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Pride and Shame

Bradley Manning pride contingent from a past parade.

Bradley Manning pride contingent from a past parade.

I don’t get out to the BIG San Francisco events these days. Where once my eyes looked up and watered over from hope and stray glitter, now they tend to look elsewhere for SF Pride and Folsom Street. There’s all the waste, the trash, the dominating force of Big Booze ™ shilling Absolut Vodka and Budweiser, and the huge crushing crowds, terrible food, and the heart palpitations all of this gives me. No, I don’t care to see a parade of massive corporations demonstrating how tolerant they are despite whatever implications their brand and profits might mean for people, animals, water, and the globe at large. No, I don’t care for the tons of plastic crap manufactured with pride.

Daniel Ellsberg

Daniel Ellsberg

Pride and Folsom have had brave sexual components because of the illegality of what they were displaying in public. It was a protest. I’m all for Bacchanalia, believe me. It’s also important to remember that it was about taking something that people were being arrested and brutalized over and putting out in public view. It was about challenging how and why people were being marginalized for what they were already doing in private. Blowing someone in public was the reminder that the sun didn’t turn to blood, the streets weren’t suddenly cracking open, and there was no legitimate reason why people were being pulled from their bars and bedrooms and subject to a criminal record and all the damages therein.

I heard about “Gay Shame” when I was in college and I didn’t disagree with them totally but I wanted to have my day in the sun, a party celebrating something that had isolated me as a kid and a teenager, and most of all a good goddamn time. I wanted to put down my politics, pick up a beer, and just let it all go. Those Gay Shamers seemed a little uptight and political to me. Sure, corporations had some pretty bad policies but having Bank of America come out to the parade meant that others would to, right? Mainstream acceptance meant safety. If those stodgy old banker dudes could see why an event like pride where they knew there’d be drag queens and naked guys in cock rings and little baby dykes stomping around in their first pair of big black boots and a miniskirt trying on subversive in public for the first time ever then surely “we” were winning, right? Right? There were too many politicians in convertible cars waving to the masses for us to be losers.

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This American Life v. This American Whore

whorecast whorecast2

There’s a flashy literate opening to this story. It’s a tale of some sex workers out in San Francisco where the rent is so high, the top of overt prostitution is possible in even the most high end coffee shops favored by the wealthy white victors of the tech revolution. It has to do with a brilliant man with a great idea of sharing stories openly who came up with This American Life and its perfectly elegant title and its willingness to let a story happen as it does on National Public Radio. Ira Glass likes to put the spotlight on real people leading real lives.

Well, as long as those stories are neat and clean and don’t violate FCC standards.

Our stories aren’t often told because they’re illegal to talk about and that creates the isolation that can drive you crazy over time. What does it mean to be “NOT SAFE FOR WORK.” If you ask me, that’s the capitalist beast barking at people not to be distracted by their human drives for pleasure and spare time above directing their hearts, bodies, and souls for the profit of a hungry machine. Not safe for work…or not safe for “The American Way.” What we do for a living is in direct violation of actual FCC standards. We literally could not access the venue of “This American Life” because it is on NPR and yet what are we but whores trying to make it in a very hostile America?

We cannot access the resources that Ira Glass has to tell our banned, censored, taboo, NSFW stories but we live and experience every moment. To hear that NPR would threaten a lawsuit to a podcast being run out of an apartment that is telling a story that is just as real and American as all the others but is literally ILLEGAL to share in the format of its namesake is disgusting. No love of stories could be complicit in that bind. There is no profit being made. There are no grants for whores, there are no advertisers in the wings, and we only face criminal risk for speaking up the way we have about out lives on this podcast.

It’s obvious to me that they never even listened to the podcast. They just wrote the letter. Why bother to listen to what the whores have to say any way? We’re only murdered and thrown into jail for paying our rent. Not like we have stories to share, right? Right, NPR? The narratives of the anti-sex worker feminists who want to end sex trafficking without research or even the dignity of listening to the people they claim to want to rescue and insistent that incarceration is good for sex workers and the laws that imprison us are in our best interests.

This American Whore Flag

PRI has nothing to fear from underdog whores. It is gratuitous to make these threats.

