the philosophactivist

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Genderqueer Files: La Qolectiv@ Part 2

Guess what...

Genderqueer Files: La Qolectiv@ Part 2:
The Group Journey

is available now!

Know some awesome folks who may want to bring in the New Year with a story about some rad, brown queers reclaiming and resisting? Not only will you be providing them with some awesome entertainment, but you'll also be helping in funding the making of this into a full-length book and helping to sustain the author.

*You can get a $5.00 discount off the combined amount of Part 1 and 2 by using this code: JOURNEY2014.
*If you've already bought Part 1, you can message me for a separate discount code!

You can buy Part 1 and 2 at my online store:

They will only be available for a limited time before I go back to the lab to make edits and emerge with the novella!

Read more about Part 1 and 2 here:!genderqueerfiles/c160u

Please don't hesitate to message me about sliding scale discounts if you are experiencing economic hardship.

Thanks everyone! And as you think of holiday gifts please keep supporting art written by and centering the experience of queer and trans folks of color! It's just one way to confront the growing disparities that we face.

Healing and Solidarity,



Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Some Things You Oughtta Know

I'm going to be honest right now about my situation. 
This week...I am selling my services/writings for survival. Perhaps honesty is the best policy because 1266 people on facebook saw my post about the Genderqueer Files episodes and I have yet to sell a single download on etsy. (By the way- it's a .pdf don't need a kindle or any kind of fancy reader besides adobe.) 

It's been really difficult and I'm really dealing with a lot of emotions around self-worth as I find it harder and harder to find a job and people look at me as if I'm not pulling my own weight in life because I am an organizer and an artivist. I spend about 20-30 hours a week organizing in various connected movements. Salary=$0. People say..." Well stop organizing and go get whatever job you can get to sustain yourself". And I think to myself...'Geez I never thought of that'. 

Of course I've thought of that.
Of course I have. 

I've applied to grocery stores, retailers, custodial jobs. I know it's a tough market but there's something else complicating my search. It's the fact that I'm brown and genderqueer in a racist, homo/transphobic pseudo-liberal pseudo-progressive town (called Austin). People like to act like something is wrong with me because I have this experience and these qualifications and can't get a job. And though deep down I know that systemic oppression has seriously limited the jobs I can have in life (or is it just in these pseudo-liberal towns?), I just keep internalizing the rejection experience and white people's judgments (because my experience is not their experience, so it must not be true or valid) and my family's judgments until I start to ask myself “What is wrong with me?” It's really psychologically, emotionally and spiritually damaging.

I try to pull myself up by the bootstraps I was never given and instead of complaining about this racist, transphobic, pseudo-liberal, pseudo-progressive town that will not hire me no matter my qualifications because of my marginalized identities, try even harder to sell my writings and pull my weight if you will. But all the while I continue to internalize that many people don't think that artist's work is valuable and believe that it comes easy to us and that it should be free. 

I struggle constantly with wondering if my work has value and it's the people I meet in person at book fairs and on tour that remind me that it does resonate with some people. I get affirmation that my work does matter, even if it's not sustaining me the way I would like it to.

It's damaging when our communities seem to want organizers, activists, artivists, etc. to do all this work x3 for free.99. That also goes for submissions  to publications and workshops and donations to archives and projects. We know that funding is scarce but we've got to try to work harder to find ways to pay people or make even exchanges. Also, organizers who are parents need support. People who are sacrificing a ton of time for their community and who are getting burnt out, need emotional, psychological, and spiritual support. Community members who can't eat or pay their bills yet work 2-3 jobs need financial support!

I have to say that it is really disheartening feeling like when I actually try to “earn my keep” by selling my services/my writings/art, etc. to survive- that people are turning up their noses and thinking I should just get a “real job”. I know I don't work at an office or a restaurant or whatever institution, corporation or non-profit but it is mentally, emotionally and spiritually exhausting work to organize across issues/movements, write, continue my education as a healer, provide resources to multiple communities, support my friends and created family's emotionally and spiritually, AND manage my lupus symptoms and take good care of my own self. 

If this strife sounds normal to you and you are thinking what my mom always says when I tell her about being overwhelmed with pain or stress- “And?What else is new?” - there's a serious problem. We should not be running ourselves into the ground, folks. We should be supported in using our gifts, skills and abilities. If we have the time to step up and organize within our communities, we should not be left in the cold when we need emotional, psychological, spiritual or financial support ourselves. We need to hold each other accountable for this. No one should be left unsupported.

It makes me extremely sad and upset when I think about my financial situation and my inability to sustain myself despite how hard I work to support myself and others. I think about how just 2 weeks ago, my health “insurance” (it's really from a charity/foundation) was taken away and when I went to pay for my meds- I had to tell them to recount them and only give me a months worth because now I couldn't afford it. Or...I think about how I've had this infected tooth for months now...and 2 dentists that help lower income folks said they don't do root canals, but that they'll pull the tooth (which I've had happen waaay too many times over the last few years due to my economic situation)- and another charitable organization that does sliding scale fees said the minimum amount I could pay is $400-500. Yea- I can't afford that. I can't afford my rent this month. I can't afford to apply for residencies that might help me to be able to focus on my art and organizing. 

I can't focus on my writing and all these ideas I have for sharing knowledge and co-creating vibrant communities because I feel so broken spirited over finances and am constantly having these negative, circular thoughts about my worth and am trying to strategize about how to hustle and make rent and feed myself- and from that dark place.

