Thursday, June 23, 2016

Abigail Fisher and Unharnessed Sexism

Today (as with every day it seems) has been a day of mixed emotions. I am glad the Supreme Court upheld Affirmative Action in Texas and saddened (and furious) that they turned their backs on millions of undocumented families.

I am also sitting with unease about the posts and articles about Abigail Fisher, the young white woman whose case was used to challenge Affirmative Action. I say "used" because that is what I believe happened.

The process through which a law/policy/practice is challenged all the way up to the Supreme Court is something I do not fully understand. However, I do know that cases intended to challenge unconstitutionalities are neither isolated nor random. A lot of thought, a lot of money, and a lot of power go into identifying, funding, and fighting these cases. There is nothing about the process as I understand it that leads me to believe Abigail Fisher opened her University of Texas rejection letter and dreamt she would be the one to bring down Affirmative Action.

I do not know Abigail Fisher. I know nothing about her other than what has been reported. And while I feel a visceral urge to also deploy words like "mediocre" to talk about her, I have had to stop myself. I stop because I was (or am) that student who did not score straight-As, I am also a student whose university aspirations were not fulfilled, and I know what it is to be called or thought of as mediocre. But, most of all, I stop because this is a young woman living in a misogynist country. Whatever Abigail's actions were and despite the devastating blow to communities of color had the Supreme Court judged in her case's favor, this is still a young woman living in a still terrifyingly sexist world.

Calling Abigail Fisher mediocre or whatever other terms were used and that I, too, embarrassingly admit, chuckled at when I first read them, does not help anyone. Certainly, I experience the immediate gratification of describing someone the way people of color are described daily and were described during the Supreme Court hearings. There is a vindication and an entitlement I find myself wanting to justify, a desire to laugh at and in the face of the person who represents yet another white supremacist attack on people of color. Perhaps I am justified. But does my justification outweigh the repercussions of my perpetuation of sexism? Answering for myself only: No.

I am not here to deny Abigail Fisher's agency to be a full-fledged racist. Nor am I here to defend or dismiss the harm Abigail Fisher and her words are accountable for.
But I am here to publicly question myself, to hold myself accountable, and to ponder with others what it means for me as a cis man, however brown I am (or browner I think I am), to add my voice to a chorus tearing at the perceived worth of a young woman, however white and embodying and deploying of whiteness, in the United States of America. The urge is seeping through my fingertips, but I cannot do it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

"Love is Love" and the Sanitation of Queerness

Something about the phrase “Love is Love” hurts when I try to swallow. The implied universality, the seemingly innocuous standardization, the flattening, the sanitizing toward negating desire, the unqueering.

My queerness is centered, not only on who I love, but also and perhaps more so, on who and how I desire. The Marriage Equality Movement committed grave injustice by crafting a narrative of homonormativity that rendered us virtually sexless beings desperate to reincarnate into 1950s white, middle class, picket fence Woolworths catalogue caricatures. But, you, my ally, need to know and conduct yourself with the knowledge that I am not that caricature. I am not sexless.

I do not wish to be sanitized for consumption or comfort. When you see me, know that who and how I desire is woven into every word I say, how I walk, who I walk toward, and who I walk away from. My desire fuels my politic and informs how and who I love. I am queer specifically because of my desire. Desire is not an afterthought or an inconsequential coincidence. Desire is at the core of my queerness, it is the reason.

My desire is not universal. Why should my love be? My love is not your love, your love is not my love. My love is neither equal nor greater than your love. My love does not stand in opposition or in contrast to your love. My love is my love, your love is your love. Both are love without mirroring or justifying the other. My love is, whether you recognize it or not. My desire is— especially when it causes you discomfort.

Your love should not necessitate indistinguishability from my love in order for it to be love. Your love should not be conditioned or based on how similar my love is to yours. That is not the ally I want you to be.

