[D]rag queens can move freely within gay male settings as long as they abide by the implicit rules of such circulation. What would happen if a drag queen was not on the stage but rather cruised one of the many dark corridors of K.O.X. in search of a sexual partner? That gay men can accommodate the presence of drag queens on stage does not mean that gender liberation has arrived. Indeed, relegating gender performances to the stage implies that gay men do not “perform” their identities: they are just are. This containment of gender transgressions can, in turn, work against transgender people in a variety of ways. Drag queens are reduced to entertainment, coifed personalities whose only purpose is to titilate the gay male viewer. Framed as pure spectacle, this negates a variety of reasons why people might choose to cross-dress in a club: an exploration of one’s gender identity, a gesture of political intervention, a creative solution to border, and/or a way to the pay the rent.
A restriction of drag queens to the stage also suggests that drag is something you do; it is not something you are.”
— Vivane K. Namaste in “Tragic Misreadings: Queer Theory’s Erasure of Transgender Subjectivity” from Invisible LIves: The Erasure of Transsexual and Transgender People (via queerandpresentdanger)
For those of you curious about the giant Walgreens pb cup, a picture for scale. It is roughly hockey puck-sized.
Preface: The stage is hers, but she is not yet ready. He knows his audience awaits. What will she say? This queer, this queen, this radical black sissy-fag who won’t shut up. Of course, Miss Girl, will have to read somebody: that’s part of the performance we all expect. But can she transcend the well-rehearsed roles she and her audience (sister and fellow performers yourselves) so naturally slip into? Can I/you transcend our mutual masks - the easy, witty, critical rhetoric with which we so deftly camouflage our deeper mixed emotions, ambivalences, aversions, secrets?
He surveys the faces in front of him, to the left and to the right. What do they see, what do they hear inside? Can/will they give voice to these submerged, troubling, interior truths?
Ahh, time for quiet rumination must be temporarily suspended. For this moment, silence is not in order, only words - a waterfall of words. And being the sometimes Loud Snap-Happy Signifying Butch-Girl that he/she is, she beats her face, affixes the appropriate conference queen tiara, assumes the throne, that is, the center stage of your attention, rejoicing in rhetorical gender-fuck - my preferred expression of drag - and commences the show.
The scene: Last July. The night of the national PBS broadcast of Tongues Untied. The program had just ended, and I am sitting in a San Francisco studio. My image is beamed by satellite to Minneapolis public TV station KTCA. On the other end, a panel has been assembled, moderated by a local black male journalist, whom I do not know, but whose credentials as a moderator, it quickly becomes apparent, seem to be solely that he is black and has a reputation as a consumer reporter.
Interesting, I think, let’s see how Miss Thing consumes this. Interestingly, as well, the panel and moderator can see me. I cannot see them. Talk about the privileged gaze. Within five minutes into this scheduled hour-long broadcast, what I hear, however, tells me enough: Miss Thing is straight, very straight, and intent on letting her audience in on this important fact.
“I just want to clarify one point,” Thing announces in an abrupt non sequitur. “You said in your video, ‘Everybody on the block did that.’ Well I don’t know about your block, but my father was a Presbyterian minister, and it didn’t happen on my block. Just a clarification.”
Within twenty minutes of the program, Thing’s voice betrays acute anxiety. The panel is not falling prey to his most obvious rhetorical traps: Would you let your children see this? Why such language of the street? Is this lifestyle appropriate for the black community? Finally, in exasperation, Thing abandons his strategy of leading questions and simply blurts out that this “documentary, if that’s what it was, failed to educate a mainstream audience. A documentary,” he goes on to explain, “is supposed to instruct, to take you from A to B and so on. This program clearly didn’t do that; hence,” he concludes, a rare double-negative driving home his point: “I couldn’t get nothing out of it.”
For the remainder of the program, Black Macho Recapitulated grew increasingly immoderate. And though his naive bluntness was atypical for a public forum, his attitude, you and I know, is all too familiar. “Mainstreaming audience.” “The black community.” “From A to B.” “Lifestyle.” All terms denoting an ideological frame of reference that enforces a rigorous exclusion of certain kinds of difference, that erects stifling enclosures around a whole range of necessary debates, or, alternately, confines them within an easily recognisable - and controllable - psychosocial arena.
