Towards the Destruction of Gender//Towards the Destruction of Civilization
Jackie, a queen and member of Men Against Sexism in Walla Walla prison. “Her cultivated femininity notwithstanding, Jackie could handle her own affairs with her fists, if need be. She once traded blows with an inmate who had slapped her and called her a whore. ‘He was discriminating against me and wanting my body at the same time,’ she huffed. Moreover, Jackie refused to be bought, sold, or traded by inmate ‘wolves[.]’”
(From Concrete Mama: Prison Profiles from Walla Walla by Ethan Hoffman & John McCoy)
One of the paternalistic ideas I have often heard from academics is that cutting edge political thinking takes place in the academy. I have found the opposite to be true — that it takes place outside of the academy where it is not hampered by institutional requirements, such as the focus on individual scholarship and ownership of ideas rather than collective work, or by the need to develop special vocabularies and grand theory in order to be taken seriously by one’s colleagues.
Academic work is largely about private discussions among academics — in places like this — not public discussions between academics and others, even when those “others” are the subjects of academic work. For example, at one lesbian/gay studies conference some years ago, someone gave a paper “deconstructing” “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.”, without ever having spoken to the still-living people who came up with that slogan. I’m one of them; two of the others are now dead. The presenter didn’t even know why it was created or where the “here” in the slogan referred to. Now, it might be interesting to know how a slogan starts and then how it gets used, often in ways not intended by those who create it, or why it is meaningful to people at a particular historical moment. But, at the very least a researcher ought to speak to the people who created it. How can you pretend you are the only one with an analysis, and the correct analysis at that, when you haven’t asked for theirs. And, most academic researchers never even run their analysis by the people they are writing about. This is incredibly safe. But it is also why much of what is written academically is not only exploitative but of little use to anyone doing the day-to-day work of organizing.
Grassroots activists speak to people and we write lots of things too — but they are not written in words you need a PhD to understand or published in books that cost $45 to buy. This is not because what we have to say is simple-minded or has no theory behind it. It’s because our goals are to get information and ideas out to as many people as possible and to foment activism and bring about change. And we can often find out in practice whether it makes sense both to the people we are working with and the situation it is addressed to.
THREE QUEER REPRINTS
from Untorelli Press
I hate the fucking Pope, and I hate John fucking Cardinal fucking O’Connor, and I hate the whole fucking Catholic Church. The same goes for the Military, and especially for Amerika’s Law Enforcement Officials – the cops – state sanctioned sadists who brutalize street transvestites, prostitutes and queer prisoners. I also hate the medical and mental health establishments, particularly the psychiatrist who convinced me not to have sex with men for three years until we (meaning he) could make me bisexual rather than queer. I also hate the education profession, for its share in driving thousands of queer teens to suicide every year. I hate the “respectable” art world, and the entertainment industry, and the mainstream media, especially The New York Times. In fact, I hate every sector of the straight establishment in this country – the worst of whom actively want all queers dead, the best of whom never stick their necks out to keep us alive.
In a lot of ways, AIDS activists are like those doctors out there: they’re so busy putting out fires and taking care of people on respirators that they don’t have the time to take care of all the sick people. We’re so busy putting out fires right now that we don’t have the time to talk to each other and strategize and plan for the next wave, and the next day, and next month, and the next week, and the next year…And we’re going to have to find the time to do that in the next few months. And we have to commit ourselves to doing that. And then, after we kick the shit out of this disease, we’re all going to be alive to kick the shit out of this system, so that this never happens again.
We can no longer stand by idly while we are robbed of our mouths, our anuses, our sexual members, our guts, our veins… just so they can turn them into parts for their ignominious machine which produces capital, exploitation, and the family…We can no longer stand by idly while they control, regulate, and occupy our mucous membranes, the pores of our skin, the entire sentient surface of our body…We can no longer stand by idly while they use our nervous system as a relay in the system of capitalist, federal, patriarchal exploitation, nor while they use our brain as a means of punishment programmed by ambient power…We can no longer not “come” or hold back our shit, our saliva, our energy according to their laws with their minor, tolerated infractions. We want to explode the frigid, inhibited, mortified body that capitalism wants so desperately to make out of our living body.
Updated support/informative handbills for Niara can be found here.
