“Can’t change the world by blaming men.” And yes, NOFX is problematic. But they taught me to challenge a lot of fucked up systems at a very young age. I don’t discredit transformation. More on punks later.
I wrote a blog post almost a month ago but waited to post it until I attended the Widener Careers in Sexuality Conference this past weekend. I’m glad I did. It added a whole new perspective on masculinity and hatred towards variations of masculinity in how it intersects with men and maleness. I attended Wesley K. Thomas’s “Lets Talk Effemiphobia: Dismantling the New Homophobia for Black Gay Men” workshop.
A photo posted by Careers In Sexuality Con (@careersinsexualityconference) on
What impacted me most was how much we, as a broad society made up of all our intersecting identities, tend to dismiss mental health in men. Gay men, men of color, trans men, white men, men of all religions and social economic statuses. Mental health is rendered so invisible for men, to the point where when we look at mappingpoliceviolence.org, how many of these folx were battling mental illness at the time they were murdered? How many of them were getting help? How many of them had the health insurance coverage for a treatment plan that covered medications, talk therapy, in-patient facilities, anything they needed to improve their mental well-being?
During Wesley’s workshop we talked about how compulsory masculinity, effemiphobia, and the measures men make to avoid being seen as weak…how these are traumatic and tied to mental illness. It’s all fucking feeding into each other. When feminists hate on men for “acting like men,” we are just reinforcing the structures that could be broken down with discussion, questioning, critique and analysis like Wesley’s workshop. It’s not easy, but WHY are we not trying? Why “build a wall?” Doesn’t that sound familiar? I understand that there is a balance between self-preservation and advocacy, but isolation that resorts to these trendy fucking tumblr posts that make kitschy “radical” (in terms of 90’s radfem nostalgia and a tribute to the lingo of the era) slogans about how men should die and are worthless and expendable, but really? FUCKING REALLY?
I remember Brené Brown talking about shame and vulnerability in one of her TED talks and how a father and husband disclosed his vulnerability with her at a signing. I remember how that stuck with me just as much as the rest of her talk. We are all together in this. Dr. Jayleen Galarza spoke in her keynote about privileged folx needing to make ourselves vulnerable and do something when we witness all this awful shit happening. One of my classmates mentioned that our Widener department has made zero acknowledgement of the pain or to help us process the endless murders of black men at the hands of police day after day in this country. I am publishing that here. That is something I can do. I am also sticking up for men, in all their beautiful forms on this post today, because while sometimes I identify as male, people keep telling me I’m not, so I’m going to use that position of non-maleness to stick up for men and say that they deserve better than being shit on day in and day out for being too sissy, too powerful, too loud, too ignorant, too rich, too lazy, whatever it is they have been lumped into because of the refusal for one person to see another person as an individual.
Now to the original post from September 11th:
“I see a lot of hate on cis dudes in my various queer and trans communities and it’s never really sat right, like, ever. It’s not to say I haven’t witnessed male privilege or experienced my share of trauma by the hands of men and boys. And it’s not to say the kindnesses I have witnessed on behalf of men and boys excuses the experiences of people who experience and relive their traumas every day. I don’t willingly ignore male privilege. I don’t protect the patriarchy. But I don’t hate men. I grew up with a really honorable father who, in my later years, I am now getting to see as a man with all his own faults as a human being, and it’s a humbling process. I did the thing a lot of people do, mostly having all cismale friends through my childhood and adolescent life, finding little judgement from them, cherishing the ability to have my words taken at face value, and even in my thirties, seeing those friends still bonded and loyal.
I’m coming back from a hardcore show in a New Brunswick basement tonight. It’s a tradition that dates back decades now and there is still so much heart in it. Going to shows has always been a cathartic process for me. Every therapist I have ever been to has always recommended I go to a show when I start feeling emotionally stuck because they know what it does. It’s just this energy, this excitement, uncertainty, positivity, an evolving sense of camaraderie and yet my individual moment of peace. It’s kinetic love and sometimes primal rage. It’s Audre Lorde’s erotic and I feel like I’ve written about my passion for going to shows in my Livejournal and physical diaries of the past, but the fondness of paying tribute to them never grows old.
