Tag Archives: you can't identify your way out of this

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.

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)

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 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.

but

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