gay/trans history


This film was was made and released in 2014/2015.

This film was was made and released in 2014/2015.

Five Stars

I was pleasantly surprised! It sat on my shelf for a while until I got around to it. I’m glad that I did. It wasn’t what I thought it was going to be – it’s not a political correctness polemic.

It’s surprising how taboo this subject seems to have been.  The film – the director/writer/producer/actor’s personal journey – is therefore fascinating. It explores some of the mechanics of voice; the cultural meanings; and the misogyny behind this question.

Ultimately, very much an affirmation for being yourself; for being queer, even.

 

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Patti Smith and Robert Maplethorpe at Coney Island in 1969 – the cover of her autobiographical book “Just Kids”

I was 20 years old when Patti Smith’s album “Horses” came out. If you walked into a hip record store back then and heard that album playing, you knew that the world had made a seismic shift.

Just Kids is the kind of book that is nice to have around. More than a page-turner, it’s the kind of book that’s nice to pick up again, to be once again inspired by. You want to savor it, not try and soak it all up in one go. Patti is detailed about her influences, for example – a nice quality in any biography. Her story is thus imbued with layers of meaning, showing intention.

Yet there is space within it in which to imagine one’s own interpretations. It works very simply – it is good storytelling.

She tells of the close personal, creative and spiritual collaboration she shared with Robert Maplethorpe; of their ongoing dialogue. It was/is timeless. No one can speak of Maplethorpe’s work with more authority – their story seems essentially and inextricably linked.

It is at times a very plain, simple story of poverty and struggling to get by. Humble, waif-like beginnings, humility; and deep within the core of that, an essential understanding, confidence and belief in one’s self.

Simple, aesthetic pleasures – aren’t they the best kind? Choices had to be made about money: food or art materials?

Holding struggle sacred, as a part of artistic process; or alternatively, simply stating the reality of the way that it was. She makes that kind of commitment to art seem attractive and noble.

The value of having a muse, of collaboration. One is struck by the belief that they had in themselves, and in each other; how their combined vision gave them strength and maturity.

Contrasted with this was their unique position within the eye of a dizzyingly glamorous, historic cultural  and artistic milieu – New York in a time of incredible ferment. The Chelsea Hotel, Max’s Kansas City, the Andy Warhol scene; CBGB’s, punk rock, new wave, rock ‘n roll, poetry, art – they were there at the center of it all, participants. There was a change occurring in human consciousness…

She doesn’t candy coat or glamorize anything. She doesn’t need to – she was there. I liked her everyman/common man sensibility.

I like her perception and insight into Robert Maplethorpe’s early work – how it portrayed male gay sexuality in an entirely new aesthetic – with a simple, factual plain dignity.

Her narrative voice – her eye for detail, the movement of time and discernment of what’s important – makes herstory engaging.  She shares her artistic process and struggles. One gets a sense of integrity, spirituality and honor. It’s nice to learn the many sources of her inspiration and vision.

As autobiographies go – indeed, biographies – this one is a gem. It is good that she’s been able to share this story with us. It’s not something that’s easy to do. It takes a big heart – love, understanding and wisdom.

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On Thursday June 16th, I attended a screening of “Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria” put on by Radical Women. Here’s a blurb advertising the movie from the email:

“This Emmy Award-winning documentary tells the story of the first known collective uprising against queer oppression – a multi-racial rebellion in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district that took place three years before the Stonewall Riot in New York. The revolt connected to issues of police harassment, housing rights, war resistance, and sexual liberation. View and discuss this enlightening film.”

This is a very good synopsis and gives you the context within which it was viewed and discussed. And obviously, I was interested in the fact that it was started by a bunch of feisty transwomen.

It was shown at the Radical Women’s Freeway Hall.  It was the first time I’d been to one of their meetings. I thought it would be the perfect place to watch the movie – within a diverse community of like-minded people.  I was not disappointed. The people were friendly, kind, perceptive and very tuned-in.

At one point during the movie, everyone applauded and cheered, while I struggled to contain my own grief; it was just that powerful for me. It was the kind of grief you feel when you’re in a safe place, within a supportive community.

