Cardboard Castles and Other Amenities...

I am really interested in using different forms of cultural action to help build better communities. Communities are a vital social model, allowing us to tackle problems beyond the ability of individuals with the focus of a defined (usually relatively small) group of people. How do the arts and cultural work in general help communities grow more sustainable futures? If you have a cool website or project or your own ideas on these subjects please let me know.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Keeping Things Casual

Recently I started seeing this boy, we’ll call him Jerry.  He’s cute, smart, and an artist, most everything I’m looking for in a lover right now.  Usually, I’m the “let’s be boyfriends after two dates” kind of person.  I once wrote a story about my perfect first date in which the characters pretended it was their three-year anniversary.  Needless to say, I’m not a hug fan of the early stages of dating.  This time around, however, I’ve dedicated myself to keeping in casual.  “Fun, sex, and no drama,” has become my mantra.    In my case drama pretty much is either I’m not attracted but pretending (definitely not the case), saying something way to personal way to soon (a distinct possibility, but I’m working on it), or them disappearing (he says he won’t.)
            Last night, I found myself lying in his arms naked having just accomplished the grand slam of sex, simultaneous orgasm.  Into my head came an idea I don’t really trust my sexuality.  I have no faith that however it works in a given night, it will be fun and safe and rewarding in some way.  There is this vague notion in my head that there is a way sex is supposed to work and mine’s not that. My sex is not well lit, passionate encounters all the time (thank you Queer as Folk.)  Instead it is awkward groping while constantly wondering if I’m “doing it right” and having little idea of what that means.  The sex I had just felt like luck, and leading up to the climax I had been quite worried about coming too early, knowing I’m not a good giver after I’ve taken (apparently that’s part of “doing it right”.) 
            These concerns replayed in my mind as we lay there in each other’s arms afterwards.  All things considered it was actually some pretty decent sex, especially considering it had been the first time with someone new.  However, I was reminded of the year I turned seven, when my two girl friends and me invented a game called “doctor.”  It was a simple game, getting caught was not. I have no memory of hanging out with my friends after we were found in one of their basement, pants down, door locked. Suddenly there could be real consequences to the interaction of bodies.  Suddenly you could be doing something “wrong” and could loose friends or become a whole different person,  a “pervert.”
            Suddenly desire was called into question and I struggled with the duel feelings of desire and perversion.  I had enjoyed our game and wanted it back.  However, there was also the fear that this might signal some perversion within me.  Taking it further, as my young mind was want to do, I questioned whether I was a rapist for my involvement.  To this day, similar concerns compel me to include that to the best of my memory, these games were totally consensual and enjoyed by all. 
Admittedly these are odd thoughts to have after sex, lying in a man’s arms, but they reflect the difficulty I’ve always felt believing in my physical desires.  Sexuality has never been my golden compass, easily pointing me towards romantic relationships I’d enjoy.  More, it has been a dark, murky pool, with the promise of certainty somewhere deep below.
In college, I dated almost exclusively women, even though I would later accept I’m mostly gay.  I found myself often being asked,  “but are you attracted to her?”  My answers were undoubtedly some form of, “I don’t know,” and this was the truth.  I had no clue how to interpret the interplay between physical sensation, identity, history, and socialization.  Sufficed to say it was a rough time sexually, in which I made a lot of mistakes and hurt a lot of people.
I couldn’t figure out the difference between who society had made me want to be and who my history and biology had actually created.  I’ve known I was queer for a long time.  Around 5th grade, I realized I was not straight.  In 8th grade, I came out to my parents, and by the middle of high school I was out to everyone.  I didn’t have a problem admitting I was some kind of queer, but I hadn’t given up on my white picket fence, and back then that eventually meant a wife.  It wasn’t just that I wasn’t ready to give up on the great hetero-dream, more so I couldn’t believe the sexual thoughts I had about men could be beautiful and loving, could be all the best parts of the white picket fence fantasy. 
To me, Men were gross and violent, corrupted by our unspeakable acts.  I certainly was.  The best we could hope for was to struggle against the evil that lurked within.  Women, and fences, and kids with dogs were supposed to be the tools in this super-man struggle.  They were both what made it possible and what made it worth it. 
Learning to unpack this has been a long, slow, hard process.  Disengaging my personal history and what that taught me about desire with cultural narratives of men (and their desire) as evil and hetero-relationships as salvation, is not easy.  One of the many gifts queer culture offers is challenging the idea that sex can or should be deliverance.  If sex is going to save your soul, it’s understandable why getting it “right” is so important. 
I’ve had to teach myself to trust that what I feel can be beautiful, sweet, and nails-down-my-back hot and that that is plenty.  Often still, the best I can do is some degree of understanding as to why sex isn’t at any given moment.  Sex is still very scary, still fraught with emotions I barely comprehend and can certainly not control, still full of trauma and triggers. 
Last night, as I settled down to sleep, having just had a wonderful time while setting good boundaries of having the bed to myself, it came on me like the sneakiest ton of bricks you ever seen.  The closest word English affords me to describe this physical, guttural sensation of pain is “triggered.”  I felt like something dark and poisonous was trying to fit my entire chest into a tic-tak box.  It fucking hurt. 
As a survivor of sexual violence, this was not the first time my body had post-coitally rejected sex so totally.  I have, on other occasions, found myself clutching my stomach, wondering how in the godess’ name sex could possibly be worth this feeling.  “It’s waking up alone, in the dead of the night” goes one of my poems,  “and knowing the difference between me and the night by the ach in my sternum.”
Although I have fostered a deep faith in the value of sex, refusing to give-up on an entire part of life due to past trauma, I wonder what a casual relationship means in this context.  Does it mean simply that I process these feelings outside of my sexual relationship, turning instead to community, for fear that sharing would disrupt the easy nature of our interactions?  Does intense cancel casual or can we share deeply while not expecting too much from our sexual partners?  And what is too much to expect of a late winter fling? 
The fact that the trigger response only lasted about a minute or 2 (rather than a few hours) and that I was instantly able to identify what was happening to me, is testament to the work I’ve done.  Yet it’s also a reminder that sometimes you have great, no hassle sex with a wonderful guy and shit still gets complicated. Maybe casual is continuing to explore where enjoyment lies in the interplay between history, biology, socialization, and desire. Maybe, Intense essays about sex and violence are part of what it means for a person like me to “just have fun,” as my mother has often suggested.  I’d certainly like to find out.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Poem: Manifesto

