Category Archives: longer writing

conflict, abuse, & lenin

today (1/9/2021) i learned that the original “bros before hos” leftist shmuck was, in fact, lenin.

like, literally. lenin.

and that him being That Guy was part of what drove the bolshevik/menshevik split.

i’m fascinated, and i think it’s actually pretty important – thus this post. be forewarned: there’s a certain amount of leftist trainspotting involved, but if you’re a movement person it will all feel very familiar.

here’s what seems to have gone down in what’s been called “the bauman affair”:

Continue reading conflict, abuse, & lenin

Tisha b’Av, Twice

[original version published on JVoices ז″ל in 2006; rewritten july 2020]

A quick introductory note: Tisha b’Av, the fast of the 9th day of the month of Av, commemorates the two destructions of jewish temples in Jerusalem – first (and not necessarily historically) by Assyrian armies in 587 BC1, and again by the Romans in 70 AD. The Roman conquest ended the hereditary rule of the high priests, which had been centered on the Jerusalem temple. That hereditary rule, and the bloodline-based caste system it created (a three-tier system of Israelites, Levites, and Kohanim) claimed its origins and found its legitimacy in the divinely mandated authority of the mythical bney Amram – Moses, Aaron, and Miriam – who consolidated their power through massacres of those who proposed non-hierarchical alternatives to their family’s rule (see Bamidbar/Numbers 16:3-14).

how long should a community sit shiva for an unjust and exploitative system simply because it was once their own?

One: Time

This year of toppling statues and rethinking the rituals of historical memory has made me think about the destruction of temples, and whether it’s something to mourn.

Continue reading Tisha b’Av, Twice

just temporarily putting these here so i can write what i’m supposed to be writing today without them getting in the way.

(1) the main thing wrong (politically/ethically; morality is just dishonest theology) with andrea long chu (as a thinker/writer; i don’t know her any other way) is that she’s a heideggerian (this needs a two-part parenthetical too; yes, i’m a bit compulsive today).

(2) the relationship between the terms in marxism-leninism is the same as the one in judeo-christianity, and serves basically the same purposes.

these are unrelated thoughts, for which fact i am grateful.

“a piss stop on the way”

for gay stamina month, here’s my old comrade bob kohler zts”l writing in Come Out in 1970 about the kids who hung out at christopher street & 7th avenue – the ones who fought at stonewall and aren’t celebrated by name; the ones who hung out at the piers (and still do, despite gentrification and redevelopment); the ones who west village homosexual homeowners and tourists call the cops on; the ones who GLmaybeBfakeTneverQ NGOs have never given a shit about.

these are sylvia rivera and marsha p johnson’s people. STAR people. “street gay” => “street queen” => “street transvestite” => “street transgender” ~> some kinds of trans folks, but not the nice kinds. not the kinds that want to wrap themselves in the flag, talk to the cops, be entrepreneurial, or march alongside cops and corporations in a parade pretending that Everything Is Just Fine. and not the kind who think Identity is what matters.

the piece is also the earliest place i’ve seen “mopped” and “read” in print, though i’m sure they were used much earlier. bob used to talk about these kids leaving stuff they’d lifted at his store on christopher street. they were his friends, and some of them, especially sylvia, were his comrades in the Gay Liberation Front (till it stopped being a workable space for trans folks) and many other projects down through the decades.

bob, unlike so many of the other gay men who were in the streets 49 years ago during the stonewall riot, never stopped being a radical faggot. he knew that as long as the kids he wrote about here were “so fucking afraid – in a world they never truly made”, he could not rest. he knew that until we truly make the world we live in, none of us can.

notes on “ashkenazi” (a postscript in advance)

this is the season when i’m working all the time on a purimshpil, and can’t really get anything else done. but this has been nagging at me, so i’m clearing it out of my (metaphorical) drawer.

properly, it’s a postscript to something i’m trying to write out about the current importation of israeli terminology for differences among jewish communities into the u.s. jewish left. unsurprisingly, i’m not a big fan, not least because i don’t see the kind of highly consolidated, deeply racialized two-category system that exists among jewish israelis as something that exists in this country. and the mizrakhi/ashkenazi binary that describes it seems more of a hinderance than an aid to understanding the messy, contradictory lines of racial and class position that do deeply divide u.s. jewish communities. but that’s another post.

this is some preliminary thoughts on one of the things that came along on the way: the question of what we’re talking about when we talk about “ashkenaz”. and, ultimately, whether the term as it’s used makes any sense at all. TL;DR: no.

i’ve still got quite a few questions about this-all, and i’ll lay a few of them out at the end, in hopes that some of you can shed some light in various places.

a postscript
for my grandfather, jules / yidl nukhm schrager,
who said “what do you mean, ashkenazi? i’m a galitsianer!”

Continue reading notes on “ashkenazi” (a postscript in advance)

all the doctors are friends (but not *our* friends)

this is just because i’ve been having some conversations about kids and gender and transition and puberty-blockers and so on. and having some feelings about that.

(to get a few things out of the way as a preamble)

what i want in the world is for folks (of all ages) to be able to make and put into effect any decision they want about what to do with their bodies – which means, practically, working for there to be more and more possibilities available to more and more people. in the realms of gender and sexuality that includes access to all kinds of body modifications, whether towards or away from any particular socially recognized gender position, and also access to all kinds of options for reproduction, from permanently or temporarily preventing it to actively facilitating it. what’s important to me is the possibility of real, meaningful choice, and the removal of restraints on that.

probably because of coming up right before and after the arrival of antiretrovirals, i think about most of the access-to-medical-transition stuff as a “drugs in bodies” question, through the analogy of AZT. in the absence of much actual decent research on HRT drugs (either to learn more about their longterm effects or towards making better ones), we already know they’re generally shitty, but bad drugs in living bodies is better than dead bodies.