More on Niara:
In November of 2012, Niara was sentenced to 25-50 years in prison after she plead guilty to robbing and killing a john of hers and setting his motel room on fire. Niara, who also goes by Peaches, had to defend herself against transphobic violence in the prison system and has only been punished and put in solitary after fighting off men trying to abuse her, like many other gay and gender-variant people trapped men’s prisons.
ESPACIOS PELIGROSOS: Resistencia violenta, Autodefensa y Lucha insureccionalista en contra del género [here]
(Full translation of Dangerous Spaces)
Hay una violencia que domina. Es golpear a personas gay. Es la violación. Es la vivisección y los laboratorios de vivisección. Es el banco y la tienda de café. Es la gasolina del coche y la cárcel. Es tu trabajo, tu alquiler aún para pagar, tus dientes podridos, tus heridas que no quieren sanarse. Es el silencio que reprime todo en el interior.
Hay una violencia que libera. Es el asesinato de un homófobo. Es cortarle las piernas a un violador. Es el incendio y la liberación de visones. Es romper ventanas para expropiar comida. Es el madero quemado y disturbios detrás de las barricadas. Es rechazar el trabajo, ocupar, amistades criminales y el rechazo completo de compromisos. Es el caos que no puede ser parado.
(The Radicalqueens were a radical organization of transvestites, transsexuals, drag queens and others, formed in Philadelphia in 1972.)
Radicalqueens Manifesto #1 (1973)
Whereas we are tired of being the brunt of most straight oppression, including fairy jokes, physical assaults, and snickering stares;
whereas we are tired of the oppression of straight-identified machismo gays, including remarks about the “tacky queens,” denial of queens as representative of the gay community, and being looked down upon;
whereas gay liberation movements have often denied our right to be ourselves in public and denied our very existence while in the same breath patting us on the ass and telling us we are equal (as long as we remain Uncle Toms);
whereas we have decided that macho straight identification is psychologically oppressive and destructive, we have banded together in a union of Radical Queens: to shatter myths, ZAP! our oppressor (both straight and gay), and thereby stand up and get out right to be ourselves both in the straight and in the gay communities, including wearing makeup, doing drag, and other femme-identified activity that any queen decides expresses him or herself!!!!
Radicalqueens Manifesto #2 (1973)
Having been born men, having been socialized to be independent, aggressive, competitive, assertive, task-oriented, outward-oriented, innovative, self-disciplined, stoic, active, objective, analytic-minded, courageous, unsentimental, rational, confident, emotionally controlled, having been made to consider makeup, dresses, crying, touching other men, kissing other men and related traits “sissyish” or “faggoty,” having been made to play war games as a child and to believe that life is a battle to be fought in Vietnam, and against the communists and against those men who are not “manly,” having been made to believe that women are the weaker sex, and frail, passive, unexciting, intuitive, emotional, things which real men are not supposed to be, thing which only “faggots” are, having been told as men that real men are not hairdressers, that real men are not artists, actors or female impersonators, having been slapped when we tried on our mother’s dresses or jewelry, or when we played with our sister’s dolls, having been part of movements that, though liberal, still held onto the definition of man as aggressive, competitive, etc., and still reduced women in the movement to secretaries and typists, having been part of gangs in school, gangs that taunted effeminate boys, kicking and spitting on them, calling them names, pushing them, stealing their books, somethings beating them up or forcing them to suck us off, having as men defined ourselves as the creators, the conquerors, the scientists, having as men resisted seeing how ugly these images of men are, how destructive they are!
Radicalqueens are not men, we are non-men. We are not women. We do not accept the attributes of femininity, that is, passivity, non-aggressiveness, fragility, etc., things which our sisters in the Women’s Movement see as oppressive and undesirable traits socialized into women. We do not accept the traditional role of women as any alternative to the oppressor role of the male. Both roles are inventions of the oppressor, both are oppressive to those who accept them.
We of radicalqueens feel it is only by becoming non-men, that is, by throwing off the needs of the machismo man, the need to conquer, to suppress, the need to be like john wayne or any other symbol of strength and “manliness.” We feel being sensitive, being compassionate, being able to cry, to touch, to feel, yet without being totally passive, totally non-aggressive, is revolutionary, is Gay. Being homosexual is not the answer to being oppressors. Men have been raised to be the oppressor. All men.
We of radicalqueens will not be the oppressors, we have been working against our own oppressive tendencies. We recommend that all Gay men begin questioning their own feelings. It is only be questioning everything that we can find anything, can find a bit of the truth, by slicing through all of the lies!