Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter is an organization of activists fighting for the civil rights of Black people. It’s also a true statement, and a fact that people, especially white people, need to be reminded of. Again and again and again.

I woke up today, and before 8:00 there were already two stories in the news about Black men, one who was threatened with violence, and another who met with violence to the point of death. There have been other recent stories in the news about Black people dying violently at the hands of white people. These stories are, unfortunately, not exceptional, and these incidents keep happening. It is unacceptable.

As Ibram Kendi said on Twitter, “We should be drawing a straight line of racist terror from Amy Cooper [the woman who terrorized Christian Cooper] to this Minneapolis cop [who murdered George Floyd]. Too often, she is the beginning. He is the end.”

This is only going to stop when we commit to making it stop.

White people, it’s time to get our shit together. When you say “I’m not racist,” it discredits everything you say following that. Racism and white supremacy might not reflect your values, but we live in a culture where those values are indeed embedded and that we are taught early on. We are all racist, whether we admit it or not. The system we live in benefits white people, while it oppresses others. This in and of itself doesn’t make white people bad, but if we don’t recognize it and work to change it, we perpetuate it.

We have to commit to end institutional racism, work to understand what it means to be anti-racist, amplify Black voices and Black experience, advocate for Black people, call racism out, hold people accountable, speak up against injustice, and understand that this is work that must be done continuously, without end. We must work to understand the legacy of slavery and white supremacy, the inter-generational trauma that it has caused.

Here is a link to some anti-racist resources.

I would add to this list (I will be adding more to this post going forward):

 

 

How I Spent the Summer of 2019

Now that summer is nearly over, I finally have a little time to sit down and digest all that I have accomplished since June. It has been a wild ride! This will be a quick summary, because each thing really deserves a post of it’s own, which at least on some of this, I will eventually get to.

First, my spouse, my husband Gabriel, observing 50 years on the planet in June, decided to share with the world what we realized together earlier in the year: He is a transgender man.

Coming out has been amazingly good. It is a natural progression. It’s a realization that is surprising and simultaneously makes perfect sense. Family, friends, acquaintances, and colleagues have all been supportive, and we are privileged to live in a community with tremendous resources for trans folks.

We celebrated properly by going to see Brandi Carlile in concert in Baltimore. You can see her tiny figure between us here:

2019-06-14 21.03.17

We followed up the next day by attending Baltimore’s Pride Parade.

2019-06-15 19.04.52

Second, after spending an afternoon tromping around Philadelphia, admiring several murals, we went to hear Ibram Khendi talk about Juneteenth and his new book, How to be an Antiracist. I commend this book and Khendi’s work to anyone doing the good work of resistance of white supremacy.

2019-06-20 20.10.41

Third, to continue the celebration of Gabriel’s 50th birthday and his coming out, we decided we needed to go to New York to observe the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall. Our niece happened to be there as well, so we celebrated everything as a family.

2019-06-30 15.37.43

Fourth, I attended the amazing HERS Institute at Bryn Mawr College. This is a professional development opportunity for women in academia who want to pursue leadership positions. I’ve known about the Institute for years, but I didn’t think it was for people like me, on the administrative side, certainly not fundraising. A friend of mine who attended the Institute two years ago disabused me of that assumption, and said that they actually need more folks in fundraising in the Network (because once you attend, you’re in this incredible network). I think my assumption speaks to the general undervaluing of fundraising as a profession, and even those of us in it take this view without realizing it, kind of like internalized homophobia. Anyway, that’s a topic for my professional blog, Infomentation.

Fifth, I attended the Philadelphia Trans Wellness Conference, which happens here every summer. So, prior to my husband coming out, I did know about this conference, but I didn’t know what a big deal it is. I am queer, and though I’m not super active in the LGBT community, I try to keep up with what’s going on around town. But neither my husband nor I have close friends who are trans, so little did we know that this is the largest free trans-specific health conference in the world. Also, Philly is kind of a center of trans healthcare, we’ve come to find out.

