Pride, People, and Perseverance

Pride’s over for another year, making this the week of recuperation for many local folks. I always need some downtime after Pride, but this year especially. Maybe it’s a result of long-term exposure to this oppressive city, maybe it’s a growing lack of patience, or maybe I’m just losing my touch a little; for whatever reason I find myself needing significant self care after this year’s Pride side effects of overwhelming planning, hours of work, heat exhaustion, and the annual broken heart.

I rushed out from the tarp-lined picnic shelter “dressing room” and stood beside the Northern Kentucky Pride stage. From the small park I could see the signs of the river, and my city on the other side. I thought of the Cincinnati Pride festival that would be held there the following day, and the involvement my fellow performers and I were denied. I looked at my troupe, exhausted, overworked, over-stressed, and emotionally injured. I was pissed off. We all worked hard, we all loved our city, and we didn’t deserve such mistreatment. Desperate for an attitude adjustment, I turned to one of my troupe members and gave myself a pep-talk: “We’re here for the community, and sometimes you have to put up with bullshit to make a difference. We’re here because we love our community.” I walked onto the stage and for the next thirty minutes I tried to forget my hurt and outrage and focused on creating something good. When you work for justice and inclusion there is only one road to take: the high road. Instead of creating a number that promoted the oppressive truth about community we have I painted a picture of the inclusive community I wished we had. (the stage was too small for us to do all of our planned movements, so some of it is a little spur of the moment). I told everyone to bring something real into it. Maybe it was the heat exhaustion or the pent up frustration or both, but by the end I unexpectedly broke down on stage. Thankfully T kept me from crying much, tears and glitter eye shadow don’t mix.

The next day I walked through the Cincinnati “Equinox” Pride festival in my home made “The First Pride was a Riot” t-shirt. I’ll admit it, despite my resentment I was glad to see that so many people had come out. It was a beautiful sight to see the city square bustling with “gay” – regardless of how white and normative that “gay” was. I lingered in the small collection of activist oriented booths – mostly national orgs; the rest were all corporate shopping. There was not a single trans focused or people of color focused organization there. I looked over the huge, wonderfully positioned stage, it only made me angry. I read over the 11 act line-up. It was clear that the issues of no having enough space were legit; I can see why there was such a stress about accommodating performers in the well over seven hours of stage time that day (surely you can sense the sarcasm, but just in case you can’t: please note the sarcasm). All the performers where queens or gay men except for the rainbow marching band and one performance group representing drag kings; a relatively new troupe that advertises itself as “the best in gender bending performance in the city” (even though few people have heard of them, so I’m curious as to where this title came from). Oh and did I mention that this troupe is run by the same person who did all the Pride performance bookings? I’m sure there is no connection between that and that there were no other kings allowed… I watched the small parade of churches, bars, companies, and non-profits; I tried to take it in, feel the pride of my community, enjoy the love I saw in front of me but it didn’t heal the hurt I was feeling. I once again found myself searching for someone like me and like years before, I never found them. I didn’t feel proud. I didn’t feel loved. I felt alone.

There are not enough trans or queer folks on this planet to ever justify non-inclusive behavior, especially in a place this conservative and oppressed. There are just not enough of us to allow prejudice, exclusion, selfishness, egoism, greed, or, most of all, failure. Notice that failure is not the same as making mistakes. This whole Pride ordeal (as it continues) is not a mistake, it is a failure; a failure to support the community, to take responsibility for mistakes; a failure at being inclusive and creating a space that everyone can take part in; a failure to listen to one’s own people, to accept hands reaching out, crying out for help, for comradeship; a failure to be proud of Cincinnati’s trans and queer community, the entire community. I am angry, I am heart broken, and while being able to conceptualize fucked up motivations of these organizers I can not rationalize them and I am finding it increasingly hard to forgive them.

I may not agree with everything Equinox Pride organizers do and I definitely abhor the way that they do it, but I recognize that they are a part of my community and therefore deserve respect and human decency. On the surface it may seem like Equinox Pride organizers feel that way too, but under the surgace there is dishonesty and egoism, privilege and separatism; these can never be constructive tools for healthy community building, no matter how good the intentions are. And despite my own good intentions this weekend I also struggled. Through my smiles I knew my composure was not as civil as I wanted it to be, I just couldn’t hold it together. I shook hands and smiled, I was polite and respectful, but I was not warm. I really tired, but like a dog on a leash I was caught, unable to pull myself from civility over into friendliness. But I also I wonder if it was better that way as a part of holding people accountable. Would I be enabling their behavior, excusing it even, if I smile warmly, embracing them like there wasn’t a problem? Or is it better to be civil and professional, yet reserved to show respect yet also recognize that the issue is there and unresolved. I wonder if I let my community down because I could not grow past my own internal hurt and anger. It is hard to keep running at a wall; pushing for inclusion and recognition, giving respect without any return, trying to love those who continue to prove that they don’t love you. And through the exhaustion, I am left with only one thought, “Why?” But this is my city. This is my home. These are my people. I am not giving up.

Cincinnati Pride; Progress or Privilege?

Today is my birthday, but I can’t say I’ve been looking forward to it – not because I’m upset about getting freakishly close to 30, but because of another event that is also falling on my birthday weekend; Cincinnati Pride.  It might seem like having Pride on your birthday is a stroke of luck – I’m alive and I’m queer, what a perfect combo of days, right? Everyone is out and ready to party, everyone except me, that is. For me, my hometown Pride is never about partying, it’s about work, frustration, anger, and disappointment. Every year it’s the same… well, every year except for one.