I broke down in tears just yesterday because a friend reminded me of my steady commitment to providing resources for my communities: workshops, skillshares, constant, tireless organizing across issues in different movements, healing work and the emotional support and overall investment I've made and yet...I am still here struggling and barely surviving and finding it hard to pay for my life-sustaining medication and rent. All the while trying to keep resources accessible to those in my situation...those of you who look/are like me or who are in similar situations to my own.

The point my friend was making is that our communities need to do better in supporting each other physically, emotionally, spiritually and yes, even financially. I see many of my artivist and activist friends struggling to survive, just like me. You may see them everywhere online or in person but that does not translate to economic stability. It actually more than likely means they are hustling and on the grind and probably struggling and trying to survive.

Writing/making art is a full-time job (on top of other jobs) for many of us...and not just a hobby. It is extremely hard work. It is mentally, emotionally and spiritually taxing, especially when we're writing about difficult themes like oppression and liberation or calling out colonialism and systems of oppression and oppressors. Some of us even get threatened and run out of town.

It took me over a year to write Genderqueer Files: La Qolectiv@ and I was working full and part-time jobs on and off. Part 3/Act 3 is still not completely to my liking and I still have so much work to do on making it a community workshop and a novella so people can engage with it's themes and not have to be reading through stage directions. I am also working on a number of other resource guides like Queering Herbalism 2, zines about decolonizing food justice and white supremacy in pseudo-liberal towns, wellness fairs, herbal freedom school workshops...and much more.

True, some folks might just not be into reading a story about brown queers or reading about q/poc and holistic health or zines on anti-oppression. I'm challenging our Q/POC community and allies to be more supportive of art that centers the experience of queer and trans people of color. There's not a whole lot of it out there...there's more than there ever was...but it's still not enough.

I know that some aren't financially able right now. But those of you who are, please see and respect that this work is valuable and that we artists/artivists/activists need to survive and can't write or give all our writing/art/services for free. Many will attest that I do at just about every event but this isn't sustainable.  Printing costs money. And I've spent many hours writing, researching, and organizing non-stop and it deserves to be compensated just like anyone else who is working a 9-5 or over a 40 hour work week.

It is hard for some of us to reach out to our communities for support because we're afraid we'll be judged or rejected. I know this is true for me. I am writing this because I have no choice but to reveal my vulnerability and to let you know that I struggle just like you no matter how many hundreds of people around the world read my writings. I am the embodiment of many of those statistics about brown, queer people who can't get health care or who are unemployed due to discrimination. I am the embodiment of those statistics about transfolks of color that you read about online or in class or talk about with your rad buddies over dinner. Even if I am sitting with a bunch of middle class, educated organizers and activists who make assumptions that we are all thriving, that is not my story. That is not my reality. I am barely surviving and fighting to exist. Fighting to not be erased every day.

Thanks for listening. Reaching out like this has been really healing.

Here's more information about the Genderqueer Files episodes:!genderqueerfiles/c160u

You can purchase Part 1 episode 1-3 HERE until 12/15. Part 2 episodes will be up 12-15 til 12/22.

My other writings can also be found on the Etsy website. And you can get printed versions of my writings (*everything except Genderqueer Files and Queering Herbalism) through the shop&cart page on the afrogenderqueer website HERE.

And if you have found value in my writings or in the free resources I've compiled (on you aren't interested in buying anything but still want to support, there is a donation button on the afrogenderqueer webpage HERE.

Email me for other purchase options/methods of payment.

Thank you again for reading/listening.


Friday, December 6, 2013

Queer. Brown. Stories.


Remember that play Genderqueer Files: La Qolectiv@ that had a dope reading this year in Austin at the historic Victory Grill with amazing community members?

Just to refresh your memories-

Genderqueer Files: La Qolectiv@ is a brown, genderqueer story of Rebellion, Resistance, Reclamation, Revolution, and espíritu/Spirit. A collective of brown, radical gender/queers find that to continue to protect and heal their community that they must discover their innate super powers tied to their indigenous spirituality and the wisdom of their ancestors.

And now you can buy Part 1 in downloadable "E-episodes" (a total of 3) for $9.99 (yep, 3 episodes in all for the Part 1) here.

I am selling these episodes to raise funds so that I can complete the Genderqueer Files: Qolectiv@ "novella".

(A novella is not as short as a short story but not as long as a novel). I will essentially be converting the play to novel format, for your viewing pleasure and I want to have it completed by February 1st.

The goal is that it will be available a few episodes at a time at indy bookstores, zine distros, college libraries and community centers, online, and hopefully...your home library! Eventually you will be able to purchase the whole sha-bang.

Here are some details:
  • There are a limited number (*51) of Part 1 available for a limited time. 
     *Sales for part 1 end 12/14. Episodes from Part 2 will be available 12/14. 
  • Email me at gqstreetpoet at gmail dot com for prices on printed versions. Shipping and handling will be added.

If you know of any bookstores, libraries, schools, gender studies departments, community centers or groups, etc who'd be interested in purchasing this work or having a workshop on it's major themes of race, gender, sexuality and spirituality please let a brown, genderqueer know!

It's difficult getting stories that are relevant to our experiences out there. Publishers are not trying to publish stories about resistance or revolution with all brown, queer characters so it's up to us to support each other in challenging the literary status quo and getting our stories heard.


You may now return to your regularly scheduled program♥

Monday, October 28, 2013

Words from the Pacific Northwest


"So...I woke up this morning and made an agreement with myself to no longer engage with white supremacy in any of its forms. No more benefits of the doubt, no more ally training, no more internalizing racist bullsh or second guessing microaggressions. No more just dealing with it because 'that's the way things are'.

This illness that I carry in my body is a direct affect of all the silencing, all the repression, the smoldering of embers lit when Mami Wata begrudgingly saw her children abducted and carried to foreign shores.