Gabriel and I are working on a joint blog (forthcoming) about our experience as a couple of coming out as trans. Though I’m not transitioning in the same way, we are going through his transition as a couple, and both of our perspectives are important in the process. One thing we heard over and over at the Conference is that it’s important to share stories. Many times we heard people say that they have said things in public, or posted something on social media with no expectation that it would be of much consequence, only to hear much later from someone how much that thing they said meant to them. Being out can mean more to someone than you will know in that moment. This isn’t a new revelation to me; I’ve known this since I first came out as queer, but Gabriel coming out as trans has reinforced and emphasized this for me. I intend to write more about the conference and other things trans in a subsequent post because it deserves a post of its own.

Sixth, I celebrated 51 years in August, and that feels pretty good. This year’s celebration was much quieter than last year’s Province Town blow-out! And that was perfect.

Last but not least, Seventh, just a week after my birthday, Gabriel and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary.

Now I’m getting back to my routine, and it’s a blessing, as was this summer of joy, activity, and learning. All of this leaves me feeling exhausted and grateful. I’m thankful for feeling inspired at this point in my life, in my career, in my marriage, to continue self-discovery and learning. All of this brings me hope and light, which I welcome during trying times.

 

Pride Month 2019

Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, Photo courtesy of: Diana Davies

Gay Pride is celebrated around the world largely as a civil rights event for people whose sexuality is oriented towards people of the same gender. What is often forgotten, perhaps even intentionally erased, is that transgender individuals are largely responsible for starting the rebellion that inspired the Gay Pride movement.

In 1959 a group of transgender women and gay men fought off cops at Cooper’s Donuts in Los Angeles, an incident all but forgotten. Three years before Stonewall, transgender women in San Francisco stood up for themselves in a moment of resistance at Compton’s Cafeteria. Of course the best known story is Stonewall, where by many accounts trans women were the fiercest fighters.

And yet many leaders of the gay rights movement wanted to force trans people out. In a heartbreaking scene from the 1973 New York Gay Pride rally, Sylvia Rivera was repeatedly denied the right to speak, and when she finally took the stage to proclaim that Stonewall would not have happened without trans activists she was booed off the stage. When I saw this footage recently in The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson, I felt a range of emotions, from sadness to rage to shame.

It does seem that we may finally be learning the lessons that Rivera and Johnson were trying to teach us. They are being honored together this year with a statue in New York City.

But we still have a long way to go. The struggle is not over, and as a community we still need to learn how so support each other: Did the ‘T’ Fall Off of ‘L.G.B.T.Q.’?

I can’t say it better than Scott James (although I would say more specifically trans people of color): Queer People of Color Led the L.G.B.T.Q. Charge, but Were Denied the Rewards

More Prideful things:

Tales of the City (part deux): The reboot of these stories is not great, but I do enjoy seeing lives that reflect some of my Bay Area life and queer experience. Seeing a couple, one lesbian and the other a trans man in the process of coming out, struggle with the process of his transition, some realistically tense inter-generational conversations about how to appropriately articulate trans identity, and there’s even a retelling of the Compton’s Cafeteria riot. All of this with San Francisco as a central character, presented as an imperfect utopia for misfits. There are nuggets of sweetness here that for me are worth time spent watching, if for nothing else to see stories of diverse queer folks experiencing joy in life.

Sense8: This show is not new, but it is SO GAY in the very best joyful and empowering ways. The story is layered and complex, and the main characters are geeky sexy super heroes who find light through darkness, and I am rooting for every single one of them! This is just the story that we need right now in these dark times.

Pride on Screen: From Crooked Media, a podcast that discusses queers in pop culture over the years. It’s pretty good, for for someone of my vintage (and to my mind 50 is not THAT old), the hosts don’t go back far enough! Have these whipper snappers never seen the Celluloid Closet? I was gratified that someone made a reference (albeit quickly) to Billy Crystal’s character, Jodie Dallas in the sitcom Soap from the 1970s. But there was so much more in popular culture that they missed in these conversations, it left me a little disappointed.

More queerness:

So many different queer flags! Who knew!?: The Complete Guide to Queer Pride Flags

New York Times coverage of Pride 2019

Making Gay History 

GLBT Historical Society

The LGBT Community Center National History Archive

 

 

 

 

 

Catching Up

Okay, okay….so time has gotten away from me. It has, indeed, been busy, and I make all kinds of excuses to myself about why I haven’t made more time to write. And the odd thing is I am busier than ever and I’m somehow inspired to write.

