There’s something on my mind recently that I’ve been struggling to put to words. When I was out last weekend with ML, we had a good conversation about it and I intended to write about it right away but then I sat and stared at a blank document for a while, the words bottlenecked in the tips of my fingers and I couldn’t type. Maybe this time will be different.
[Trigger warning: this post discusses violent rape.]
There’s a serial rapist in a neighborhood in San Francisco where many of my friends live and where I go to frequently, and he’s struck multiple times. The attacks have been violent and in public in early morning hours. And I’ve been really turned off by the way it has been discoursed in communities I’m tangential to and in general by the patterns I have witnessed over and over in the past, repeated here, as responses to extreme violence against women.
I found out about it because of an email blast by the local rape crisis center to all of its volunteers; the email gave the details of the attacks, I guess just as an advisement to the volunteers about potential hotline callers. It also said that the police are on the case but that they’re asking that it not be brought to media in order that they can find the rapist more easily; media attention might alert him that they’re looking and he could relocate. Before too long this email had spread throughout the various networks I’m a part of and I got it sent to me in various truncated forms several additional times, always along with some sort of cautionary note by the sender about being careful, not walking alone, taking appropriate measures, and finally “be safe.” People are hyperaware and there has been a palpable climate of anxiety.
There are multiple layers of all of this that I struggle with. There’s the obvious fact that the sensationalizing of the street attack and the stranger rape is highly problematic, especially given the ubiquity of rape, sexual assault, and violence perpetrated by non-strangers. For me, though, that’s a more difficult argument to grapple with given that for me it is not a myth, it is not sensational. Still, I can’t write about the problematics of what’s going on in SF right now without bringing that up, the hyper-paranoia and perhaps exaggerated response to this sort of rape, especially in contrast to the silence around all other (and way more common) forms of sexual violence. Related to and beyond that, though, I’m angered by the way this kind of information is just sent into the world to live its own sensationalized life and that it seems like the only real possible reaction to it is fear, and the result is a kind of social control of women operated through this fear. One of my friends called the rape crisis center to ask if they were planning or knew of any organized community or collaborative response and she said they just sounded annoyed and dismissed her. This isn’t to say that it’s their job to put something like that together, but that given the way they disseminated the information and offered no container for coping with the gutteral punch of the email other than to suggest that individuals who have feelings about it call the crisis hotline, a dismissive response to my friend’s inquiry just seems inconsiderate and even irresponsible to me.
I’m also struggling with the faith in the police that that initial message conveyed, and particularly with the lack of questioning the police’s methods which, in this case, was essentially “don’t tell the media because we need to find the guy and if he knows he’s being hunted he’ll move” and to me reads as “we need him to strike again so we can catch him” or, “it’s more important that our strategy for catching him not be interrupted than for the community to be able to feel safe.” When I was subletting in North Berkeley in summer of 2008, there was also a serial rapist who was breaking into the homes of young women who were living alone and violently raping them. I was, in fact, living alone and in the immediate vicinity of his previous attacks when the police knocked on my door, handed me a flyer with “information” and how to contact a tip line, and then left me alone in my ground floor apartment with windows that didn’t lock, shrugging and saying “sorry, can’t help you there” when I asked them, panicked, “well what should I do??” What we should do, apparently, is fear for our lives and our bodies, because what else does this method of disseminating information call for? And, why did the crisis center that historically only will cooperate with police to the extent that it is forced to so blindly follow in the police’s footsteps in this case?
Then there’s the fact that eventually a local newspaper did release a blurry black and white still from a security camera of the suspect, and that the only thing about him that is discernible from this photo is that he is black and that he was wearing a dark hoodie. What is the purpose of this circulating when there is no chance that anyone will actually be able to identify him based on that photo and instead it just sends the message: “be afraid of black men in hoodies.” This is such an ugly dynamic and it’s one that I don’t really know how to untangle. But sending that out into a world in which black men are already racially profiled in super intense ways and experience intense criminalization on a daily basis is irresponsible at best and nasty and racist at worst. This is not to say that it’s racist to talk about a black man being a rapist, or to identify this one as a black man. I’m not saying we should pretend he’s not black or refuse to engage what comes up around his race. I’m just asking, in this case, what is the point of that blurry photo being circulated? If the rest of the messaging around there being a serial rapist is “he’s brutal, he comes up from behind, and he isn’t deterred by fighting back” then how is having a blurry and unidentifiable photo of him helpful for the community? If the logic is the paternal “ladies, just stay inside” then it seems to me that this photo will only exacerbate that as the message by bolstering the public imaginary that all black men are to be feared. It’s just ugly.