If you put pen
To bright white paper
And challenge the emptiness
To games of touch football
And always try to get back up when the truth nocks you over
And remember to never let other people
Get in the way of a good story
And never let a good story
Get in the way of believing in others
I will call you author

If you scribble on napkins
Sobered reflections of nights past overdrawn
Like you ran out of credit for healthy living
And are just trying to make a budget
With two bucks and a cup of coffee.
Or if find yourself recounting the lessons of one too many
To your journal in a dark corner
Of a party meant for forgetting
I will call you writer

If you string “alone” to “bones” to “home” to “night” to “hope”
And drag them behind you
Like they are a kite you can't give up on
I will call you poet

If you can't leave your mirror at home for fear it will tear up the furniture
And you spent too damn long building your love seat
To see it ripped to shreds by reflections of what they use to call you
And you try to make each moment a declaration
That mirrors are beautiful
When we stand in front of them
I will call you artist

If you remember with each breath
and cast every blink a new scene
in a life-long documentary about love and each snort
is a declaration we don't need things
to get easier and your smile holds the stories of those that came before you
I will call you queer

If you do none of these things
But breath through each day
And try to see yourself as mighty
And try to use that might for that which you believe to be right
I will call you creator

And I will be grateful
For all that will come to be
Through all that you are right now

Seattle, 2012

Friday, December 09, 2011

What I Desire

It is yes and please and may I and even no

It’s stop and go, it’s no and ok but I might cry

It’s kissing pea-soup breath cause I’m not sure if it’s ok to ask him to brush his teeth. It’s waking up in the dead of night and knowing the difference between me and the night by the ache in my sternum, the one clearly indicating something didn’t work. It’s getting out of bed alone, while he snores on his side, cause I don’t know if it’s ok to ask for comfort and I don’t believe anything he could give would feel like that anyway.

It’s will you fuck me, and will it hurt, and can I hurt you, and can we hurt together,
Here in the dark, holding hands and nothing more.

What I desire are big, messy, intense conversations on our first real date cause I thought making out in someone else’s bathroom leap-frogged all that small talk shit. It’s here are my demons and will-you-make-love-to-me eyes while talking about boundaries, and being bad at them. It’s you inviting a friend into the date cause this shit just got too intense and there’s no way your going to fuck Mr. Touble-Knowing-My-Own-Boundaries now. It’s drinking wine on the peer cause it’s knowing how to make the best of it cause it’s knowing there’s more than one way to love a cat out of it’s skin and into my heart.

It’s Pride at the White Horse, oldest gay bar in the Bay Are, 6 people on the dance floor and only one person I really want to fuck, two if I count myself. It’s the same the feeling as the first time I ever danced with a boy. It’s loving that feeling and nurturing that feeling and defending that feeling against the history of how that first time ended. The bloody reality of cliché.

