Think Be Do Forum Feature: Julian K. Glover

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This past fall we requested  submissions for the THINK BE DO Forum in response to Dirty Art Boi’s Naming the Myth Resisting the Myth.  Thanks to everyone who sent in a  submission however we are only able to select 4 to feature in the Forum. We will post  new pieces throughout May. 

 

We are excited to share our next guest piece for the THINK BE DO Forum by the very talented  Julian K. Glover. 12204605_10153347870557572_520458057_n

Julian K. Glover is an academic, activist, and performer who recently graduated from Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs with an MPA and has degrees in speech communications, music and sociology. He has been published in the Harvard Kennedy School’s LGBTQ Policy Journal is currently pursuing a PhD in African American Studies from Northwestern University where he works with E. Patrick Johnson. He has also worked for several national progressive organizations including the National LGBTQ Task Force, the National Center for Transgender Equality and the Center for American Progress in Washington DC.

 

Every breath a transwoman of color takes in an act of revolution”

Lourdes Ashley Hunter

I may not be a phenomenal woman, but I am an extraordinary queen!”

Tela La’Raine Love

You will stand with me at all of my intersections or none at all”

Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi

The nature of white supremacy relies on its ability to remain invisible. Blackness is ruthlessly and mercilessly interrogated while whiteness remains the default and thus, unchallenged. I have developed strategies to resist white supremacy after understanding the importance of centering the wisdom, experiences, knowledge and survival practices of trans people of color and specifically transwomen of color (TWOC).

While attending the 2015 National LGBTQ Task Force Creating Change Conference in Denver Colorado, I had an opportunity to attend a healing circle led by the National Director of the Transwomen of Color Collective (TWOCC) Lourdes Ashley Hunter. The purpose of this circle was to provide a collective space for transwomen of color to express their sorrows, trials, tribulations, triumphs and resilience in the face of the various systems of oppression that constantly expose the community to violence and death.

Though I was elated to attend the circle, I did not anticipate that the experience would be transformative for me. Witnessing TWOC speaking truth to power, engaging in collective healing and supporting one another in the face of a world that seeks to destroy them daily forced me to examine the various ways that I- as a cisgender person- was complicit in the subjugation and oppression of TWOC and the transgender and gender nonconforming community at large.

Not too longer after the healing circle and returning to the Midwest, I came to the conclusion that my liberation was dependent on the liberation of TWOC, the trans and gender nonconforming (GNC) community. Further, I realized that it was absolutely essential to not only center the trans (TWOC specifically) and GNC in our fight for liberation, but to demonstrate unconditional love, support and solidarity to that community as well. It is my belief that cisgender people who desire liberation will never achieve such a thing as long as we fail to love- physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally- the trans and GNC community.

Lest we forget that love is more than a discursive tool, but an action. We- as cisgender people who desire liberation- must learn how to love TWOC, the trans, and GNC community. We can do this by centering and highlighting their experiences while in protest of systemic oppression, critically listening to them and honoring their wisdom, making sure that they hold leadership positions in our organizations and allowing them to tell us exactly what we can do to improve their lives.

Too many times have I watched colleagues, family and friends who sincerely believe that they are being the best “ally” possible disavow and discount the analysis, wisdom, experiences and desires of those in the trans and GNC community. It is time for us (cisgender people) to acknowledge our cis-sexist privilege, humble ourselves and put our processed love of the trans and GNC community into action. It is through such actions that we can dismantle not just white supremacy, but also patriarchy, colonialism and even capitalism as well.

 

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Let Our Love

Nestled in the glow of our brown tones side by side,  Her curls ticked my nose, the softness of her cheeks warm my body. With her fists she gently beats on my chest and whispers “I just don’t want to be here anymore.”Had to pull her closer as my body silently rang back… “Me neither.”

I’ve held too many people as they weep for their lives. Thirsty for a reason to stay. Silently screaming. Floating on smiles saying “I’m fine” while everything within wants to die.

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If you didn’t hear me  before please hear me now. We need you. Please love please don’t go!  Let’s make our love everything we need to survive.

Let’s love like we’re our own life rafts
built to survive the moments when the waves of sadness come crashing down. Just Let our love. Even when the weight of the world shallows our breaths and bends our backs into prayers and depression. We will find the strength to stand again through the doors unlocked by the moans of our sex magic. Let our love as our bodies collide, sing, and stir divinity together.

Let’s love like we’re our own foundation rooted in the beauty sparked
when our minds touch. My body aches to hear you speak in the moments when we merge. Let our love be our favorite melody in the key of healing. Soothing Restoring Creativity. Please don’t rob me of the freedom I feel when you sing to me. Just let our love carry us like the clever sting of a good read with the power of sharp words.

Love, please hear me now. I need you to survive.
I’ve held too many people as they weep for their lives. Thirsty for a reason to stay. Silently screaming. Floating on smiles saying “I’m fine”  while everything within wants to die.  Love please don’t go. Let’s be everything we need to survive.