And then for me there’s the very personal level of struggle. I have been feeling a lot of anger, resentment, irritation with people who have been talking about this and have been having difficulty articulating why. I don’t think even I have really been able to understand myself why those emotions are coming up for me. It came up for me a lot when I was hanging out with one of my friends who lives just blocks away from the most recent attack and she insisted on walking me the one block to my parking spot when I was leaving around midnight. I wasn’t angry at her or irritated at her but I was feeling a mess of angry/frustrated emotions that I couldn’t quite place. I guess the best way for me to explain it is that, for me, this serial rapist on the loose doesn’t change things. I don’t feel any less safe knowing that that’s out there. I don’t feel any more safe at any other time when there isn’t a known rapist on the loose. I always feel that fear, I always feel like any second now it could happen again. I know that when it happened to me there hadn’t been any community warnings and so I guess I just feel like, what do these warnings do, what are they for, if it happens anyway, whether we are prepared for it or not. And, what does it even mean to be prepared for it? It’s impossible, you can’t possibly. I feel like I just have so much resentment that I can’t understand the fear that other people have about it, I can’t understand fear from the side of not-knowing. It makes it hit home for me so much that I live in a different world than they do. My normal is so wildly different. And it’s occasions like this that bring it all back to me when in general I feel like I do a pretty good job of dissociating from it in my daily life. I do a good job of intentional forgetting. Not forgetting that it happened, there is not a single day that goes by that it is not present for me, but forgetting how it makes me different, forgetting the anger and bitterness about it being the background of my daily life.
I didn’t really intend to end here. I wanted to go into a sort of brainstorming session of what might a robust and healthy community response to sexual violence look like, and how might we organize around that more rather than stopping at feeling trapped and afraid? I have thoughts. But I’m feeling drained, so I’m going to stop. More soon. Xoxo.
I’ve been feeling pretty politicized, lately, which has contributed to my not writing as much here (that, and midterms, obviously). What I mean is, this blog has been, for most of its life, an account of my personal life. My verrrrrry personal life, haha. The main reason for that, I think, is that since this blog began, the stuff in my personal life has been the most interesting stuff going on for me. I was working a job I didn’t care for, hadn’t situated myself squarely in any community in the city (part shyness, part being busy, part general feelings of liminality), and was spending most of my intellectual brainpower, outside of work, on thinking about my relationship and my burgeoning personal identities (primarily femme, but also, in smaller ways, “survivor”, feminist, queer, sex-positive…). Thank God for all of that, and for this blog and all of you, because it enabled my mind to continue to open up and expand when my work life was encouraging it to stay stagnant.
Now that I’m full-time in a graduate program (having lost my part-time work, eep. I really need a new part-time job…), it’s like my mind is blowing up. It’s brilliant, it’s like a re-birth. I’m navigating new relationships with classmates and professors, which is time-consuming and exciting. I’m reading a TON of stuff, mostly assigned, but I’m amazed that the assigned reading is actually motivating me to go out and read non-assigned stuff, both for context (e.g. Foucault’s Archaeology of Knowledge) and just because it excites me (e.g., Julia Serano’s Whipping Girl, which, GO. READ. I’M SERIOUS.). I’m writing a lot for class. And I’m having a ton of conversations both in and outside of class, about things like what I posted about in my last post (which, don’t worry, I’ll be doing follow-up posts on) and about other things: midterm elections, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the Tea Party, local politics. (Y’all, San Francisco just passed the most effed up bit of city legislation: Sit/Lie, a law that will *criminalize* sitting on city sidewalks, for any reason, which is ableist, classist, and a total betrayal of our city’s history and the folks that made SF the “free love” city that it is.)