(and here’s the meat of the post)

so: in the current conversations, mostly things are framed as a fight in which advocates for kids’ access to puberty blockers face off against advocates of “reparative/corrective therapy” to normalize kids to their assigned genders. that’s how, for instance, julia serano sets things up in her mostly useful piece on Medium last year.

and that’s generally how things play out among trans community activists, parents, TERFs, and other folks outside the medical institutions involved.

but here’s the thing: that’s not a divide that exists among the doctors.

the best-known puberty-blocker doctors and the best-known “reparative” therapists work together, publish together, and generally see each other as collaborators rather than opponents. kenneth zucker and peggy cohen-kettenis, for instance, co-wrote the chapter on “gender identity disorder in children and adolescents” for a 2012 “handbook of sexual and gender identity disorders”. and that’s not an anomaly: even a mild bit of googling finds the two of them as co-authors on papers all the way from the late 1990s to the past few years (with at least a few also including ray blanchard in the credits). and that collaboration isn’t just on the page: well-sourced gossip tells me that before zucker’s clinic was shut down (finally!), he was known to send so many kids who didn’t respond to his “conversion therapy” bullshit to puberty-blocker clinics that he was considered one of their biggest referrers.

Continue reading all the doctors are friends (but not *our* friends)

on fem

is “femme refers exclusively to lesbians” a white thing or no?

what tf am I missing

– alder-knight –

trying to write this quickly, if i can… my sense, fwiw, is that “fem” (i use joan nestle’s spelling, not the frenchified one) as a term is in a state of almost total incoherence right now, because there are at least three or four versions of it in circulation, all with quite different histories behind their different meanings and breaking down to some extent along racial lines.

Continue reading on fem

of fascists and marshals

or, one thing that happened at foley square on may day.

for the non-new-yorkers out there: we’re at the harmonious point in the five year cycle of cooperation and hostility between the mainline labor unions and the immigrant workers’ organizations (workers’ centers; country/region-of-origin anti-imperialist organizations; &c). what they agreed on this year was not to march, but to hold a three-hour rally in a historically significant park in the middle of the courthouse complex next to the financial district. a place no one goes who doesn’t work in finance or law enforcement, unless they have a court date or have just been released from the tombs. it’s very close to chinatown, but you’d ever know it by who walks down centre street. but at least the music between the endless series of speakers (some of them fantastic organizers and inspiring when not blasting muffledly through a giant stack of speakers) was pretty good, the weather was pleasant, and the socializing was lovely…

at about 6:30 pm, a group of 20-odd fascists appeared at the northeast corner of the park. i was told that they had marched down from union square, where antifa folks had prevented them from attacking another mayday event. i’d seen them perhaps half an hour earlier as they approached the park; i was on my way to get dumplings and didn’t see what happened in the interim.

Continue reading of fascists and marshals

on marriage, hiv/aids, & liberation

locusimperium wrote:

I’m perennially sickened by people who distort the relationship between AIDS and the fight for state-recognized partnerships (gay marriage/civil unions/etc.). It’s not that AIDS and the backlash made people get “”socially conservative”” or “”homonormative”” or whatever the buzzwords are; it’s that the AIDS crisis illustrated how vulnerable our communities are without protections for our relationships. You can argue all you want that we shouldn’t need legal protections to be safe, but please understand that terminally ill gay men were evicted from their apartments immediately after watching their partners die horribly because they couldn’t inherit the lease or the property (or couldn’t do so without paying heavy taxes). Gay men were unable to attend the funerals of their long-term partners because homophobic parents had custody of the remains.

This still happens, in states without gay marriage; a woman in Indiana was told that she was an “unrelated third party” when she tried to arrange her wife’s cremation. Reducing this real suffering to “you want marriage rights because you want to prove you’re just like straight people” is horrible, and I don’t know how that argument ever left someone’s typing hands without them realizing that they were absolute garbage.

and i responded, at length:

this post has stuck with me for a long enough that i’m gonna be the killjoy old queen here again, and point out a few things, mostly because i’m old enough to have been around for some of them, and have tended to hang out with older queers and trans folks since i was quite young. everything i’m going to say is about the u.s.; i don’t know how this shit played out elsewhere (especially in the european social democracies), so in other contexts the story may be quite different.

brief theoryhead moment

i’m going to go long on this because OP’s argument is, to me, exactly what walter benjamin means when he says “even the dead will not be safe if this enemy is victorious, and the enemy continues to be victorious”. over the last five or ten years, all kinds of folks have been using the dead bodies of the folks who died in the pre-96 period of the epidemic as props for arguments against left and progressive queer and trans politics – to say that white gay men should be (re?!)centered in our cultural and organizing work (as if trans women and black/latinx folks wren’t the hardest hit), to say that tearooms and other public sex institutions should be highly policed, to push for extremely restricted issue-and-campaign efforts on a (deeply anti-intersectional) identity basis. i could go on about this for quite some time, but i’ll spare you, and talk about marriage, since it’s been a prime example of this kind of thing for a few years now.

the problem at the heart of the original post is the conflation of the push for marriage with other kinds of organizing for (strategic) state recognition of relationships. in gay & lesbian politics, those have never been the same – in fact, they’ve generally been in direct opposition to each other. up to the mid-1990s, the (generally mixed between left and progressive) mainstream of the movement worked for flexible, non-identity-based structures that involved state recognition of the actual structures of folks’ actual relationships, and aimed to allow as little state control and surveillance over our relationships as possible. the push for marriage, which began in the mid-1990s, was not only directly opposed to that project, it worked to undo the victories that had been won up to that point and undermine the coalitions that had been built through that organizing.

Continue reading on marriage, hiv/aids, & liberation