Politics of Trans Liberation

Below is a piece I prepared for Solidarity Summer School Panel on Trans Politics last month. The question was: What are your thoughts on oppression particularly against trans people of color and how to build a grassroots movement? Trying to skate away from tokenization and wanting to reframe conversations about oppression into freedom dreams I decided to share my ideas about trans liberation. I had 15 minutes to respond and chose to start with what trans liberation is not because there are so many people outside of my community defining the transgender experience in the media these days who I just disagree with. Then I shared a few ideas for building grassroots movements for trans liberation.

Politics of Trans Liberation

Solidarity Summary School, Thursday July 23, 2015, Chicago, Il

I enjoyed how Tiq Milan spoke of the current shifts in Trans politics…

The scope of emotions, questions and challenges we face within our families is emblematic of the cultural shift that’s happening right now. We’re all being challenged to understand gender as a spectrum of possibilities that is determined by the individual not something rigidly defined on a binary axis. The transgender experience is being addressed within the LGBT movement and explored within the broader population as a means of understanding. For so long, a lot of the engagement with the trans community has been antagonistic and shaming yet now we are pushing ourselves culturally to reexamine gender identity and how it’s created or defined.”Tiq Milan

While keeping that in mind and recognizing how we as trans and gender fluid people are continuing to suffer the highest rates of poverty, unemployment, incarceration, and hate motivated violence in the LGBTQ community. We have to remember that Trans Lib is more than employment, housing, safety, & respectability. Lets begin with what it is not before looking at some ideas for building grassroots movements for trans liberation.

Liberation is not…

           Gender Conformity Conformity is boring and oppressive. Gender is too complex to fit into any of your boxes and its naive to think all trans people are seeking the same outward display of gender. Telling me how well I “pass” is not a compliment. What surgeries I’ve had or might be thinking about are none of your business. Nor should physical changes be used as badges of approval and social capital in our communities. My trans liberation includes non gender conforming and gender fluid expressions of humanity.

Marriage Equality There are many privileges built into marriage in america that all people should have access to if they so choose. However the way the fight for marriage has been waged is a backdoor fight for access to the status quo not a challenge to how problematic it is to tie privileges to an institution thats not for everyone. Marriage equality fails to address many of major issues in everyday people’s lives such as suffer the highest rates of poverty, unemployment, incarceration, and hate motivated violence.

              Visibility Its time out for the type of representation in the media and arts that erases people of color, ignores or demonizes trans masculine people, waters down our diversity, complexity and beauty to make us palpable to our oppressors and in the efforts to keep hope alive for those who just want to assimilate to the status quo. No more” if you could just see how much we are just like you” narratives. I refuse to assimilate for you to respect my humanity.

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               Money or participating in capitalism, assimilation, the american dream, aka fuck your dirty notes and fiat currency.

               Dominance or more guns, wars, cops, and imperialism. Our blood is constantly being shed and we are constantly punished for standing up for our so called civil rights.  Its doubtful we will ever have the ability to manufacture or amass enough weapons to destroy our oppressors without killing the planet along the way. Liberation is not my ability to use violence to feel “safe”. I don’t want power by might but I will use might and any means necessary to protect myself and love ones.

               Equality Or Equity  I don’t want to be equal to white people, the so called average american, cis, hetero normative blah blah nor any other privileged person in society.  I want to build new ways of relating to and valuing life thats not dripping with the blood of oppression.

            

            Social Justice, my liberation is not progressive politics, liberalism,reformist politics, choosing between the lesser of two evils, or participation in any process that allows the U.S. government to masquerade as a civil society.  We have to build a new society stop pretending like the ship isn’t sinking and scurrying for crumbles from capitalists tables while licking the wounds from the oppression that holds the table together. There is no such thing as justice in a corrupt society driven by profit over people.

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Its difficult to untangle poor, black, trans, womanist, queer or any other aspect of myself and communities I’m tied to from my visions of liberation. One of my favorite writers and thinkers said this about liberation:

“We need Liberation, not this quasi-religious notion of sovereignty promoted by the Moors and other Black cults.  Liberation means we create Systems and Institutions for our own governance and security while removing the oppressive authority of White Domination from our lives.  Liberation requires us to dismantle oppressive Institutions and Systems, not just get out from under them and level them standing.  Liberation spreads to all life, to all ecosystems, not just a defined, exclusive population, that’s what sovereignty is, the freedom of a selected and predefined population. “  Diallo Kenyatta

Here are a few of my ideas for to Building Grassroots Movements for Liberation.

Prioritize Supporting and Learning with Young People

Organizations, conferences, organizers and activist to really need to prioritize cultivating young people, creating spaces for them to, learn challenge, build, and support the world we are fighting for.  Children aren’t just the future they are now and they are amazing. Our movements are weak and the work is futile without their insight and leadership.

More Coalitions That Aren’t driven by identity politics, good intentions of 501c3s, white saviors, and poverty pimping. Revolution, social change and require disciple. We have to know history and study strategy. We have to stop organizing in class based cliques, affinity groups and comfort zones. The people we are closest to yet irritate us the most, the people we share interests or privileges but choose to avoid cause in other ways we are so different, those are the people aka the masses,who we have to learn, organize and build with. Especially White people who love to go to POC orgs and communities to live and organize. Stop skating your responsibilities and go organize you father’s cousins and neighbors. For myself its the conservative christian family members who’s homo/transphobia cuts me like no other’s.

