A QPOC’s Farewell To FTM Magazine

The oppressed will always be the ones doing the most work.

It came to my attention yesterday that FTM magazine was shutting down. And after reading the editor in chief’s reasoning as to why I can’t say that it comes as a shock. White publications often fail to understand that minority contributions should not be one-offs. To show dedication to diversity, entire staff’s must be just that: diverse. The transmasculine community has oft dedicated itself to praising and looking up to the bodies of cis men, or I should say, the members of the trans community who garner the most media attention are the white skin men who adhere to society’s thoughts of what a “real man” looks like. They do so,while erasing the existence of not only POC trans men, but trans women. When you do that and do it continuously, people take notice.

I took notice of FTM Magazine’s exclusion of trans men of color and trans women and swiftly called them out. When this: https://www.ftmmagazine.com/a-brutally-honest-history-of-ftm-magazine/ came across my timeline last night, I took a deep breath and decided to dive in. Midway through I found myself in a position that I feel many POC do when reading the laments of white folks. It was somewhere between laughter, anger, and a massive shrugging of the shoulders mixed with a rolling of the eyes. I am mentioned in the article and therefore feel that I am entitled to give you and Jason a response. Or as Lil John once said: “Don’t start no shit, won’t be no shit.”

White men, it seems whether they be trans or cisgender can not seem to wrap their heads around the absolute importance of upholding POC. They do not wrap their heads around it, because it forces them to challenge their own feelings, their own racism. In this head spinning article Jason, again and again uses analytics to site that when POC were gracing FTM Magazine Instagram likes went down, Facebook shares became nonexistent, and essentially no one seemed to give enough enough of a care about POC content to double click a photo or hit the like button. What Jason fails to understand is, he built a magazine for white people, who wished to see other white people. If you build a base and build a brand people have expectations of what you produce. That is how media works. I would know, I work in it.

Jason repeats AGAIN AND AGAIN that FTM Magazine continually featured white men. In his own words, he says this: “I started hosting community stories on our website and sharing them on social media. What I immediately noticed was that if it wasn’t a shirtless white man, no one cared.” Are you laughing? Are you feeling this? Are you reading a white man say what all POC people in existence know to be reality and are you understanding that this white man is saying this as means for you to feel bad for him? Are you getting all of that? He goes on: <em>”The next issue was a three cover issue because there were a bunch of web series in production. BROTHERS, run by Emmett Jack had open casting calls, used the people who showed up, did a fantastic job and ended up on Amazon Prime they’re so good. The majority of there hatred was because of their lack of representation of the POC community. Fair. Then Seven King came out with a web series based entirely on a group of TMOC and their lives and I watched as less people supported it. Every time we posted about BROTHERS, someone spoke out about it. Every time we posted about Eden’s Garden, no one shared or liked it. So what are we seeing here? That people are unwilling to support TMOC but they have no problem calling the publications out for it. Because you don’t really want more diversity, you want to be the clever guy who called a magazine out for their content. Jake Graf was the other cover and because of his shirtless selfies on Instagram, his issue sold out. (Obviously also because of his amazing film making). – You could literally pick which of the three covers you wanted, and Jake’s sold out. And I have almost 900 more to sell which cost almost $3,900″ </em>

First of all, I would like to call to attention that this piece was written by an Editor in Chief who is issuing his last statement and saying goodbye to his faithful readers. As someone who has been an editor myself, I know what that entails, it’s hard, you have to put your work and the work of others under a microscope. You have to pay attention to grammar and word choice and often are forced to make decisions that may go against what you at first felt was correct. But you do it because you are trying to create a piece that people will not only read once but again, a piece that they will share with their colleagues and friends, a piece that if you’re lucky may be picked up by another publication, expanding your readership. I would like you to re-read the segment of writing above and understand that this is a final copy. This was published. This was published in a piece where someone is questioning why his magazine is failing. If a POC writer wrote this way, which such laissez faire attention to grammar, punctuation and spelling they sure as hell would not have over 47K followers on Instagram. But I digress.

I am a bit confused to the point Jason is making above. BROTHERS faced a ton of scrutiny because it failed to showcase POC, but it was extremely popular because guess what? We live in a racist society that loves to see white folks being white folks. Eden’s Garden did not garner nearly enough attention because it featured QPOC. People are unwilling to support, pay for, promote, and take in the works of POC people because white people value their own work much more than that of POC. FTM Magazine was called out again and again because it failed to actively commit to the inclusion of POC people. Jason’s words speak a very real truth, when he says: “…people are unwilling to support TMOC but they have no problem calling the publications out for it.” What he is not understanding is that these are two very different parties. The folks calling out publications for not including QPOC are the folks who ARE supporting projects like Eden’s Garden, and those people are the folks who do not read FTM magazine nor go out of their way to support projects like BROTHERS. The people “unwilling to support TMOC” are the people who make up FTM Magazines active readership. And thus when a cover randomly had a POC on it, they didn’t hit the like button, because guess what? They don’t “like” black bodies.