My first Pride was a celebration. When I came out, I didn’t know anyone gay. I didn’t know anyone queer. I didn’t know anyone trans. I wanted to find community. I took to the streets in that tiny parade of a few hundred, walking past people peppered sidewalks wearing beads and blowing bubbles. I had no money for colorful boas or identity themed t-shirts, but I treasured the little rainbow flag I got for free.

Playing dress up at my 1st pride – not pictured: my 1990s jean jacket that I wore all day

[Image: Young JAC with brown hair wearing a white sailor hat and black sailor shirt, looking at the camera and saluting with two fingers – on of which has a batman band aid on it.]

All day I searched the crowds for someone like me, someone trans, someone radical, someone queer; I never found them. Years passed. I found that the city’s prejudice and conservatism that I had been fighting before I came out was not limited to the “straight” world after all; it was in the “gay” community too. Pride came and went, but my little rainbow flag had long since been put away. Trans and queer activism had become my whole life, day in day out – what was one day of partying going to solve? Still, every June I walked past the 10am drunks, down the trash covered street to the festival; performing show after show, volunteering along street after street, all for the sake of being “visible.” Always looking for that radical queer trans kid who was seeing Pride for the first time, searching for someone like them. I wanted to make sure they found me. I stood on that street; I got up on that stage to prove that there is a place for our people in this town. And though I continually said how I hated Pride, without fail at some point during the day it would hit me; “Yes, I love this community. I’m proud of my people, our history, our success thus far…” and then in a wave of corporate floats and wrong pronouns I’d come back to reality and resentment. But you know, it’s true what they say: you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.

Last year, Cincinnati Pride, now called Cincinnati Equinox Pride to include the business organization that runs this community event in partnership with the Cincinnati Gay Chamber of Commerce, was a hot rocket mess of issues surrounding organizational transparency and equal representation, involvement, and inclusion of trans folks, people of color, radicals, queers, allies, and lower income communities. After many people joining in the fight for inclusion, Pride organizers continued on without any actions towards reconciliation or solutions of any kind – with the kind addition of repeated personal attacks, forgery of my name, impersonation of me over email, and literal conspiracy by what I considered to be my own people. I guess sometimes the price you pay for rocking the boat is that your comrades throw you overboard. After that, I kept my distance for a while, secretly hoping without hope that someone would email me, or anyone, about how to do things better this time around. It never happened. From my almost exiled position, I occasionally kept tabs on Pride; a queer woman patronizingly told she could be the chair’s “assistant,” a pride organizer stating that trans folks “didn’t really belong in pride anyway,” and tales about disorganization, complaints about a lack of volunteers (despite doing nothing to obtain or include folks), and the kicker, tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt.

This year Cincinnati Equinox Pride was joining some of its organizers with Northern Kentucky (NKY) Pride, a new festival celebrating its 2nd year. I figured it was a good thing to merge the Prides, since we are such an over-lapping community. NKY Pride is very welcoming of all folks and my drag troupe, The Black Mondays, had great experiences performing there last year. I hoped that NKY Pride would be a positive influence on Cincinnati Equinox Pride. I decided not to give up and take the high road. If this was going to be my city’s Pride, then I needed to try my best to do right by it. The Black Mondays contacted Cincinnati Equinox Pride organizers about getting involved and after several weeks of unanswered emails, we received notice that we would be contacted about when we were to perform. The troupe was excited. After not being welcomed (or allowed) to perform at Cincinnati Equinox Pride last year (part of the issue of inclusion), we could put it all that behind us and start fresh – though I privately said I’d believe it when I actually stepped foot on the Cincinnati Equinox Pride’s stage. As the dates flew by, we waited and waited to hear from Pride organizers, our emails again going unanswered. Finally, it turned out that we weren’t allowed to perform at Cincinnati Equinox Pride after all. Pride organizers stated that were trying to bring “national attention” to Cincinnati Equinox Pride and therefore wanted to reserve the stage for big names, putting smaller names at NKY Pride –I guess because NKY doesn’t need national attention… I explained that if Cincinnati Equinox Pride wanted big names (a totally problematic and inaccessible concept) then we were what they wanted. The Black Mondays are a nationally recognized troupe who performed all over the USA, that we had headlined at Columbus Pride for several years, had been solicited by America’s Got Talent, and that we were being featured in an HBO documentary. When they learned this (cause I guess when they said they knew all about us, they didn’t know all of that) they said that actually it was because we were so big that they wanted us at NKY, to try and build it up. When I explained that we were already invited by the NKY board to perform, but thanks for trying to hook us up. The issue at hand was Cincinnati. We were in this to help the community, and though we love NKY, our actual home is Cincinnati and we want to be in our hometown Pride. Finally, after a week of excruciatingly long, borderline begging emails, Cincinnati Equinox Pride stated that we could not perform because there was no room due to a high number of performers. Now, I don’t know how much you know about Midwestern drag and “LGB” performance/music, but this isn’t exactly a bustling scene out here. If you have multiple stages, and over 10 hours of performance time per stage, how is it possible to run out of room? Even if you gave 10 minutes per performer on both stages, that still would leave time for my mom to step up and sing off key.

As all this was going on, I reached out to my network of activists searching for help, support, a solution, anything. I found out from several trusted sources that the chair of Cincinnati Equinox Pride had made a statement about me in reference to my activist work about Pride last year. He said that he specially wanted to “avoid upsetting me.” I still don’t’ know how to feel about that, but if that isn’t having an impact I don’t know what is. But all JAC ego boosts aside, who gives a shit about upsetting me? Do well for the community because it’s the right thing to do, not because you’re afraid of getting busted by furious radical activists with great hair. Afraid of a repeat of last year, I stressed to Pride organizers that our whole motivation for wanting to perform was to promote visibility of Cincinnati drag kings, queer, femme, and trans communities; that all we wanted was to make a space for our people. They assured me that it was “taken care of.” Call me an untrusting person, but I asked around to make sure. Turned out that not a single performer I knew, king or queen, was scheduled to be on the Cincinnati Equinox Pride stage. As of today the list of performers is still unavailable to the public. In the continuing conversation about performance, the Pride organizer mentioned a show that The Black Mondays are doing tonight which is being put on by another local artist to celebrate the Pride weekend, claiming it as a Pride event because it happened to take place during the Pride bar crawl. I called them on it saying that it was not a Pride event, and it wasn’t even listed on the Pride events calendar. The next day it was posted on the website, despite there being no true affiliation. Maybe it was another move to try to “avoid upsetting me.” It didn’t work.

