40 days of lent

Belated Easter Greetings, Forty Day Readers!

hi fortyday readers!


happy may!  here in new york city we’re having the first warm day of the month (by our count anyway).  to celebrate we decided to post what will probably be our last entry to this blog.  thank you for reading and offering great feedback & questions. thank you for your emails and for being interviewed! it has been deeply meaningful for both of us.  

this post deals with three issues that were incredibly important to my lenten process and my everyday life: exile, isolation and reconciliation.  last month,  Cole of the brown boi project, Pooja Gehi, Gabriel Foster and i did a workshop at the New Leadership Networking Initiative (NLNI) that preceded the Civil Liberties Public Policy Reproductive Justice Conference.  We presented about a lot of issues, including exile and isolation of trans people, particularly trans women, from reproductive justice movements.  We did this with the aim of reconciliation and renewed partnership.  i say “renewed partnership” rather than new partnership because too often in social justice movements we imagine that trans lives have just started to exist and that there is no legacy of trans people engaging social justice, specifically reproductive justice.  our historical forgetfulness silences these important stories and supports more mainstream movements in consolidating power. exile and isolation have long been tools mainstream movements have used in order make themselves more attractive to institutional power to win minor concessions like Don’t Ask Don’t Tell or hate crimes legislation.  

this is exactly what Sylvia Rivera (who would have turned 60 this July) had to navigate with the burgeoning gay and lesbian movements, a movement she helped create.  to ground that conversation at NLNI and to bring Sylvia Rivera into the room, we played clips from two different films about Sylvia Rivera challenging isolation and exile within a 20 year span.  the first clip is from “Sylvia Rivera: a Tribute” a film by Tara Mateik, a beautiful tribute to Sylvia Rivera that includes footage of Sylvia at the 4th anniversary pride march being beaten up on stage when ”drag queens were no longer needed in the movement.” Activist Bob Kohler describes the effect of Sylvia being pushed out of a movement she helped start.  

the second is from Randy Wicker’s interview with Sylvia back in 1992. Randy Wicker, a trans aged filmmaker was a close friend of Marsha P Johnson and later a friend and employer of Sylvia.  In this film Randy interviews Sylvia when she was homeless and living on the Christopher Street pier. Sylvia invokes Marsha P Johnson and the Hudson River as inspiration to keep living.  

These clips are particularly hard to watch for many reasons, including self harm, poverty, substance use, and the many violences intertwined with isolation, exile, racism, ableism, misogyny and transphobia.  But they are also incredibly powerful as Sylvia points the way towards meaningful reconciliation.

so i’ve been asking myself a lot about what it means to work around isolation & exile with an aim of reconciliation.  part of it means recognizing the depths of anger & grief accompanying violence. and understanding how violence shapes unraveling circles of care & affects not just our material condition but our spirit and our psyches.  reconciliation means having those hard conversations about power and histories of violence.  it means partnership rather than inclusion.  and to me it means being mindful not to resort to uncritical nostalgia to fill the gaps in my lineage are stories have been suppressed & marginalized.  reconciliation starts with a fuller scope of our social history that extends beyond when we were simply only oppressed or acted incredibly exceptional and aims to challenge the hierarchy of intelligible social justice history that keeps our stories as trans and gender non conforming people from ever surfacing in the first place.  it means reading our blog (jk! jk!) and writing this blog (actually, yes!).  importantly, we learned that reconciliation can also be a lot of fun.

thank you dear readers!
forty day 

Without community there is no liberation, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between an individual and her oppression.  But community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist.  -audre lorde 


the end is reconciliation; the end is redepemtion; the end is the creation of beloved community.  It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform oppressors into friends.  It is this type of understanding good will that will transform the deep gloom of old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. -a “real” martin luther king quote