The truth is, I do have plenty of down time, more so than most people I know. It is sacred time to me, when I can give my brain a chance to rest and recharge. Luckily, there are some strong arguments that I’ve run across lately that supports me doing nothing:

I appreciate that the title of the article just assumes that the reader, any reader, procrastinates, because we all do. Okay, so this article is less of a justification and more of an explanation for procrastination, but it argues for self-compassion as a necessary part of dealing with it constructively.

When I started out this calendar year, one of my resolutions was to have more discipline to accomplish two specific things: 1) Establish a meditation practice, 2) Write more, specifically blogging. I started out strong, but kinda fell off the wagon in March.

Why do I want to blog anyway? I don’t get much traffic her, and gaining and audience isn’t my interest here. Community, perhaps yes. I do see the value of writing here for myself. I started this blog years ago, and it has been interesting to look back at what I cared about and thought about at different times. It’s a little like reading and old journal, I guess, but perhaps a little more self-conscious since this  blog is outward-facing, and anyone who wanted to could find it. The collection of resource and links are a helpful time capsule, though, and who knows? Perhaps this could all be useful or interesting to someone else some day.

I ramble. On to the purpose of my blogging, which is to capture some of what I have been reading, and how that has influenced what I think and care about:

I care about a lot of things, which makes the times we are currently living through particularly brutal. I occupy a privileged position in the world, which affords me the ability to temporarily ignore the various crises happening around us (and believe me, I am constantly aware of growing nationalism, the crisis of climate change, the growing divisiveness between left and right which perpetuates racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, etc.), so I practice self-love and self-care by trying to see and focus on pleasanter things, like:

  • Thee Met Gala – Though I’ve never been a superfan, this year the red carpet event caught my eye and I could not look away. The creativity, the cultural subversion, the delicious catty criticism of the fashion, the love and hate, ultimately the intelligence behind this event. I found myself just eating it all up with a spoon! There were numerous podcasts about it that I appreciated, that explained the history and the current celebrities who attended. The Keep It podcast is wonderful in general, but their coverage of the Met Gala was entertaining and informative. A happy new discovery for me, the Dressed podcast about fashion history, dedicated an episode to the history of the Met Gala. In addition to the history, the hosts provided their own critique of this year’s costumes.

Janelle Monae

  • The (hopefully) imminent downfall of the NRA – This is truly like watching a car wreck as it happens, only this time I really want to jump up and down and cheer and clap my hands in celebration and encouragement. Of course the story is still evolving and it remains to be seen how things will turn out. But it is really hard not to be gleeful about what one reporter described as “the circular firing squad.” Honestly, you can’t make this up. I look forward to the TV mini series. Slate’s What Next podcast summarized the story in a way that, while I was out walking with my dog, Jack, was making me laugh out loud and gasp and guffaw as we made our way around the neighborhood. If any of my neighbors saw or heard me they might wonder about me. Fresh Air also broadcast a helpful interview with reporter Danny Hakim. But it really looks like Mike Spies of The Trace (which is a great name for a news outlet that covers the gun industry) is the guy to follow. He’s doing yeoman’s work on in investigative reporting on the NRA.
  • Let’s get back to fashion: Before the Met Gala, there was Billy Porter’s tuxedo gown on the Oscar red carpet, which he wore in homage to Hector Xtravaganza, who died on December 30, 2018. Billy Porter is, of course, one of the many amazing stars of Pose, a show about the New York ballroom community in the 1980s. Hector Xtravaganza was a consultant on the show.

Billy Porter

  • Which leads me to Pose, which finally made its way onto Netflix, thus enabling me to see it. I binged the first season with my reluctant spouse (who ended up thoroughly enjoying it), and I cannot wait until the second season. No spoilers here, but suffice it to say that this show is beautiful story-telling about love and survival in seemingly oppressive and hopeless circumstances. It’s empowering and inspiring to see gorgeous trans and non-binary actors in these roles.

