likeable throughout the entire series, and funny enough was one of the only characters to take Max’s transition seriously and with compassion.

Race – Dynamite! Oh Kit must be entering a scene. If there was 1970’s slang being heard, there most be a Black woman entering the pristinely white world of The L Word, I am not sure on what planet we were supposed to imagine Bette and Kit being sisters, but ok sure. Bette somehow got all of the benefits of being a white passing woman, while Kit struggled with: alcoholism, sexuality, cheating, abortion, menopause, a homophobic son, people constantly trying to ruin her business, falling in love with a drag queen, god what am I missing? While kudos I guess, to the writers for making her a successful businesswoman, all of the snarls for making her seem like an extra from What’s Happening. What’s interesting is Illene Chaiken The L Word’s creator, wrote The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and now writes Empire. She constantly writes Black roles, and for anyone that has watched Empire, writes them really fucking well. How unfortunate that Kit was not given the same treatment.

Max – Max was the FIRST trans person I had ever seen on television. And for years, the only. Too bad The L Word completely and utterly destroyed him. I could probably write an entire novel on how badly Max’s character was written, because honestly there were just so many cringe worthy moments.

Gender and Sexuality – There was never any time taken to talk about the differences between gender and sexuality, which becomes extremely dangerous when you have a trans character who first appears as a lesbian and then starts taking T and becomes attracted to men. And then becomes pregnant?!? It is 100% true that some trans men chose to carry babies, but without any form of background Max’s character becomes a circus act. For most of Max’s early screen time we have to hear Jenny bitch about how hard it is for her to be with someone who is transitioning. Which yes, of course, any huge life change that your partner goes through is going to affect you, but this is Jenny, so all attention and compassion is lost for Max. The viewer is forced to feel bad for her. Which honestly is harder than chewing on a bottle of broken glass under the boat slip in P-Town. While pregnant Max is presented as what I can literally only describe as an angry caveman. The viewer is not drawn to feeling sympathy for him, but instead is looking at a disheveled, angry, and whiny gay man. His relationship with Tom is violent and abusive. Again, as it did many times beforehand The L Word presents men in an unsatisfactory light. Please for a second sit back and tell me if you can name one man in the shows history who is shown in a celebratory manner. I’ll wait.

Work – The writers did address how at risk trans people are, to being fired at their bosses free will. This is probably the only good thing we are shown when it comes to Max. He deals with his boss and douchebag coworkers to his best ability, and leaves admirably. Unfortunately his life then begins to spin out of control.

*You will note that I left out a few characters:

Helena – While I loved Helena, her character is pretty much filler. She’s great and sexy, and has a completely un-relatable life. She is perfect for entertainment value. I like to think that she got rid of Dylan real quick and is back on an island with Dusty.

Ivan – Ivan clearly was on his way to transitioning, but the writers clearly were not ready to write for him. I like to think that he showed up at The Planet one day and whisked Kit away.

Jody – Probably the only person who gave Bette a run for her money. She also showed that someone with a disability was just as capable, fucked up, and brilliant as anyone else.

Dana and Tasha – Are both perfect humans and should only be referred to as such.

The L Word, shaped an entire generation of LGBTQ humans. For better or for worse it has become an intrinsic part of many of us. While flawed in many ways, it does live on as a groundbreaking show that can still be watched with the same esteem and emotion as when it first aired. That emotion mainly being:

Fuck Jenny.

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Keep this Resolution

When will we start to realize that the youth are the ones who will take us forward? When will we stop and think about the weight of our words, and the ramifications that they have when we as adults preach and push on young minds? Minds that are flourishing and being molded daily. Minds that turn on the news and see uniforms killing their peers. Minds that see news headlines that question a persons very being for being something that does not fit the “norm”.

Today I have finally broken down. 2014 has been a year of civil rights being stricken away from the harmless. Whether at the hands of another, or by the words of another.

We have left another year behind that will aid statistics. Numbers of black youth killed by police, numbers of black trans* women being killed at the hands of bigots. Numbers on numbers that will go into reports, that will go into student papers, into blogs, into newspapers. But these people are not numbers, they are humans.

Maybe this year has hit me especially hard, because I fall into so many of the groups that have been attacked the most, yet seen the least justice. I watched as police were acquitted left at right for killing my brothers. I watched as my transgender family lost more and more members, while the media stayed silent and biased. I heard woman after woman come forward with stories of abuse and rape. I heard voices speak over them. Over all of them. Trying to silence minorities as history has done again and again.

How dare we.

How dare we look at someone who has been victimized, who has seen their humanity ripped from their very soul, and tell them to get over it. Tell them that it gets better. How can we? It doesn’t get better when people remain silent and let these people become statistics.

What is the point of being alive if you do not speak up for the dead? What is the point of breathing if you are using your breathe to spread hate. Or worse nothing at all. Silence is to me as repulsive as racism, homophobia, violence…the list goes on and on. Not the silence of victims, no their silence is understood. The silence of those who have the power to make change – it’s that silence that repulses me. It makes me sick to my stomach.

