Sunday, September 13, 2009

How they were doing this

But I thought I was writing about New York, I met Johanna at a party, but what was I doing at a party? I never really liked parties, even in high school they were boring -- I would play drinking games, and end up drinking twice as much as everyone else and then it was okay but this was New York and not that kind of party, I’d left those kind of parties behind in high school. It was Dasha’s party, I must’ve met her at Dumba, the anarchist living/performance space in Brooklyn started by four people who wanted to create an alternative to the misogyny and homophobia at the legendary ABC No Rio.

I met Gina at Dumba too, I thought she was so cute with her shaved head and lip ring and we would flirt with each other in the way that dykes and fags flirt, and later she lived at Dumba or maybe we met after she already lived there, but anyway Dumba kind of became a safe space for a queer outsider culture that didn’t really exist in New York, there were queer outsiders but we were outside. It’s where the first Gay Shame event happened, that was when I was looking for activists -- I’d taken a break from activism after San Francisco, trying to figure out how to engage in these groups without taking everyone’s anger and putting it in my body, that’s what I realized after I remembered I was sexually abused, before then I thought it was okay. I mean I knew that these people really weren’t angry at me they were angry about the issues we were fighting, in ACT UP meetings you had to be ready for someone to tear you to shreds, every time you spoke it was possible someone would rip you up -- no, you didn’t have a right to speak about people with AIDS if you weren’t HIV-positive, or to talk about women with HIV if you weren’t a woman, and I’m not sure who had the right to talk about prisoners with AIDS, because none of us were in prison, and definitely if you said something kind of wishy-washy or unprocessed than maybe several people would jump on you at once. The good thing was that you had to become really meticulous, critical, and alert in order to speak in these meetings, luckily I was good at that and it was an emergency, we were trying to save people’s lives.

But then I was in this group organized to challenge the Matrix program, we slept over on the steps of the mayor’s house to call attention to his crackdown on homelessness, I mean we got there with sleeping bags and then they arrested us and then we were excited about creating this group, we were all from different groups, coming together to challenge this pre-Giuliani quality-of-life campaign and we had these meetings at the Coalition on Homelessness about what to do next, we were going to target The Gap because Don Fisher, the head of The Gap, was one of the big funders behind the Matrix program, but since we were a new group we had to figure out our process, democratic majority or consensus. I was the person most in favor of consensus, since I was in ACT UP and it worked so smoothly or at least that’s how I felt but most people didn’t have that experience, I mean there were other people in favor of consensus but most of them didn’t say anything during meetings because of the way people would get up and literally start screaming at me, how could I even think of consensus we would never get anything done I was holding up the group there were important things we had to do, and I would sit there so calmly and explain exactly why I thought consensus was the best choice. And since we hadn’t decided on our process, we kind of had to use consensus at first, but after a few of these meetings I realized oh, actually it’s not okay when people to tear each other to shreds, even if it’s about the issues, I mean it’s not okay for me because I just put it all in my body. So I had to take a break, a break from that type of activism, that type of activism that was the central thing in my life.

This was the period where sometimes I thought my father was following me down the street, at night I worried he was under the bed, behind the curtains with an axe, sometimes I asked my roommate to look. Luckily she was an incest survivor too, the first person I met and it was her mother who was a dyke who had abused her and so this took apart a lot of illusions at once. But the important thing was that she understood, she would look and say no, there’s no one there. Sometimes I would wake up in the middle of the night and it was like everything in my room was my father’s eyes and I was tiny, smaller than any one of these eyes and sometimes I would be sitting on the bus and suddenly I couldn’t figure out what people were doing, how they were doing this, and then I would remember oh, we’re on the bus, I can get off the bus and then when I got off I would say no, my father is not following me, my father is not following me down the street, my father isn’t even in San Francisco, but then I would get this sudden panic anyway, just before turning around and I would shake and stop breathing at the same time, my whole body was sweat but okay, okay, it’s not my father, there’s no one there, because it was when no one was around that I was worried my father was around, if there were people then maybe I could be okay.

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