These shows are usually predominantly cismale. I went to one show once, well more of an arts and music festival geared towards feminism and queerness, and it was one of the most isolated events I have ever been to. Every person looked like they had stepped out of a Delia*s magazine, clutching their cans of Tecate, slumped against the walls or standing by zine tables but not actually interacting with anyone. I’ve totally bought into this 90’s fashion now, two years later, because I am a fucking hypocrite and it gives me an excuse to wear my combat boots with a dress. I still don’t consider this femme for me, despite the feminist Riot Grrl aesthetic it seems to connote for most folks. It’s just kind of a comfortable, witchy genderfuck, and though trendy, it gets me a little nostalgic for an era I missed by a few years and 3,000 miles.
Anyway, back to the shows I like. The sweaty shows, the kinds of shows where if you get knocked to the floor in a pit there are always three people’s hands ready to help you get back up and at least one person to ask if you’re alright. The kind of shows where the band is standing right there on the floor with you, or if it’s not their set, all their members are in the crowd supporting the other bands. The kind of shows where you make fast friends with a skinhead over absolute nonsense only to see that person decades later crowdsurfing in a wheelchair or officiating roller derby with the name “Gimpy McLegsdontwork.”
Tonight, the first band, Weather Lore, started off thanking all the fellow brown and black punks in the room, proceeded to chant in Spanish, “this is not just your world, this is our world, this is our pain” (I speak Spanish so I understood, but I appreciated the concept that maybe as a white person I was not meant to understand), and brought the entire crowd as close as we could get (“don’t be afraid of the Spics”) as the lead singer ran through and started a pit big enough to fill the whole basement. The sheer aggression in addressing racism and the significance of the date, all in combination with the growls and energy with the crowd made for a beautiful set.
The closing band’s bassist shared a personal disclosure of his family’s history with domestic violence on behalf of his late father and how that has brought disarray to his home even now when he visits to see them. He said that nothing has ever been the same and coming to hardcore shows was his outlet, his source of strength for over 20 years, and it became a whole family on its own. He told us to think about each other in this room, and that domestic violence and abuse is so common that there was probably a good portion of us that had or were currently experiencing it, and not to lose that opportunity to reach out to one another and become each other’s family. It reminded me of being 16 years old again when Geoff Rickly from Thursday told the audience he wrote Concealer all about his past history with abuse.
For all the stuffy air and the mattress-blocked windows in that basement, you could practically feel the circulated sighs from each person during this man’s speech, people holding in tears, folks holding hands and patting each other on the back, kids looking around, everything. It was so unifying and moving to know that people were honoring his story and implicitly honoring each other at the same time. These shows, the voices and advocacy, the humility in the men I encounter…I cannot hate them. I love these people. I grew up a punk. I grew up a ska kid. It’s part of my gender identity. I also wonder sometimes if being cismale is part of my gender identity. I really think that’s in me. You grow up in a punk community, a real punk community (whatever the fuck that is), the kids you’re with hate authority. They hate “the man.” They actively squirm at structures that are meant to put people down and oppress marginalized populations. They fight. I love that fight. Audre Lorde’s Uses of Anger RIGHT FUCKING THERE.
The white men I know at these shows, they talk privilege. I’m willing to bet that they’d have a great conversation about white male privilege if folks just gave them the chance. I see people writing off all cismen, or saying “Ok SOME cismen are fine, but they need to be x, y, z and need to REALLY work at earning respectability.” We all have fucking privilege. We should all be working towards being better people. I’m not going to get into some pissing contest about the Oppression Olympics because my TERF-in-denial ex-girlfriend thinks my gender nonconforming cismale partner is the Paragon of Patriarchy. I don’t love ALL men. I also don’t love ALL people. But goddamn was tonight precious to me, and looking around at this crowd thinking about all the folks that would readily cast them aside for their gender makes me confused and angry. I’m trans. I’m nonbinary. I’m fluid. I’m whatever fucking word of the day that will never accurately describe my weirdass gender identity that is or isn’t male, female, human, or transcendent of language/existence itself. But what I’m not is a manhater.”
With love, my partner and I made this cover tonight. We are now eating cheesy soft-pretzels with shit-eating grins and stuffy noses. We are sending out good energy to anyone reading this right now.