And I’ve hesitated, I guess, to write about all of that stuff, because it’s not my personal life. It’s not just about my own personal identity anymore, but about my identity in the context of larger social and political forces, and just about those larger social and political forces on their own. I feel a bit strange about starting to use this blog as a sociopolitical soapbox (to be clear: when I talk about social politics, I’m not really talking about partisan politics (except in the context of these midterm elections), but I guess something more like progressive identity politics. I’m just not sure this is the platform for that. But you know what? It’s what’s on my mind, so I guess I’ll just roll with it. We’ll see what happens. And for the record, I love feeling more politicized. The blood in my body feels quicker, I feel more alert, more purposeful, more engaged with the world. I’ve been sharing a lot of stuff on my personal Facebook page, and I think I might start moving some of that to this blog’s Facebook page as well because I want to start having those kinds of conversations over here, too.
In the meantime, life’s pretty good. The weather here is gorgeous. Halloween came and went, and I stayed in all weekend; it was rainy and cold and I wasn’t feeling well anyway. ML is super busy with grad school applications and preparations, but this week we’ve actually managed to have dinner together every night so far, which is very welcome after three weeks of hardly eating together at all. My midterms are over and I’m already swallowed in more reading and beginning to prep for finals. I’m frantically trying to find part-time work but haven’t had any time to put into the search. This week, hopefully. Anybody have any Bay Area progressive connections?
One last thing: Apparently, the Giants won the World Series. I think I was probably the last person in San Francisco to find out. I truly live under a rock in many ways. But guys, the city erupted. It was almost as bad as Massachusetts when the Sox won in 2004. Sports fans!!!
PS: My next post, currently in draft form, is about the consumerization of femininity. It’s been fun to think about and write. I’ll finish it up and post it in the next day or two. Can’t wait to hear feedback…
At my Frameline volunteer shift the other day, I was doing will call with an older gay guy, John, and since it was the middle of the afternoon and thus a fairly quiet shift, we got to chatting. And by “we got to chatting,” I mean mostly that I asked him questions about his life, which he warmly and enthusiastically answered. He’s lived in San Francisco for over 35 years, in the Castro for 35 years. He was 22, he said, when he came out here, realizing he was gay. He moved here because of the Cockettes, whom he met when they were on tour in Milwaukee. He hung out with them after their show and just decided to go with them on the rest of their tour and then back to San Francisco.
He lived in San Francisco during the Harvey Milk days. He teared up when talking about the sadness and anger and overwhelming solidarity when Milk was assassinated. He lived in San Francisco during the AIDS crisis, and had to stop talking for a few minutes, he was too overcome with emotion to speak.
He told me that he sees the splintering in the gay community as tragic. “What splintering?” I asked, curious about what he was referring to.
“Everyone’s concerned with their own issues,” he said. “People come together to fight for marriage equality, sure, but at the end of the day marriage equality is about personal relationships. It’s about us as individuals. It’s not about all of us, together. And it allows us to think we’re fighting for ourselves rather than for each other.”
“During the AIDS crisis,” he said, “there was a real sense of camaraderie. I have such close, intense relationships with many lesbians from that generation. They really came out of the woodwork in support of us during that time. There hasn’t been anything like it since. Everyone does their own thing now.”
I said I thought so too, that I’d noticed something similar. I thought of the post I wrote last week.
He said, “it’s sad. What we’ve been fighting for all along is happening, equality, justice, acceptance, visibility. All of that. It’s happening, at least it’s happening in San Francisco. But it means that there isn’t as much of a need for us to watch out for each other anymore. Straight people don’t all watch out for each other. Being straight is hardly something to think of as having in common with each other. The more we get what we’ve been fighting for, the more we become normalized here, the less ‘being gay’ is something that brings us together. We’re becoming complacent.”
Is this true? I hadn’t thought of it this way. Does getting to a place where we’re no longer oppressed, where our society is no longer heteronormative, where we are fairly represented in government and where we’re systemically, institutionally, and socially equal to straight folks mean that we won’t have solidarity with each other anymore on the grounds of being queer? And if that’s the case, is it worth it? To me, that seems like such an unbearable loss. And John, tears in his eyes, seems to be suffering that loss. Or are his thoughts just tainted by nostalgia? After all, he knew three quarters of the people who came up to will call while we were sitting there together, men and women alike, and they all seemed to have so much love and support for each other.
