Guest-time

19 10 2009

In the last 2 weeks, I’ve had a couple of guest posts published at much bigger blogs, so I thought I’d try to extend my 15 seconds of fame by telling all 3 of you loyal readers about them.

Both posts are about the National Equality March, and my take on it as a queer Jew.

Marching with the Torah, at Jewschool:

Our text teaches that Simchat Torah is an occasion when women are welcomed to carry the Torah even in some observant communities – a noteworthy difference between this day and the rest. But what of the genderqueer, gender non-conforming, and trans people within our communities? Can Simchat Torah be their day as well, or is it a day reserved for those of us who fit comfortably within traditional definitions of “man” and “woman”? These aren’t easy questions to face, for those of us for whom dignity and justice are everyday battles. The text in those scrolls both welcomes us, celebrates our efforts to live ethical Jewish lives, and also is too often used to remind us of our place – at the sidelines, or worse.

And also, at Bilerico, What I Learned from Isaiah, or: A Queer Jew Returns from DC:

I’ve been reminding myself, if I can learn from Isaiah’s mistakes, and make sure that fiery demonstrations and powerful words are backed up by authentic relationships and strategic plans – maybe we can take even greater strides toward our ideal world, toward justice. The march can be a tool we use in our work at home.

Enjoy! And feel free to leave me some love in the comments section, too. 🙂

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Links & love

15 09 2009

I’ve been absent, I know. I just went through one of the more abrupt transitions I’ve had to date, and though it’s been from one great thing to another, and I feel pretty ridiculously lucky for that, I’m still trying to pull myself together and keep my life in order. I’ve been pretty good at keeping the kitchen clean the last few days, at least. That’s something, right?

That being said, 9/11 was last Friday, and so I wanted to direct you to this post by Elián at Queers Against Obama. An important reminder that 9/11/01 was not the first act of terrorism on September 11th, and in the past, the US has been *directly* responsible for that violence.


On 9/11/73, the U.S. government helped overthrow Salvador Allende, the democratically-elected President of Chile– and replaced him with one of the most brutal dictators in history: Augusto Pinochet. Sure, he massacred countless people, but he was a staunch ally of corporate America. And that’s all that really matters, right?

Even if you’re not of the anarchist/feels-uncomfortable-with-overt-patriotism/icked-out-by-statemaking type, I think it’s really important to remember that beneath the US’ posturing about democracy and freedom, this country has engaged, again and again, in the overthrow and undercutting of peacefully, democratically elected leadership it disagrees with. And that’s sort of just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to US imperialism. But that’s all for a longer post, for now, go read Elián’s.

Also… I just have to say, I found Elián’s blog because he was linked to me by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore at NOBODY PASSES, darling. Yes. Mattilda linked to my little blog. I have a pretty unabashed writer/activist crush on Mattilda, so that makes me feel a little light-headed, to be totally honest. One of her books, That’s Revolting: Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation , has a permanent place as the only reading material in my bathroom, because I think it’s important that everyone who comes through my house is exposed to it. Seriously. As backwards as that may seem, it’s a place of honor. I want it to be read by everyone I know, and most of them will be in my bathroom at some point, so that’s where it is. People comment on it more frequently than they comment on Stitch & Bitch or the Postsecret books on my coffee table, so I think it’s working.





on ‘woman’

23 07 2009

Because, woman is a mythology embedded in the collective consciousness of our respective cultures, and anyone who has ever identified, or been identified as a woman has had to face this mythos. It is those individuals who have had the story of ‘womanhood’ written on their bodies, consensually or not, that Art XX is providing a space for.

We believe that feminism is innately transgendered, as it works to discomfit and expand the historical categories of ‘male and ‘female.’ Feminism is or should be- about gender equality, regardless of what that gender is. But until gender equality exists, ‘woman’ demarcates a condition from which we struggle, thrive, and create.

– Francesca Austin Ochoa, editor of ART XX Magazine

Emphasis mine. Source.





on hiding/privilege/guilt/shame

16 05 2009

“Still, Gyan was absolutely sure that she was proud of her behavior; masqueraded it about as shame at her lack of Indianness, maybe, but it marked her status. Oh yes. It allowed her that perverse luxury, the titillation of putting yourself down, criticizing yourself and having the opposite happen–you did not fall, you mystically rose.

From The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai





this and that

27 03 2009

Sometimes I wonder if the familiarity with which I approach the bloggers I read is weird.