I now pray for the wrecklessness of Olokun...the unharnessed strength of Oya....the unapologetic destruction of the warriors...I pray for the might of Chango. I pray to climb the bark of this ancestral tree up to the branches of the spirit world. Orun. And stare down, vision unobstructed, with the eyes of Olodumare to see the Ase connecting, surging through us all.

And then to climb back down to this realm never to again be affected by illusion/delusion again. All I'd see is Osun's golden honey-harmony. Wrap myself in Yemaya's sweet, sweet 7 skirts of liquid, cerulean peace. And walk in whites with Obatala seeking crystalline clarity. Unbridled understanding. Observing with Orunmila the constellations of coco and cowrie from beyond telling me is time. We are strong. They are listening. Are we? The shells whisper: Now. now. now."


Dear Portland, I.just.can't. The microaggressions and "black presence" and "south asian presence" at stores were egregious. From the mascotization* of blacks to the vintage book cover about a nazi cult adjacent to the book cover of a book about a brothel in Tokyo to the snake skin shirt (surrounded by other asian artifacts)with the explanation that 2013 is the year of the snake...I am truly speechless. You hipsters have truly lost your everloving mind. I was agitated after 2 hours and I almost ran out of the co-op screaming. Almost every interaction was a microaggression. So thanks for that. We are making a zine of the microaggressions we've experienced throughout the tour and probably half of them so far have come from Portland.

Here are just a few gems:

  • Hip Hop music playing (Snoop- Drop it like it's hot) in (white) artist collective house/crafty arty nic nac store
  • Strip of profile shots of black men with different haircuts on two walls in a very white bar/cafe
*and random pictures of black or indigenous people (just because they miss us so much after gentrifying)

  • white woman in "vintage" store talks to us about how in Portland it is "easier" than New Orleans because their's less racial tension and you can get to everything by foot.
      -bonus gems: the nazi cult novel book cover and the book cover of the     novel about a brothel in Tokyo side by side (but that's not's campy!)
  • A painting of a native american chief standing by someone from his tribe pointing out to a steamboat of colonizers like..'oh yay! we're saved' but I would have liked to spray paint a thought bubble saying 'there goes the neighborhood!'
  • Racist store names, menu items, party/show fliers<<which we found throughout the tour
  • Bill Cosby as some kind of a mascot for this hipster store...??
So yea, folks. The whiteness is so stifling in some of the areas we spent time in. I joked that it's probably what the Virginia settlements were like...the perfect white male paradise. (Except when those damn savages would want their land back!) 

Seattle tomorrow and it honestly can't come any faster. No really it can't. You have no idea!

(ps- we may or may not have had the show at this very store...but the event was actually pretty chill)

Hilarious photo montage entitled 'brown people not amused with uberwhitehipster town'

Want to know more about Portland and Racism? Here are some links a friend forwarded me:

Yet Another Racist Derailment at Portland Q Center
More Racist Derailment at Portland Q Center
Racist White Supremacist Terrorism in Portland
Brown in PDX

And here's info about a rad zine by women of color in Portland:


"Seattle was a true surprise. The coffee shop (Black Coffee Co-op) was paaaacked (standing room only) and folks gave so much in donations and really supported by buying our zines and books. I read my piece 'Frankly Not about Food Forests' since everyone in the nation is taking their cues from the Beacon Food Forest there and I read what I wrote about my past job's current ideas on food sovereignty and my divestment from engaging with white supremacy and my prayer to the orishas. 
People really appreciated my candidness and (white folks) didn't ask me to educate them on any of the points. They didn't try to convince me about food forests and were happy to sit with being uncomfortable with my directness and Truth. They even told me they were fine with not getting half my references to Ifá 
 and the orishas because it WASN'T FOR/ABOUT THEM. So take heed white do-gooder/liberal/progressive/radical Austinites!!
So many folks came up to us to thank us for being there and reading. This was a great end to the tour for me. POC Zine Project will push on through the midwest, east and back down south but I will be back home this weekend to process all that I've seen and incorporate it into all that I'm becoming."

 Above Photo: Daniela Capistrano, Nyky Gomez, Anna Vo, Toi Scott, Nia King, Cristy Road

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Words from the West

Saturday 10/19/13

In San Francisco I was called to read my pieces- 'The Master's Tools' and 'Visionaries don't need to dream'. I also read my poem Survivin' and my piece 'My Healing Story'. A friend recommended the last two and it was just what needed to happen, even though she wasn't there.

I needed to read about how we can't use the master's tools to dismantle the master's house, I needed to read about our internalized oppression and why we are not "progressing" as a people though the dominant culture wants us to believe that we are. I needed to read about what visionary organizing looks like and how our internalized oppression makes us turn on each other and not trust the radicals and visionaries that are here to co-heal with us and return us to our rightful place as the descendants of kings and queens, spiritual royalty.

I needed to talk about how we needed to heal. I also needed to read my story about being diagnosed with lupus and my battle to be heard and to find holistic care. I needed to get it out even though it was a little difficult baring my emotional and spiritual scars and being raw in front of folks I didn't know.

But...that's why I started reading my poetry out loud so many years ago, in the first place. It's kind of like that term "speak truth to power". I felt myself healing and regaining power over my story as I told it. In talking about my illness, I opened the storybook for all those who share it and I invited people to take a look at their chapters.




Los Angeles was a challenge. Emotionally. I'll explain more after I've processed. USC's QPOC group was so amazing. We were so tired after driving from AZ and their spirit breathed new life into us. We were recharged upon meeting them. As two tour members and I picked beautiful flowers around campus for the altar, I was truly happy to be there. I knew that we were appreciated and I wanted to honor this. I recruited the two tour members to read some monologues from Genderqueer Files and the audience liked it and thoroughly enjoyed everyone's pieces.


