So. There’s controversy surrounding an event in Brooklyn that is going to be happening in late June. It is the 24th anniversary showing of “Paris Is Burning” a documentary about the NYC trans and queer people of color (specifically Black and Latin@) ball scene in New York during the 80s and 90s. It is going to be hosted by the director of the documentary herself, Jennie Livingston, and JD Samson of Le Tigre fame. Here is a link to the event page. Issue is, not only are both of these people white, but Jennie Livingston actually got into a lot of trouble for the making of that film, and rightfully so, as she did so under false pretenses and violently exploited the ballroom community. She lied to the kids and folks she was interviewing so as to get them to sign waivers and releases for interviews for free, saying it was a student project, then turned around and made a profit, getting a lot of attention, notoriety, social and cultural cache and esteem, and money off of it, even winning the Sundance Grand Jury Prize. This all at the height of the AIDS epidemic in New York City, where the poor Black, Latin@, and Gay communities were getting hit the hardest. So you could imagine it a damn genocide for those at the intersections of those communities and stigma. You could imagine how sorely they needed that money, those resources, that visibility to help them, to save their fucking lives.
So to come now, given that miserable history of violence and that context of supremacy and exploitation (as you can see expressed by many people who were in the scene at the time both in articles written when the documentary came out and on comments on the event page now), and at a time when Trans and Queer people of color are still dying en masse and being erased and ignored by the media and the state and even by our own fucking communities for we are both too Black and Brown to be queer and too queer to be Black or Brown, and create such an event amid adamant, vociferous outcry by the very community it exploits, well…it’s another day in America, isn’t it? I am going to challenge myself and stop saying “this is gross, dehumanizing, sociopathic, low, genocidal, disgusting, exploitation, racist, sexist, transmisogynistic, antagonistic, erasing, capitalistic, etc,”. It is all of those things, absolutely, but I will stop phrasing it like that. Because it lets so many people who are guilty and complicit and implicit divorce themselves from the monstrosity, from the violence, from the terror. It fools us into thinking this is somewhat abnormal, singular, unique,. Well, it isn’t. It is totally fucking normalized and it happens all the fucking time and we’re OK with this violence because hey, it makes us money and isn’t “Paris Is Burning” so fun? So many of us don’t even know the history of that film, couldn’t imagine the people it was built on. But we should have figured, shouldn’t we? We should assume exploitation so far as TQPOC are concerned.
JD Samson has at least, said she would step down, and her comment seems genuine, and it is good that she has backed out of performing at the event.
But people have called bullshit given her personal relationship with Jennie and so doubt that she did not know what she asked to DJ for, and a previous history of transmisogyny (in which she did not decry or call out MichFest until forced to amid protests and canceled/banned performances by venues).
And all that said, it still means so little, as it doesn’t solve the issue of due reparations for those that got exploited to have this film made in the first place. This still isn’t accountability or remorse from Jennie or the white LGBT community at large for creating and engaging in this culture of exploitation.
So Miley Cyrus, what’s up though girl? Got words about this? Yo Bruce Jenner*, what’s happening? Jennie Livingston? Anyone? Everyone?! Where are the white gays who love to throw shade, hunty? To spill that tea? Where are the colonizers that have made their identities off the backs of marginalized poor trans and queer people of color? Who twerk but don’t care when one of ours turns up dead in the street? Who took their place as they got erased and shoved to the wayside, barely breathing or worse, dead?
*Note: This post was written after Caitlyn had come out as trans but had, at the same time, said that she still wanted to be called Bruce for the time being.
Track 6 from my monthly song series The Teenage Years. When I was 16, someone gave me a Dashboard Confessional mixtape and I decided to put down my electric guitar for a while. The first song I wrote was “Here Comes Morning,” an upbeat emo acoustic ode to confusion. Today in 2012, producers Johanna Fateman and JD Samson (both of MEN, Le Tigre, and more) have transformed my teenage sadness into a dance-worthy pop gem. Enjoy!
They will be joined in Asheville, NC, in July by opening acts JD Samson (Le Tigre, MEN) and Minneapolis’s feminist punk trio Kitten Forever. Guest DJs for the evening include drummer Lori Barbero from Babes in Toyland and Allison Wolfe of Bratmobile and Cold Cold Hearts. Special surprise guests TBA.
Ace Hotel + Bindle & Keep + dapperQ Present BEYOND MEASURE NEW YORK FASHION WEEK
Special Guest Judges: JD Samson, Murray Hill, Eliza Byard and dapper Q
In celebration of New York Fashion Week 2015, Ace Hotel New York is partnering with bespoke clothiers Bindle & Keep, JD Samson, Murray Hill, Eliza Byard and dapperQ for Beyond Measure, an opportunity to honor three deserving nominees with the gift of a custom suit and dress shirt from Bindle & Keep, plus a night’s stay at Ace Hotel New York.
A bespoke suit is not just an article of clothing; it is a tool, a feeling, a hand-crafted self-portrait with leaf-turned edges. We want people to look the way they feel, confident, classic and teeming with self-love, so we’re asking our neighbors and friends from the community to nominate a special someone they think deserves a new suit — activists, social workers and rebels, those in the law and civil rights sector and those fighting the good fight for positive social change.
We’re accepting nominations until February 15 at 11:59pm EST. Visit acehotel.com/beyondmeasure to share their names, their loves, their heart’s work and the reason they need some fresh gear. You can include pictures, links, related press, inspired mixtapes, testimonials and other supporting ephemera if you like.
Submissions will be judged by JD Samson, Murray Hill, Eliza Byard and dapperQ. We’ll announce winners February 17, during New York Fashion Week.
This is open to NYC residents, or people who can easily travel to NYC.