When someone whose writing I appreciate talks about any sort of challenges, and it occurs to me that someone I know might have insight, knowledge, or help – my inclination is to say “Hey! Let me put you two in touch! Make something happen! I’ll put in a phone call.” I suppose it’s sort of like networking, but I’m not really well-connected enough to get people jobs or anything like that. But you need ladybugs? Well, my grandmother is an avid gardner, and lives relatively nearby – I’m sure she’d be happy to let you come by and catch a few!

But then I try to pitch that to anyone, and I can’t even say “my friend” because I’m not necessarily talking about anyone I have ANY sort of relationship with. Not even someone with whom I conversate regularly online, even in blog comments. Just someone I read, sort of lurker-like.

I just think we should be helping each other out, especially when it’s so easy, and I like facilitating that. ::shrug::

Also, my life’s gonna get kinda crazy starting like, tomorrow. WAM (the Women, Action, and Media conference) is this weekend, and so is my kinda intense interview (maybe multiple) for a really awesome fellowship program I’m applying for. And I have lots of homework to do. And a house to clean because a good friend (also applying for said fellowship) will be crashing with me for the weekend. And I need to, ya know, keep working because rent is due next week.

Busy busy busy.

Probably little blogging. I’ll be tweeting from WAM, though, you’re free to follow!





pulling together

24 03 2009

There are some things I’m trying to pull together that might just remain entirely disconnected, but this is how I’m present right now, so it’s just going to be this way.

*****

I was in a bit of pain, tonight. I think I have a tendency to downplay or minimize my own pain or suffering, for a whole host of reasons, some that I’m okay with and some that I’m not – recognizing that with health insurance, my family’s financial stability, my grasp of english, my access to a car, my race, etc. whatever the problem, it’s going to be easier for me to address than it would be for someone without those privileges (I’m okay with those things as a reason for minimizing my own pain, a healthy does of humility & perspective, that perhaps works to offset an oppressive, internalized, inflated sense of my value in relation to others); recognizing that, as a woman, I’ve internalized all sorts of really problematic lessons about pain and suffering, and about being a caretaker and prioritizing my own needs (I’m not okay with those things as a reason for minimizing my own pain) – but tonight I was hurting. I still am, really. My job makes me sore. I don’t know what it’s about, because I basically just carry a clipboard around for 5 hours, but some combination of the cold and the walking and the clipboard always on my left arm – makes me really sore.

I’m not sure I have deep conclusions about this, but I’m trying to sit with the pain.

And I’m thinking about the other kinds of pain people are forced to sit with, on account of their jobs. Of the personal bodily risks people take to sustain themselves, their families, and their lives. And, again, of how minimal my sore shoulder is compared to all of that. I’m thinking about how our capitalist system organizes people by our means of employment, and about what it means that the bodies that are placed at the greatest risk of harm are so often the bodies of people of color, of women, of the poor.

*****

I might have the opportunity to work on a building crew this summer. I’d be working for a friend, for his  natural building company – at which he prioritizes giving queer and trans folks, and cis women greater access to the trades – and every time I think about this opportunity I get more and more excited. It might not happen, for a whole host of reasons, but I’m simultaneously optimistic & trying not to be too invested. Mixed in with that are ideas about the kinds of productivity that I value, and that I perceive others to value; also about working in the trades, and with wood – the degree to which this is and isn’t something that feels like “my” space.

Physical labor, particularly as a means of supporting oneself, was not part of the upper-middle class world I came of age in. My friends’ parents, and my own, all had advanced degrees and were “profesionals” in that way that usually connotes an office, desk, and maybe even a secretary or administrative assistant, although some were doctors and nurses and I never pictured them having desks like those that were accountants and lawyers. My dad’s office used to have a popcorn machine, which was the only thing that seemed relevant about his job for most of my childhood.

And yet, despite all of that, I strongly associate carpentry and woodworking – and the attendent skills & self-reliance – with my father. A good chunk of our garage is taken up by his tools and workbench. I love the smell of sawdust, and I always thought it was SO cool that he built the house my grandmother now lives in.

I received my first hammer at a pretty young age. It was one of those little ones with a handle that screwed off to reveal a screwdriver, with a handle that screwed off to reveal an additional (smaller) screwdriver, and so on and so forth, until you got to the really small cute one in the end of the handle. That one was my favorite. Nowadays most of the hammers I see like that tend to have flowery designs printed on them. I suppose that makes them more girly? On the one hand, that’s annoying, that tools need to be pink to be appropriate for girls, but on the other hand, if one girl picks up that flowery hammer and finds use and power in weilding it that she wouldn’t have otherwise- awesome.