UCLA stood in stark contrast. We performed in a meeting space in the library and it was just more "official" feeling. There were less POC in the space. The vibe was different. I was happy to run into a good friend that I'd met years ago in NYC at an Audre Lorde Project community organizer training (Daring to Be Powerful- check it out if you're in the area). The organizers of the show booked it the same time as another POC event and to be in solidarity, some of the tour members walked over to the event with a few folks from our event. I'm not sure how effective that was least something was done, I guess. 

To be honest, my memories of LA are foggy because of breakdowns in communication, hostility, and just an overall feeling of discomfort as interpersonal conflict escalated on this particular part of the tour. I was fortunate to get a break from all this and to ground myself and drive up the coast on the 1 with someone I trust and respect. 

When we got to Oakland we went to queer qumbia and in the morning we had brunch with some of my fav people from when I lived briefly in the Bay. It really restored my faith in brown community. Sometimes the microcosm of the macrocosm- femmephobia, transphobia, internalized racism, colorism, anti-blackness, xenophobia,etc. can be even worst in our little brown bubbles where we seek asylum. Sometimes solidarity isn't so solid or solidifying. There are still tokens and problematic dynamics as we try very hard to "decolonize" and de-assimilate. As soon as I have time to process...I'll write more.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Notes from the South/West

Indigenous People's Day (October 14th)- Tucson, AZ
This morning, I sat in the golden rays of the Arizona sun praying for healing of ancestral wounds and for continued guidance on this path I'm on. Though today is a day for mourning of the violence and genocide against my indigenous ancestors' whose names I'll probably never know, it is also a day of reflection on our innate power and connection to that energy that is the essence of all that has made sure that we as a People survive. We are not less than. We are not weak...we are not broken. We are beautiful spirits that need only realize the rich soil and strong roots from which we come from. And as black and brown people who share many of the same roots, it's important for us to learn about our suppressed histories together. That's the message I got in deep prayer and meditation today. No one can be liberated while anyone is subjugated or exploited. No one can live with ease while others suffer. And we cannot know our own complete histories without acknowledging those of our brothers and sisters We cannot be whole without realizing we are only a part of the whole. A drop in the sea.

October 15th- Tucson, AZ

What an amazing day. Spent some quality time taking a stroll through downtown Tucson with OG zinester (we're talkin 90s punk predecessor) Mimi Nguyen- creator of Slander, the Race Riot series, The Gift of Freedom, and other writings. We saw this ironic, gem of a billboard that said "You belong here." With some light-skinned Latino man. Ummmmm?

We moseyed to Antigone, a feminist radical bookstore, with huge lesbian and gay fiction sections and an indigenous spirituality section with white shaman authors. Womp womp. We ate delicious Ethiopian food at a place called Cafe Desta with some of the dope collective members of MalintZine. Performed with Anna Vo (Author of Fix My Head) and Nykky Gomez (Founder of Brown Recluse Zine Distro and author of Skinned Heart zine) at Skrappy's Youth Collective. (How awesome is that? A space for youth!) There were sooo many rad black and brown folks that attended. I read a piece on Black and Brown Solidarity and organizing for immigrant rights , some poems on my heritage and "For the Descendants of the Freedom Fighters and Riders" and a piece entitled "The Master's Tools". Tucson has really felt like a home away from home.

October 17th- Los Angeles, CA

Watching the sun rise over LA from a cliff in Echo Park I am realizing that I needed this tour more than I could ever know. Already I am inspired to do and be so much more. And this is more than an IS the Path. Sometimes we spend so much time looking for it or trying to walk on it and it's already here. We're walking it- no- we actually ARE the path. I not only embody the tears, pain, and joy of my ancestors but I also embody all that they ever wanted for themselves and their descendants. I am the inner peace that I've sought since childhood. I already have the freedom I've been searching for.   
As the sun comes up over the mountains, our ancestors, I see in the amber dawn my own inner transformation - all that I am experiencing on this trip. My own dawning. I know that I can never return as the person who walked onto this trailer/tour bus- overpacked, slightly burnt out with organizing and white folks tokenizing, and transitioning through the next steps of this so-called adult life. I'm nearing the end of this transition with a new take on purpose and new inspiration from the others on this trip/that we encounter on this trip who share many of my ideals. People I never dreamed could exist, let alone all be on the same bus together co-creating radical safe spaces for brown folks and dialogue, city to city.
In one week it's even clearer to me now that there are certain things I'm here to do (in Life). I can't be distracted by society's expectations for me or people's projections or insecurities. I know who I am and that I'm capable of more than I ever could have imagined. I will no longer subject myself to limitations from myself or others.  I have to live my life in alignment with my ancestors' deepest aspirations- and I guarantee it wasn't to assimilate into white supremacist, homo/transphobic, sexist, ableist ideals. It wasn't to perpetuate the "othering" of whole communities or to turn my back on those who are suffering while others live in excess. 
In all honesty I don't care about the "1%". I'm tired of talking about white privilege and whiteness but unfortunately, in this world we have to care because until we come together in solidarity and actually decide we will no longer abide by racist/homophobic/sexist/ableist laws, policies, and societal standards- until we decide to create brand new systems and paradigms- we must continue to mind our p's and q's and "shuck and jive" for our own survival.   
You know what the sunrise taught me? It taught me that there is a such thing as a beautiful, silent (but not as in voiceless), burning resistance. It is patient and persistent. Assertive. Omnipresent. Though we think the sun has set or disappeared, it's still there, burning with the same intensity...ready for the next upRise. Like clockwork. We, as a people, should take notes from the Sun.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Race Riot! POC Zine Project Tour

Well folks-

I'm having an amazing time on the Race Riot! Tour. I don't have instagram and I barely use tumblr or twitter so I'm going to try and document a little bit here with other peeps' photos. So, photo credit to all the coordinators with awesome cameras and social media prowess.