Through further sleuthing it came out that despite Pride being in debt and their claims of awareness of the previous years issues of unequal (or non-existent) representations, once again Cincinnati Equinox Pride organizers decided to pay expensive “big name” performers  (that no one actually knows because really, are there any real gay celebrities other than RuPaul? JK!) allowing no room for local performers – local performers who spend all year forging space in this city… We’re not a big enough deal to perform and be proud at our own Pride – though I’m positive that some local queens will get on stage since they know all the Pride organizers and… no further comment… And all these “big name” performers are brought in because Cincinnati Equinox Pride wants to get “national attention.” Now, can someone explain to me why a small city Pride needs national attention? The community doesn’t get anything out of it, unless we trying to prove to Chicago that we’re cool so we can eat lunch at the cool kid’s table. Direct from the mouths of Cincinnati Equinox Pride organizers (who are primarily businessmen from the Gay Chamber of Commerce) what they would get out of it is more traffic for their gay businesses; AKA money. But they can’t be that clever with money, considering they ran a non-profit event under a for-profit model and ended up in debt, not to mention losing a ton of sponsorship (including huge funders like Macys and Delta) due to this mismanagement. (yes, Cincinnati Equinox Pride, we do know about that.)

I bring all these issues about performance, not just because it sucks for us, but because of what it represents and proves: that Cincinnati Equinox Pride is a problematic, unqualified organization with goals not in line with what Pride is really about; community. What’s the point of a local community pride if the pride of the local community – its activists and its performers who work all year round for space, visibility, and rights are not recognized, included, or valued? If I wanted to celebrate someone else’s community, I would go to some other city’s Pride. At my hometown Pride I want to see my community, my people. And after another year of waiting, I’m still looking. Pride has no point if it is not centered on community. Pride is not about big names, fancy products, or money driven reputations. The first Pride was a riot. The first Pride was about human rights, about standing up and saying “This is who I am. I am not afraid. I am not ashamed.” To use a common community joke, size doesn’t matter. What matters is what you do and how you do it. What if Cincinnati Equinox Pride doesn’t impress other cities, is it a competition? Our people are homeless, jobless, without family support, without resources, without health care, without rights, but our “leaders” main concern is getting into pissing contests via normie, corporate crapfests. Sounds real productive.

It’s not that I don’t recognize that Cincinnati Equinox Pride organizers’ hard work – I do and I support them in trying to run Pride – a huge undertaking without a doubt, but good intentions only go so far. Our community continues to suffer and split because we do not support each other and we do not or hold each other accountable when we behave in unjust, problematic, or oppressive ways. Looking the other way or making excuses like “They mean well” or “You don’t know them like I do” is just being a part of the problem. The solution is not to kick people out of the community, not to scream at them, or to hate them, it is to say “You need to change, and I’m going to stand here and wait until you do.” It worked when my parents wanted me to eat my vegetables; Social justice to a community is like vegetables to your body – it gives you good stuff to grow strong and healthy and helps you get rid (aka poop out) all the stuff you don’t need or are better off without. (Sorry to get scatological, but it’s a good reference.) My parents made me eat vegetables because they love me. I want my community to be socially just and inclusive because I love my community, all of my community. Family is family, even when it’s a chosen one. And like any family, you won’t always get along, you won’t like everyone, but you’re still a family. We’re all different but in the end, we’re all in this together. And all of that warm fuzzy crap would work a lot better if the people in my communities who have more power than me, more privilege, would look back once in a while and remember where they came from. It wasn’t too long ago that they didn’t have it any better than I do now. I’m glad that the Cincinnati Equinox Pride folks are working hard to try and create something big and beautiful, but when you build something without the correct supports, it is bound for crumble and crushing everything beneath it.

Transphobic Katy Perry and Queer Accountability

In an interview with Rolling Stone late last month, Katy Perry is again quoted using transphobic language and promoting uneducated, transphobic mentalities. Rolling Stone removed all problematic language from all digital publications, but the quotes remain in paper print and thanks to our friends at Queerty, the information was reported on. I’m not ok with the use of “Bimbo”  in the Queerty article title, but I appreciate the remaining sentiments of the text. Queerty reports Perry saying (in reference to her fashion):

“You can’t be a full tranny every day of the week, that’s an exaggerated part of my personality.”

Ok, not to be overly aggressive here, but if I had a no tolerance policy about Katy Perry before (which I did) it has exploded into a million more. What the hell, people? Why do our queer and gay communities continue to support this person? Wake the fuck up. If we are supporting people like Katy Perry, we are not supporting trans* people. GLAAD and other “big” “gay” organizations surprisingly overlooked the issue despite being previously vigilant about Perry with her transphobic tweet last year. As many of us know, GLAAD has been a little busy lately, but that doesn’t excuse missing a red-letter incident like this. Our community has long discussed and gone over the use of the word tranny, and pop culture has recently taken interest and decided to use it too. Am I the only one confused about why people think we’re so interesting? Besides our obvious fabulousness, that is. Are non-queer folks out there using other community words as hip catch phrases? Something like: “I’m so lesbian right now.” or “That’s fag-arrific, man.” Hmmm, maybe I should start using these… This fascination with trans identities comes from the growing fascination with gender and the bending of it – and while I think its awesome that genderfucking is becoming a larger conversation with more visibility, I am terrified of how that visibility is being built, who is building it, and where they may be taking it in our culture. Trans isn’t a hip thing I do to be cool, it is my life. I can’t avoid it, and I likely would have if I could because it sure as hell isn’t easy – can’t say it isn’t glamorous, but that’s just because I’m a fucking glamorous person. (JK!) For the trans community, being trans isn’t about being fashionable or cool. It is about surviving. We squeeze the fun in afterwards, if we’re lucky enough to have room for it. Despite our struggle, which has been growing in its own visibility, people fail to find issue in the growing tokenizing and exotifying of it.

