Sunday, December 13, 2009

Friends and enemies

I met Kelvline at that first Gay Shame action at Tire Beach. Squinting in the sun, he came right up and said: what can I do? I’m not sure exactly what made me think he was a well-meaning straight guy, something about how he carried masculinity and it carried him. I’m sure Kelvline will hate that description. Later we would talk about his difficulties as a black fag existing in mostly white countercultures, and he would wonder if that’s what made me think he was straight, that first time we met, and even the second time, when he talked about going to the Power Exchange. Until he started talking about sucking cock, and even then it was in this strange pornographic way that made it seem like he was talking about someone else talking about someone like him.

I’m trying to remember when it was that Kelvline and I became so close. I don’t think it was right away, although it’s true that when he said he was going to the Power Exchange, I thought of going too and if I’d gone we might have ended up in a different kind of relationship. Kelvline started coming to meetings right away, I mean once Gay Shame started holding regular meetings; he always had the most insane ideas. Like, for that first Pride action, he wanted to hook up a hose to raw sewage and spray it on the crowd. Sometimes he would start rapping in the middle of a meeting, or yelling at someone because he thought they said something stupid. But then Kelvline would come up with something that sounded crazy, like rainbow Klan outfits, and everyone would wonder: what the hell are you talking about -- it was like she was trying to provoke the rest of the group into doing something that would be perceived as racist, in order to challenge the racism of the gay mainstream. But then she kept repeating: the evil Gay Gay Gay, rainbow Klan outfits -- the evil Gay Gay Gay, rainbow Klan outfits -- her eyes would glaze over, but it actually started to make sense.

Kelvline: I would go to meetings with these weird agendas, like I wanted to have an action against the Nob Hill Theatre, and you were ambivalent about that, which makes sense. Me: do you remember some of the things you used to say at meetings, when you would interrupt people, or just start yelling? Kelvline: no, I don’t remember what I used to say, I don’t remember at all. I know there was that time when I wanted to spray shit on the pride parade. Me: yeah, that’s the one I remember, but what about when you would just start yelling -- I remember, like Kill Bill, you would just start yelling Kill Bill in the middle of a meeting. Kelvline: that was later, when did Kill Bill come out? Me: and you wanted to have an action against the Nob Hill Theatre because they accused you of stealing someone’s wallet, right? Kelvline: that’s right -- I wanted to get them back, but really it was some jealousy thing because I was dating Sam who worked the front desk and his boyfriend danced there and there was this black dancer who would always talk about my hair, like she’d never seen an Afro or something it was this big drama and there was all this stuff going on with drugs and prostitution but then the thing about the wallet was this queen who was jealous and she said I’d stolen a wallet, the manager said it had happened three times and maybe he was worried I knew something but I didn’t and I was downstairs in one of the video booths jerking off and he started knocking on the door saying you have to leave and I said you’re discriminating against me; he said I’m going to call the cops. And I really wanted to protest them, to do a picket outside.

Me: I don’t think you ever told me that part before about the boy you were dating. Kelvline: I mean I don’t know if I was dating him, but we were having sex, or at least we had sex once and then it was all some gay drama, I really wanted to get them back. Me: but when did we get so close, I mean it’s strange because one of the things I hated more than anything was when someone would get out of line at meetings and you were always that way, but somehow we got close anyway. I guess we related because we both felt alienated from the Mission scene, even though we expressed it in totally different ways. Kelvline: I’d come out of that complete psychotic break when I attacked Evlo because he flirted with Danny, and then I realized there I was attacking this other black fag because he flirted with my Asian boyfriend and that was around when I discovered Deep Dickollective and making music with these other black fags felt like a political project near and dear to me. But I wanted to make it into more than it was turning out to be, with all the internalized racism and the masculinity issues. Gay Shame was my way of figuring out how to cope with what D/DC was doing, the way they were marketing themselves as just another accessory for pride.

Me: but when did we get so close? I mean I guess there was the way that I saw your alienation through the ideas you were expressing that were kind of irrational but beneath that was something that I wanted to make sense, even if you didn’t necessarily want your ideas to make sense, I mean you talked about not wanting to see things in a rational way. Kelvline: but when did we get so close? Was it when you asked me to do stuff at your house? Me: Do you mean when you started to help me -- I mean definitely, that was when we got really close, but we were close before then. Although I didn’t ask you to help me, you just offered -- that’s what was so touching to me, because here I was struggling with all this pain and I couldn’t really do these basic things in my life and no one else was necessarily offering to help, I mean we were all overwhelmed in different ways but you made that offer to come over my house and help me with laundry and groceries and typing and that meant a lot to me.