Can we talk? But of course we can, queer diva darling, if you abide by the rules of the dominant discourse, which means, in short, you must ultimately sing somebody else’s tune to be heard. That somebody is, of course, most often in part responsible for the historic gag in your communal mouth.
Performance Break: Theatric aside: Do they know where girlfriend’s going? Do they really think he/she/I would let you off so easily with such an amusing anecdote? Continue performance.
In the last two years I have become a conference queen. Not with much deliberate intent, mind you. But my video, Tongues Untied, in a way I frankly never envisioned while making it, has catapulted me into a society of theory divas and culture queens - and yes, my het-brothers that includes you too, you especially - a society I must admit I barely knew existed three years ago.
Performance Break: Theatric effect: whispered aside. In my former ignorance, I suspect I am not unlike the overwhelming majority of black cultural workers in this country, and the blame for this sorry state of producer-critic relations, I now know, lies not just with a semi-literate producing proletariat. Continue performance.
At these conferences, I am typically called upon to speak on matters of race and sexuality in queer media; race and sexuality in black culture; race and sexuality in Western cinema. I have become the Race and Sexuality Resident Expert. The assumption, it seems, is that girlfriend can talk about nothing else - that is, with authority. Indeed, based on what I gather from the majority of those who invite me to tea, it’s easy to imagine a homo promo video on my behalf with these lines: Wanna find out what it’s like to be black and gay, how it looks, how it feels, to live and think that way? Call 976-Diva.
But increasingly, of late, this Snap Queen harbors the sneaking suspicion that the measure of her acceptance into various critical in-crowds, which solicit her membership with the regularity of Visa and MasterCard companies (“membership has its privileges”), has less to do with any vital concern with black gay subjectivity and its intrinsic value in black social/cultural expression than with how well she has mastered, and now mimics, the critical language of her new-found tribe of crit queens.
Le Butch-Girl wonders, for instance, if her/his permission to say gender-fuck is contingent upon knowing and articulating Fanon, Foucault, Gates, Gilroy, hooks, West, and the rest, as well.
Parenthetical Notion: Forgive the masculinist bent of this pantheon, but this, it seems, is the present predominant nature of the tribe. Continue performance.
Among you, someone no doubt is thinking: Miss Thing can certainly throw down her verbal drag schtick, but does she comprehend discursive intertextual analysis, can she engage in postfeminist, neo-Marxist, postmodern deconstructionist critique? Does she understand the difference between text, subtext, and metatext? Does she know she’s part of a subaltern universe? Can she, in a word, really read?
Discomforting questions ricochet in the Snap Queen’s mind, and she wonders/ponders further whether his/her tongue is at times, in effect, not her tongue, if her tongue (to gain validation, an audience) has really become their tongues, and if, in fact (yes! to trope Zora), it is their tongues that are in his mouth, pressing against, crowding out his own, if he is choking. A different kind of voicelessness.
My mouth moves, but you hear no words.
What kind of ventriloquism is this?
Here we sit assembled, the newest of the New Negroes (the Niggerati of the Nineties?), preening and posturing in our fanciful display of cultural literacy, the command of the language, the strategic deployment of so many elegant words. But I wonder: where were the words when Joe Beam really needed them? - when he was alive, when In rhe Life was first published, and black bookstores refused to carry it, and not one - count - not one black, ostensibly straight critic opened his or her mouth to acknowledge Joe’s monumental breach of our historic literary silence. Where were the oh-so pretty words, then?
Performance Break: Race-sexuality-gender. Race-sexuality-gender. Race-sexuality-gender. The mantra now flows so trippingly off formerly silent tongues I am still astonished by the rapid metamorphosis. What interior psycho-ideological adjustment enables such new progressive, inclusive articulation? Or is it really just a facility at verbiage? Continue performance.
Miss Girl increasingly doubts those who now effortlessly invoke her name, her community. He doubts because he hears little, beyond lip service, that affirms his status as something than Other. And what he sees from time to time evidences his intuition that she is perhaps a pawn in somebody else’s cultural war game, and is thus expendable. As in: black like who?
