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"I Disown You Right Back" with Mrs. Trixie Cane is the first video in a new video series that I am curating called, “Queer Coping.”
Through “Queer Coping” I am soliciting short (under 5 min) videos from queers, feminists & trans* people who have relatives that follow religions which perpetuate homophobia, transphobia and powerfulwomenphobia. (You can replace “phobia” with “hate” if that’s more accurate to your situation.) I want you to answer the question, “How do you cope with your religious relatives?”
There are so many resources to help the families of queers and trans* people “cope” with us, but so few for those of us trying to cope with these relatives. I suspect that people’s coping strategies will change throughout their lives. Maybe this is something that you will want to take up in your video; or maybe you’ll want to make several videos documenting your “coping” strategies at different phases of your life.
To submit to this project:
1. Make a short video of less than 5 minutes (you can submit several). It doesn’t have to be fancy. Please don’t use people’s real names or anything that would be slanderous.
Please also don’t use sound, image, video, etc. files that you don’t have copyright for. This includes family photos with other people in them, if you don’t have their permission.
Feel free to contact me before you make the video, if you want to throw some ideas around.
I welcome videos that are non-text based and videos in languages other than English. If you are sending me a video that is not in English, please either include English subtitles, even basic ones. Or send me the script so that I can be sure that the video isn’t slanderous, etc.
2. Convert/save as a Quicktime (.mov) file or as an MP4.
3. Send me the video via YouSendIt or some other system that will allow me to download your video.
4. Send me an email with your name in the subject line, with a thumbnail photo file, the title of your video and full credits for the video. If the video is untitled, please use this as the title.
All emails should be sent to QueerCoping@gmail.com.
5. I will write back to you within a few days and let you know when your video will be screened on the amazing video calendar, 52 pick-up, run by Dayna McLeod. I will have a new grid for this project starting March 15, 2013.
The video can be as simple or as complicated as you like. If there is enough interest in “Queer Coping,” I’d like to put it together as a feature-length video.
Thanks for your interest!
Mrs. Trixie Cane
August 27, 2012
Notes on Year One in New York City
T.L. Cowan & Jasmine Rault
The other night there was a fist-fight at the poetry reading we went to at a bar on the Lower East Side. And the next morning a white rage guy and the NYPD shot up Midtown, Manhattan. The two events are not unrelated.
In the past year of living in New York, we’ve seen a few surprising fights break out in much the same way as this poetry fight. That is, we’ve seen totally normal situations of mild to major irritation erupt into full-on physical violence. These are situations in which people are profoundly against each other. We moved to New York from Canada, having lived in most of the major cities there, and in a few other countries,for some period of the past 35 years. But we’ve seen more ‘acts of violence’ over this past year in New York than in either of our lives in total.
The fight at the poetry reading was both shocking and, strangely, something that we are coming to expect. As Jami Attenberg notes in her blog entry about the night, it was a fight between a bartender at a “culture” bar in the Lower East Side and the guy who runs Vol.1, a literary reading series. Attenberg does a good job of explaining the build-up to the fight, which, from our perspective, seemed to go from 0 to headbutt in about 3 minutes.
The hostility between bartenders and literary-event organizers at hybrid-space venues like this one is routine. Anyone who has ever tried to do a reading in a bar or café in which only a portion of the space is given over to the event while the rest of the space remains ‘business as usual’ (read: chitty chatty, people getting up and down, drinking-laughing, all of this loudly), knows the protocol. The literary folks ask the bartender and/or the other patrons, repeatedly, to keep it down for the duration of the event, which usually lasts about an hour, sometimes two. The thing is, it’s not like literary-folk storm these bars/cafés, highjacking the space in order to hold their event. They have been invited to do the reading there. Furthermore, most of the time the folks in the audience for the literary event are minor to major drinkers, and everyone always orders at least one adult beverage, even early in the week. And they tip pretty well too, because most of them have worked in bars off and on for their whole lives. But we’re getting off track here.
