Friday, February 10, 2012

Practice with premise

I don't know how they do it, but some of these health food stores in San Francisco manage to have terrible produce. Not all of it, of course -- but, often, it's way worse than the produce in New Mexico. And, get this -- almost all the produce in New Mexico comes from California! And, even better -- they like to give you bunches of greens that are half the size here, for the same price.

I feel like I'm always rushing around here -- I guess that's big-city life, right? I enjoy the convenience, the way I can just walk out my door and soon I'll be somewhere, but the awful air still feels like an assault. My sinuses are a catastrophe; my voice is getting raspy, and I’ve only had one event so far. Another event today, I guess I should get ready.

The other night, I gave a talk for Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz's class at the California Institute for Integral Studies. Or, I thought it was going to be her class -- she asked me to talk about Nobody Passes, since she's teaching it, so that's what I prepared for, but then it turned out that most of the people there were instructors at the school, or people from outside -- the director of the school too, I guess. It was pretty interesting -- I gave a bit of an introduction to the book, and then I said well, since we are at the California Institute for Integral Studies, where I'm guessing part of the goal is to integrate practice with premise, I thought perhaps we could go around the room and each of us to talk about one way that we are passing today, the comfort and discomfort this is giving us, and what it would mean to let go of that passing.

This allowed for me to talk about how awful I feel, to talk about fibromyalgia and chronic pain and exhaustion and doing these events anyway, and then I thought people brought really interesting topics to the conversation -- intellectual, intimate, political, poetic. About class privilege, Southern hillbilly identity, aging and not having to pass as much as not hating this country, needing to pass as a grad student, flaunting wealth in order to protect oneself from bullying at school, being a psychologist and choosing when to share your own mental-health struggles, motherhood mythologies, existing in feminine spiritual spaces while seeing oneself in between categories of women, feminine, female. The violence of the male/female binary, passing as different racial categories but always getting to a place of not passing -- "the non-passing of non-passing, passing of passing" -- leaving people behind based on educational attainment and searching for connection, leaving locations behind, assumptions based on male presentation, refusing to pass as invisibly HIV-positive, the idea that passing lies in the eyes of the other, the psychiatric industry and its violence, gender analysis of passing that erases racial passing histories, passing as turning one's back on one's community, people who don't have the luxury of passing, colleagues of an African-American professor who want him to pass as anything but African-American, passing as human, hidden homophobia, racism, and classism; passing as male even though identifying as trans, or as a particular kind of male.

The best part is the way that this opened up the intimacy of the room. Then people wanted me to talk about Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots, which brought on a lot of discussion, and one thing I noticed is that I got much more relaxed when everyone else was sharing too, I mean that part didn't hurt my body so much. Once we got into the more presenting/discussing part, I got more exhausted -- also, there's a point around one hour where I always suddenly lose all my energy. But have to push forward anyway -- that's always during the Q&A, and the Q&A is important, or it feels important to me. Things to think about, as I get ready to do more events.

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