Youth. You young powerful roots of revolution. You matter. God dammit, do not let anyone tell you that your worth is actually worthless. We are not blessed by geography. We are not all bless by privilege. How can a young black trans* teenager relate to gloss and glimmer of an out person in the media? Do you not remember being young? The influence our peers and our parents played in our lives? Do you remember? That feeling that you were 100% alone in this world? That no one understood you? Now imagine you also felt trapped in the wrong body. Imagine that you were stop and frisked while your white classmates happily swiped their Metrocards.

I can not wrap my head around a parents ability to ostracize their own child. But because I know it to be true. I instead think of how we can make that child know their purpose and their worth to this world. When suicide becomes the path for more people than living does we have a massive problem. When black youth feel like they need guns to protect themselves from cops, we have a massive problem.

Adults, be mentors. Your words? They matter. If they reach one kid, or millions; there is a chance you have saved a life. That life is the most precious thing in the world. We can not continue to go on this way. We can not let another year go by with statistics. We must do the work and have the conversations that amount to change.

This year has truly been a fine example of the amount of work America must do in the future. From race relations, to dealing with mental illness, to LGBTQ rights – highlighting transgender youth and trans* people of color. It isn’t enough to call our country broken. The statement falls flat. Our country is a scale that has not known balance since it’s creation. The scale aided by drug wars, race wars, homophobia, classism, and lack of humanity and understanding for those suffering with mental illness has tipped so far on one side that I fear the hope of nationwide balance may never come. Which is why it is so important for groups to gather, discuss, rally, and make change in their communities. The first steps of revolution come from seeds being planted all over. We must act like bees taking carrying pollen from flower to flower. Eventually as a whole we can cover an entire garden, but first we have to attack our first flower. We have to look at our peers as friends and confidants. We have to learn from our past, and understand how certain systems work. Why they are broken, and make clear resolutions about how to change them. I refuse to watch police officers protest a mayor in 2015. I refuse to watch more young black men killed and left to be statistics. Story after story floods the Internet about LGBTQ youth committing suicide because all of their hope has been taken away. Can you imagine having so much of you taken away, that you would rather not be here at all? To actually be convinced that your life was accidental. To feel like you were a mistake. We have to on all sides EMPOWER our youth. Our young girls, our young black men, our LGBTQ community. If you’ve made it this far in life you owe it to a kid to show them that they can too. For each of us walking there are tens more in the ground. Don’t let another young mind become dust in the wind. Resolve to bring resolve into someone else’s life. Resolve to speak out against inequality. Resolve to make someone else uncomfortable at the expense of making somebody else’s light shine brighter. Resolve to make change. As small as you might think your action is, that action combined with the actions of those around you will be the spark that lights a fire. A fire that will burn everything that once was down, and allow us to build this country as it has never been built before. With love.

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?

Change Clothes & Go

Fashion is something so very personal to me. Growing up it was fashion that I felt restricted by, as someone who didn’t feel comfortable being confined to the “girls” or “juniors” sections I struggled with the image I saw in the mirror. I knew that, the clothes I was wearing, were what was expected; I was passing to a world strict with gender laws. I had more room to play with fashion than I ever could realize as a teenager. I used to see my clothes as a restriction, I saw my hair the same way. Every few weeks I went to the hairdresser and got it “touched up” chemically processed so that it was straight and manageable. Every morning I would plug in my hair straightner, open my dresser drawers and get ready for my day. I felt like I was constantly playing dress up, I wondered if anyone else could realize how awkward I felt, how out of place. But I played the game, even when I came out and was happily dating girls I had not come out in a another aspect of my life. My sexuality had really never been a question to me. I grew up in a very liberal town, with a very liberal family. I dated boys when I was younger, but I knew that it wouldn’t last. By the time I had made it to high school I was out, and had my first girlfriend at the end of my sophomore year. She fit, we fit, but I felt like something in me still did not. That one thing was my gender. Who was I really?

It is amazing what a pair of jeans can do. I had one pair of GAP jeans that were boyfriend cut. They were the only pair of pants that I owned that did not show off my extremely long feminine legs. I could sag them a bit past my hip bones and all of a sudden saw something that I had always felt. I saw myself as more masculine, not as a man per se but all of a sudden I wasn’t a teenage girl. I felt edgy. I did not know then about what it meant to be transgender or gender queer, but with that one pair of jeans I finally felt right. Those lead to me venturing into the mens department for the first time when I entered college. Being 6’1’’ I had always hated shopping, womens clothes are for the most part not meant for such long skinny legs and such big feet. With mens clothes I suddenly wasn’t seeing how big my feet were, or how lanky my legs and arms felt. I asked myself what the hell had taken so long? This fixed seemed so easy, it all felt exactly perfectly right, but in truth there was no way that years earlier I would have felt comfortable dressed as a boy. I would have felt like I was in drag, which funny enough is how I felt when I was in girls clothes.