The bartender that night was probably not the person who invited (or agreed to allow) Vol.1 to host its event in their backspace. It’s possible that this bartender arrived at work yesterday to realize that this is what was in store for his evening. And we stress evening. The event started just after 7 and ended before 9. This was not his whole night. We heard reports that the guy was kind of an asshole to the lit-crowd even before the reading began, but we suspect that the problem developed when some of the folks at the reading kept going into the front bar space to ask the folks in there to keep it down. Seriously, though. 75 people listening to poetry in the back. Maybe 20 people yakking away up front. Just by numbers we should have won, no? Maybe these noise-level adjustment requests became increasingly rude as the folks in the front bar area proved that they didn’t give a shit about disrupting the reading. Whatever. Our actual point is that this is the drill! This ‘please keep it down’/’we prefer not to’ is always what happens at these kinds of events. It is easily anticipated. It’s one of the annoying things that grown-ups living in cities and working/attending events at places like this bar have come to expect. It’s irritating for everyone.
What happened next seemed to set off a chain-reaction that apparently could end in nothing but broken prescription eye-wear. The bar up front ran out of glasses. So the bartender in question had to come back to (clankingly) collect all the glasses from around the room while the above-mentioned Attenberg was reading a very funny excerpt from her new novel. And then the bartender needed to kick a few of us out of our seats in order to access some back closet bar area. And then the yelling started. And then the bartender went storming through the poetry crowd back into the front room. And then the lit-event organizer followed him. And then there was a fight. A hard-punching, head-butting fight between two white guys doing their amateur UFC best to beat the shit out of each other in the crowded corridor of a small bar. About something that happens all the time without punching. Usually the way this completely ordinary situation gets handled if there is a real problem between the bar-side and the reading-side is that the reading just doesn’t happen at that bar anymore. The bar loses the income and the reading loses a venue. Tie Game.
A few months ago we were at a friend’s birthday party and there was an all-out brawl between a group of our people (a gaggle of trans and queer folks) and a bouncer or two. Again, what we found so shocking about this fight was how quickly it turned into a pretty major outbreak of physical violence.
We never found out what the fight was about. Maybe one of the people in our party was deemed “out of order” by the establishment. Maybe the establishment and/or its bouncer was trans-phobic. Maybe stupid or objectionable were things said or done. We don’t know. All we know is that all of a sudden we looked over and a bouncer was lifting up and trying to forcibly remove a trans guy who was co-birthday boy with the friend who had invited us, and who seemed to be in no shape to defend himself. Then, as he was hoisted by the bouncer, our guy picked up a bottle and broke it, seemingly to use as a weapon. Then the rest of our party got involved with many of us trying to put our bodies between the bouncer and our guy. We tried to reason with the bouncer, asking him to back off for 5 minutes so that we could all just pack up our stuff and leave. This was apparently an inadequate solution. He was determined to drag our guy out. And he did.
What happened next is tricky. While the bouncer was dragging our guy out, our guy was pulling on anything he could grab to try to brace himself and stop this assault, including pulling the hair of some women sitting at the bar. And by hair, we mean hair. As in hairs that got did. As in black ladies’ hair. As in bad move. As in some hurt and pissed off ladies. And then the bouncer, weighing in at maybe 300lbs threw our guy on the sidewalk and sat on our guy’s (maybe 170lbs soaking wet) chest until he almost passed out. And there was still more fighting between our people and the bar people.
Just like in the case of a poetry night noise-level dispute, folks getting ousted from bars by power-hungry bouncers is an everyday occurrence. It’s extremely likely that our guy reacted so violently against the bouncer’s assault because he felt that he was fighting for his life. Trans people are targets of violence all the time, even educated, white trans guys like him. And this particular trans guy is a lawyer who spends his life helping trans people who have been victims of violence. The recent sham trial and real conviction of CeCe McDonald teaches us, yet again, what happens when trans people fight back against their attackers. It is important here to note that CeCe McDonald is a trans woman of color, which made her even more vulnerable to be targeted by white supremacist violence and even more at risk of being impaled by the prison industrial legal system. Resisting assault, by any means necessary as our guy did, is survival.