I want you to my ally by looking me in the eye when I stand at the urinal next to you. I want you to be my ally when someone calls me a pervert and I accept it as a compliment. I want you to be my ally when I am unlikeable, when I don't feel like being your "gay," when I stop telling jokes. I want you to be my ally when you realize I am the one your mother warned you about. I want you to be my ally when I speak of white supremacy while looking in your direction. I want you to be my ally when I ask why you forgot to invite me, again. I want you to be my ally when I burn an HRC flag in protest for selectively coopting and/or erasing my people’s history. I want you to be my ally when I burn a U.S. flag in protest for killing my people. I want you to be my ally when you realize we are nothing alike, that who and how I desire and love have nothing to do with you. I want you to be my ally when my existence does not bring you joy or comfort or forgiveness.

Be my ally right now, not by imagining me as palatable, but by recognizing and honoring the perversions that render my people and me sacred, a gift, an atonement for human sins. Be my ally, not by claiming your love is the same as mine and therefore worthy of justice. Be my ally because I am here, because we are here, because justice should not be an award we receive for aligning ourselves with your morality. Be my ally because it makes you uncomfortable, because it is unsettling, because witnessing me whole is an affront to the heterosexism, the patriarchy, and the white supremacy that offer you happiness in exchange for the lives and happiness of people who love and desire differently. Do it. Be my ally.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

When Vigils Are Not Large Enough for Our Grief

On September 11, 2001, I attended a vigil for the first time. I was living in Austin. The vigil, held at Republic Square (telling already), included faith leaders, elected officials, and community leaders who spoke of our collective strength and resilience and how the tragedy of that morning was at the hands of monsters who hated everything we stood for— mainly, our freedom. I was 22 years old, at a loss for words, still unable to describe my experience, but I knew something about those words and the energy in the crowd were at odds with who I was and how I was grieving.

On Sunday, June 12, I learned of vigils happening in the Castro and in downtown Oakland. I could not get myself to attend either. I could not stand in the crowd, U.S. flags hovering over and flapping about while people (politicians and community leaders alike) spoke in the plural of a mythical "We" I have never experienced, a “We” that implies (if not explicitly stated soon after) that there is also a "Them,” a “Them” that looks nothing like “us.”

I no longer know how to stand in a crowd where I am meant to be moved to goosebumps and tears for being a part of a group that some other group is trying to kill. I do not know how to count myself among the "We" when the "We" is defined by the political and ideological borders of this country. I do not know how to count myself among the "We" when my membership exists only because my mother's water broke within the geographic confines of said borders. I do not know how to belong to a group that is bound by a way of loving and desiring, when this same group fails to understand that my way of loving and desiring is rooted in a history, a politic, and polylithic hopes.

Where will my goosebumps come from if this very "We" is doing everything it can and cannot to keep people who look like me, but whose mothers' water broke on the other side, from becoming a part of "us"? Where do I dig for tears when my wells are just as brown and deplorable as the one who died trying to cross the Arizona border? How do I convince myself that I am one of "us"?

I could not attend another vigil because I fear patriotism. I fear patriots. I fear myself among them, drowning in a whitewashing and othering that leaves or keeps people who look like me on the other side. I do not know how to breathe through proclamations of unity and country when the bodies carried out of that gay bar in Orlando were the bodies of Black and Brown queers —patos, maricones, jotos, dykes, bulldaggers, queens, locas—, outsiders exiled from a gay and lesbianism that defaults to white, and too often, from our own gente who don’t know what to do with us.

I do not know how to mourn my beloveds while standing alongside those who weep only because they see their sexual orientation in those bodies, but have failed to love and honor and include the Black and Brownness of the ones they now mourn. I do not know how to fall into the arms of someone who does not mourn Black and Brown bodies that are unqueer nor the explicit Black and Brownness of the queer. How do I stand beside those who do not understand why queer people of color weep the way we weep right now? How do I accept a hug when the part of me that is offered a hug is the only part that makes me a perceived kin? I cannot weep and explain that my grief is not compartmentalized, that all of who I am is wailing, that I see all of me in every one of those bodies.