It’s personal dates before I knew there was such a thing. Walking along 16th from Mission to Castro past all the hipster bars holding my own goddamn hand cause I just had to go dancing tonight and this is the era of no-more-friends. It’s know how to dance alone in the black like of the Bar, in the crush of a crowd, dancing with my eyes close for 5 seconds every 5 minute and wishing I felt comfortable enough to never open them again.

What I desire is finally learning to dance with my eyes closed cause it’s finally learning to trust that enough people love me cause it’s finally learning there is a power in being spent, through and through and knowing I already gave all I have to give. Tonight I’ll just be and those who want can be with me.

What I desire is standing in circle with young people and being people. It’s telling them stories of gender fucking cause I know violence isn’t the only way to end a queer love story and mine is a love story. It’s them saying gay people are problems in our community and having the courage to say “no we aren’t but lets keep talking”. It’s offer queer 101 to homophobes too young to have made up their own minds and it’s them asking “can I be queer when I grow up” and having the privilege to say “yes”

What I desire is to say yes

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Friday, January 14, 2011

A Poem

Here is a poem that came to me yesterday on the way to a date (which by the way was really nice.) Feel free to let me know what you think, what parts work for you and what parts don't. I'm especially curious about whether the title works?


Sometimes you need little poison
Sometimes walking alone at night is lonely
And the ache inside feels like death awaiting
And sometimes you aren’t ready to give up on life
But sometimes life alone isn’t working
So Sometimes you just need a little poison

Cause sometimes you need to hurt yourself
Sometimes you need the pain out in the open
And cutting yourself isn’t what good-boys do
Isn’t what mamma’s-boys do
Isn’t what golden-boys do

Cause sometimes it makes marks they can see in dance class
And that’s not what pretty boys do in dance class
Cause than they look at you funny in dance class
Their eyes look confused in dance class
And their minds whirl with wonder in dance class
And then their eyes pop in dance class
And their minds judge in dance class
And they think “how sad you did that” in dance class
And “how sad you are that in dance class
In my dance class”
And sometimes you just need a little poison

Cause sometimes you need the pain on the outside
Even if just a hairs breathe away
Even if it hurts you
Even if it damages you
Even if it fucks you
And leaves you
Fallen, wet and rotting on a bed,
Brown and dirty quilt with flowers patterned
Never having meant to live much less die

Sometimes all you need is a little poison
Cause pain unseen is a wild child
With long nails
And sharp teeth
With lots of energy and no where to go
But through you

You see, sometimes a little poison’s the answer
Sometimes you need to suck it down
Suck it in
Suck it up
And hope it leaves you wholer than it found you
Cause cancer tomorrow
That sounds easy
That sounds outside
That sounds finite
Like you wish you were

And sometimes a little poison‘s the path.
Sometimes between death and feeling lies the bearable
And sometimes a little poison is the only way to go
To get
To get there
And sometimes a bearable hope is only found in the black dank smoke of a Luck Stripe
You etch across your lungs
Cause the stripes across your arm are unseemly
They declare your sick

When really all you need is a little poison
Not to much to ask
Or expect
Certainly not sick
Maybe a little old school
But societies always appreciated an obscuring smoke
Over revealing wounds
Dark and smelly, much preferred
Keeps distinct their role in life
And your death

And sometimes you really just need a little poison
Sometimes uncertain friends aren’t the answer
Sometimes uncertain friends aren’t salvation
And won’t bring you closer to jeasus or muhamed
And sometimes friends don’t want to see
What lies behind the smoke
Cause sometimes they’d rather share a drag
Than risk being a drag
Or being dragged
Or feeling nagged
Cause sometimes we all have our own pain
And sometimes that pain’s an abyss
And sometimes I can’t get over mine
To save you from falling down yours
And sometimes the only hope we have is a little poison

But take hope
However you can
In a drag or a shag or even another fag
Falling down a similar hole
Cause it might not have a bottom
And we might not be able to fall together
But if you bang your story on your wall as you pass
I’ll bang on mine
And we can know we do not fall without notice
And we can rest assured that although the dark may swallow us
It need not consume us

And sometimes a little poison can be the largest salvation
And sometimes all you really need and all there really is and all there will ever be is a little poison
To share among friends

So suck it on up and pass it on down
And I’ll make a toast to the smoke
And the little poison we all sometimes need


Thursday, June 04, 2009

Gay is Not the New Black, Why the LGBT Movement Needs to Get Off its Racist Asses and Deal with Race

This is a really excellent article about how LBGT racism is hurting our organizing efforts. Mostly dealing with the fallow-out around prop.8, the article takes the critique beyond the racist backlash of LGBT commentators fallowing the November or the failure of No on Prop.8 to reach out to communities of color. The analyzes the structural racism in our community and how it is crippling our organizing efforts and dividing our community.