Pose Angel

  • Finally (though there is more I could say), June is Pride Month, when we will be observing the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. So the story of Pose has particular resonance at this moment. I am pleased to observe in the LGBTQIA+ community that there is an effort finally getting traction to pay homage to the transgender people who started it all, like Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, and Stormé DeLarverie. (The Nod podcast did a lovely episode about her in 2017).
  • Oh! One more thing. Speaking of The Nod (a really great podcast – you should listen!) and fashion, they also did a podcast episode on the Battle of Versailles, which I knew nothing about. It’s like one of those things that has always been there, you just didn’t notice it. Now everyone is talking about it. There is a book by Robin Givhan, and a documentary (I haven’t seen yet), by Ava Duvernay, Back to the Dressed podcast, they also did a nice interview with Givhan about the 1973 historic fashion show..

As May concludes and I look forward to June and Pride Month festivities, I will be writing more reflections on Stonewall and transgender history.

Black History Month 2019

My readings and musings on Black History Month:

Gone but not forgotten: New York Times Overlooked: “These remarkable black men and women never received obituaries in The New York Times — until now. We’re adding their stories to our project about prominent people whose deaths were not reported by the newspaper.”

Black history is gay history, too: Out Magazine pledge to run stories throughout Black History Month about notable Black and Queer historical figures. This is great! However it doesn’t seem that the website has a collection of these articles anywhere, which would be nice. But the magazine in general is doing a good job of reporting stories on diverse populations.

The Huffington Post posted a slide show of images of Black and queer “icons,” which was really cool. I learned about some people I didn’t know about before, but I might have included some others here: Bessie Smith, Lorraine Hansberry, Lena Waithe, Janelle Monae, and I was recently reminded of the story of Ruth Ellis (1899-2000), one of the oldest living lesbians in America. I’m sure there are more I’m not thinking of now (please feel free to leave names in the comments).

In addition to these stories, I came across some lesser-known Black histories including:

Paul Delaney, the first Black reporter for the New York Times, didn’t want to be the only one, so he advocated for and paved the way for others to follow in his footsteps.

Here are 23 Black Women Scientists who we should know about.

The story of Madam C.J. Walker, the first self-made Black woman millionaire, will soon be amplified in an upcoming Netflix series starring Octavia Butler. I am eagerly awaiting that!

This article from the New Yorker in 2017 about Pauli Murray (1910-1985) makes you wonder why her life and legacy are not more widely known. As the article states, “Murray’s lifelong fate [was] to be both ahead of her time and behind the scenes.” She may not be a household name, but she has been sainted by the Episcopal church, and there is a residential college named after her at Harvard.

Finally, during these first couple of weeks of Black History Month, I have come across some articles about racism, with some advice about how not to be racist, or how to think about racism and white supremacy in ways that don’t excuse anyone from their own responsibility and complicitness. Apparently we have to learn these lessons continuously, or rather, we need these lessons incessantly because we are apparently not learning. It is 2019 and white people are STILL doing blackface and think it’s okay (until they are called on it), or think it was somehow okay when they did it in college in the 1980s (and they’ll defend themselves with the “it was a different time” excuse, even though it really wasn’t okay even then). So here are a few more articles about how to do it better:

“There is no such thing as a Nonracist,” an interview with Ibram Kendi. “It’s very difficult to grow up in a country or even a world that’s constantly raining racist ideas on your head and to never get wet.” Even well-meaning and nice people who recognize that racism is bad are viewing the world through a racist lens. The only way we  can build a more just and equitable world is if every person takes responsibility for their internalized racism, recognizes it and consciously, mindfully, intentionally works to change it within themselves.

Hey, White people! Robin DiAngelo has some suggestions for how you can understand yourselves and your penchant for defensiveness when it comes to talking about race and racism. As it turns out, White liberals are the worst about this! Often, we lack the skills or self-knowledge that might enable us to act in ways that are less terrible, less racist. Her book, White Fragility, will help to enlighten more of us about exactly how white privilege manifests itself in our lives. “Combatting one’s inner voices of racial prejudice, sneaky and, at times, irresistibly persuasive, is a life’s work. ”

When you are tempted to say defensively “I’m not racist,” try instead to say, more positively “I’m an antiracist.”

And finally finally, “Dear White People, stop making racism all about you.”