I hopped onto the tour in Austin after the kickoff in New Orleans and a few events in Houston and College Station.

Puro Chingon Collective hosts us in Austin, TX

Our Altar 

Me reading a piece about "Food Forests" historical racism and the displacement of POC in Austin

More Photos HERE.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

 Above: Me, Jodi, Anna Vo, and Chula Doula/Pati Garcia
Tabling at the Tannex

 Me reading "The Thing about Poverty" and "Post-Racial Who?" from Notes from an Afro-Genderqueer 2

On the way to Tucson...

    Anna Vo and I play Afro-Speed with Afro-centric playing cards. 

Driving through Texas took forever and a day and we experienced much racism during the few stops we took. I can't say I felt much pride in my state. But then, there are very few moments when I do anyway.

The first morning in New Mexico a white man in a huge red truck saw me from the highway access road and turned in as he saw me walking through the motel parking lot to our trailer. He knocked on the door and another tour member answered since I was in the back and he said..

"I know this might seem crazy but the Lord gave me a message for you..."

And they slammed the door on the man. I can't help but think about how many times this is how people get assaulted, kidnapped, etc. We beefed up on security a bit (asking our driver to defend us with some of her top secret weaponry) and headed out to Albuquerque.
I can't believe how cold it gets at night.

The Tannex hosted us and it's a really rad space with a zine library. The local performers were amazing. Waylaid was a percussion-y-zapateando-y-singing/poetry trio experience. Then this badass chicana feminist from the border took the stage and just lit it on fire with her poems. Her name's Jessica Helen Lopez and she is the founder of La Palabra- The Word is a Woman, a female writer's collective that celebrates and empowers femininity through creative endeavors. She's also author of the book of poetry "Always Messing with them Boys" (on West End Press) which we had the pleasure of hearing her read from.

Anna Vo read from her Fix My Head zines and Chula Doula let us in on the literature (Hot Pants, Radical Doula and Freeing Ourselves) she's selling for different groups/organizations. Last up was the founder of the Tannex and the Albuquerque Zine Fest, Marya Errin Jones, who read from her zine about the first black female pilot-Bessie Coleman.

What an honor to be a witness to the performers in Albuquerque. We just got into Tucson late last night with no qualms at checkpoints. We avoided I-10 like the plague and here we are after a frosty night, basking in the sun and catching up on our blogging/writing/rest. We have 2-3 events here in Tucson and then we're off to L.A. next week!

Stay tuned for more...

and find out more about our tour dates here.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Joys of Job Hunting while Trans- Part 2

This weekend I immediately knew exactly why I didn't get hired. 
Because I'm trans. It's happened to me many times in the last few years, which is why I'm so certain. It always starts out the same...the HR Director calls you, becomes enamored, and you make it to the next round of interviews and woo everyone. You do well on all the screening and tests and they're excited. And then either I show up, in person, dressed in my usual “masculine” clothing and there's a shift, or another person comes in to interview me and even after all the smiles and the “go ahead “of the first two folks there's a shift. It's always something like, 'I'm not a good cultural fit' or there were better qualified candidates'...but this time I guess I was more sensitive to the shift that happened in the room on that fourth interview.

Maybe because the shift was so abrupt. I'd just spent all this time smiling and laughing and talking about my past as an organizer and how my food justice background fit in great with the company and she was practically talking like I'd already gotten the job. She was talking about me sitting on the diversity council and these different committees the company has. She also said I'd scored higher than anyone ever on the quiz they gave us. They also dug my creativity in the 2nd interview.

And then, she called in her white, male boss.

He came in and looked at me. I didn't think he'd be a “problem.” He barely looked at my resume, thumbing through it, he asked the same questions she'd asked and apologized for it. Then he saw “TBTS” and that I'd “worked” there. He asked what TBTS is. I thought, well, surely someone had read my detailed description of my position with this resource guide for trans folks, I mean I'd come this far in the process. But my gut told me, this was not going to be cool.

I told them what it stood for, Trans Bodies, Trans Selves and that it was a resource guide for gender non-conforming folks. The interviewer who'd just interviewed me, my would-be supervisor kind of just stared but was trying not to make a face. Her supervisor's face changed visibly and he ended the interview right there and they said they were going to step outside and talk. I knew right away that this wasn't going to be good.

She came back in and her tone had changed. She asked if I had any questions. I said most had been answered in the last interview and she started apologizing for the long interview process, which I found odd. Then I remembered to ask her about start dates and she skirted around the issue and I knew for sure then that I hadn't gotten the job. They'd told us orientation dates at the last interview orientation, why was she not telling them to me now? She walks me out of the back room and tries to be nice and ask what I'm going to do for the rest of the day and kind of rushes me off saying she'd be in touch by Monday. She'd mentioned earlier that her boss's boss was out of town and they still had to go over the other pool of applicants together.

I walked home feeling confused and defeated. The next day (a day earlier than when she said she would get back to me) I got an email and I knew before I opened it that it was a rejection letter.

“[Legal Name that I'd told them I never use]thank you for your interest in growing a career with[company name].
The search to locate an ideal candidate for the position at [company name]has provided [company name]with many outstanding applicants such as you and we sincerely appreciate your time and effort. At this time we are proceeding forward with other candidates.
You are welcome to apply for any open position at [company name].”

