Friday, February 17, 2012

A sense of history

Maybe it's redundant to say that I feel a sense of history at the GLBT History Museum but, well, I feel a sense of history. I'm not talking about the exhibits, but the conversation we're having about the past, present, and future of public sex. Three different people saying that they want to talk about the elephant in the room, after my intro and the readings by Tommi Avicolli Mecca, Jaime Cortez, and Horehound Stillpoint: first it's the internet, then public sex for queer women, then AIDS. Interestingly, although all of these might be elephants in the room of this particular conversation, the internet, fear and hatred of femininity, AIDS, and race (an elephant no one declares in this particular conversation, perhaps because race comes up in the excerpts the contributors are reading) -- all of these are centerpieces of the book.

But, let me try to evoke this conversation better -- something about the histories of the people in the room, most of whom are fags in their 40s through 60s, some in their 20s and 30s too, a sizable genderqueer contingent, and the woman who speaks about hanging out in public sex spaces in Atlanta and the gay men there thinking maybe she's a little strange -- she is a faggot-identified femme, I believe that’s the term she uses and I'm using the pronoun “she” because that's the pronoun I imagine a faggot-identified femme would use, but of course I could be wrong. But I wanted to say something about how everyone is immediately so present, laughing, cheering, adding in their own comments way before the Q&A begins and I love that: we are in this together. I'm adding pieces to my intro from things I've glimpsed on the street on the way -- the rainbow lights illuminating the outside of the Diesel store, the clothing store that's replaced the gay bookstore. It's me and the audience: we are all in this conversation together, we are in this world, we are in these gay spaces that we crave and despise.

So great when you don't have to argue about gentrification or assimilation necessarily because everyone knows, everyone feels it, is angry and lost, hopeless but sometimes hopeful and this is one of those moments, maybe. Most of the men and queens and queers in this room are older than me, probably half by several decades and it makes me think about something Sarah Schulman said about how so many people she’s looked up to, many people a generation older than her, are dying now, or are already dead, and how she doesn't know who she can look up to anymore. The way experience is passed down through generations, and passed up -- that's the part that sometimes people forget: I've never looked for role models or mentors, I've only wanted peers and that's what it feels like in this room, somehow, in spite of our different histories, so that when the glamorous person with red curly hair and lipstick raises her hand to say she is a faggot-identified femme looking for public dyke cruising and many of the gay men in the audience laugh, but they are laughing with her, we are laughing with each other.

Some people are angry too, as we should be -- about the disappearance of cultures that matter, about the way the gay movement has become antithetical to gay liberation, about how public sex spaces are targeted in so many gay people are part of the targeting, they want these places closed so they can be removed from the imagination. One person says: everything can be private, but only for the people that matter. And, the way sex has become privatized through the internet, a private public, and Jaime says something about how many people write "no games" in their posts, and this means they actually want to hook up, or they think they want to hook up, but most people online are busy not hooking up and maybe that's the sex they are looking for, even if they don't want to admit it. And I think about how "no games" to me also indicates no fun, right? Because there is so rarely any fun in internet hookups, or even cruising spaces -- it's all supposed to be primal and distant. This is just in my head, maybe after, more ideas. Here at the GLBT History Museum we are trying to engage in a conversation that rarely happens -- I think that's why several people have come to multiple events, and some of the same people are commenting again, different comments: we need this conversation. We need more, and we are only given less.

And then I'm in a car, someone I just met giving me a ride home but we have a mutual friend, they lived near on neighboring communes in rural Tennessee and when he asks about Santa Fe I say something about how there’s a small queer world but there are no fags in that world, none, do you know what I mean? And he says something about how sometimes fags will be anywhere but queer worlds and dammit that is so true. I love insight like that, coming from someone you've just met. I want to map the way transmasculinity and/or a genderqueer analysis marks this conversation, but I'm not sure whether it's necessary for you to understand. In the backseat is Gina, one of my closest friends in all the world, Gina who flew out here for my book launch events and you see how that's another history -- a history of care and comfort and glittering intimacy in a broad atmosphere of disillusionment.

When I get home I look at the sky from my window, this purplish reddish sparkling mass just above the buildings, leading up to what you generally describe as darkness and I’m thinking about the possibilities of intergenerational conversations, the possibilities of faggotry outside of male socialization, I'm thinking about the possibilities in San Francisco that are so rarely actualized, I'm even going on a quick walk down the street so familiar yes there's something I love about this familiarity and cooler air blowing in at night even if the streets still smell like cigarette smoke, car exhaust, piss, vomit, pot smoke yet still fresher, fresher than before, no fabric softener laundry detergent smell at the moment but I don't think of that until I smell it again and for the first time in a while I think maybe I have energy after a reading. I mean I'm completely exhausted but not entirely drained. My body hurts but I don't feel like what the fuck did I just do, how on earth will I ever do that again, is it worth it, can it ever be worth it? Because I know that it is, tonight it is.

8 comments:

Max said...

yes!

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Yes yes -- at least for a moment :)

Love --
mattilda

davka said...

love this!

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Yay :)

Love --
mattilda

amanda said...

indeed my pronouns are she/her/miss thang. and i'm super flattered that you think i'm glamorous!

was so lovely being in faggot space with everyone that night. had a high from it for days. xo

rex said...

mattilda, this is so right on, hitting the nail on the head, etc. etc. i feel like you've vocalized something in this post that i've been trying to find the words to explain/describe for a really long time. especially in these "gay spaces that we crave and despise." that's exactly how it is. and it's amazing and important when, within those craved and despised spaces, a real, affirming, communal conversation can happen-- even if only for a second. and i'm happy you were able to have that.
anyway, this post is beautiful and made my week.
thank you!!

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Amanda, that's so great to hear -- made me cry, tears of joy and hope -- thanks so much for writing, and always feel free to be in touch...

Love --
mattilda

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Rex, you're so right about this:

"it's amazing and important when, within those craved and despised spaces, a real, affirming, communal conversation can happen"

Thank you for affirming that possibility -- to more!

Love --
mattilda