Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Response to "Transphobic and Racially Confused" by Brandon Lacy Campos to Dirtywhiteboi67

photograph of Brandon Lacy Campos is from here
NOTE: I may just pull this post. I am so not a fan of Dirtywhiteboi67's manner of engaging on these issues that I'm wondering why I picked up this issue as I did. I guess for me it's the issue of "the disappearance of lesbian feminism", most especially that promoted and developed by women of color such as Audre Lorde, Barbara Smith, Cheryl Clarke, and so many other great women over the last many decades in the U.S. and beyond.

As I do not (as yet) have Brandon Lacy Campos's permission to cross-post his reply to Dirtywhiteboi67, I'm going to link to it here, and below that put my comment to him, which has been submitted but has not yet been approved--I'll full respect his decision to not post any of my comments. I may also write to him and ask him not to post any of them.

But, regardless, I kind of hope Brandon is willing to engage with me on some of these issues, when his time and energy allow. He has been doing great work in the queer community as an activist and poet for a long time and I don't presume that engaging with another white person on these issues is or ought to be atop his list of priorities. In case you are not familiar with him, here's some bio details from the end of last year:
Brandon Lacy Campos is a 32-year-old queer, poz, African-American, Afro-Puerto Rican, Ojibwe and Euro (smorgasbord) poet, playwright, blogger, journalist and novelist (that last one is slowly coming along). In 2009, MyLatinoVoice.com named him the #2 queer, Latino blogger to watch. In 2006, the Star Tribune named him a young policy wonk for his political shenanigans. His writing and poetry have appeared in numerous anthologies including, most recently, Mariposas, edited by Emanuel Xavier and published by Floricanto Press. This fall, his work will appear in the academic text Queer Twin Cities, published by the University of Minnesota Press. And, one of these days, Summerfolk Press will be publishing his first solo book of poetry: It Ain't Truth If It Doesn't Hurt. Brandon is hard at work on his first novel, Eden Lost, and he lives in New York City with his partner, artist David Berube, and his boss, Mimzy Lacy Berube de Campos (their dog). [source for this bio info and the image above it: *here*]
Hey Brandon, where's your book with David? I've been looking for it, for info about it, online.

Before reading on, I hope the y'all will familiarise yourself with the background, short though it may be, of this most recent exchange between Dirtywhiteboi67 and Brandon. For the record, I have no knowledge of who Dirtywhiteboi67 is, nor what her history of activism is, if any. I don't support her racism, her white privileged behavior, and her call to withdraw any time or resources from The Audre Lorde Project. I find her effort truly misguided and racist, as well as grossly misogynistic and transphobic. I have nothing but admiration for TALP and the work they do. Some of what I'm saying here will make a bit more sense when you read what follows, but I want to be up front with some of this now.

I don't doubt that Audre Lorde might not give a damn that someone at TALP would refer to her as queer. I have come across Brandon's name and some of his responsible, caring work and have regard and respect for him. I support him calling out Dirtywhiteboi67's gross racism and white supremacist privileges.

The story, thus far, may be read at these two posts:



Here is my reply:

Hey Brandon,

Thank you for your response to Dirtywhiteboi67. I am personally angered by white folks--male, female, or intersex, trans or cis, thinking they/we have the right to get up in faces of people of color about matters which they/we know little to nothing about and attempt to gain white supremacist control of every exchange or conflict. I appreciate and support your anger at the obnoxiously white-racist aspects of what Dirtywhiteboi67 is doing in her response on her blog to the issue of Audre Lorde being referred to as queer, and have come out on my blog opposing her call to withdraw funds and time to TALP.

I personally and politically don't feel TALP is beholden to anyone other than those people who work there and receive services and support due to their work. I am very grateful there are organisations like TALP and wish there was this type of organisation in every major city, or any place where queer folks need support. Thank you for being part of the group of caring people who have put time and energy into TALP.