Send your love to The Whorecast and your criticisms to This American Life. Check me out in Episode 4 and download them all!

EDITS:

The lawsuit is not from NPR. I wrote this after seeing the tweets to share my thoughts and opinions. HOWEVER, I do think that those who syndicate and carry “This American Life” need to hear from their listeners the same way that advertisers are held accountable for the content of shows that they support. If your local radio station carries “This American Life” then please tell them that you support “This American Whore.”

Also, here are more links and stories from:

Melissa Gira Grant
SF Weekly

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Anarchists & Zines

street grafitti reading 'exercise empathy' on a light pole

So out in Oakland I made my way out to the East Bay Anarchist Book Fair which was a nice treat for a rainy day. I really value talking about social resistance and sharing literature and music and words with one another. The Humanist Hall in Oakland was the hosting venue who are tolerant hippies ready to take on the manarchists and chain smoking in the back.  It was also nice to match some faces to names and to get to re-know a friend I from college. It was strange and wonderful to realize that Laika Fox and I were taking our clothes off in Rocky Horror way back in the day. There’s something supremely awesome about crossing paths again and realize that political wheels in the mind can also be directed into swiveling hips and shaking tits.

This was a cool spread and I really do enjoy being in far left spaces. A lot of this material is niche and harder to find because it doesn’t have mass distribution. It’s true that you can access most of these ideas and many of the zines and books online but it’s also really empowering to create a space to see that others are browsing, too. I picked up books on anarchist queers, I bumped into a Syringe Exchanger that I met years ago at an HIV test training. I had been the one to roleplay his first practice positive test disclosure to and I was the intimidating one who had already been doing it for a long time. I remembered him instantly. I was so proud that he was still fighting the good fight. I totally love and support syringe exchange and overdose prevention and naxolene distribution. Sensible drug policy, to me, has always included overdose prevention as a part of first aid and CPR training. This should be integrated into all of our emergency care models.

Bash Back & Self Defense

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A Tower Of Babel

Mt, Wilson observatory, iPhone photo from the trail. 14 miles up and down, 4,700 ft elevation gain.

Politics is the art of articulating control and some voices have more profound global impact. Our modern age has given us dogma in legal language codified as legislation that was born of cowardice, forged in privilege, and wielded against the marginalized.

The “Tower Of Babel” is a great Judeo-Christian story of incredible relevance here. This was the story that made me doubt the existence of god but also awoke a kind of panic about authority within me. The Book of Genesis, in general, turned me off from the idea of God because it reminded me too much of Stargate. As a text the Judeo-Christian Bible does pick up quite a bit with all kinds of great philosophy and tremendous insight. But as a child I could not get behind the fascist god of genesis. The story of the “Tower of Babel” presented us with a humanity that came to gather after god’s genocide with the flood. Now, ostensibly, you might think this was the lesson of the flood–to learn how to love one another again, to work beside one another, to share a common language.

I have always interpreted this to mean sharing the language of love. This sounds hippie-dippie but stay with me: think of the time a stranger went out of their way to help you out with something simple. Maybe you were a little lost and in need of directions, maybe it was a quick freebie snack, maybe it was someone who didn’t make you feel like shit when you had to mention a boundary about personal space and genuinely accommodated the situation with humor. That was a time when you shared the language of love with someone and it does let you peek into a view of what those from “Shinar” experienced.

When people are taking the time to be present one another as individuals with a different contexts that require calibration for full communication they tend to get a lot of shit done. This is why you may have been subjected to work retreats even though that’s an industry in and of itself that has forgotten the purpose of the exercise. Another quick glance into the extent of empathy would be those rare and precious moments when you feel uncertain where your body stops and your lover’s begins.

The people worked together to build a tower to God because they shared a language, a purpose, and a plan to accomplish it and they were getting shit done. “A tower to god” is a symbol from my understanding. Perhaps, though, it was a tower. I look to our space programs and global space stations, I see the beginnings of a Tower of Babel. When you get to such heights you stop splitting so many hairs about the differences between individual humans because you’re united as earthlings exploring the cosmos. That’s the dream we seem to come back to across the ages, at least.

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Election 2012

The monster has been held at bay.