What does Katy Perry give to queers? I’m told it is some form of viability, but I’ve yet to actually see it. I’ve heard people say “I know Katy Perry is terrible, but I can’t help but like her music.” Well of course people like her music. Most pop music is manufactured for that specific purpose, to make you like it. This past winter, while at a tech rehearsal for a show I was in, I watched a drag troupe run through an awesome number to a really fun song. I didn’t know the song, but I was sure I had heard it on some oldies station at some point. Everyone in the place was singing along, just like any “classic song” that people emotionally bond to when they’re growing up. Ever self-conscious of my lack of pop culture knowledge, being born and continuing to live under a rock, I smiled at the singing, laughing faces across the bar. I wanted to be cool too… I pretended to know the song, which wasn’t hard since the lyrics were as predictable as a romantic comedy. When the number was over I discovered that the song was not a 1980s hit I just wasn’t cool enough to recognize. It was a new song and not only was it by Katy Perry, it was a Glee version of a Katy Perry song. Double Oppressor Whammy! I was embarrassed about looking like a hypocrite and I was disappointed that I could never enjoy this fun song ever again. Does it seem silly to give up something like a song? I’ll admit it, yeah, it does. But is enjoying a song  by an oppressor any different than willingly promoting any other system of oppression that I may otherwise benefit from, like white privilege? No, it’s not; its just a smaller version, a smaller cog in the bigger machine that works against you, me, and all of us in this community of underdogs. Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” may make a lot of gay people feel empowered (not me, but apparently 1000s of others.) but what about the Asian Pacific Islander folks being called “orient” in the lyrics? What about Gaga claiming the word Chola? Gay people get something out of it, but the song is fucking racist. Plus its a rip off of Madonna’s “Express Yourself”, but I digress.

I’ve gone on and on about the mistakes pop culture continues to make, as well as how our own communities don’t seem to give a damn. Is anyone else tired? I’m remembering  my bruised frustrations over the L Word series;  my anger and confusion about trans supporters enjoying a blatantly transphobic show because even though it was hurtful to trans folks, it was beneficial to them. Sometimes being accountable sucks because you have to make sacrifices, but in the end I think its worth it. I might feel a little silly protesting a song that I actually like, but deep down I feel good about it. I feel that by giving up something that I could otherwise like, I am showing myself that I am willing to go the distance for what I believe in. You can’t pick and choose what oppression to fight, it’s all or nothing, even when it’s “only a song” or “only a TV show.” Folks say “I know its bad, but it makes me feel good” but we aren’t talking about eating a whole bowl of frosting while watching bad reality TV shows about beauty pageants (yes, I do do that). We are talking about cultural messaging that hurts our friends, our family, our communities. I think if we have to give up a fun song here, and a night of TV there, it’s worth showing each other that we care enough to make a sacrifice for those we love and for good of the greater whole.

 

Gender Proof and Queers; We should know better

Yesterday I took part in Equality Ohio’s LGBT Lobby Day, a gathering of folks from all over the state descending en masse on the capital to lobby for LGBT issues. With Ohio ranking second to last in the country in terms of trans and queer rights, over all Equality Ohio is very successful in creating a safe space where our disenfranchised community can work with a conservative local government. What it hasn’t been able to provide is a safe space for our community to work with itself.

I was anxious about Lobby Day this year. My last Lobby Day experience was less than positive, but Equality Ohio leaders were surprisingly attentive to my feedback which, in addition to the over-all importance of this event, lead me to attend again, this time as a team leader. By the time the opening event was underway I was starting to feel that activist passion burning. Suddenly, I felt unfamiliar arms surround me from behind my chair and under a suffocating kiss to the side of my head I heard, “Thank you for reminding me of my daughter.” I turned to see a woman walking away from me. I remembered her… At the last Lobby Day I attended, I met this woman -correction, I never actually met her. She ran up to me, hugged me, and tearfully said, “Thank you for reminding me of my daughter.” And despite the mis-gendering and her slightly ageist tone, I was warmed by her emotion. She said her daughter was just like me: a “strong young lesbian” who dyes her hair. I didn’t correct her. I remember that year I was feeling particularly combative about my identity, and I was in no mood to out myself as trans. Besides, how do you stop a crying mother mid-sentence and tell her she’s wrong and being offensive? I didn’t want to make her feel guilty or uncomfortable – a bad habit I have when people get my gender wrong. Naturally I was irritated, she shouldn’t have assumed my gender, but I knew the conversation would end soon enough and I could walk away without facing any awkward trans identity explanations. I know now that was not the right decision.