I don’t know. What do YOU think?
Spring seems to have FINALLY reached San Francisco. Rain in June is not why I moved here. If I wanted rain in June, I’d be living in Portland. This past weekend, though, was unapologetically gorgeous. So gorgeous, in fact, that I got quite a nasty sunburn on Saturday (and I put on sunscreen! I swear!). Weekends like this are good reminders that doing things spontaneously and doing things slightly out of my comfort zone are two of the best ways of feeling whole.
See, the thing is, when you ask me what my vision of happiness looks like, my brain calls up a quiet morning in a sunlit kitchen, drinking tea, eating a warm scone and reading a book. Fast forward an hour and I’m baking bread or shelling peas while listening to NPR Morning Edition. Then in the afternoon maybe I’m having a picnic in the park with a few of my favorite people. These images make me feel calm and happy and balanced and excited. Which, admit it, makes me sound kind of boring, right? I’m such a homebody!
Obviously, if I only ever did the things that my image of happiness and “the perfect day” calls up, I would be boring. Really, really boring. And I would also be unhappy. Too much of a good thing is still too much and the thing isn’t so good anymore. And so this past weekend, which was pretty much the antithesis of calm and peaceful and domestic, and which lacked any sort of lingering over tea or reading or cooking, was entirely perfect. In such an unexpected way!
Saturday: yard sale with my neighbor (formerly: roommate). Got up early, hauled stuff to the corner, which has a lot of foot traffic coming from Dolores Park, and sat out all day negotiating prices with people for my stuff. As someone who is not a natural salesperson, this was harder than it probably sounds. I hate asking people for money for my stuff. My impulse is always, “oh just have it!” I made a mistake like this early in the morning, when I sold a pair of pearl earrings for $0.50 (yes, really, and I STILL am yelling at myself over that), and then decided I had to toughen up. I still think I undersold most of my stuff, but I’ll just accept that at least my goal of de-cluttering was met! And I did make $200.
Then on Saturday night, my friend was celebrating her birthday at New Wave City at the DNA Lounge. Cover is $12 after 10 but $7 before 10, so, yes, I went to a dance party before 10, knowing full-well that I’d be there until closing at 2. This took a lot of “get yourself off your ass” pep talk from myself because (a) I was dehydrated and sunburned from earlier so wasn’t sure I would survive 5 hours of dancing, and (b) I’m not a big partier anyway and it’s easy to convince myself that staying home or going to a wine bar or having late-night burritos are all better ideas than going dancing (see above), and (c) ML (my lady) was mixing with her band and wouldn’t be there until much later. BUT! I did not succumb to my lazy voice and I drank some water, threw on something danceable, and headed out to meet up with my friends. And you know what? Throw two drinks in me (gin gimlet and a greyhound) and I can dance all night.
Sunday: Woke up around 10:30 after having finally landed in bed around 4, slightly achy but (thanks to my impeccable foresight) not hungover, since I started drinking water instead of booze around midnight. We lazed sleepily for a few minutes until ML said: “Hey! Let’s go for a hike today!” My immediate reaction was “YES!” My secondary reaction was “wait! but! I wanted to have a lazy Sunday morning! eat brunch! go to the park and chill in the sun! do some organizing around the house! ahhhh!” My tertiary reaction, after some back-and-forth with my sensible side, was “SCREW IT! Let’s go!” So we booked a Zipcar, lathered up with sunscreen, and headed north across the Golden Gate Bridge. We ended up hiking up Mt. Tam from Stinson Beach, and though we didn’t make it all the way up (we’d gotten rather a late start, and I was feeling still dehydrated and sun-stroked from the day before), we did get some spectacular views on the way. We had dinner at a beach cafe before heading back to the city. Accomplished? Nothing on our to-do lists, but we DID manage to get some exercise, some sun, some fresh air, and above all some spontaneous fun. On our way back, we realized it felt like we’d been away for a lot longer than a day, and agreed that we need to do this more often. Who knew it doesn’t even need to be an overnight to feel like a getaway? I’d always thought you needed a night for the hot sex. Turns out, the hot sex can happen afterwards in your very own bedroom :)
Today, I’m sore, my shoulders are peeling, and I have a lot to do. We’re having friends over for dinner tonight and all of the unpacking and organizing stuff that didn’t happen yesterday needs to happen (or at least superficially happen) this afternoon. Also: post office, bank, dry-cleaner’s, locksmith. Oh, and, cooking! Right. But I don’t mind! I’m still high on an awesome weekend. Good to have that reminder that sometimes the most fun can be had doing things that don’t immediately come to mind when you ask yourself what you feel like doing.