That’s how this 2012 election has felt. Time moves forward, our culture slowly but surely begins to acclimate to the world wide web, some social movements advance and others seem more constricted.

California, my state, the home of “fruits and nuts” has been a state with either a rapid strain of virulent conservationism that shows up at the polling place in time to strike down initaives for social advance and the preservation of the earth and its bounty. Where do these people come from? Whether it’s pushing back same sex marriage, voting against decriminalizing marijuana as we have in past elections, this year we decided that YES we do want a costly, ineffective  and unethical death penalty and who the hell would want to know if the fruits and vegetables they were buying had been genetically modified, anyway?

Sometimes we are a backward place.

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Components Of Sex Work Activism

All activism is comprised of a diversity of tactics because the movement is composed of people who possess a diversity of skills, talents, experiences, enthusiasms, and challenges to offer any movement as a whole.

To speak of human rights activism as though there were one top secret bunker where a Stalinist army were meeting to carry out orders from a central commander is operating under a fallacy. There is no bunker. There is no commander. There are people coming together in their own contexts to respond to the issues that they are experiencing as the most pressing to the best of their ability at any given moment. Solidarity is a relationship between a lot of people. Trying to manage things between two people is fantastically difficult, trying to maintain a functional relationship across hundreds and thousands and millions of people spread across the globe poses a great number of difficulties.

Sex worker activism is a long war because sex work, substance use, and mental health are some of the most confounding issues to fight for because they exist on totally fluid ground and are considered low hanging fruit for law enforcement. Sex workers often fall into a nexus of oppression, coming to the work either because of serious limitations placed upon them for their class, color, gender, or sexual orientation. There are so many layers and intersections to be considered. Case in point, the overlap between vigils for sex workers and trans*gender women is exceptionally large. Continue reading

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Privacy

If you have a vagina and undergo anesthesia for surgery, you might have had a vaginal exam performed on your by a medical student without your knowledge or consent, even if you were getting your tonsils out. This is more likely for those of you without insurance or the money and class status to throw a lawyer around. Can you imagine if men found out that while they were undergoing anesthesia, med students were learning how to use anal specula for rectal exams while they were getting an unrelated surgery?

From 1932-1972, an experiment on Syphilis was conducted on uniformed and non-consenting black men in Tuskegee, Alabama.

If you receive public health care, the data about your health is used to compose statistics and acts as the case studies for analysis.

People debate about Facebook privacy settings and how they relate to things being seen by people. It’s easy to forget that all of the data and information that happens on Facebook belongs to Facebook and those in business with them. They sell data. Facebook profit is made of people.

I think waiting rooms tell a lot about class and privacy. The bigger, the more uncomfortable, the ones with the most cameras and windows and visible armed security guards, and no magazines past 1997, fuzzy generic television; that’s where real America is, in those big shitty waiting rooms. They’re all bus stations and operate like three dimensional reminders that you are not flying first class. You’re not flying coach, either. You’re on a bus designed for long hauls with broke ass passengers and people walk down the aisles and watch you sleep. Or ER waiting rooms, urgent cares. Dental clinics with huge waiting rooms. Family planning clinics that do all of their abortions on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Journalism, in the name of “good reporting” will out someone as transgender and publish their legal birth name and really drive home the importance of details, facts, and research but then still use terminology like “hermaphrodite” or “tr*nny” because despite all of their studios research they manage to miss everything else on the internet including the cat pictures.

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Biblical Anti-Feminism

At first I thought, “Should I feel bad about giving these internalized-misogynist websites traffic?” Then I realized that there is no greater joy than the fact that my website will come up on their referring traffic statistics and I feel better. The truth is that I’ve given this website more traffic over the years than I could ever cultivate from one blog post. I’ve been visiting for years pouring over the articles and visiting its favorite links for a peek into bizarro world.

A lot of anti-oppression folks may be looking for something more challenging to the status quo than feminism and there are a lot more looking for something a lot less challenging to the status quo if not a full on societal reversal back to the days when men were in charge and gosh darnit, women liked it that way. These are folks who believe in the “the patriarchy” and think it’s the best thing possible for society.

