read this

6 07 2009

Hilary Goldberg writes about the increasing consumerization and attendant increase in state control and police regulation at SF Pride. This paragraph really resonated with me, but the rest of it is good and angering and frustrating.

In that moment, I could once again see the boxes and definitions that put everyone into the acquiescing line at the Pink Party. We are simple. We are this. We will get in line and buy beer and are happy because we can get married some day and that’s all. We just want our space nevermind about the gender queer because space is somehow limited. Or not somehow limited but limited by the lines of non-profits and privatization, and cozy little binary security frisks to buy beer and celebrate our some day marriages. The urgency to compartmentalize and unify into one thing is a problem that keeps cropping up and it goes against nature. Nature is a spectrum, light is a spectrum, and all of this other stuff is like a violent pair of scissors gone wild on our livelihoods. I feel cut up about it all and keep trying to piece it back together again, but it hurts.


Seriously, go read the rest of it.


vampire stakes and chunks of aggregate

6 07 2009

It’s 2:30am, so this probably won’t be a particularly insightful post, but I figure I’ll toss together a few things to get back into some sort of swing of writing after my month of living mostly off-the-grid.

EDIT: I actually finished after sunrise the morning I started it, so it’s more like 12:30pm now that it’s being published. Which basically just means I have fewer excuses if it is unintelligible. 

But first, a note:
One of the top searches that leads to this blog is “tight balls.” Um… yeah. I think that’s probably because of some post talking about tight balls and knots in my stomach? Mayhaps? I don’t even know. Weird.


Some of you, dear readers (all 3 of you… hi Mom!), might be wondering what exactly I’ve been getting myself up to for the last handful of weeks I’ve been absent. Well, there’s been a lot of driving, very little of it in my car (which is having its second heart transplant in 5 years, but is expected to pull through), and quite a few states have been involved. There have been two very queer Pride celebrations, a smattering of birthdays, a lot of swimming in lakes and ponds and reservoirs and former quarries surrounded by green mountains, one dead snake, two orange cats of profoundly different sizes, many nights on my now-trusty air mattress, excessive amounts of straw in uncomfortable places, very dirty clothing, quite a few ladders, a singular squirt of deet-free (B”H) bug spray into my eyes, numerous bruises, and multiple dance-filled evenings. Life has been full and vibrant and exhausting and beautiful and engaging and challenging and fun. 

The shorter answer, though, sans weekend adventures, is that I’ve been building. Natural building, technically, and specifically, I was installing straw bale walls in a timber frame house in Hartford, NY, applying a rough coat of earthen plaster to a house in central Vermont, and mostly doing prep work for the finish lime plaster coat on a house in Deering, NH. I did get to do a bit of finish plastering though (just filling in and smoothing out cracks in already plastered panels), and damn, that’s fun and satisfying. 

I’m sort of blown away, and at the same time not at all surprised, by how much I’ve been enjoying building this past month. The days are long, regularly 10+ hours, and the work is more physically demanding than anything else I’ve done, but it is also satisfying and rewarding and challenging in very new and exciting ways. I’m on a hiatus from building for the next month or so, with perhaps a few days excepted, but hopefully will be back at it in August. Tragically, the finish plaster coat on the house in VT we just rough plastered is happening in September, and I’ll be busy getting my community organizer on, so I can’t be there. 

Building is great on its own, but it’s additionally really phenomenal to be working with and for the people I do – people who center the health and well-being of all involved, who understand natural building to be a comprehensive, holistic approach to building with a prioritization of social justice, ecological systems, community building, and the creation of safe, enriching, beautiful spaces. Very simply, that feels good, and I like it. 

My boss/friend also teaches natural building, specifically natural wall systems, and has been talking about building a curriculum that explores the histories and genealogies we can trace for natural building. An alternative to the narrative that is mostly filled with straight white homesteader couples “finding inspiration” from indigenous practices. I’m excited to explore and learn with him, to follow and draw those trajectories. I think that outlining our histories, tracing the lines that connect us physically, emotionally, and intellectually are incredibly important, and I feel full of anticipation.

There’s a lot more that I’m holding on to, have been thinking about and tossing around. I’m not sure I’m ready to put them all in one place, to consolidate scattered ideas into some semblance of coherence, so I’m going to leave things off here. But now I’m back in Boston for at least the next few weeks, with reliable internet access, and hopefully more time for blogging.

I’ll leave you with some pictures. 


Me, flat on my stomach, sandwiched between two bale courses in a wall, in the process of squeezing bales into a tight spot between the roof pitch and wall framing. Taken by boss/friend extraordinaire.