Excitedly, she turns the page to the series of Village Voice essays, anticipating, in the words of Essex Hemphill, some “evidence of being,” only to find a single phrase (and a short one at that) that speaks explicitly to queer black identity. Again, I witness how casually, how unself-consciously, the faggots and dykes have been left in the woodshed - or is it the closet?
The insult is compounded as I turn to the back pages, appropriately enough, of the same issue, where another essay addresses the ghettoization of homo culture. Thus stand our choices: het lip-service, cultural ghetto, or total erasure. Black like who? Implicit answer: not like you!
Performance Break: Brief Digression. Miss Thing has some questions she must get out of his system, or I will just scream. She apologizes if it doesn’t fit some grand unitary flow of analysis and ideas, but sometimes you can’t just fit it all in a neat perfect package, laced just so.
Digression One: Why is it that the majority of us still engage in that most traditional form of cultural review and criticism in which single works and single authors are continuously privileged above anything and everyone else? If not Spike Lee, then John Singleton, if not Singleton then Julien, and so on. What about more complicated analyses of how multiple black cultural narratives compete, intersect, complement, collide? Wouldn’t it stop this oh-so-tiresome process of centering a few of us while marginalizing the rest?
Digression Two: What is, after all, the “black” in black pop culture? Or more specifically, how do Marky Mark and Vanilla Ice and Charlie Pride and Living Colour fit within our own frames of reference? That is, the first two kinda sound black but aint, and the last two are black but don’t sound like it, if you know what I mean. So - I mean this seriously - what is the marker of blackness in our pop culture?
Digression Three: What is the “pop” in black pop culture? On a common-sense level, pop culture usually translates as mass culture, which, quite frankly, does not typically include folks like me, Julie Dash, Isaac Julien (pre-Young Soul Rebels, that is), Charles Burnett, Camille Billops, Zeinabu Davis, and - you get the picture. So is “pop” a misnomer, or is it that I’m just a dizzy queen, ignorant of recently expanded definitions of the term?
Digression Four: Where is Latifah?!? Where are Ice Cube, Ice-T, Spike Lee, John Singleton, Matty Rich, Salt-n-Pepa, Bytches with Problems, Cosby, namely, the kind of folks one normally associates with the phrase, “pop culture producer”? If criticism, to paraphrase Cornel West, is to enable and transform, then why aren’t these divas here in dialogue, too? Are they too busy? Were they invited?
Digression Five: Who ultimately are we writing for, talking to? End digressions.
(Sigh). We feel so much better now that that’s off our chest, don’t we?
Continue mainstage performance. Resume Act III.
Gaze upon me. Gaze upon this deviant, defiant, diseased Other. T-cell count less than 150. The collapse of kidney function imminent from interior ravaging by multiplying microbes. Disease consumes me.
Gaze upon your self. Dis-ease grips you as well. We are all mutually bound, sick, trapped. Except you, many of you, persist in the illusion of safe, sage detachment.
Do you honestly think you can so closely, critically examine me without studying or revealing yourself? Or do you really think your progressive, collective “we” is all that’s necessary in your performance of reflexivity?
Miss Girl must now abandon your/her stage.Indeed, she suspects she has overstayed, by just a bit, her welcome. But what bona fide queen conforms to expected time limits? Before he/she tosses his/her tiara to the next diva in the wings, I ask you - no, beg - no, demand: a little more realness from each of us. Please.
-Marlon Riggs, Unleash The Queen
“Timely Justice,” my ass:
For a state with 24 death row exonerations under its belt (the highest in the country), you would think Florida might want to slow down its execution process to avoid putting innocent people to death. But Florida lawmakers are doing just the opposite
The Miami Herald calls the bill “unacceptable”:
As Mark Elliott, director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, points out, “That’s one exoneration for every three executions.”
That should give every Floridian pause.
Frank Lee Smith died of cancer on Death Row after 14 years in prison. Sadly, after his death, DNA testing proved he was innocent and also identified the real killer. What kind of justice did Mr. Smith get?
Natasha Lennard, writing for Salon, calls it “ill-named”:
In a most perverse admission, flagged by Khalek, Republican Senator Rob Bradley said “this is not about guilt or innocence, it’s about timely justice.” So long as proceedings through the Kangaroo court are swift, Bradley seems to admit, the lives of inmates are expendable.