I am similarly troubled by males and men across race attempting to silence women of any race, which is partly what I experience you doing above. I don't believe your male privilege, power, and entitlements, including the privilege, power, and entitlement to tell women to shut up and never speak again to an issue of lesbian visibility, goes away just because you're queer and of color. Nor does mine. I'm white, male, Jewish, intergender, gay, and disabled. I cross places of privilege and oppression, as do you. And, structurally and socially, I'm your oppressor and you're not mine and I get that.

It was upsetting to me to see Audre, who fought very hard, as any of her friends know, to identify as lesbian, to have her termed something other than what she termed herself. I don't believe Barbara Smith or anyone else speaks for Audre Lorde; I look to Barbara Smith to speak for herself and am so glad she has done the work she's done as a Black, feminist, lesbian writer, and as a publisher of great books. I look to Alice Walker, Cheryl Clarke, Angela Davis, Marimba Ani and any other living radical woman of color to name their realities and advance womanist, feminist, and pro-revolutionary theory and practice.

I am troubled by some of the ways you appear to me to disregard a white woman who was speaking to the issue of not invisibilising lesbianism, which, in my profeminist view, is a woman's issue across race. In my experience queer males across race and ethnicity have had a hand in collaborating together to dismiss and disrespect lesbians of color for decades, including by refusing to engage responsibly and respectfully with radical lesbian activists and writers of all colors. I'm not, in any way, accusing you of invisibilising lesbians of color. I'm just concerned about some of the ways that you are protesting a white woman's call to make lesbianism more visible. How many men do you know who put aside their male privileges to engage with the work of feminists and womanists, especially lesbian-identified writers and activists? I can count on one hand the number of men I know. And, I'm not sure I'd even have responded to Dirtywhiteboi67, were I in your shoes. And, if I worked at TALP, I'd probably find most of what she had to express annoying as hell, and also racist as hell.

Given that Audre Lorde was radical, lesbian, and feminist, what I am unclear about is this: why would you (or anyone else) seek to deny Lorde her lesbian identity, and instead put that identity under a larger banner of "queer"?

I identify as queer, intergender, and gay, and welcome anyone using any of those terms for me. Audre identified, as far as I know, as a gay-girl earlier in her life, and later as explicitly lesbian and feminist.

Across class and race, and especially in the last fifteen to twenty years, there has been an effort to invisibilise lesbians of color in the media and beyond, as such. Does that concern you as a queer male who respects Audre's work? Do you find it male supremacist of you to not only tell a woman to shut up and to remain silent but also to refer to her as "sweetness", and to psychologise her anger? All of that comes across as to me as overtly misogynistic and disrespectful. In what ways are you not treating her the way men, across race, typically mistreat women, across race? Do you believe your work with women of color, or your structural, social position as a man of color who works with queer-identified women entitles you to be misogynistic to white lesbian women?

It is my experience that the more privileges one has obtained socially--particularly if male and/or white and a U.S.er with academic privileges, the more structurally and institutionally entitled it appears one is to demand to be named as one sees fit. Few Black women I know have ever had the option or the structural entitlement to be named by society as they wish to be named--or even to be seen as fully human. Men and whites are always at the ready to put Black women of any sexuality in the boxes they wish to see them in.

I am supportive of many projects, including the Audre Lorde Project, and also the work of Aishah Simmons and Tiona McClodden, in particular, to support visibility of Black lesbians.

As someone within the trans community, isn't our politic one of respecting how we name ourselves rather crucial to establishing supportive community? Can you appreciate how it could be seen by lesbian-identified women and wimmin that having Audre referred to as queer is yet another act of invisibilising lesbianism among women of color?

I posted on this issue as well, and welcome your comment-response to my blog, as well as permission to cross-post your reply here to my blog. Here is the link to my initial post, which pre-exists your response to Dirtywhiteboi67:


I welcome healing, respectful, productive, constructive engagement. I find that with venues like Facebook and other Internet meeting places, including blogs, the level of mutual respect and regard across difference has deteriorated substantially. I hope our exchange can not call for either of us to be silent, but rather to speak to one another with respect, across difference.

I hope your efforts with TALP are going well and looking financially healthy through 2011. If there are fund-raising efforts or events connected to TALP that I can post here, I'd be more than happy to do so.