So I mourn in private, mostly. I walk through the day holding this grief in my bones, wishing I could physically join a mass of mourners and know that when I am held, they are holding all of me as I grieve all of who my beloveds were.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Brief thoughts on criticisms of Emma Watson's U.N. speech

There has been much criticism of Emma Watson's speech at the United Nations for centering feminism on men, what we are capable of or not, and how sexism hurts us too. Dare I overstep my boundaries as a male-identified person to say that I agree, to an extent, with these critiques, though I hope for a world large enough to fit the type of feminisms that simultaneously center themselves around the ways of being and knowing of women--indeed, women's liberation--, while also articulating the ways in which patriarchy hurts all of us and that the articulation of this recognition not derail or de-centralize rhetoric and imaginations away from womanhood and women-centered possibilities, but contributes to the greater project of gender(ed) justice where all people are free from the shackles of misogyny. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

On Never Forgetting.

To me, this is not an Either/Or day. It is a Yes/And day.

Yes, thousands of innocent lives were murdered on September 11, 2001. And, yes, thousands more innocent lives were murdered in the retaliating wars that followed.

Yes, those planes were highjacked by religious extremists. And, yes, this country is highjacked by religious extremists.

Yes, people argue U.S. war-waging was justified. And, yes, as a country, the U.S. has done much (around the globe and domestically) to provoke war-waging against it.

Yes, New York City will never be the same. And, yes, the Middle East will never be the same.

Yes, Islam is a peaceful religion. And, yes, Christianity (can be) a peaceful religion.

Yes, the 2,977 lives lost on September 11 matter. And, yes, the 16,725–19,013 civilian lives lost in the aftermath matter.

Yes, war is not the answer. And, yes, war is not the answer.

So if by "Never Forget," you are asking me to remember only a fraction of history, to honor only a fraction of humanity, I am not in solidarity with you.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Hierbaloca: The Children of Aztlán

May we dance
in the living room of hope.
Our bodies hold memory—
we are desert stones.

May we rise
in the face of our pain.
As Arizona weeds dare,
our fists rise most when blown.

Our hearts pump through sorrow
making way for what is possible.
We are farmers. We harvest our own.

We are backyard children
playing, watched by la abuela
weaving through each other’s arms.

We are leaves
on branches, on roads.
Fodder after being shade
            cover to elders
food for new leaves to grow.

We are blood
rivers, mama’s veins.
We are the return,
though we never left.

Our lungs pump through anguish
manifest what is possible.
We are Texas breeze in each other’s hair.

We are nopal-raised abuelos
we play dice with tomorrow
betting: we will overcome.

Somos, todos, aztlaneros.
Our roots run deep, run wild.
Unharnessed, tainted as the Gulf.

We were free. We remember.
Thievery shall not hold us.
We have no papers to show.

Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano
Originally published in Poets Responding to SB1070

Thursday, June 19, 2014

In the name of nuance and kindness

For the past few weeks I have been sitting with the realization (or reminder) that social justice narratives (in particular my own) often lack the capacity or invitation to hold nuance, to engage in an exchange of ideas, to actually dialogue and to do so with kindness. The dynamic is less about learning and growing from others, but to prove myself right, even if at the expense of the feelings of others and at the expense of my own growth. Shutting down the conversation has kept me from the opportunity to hear the nuance in the voices of my peers, it has kept me from becoming greater than the limitations of my own ideas.

Whether the topic is the use of the word Tranny, whether FIFA should bring about an institutional ban of sorts in response to crowds yelling “¡Puto!,” whether people who grew up watching soccer with their loved ones are right or wrong to be excited about the World Cup, whether gay marriage is the death of sexual liberation, whether Orange is the New Black. So many lessons I could have learned, so many stories I could have heard had I just made enough room for nuance and kindness.

As an atheist, I do not know how much credence I give to astrology, but I do know that I was born under the sign of Taurus and that I am stubborn as all hell. Regardless, I am committing toward pushing myself to learn to listen to the ideas of others, to not feel threatened by them, to sit firmly in my own convictions while hearing what others have to say.

I do not know if this is a public apology or a way to hold myself publicly accountable, perhaps it is both. The one thing I believe in above all else, is the possibility of creating world large enough to fit us all whole. My unkind and anti-nuance stances are not aligned with this belief. So, to quote one of Adelina Anthony’s poems, “I’m checking myself, so I don’t check out permanently.”

With this, I begin my moratorium on political commentary. I look forward to reading and learning to listen to my peers.