Less Reactionary Coalitions

We need to develop better processes to cultivate everyday working people and make spaces for the masses of people to lead their own struggles. People getting active is great but that activity growing out of dramatic moments makes sustainability challenging. Resistance to oppression has been present from the beginning of this country, there are plenty of books, movies, and veteran activists to share the art of successful organizing, we know how to win campaigns, spread info, develop leaders etc. We need more coalitions based on strategic targets, issues, and visions of liberation.

Get Really Serious About Funding Ourselves

We have to create and raise our own resources without strings attached in order to have independent sustainable grassroots movement.  Revolution will not be funded or supported by capitalism or foundations.  Call it co ops, social enterprise, hustling whatever. We need funds to fight capitalism a lot of the time. The rest of the time we should practice barter systems and other alternatives to fiat currency. Groups developing time banks and barter systems are slowly growing across the country.

Learn to Live Accountability

When the same intersections of oppression play through our bodies and actions we act like we have lost all our problem solving skills and ability to forgive. We need real commitments and opportunities to struggle through Accountability not just Proclaim it. Develop guidelines for relationship building and supporting each other to live the values and principles we love to proclaim but fall short of everyday. Falling short and hurting each other is apart of the human condition but we have lost to many groups campaigns, and people over internal conflict. Just because we are fighting the oppression doesn’t mean we are immune to perpetuating and profiting from it. We want to intellectualize and demonstrate all day for political ideas but run to our comfort zones, burnout, or drown in pain and trauma when we deceive or hurt each other. Learning how to have healthy relationships is essential to liberation.

Opportunities to Practice the Liberation

Strategizing, Visioning, dreaming, relationship building, art making and campaigns that push us towards and give us opportunities to practice the liberation we hope our children will live one day. Dancing, loving and laughing with each other is just as vital to grassroots movement-building as planning the next action.

When I finished the room, filled with mostly white people 30 and up, was tense for a few seconds before 1 of 2 people of color started crying and saying thank for articulating somethings they had been struggling with. A good part of the group shared some appreciation for my thoughts and then continued to ask me questions that defended the fight for marriage equality… go figure.

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Definitions, Apologies, and the Status Quo

Angela Davis

Feminism and Abolition, public lecture by Professor Angela Y. Davis on Friday, May 3 @The University of Chicago

last week I was lucky enough to attend a lecture by Angela Davis one of the movements’ master teachers. She touched on so many great topics doing a great job of connecting the FBI’s recent attacks on Assata Shakur to the current struggle against police brutality, increasing incarceration and violence in POC communities. With all that she said it was her queer studies informed reflections on feminism and the prison industrial complex that stirred up so much within me. Her words brought me back to the moment when I first fell in love with the phrase Africana Womanism.

It was amazing to hear this former political prisoner and black panther assert that it was the feminist movement’s challenging of patriarchy, sexism, and oppressive  gender roles which opened the door for trans, gender variant and pansexual identities to be as as visible as they are today. I almost fell out my pew when she said at the vanguard of the prison abolition movement is a critique of the prison system through the eyes of transgender women. Not only are their struggles from within the PIC inherently feminist but they are also effective strategies for social justice.

Her lecture was refreshingly current, relating the same themes she engaged as a young black panther to the struggles of youth today. One of the reasons she has so profoundly been able to make these connections is her ongoing relationship with youth today. It was affirming to hear her passionately speak about the need for elders and adults to listen to youth and be open to learning as much as they think they can teach. Moreover to witness someone of her generation and continued activism connect the trans community to the social justice movement and oppression in general gave me life. Her words reframed my urgency within the struggle for social justice and encouraged me to bring all of me to the front lines in the war on poor people of color. As I struggled to write my reflections in essay form the last few days the piece below bubbled up…

Definitions, Apologies, and the Status Quo

right now they’re calling us transgender

but in another 20 or 40  a 100 years

they will have another name

and hopefully a better appreciation

for who we are and what we bring to the human experience

We are another stroke on the canvass of humanity

walking art

a beautiful body of politic

millions upon millions of differently the same blends of masculine feminine

that many are just not quite ready for

though we’ve always been here

My varied expression of  masculinity

they seek to label deviant

because my reality challenges their truth

it refuses to fit in any either or box

my reality

my variance they take as a challenge

to everything they’ve been taught about what makes them ok

and what makes them better and

deserving of whatever they have told themselves they deserve

because they are not like me

them or any other other you choose,

this is the the slippery slope

of defining yourself in opposition to

in order to control

they take me being me

as an assault on the pedestal they’ve built to maintain their privilege

our varied definitions of She, He, Ze…

our constant redefining of we

defies their definition of self

pierces patriarchy threatening sexism with a fatal blow

defiling the status quo

my queerness is mine to be defined or not

my trans ness is translucent and undefinable

the personal is political

and though I didn’t choose my identity or experience

I do fiercely and with all political intentionality

choose to be true to whatever direction it takes me in

and to never again apologize for not fitting in