There was a lively discussion afterwards. Many perceptive points were brought up. A couple of people spoke about how women are expected to do painful things to their bodies in order to look “attractive”. The pros and cons of  “corrective surgery” and the right to choose was discussed. This was a very sympathetic and understanding crowd. This is the kind of experience I had been seeking & hoping for! As such it was very fulfilling.

During dinner beforehand, I met several people and chatted. One of the women (there were men there, too!) asked me if I was going to “Slutwalk” on Sunday. I said I’m not really into that kind of thing. She explained that the genesis of Slutwalk was a groundswell of response to a police officer in Toronto who, speaking at a safety & security panel at the university, advised that, “Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

Someone else chimed in with an example of  how rape is treated in our society: a woman had been gang-raped while attending a fraternity party in New York. In the trial that followed, she was subsequently grilled and smeared by the defense, as victims usually are (and often by the police in the course of their investigations – “What were you wearing?”)

She hadn’t in any way provoked the rape – as if rapists needed provocation! As if there were actually such a thing as “incitement to rape”. It’s just blaming the victim; all too familiar; all too common. So much so that it is internalized by the victims and society in general. What’s the subliminal message there?

I was convinced. I went to the gathering before the march at Bobby Morris Playfield in Cal Anderson Park. I even did my best to dress a little slutty. For a while people were just standing and milling around. I almost left. I wasn’t really “with anyone”, just there as an individual. Somehow, the thought that “this is a community, my community – and if not, let me make it so” – kept me there.

We marched down to Westlake Center. On the march and at the rally there, I kept having the impulse to leave. My boots were killin’ me, yo! lol

At the rally, after a bit of a wait, the impassioned words of the speakers kept me in thrall. Three women spoke about their rapes. Alyssa Royce, who spoke first, said that one 1 of 6 women are raped in their lifetimes (sounds a bit low.) Then she asked, “How many people here have been raped?” I held up my hand. It was a powerful moment. Grief swelled up in me. I fought the impulse to leave.

She spoke of the brutal rape she experienced when she was 18, woken in bed by a man with a gun that threatened to kill her and her father if she made any noise.

Christy Forester spoke courageously and movingly about her rape.  Cee Fisher of Radical Women spoke about people of color, saying how much more often that community is victimized. She also spoke passionately of the need for a strong feminist community – very inspiring. Thanks for that! Elizabeth Fawthrop of the International Socialist Organization spoke about activism around women’s rights to autonomy in reproductive care with the group Seattle Clinic Defense. The presenter/MC from Slutwalk Seattle spoke about men and children being victims, too. I thought about the high incidence of abuse in prison. Maria Gardner, a young transwoman of color, spontaneously got up and spoke  of her experience being raped, very courageous and eloquent.

One of my favorites was poet Tara Hardy. She read one poem and recited three.  All four poems just rolled out effortlessly, powerfully. One of my favorite lines encouraged the “Uncommon Woman” to “…wear your grief like a party dress…” It definitely spoke to me. I have a lot of grief issues.

All of the women were powerful speakers. It was so good to hear those strong, empowering feminist words ringing out in Westlake Center. Bystanders and people passing by stopped and stared with slack jaws. It was a good experience, an incredibly empowering event for me. I totally re-adjusted my thinking about a lot of stuff. I’m glad I was there.

Alyssa Royce speaks    first speaker, very moving

Poet Tara Hardy     I especially like the poem “Uncommon Woman”, which starts at 9:42

Cee Fisher speaks   for Radical Women

Christy Forrester speaks   very moving

Liz Fawthrop speaks    of the ISO and Seattle Clinic Defense

the MC/presenter and Maria Gardner speak     eloquently

Slutwalk Seattle.com  and  Slutwalk Seattle on Facebook – the organization. They need donations! It’s a great cause!

Seattle Clinic Defense – get involved!

Radical Women Seattle on Facebook

ISO Seattle on Facebook  and  Seattle ISO website

lots of photos of Slutwalk

The march paused at an intersection, photographer unknown. We had to pause repeatedly at intersections. It was annoying! Seems like it would’ve been easier for the police to just make traffic pause while we passed through. There were lots of gawkers with their camera phones stuck out at all the “sluts”.

the crowd gathers at Cal Anderson Park

at Cal Anderson Park

I love the expression on this guy’s face and the sense of community/family I get from this photo

Christy Forrester at Westlake Center

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