The woman walked onto the stage, introduced as Nickie Antonio the 1st openly gay representative to ever be elected in Ohio. She started a good speech focusing on our community’s diversity, naming differences in the room of identity, faith, appearance… I knew what was about to happen and I was powerless to stop it. She raised her hand and pointed right at me. “And I’d like to especially point out the sister in the back with the fuschia hair!” Like a movie scene, all at once a couple hundred people turned and looked right at me, and there I was, outed and mis-gendered… but at least she got the hair color right… right? Sometimes gender/passing stuff rolls off my back, other times it soaks into the skin until my entire disposition is saturated in frustration, anger, and guilt. This event was the latter. Yes, I am used to this sort of thing. Like most trans and gender non-conforming folks, I experience public mis-gendering a lot – usually it isn’t over a microphone in front of a couple hundred people -though it does happen on occasion. I am used to it, but it never gets any easier, at least, it hasn’t yet. My emotional response to being mis-gendered is identical to whenever I am treated with an utter lack of respect. It makes me feel small, unimportant, disempowered, angry, and less than human. I didn’t want to be at Lobby Day anymore. I didn’t want to be anywhere other than alone. All my excitement about taking part in community, all my drive to make a difference crumbled beneath me in a heap of disappointment with my community. Representative Antonio walked back to my tabled and gave me another hug. Cradled in repulsion, I interrupted her motherly repeats speaking in my most polite voice, “I’m not a woman, I’m trans. I would appreciate it if you didn’t mis-gender me.” She took my hand apologetically, still keeping me unwillingly wrapped in her hug, “I’m so sorry,” she said, “I should know better.” Unable to think of any other response I said, “Yeah…” cutting myself off from curtly finishing with “you should.” I reeled myself in with a semi-excusatory “It’s ok, I mean, it happens all the time…” She smiled, “Oh, I’m sure.” A comment I’m sure she meant to be agreeable, but it had the opposite effect. She mentioned how her partner was mis-gendered all the time “but in the other direction,” which only strengthened the argument that she really should have known better.

I spoke to a head Equality Ohio organizer, who I deeply respect, about the incident. This organizer, in hearing who the offender was, also said that “[Antonio] should know better.” which was a positive validation of my experience. However this validation was short lived. The organizer asked me whether I had made my identity known to Antonio, and when I said no they presented the argument that if someone doesn’t know any better, and I don’t correct them, then it isn’t their fault… which I guess would make this whole situation my fault.  So, I guess it doesn’t matter that Antonio should have known better because I wasn’t properly announcing myself. I don’t think this organizer was actively trying to say that it was my fault that I was grossly and publicly mis-gendered, but they did seem visibly confused as to why I would be upset that I was mis-gendered when I appeared to do nothing to stop it. I explained that I shouldn’t have to introduce myself identity label first just on the off chance someone might get confused, especially if I am in what is supposed to be a community safe space. Do gender conforming people have to consistently tell people their gender? No, they don’t, they just get the right language applied and go on their merry way. But because I am not visibly aligned to one gender or another, it is up to me to out myself compulsively, or else just not get offended when someone plays fast and loose with whatever label they choose for me.

Gender non-conforming people is have to re-assert our identity every moment of every day; when we meet a new friend, when we’re on a date, when we’re at work, when we’re at the grocery store, when we use a public bathroom… Eventually you have to make a choice; either you’re going to lighten up or you’re gonna burn out – for a lot of us the second is the result of the first. So no, I do not correct someone every time I’m called “she” or “lady” or “a young lesbian.” And because of that, is it my fault when someone mis-genders me? No it’s not, it’s the fault of a society that breeds people to see in a black and white gender-scape. I don’t automatically think that someone who mis-genders me is transphobic and out to get me, but depending on the person and the situation, I may think that the person is careless, irresponsible, or just plain lazy. Contrary to popular belief, it is not hard to be polite about gender. To quote the opening plenary from todays lobby day session  “Don’t tell me what you believe. Show me what you do and I’ll tell you what you believe.”(quote attributed to an unknown Mississippi civil rights leader). Ironically, this was said right after I was mis-gendered in front of everyone. If people really care about trans folks and really know better than to disrespect us, they why don’t they do it? It’s true that when you are running an event, it is impossible to control what every participant says or does, however you can do a lot to promote safe spaces and educate folks who just don’t know any better. Activist leaders should lead by example by educating themselves and through inclusive language and behavior. An event like Lobby Day should have a brief spoken introduction to involve participants in promoting safes spaces, to use inclusive language, and to be cautious of their own privileges. And if the event has speakers or guests, talk to them about safe spaces and request that they follow the guidelines necessary to continue that safety and inclusion. Everyone is afraid of talking about privilege, but all recognizing privilege is, is recognizing our own humanity: our ability to make a mistake and our own responsibility to correct it. We are supposed to be striving for “equal rights” but if we can’t even form equality within our own spaces, how are we supposed to accomplish it in the rest of the world? I don’t expect anyone to be perfect, but I do, as I suppose anyone does, hold my community up to a higher standard. I would like to think we know better.

Baltimore McDonalds Attack on Transwoman Not About Trans?

An additional blog about the recent attack on a transwoman in a Baltimore McDonalds last week. There have been multiple ralliesvigils and petitions held to support the trans community as well as efforts to hold McDonalds accountable. And with all the efforts, new information has risen about what the motivation was for the attack. All of our first impressions were, as would be expected, that it was about transphobic oppression, especially because it started in a bathroom. But what if trans status was not the root of the issue? And if it wasn’t, why is everyone continuing to talk about TRANS?