So after rocking out three interviews and testing well, there were mysteriously better candidates.

I'm not setting foot in that place again. It's sad because there aren't any quality health/food stores around here and I will have to go out of my way to avoid not being a patron of this place.

I feel shame for even being upset about not getting this job. This is the very place that made me feel uncomfortable when I first moved to this side of town. I always felt like people were watching what I was buying, like, “oh...I didn't know brown people eat kale!”

I kid you not...a few weeks ago I had my headphones on (because it makes me feel more comfortable in that environment) and I was reeeeally focused on the particular section I was at and out of the corner of my eye I see a little old white lady flagging me down. I mean, trying really hard to get my attention. I slowly turn my head to see what's going on and she says something about liking my hat or my outfit or something.


Has your privilege and entitlement gotten you to that point? The point where you think everyone must stop what they're doing to acknowledge you and listen to whatever it is you have to say about their wardrobe? I've also had other choice moments of feeling uncomfortable that are too many to mention.

So why did I apply here?

You really want to know? I needed the money and I was close to doing work in the “informal economy”. You know, where a lot of trans folks end up. Those positions that are always hiring people like us.

The store called me back the next day after I'd completed my online application and I convinced myself that it would be great to work at a whole foods-like store while I also was picking up hours at the local farmer's market associated with my last food justice job.

Never mind that I had the sneaking sensation that I would be perpetuating this age-old assumption in Austin that brown people are here to serve white people. It's like...wherever you go, brown people are cleaning up after them, serving them meals, etc. So when they ask you if you work there when you know damn well you don't...well you know where that comes from.

There's this expectation that you, as a brown person, should be subservient. You don't see black and brown businessmen here hardly ever. Why? Because they aren't a good “cultural fit” just like I'm not a good “cultural fit”. And when they say that you aren't a “good cultural fit” that generally means that they can't say racist jokes comfortably in front of you or they feel like they won't be able to “relate” to your “people”. It means they can't make fun of queer people or other marginalized folks without getting called on it or fired. So better not to hire you at all.

I think there's also some HR theory somewhere that says that you can't hire a brown person unless you hire one or two others at the same time. Some kind of pseudo-critical mass. So when I looked around the group interview the other day, I thought, 'Uh oh'. But, then I saw that the others were mostly light skinned Latinas and I was a little more relieved. Dark brown, light brown- it's still pseudo-critical mass, right? Ahhh but I was the only female-bodied person in a tie and a men's dress shirt. But I made it through that interview. It was when I was alone in the fourth interview with the white man that all my identities...brown, queer, trans- oh and let's not forget the natural hair- became too much! Overload! I couldn't possibly be a good cultural fit.

I was down and out for a bit. Kicking myself for caring. Kicking myself for forgetting that this is how it goes for me. I thought long and hard, and the only paying jobs I've gotten in the last few years have been 1) Americorps VISTA and 2) phone interviews.

Would I have gotten those jobs had I shown up in person? I think we know the answer. They may have chosen another candidate who didn't challenge their perceptions. Or maybe they would have hired me to get “liberal” and “progressive” points. “Hey Bob...I totally hired a brown person today. And guess what! They were trans too! With natural hair!” *High 5s Bill and Randy*
Friends are down to help me fight this. They want me to go to the EEOC, the company's HR department, lawyers,etc. but I honestly don't have a lot of fight in me right now. I'm looking for jobs. I'm trying to survive. This is how they get us. They know we can't afford to deal with their bigotry.

And say I did fight this. Then what? Would they give me a job? Would I want that job? An elder told me the other day that the best thing I could do is get hired and through my work ethic prove that they were wrong about me. But, I'm over that. I'm not here to convince people that I'm a human being that deserves respect like everyone else. They have trainings for that.
I'm not here for that.

It reminds me of something a student said in a workshop I facilitated on Power and Privilege. A student, a black woman, said that it was the black man's responsibility to not be like the stereotypes that are out go above and beyond the stereotypes. I asked the two other black men what they thought, and they agreed. I was shocked...but not for long. 

We can't survive with that mentality.

No. It is not our responsibility to prove to anyone who has these biases and prejudices that these false assumptions and expectations are, in fact, wrong. That makes absolutely no sense. White people aren't preoccupied with that. I feel like it's brown folks who are always wondering about what it means if they speak, dress, or act a certain way. I find myself constantly monitoring what I wear out in certain parts of town, if I wear my hair out in certain places, if my hands are visible enough in stores, if my clothing will attract the wrong kind of attention from cops or suburbanites, and the list goes on and on. I don't know what it feels like to not have these mental checklists regarding my appearance and its affect on other people's behavior. I just don't.

So then the shame. How dare I walk in to this bougie store full of white upper class people and expect them to see me for who I am. How dare I buy into the hype. How dare I think I'm human and not just some invisibilized object that serves, speaks when spoken to, or who moves out of the way when they want me to. A nobody who accepts that I can't have certain jobs because of who I am. My identity in itself is just too political. Why don't I erase some pieces of me, so that I can belong?

But I know more than anyone that I never can. I never will. I am brown. I am queer. I am trans. Many, many people in this world wish that I did not exist. They wish my words would fall on deaf ears. It's overwhelming sometimes when I think of how many people wish me not only jobless, but lifeless. How many people would take my life because of who I am. Because of who they think I am and what I represent.

It's a lot. And I don't want to smile. I want to feel this. I don't want to be delusional. I want to acknowledge this. And I don't want to just be content knowing that this job just wasn't for me. I want to be real and know that most jobs out there aren't for people like me.

