Tag Archives: what's past is prologue

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

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?

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