Chris Hedges calls it “cynically named”:
William Van Poyck … is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 6 p.m. June 12 at Florida State Prison. He is a writer who has spent years exposing the cruelty of our system of mass incarceration. On June 12, if Gov. Rick Scott has his way, Van Poyck will write no more. And that is exactly how our political class of murderers wants it.
The New York Times calls it “grotesquely named”:
As the American Bar Association explained in a scathing 2006 report on the state’s death penalty system, Florida is one of the few states that allows a jury to recommend a sentence of death based on a majority vote rather than a unanimous one. Defendants charged with capital crimes often have woefully unqualified counsel, and are much more likely to be convicted and sentenced to death if the victim is white — a sign of racial disparity that is clearly unconstitutional. The flaws in Florida’s system, which soaks up huge amounts of resources, cannot be fixed. It is long past time to abolish capital punishment.
An MSN headline appropriately summarizes, “Florida’s death row Timely Justice Act is cool, unless you’re innocent“—which Juan Melendez can understand since he spent 18 years on death row before being exonerated in 2002:
The “Timely Justice Act” would speed up a system we know has already sent innocent men, like myself, to death row. Some of these prisoners may be men like me, who have exhausted their legal appeals, yet keep trying to find a way to prove their innocence.
In multiple cases of current death row prisoners, we don’t know exactly what the legal claims are. Some of the men on Florida’s death row ran out of legal options simply because their attorneys missed filing deadlines.
In those instances, no court had the opportunity to evaluate the claims and determine whether they have merit. How can we possibly justify speeding up the execution of prisoners in those cases?
According to logic of the “Timely Justice Act,” any prisoner who has exhausted his appeals and been through a clemency process has had every opportunity and is ready for an execution date, regardless of the specific questions and issues that surround his case.
I am living proof that each case is unique and that the system must allow ample time for the truth to emerge.
Given Florida’s troubling track record on wrongful convictions, this legislation ensures the unthinkable — the execution of an innocent person.
There needs to be more outrage about this.
Dood is unpopular as hell. Rather than making up the millions lost during that drug testing welfare debacle, or making up the tourist revenue lost bc you decided to pass a driver’s license bs directed at brown ppl but pissed off much of canada (the biggest source of tourism Florida has), figuring out what to do with millions of empty foreclosed homes, fixing the shittiest public school system in the US, having a plan b after turning down free money to build a light rail system that would have brought millions in jobs and tourism revenue…he decides he can fix his image by killing prisoners, mostly poor, nonwhite ppl
Someone pls curbstomp this baldhead, thieving sack of shit
This idea seems odd to lots of feminists- but for sex workers the feminist as torturer or the instigator of torture is quite common…
Its not a big step from carceral feminism to ‘feminist torture’, I mean, what do feminists who push for locking sex workers in prison or rehab think goes on there, or in their feminist mandated raids?
Rape, abuse, forced work and torture. That’s what.
Well actually it’s only some of it. I don’t want to post pictures of the dead bodies…
Makes me think of Coco Fusco’s _Field Guide for Female Interrogators_—if one of the liberal feminist project’s aims is to get women in the military just as surely as another of its aims is to get women in the boardroom, then torture in the service of racism and imperialism is the result.
one of my friends read this article by a woman working as a prison guard who complained that prison policies in australia were anti-woman… because women prison guards here are generally employed in institutions where guards aren’t permitted to carry firearms
not because of, like, the high levels of structural and interpersonal violence against women in prison
this article is pretty interesting and worth reading
it’s not “oh i look bad”
it’s “what is this flesh tube i seem to occupy and what does it have to do with me”
“what is body”
“what am i”
from Hozac 7” EP out March 2013
This song is tuff as fuck.
Population is a super soild goth / deathrock / postpunk band that my awesome friend Jes played synth in.
This track has a kind of updated only theatre of pain era Christian Death vibe, which is to say it is very good.
<3 I just saw this!
(We are still a band! Also we are opening Saturday night of the Blackout this weekend, which means that we are playing the same night as Chrome, which is … what.)
OOZE plays live on Pure Hype, WHPK 88.5 FM Chicago, 5/10/13
Recorded by Josh Oberman