Me, flat on my stomach, sandwiched between two bale courses in a wall, in the process of squeezing bales into a tight spot between the roof pitch and wall framing. One of our crew, natural builder and solar power mistress, adjusts the bale positioning from a ladder. Taken by boss/friend extraordinaire.



A very sharp bale wall corner on the house in NY. Photo credit to AC.

A very sharp bale wall corner on the house in NY. Photo credit to AC.


Me applying a rough coat of plaster to a wall section of a strawbale house

Me applying a rough coat of plaster to a wall section of a strawbale house. Taken by boss/friend extraordinaire.


The sand pit, a former quarry-cum-swimming hole in East Montpelier. Photo was taken at dusk, and shows surrounding green hills and clouds reflected in still water surface.

The sand pit, a former quarry-cum-swimming hole in East Montpelier. Photo was taken at dusk, and shows surrounding green hills and clouds reflected in still water surface.

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

Fellows and growing and building and justice

13 05 2009

Life has been taking over, and leaving me little-to-no time for blogging and writing. I literally have five or six posts that I’ve started in the last month and a half and never finished. I’m going to finish this one, dammit.

A couple things, mostly personal. There are other important not-about-me things to write about too. I care about them. They are mostly contained in those aforementioned drafts. I am going to try to get some quick hits up soon, at least.

Like something about the Allied Media Conference. And how you should support people doing really important radical media justice work. And throw a little bit of money their way, to help mamis of color get to Detroit. I can’t be there, but those links above are to people whose work and writing I love reading, and on whom I have serious activist crushes, so you should probably go or help more people go, because it should be awesome.

And there are other things, too, of course.


me with a look of deep concentration, routing the edge of a piece of rough-cut lumber

me with a look of deep concentration, routing the edge of a piece of rough-cut lumber

I like building things. And, huzzah, I get to build things this summer!

I’m going to spend 2-3 weeks of June working in upstate New York, doing natural building. We’re going to be in a little town called Hartford (I think), it’s about 60 miles north of Albany, just over the Vermont border. The job is a strawbale installation, which, explained very loosely, means using strawbales to build a house, and no it’s not going to blow down. Google it to learn more, it’s really interesting. I actually don’t know if the job is a house, or some other sort of structure, or a wall, or part of a building, or something else. But it’s a pretty awesome building technique, I’m super excited to learn more about it, and it also is a really great use of a resource that would otherwise be used for Halloween decorations and pumpkin patches.

Plus I’m working with someone for whom I have just overflowing respect and admiration, and a perpetual friend-crush.*


I got a job! And a fellowship! Well technically, they go together and were contingent on each other. I don’t want to talk too specifically, because this blog isn’t totally anonymous, but I’m going to be participating in a community organizing fellowship program, and working with a local organization that is, quite literally, down the block. (Assuming our landlord doesn’t raise the rent so much that we have to move in October.) I can bike and walk to work in less time than it takes me to drive or take public transit work now. Plus, it should be a great and challenging and rewarding experience.

It will also mean being part of a Jewish community that is really committed to incorporating an anti-oppressive political analysis and critique into social justice and community-based work, and I am SO amped to build that kind of a community. My Judaism and my radical politics go hand in hand, but they are often forced apart, so it feels really good to see them coming together outside of just me and a handful of friends.


Our garden is growing! We got off to a rocky start, but my partner’s parents were visiting, and her mom helped us replant some things, and now we have seedlings!

close-up of a nasturtium leaf in a metal pot.

close-up of a nasturtium leaf in a metal pot.

the first leaves of our one-day-to-be-a-bush raspberry plant

the first leaves of our one-day-to-be-a-bush raspberry plant

assorted pots with growing plants

assorted pots with growing plants

We have assorted vegetables and other edibles growing in our little pots, and most of the plants in the peat pots are ready for transplanting into larger containers. Hurrah!


And finally, on something not so self-centered…

The Angie Zapata murder trial feels like old news, in the rush of blogging, but I think it’s still important to be talking about. My feelings were really complicated and conflicted, and really they still are. The first US hate crimes trial for the murder of a trans woman resulted in the highest possible guilty charges and sentencing. Ray Allen Andrade won’t receive the death penalty, which I’m also glad about, but I have no sympathy for him and I think he is the lowest of the low despicable people in the world.

And yet… there’s this. Which is just so right on. And my stomach tightens because even as I feel relief hearing the verdict, I know two things:

1. This verdict won’t bring her back. If it brings any measure of comfort to her family, friends, and loved ones – that is something – but it won’t bring her back. I’m also not convinced it will do much to reduce the threat trans people, especially trans women of color, live with every day.

