This Is an Old War – You Better Know What You’re Fighting For

i wrote this a little while ago, but today seems like the right day to post it. today is the 75th anniversary, according to the christian calendar, of the װאַרשע געטאָ אױפֿשטאַנד, the warsaw ghetto uprising. there’s so much to say about that heroic act of resistance, and the years of less-commemorated struggle that came before and after it, but other folks have been saying it for years. look, if you haven’t already, at the wonderful writing of irena klepfisz (in poetry and prose), the songs and poems of shmerke kaczerginski and avrom sutzkever, the memoirs and interviews of marek edelman… it’s a day to think, as well, about the things that we can – that we need to – learn from those struggles. in that spirit: honor to their memories – koved zeyer ondenk – כּבֿיד זײער אָנדענק

like a lot of us – jewish radicals; antifascists of all flavors; folks thinking about concrete resistance to state violence – i’ve been thinking a lot about the jewish partisan fighters of the 1930s and 40s lately. this year, i’ve seen their memory invoked, in many ways, far more often than in the previous decade. i’ve done plenty of that, too, in my contribution to this year’s Radical Jewish Calendar Project, among other places.

but lately, especially after a conversation just before the new year (5778, not 2018) with my dear friend and comrade malcolm, i’ve been thinking about how we talk about partisans, which partisans we talk about, and what we do and don’t say. and i’ve been getting a little worried. this is a bit of an exploration of how this history is used, guided by walter benjamin’s warning that antifascists must think about the past knowing that even the dead will not be safe from our enemies if they are victorious (and that our enemies have not ceased to be victorious).

if you want a tl;dr, just skip to the end. there are conclusions drawn.

Continue reading This Is an Old War – You Better Know What You’re Fighting For

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)
war-lesbian wrote:

it’d be good to have an explanation for why, at least in my experience, you tend to see more camab nb people in certain ~queer~ scenes and social circles (usually cafab trans dominated ones), compared to “binary” trans women. 

i guess i would speculate that

  1. cafab people like to have a monopoly on womanhood (even when they dont identify as women)
  2. it’s probably easier to convince camab nb people that they have privilege over u since they’re less likely to understand their experiences through the lens of transmisogyny (and this is no doubt a deciding factor in “qualifying” for these spaces)
  3. there’s a decent chance that these are trans women who have yet to come to terms with their womanhood, or are even being pressured away from identifying as women, so they are probably hurt and confused and everything else that comes with being closeted, making them more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation
  4.  camab nb people are possibly(?) more likely to present in a visibly gender non-conforming “queer” (but ultimately feminine) way, meeting the rigorous aesthetic (read: fuckable) standards imposed by these sorts of groups
  5. related: dont have that “camab person who started taking estrogen after puberty” bod non trans women are obviously so uncomfortable with
  6. and, most importantly – in my limited experience, are more likely to identify as bi or exclusively male-attracted
radtransfem replied:

We leave
(read: driven out)

and then i chimed in:

i partly agree with @radtransfem. but/aaaand, there’s also this inconvenient thing where nb trans women are pretty actively unwelcomed from most social spaces set up specifically by/for trans women.

Continue reading

what about that star, anyway?

about the “star of david” / “magen david” as a jewish symbol…

tl;dr: yes, the idea that it is an old or universal jewish emblem was completely fabricated by the zionist movement in the 20th century.

after a conversation with a friend & comrade about the chicago dyke march drama of this summer, i finally tracked down the essay i vaguely remembered about the history of the six-pointed star as a jewish symbol. it’s by gershom scholem, the great historian of jewish mysticism, religion, and symbology (and a zionist liberal who rejected his family’s secular leftism). it was written for the right-wing u.s. jewish magazine Commentary in 1949 and later expanded into a book. i’m going to try to track down a copy of the longer version, but nothing i’ve seen about it gives any hint that the basic story it tells is different from what’s in the essay.

so here, summarized from scholem’s “The Curious History of the Six-Pointed Star”, is the story of the invention of a symbol…

scholem’s conclusion from all of this: “The upshot of the matter is this: in the very days of its greatest popularity the Shield of David was a meaningless symbol of Judaism; and the Judaism of those days, in turn, tended to be meaningless.”

Continue reading what about that star, anyway?