Many articles are publishing that statement and comments by the survivor has supported it. However, in a video interview, she clearly states that the two women attacked her out of jealously and rage stating that the two girls” just wanted to pick a fight that night.” It was an attack over turf, not gender.  Two young women (one 18 and one 14) have been arrested, neither of which have made any statement for or against the idea it was a “hate crime” or transphobicly motivated attack. The Mcdonalds employee who did the filming has been fired – as well as having made quite an impression on the internet community with of his transphobic tweets and comments– all of which he has now removed and recanted on, but not without continuing to use the wrong pronouns…

Whether this event was originally sparked by transphobia or not, the subsequent treatment of trans identities following this event still supports my previous statements about trans folks positioning in society. Furthermore, if trans identity had nothing to do with this, why is everyone talking about how this woman is trans? And before that, does this woman even call herself trans or are we labeling her? Equality Maryland -for some reason- is continually mentioned in articles as the representative authority to assure everyone that the survivor is a “transgender woman.” The woman herself has made statements that she has dealt with oppression because of her gender identity and gender related transition, but I’ve found no statements of her saying she identifies as trans.  Several articles addressing the assault also felt the need to discuss her “sex change”  and/or her past name, even though contextually it has nothing to do with anything else in the article. Yes, this woman is gender variant/trans/gender non-conforming, but what the hell does that have to do with this? Two women attacked another woman… where does trans come in here? Well, I guess we need to make sure everyone knows she’s not a “REAL” woman, she’s trans. Lets be sure to focus on that so there’s no mistaking her for someone “normal.” Its all just more gender-obsession and exotifying trans folks as an othered population. We’re so different, so magical, so fascinating that we need to dive into all the gritty details of difference. No chance of going about it as if trans folk were just as human as anyone else.

I’m not negating that trans/gender non-conforming folks are more risk than people who are not trans for violence and discrimination. Notice I haven’t made any “we’re just like you” or “we’re all equals” or any similar bullshit comments. The reality is that we don’t have an equal playing field here. Still, and at risk of opening a can of worms, part recognizing that trans folk deserve equal recognition via humanization is recognizing that sometimes we might get attacked for reasons other than the fact we’re trans. If I got beaten up, I don’t know whether it would be a relief or a let down to learn that it wasn’t about me being trans. Sure enough, a transphobic attack would (hopefully) get the community walking and talking which is always needed (though an attack shouldn’t be necessary to make it happen) but if I was attacked because someone was being a jerk, I wonder if it would it be some sort of weird, included-feeling relief that I was read as a “normal person” by my attacker… Weird way to think about passing politics…

And while situation likely had little or nothing to do with the woman being trans, it doesn’t change the fact that this really does happen to trans folks every day. So lets not forget it.

 

No Boys Allowed: The Fucked Over Femme Part II

One of the photo blogs I follow, FuckYeahFemmes, has been having a lot of discussion about inclusion recently. Some issues were raised about the blog being un-inclusive of transfolks; all sentiments I can identify with whole heartedly. However, I never felt that about this blog because though trans/non-female identity posts were not common, I asked the author a long time ago if I could post and she was very welcoming. But to anyone who has not asked, they probably wouldn’t think it was very representative of all femmes. The author reached out to me about being more inclusive of guy/trans/gq femmes and she immediately began to act on making a more inclusive blog. Unfortunately some of the blog readers have not been equally awesome and have been posting commentary about how it is “ridiculous and offensive that femme is being appropriated by masculine identified people…” and how “femme IS restricted to female identified, feminine presenting, lesbian/bisexual/transgender/queer women.” This is so hurtful. I continue to struggle with why we are oppressive of our own communities, and frankly why we queers can’t get our act together. Below is my response posted on the blog:

“I’d like to respond to the several “femme appropriation” posts that have been appearing. I have a female sex assigned body. I am a male transguy. I am genderqueer. I am read as a man but more often as a woman. I live as guy. I am a femme.

I am a feminine person and though masculinity is an aspect to my identity it is not prominent. I used to beat myself up over it, my whole life spent stuck between what I wasn’t and what I couldn’t be. It was lonely, frustrating, and painful. When I found FEMME I stopped feeling so “wrong” and I started feeling something I had never felt; included. Femme supports me so I am no longer ashamed of being feminine despite other expectations. It empowers me to not feel obligated to be something I’m not while also validating me in being who I am. When you tell me I am not allowed to be femme, you are telling me I am not allowed to be myself.

Boarder policing is one of the most detrimental things we do in our communities. How is stating that people “are not allowed” to identify with how they feel any different from the oppressions placed on us from outside queer communities? Yes, there are words other than femme, but femme is more than a word, it is an identity and it is a community. And if there is a community of people who identify similarly to me, live similar lives, have similar politics, why would I not be in that community? Is it because I am not identical to you? To that I say is anyone really identical to you? History is important. And in history we have been combating oppressive systems that try to define femininity based on what someone else wants. I find that we are now doing that again, but in a different forum. We must always remember where we came from, but we also must look ahead to where we are going. An identity label is not a physical space; it is a state of mind, and it is a community in communities. Me, a guy, standing under FEMME is not stealing someone’s spot under the umbrella. There is always more room and there is strength in numbers. When you tell me I am not allowed to be femme, you are telling me that you are going ahead but I must stay behind alone.

When we talk about appropriation, we are discussing communities of power and privilege adopting words, behavior, etc of communities who have less/none. By being male one may think I have more privilege and therefore I am appropriating but I am not seen as male in society, by government, by the average person on the street, in a gay bar, or even on the internet. I do not receive a plethora of privileges from the patriarchy. It oppresses me too; not the same ways as for a woman but in ways just as legitimate. Closed spaces and safe spaces are vitally important. Women have the right to be in women-only spaces and use language that speaks to their experience. But for femme, there is not one femme experience and your femme experience is not the only one. As queer people we have a lot of doors closed on us. I can not understand why we continue to close doors on each other. We must do all we can to combat privilege and exclusion in order to create a just and conscious community. Maybe femme means woman to you, but it does not mean woman to me. How can we judge who is right? The presence of maleness or masculinity does not negate femininity. The gender binary is not a friend to anyone, including femmes. I work hard for the femme community, just as hard as someone who is not male. When you tell me I am not allowed to be femme, you are telling me I am not good enough to have a safe community.