It’s not just being conservative, it’s a full on call for women to be baby machines (hello quiverfull movement) and for the right to vote to be repealed. It’s a straight up condemnation of educating women outside of the home for any grade level lest the ladies have some semblance of autonomous life skills that would allow them to change their minds and escape with basic knowledge of how the “heathen world” works. Domesticity is next to godliness and it contains a long precedent of abuse.

One article, “No Shades Of Grey” sums up the tone of this scary movement: there is no nuance, there is only biblical patriarchy. It’s a total denial of subjective truth and that’s bigger than a theoretical issue. When you deny the multitude of realities happening in any given frame of life then you have set the stage for totalitarianism. There’s no way around that.

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Stop Dominatrix Shaming

There’s a disturbing trend in critiques of the “BDSM Scene” to blame the dominatrix for ills and inequalities among the real players. Let’s cut right to the heart of why this is bullshit: sex workers live at the mercy of the state on top of being stigmatized. For those who care about consent, remember that this is a form of adult consent that the state says that you cannot make and that feminists say you must be mad or mindless or both to pursue and then society says that when you cross that river you can never really come back.

Sex workers not only lack the right to make a consensual transaction, sex workers are also denied their rights to justice in American courtrooms. This means all sex workers.Why can’t we go to the police? What the fuck good will it ever do for us? We don’t live in a Law and Order world where our glamorized dead bodies are sneered at and justice is seen as fetishizing the law even when it’s a whore. I’m going to illustrate with a story I obsessed over as it occurred. My favorite coverage came from the OC Weekly and starts off with this paragraph:

No one disputes that an on-duty Irvine police officer got an erection and ejaculated on a motorist during an early-morning traffic stop in Laguna Beach. The female driver reported it, DNA testing confirmed it and officer David Alex Park finally admitted it.

To really paint the picture, an officer of the law stalked this woman. It was such a problem that even his department told him to knock it the fuck off. On this night, he stalked her. He turned off his GPS in the patrol vehicle so the car wouldn’t record where he was. He waited until she was on a secluded road.

He was acquitted.

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J. Edgar

The reviews about the new biopic about J. Edgar Hoover directed by Clint Eastwood had spoken of individual moments of greatness awash in an underwhelming sea. It was said that Leonard DiCaprio gave a strong performance but the editing had something lacking and that the narrative thread was coming apart at the seams. Amid this there was always something to compliment. Individual scenes were mentioned as highlights so long as one ignored most of their context. My own viewing backed much of this up; something was missing but there were moments when I was aware that powerful cinematic work was underway.

I’m the first to say that I’m a stubborn skeptic of Mr. DiCaprio’s acting but this is due largely to the trauma of having been in junior high when one of my most hated films ever was unleashed onto cinemas, sweeping the country into a mad frenzy over icebergs and tits. I felt as though my peers had all gone suddenly insane. The girls were carrying fold out pictures of one Mr. Leonardo DiCaprio. It literally happened overnight. I had always been to the sides and something of an outcast but one day I went to the school and a chasm had appeared in the visage of a young man with a severe widow’s peak and sandy hair. I’ve never been able to fully trust him as an actor since.

I recognize that this is a personal issue to work on and my therapist says I’ve made excellent progress.

Ever the cowboy, Clint Eastwood seemed reluctant to afford sexuality to his queer characters although sex is behind every corner as per its customary cameo in any film with the audacity to deliberately exclude it from the guest list.

Eastwood presents the picture that Hoover was gay and met a handsome young man willing to put up with all of his bullshit, and forged a lifelong partnership in a contentious political climate but never fucked, not even once, not even after listening to a specially commissioned audio recording of J.F.K. fucking Marilyn Monroe. There was a notable exception in the film’s blackmail list. Hoover went after a lot of people and certainly Martin Luther King, Jr. He also instigated a special investigation into Jack Valenti, the founder of the MPAA. It was rumored that Mr. Valenti, champion of the “family values” that determine whether or not a film is allowed to advertise or be openly distributed, was also having a gay lover affair.

I imagine it would be uncomfortable for a studio system supported project to delve into such uncomfortable territory.

That said, there was a scene between Dame Judi Dench and DiCaprio that stole my breath away. Edgar comes home from the nightclub after a pleasant conversation goes strikingly south when he is accosted by multiple people at once while with his partner. He begins to slip into his childhood stutter and his mother directs him to begin practicing his speaking exercises.