Kelvline: when did we start going to dinner after meetings? Me: I don’t know when that started, I mean I don’t think it was right away. Kelvline: because I remember at first I would ask for some of your food, because you would bring all this food and I didn’t understand why you didn’t offer me any, Benjamin would say Mattilda has a lot of health issues, she’s hypoglycemic, she’s in a lot of pain and she cooks for herself, you can’t eat her food. Me: you wouldn’t ask for some of my food, you would say gimme that. Kelvline: but what did I do after meetings? Me: I don’t know, maybe we would just stay at Espresso Bravo. We started processing the meetings together. I felt really strongly that we needed to do direct action in a way that wasn’t about making friends but actually more about making enemies, holding people accountable. But then there were a lot of people in the group who really just wanted to throw cool parties, or at least that’s how it felt to me. This was a debate that started between me and Brodie -- we hadn’t talked about Gay Shame becoming a direct action activist group, that was really my dream and then it kind of just happened after the Gay Shame Awards, because people were so excited, but then that same battle would end up playing out at every meeting, it was kind of dramatic.

Kelvline: I remember thinking at one point that maybe this is just a bunch of white people who want to throw cool parties. Me: and I was looking for allies, I guess that’s how we originally bonded. I wasn’t interested in the social aspect of Gay Shame, I mean what happened between people outside of meetings -- at bars and parties and wherever. Even though in a way my relationships were facilitated through Gay Shame actions, I mean that’s how I ended up meeting all my closest friends really -- but I wasn’t interested in Gay Shame as a social identity outside of activism. Although I was kind of in a privileged place because I didn’t need to go to the parties in order to get people to pay attention to me. Kelvline: I wasn’t interested in the parties either. Me: well, at first you were, but not later. Kelvline: you’re right -- wasn’t I obsessed with getting an orgy started, when was that? Me: that’s right -- when you would take your clothes off at any random party. Kelvline: I guess after Avery and I had sex, after that I was kind of over it. That’s when I would yell at him at meetings. But I remember when I was walking in the Castro on Pink Saturday and I ran into you and we went to this party and Brodie was there too and I remember thinking this party’s stupid, why are we here, and you were saying the same thing and maybe that’s when we first bonded. Me: and that was even before Gay Shame started meeting really, I mean after the first action but before everything else. Kelvline: but when did we start going to restaurants? Me: I don’t know. Kelvline: did you buy me food at the restaurants? Me: I guess so, I mean I did sometimes. Kelvline: maybe that’s what it was, when we started getting close. Me: really?

Kelvline: I’d just lost my job at Wells Fargo and then I had my wisdom teeth taken out, and I remember going to meetings and talking about how I’d lost my job and Avery said you should do sex work, Mattilda does sex work, and then you were giving me advice. Me: although I wasn't suggesting sex work, I wanted to give you all the information but I wasn’t sure it was going to be the right thing. But I did pay for you to have your wisdom teeth removed. Do you remember when you would tell me about something that happened, and it was obviously some racist dynamic, but you wouldn’t say that? I would say: do you think that was racist? And you would say: oh, really? And I couldn’t tell if you were testing me. Kelvline: I don’t remember that. Me: yeah, it was right at the beginning of our friendship. Kelvline: I remember talking about how people would ignore me in meetings because I was black. Me: no, not that -- I mean that happened too, but actually what I noticed was kind of the opposite, you would get all out of hand and people would tolerate your craziness in a way that they wouldn’t tolerate from someone else, and part of that was because you were black. It gave you a certain kind of status. Kelvline: I think you’re overemphasizing race, because I actually felt comfortable in Gay Shame in a way that I didn’t feel with D/DC, and that was important. Me: but you talked about race all the time, especially the way that you didn’t want to become a fetish item like some of the other black people in the Mission scene. Kelvline: that’s true, but mostly I felt like it was just hard to exist in the world at all. It’s weird because people will read this and think it’s what I said, but it’s actually what you wrote that I said. I mean some of what I say is so hard to follow and I guess that’s how I talk, but will people really be interested? Me: of course some of this is my own analysis, but what I’m trying to do is to show how hard it is to think of something really specific, like I called you to see if you remembered how we first became close, but then we ended up talking about all these other things and we still don’t have an answer to the original question, right? Kelvline: but when did we get so close? I just want to think of that definitive moment. It’s strange because I can remember all the details of each action but then everything else is so blurry -- sometimes people come up to me and ask what’s going on with Gay Shame and I can’t remember ever doing anything with them, I can’t even remember whether these people were involved in the group.

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