Monday, October 25, 2010

Recognizing Our Prison Guards

By Kelly Jean Cogswell

I am a little depressed almost all the time. It's a result of keeping my temper when I should be barricading buildings, storming Bastilles, or taking a big crap on your "progressive" doorstep. The tea party fury over furinners trying to steal their godgiven rights is nothing compared to what I feel at the daily betrayals of people pretending to have my big dyke back.

You can start with all those New York State politicians that took gay dollars and voted against same-sex marriage. There there's Obama whose hideous Justice Department is fighting as hard to keep the anti-gay military policy, Don't Ask, Don't Tell, as it does to keep Guantanamo detainees behind bars without fair trials, and wiretappers on the job at all the major and minor Telecoms.

Far worse are professional queers like Rick Garcia of Equality Illinois smarmily congratulating himself for his patience in a New York Times article about anti-Democrat anger among queers. "But change takes time; sometimes it takes a lot of time. A lot of folks just don't understand that." And thank god we don't. Not as long as fags are getting tortured and raped in the Bronx and suicided across the country. Not when the transgendered are getting murdered, dykes raped and harassed. Or just dragged down, and marginalized to death.

Supposedly homo-friendly feminism is still riddled with homophobia. Bloggers often write the innocuous "gay woman" instead of lesbian. And the other day, there were those lesbian, feminist playwrights who declared that they hadn't written about dykes or dyke issues because they were so limiting and they didn't want to be pigeonholed, but were still very much lesbians every minute they were writing and performing. I'll believe that when I see photos of their girlfriends eating fur pie under their typewriters as they wrote.

What they liked was that feminist strain of matriarchal rigmarole and mother daughter crap that in my humble opinion stuffed us into one more biologically determined fantasy as suffocating as any myth they were trying to reclaim. The real Greek gods at least subversively screwed their siblings, drank buckets too much, and gave a girl the option of springing full grown from the head of Zeus.

I wouldn't mind coming from there, or even under a rotting cabbage plant where you stand a chance to reinvent yourself as a genetically modified species with enormous capacities to resist parasites, mold, and other inconveniences. Yes, let me spring like water from a struck rock. Let me emerge like Godzilla from your nuclear waste.

Anything not human. Look around at our circumstances. I'm not sure humans actually deserve any kind of rights. We're so eager to be prison guards of our own kind, our own kin, though we call it something else when queers keep other queers in line, and females enforce nice womanly behavior, and mothers raise pig sons as princes or vice versa, and terrorize their daughters for trying to break free. Who needs colonizers when homegrown tyrants do just fine?

Can we make any progress until we line them up against the wall? At least acknowledge them? There are so many. How can we separate the dancer from the dance, the baby from the bath(water) before it gets tossed out?

Next month, I'm going home for the first time in a decade. My own mother could be dismissed as one more nutcase Southern Baptist tea partier. She was amazingly destructive. Tortured me as a dyke (and writer) and daughter while she prayed for me to turn straight and be the girl god wanted me to. She's old now. When I called, her voice wavered on the phone. She sounded a little confused, though not necessarily nicer.

Should I reject her as if she were a Sarah Palin? Allow age to absolve the old matriarch? Should I give her a break when she's surrounded by so many enemies, including plenty of old, new, and post- feminists that never consider that the same right-wing fundamentalists, and anti-choice women they alienate may have children that turn out to be dykes like me. And we remember how our mothers were treated. Even if they seem like a different species.

If you sneer at her, you'll dismiss me too, especially if your benchmark issue is abortion. I've never had one and never will unless I'm raped in the next twenty minutes before menopause hits. Lesbophobia, on the other hand, concerns us all. What do straight women get called when they refuse a date? What do they get called when they're the ball-breaking boss? "Fucking dykes." C'mon. Take up lesbophobia, dear feminists. I'm holding my breath.