I have to give DiCaprio props for his thoughtful acting because I knew it was a coming out scene from the moment the camera came up between them. I could identify the tension in his body and the quickened breathing in his chest. He gave the kind of performance that is a reminder that there is something in coming out that is kind of like suicide. So often, people come out of the closet because the pain outmatches the fear. On the screen you could see the visible shift from pain in those stunted utterances, “You know I don’t like to dance,  with women,” into a fearful resignation at the end of his mother’s speech.

Judi Dench makes a formidable overbearing mother. She reminds Edgar of a young man whose nickname was “Daffy,” not as a reference to being “crazy” but as a shortened form of Daffodil. The young man was caught being queer and harassed until his suicide. She finishes the story by looking right at Edgar and saying, “I would rather have a dead son than a daffodil.” 

My eyes shut and I bowed my head in reverence. For what, I do not know. There was a searing pain there that flashed for a moment across the electric highways of my brain like an old bruise until my reason kicked in and reminded me that I was watching fiction. It’s all as untrue as Freddy Krueger. The film has a multitude of deficits but it shined there. DiCaprio displayed a deftness with his craft I didn’t know he had in him.

In many ways, the sex is removed from Hoover’s relationship to make him stand in more for that fearful metaphor that indulging in sex is a form of anarchy. Where many have grabbed the liquor bottle, the needle, or the playing cards to cope we see Hoover go for control. He maintained a constant vigilance against those who challenged authority, namely his.

That’s what’s so agonizingly painful about the decision to keep him chaste for what was, at best, the work of a film maker constructing a metaphor or, at the more likely, a fear of constructing a man on man romance that is both erotic, loving, and lifelong. The whole point is that some of the worst anti-sex politicians have also been realeaved to have had exciting and lewd lives who constructed a paradigm in which their sins could be forgiven through legislation rather than self-flagellation. Our culture is terriefied that people who lay back and enjoy the pleasures of their own bodies will break the floodgates of civilization. We are resolutely human with all of the rights, privileges, and illogical quagmires therein.

As far as my politics go, it shouldn’t shock you that I lean a bit to the left. A bit more than that. Just a bit more. Right about there. I’ve always been a bit ambivalent about Hoover. On one hand, he was a strong proponent of science. Without Hoover, we might not have had Quantico. Without Quantico, we would have no Silence Of The Lambs. It’s important to keep these things in perspective. On the other hand, he was a rabid dick weasel. That cannot be ignored, either. I’ve always regarded him as something of a compelling figure but I never anticipated encountering any form of media that would make me want to retroactively give J. Edgar Hoover a hug. Even with all of the films flaws, poorly stitched narrative structure, and trepidation with sex it’s impossible to call it a failure of filmmaking.

It’s a portrayal of Hoover as a human creature who was more than just the sum of his own flaws but also a product of his times. I had never stopped to consider whether or not J. Edgar Hoover could have been on the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder spectrum in his insatiable need to control and micromanage everything in his context. When humans develop obsessions and compulsive behaviors, it is very often linked to excruciatingly deep anxiety and fear.

The story of J. Edgar Hoover as a political figure is the very essence of why a government must be of the people, by the people, and for the people. We shall never, among humans, find an individual who sees the world from outside of their own perspective. This is why diversity is paramount in leadership. The only for a government to see and take into account the needs of all people is for it to be composed of all people. There must be checks and balances and fair representation across classes, genders, sexualities, ethnicities,  and physical abilities. J. Edgar Hoover had the unchecked power to unquestionably indulge his perspective and define justice at his own discretion. When fear and hatred are given the space to prevail, they will. It is almost as if corruption is a dominant gene in the human species.

I do feel empathy for the pain of anyone with an alternative sexuality living in an anti-sex culture. Being a queer kid at a Catholic school was hard enough, I cannot imagine coming up in politics at a time when being outed as queer did mean the end of your public career. At the same time, acting from pain does not entitle one to punish, hurt, or use others to relieve it. I think it’s important to recognize the cycles of abuse and fear and how to shape the course of history, law, and justice and to break them by persistently presenting a case for the spectrum of human difference that makes us so beautiful.

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