It’s also quite likely that this fight did not happen out of nowhere; in a complex matrix of ways, it could have been brewing for a long time. But from our point of view, one minute we were deciding if we were too drunk to ride our bikes home and the next minute we were trying to pull a broken beer bottle out of new friend’s hand so that he didn’t really hurt someone and get into serious trouble. We did eventually ride our bikes home, all of a sudden sober, and shaken.
Just a few weeks before the bar brawl, we were coming home from JFK and found ourselves in the middle of another fight. This time taxis were involved. We lined up as usual outside the arrivals terminal and, after a bit of a wait, got into our assigned taxi from the queue. The driver asked us where we were going. We said Brooklyn. He said, how are you paying? We said, credit card. He said, my credit card machine is broken. We did not say, bullshit. Instead, we huffed and got out of the cab. We made our way to the next taxi, loading our stuff into the trunk and ourselves into the backseat. Taxi Driver #2 asked us where we were going. We said Brooklyn. Then he asked us why we didn’t stay in the first cab. We said that Taxi Driver #1’s credit card machine was broken. Taxi Driver #2 said, he has to take you. We said, we know, but it’s not a big deal. Then Taxi Driver #2 got out of the car and started to yell at Taxi Driver #1 through his driver’s side window. When he had yelled to his satisfaction, Taxi Driver #2 turned around and headed back to his own car (where we were sitting in the back seat, watching the whole thing happen). It’s all over, we thought. Phew. But no. That is not what happened. Instead of driving away, Taxi Driver #1 pulled out a Billy club, came up behind Taxi Driver #2 and started beating him on the shoulders, back and head with it. After a few direct hits, we saw Taxi Driver #2’s shoulder break. Taxi Driver #2 ran away from Taxi Driver #1 with the Billy club, using the car in which we were sitting as a shield. Taxi Driver #1 then bolted back to his car and drove away. Holy Shit. A little while later, Taxi Driver #3 explained to us the fare difference between a ride to Brooklyn (around $35) and a ride to Midtown (about $50 including tolls).
In the year since we moved to NYC to take up jobs at a university here, we’ve seen these kinds of things. We’ve also experienced some of the warmest kindnesses offered to us by strangers. We’ve quickly made amazing friends. One of our favorite Brooklyn memories is of the first time we went to the back garden of Sycamore, a bar pretty close to our Flatbush apartment. We walked into the garden and stood in the middle of a scene of late-summer, early-evening drinkers; it seemed that all the seats were taken and we were trying to figure out what to do—stay and stand, or try to find another bar, where we could sit and drink. At this point, we had lived in the city for less than a month. As a couple of very obviously queer white girls, we felt like we might have been out of place and we were thinking, we should just go. Then we heard a loud friendly voice yelling to us. “Would you two over there stop standing around like a couple of lost puppies and come here and sit down, already?” It was a woman who was sitting at a big table of folks who seemed to be from all over the place. They had all been regulars at another local bar that had recently closed, and this was a reunion, or a re-convening, of sorts. The people at that table welcomed us into their little world. We chatted and drank and learned more about the city on that evening than perhaps in all of our accumulated experience up to that point, and perhaps after. It was fucking beautiful.
When we signed up for our gas account, we found ourselves in the labyrinthine steamy cesspool that is the gas company building in downtown Brooklyn. There were long lines of people paying their bills in cash, apparently without the means to pay some other way that didn’t require showing up in person. Or maybe they just prefer to pay in cash. Who’s to say? We found ourselves in (on) a kind of gas triage line, in (on) which you stood waiting to talk to someone to get a number in order get into (onto) another line so that you could talk to the person who could open up your account or whatever you were there for. In (on) our gas triage line there were all kinds of folks, but not that many. There were maybe 8 people ahead of us (and eventually 20 people behind us). It took over 3 hours to get to the front of that line. But while we were there, people helped each other out. Young people held spots in (on) line for old people who needed to sit (there were no chairs allowed near the line); people who spoke English and Spanish translated for the Spanish-speaking people in line who couldn’t make themselves understood in English (there’s no Spanish-speaking people employed by the gas company in order to facilitate exactly these situations?). There was a lot of empathy in that room on that day. One woman kept reminding us to smile and be pleasant when we got to the front of the line because any other disposition would just extend the process. We turned to her a few times for support as the person “helping” us refused to accept that our last address (in Canada) did not have a zip code because it is another country.