PS: Right now, I’m on gchat with ML (who’s at work) and we’re talking about having sex to one of the arias from Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde which, she says, is like an “operagasm.” … Don’t ask.
PPS: How was YOUR weekend?
In five weeks, I leave my job. Can I get a resounding cheer? I have had a love/hate relationship with my job for the past two years. Things that I love: it pays my bills, gives me expendable income, and puts money in my savings and 401(k), all of which give me financial security. It is a Day Job, meaning that (1) when I leave at the end of the day, I can stop thinking about it, and (2) it pays me money to do things I don’t like doing, so that I can afford to do things I do like doing. Those things about it are great. Things that I hate: I have to do things I don’t like doing. ALL THE TIME. And not only are they things I don’t like doing (everybody has to do things they don’t like doing, I know that), but they’re things that are: boring, not meaningful to me in any way, irrelevant to the rest of my life, and often mindless. So, it is with trepidation AND immense relief and excitement that I am leaving in five weeks. (In the meantime, I’ve been working hella long hours, but with an end in sight it is so much more tolerable than if I felt stuck. Except for the fact that I think I have an ulcer. But that’s another topic entirely.)
ANyway, I’m excited. SINCE as we all know I love making lists, I’ve already started making lists of things I want to do and goals for this summer. Obviously. I thought I’d share:
- post something here every weekday, like it’s my job (this, so that I will make sure I get out of bed every morning!)
- spend 10-15 hours a week at the rape crisis center I volunteer at — I want to become a part of their Speakers’ Bureau of folks who go around to schools and give presentations on things like Healthy Dating, Sexual Assault, and also co-present with other survivors of rape and sexual assault to offer conversations about sexual violence
- actively think about a plan for starting a small internet business in … you have three guesses … ORGANIZING! yep, I’m actually considering building a small business as an organizing consultant; I love doing organizing other people (and myself, of course), and I could use some extra income as a student. (Does anyone have any experience with self-employment…?)
- take some day trips around Northern California. I want to take advantage of having weekdays off to do things I can’t do working full time. Anyone want to go with me to the Jelly Belly Factory?! Or to the Orr Hot Springs?!
- finish my statistics class
- take free walking tours of San Francisco (like the mural tour, or the tour of secret rooftop gardens, or the labor history tour, or the 1906 earthquake tour…), and make it a goal to climb every (outdoor) set of stairs in the city (there are TONS! SO MANY!)
- take a sewing class — I reeeeeeally want to eventually make my own dresses, especially because I really like dresses in this style or this one, which pattern-wise aren’t all that complicated
- cook a lot, bake a lot, and read a lot
Sound like I’ll be busy enough?
I am very happy. Having been sitting with my decision to stay here and go to CIIS for a few days now, I can honestly say that I’m just plain happy about it. And that’s how I know it’s the right thing. I read the blog Zen Habits, which, for those unfamiliar with it, is a lifestyle blog of sorts — for living life simply and productively. I take some of it and leave some of it (barefoot walking? no thank you, plus, I have massive foot problems and need arch support), but one post this past week was particularly apt for me: The Secret to Making Life Decisions. It went up after I made my decision, or else I might think it’d influenced me. Instead, I get the nice feeling of knowing I made my decision all by myself, without any help, plus this sense of validation afterwards:
We’ve been brought up in a very left-brain-directed world, where the traditional decision-making strategy is a very logical process that involves listing each option, listing the pros and cons of each option, and then weighing up your lists in order to make your decision. This can be useful in very stable, predictable environments where we have all the information we need and in some business environments where we’re solving simple problems, but it isn’t the most effective way to make your most important life decisions . . . . In an information-rich world where we have abundant options, when it comes to making important life decisions, we need to be able to synthesize lots of information, see the big picture, spot themes and relationships, intuitively sense what information is most important to us, and invent possibilities that don’t even exist yet. These are all right-brain-directed thinking skills that we can employ through our emotional navigation system.