I found it on the Facebook page Gay is Not the New Black.

Two choice nuggets:

"But Kate Kendall, (of) the National Center on Lesbian Rights,... “The reason [the Black community] was an easy target (around,” she bluntly explains, “is that there continues to exist among many white LGBT folks outright racism or at least a relentless otherness when it comes to people of color.” (P.2)"


“Lawrence Ellis is among the LGBT organizers of color who saw the failure Kendall describes up close. He says that as he watched the campaign unfold from his perch in the Bay Area’s grassroots, he got mad: “The thought came into my head, ‘I don’t want to be a part of the world they are creating.’ ” So he took off work and began building connections among the small gay and lesbian organizations already active in Black, Latino, Asian and Native-American communities. They looked at data showing Blacks and Latinos to be a trouble spot and rounded up big names, including people like Huerta, to speak out in ads.

When the campaign declined to air those ads, they turned their attention to doing get-out-the-vote work in their communities. “With two days notice, we got hundreds of volunteers,” says Ellis, suggesting what would have been possible had the No on 8 campaign resources been better used. “Any campaign has to make strategic choices, but not building a true coalition, where you get to leverage existing networks—that is a fatal flaw.” (P.4)”

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Maybe Marriage isn't the Answer?

There’s a really interesting article at the Bilerico Project by Yasmin Nair about why we should abandon the marriage equality fight. I’m not sure quite where I feel about fighting for marriage equality, although I know it doesn’t feel like a fight for my rights. I like how Nancy Polikoff points out that although Prop. 8 was an attack on all lgbt people it doesn’t mean that marriage should be the national focus of the gay movement. Here are the nuggets from Nair’s piece (The comment section is actually impressively interesting):

The recent ruling will re-energize gay marriage advocates, but I suggest that we use it as an opportunity to drastically alter our course: Dump marriage now.

Today, the biggest rationale for gay marriage is that it would provide health care and benefits for spouses. Over the years, we have seen the gay movement withdraw its support for universal health care - which is what we fought for in the years of the AIDS crisis.

Over the last many decades, gays and lesbians were beginning to forge interesting and productive social networks outside marriage. Remember when domestic partnerships were actually seen as sexy and desirable and a really good alternative for those who didn't want to marry?

As we quibble about marriage, it's easy to forget that a rise in poverty and the lack of health care means that large segments of society are already denied their rights to decent education, housing, and a sense of security about their well-being.

As for the famous line about the 1000+ benefits that can only come through marriage - what about those who are excluded from those benefits simply because they're not married? And here's the basic question: Why should marriage guarantee any benefits that aren't available to those who don't want to marry? Why build up the power of the state to coerce people into marital relationships they don't want just so that they can get the basics like healthcare (sic)?


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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Labor Queer and Youth Online, Thoughts on my Mind

There are two major avenues of thought that are going on in my life currently.

The first is an investigation of queer notions of family and how we fight for them. By this I mean a definition of family that moves beyond the two adults, monogamous, kid oriented definition. I was really excited to hear that the SEIU just embraced a more queer friendly understanding of family and has committed to fighting for it. (PS. the article is from BEYOND (STRAIGHT AND GAY) MARRIAGE written Nancy Polikoff, a really excellent blog about these issues [I haven't read the book yet, but really want to])

Laws and policies that narrowly define “family” as limited to two legally-married adults of the opposite sex raising their biological children are often used against immigrants, people of color and the working poor who are more likely to live in family structures that differ from this model.

Narrow definitions of family exclude many relationships that our members call family, including relationships with individuals for whom we have primary care-taking responsibility and relationships with individuals with whom we share economic and emotional interdependence.

Government and employer-provided benefits should support individuals with day-to-day responsibilities to care for and financially support minor children and dependent adults in all family forms, and should protect interdependent adult relationships.

The second thought going around my mind is an interrogation of the norms for youth-adult contact within the youth services non-profit world. This is especially tricky in the context of social network site like Facebook and Myspace. I've been fallowing danah boyd for awhile now because of her really insightful work around youth use of social networking. Today she posted an article about when, why, and how teachers should interact with their youth online.

All too often, there is an assumption that when teachers interact with students out of the classroom, they have bad intentions. This breaks my heart because, for all of the fear, most of the teachers that I've met in my line of work have really meant well by their students and their engagement with their students has helped their students tremendously. I've heard so many stories of teachers intervening and helping kids who really need it. Stupid things like giving them lunch money or being there to listen to their woes or helping a first generation kid learn about college.

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