Moving here from Canada has been a culture shock. We are not nationalists. We’re in favour of a state that does not rely on systems of cruel disregard for how its people are doing. Right now, Quebec manages to do this pretty well, although the current provincial Liberal government is trying to follow the footsteps of the truly demonic Prime Minister by cutting back on every social program that it can chop into. Quebec students and their many supporters are fighting back against active state neglect and we support them (except for the xenophobic, racist ones that bang on the roofs of brown-skinned taxi drivers and tell them to join the fight or go home). Seriously, white people are menacing idiots.
After being in NYC for a year, we are no experts on anything, except maybe how to navigate the Groupon website. We love living here for many reasons. But during this year we have been thinking a lot about the ways that the people are mostly, if not completely, abandoned by the state here, and how they are dangerously stressed out by the lack of a social safety net. Lots of people, like Michelle Alexander, for example, write about these things in far more intelligent and complex ways. Our observation is simple. There is a lot of simmering rage here. And isn’t rage a symptom of anxiety, so often?
Our friend Shereen Inayatulla has just posted on Facebook about the ways that white men with guns who kill people are “labeled (and dismissed) as some disgruntled guy who got fired.” She asks “What is it about white male ‘culture’ that breeds and celebrates violence? What are white people planning to do to address and end these public acts of aggression?” The corporate media prefer to characterize these shootings as random acts. There is nothing random about violence in a culture in which people are terrified all the time about losing everything they have because of an illness. Or a layoff. When so much of people’s taxes (including ours now) fund the state’s full-time hobby of militarized-corporate global take-over, isn’t violence what they/we are paying for? There is absolutely nothing random about white men’s violence. As we are reminded by Rinku Sen and Tim Wise, Inayatulla and many others, white people are responsible for the ways that our entitlement, and the disappointments this entitlement breeds, create killers.
Again, we are not Canadian nationalists. The nation north of the 49th parallel perpetuates on-going attempted genocide of Indigenous peoples and a systematic killing of the land and water and air for corporate and state profit. Social and cultural programs and public healthcare are constantly threatened, cut completely or to within an inch of their lives. There is intense racism at the level of institutions and on an interpersonal level, and there is a great disparity between the rich and poor, which keeps getting bigger. Immigrants’ and refugees’ rights are being systematically eroded by the Federal government and the police have deployed increasingly brutal suppression of political protest.
In a nutshell, it seems that we are writing this today not to toot Canada’s horn, but with the realization that, yes, after a year of being in NYC and in the United States, we are in culture shock. It’s not a dissimilar shock to the way we felt when violently confronted by thousands of riot police in Toronto during the G8-G20 protests in 2010. The comparison between Canada and the U.S. isn’t a particularly productive one, and we’re certainly not interested in trying to sustain it here. But there’s something about the intensity of life here in NYC (granted, a big city) and the likelihood of being caught in the middle of some crazy shit that freaks us out just a little bit. And while violence per se is not an unqualified bad, we can’t shake the feeling that the bursts of rage that punctuate everyday life here are the manifestation of people’s generalized state of anxiety, their resistance to corporate-state-produced precarity and scarcity, and of a culture that has normalized militarized force. That’s what it feels like.
We were at the Sycamore again recently and, as usual, we were surrounded by people from all over sharing a weekend happy-hour. And there it really does feel like happy hour. People are down-right jovial, sweet and hilarious. At the end of our Year One, the back-gardens, beaches and outdoor concerts across Brooklyn are the places where we see the city in its relaxed moments. After a year we, like so many New Yorkers, gather in these places not only for the cheap beer, cool waves or free entertainment, but mostly for the collective sigh and easy, giddy thrill of knowing that we all might just be in this together.