Even the queers won't touch it, now that we're into equality, not dissecting hate, or changing society. Our smug professional queers do their best to tamp down our urgency, anger and despair. What do we do with these prison guards? They look like us when a riot's on.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Of Mice and Dykes

By Kelly Jean Cogswell

Last week was the CLAGS conference on Lesbian Lives in the 1970's. One of the big questions they asked participants was, "What did you think you were doing?" The extraordinary answer was, "Changing the world."

In some of their mouths it sounded almost bitter. Some went on to blame Reagan for cutting down the hopes of the Seventies. Others blamed AIDS for drawing dykes into service organizations, and making them too nice or too tired to overthrow the patriarchy after taking care of their dying brothers.

Progressives haven't seen such ambition in ages, though there was a hint of it in Obama's presidential campaign before he transformed himself from charismatic leader into one more middle manager with his cards clutched to his chest, and bold positions abandoned as soon as the primary results were in.

If you look for cock-eyed optimism now, you'd have to go to the Tea Party movement. They are busy envisioning a second American Independence saga in which patriots can practice isolationist politics while keeping their jobs (and flat screen TVs) dependent on a global market. And without contributing to the common pot, they can also preserve all the advantages they've grown accustomed to in the greatest country in the world, like roads and hospitals and armies and bridges.

Crunch their impossible numbers and what you get is the portrait of a people that wants to be liberated from need and interdependence like a spoiled teenager ready to run away from home with her credit card and iphone (both paid by her parents) because somebody capped her calls or made her do chores.

They don't want to believe we're stuck with each other. Not just now, but forever. So maybe deluded is a better word than optimistic to describe such a movement, acknowledging there's a little bit of delusion in any attempt at social change. Or for that matter Obama's attempt to carve a middle, waffling road at this time of crisis.

These days, demoralized progressives are neither optimistic nor world-changers building lively antiwar, feminist, green, or LGBT movements. Queers arise sometimes like last week's Flash Mob demo against deadly homophobia in Grand Central Terminal, but there's nothing continuous, or urgent. There's no overarching dream. We're just consolidating gains, playing defense, or inching ahead.

It's partly because we transformed grassroots movements into institutions that have become establishments like so many others. People have their fiefdoms and ten-year financial projections. They tamp down any spark of revolution with caution. Half the LGBT organizations applauding the reversal of the Proposition 8 ruling in California's federal courts had advised the lawyers not to push ahead. It's not the right time. Halt in your tracks, you usurpers.

You could smell the dust coming off of the recent One Nation extravaganza before they stepped onto the D.C. mall. The marchers were apparently enthusiastic, but what they were forced to listen to were the same old speakers from the same stale institutions mouthing the same old platitudes. Up with good jobs, health insurance, and same-sex marriage. Down with racism, and immigrant- and gay-bashing. The underlying message was vote for Democrats in November. Heralding the rally as the beginning of anything is as deluded as expecting a suddenly "clean" administration in Albany.

I'm increasingly troubled by the equality-obsessed LGBT movement we have on our hands. Of course we have to push for legal rights, but what could be more conservative than only wanting the same things as the others have got?

That kind of vision won't change the world, or even solve bullying in schools. For that, you have to entirely revise American life, starting with the football and cheerleader culture of high schools and colleges that tortures all kids who are nerdy, awkward, overtly intelligent, or queer. You have to restructure the American Family. Get your hands dirty in combat with churches. You have to drive a bulldozer, or just imagine one. You have to dismantle the myths.

What a joke that in high school we're forced so brutally into tribes at the same time we're taught to admire those singular individuals that pull themselves up by their bootstraps, succeed without a helping hand from anybody, except of course Gawd. You don't have to be a genius to see how that American contradiction leads some to become bullies and cultural enforcers, others lone gunmen, either mowing down crowds, or taking out themselves.

Maybe it's time to recover our ambition, and set our sights not just at changing a law or two, but all of America. It will take a new grassroots movement, and a mixture of characteristics I've noticed in the country mice upstate: creativity, persistence, and a quick learning curve. You plug one hole, they find another soft spot to gnaw at. Ignore them, they'll have your house down on the ground in a flash.