Most people treat their emotions as though they’re purely incidental and sometimes even a hindrance in life. Emotions are often side-lined as impulsive and troublesome parts of ourselves that have to be controlled and are of little value to us. Actually, our emotions, both negative and positive, are all perfectly safe and healthy and serve us in incredible ways, especially when it comes to making important life decisions. Every emotion you experience is a clear signal to help you differentiate between the expectations and demands being placed on you and what’s truly important to your Essential Self.
As a chronic list-maker, I always tend to stay emotionally uninvolved with my decisions. Emotions are too messy, too disorganized. I like things to be organized! Straightforward! Clear! Who needs more confusion, you know? Let’s just be practical! But I had to follow my heart on this one, because no matter how many lists I made I wasn’t finding the answer. The answer wasn’t in line-by-line comparisons of program statistics or in budget spreadsheets analyzing the costs and benefits of each option. I really had to dig around and go with my gut feelings. And that wasn’t easy either, because, as I kept saying, “I have two guts! And they’re saying different things!” But I had to go with the one that was kicking me harder.
When I came home today, there was a beautiful vase of tulips on my kitchen table and a sweet note from my roommate, saying “Congratulations on your choice EVG! I’m glad we’ll get to keep you!” [My roommate, see, has airport codes for everybody in her life, and they come from a funny mix of our names, initials, random facts/qualities about us, and what sounds good. Apparently "Ee-Vee-Gee" has a nice ring to it? Her lover du jour, for example, is called "IPM": International Playboy of Mystery. Lol.]
Speaking of my roommate, though, I don’t think I’ll be staying here much longer. The lady and I have decided that June 1st will be our day. This afternoon, we went and looked at a place not too far from where we both currently live (we’re not really looking at places yet, but this one just sounded so lovely that we had to go see). It’s gorgeous and affordable. Hardwood floors, giant windows, lots of closet space, perfect location, and a HUGE backyard with a garden and a patio all belonging just to the one flat. Amazing. We’re going to apply and see if a May 15 moving date would be too late for them. We’ll see.
And suddenly, after typing that out, I feel all jittery again, just like that. Like, wait, what? We’re moving in together? Ahhhhhhh, wait, no, what?! Can’t do it! Stop! Scary! What if we hate each other? Where will we go when we need space! What if we lose all our friends! Is this really the right thing to do? Quick! Let’s make some lists! Let’s do a cost-benefit analysis! GET ME A SPREADSHEET, STAT.
I guess I’ll just have to go with my heart on this one, too.
I don’t often link to events, but when I do, they’re events that I *highly* recommend and that I will personally be attending (unless otherwise noted). I am very, very excited about CUAV’s SafetyFest this year, and will be attending at least two of the events. Here is CUAV‘s mission statement:
Founded in 1979, Community United Against Violence (CUAV) works to build the power of LGBTQQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning) communities to transform violence and oppression. We support the healing and leadership of those impacted by abuse and mobilize our broader communities to replace cycles of trauma with cycles of safety and liberation. As part of the larger social justice movement, CUAV works to create truly safe communities where everyone can thrive.
Yes. Yes. YES.
And here’s what they say about safetyfest:
safetyfest is a 100% free festival celebration of all the fierce ways queer and trans people in the Bay Area stay safe and strut our stuff. Our communities already have so many of the tools we’ll need to end violence and be truly safe in all the ways we deserve to be–we just need to share them!
Awesome. Count me in. (If any of y’all want to meet me, lemme know! I’ll definitely be going to Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s workshop on April 17th, and probably also the closing celebration. I wish I could go to Jen Cross’s writing workshop, too. Sigh. Next year?)
Declaring Our Erotic: A writing workshop with survivors of sexual trauma
• 870 Market St, San Francisco
Saturday, April 10, 1-4pm
Writing our desire is writing our resilience and our resistance—Gather with other queer-identified survivors to create a space in which we struggle with and celebrate our gorgeous, complex sexualities.