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

on trans demographics

valkyriethunderbitch wrote:

We’re both seen in many ways as embodying aspects of both male and female, but rather than cis people seeing both of us as simply “in between,” trans men and cafab trans people in general tend to be seen as somehow possessing the better qualities of men and women, while trans women are seen as abominations embodying the worst of both genders.

Trans mascs get to have their manhood validated while also being reassured (and reassuring everyone else) that they have no icky core of misogyny or oppressive maleness, and that they essentially have all these positive woman qualities in place of the “bad parts” of maleness.

and i commented:

yes this.

but also note, from the 2011 Injustice at Every Turn report (flawed in its sample, but the best we have in the u.s. so far), and the A Gender Not Listed Here report based on its data, these things (mainly using the survey report’s terms):

respondents were 60/40 assigned male/female at birth. the surveyers’ analysis broke that down into trans/gnc/crossdresser splits of 47/3/11 for MAAB, 28/9/3 for FAAB, which is about 78%/5% & 72%/23% trans/gnc, respectively.

those replying “a gender not listed here” (i.e not male, female, or switching between) were 73/27 FAAB/MAAB.


of respondents identifying as either switching-between or not listed here (a different analytic for nonbinary+fluid), it’s 61/ 39 MAAB/FAAB. and with a little work, we can discover numbers for a more limited definition of fluid gendered folks (id’ing as switching-between but not analyzed as crossdressers): 9% of MAAB vs. 1% of FAAB).

and we can learn that 9% of MAAB vs. 14% of FAAB respondents identified as their initially assigned gender.

both of which, i think, complicate the picture. but mainly on the level of how people think about themselves, which of course is different from how we present ourselves in the world, and how the world understands us. which is what the analysis above is about.

the category of gender

this is more of a placeholder than anything else… building off a few scrawled notes from this past spring that i’d been hoping to get back to in a more elaborated way, but i’m not sure when i’ll have the time to do that in a complete way. so this is gonna be partial and not necessarily something i’ll stand by forever, or even for all that long.

and yes, i’m putting this up now because i’m cranky about the current bit of drama around “gender nihilism”, mostly because i see smart people whose analysis i like seeming to miss the ways their positions seem to me to support each other rather than being in contradiction.

so here’s two or so cents, for whatever it’s worth:

talking about “abolishing gender” means completely different things depending on what we mean by “gender”.

Continue reading the category of gender

Don’t Celebrate, Organize! Learning from the Fall of MichFest

nowhere i’ve sent this to seems to want it, so i’m just gonna put it here. enjoy! or don’t.

the unaccustomed capitalization and more conventional punctuation is because of trying to get it published Somewhere Legitimate. my apologies to andrea dworkin, muriel rukeyser, gertrude stein, and all the other folks who are why i don’t generally do those things… (as dworkin says, in putting this into standard typography “I forced you to breathe where I do, instead of letting you discover your own natural breath. […] very few ideas are more powerful than the mechanisms for defusing them, standard form — punctuation, typography, then on to academic organization, the rigid ritualistic formulation of ideas, etc. — is the actual distance between the individual (certainly the intellectual individual) and the ideas in a book. […] to permit writers to use forms which violate convention just might permit writers to develop forms which would teach people to think differently: not to think about different things, but to think in different ways. that work is not permitted.”)

anyway – here’s hoping i can get through the next few decades without having to say anything else about this particular overpriced party with a fucked-up door policy.

Well, I’m as bored of talking about the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival as any other trans dyke who came up in the 90s. But I’m finding myself unable to watch its last hurrah go by without reflecting a bit on what we – trans women, dykes, feminists, cultural workers – can learn from how and why it’s ending.

I’d love to claim victory.

To say: it took many years, but in the end a lot of cis women chose to honor the picket line that trans women held (physically and symbolically) for decades around a space that excluded us and fostered our exclusion from life-saving institutions across the continent.

To say: solidarity forced the Festival to choose between actually welcoming all women, or shutting down. To say: cis feminists have given trans women a reason to think that the era of purges that began in 1973 is beginning to end.

But that would be a lie. That solidarity did not exist.

Continue reading Don’t Celebrate, Organize! Learning from the Fall of MichFest

ראָזעלע זושוק האַלעװי