Floating around my parents’ house somewhere, there’s a picture of me ‘helping’ my dad build the cabinets in our kitchen. I can’t be more than 2, and I’m literally sitting in the cabinet, holding up a tool of some sort (maybe even that little hammer), so proud and excited to be helping my dad build.

One year, for Christmas (that year it was definitely a Christmas present, not Hanukkah), he made me a really beautiful bed. It’s still my bed when I go home, and I love it. The stain is a beautiful deep shade, and there are built-in drawers underneath, painted dark green, with cream colored ceramic knobs. I remember so vividly the weeks that I wasn’t allowed to go into the garage when he was in there, and when I’d finally sneak in (while he was at work, or in the shower, or otherwise preoccupied) I would mostly just stare with wonder and excitement at the nondescript tarp-covered bulk in the middle of the garage. Once I peeked under a corner, but I couldn’t bring myself to pull the tarp back far enough to see more than a deep, warm, red edge. Christmas eve, I slept in the guest room, and I spent the night wide awake, listening to my dad and my uncle carry the massive bed upstairs, and then listening to my dad finish building it IN my room.

It is the most vivid Christmas memory I have from my childhood. I’m pretty sure that says something about what my subconscious values.

All of these things are swirling together as I think about this summer. Mostly I’m excited, and it feels like a really ideal way to spend the summer. I get this huge grin on my face when I imagine working outside, really feeling my muscles strain and grow; inhaling fresh, crisp New England summer; harnessing power tools beneath my fingers; creating sustainable, responsible, natural environments; how my hands can help give form to structures, and shapes, and milled pieces of lumber – and also how that lumber will shape and toughen my hands.

Hands. Soft, smooth, silky hands seem to be so strongly associated with class, and so I also feel the weight of my ability to choose to toughen my hands; to welcome callouses and roughness.

*****

My mom is really awesome. Today, she sent me an email with a couple of grant and/or funding opportunities highlighted. She does this occassionaly, she’s connected to development, funding, grant-writing/-giving circles, and so sometimes she passes on interesting calls for proposals. But this time, it wasn’t even for me. It was for my friend, the one I might be working for, who she’s never met. It just struck me as incredibly thoughtful, and I feel really lucky to have had a woman like that in my life for, well, all of it.

*****

I’ve been reading and digesting people’s thoughts on radical love, community building, organizing, sustainability, and accountability.

I had a conversation with a friend yesterday about someone she is growing close to. She worries about introducing him to some of her friends, to the people she loves and cherishes, because he hasn’t necessarily had exposure or access to the language & frames of analysis many of us employ with one another. And then I read these words today, by Nadia, at Now Snow Here:

feeling alienated in these conversations because of the emphasis on words and specific word choices – that is a conversation for writers, academics, people who spend time with pretentious adults. don’t want it imposed on me right now, it bothers me how judgemental people are when others don’t know or have the language for the *right* way to say things. hard to engage when its so easy to be misunderstood, not feeling like we give or get the space to make mistakes but maybe i’m wrong and just overwhelmed with the intense dialoging.

And between that conversation, and this paragraph, and all of the dialogue happening on Jess’ post at BFP’s (the “people’s thoughts” hyper link, above), I’ve been thinking about the tension this all brings up. About creating spaces to honor and affirm everyone, especially because of what Nadia is describing, but also even for people you don’t necessarily like or agree with, because it is important to honor and affirm their humanity. And I’m also holding on to accountability. I think it’s important to allow for vulnerability and not-knowing; to allow for that instability and uncertainity – I think within moments of uncertainty there’s great possibility for growth. But what do you do when affirming one person’s not-knowing and growth means allowing the negation of another? How do you balance competing, and conflicting, needs or truths? How do we both allow space for potentially screwing up, and simultaneously hold one another accountable?

*****

There’s so much more I want to say on this, but it’s late and I really need to sleep. Hopefully I won’t be as sore tomorrow.





growth and springtime

16 03 2009

I should be running out the door, and don’t really have time to blog.

But… I’ve just been reading awful horrific things – most recently, this, at The Curvature (Serious Trigger Warning applies).

So I wanted to share happier thoughts.

My sweetie and I decided to start a balcony garden, and made quite a day of collecting gardening supplies yesterday. We have a little raspberry seedling started, and I can’t wait to watch the rest of our tasty and beautiful seeds grow. I’ve never been much of a gardener, but all sorts of people are talking about how exciting gardening is, and all of the revolutionary and radical (especially BFP at flipfloppingjoy) possibilities – and so I’m giving it a shot.

I have to find worms.

I can feel spring coming in my little corner of JP, and it has my whole heart a flutter.