But I'm here.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Joys of Job hunting while Trans- Part 1

As much as I wish that people were clamoring to hire me for a lucrative position at some ridiculously amazing think tank or organization, I have to be real and say that with this shining, stellar economy, pickin’s are slim. I can’t quite figure out which part of my identity is keeping me from landing jobs, either. Is it my skin color? Is it my visible queerness- i.e. transmasculinity? Is it the long list of queer-related or identity-oriented organizing on my resume? Is it the ethnocentric degree? All of the above?

Many don’t seem to realize the additional barriers present when I’m applying for jobs. Some think that it’s about toning something down. As if I could hide my transness, wipe off my brownness or have some skeleton of a resume, missing the last 5 years of the activism I’ve done. (Though you can be sure I've tried these things, unsuccessfully...all but wiping off the brownness, of course).

When did places start asking your gender (they mean "sex") and “legal” name? I didn’t realize how upsetting that can get after a few weeks. I mean…when I show up I’ve already set the stage for being misgendered and they’re calling me a name that hardly anyone has called me this decade. It’s annoying and it makes me feel shame. Shame for not paying the hundreds of dollars to have my name changed years ago. Shame for feeling shame that I don't look the way they expect me to look to call me by the proper pronouns.

Here's a true scenario-
at a four hour interview three girls and I showed up and the recruiter kept referring to our group as “ladies”.  “So glad we’re all a bunch of ladies…now I can talk about how proud I am that this company was started by ladies.” “Oh all you ladies get it…” etc. When I came into the back room for the group interview I panicked because they’d put our names on the desk and I didn’t see mine anywhere. I was just about to mention it when I remembered…hey, they probably put my legal name. I didn’t even recognize my legal name. Call it cognitive dissonance. It happens a lot lately.

I realize that I’m at an interesting impasse. As a "feminine-looking", masculine presenting person who has decided not to take testosterone or transition, people tend to just assume I’m a butch lesbian. The fact that I’m a different gender doesn’t really register, I find. I get it. But does the application process have to be so highly set up for me to fail? My cursor often hoovers over M or F. Well, if I say F…I’m lying and if I say M, they’ll think I’m lying when I show up at the interview.

I don’t want to put my legal name but it is still my legal name. I could just put what I go by anyway, but I’ve done that before and it’s been a bust. Prospective employers get upset when their paperwork has to be redone and they feel as if you’ve lied to them over something as “trivial” as a nickname. They don’t realize the gravity of it for trans folks. Sometimes we’ve spent decades trying to get away from a name that traps us in a gender that doesn’t match. I have no love for my legal name. It makes me feel hollow. It hasn’t been “me” in a very long time. Like- ever. So, having to always start there during the hiring process doesn’t make me feel all that great. In fact, sometimes I shut down. Sometimes I won’t apply at all. Sometimes I get really depressed and shame surfaces.

Some folks think that I should just be who the job wants me to be til I get hired. They think I should wear feminine clothing. Be less trans. But for me, that’s worse than just being me and not getting hired. At least then I know that the people who thought I wasn’t a good “cultural fit” were bigots. I remember being in my early 20s and having to dress the women’s dress code during the day and coming home and ripping off those clothes and throwing on an undershirt and basketball shorts or a dress shirt, jeans, and shoes from the "men's section" at night. It really began to mess with my head. Who was I? I didn’t want to keep up the charade so I completely started dressing in men’s clothing daily and I felt so much better. It was such a weight off my shoulders, not having to parade around dressed as a gender that didn’t resonate.

I was more confident and the guys I worked with saw this and respected me more. That’s a whole other conversation, though- being inducted into the boy's club (because I slept with women and then this being further cemented as a member when I started wearing ties). It wasn’t exactly what I was going for and once there, it definitely wasn’t what I wanted. Free lap dances at the strip club after work, hearing about them cheating on their wives or wanting to, hearing about how big so-and-so’s breasts were, all the time. Ah the financial industry! Full of bros and misogyny. Such not so fond times over a decade ago when men took me into their fold and thought they’d try to relate to my masculinity in every problematic way possible.

I guess that's another entry waiting to happen...
Stay tuned for part 2 of the joys of job hunting while Trans...I've still got interviewing to do.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tu Lucha es Mi Lucha: More than Acknowledging each others' struggles, Organizing for Immigrant Rights

A page from my journal this summer:

Yesterday, we went to Polk Detention Center and protested and had a vigil for Father's Day. There were about 100 people there- from babies to elders. The security officers watched the whole time and we were relegated to a fifty yard patch of grass (with lots of ant hills). It was sweltering hot- in the upper 90s- and humid. We made two 4 hour trips for a 2 1/2 hour demonstration, but we got some press. The Observer went on the ride with us and Telemundo met us at the detention center. Texans United for Families also sent out some press releases. 

The Larger Movement: Dignity not Detention- Expose and Close

It's all part of a larger movement, the Dignity not Detention Campaign, with the Detention Watch Network to bring awareness to expose and close these horrible immigrant detention centers owned by private companies who treat people as if they're nothing more than a way to make profit. Polk Detention Center is one of the worst in the nation according to recent reports.
Human rights violations and sexual assault run rampant in these centers and the DWN seeks to challenge the injustices of the U.S. immigration detention and deportation system. 

Families Torn Apart:

Having a Father's Day vigil 

Video here

Families are constantly being torn apart because of the assumption that this country belongs to anyone other than the First Nation's people. 