2. The prison industrial complex is NOT the answer. Another man of color locked up, even one who did a terrible awful cannot be excused disgusting heartbreaking thing, is not how I envision justice. Does that mean I think Andrade should get off scot free? Absolutely not. But I don’t think the current criminal justice system is the answer to bigotry, hatred, and violence. I think the prison industrial complex is further dehumanizing and degrading, and breeds just those evils.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I know it’s complicated and I feel conflicted. Because I think that every message that says that trans people’s lives are valued is important, and mattes. And I think that every time another man of color is thrown in jail, it matters, and serves to perpetuate individual and institutional racism.

Nezua has a post including links to other people who have been writing about the trial and verdict. Go there.


There’s more. Always more. But I’m wrapping up for now. Good night.

*I’ve found that the term “friend-crush” is not always clearly understood. It means the feeling you have when you are very excited about building a friendship with someone, and it sort of feels like you have a crush on them, only it’s platonic. So it’s a friend-crush. I might have one on you.

Call For Stories: ASWAT – Palestinian Gay Women

16 04 2009

Just got this in an email today, please forward to anyone who might be interested:

Image is a flyer in Arabic and English, calling for personal stories from LBTQ Arab women.

Image is a flyer in Arabic and English, calling for personal stories from LBTQ Arab women.

Image links to ASWAT home page (in Arabic, English site accessible by link in upper left corner of the page). Text-version of the call under the cut.

Read the rest of this entry »

this is why

12 04 2009

gay marriage is not my issue


An 11-year-old Massachusetts boy, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, hung himself Monday after enduring bullying at school, including daily taunts of being gay, despite his mother’s weekly pleas to the school to address the problem. This is at least the fourth suicide of a middle-school aged child linked to bullying this year.

Carl, a junior at New Leadership Charter School in Springfield who did not identify as gay, would have turned 12 on April 17, the same day hundreds of thousands of students will participate in the 13th annual National Day of Silence by taking some form of a vow of silence to bring attention to anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) bullying and harassment at school.

Because this story makes me cry. Because I heard within MINUTES of the Iowa decision, and of the Vermont legislature’s action, and of the DC City Council vote… and it was nearly a week before I learned of this tragedy. It’s not that I don’t think there is space for triumph and joy, and it’s not that I begrudge people their happiness. But rather, knowing how many millions of dollars have been poured into marriage campaigns across the country, my heart breaks, wondering what could have been if, instead of trying to prove that we queers are JUST AS GOOD!! as straight people, JUST AS DESERVING of access to and participation in the same deeply flawed social, legal, economic, religious, and cultural institutions, we had invested more than a fraction of that money in the struggles that could save people’s lives. In a campaign for far-reaching education, curriculum reform, anti-bullying training, and lgbt sensitivity training for school administrators, teachers, and students.

The short of it is: People are dying. Still. People are dying because we live in a world in which gender presentation and sexuality are policed and transgressors violently punished. We live in a world in which the implicit, and sometimes explicit, message is that your queer or gender nonconforming body doesn’t matter, and others can do with it as they please (that message is all the louder if yours is a body of color, or with disabilities, or female, or poor). And I don’t think that all of us getting gay married is going to save lives, and I know that it SURE AS HELL is not going to give Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, or Lawrence King back the chance to grow into whomever they could have been.

I tend to be very wary of rhetoric that urges us to abandon the long term vision or goal because we’re so deeply immersed in the struggle that we don’t have the time for long-term. I believe that strategic thinking, and vision are of the utmost importance when we are in crisis. And to that end, I’m not just trying to argue that there are more pressing issues (though there are, obviously), but rather that marriage is NOT a stop on the road to liberation – it is a rambling off-shoot dead-end path – and that our energies could be far better directed. If our goal is not simply to approximate heteronormativity, but justice and liberation, then let’s do something that will actually bring us closer, not reinforce the dominant system we’re trying to challenge and dismantle.

Gay marriage is legal in Springfield, MA. It didn’t save Carl’s life.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to hear the news from Iowa, Vermont, and DC – I just wonder, “at what cost?”

Apparently, as I was told recently (by a lesbian friend), I’m a “really intense gay” – to which I responded, “queer, thank you,” at which she rolled her eyes and said, “exactly.” I think her point was mostly about my radical politics, and that my queerness is politicized (as is my gender identity, and every other facet of my identity). We then got into a discussion about heteronormativity, and whether or not it was a bad thing – my answer: yes. her answer: but heterosexuality *IS* normal, 90% of the population is straight. I think this post would fall into the “intense gay” category, too.Which is all to say, I know that “we” have different goals, I just think mine are better.

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!