Tag Archives: my long grey hair

“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.

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

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)

some slightly out of context notes on ‘tikkun olam’

yeah like i don’t think i would intrinsically mind if a journal wanted to call itself something out of mātauranga Māori but the fact that it’s the most unreadable do-nothingist self-justifying lazy dreck must be super irritating. – cannibality, on Tiqqun –

to me – cranky jewish 4th-generation secular leftist – the name is actually the least problematic thing about Tiqqun. and that’s because it’s actually perfectly consistent with their particular apocalyptic quietism.

“tikkun olam” (as the zionists render it) / “tiken oylem” (as yiddish speakers say it) [see note 1 below] has become a synonym in jewish liberal circles for /some ambiguous form of social justice through a jewish religious-cultural lens/ over the past twenty years, but that’s an entirely new meaning for it. jill jacobs (a liberal zionist rabbi well-regarded in the circles that use ‘tikkun olam’ most) has an interesting and detailed tracing of the term’s uses through time here (intended as a positive account), but the arc is very simple.

up to the 1970s or so, the term’s only political content is in a few places in the mishnah, where it designates small legalistic shifts that ease the conditions of the worst off, in order to ‘repair/maintain [tikkun] the social order [olam]’ without structural change. in the 1970s and 1980s, a new meaning for the term was invented more or less out of the whole cloth by a specific set of young liberal rabbis, and publicized through their participation in New Jewish Agenda, the main national progressive jewish organization in the u.s. during that period.

these rabbis – arthur waskow and michael lerner – were looking for a spiritual vocabulary for their liberal (or, at best, progressive-except-palestine) politics. like many assimilated ashkenazim, their vision of authentic jewish spirituality basically meant hasidism, and the 16th-christian-century lurianic kabala that is the source of much of hasidism’s formal theology. and that’s where they found the phrase “tiken oylem”.

Continue reading some slightly out of context notes on ‘tikkun olam’
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

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

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

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

oh my, more to say about ‘genderqueer’ and terminology history because i am agèd

one. 3/28/2014

after some discussion by skysquids, i wrote:

there’s another thing going on here as well: the near-complete capture of the term “genderqueer” by female-assigned folks (largely white and expensively educated) to mean a specific, extremely limited range of their gender and style expressions.

when “genderqueer” was first being used (as far as i know) in the mid-1990s, it was a very broad umbrella term covering the whole space that we’d now refer to as “nonbinary”, as well as to some extent non-trans genderdeviant folks and trans folks who don’t have conventional gender expressions (butch trans women, fem trans men, etc – a zone we still don’t have good language for, except maybe by taking serano’s distinction between cissexual and cisgender more seriously).

“genderqueer” was very consciously created as a political project like “transgender” or “queer”, aiming at bringing together a very mixed group of people, not on the basis of ‘shared identity’ but on the basis of an analysis of structural power. in this case, an analysis of the enforcement of binary gender, as something that specifically targets women and other folks who are seen as imperfect men, and that affects in specific ways folks who aren’t easily read into a conventional masculine man/feminine woman box.

and it’s worth saying: a lot of the folks doing that creating were trans women. just like with “transgender” and with “queer”.

Continue reading oh my, more to say about ‘genderqueer’ and terminology history because i am agèd

about that asterisk / some trans women’s history

so i’ve been wanting to write something about the damn asterisk – the one in trans* – for a while now, and now i’m finally getting around to it despite a touch of flu. i suspect no one wants to read as much as i’ve got to say, so here’s a slightly passive-aggressive summary to encourage (?) that…

tl;dr:

the asterisk in trans* was invented by (folks who now get called) trans women. specifically, by geeky trans women, as a tool in fights against assimilationist/One True Path trans women. you can like the * or hate the *, but it’s trans women’s term, and trans women’s history. trans women who hate it need to deal with that. folks who aren’t trans women and want to use it need to take that into account.

Continue reading about that asterisk / some trans women’s history