There are so many causes to work toward but only working on single issue battles is not going to bring about the revolution. We must organize across issues and support each other in our struggles. Indigenous, immigrant, black, brown, white, young, old, disabled, able-bodied, chornically ill and healthy, queer and straight.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. 
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Our struggles may not look the same but the roots are similar. The colonizers of this country, built on the extermination and subjugation of thousands, have never been kind to "Others". Othering is the basis of domination- othering is the basis of genocide. When you fail to see the humanity of people you deem different than yourself, it is easy to be a cause of their suffering - voluntarily or involuntarily.

The culture of this country is wrapped up in individualism. Those of us not born into wealth, entitlements, or privilege often find ourselves fighting with each other for scraps of the American Pie. We constantly have to try to go to sleep to catch a glimpse of the American Dream.

But what is this dream but the values and aspirations of a now-minority?  
Is it what our ancestors would have wanted for themselves or for their descendants?

When immigrants and migrant workers cross the border to escape genocide or to escape conditions in which they cannot survive (largely due to intervention from imperialist countries such as our own- see Harvest of Empire) why is it ok to allow for our law enforcement to detain them, separate them and their families, violate their human rights and/or send them back to those countries to die?

Why is this not our problem? 

I realize that when we, ourselves, are trying to survive that fighting for the rights of others can seem like more than we can bare- and that's because it is. We have to do this together. We have to come together and fight for our basic human rights. Not just for one group's rights over another. Not for a feigned sense of  "equality". Don't you see that we can never, ever be "equal" under this system? That would require shared power in a way that is just not possible with the way this country was built. 

When the "fathers" of this nation said that all men were to be created equal, they didn't mean immigrants or any other people of color or women. These folks, these others, were not even considered human. They were possessions. They were chattel and this was in the eyes of the law. 

So, the sharing of power cannot happen in a system that is meant to run only by the subjugation of others. It is fueled by inequality. This is why we are pitted against each other. So many people try to assimilate into the dominant culture's values only to find out that 100% assimilation can never happen. No matter how educated you are or how much money you accumulate or how much of your culture you leave behind, you are still seen as lesser than. 

POC have fought each other for years to be one step above the other...a few rungs down from "the man"...but this isn't equality. With structural racism (and all structural oppression) there can be no equality. As long as we turn our backs on human rights violations anywhere, there can be no equality. There will always be an "other" and a "lesser than" who is not seen fit to have a certain amount of power. Someone to be policed, criminalized...subjugated.

As a defense mechanism, the marginalized subjugate each other. The oppressed oppress each other. There's always got to be someone who is weaker.

Another look at Equality vs. Equity

Pretend "equal access"

ex: saying people of color and whites can all go to school so all have equal opportunity for education and therefore have the same access to good jobs.
issue: schools on the black/brown side of town may be of poorer quality and get less funding, therefore an education from one of these schools isn't exactly competitive with higher ranked schools.

"leveling the playing field"
ex: affirmative action: people of color and whites with similar scores and qualifications can get into college but because of a lesser percentage of POC applying to college (for many reasons) they may be given priority

Of course this brings up all kinds of emotions for folks around what they've "earned". No one wants to think that they haven't earned something or that someone got a free ride. 

Who has "earned" their citizenship? Who "belongs" here? Most of us are the descendants of immigrants or people forced to immigrate for various reasons. But is being here for two, three or four generations grounds enough to belong here more than someone else? Does that justify the exploitation of those who haven't been here as long - at the hands of Big Agriculture and other industries? Is it ok if some people aren't "equal"? Maybe we can't be bothered with their equality and we don't care about a sense of equity.

I notice that whenever I post something on my facebook pages about immigration or undocumented queer immigrants, that no one comments. Is it because people don't understand the issue or don't know much about the issue? Or is that people think the issue doesn't concern them? Or worse, do people really think that some do not deserve to be in this country no matter the reason or that people should go about doing things the "right" way? Citizenship that is. I can't be sure. Maybe it's all of the above.

All I know is- que tu lucha es mi lucha. I'm not struggling alone and I refuse to buy into some meritocracy saying that I deserve more (or less!) than someone else or that anyone has less rights than I do because of where they were born. Xenophobia kills. It permeates the fabric of this country, originating before its "founding". Sometimes immigrants are quick to assimilate into the American Dream, othering folks from other countries or their own country and believing that they deserve to be here more. 

Have you seen what is happening to the actual people who "deserve" to be here? Why do so few stand in solidarity with them? Why do folks get bent out of shape when we talk decolonization? 

And we're back to entitlement, no wait...merit...

The truth is that we all deserve basic human rights and until everyone has them...there is no true freedom. Another's exploitation will always be a threat to everyone's liberation. 

For the descendants of the freedom riders and fighters on this 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. (a poem)

Silence and stillness 

as I write my own future into 

Carving my own path, the cosmos are listening
poised to conspire. 
The journey within, mirroring the journey without. 

The stars, my ancestors- 
swirling conspirators on this liberatory voyage. 
Chains dissolving with every moment of awareness. 

I am Free. 
We are Free. 

Not "at last"- 
no, always and everlasting. 

Spirit knows no cages. 

Enveloped in the stillness, 
my ancestors whisper songs about 
beyond comprehension to 
those who don't talk to the Ocean 
or sit with Trees. 

How can we know Freedom 
without acknowledging co-existence, 
and more importantly, 
that I am You. 

Though my path seems solitary- 
though my dreams seem singular, 
our wants, needs and aspirations are 

So when I sit in silence, 
writing my future into existence. 
I think about your future, too. 

As I carve my path, 
I think about your path, too. 

And the Universe conspires for both of us. 
Our journeys coincide. 
Our chains dissolve together 
as we realize that our struggles are not separate, 
our paths are not separate,