Who knew that someone could so succinctly complain about their projects demise, note that they failed to be inclusive to all, and somehow place the blame on POC humans. Ah but here we are. We are at that place where a white person has built a space for other white people and wonders why POC are angry about it, thinks about it for a second, offers some crumbs to the Black community, assumes they’ve done enough, and continues on their way. The problem is, this isn’t 1964. The problem is this isn’t 1700. Black people are no longer here for your crumbs. They certainly aren’t here for crumbs that come off a piece of bread that isn’t even fresh. FTM Magazine was never cutting edge. It was never the hottest loaf of bread out of the oven. White shirtless white dudes that love the gym and love being bro’s. Did you feel my yawn? GQ and Men’s Health have been able to thrive because those who consume them – men – thrive in this patriarchal society. What FTM Magazine failed to realize, is that queer people do not operate in that world. While yes, there are queer folks who love the gym, and yes there are both trans men and trans women who choose to live their lives stealthily (as is their right) but for many of us our queerness, our gayness, and our transness is special. We form comradery over both our love and our hate of our bodies, our very different bodies. We show up for each other. We are active activists because we were born a bit differently than the cis straight folks we walk the streets next to. FTM Magazine never celebrated that. They never celebrated diversity at any level. They never stood up for trans women or femmes. They were a celebration of the white bro. And in 2016 it seems, that finally for the first time in our country’s history the white bro just isn’t who we all wish to worship anymore. Whether they be a cis man, a gay man, or a trans man.

Sorry bro.

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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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.

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

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.

Enter Life Plan Here

 

I think I’m growing up.
Or something.

I have a new big kids job, across the country,I have friends who I love more than anything, who I know will be in my life for longer than a season and I am genuinely pretty god damn happy. But about that growing up thing, for the past few months I have found myself becoming more and more bored by what I was doing with my life. I have fallen into a routine: the same bars, the same rotation of groups, and active dating life that had some amazing highs but ultimately kept on feeling wrong or lackluster. Everything felt like a colossal let down. For the fist time in my New York life, I felt out of place. I would go to parties and feel like I was watching from behind a piece of glass. My mouth would instinctively work on autopilot but my brain was a million miles away. I was a million miles away. My feet knew the path they had to take me on everyday, and so I got where I needed to go, where I was supposed to be, but I was essentially wandering. I also wasn’t writing.

I’ve been experiencing a very extreme form of writers block recently, not necessarily the head pounding excessive whiskey induced kind but instead one in which I literally could not string together sentences. Words were swirling around my head but they were not manifesting into anything.  I felt like I was in a washing machine. I had a sudden influx of newness in my life. The past year of my life has been this absolute blast of change. From relationships to work environments to my gender representation and my sexuality. That swirl of words was in direct correlation with the tornado my life was. Tornado is probably the wrong word to use, no part of this past year has felt destructive it has actually felt the opposite. And yet I felt incomplete. And for the first time in a long time I felt this mixture of being both out of place and left out.

 

I like to think of myself as someone who is usually very up on music. Actually I like to think of myself as someone who is very up on most things that are trending on the internet, after all I literally get paid to do social media. Living and working in New York makes this hyper focus on all things new and “cool” easy. A majority of people who move to the city do so with the very serious goal of being either part of or the reason for hype generation. I have always actively told myself not to get too engrossed in the politics of trendy. To happily comment and take part but not let being a dun dun millennial shape who I was. Hidden party in Bushwick? Cool, yeah I’ll totally go, but by chance you know? Not because it’s like where I have to be. But god just being in Brooklyn you feel like if you aren’t going (somewhere) you aren’t going (anywhere).

 

I recently accepted a job in San Francisco. That sentence alone makes me feel like a solid adult being. It also makes me realize that I am leaving behind the place that I have called home for my entire life. It means not being able to walk into bars and coffee shops and get free drinks and shoot the shit. It means having to ask people for the best spots to go to, instead of being able to direct others. It means getting lost and actually not knowing where the fuck I am. It means walking into parties and having no idea who anyone is, and in return them not knowing who I am. I am too overwhelmed to be scared, and too excited to be cautious. For the first time in the history of absolutely ever, I am thinking about the future. I am thinking about everything I want out of life, and being scared that I won’t be able to attain it all. I feel like a sky diver who is just about to jump. I have been toeing the edge for years now, with the mindset that eventually certain things would naturally change. My brain would calibrate itself to whatever the hell my family meant when they said: adulthood.

 

I have realized that my brain may never ever get on the same track that my family planned for me. And with that realization has come so much relief. I have also realized that my feet are not tethered to any location. That my ears are not bound to specific genres of music (thank the lord). My sexuality is not set in stone, and is evolving and will continue to evolve. My gender is this thing that like totally exists, but also totally doesn’t. My family are a base of support, but are not the only base. I can do it on my own.
Shit New York I am going to miss you. I am going to miss hot dogs at Crif. Burritos on Bedford. Dumplings in Chinatown. Beer and shot specials that come with free pizza. Korean BBQ available to me 24 hours a day…
Basically I’m just going to miss the food.

 

This city has taught me so much, and by this city I mean all of the people in it. The friends and lovers that I have met and made and fallen in love with and hated and then fallen in love with again. All the new bands that have pounded my ears. The art of the unknown, the art of the most famous. Being in New York you know that whatever happens, happens here first. I am ready to be second or maybe even third. I am ready to relax and revamp. To meet a city full of strangers, and fall in love with them the way that I have fallen in love with New York.

 

P.S.
I figure this is the best place to leave this little dating anecdote. Aka I have gotten all of the out of touch: A few weeks ago I had a mild tiff with a girl I had been seeing, I was a bit tipsy and we were having a disagreement about something pretty medial when she said this:
“‘You don’t love me like you say you love me.”
To which my response was:

216

HOW WAS I SUPPOSED TO KNOW IT WAS A DRAKE LYRIC?!? I have also spent an absolutely ridiculous amount of time recently, trying to figure out what the hell Jason Derulo means when he tells me to: Go ahead and go ham sammich.

sandwich_ham-and-cheese

Jason I’m a Jew.
Am I finally at that place where I do not understand what the youth are about? Or has popular music actually just turned to shit? What is happening? Will I ever be able to get on a dance floor again? Is this like the point in my life where I start solely listening to classical music AT A REASONABLE VOLUME? I’m out. Me and Mozart are OUT New York.

Bye_bye_bye

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?