Transforming the Pain: Healing from Trauma
Prajna Paramita Choudhury
Hand to Hand Kajukenbo Self Defense Center,
5680 San Pablo Ave. Oakland
• Saturday, April 10, 1:30-4:30pm
After crisis, after dealing with its immediate effects on our lives – how do we move forward
in wholeness? This workshop will facilitate this discussion and provide some tools.
The Revolution Starts At Home: Practicing Community Accountability In Real Life
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
Modern Times Bookstore; 888 Valencia St, SF
• Saturday, April 17, 2-5pm
$5-20 suggested donation (no one turned away)
In this hands-on workshop, we’ll talk about the nitty-gritty of building accountability, justice and violence-free zones in our lives.
Basic Self-Defense for Women and Trans People
Self-Defense for Self-Determination
Hand to Hand Kajukenbo Self Defense Center,
5680 San Pablo Ave. Oakland
• Saturday, April 17, 1-4pm
Open to Women and Trans folks Come yell, kick and talk it out with us! Learn and share skills for the daily verbal and physical self-defense situations we encounter.
Work It Out: Closing Celebration!
Co-Hosted by CUAV & El/La Program Para TransLatinas
SOMArts, 934 Brannan St, San Francisco
• Sunday, April 18, 4-8pm
$20-60 sliding scale (no one turned away)
Join us to wrap up safetyfest 2010 with a fierce and tender afternoon of dazzling performances from your favorite queer and trans rockstars, fabulous drinks and edible delights, glamorous prizes, and a chance to strut your stuff on the catwalk/dance floor. Parents and kids are invited to take a load off in the Family Space. Don’t miss this chance to party with your people!
This evening I was getting my hair cut. My hairdresser of choice works at a particularly queer salon in the Mission (natch). As I was arriving, there was a young woman who, by all appearances, was very queer, in a San Francisco Mission dyke sort of way. I know that statement is problematic, but bear with me.
She was tallish, lanky, boyish. She had a kind of swagger. She had a visible full sleeve tattoo. She was getting her hair cut at a fucking queer ass salon. And her haircut was the queerest of all:
This was her haircut exactly, except her hair was dark brown with bleached streaks. SO FUCKING QUEER.
And then, this happened:
Her: “Oh my god, I love it!”
Hairdresser: “Awesome I’m so glad! It suits you great.”
Her: “Squeeeee! My boyfriend is going to love it too, oh my god he’s going to freak out.”
Hairdresser: “Well you should bring him in here, we have a lot of clients who are trans men.”
Her: awkward pause. “Um, excuse me? What? My boyfriend is not trans.”
The hairdresser didn’t miss a beat, luckily, and the awkwardness was kind of smoothed over, but I had two interesting reactions:
1) Chillax, dude, no need to get that defensive about someone mistaking your and your boyfriend’s sexual and/or gender identity! It’s frakking San Francisco!
2) IF YOU’RE NOT QUEER, AND ARE IN FACT HOMO- AND TRANSPHOBIC, AND ACTUALLY EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT, DON’T FUCKING APPROPRIATE THE VISUAL MARKERS OF OUR IDENTITY.
Part of me suspects that’s entirely off base. Whatever, she can dress and style herself however she wants, right? And honestly, who the fuck knows where the fucking faux hawk comes from? I sure’s hell don’t. It’s probably not the queers.
But, I don’t know. Part of me also wants to defend that reaction. It’s San Francisco, and with such a visible queer/dyke community here, and particularly the Mission, that kind of visual marker is pretty much unmistakable as being queer.
It’s like this: it’s our fucking picnic. You’ve got so many that we aren’t invited to. Leave us alone at ours.
I have similar reactions to the appropriation by white people of cultural aspects and traditions of people of color, at least when it’s done in a way that’s just like “hey cool I wanna be like that” and not in an educated, fully interested way. And also similar reactions when straight folks decide they can be both straight and queer, unless they’re really done a lot of self-work on that. Do these parallels work? Is my frustration justified?
Or maybe I need to practice withdrawing judgment, and assuming the best of people. Might make me feel better, too.