One does not have to be obsessed with fashion to want it to work for them. I think my love affair with clothing actually started because of how much I had hated them for so many years. The minute I realized that I could wear menswear and own it as my own, was the minute I started my love affair. I always hated the word tomboy when I was growing up. It never was said as a compliment, more so as a descriptor for someone who did not fit into one of societies two gender boxes. The editorial fashion world has always played around with androgyny, but I always saw it as fantasy. I never felt like fashion houses were celebrating female masculinity, but instead producing something they felt was daring. Much like with many of the black models you see in fashion who have what I can only peg as a “tribal” look. Most of the highly successful black models are dark, and come from Africa. Which part of me says good for them, good for us, good for society. But then the other part of me knows, that the fashion industry’s obsession with these dark skin beauties is a form of exoticism and can sometimes also seem like fetishism. I do not feel a celebration of the black model, in the same way I did not feel a celebration of the masculine female. The latter is definitely changing. As a black masculine presenting person I do at times struggle with identity. As an aspiring model I have heard out of the mouths of casting agents, and heads of agencies that they just didn’t know what to do with me. Because for better or for worse agencies are still putting people into boxes. Which is why it is so important for both the queer community and racial minorities to take a stand and instead of assimilate; create.

When you are being restricted, it is your biggest opportunity to grow. To exceed expectations and to break molds. When I go out and see queer people dressed exactly how they want, on their terms, presenting to society as an individual who is breaking down walls and destroying the norm, my heart swells. Would it be too Goonie like of me to say something like: This is our time? Well it is. I have never seen so much talent out of a generation then out of the bubbling queers that are coming up. From art, to fashion, to music. We are queering up the mainstream, and it is about damn time.

*This piece is also featured on dapperQ and Dapperfy Productions

 

 

 

I’m Not a Faggot

Now I don’t want to be a party pooper. Because everyone knows I LOVE A GOOD PARTY. But when I checked my event invites on Facebook the other day a very ugly word was staring back at me. “Faggot”. It wasn’t an invite to a kill the homos party, it was instead an invite to one of the most rad parties out there. So I scratched my head and was like ok, this is a group of empowered well educated people. And I know that their intent behind this is from a place of knowledge and self love. BUT I really, really, really don’t like slurs. Especially when they are going to be seen by people outside of said community.

In, circles where everyone shares a common minority thread, certain words are tossed around. Some people say its done to take back what has been wrongfully taken from them. Some people argue that words are just words and that it is the nature in which you speak them that gives them their power. Whatever the argument I do think it’s kind of lame to say words that other people have literally died for, in a joking matter. Now, I am a minority of minorities. I am black, Jewish, gay, and a woman. So there are quite a few words I could go about saying. I could make tons of anti feminist jokes, say words like kike and nigger. Because I would be doing it from an empowering place? RIGHT?

When I hear people on the street saying “Yo my nigga.” Nigga this nigga that, I get both angry and offended. It’s not only black people that use the N word. Anyone that has an ear turned into hip hop or rap subsequently thinks they have license to use it. Ah but the N word is for black people to take back right? Well black people aren’t the only ones listening to rap. If a white kid who has never known the racism of the 60’s grows up with black friends who openly say the N word and he listens to music the openly uses it, what is stopping him from using it as well? Is it then fair for his black friends to tell him that he may not use that word? That when it plays in a song he’s rapping along to that he must omit it?

Words all have a funny history. What words originally meant have changed as years have gone by. In England for instance the Brits call cigarettes fags. So a gay experiencing London for the first time might be a tad confused as to why the English love lighting up fags so much. But here in America fag means one thing->; gay. In gay life the word fag gets said by some daily. Quite like the word nigga. Fag and Nigga. But rarely: Faggot or Nigger. I have actually heard people explain to me that nigga is a different word all together than nigger. That they are two different words that mean two different things. Maybe to younger generations that is the case, but all I can think is, great to older generations who grew up hearing and possibly even saying Nigger they are now hearing young black kids call themselves the very words they once used to put blacks down. It’s almost like their racism is still succeeding. They called you a nigger for so long that you now see yourself as one. Congratulations.

Facebook events can be seen by all, well unless they’re made private which this isn’t. It is also at a huge venue – Public Assembly, that is not a gay space. Yes it allows gay events (as it should) but daily their concerts and parties are attended by any and all. So when straight people walk by and see that an event is coming called Year of the Faggot, they then have the license to repeat that word out loud correct? And maybe text a few friends about it. Maybe write a status about it. A whole bunch of straight people will be throwing the word faggot around. Because they will understand it as well, the gays seem to be ok with being called faggots now guess we can too.

In 2013 can I hope to see parties thrown like: Niggers Making Music and Kikes and Dykes? Can black face parties maybe become a thing? Because if a group of black people are ok with black face then it’s totally ok right? (though I don’t think anybody is ok with black face because I think universally everyone can agree dat shit is never funny)

I think creative expression is ridiculously important. And I think that when throwing parties you have to find creative and inventive ideas to keep people interested and to keep them coming back. I have heard LGBTQ people refer to themselves as faggots before and if for them that title makes sense then that is fine. But it is not my title. And I still have a hard time finding respect for that word.