Yes, I admit that I do get frustrated when any group address at FemmeCon or on a femme blog is “Ladies!” My response is to remind folks that I am here in hopes of change. FuckYeahFemmes is not a transphobic blog. Originally, I didn’t know if I was allowed to post on it so I asked the author and her response was very welcoming. We can’t know everything all at once, what matters is learning responsibly and correcting our mistakes. FuckYeahFemmes did correct itself and I know that for a fact because I was personally contacted by Shawna (author) about how to make the blog more inclusive. I wish everyone in our community had FuckYeahFemmes’ drive and love for community inclusion. When we see others challenging our friends, it is hard not get upset but the answer is not to pick up our toys and go home. The answer is to listen, to talk, and to open our arms to one another saying “This is hard for me too, but we can make it together.” When you tell me I am not allowed to be femme, you are not standing up for the femme community; you are standing in the way of it.

In solidarity and love, Midwest GenderQueer”

Fortunately, not all the blog followers are un-inclusive. There have been posts by readers advocating for the diverse spectrum of Femme, including the author herself. I guess we can only keep working, keep fighting until we all are included. Until then, we’re going to continue to hurt each other and fuck each other over.

Queer Blog States We Can “Live Without Queer People of Color”

Last night, in the period of a few hours, the blog Queering posted a series of comments about people of color’s inclusion and, at one point, actively supported racially exclusionary language. It started when an anonymous reader asked if the vintage style, erotic-themed queer photo blog had interest in posting pictures of queer people of color:

Not the best first answer, but at worst, its nothing more than bratty. I do find it weird that queer people of color is in “quotes.” Likely the blogger, like so many others, had simply never heard this internationally used community descriptor before and perhaps needed to put it in quotes to… legitimize it…? Soon after, Queering stated their lack of people of color postings was not because they were “a racist or a discriminator” they just didn’t “have much any contact with ‘black culture’ whatsoever…” A familiar, and surely well intended explanation. Honestly, I don’t know how no “contact” with people of color means you wouldn’t, at some point, post a pretty picture of one… Another reader suggested that vintage/style photos of queer people of color are hard to find. I was lucky to find a handful in my search. I googled a “gay [people of color group] vintage erotica photo” and only found a couple hundred results in various styles commonly seen in Queering’s (white) photo posts.

Now, some bloggers have a thicker skin than others. When I get a comment that disagrees with me (or is downright horrible), I post it, promote a discussion, eat some candy, and move on with life. Not only did Queering not post any dissenting opinions, it played the classic “its my blog and I’ll cry if I want to, everyone just hates me” card.  Queering’s response (below) was originally shorter and without the bold text, but I sent in my comments (PS which included the phrase “this is not from hate, but a place of love for our community…”) the response was updated to what is listed here. “Hate speech” was kept and they added a little shout out to me in reference to a particularly offensive post, along with an assumed female pronoun for me (nice). For a “queer” blog, there seems to be a lack of understanding basic trans/genderqueer etiquette. Maybe my username, MidwestGenderQueer, did not communicate my identity to clearly enough…

Every blogger has a right to free speech (or free choice of what to post). It’s worth mentioning that it is a common ethical blogging guideline that unless a comment is spam, violent, hateful/discriminatory, or a flame/troll, you always post it. Also, well intentioned or not, you never delete something you wrote. You cross it out and correct yourself, but you do not delete it with the goal of maintaining the permanency (and accountability) of online writers. It seems to me that Queering (somehow) didn’t see anything wrong with how they were handling things until so many people complained that they panicked – chaning language and deleting the most offensive post that proved they actively agreed with racist sentiments. But another thing they didn’t count on is that I suspected that might happen so I immediately print-screened the page, preserving it forever.

“That’s the Spirit! Lets do whatever we want and maybe all those people of color will either have to get with the program or disappear.” Its the same song and dance white people have been doing for 100s of years… but its excusable because its OUR blog, our organization, our conference, our bar, our festival, our community… Queering and many of its followers, seem more interested in not being “told what to do” than worrying about if they are being racist. I’m sure these people have good intentions, and often times non-inclusion is accidental , but that is because white folks have the privileged ability to forget about race. It is only when we are confronted with the question of inclusion that we are reminded of our behavior and scramble to make excuses for why it is not our fault.  Just because the post was deleted does not mean the mentality that originally agreed with it was. Queering actively decided to post and support a racist statement. Maybe Queering didn’t realize they were being racist, but if that is the case it really says something…

As I’ve said about 200 times on this blog, I feel that in order to accomplish equality, we can not fight amongst ourselves . We must stand together. That said, I will not stand by while one part oppresses another. I believe in standing up for my community and my community is not complete without people of color. A hit to people of color is a hit on everything our community (supposedly) stands for – pride, unity, equality, justice, access. Yes, I believe in solidarity, and it is in solidarity that we have to challenge each other in our privileges and recognize the importance of all members of our queer community.

Tools of Our Own Demise

My community continues to throw me curve balls. Recently I was given an account of a rather discouraging discourse that took place on stage at a local show. The emcee, who is a transguy, told a story about another man flirting with him and concluded his story by asserting his straight identity and saying “I’m not gay trans, I’m just trans.” The audience laughed.

A pleasant reminder that just as gays have less rights than straights, gay trans folks have less rights than straight trans folks. The amount of internalized homophobia and transphobia here is staggering. “I’m not gay trans, I’m just trans.” Translation: “I’m not one of those gay transguys. I’m just you’re good o’l normal transguy.” Or maybe “gay trans” was meant to be a combination of gender and sexuality in one identity making ‘gay trans’ a different identity than ‘trans’ aka ‘straight trans.’ Not only would this create a problematic concept of normalcy based off of straightness, it also mirrors the all too familiar “I’ll prove I’m not gay cause god forbid you think otherwise.” Can anyone say hierarchy? As usual the straight people go on top. Trans or not, lets keep reaching for that privilege! Never mind who you crush on your way up.

