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.