My criticism does not come solely from an outsider’s perspective. I was straight once. When I first came out as trans I identified as queer in the general sense, but since I was a guy dating women I felt that to actualize my maleness and to pass I needed to be straight. And ‘straight’ was about more than sexuality, it was gender expression too. It meant portraying a specific masculinity that used misogynistic and homophobic language to underline how straight I was. I found myself impulsively attempting an uncomfortable role that went against my feminist principles. But “straight” continually failed to speak to my reality leaving me feeling like a fake, and eventually, like a failure at being a man. All and all, my straight period was very short because my exhaustion lead me to recognize my folly- that and I’m just too self-righteous to be anything other than what I am. Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t transguys who are straight, or that its bad to be straight. There are tons of awesome straight guys, I’m just not one of them. (To clarify: I am not stating that the label(s) you choose have to define your actions based on the dictionary. I say own the labels that speak to you – i.e. someone can identify as lesbian but not solely date women, someone can be queer and heterosexual, in my own case I call myself gay frequently but I do not only date men.) I say all this to state how I can understand the motivation, the habitualness of using language that is oppressive in order to show off one’s masculinity. It is not wickedly meant, but it is no less harmful to all involved. This “no [trans] homo” mentality harms us not only in a grander sense of societal oppression, but also more directly in our own mentalities. It forces ourselves into gendered stereotypes that art problematic and hurtful. Think of how people replace the word stupid with gay, loser with cocksucker, and wimp with fag. Is it no wonder people struggle to come out as queer. Similarly, when trans folks make homophobic comments it has the exact same effect. In reference to this case: There are tons of straight transguys and there are also tons of transguys who are playing it straight just like I did because they are afraid that without being ‘straight’ they won’t pass, can’t be a real man, or people will not accept them.

We all seem to understand that our community continues to suffer in our society, and yet the oppressions of the non-queer community isn’t enough. We continue to put each other down. Intention is important, but intention is not everything, especially when in positions of high visibility. In this case I am certain the emcee only meant to crack a joke, but I don’t appreciate my life being made into a joke. Many assume we are incapable of oppressing those within our own communities but that is not true. Our culture values gender normalcy and heteronormative behavior and this influences our own trans and queer communities. Those who do not conform to heteronormative roles are considered less than, either consciously or unconsciously, which results in a lack of recognition, respect, and inclusion. When an identity, like a transguy, is decidedly defined based off of stereotyped masculinity and straight identity, what does that make someone like me who doesn’t fit that standard? We are left fighting to prove we are trans enough, if we are allowed to be considered trans at all.

As gender normative, ‘normal’ looking, white, middle-class “gay” becomes more socially acceptable we must actively guard against oppressing those in our communities who are different. Statements like “That’s so gay,” “She’s not trans, she’s a real woman,” and “I’m not gay trans, I’m just trans” create unconscious hierarchies that result in significant oppression. The person saying it may not feel the oppression in their words, but it makes them the tool of a system that prefers us to be ashamed, hidden, or dead.

The Fucked-Over Femme

This past weekend was Femme 2010, the biannual Femme Conference put on by the fantastic Femme Collective. The Femme “community” is like any other where it is in actuality many similar communities grouped together under one umbrella. I am always excited for Femme Con and this year I was optimistic about making more femme friends and also meeting more femme guys, which were few and far between last time (2008 in Chicago). But the longer the conference went on the longer I was alone.

Early in the conference I met a transguy, a femme ally, who confided in me about a woman purposely making negative comments about “masculine energy” taking up space in the conference, insinuating that non-female people were not welcome. I wasn’t surprised, but I assured him that was not the opinion of the general populace of the conference. I have always admired the Femme Collective’s hard work to expand the femme umbrella’s reach, but what do we do when oppression is coming from under the umbrella in addition to outside of it?

Invisibility. Many queer femme women feel invisible because the world doesn’t understand/believe that feminine women can also be queer nor do people often recognize the subversive political action that goes with being a femme woman. Femme transwomen who, among many things, are often refused access to women spaces and have severe issues of safety. Whether it is misogyny in its most traditional ‘women are demons’ sense or in more complex spheres where somehow cute shoes equal complying with the patriarchy – femme women have a lot of shit to deal with. That said I would like to point out that not all femmes are women, and femme women are not the only ones who have to deal with shit.

“Come In Ladies!” The signs were all over the conference, but what about us femmes who aren’t ladies? Can’t we come in or are boys not allowed? I heard whispers: “Men shouldn’t be here” “What’s with all the butch looking people?” and “This is a femme only space” essentially telling me not only am I not a femme, I am also unwelcome. I was really perturbed by the 1970s-esque pro-vagina sentiment that was overtaking everything. Yes, pro-vagina is awesome but vagina does not always equal woman, and woman does not always equal femme. What about those who don’t have a vagina (or a specific a type of vagina), or have one but don’t identify with it? As the weekend progressed I found myself getting nervous. I was worried people didn’t want me there or wouldn’t be interested in my workshop or in my performance (which was in an all women line-up). I felt alone, desperate for people to talk to. I went to a workshop for guy and genderqueer femmes but the whole thing was over run with female femmes processing their loves and issues (some very problematic) about transguy femmes; which I found particularly ironic because it was the only workshop dedicated to non-female femmes but it was dominated by females – but “male energy” is what’s stealing all the conference space. There were multiple testimonies of how femme transguys presented competition for community, status, and even sex partners. This dialogue made me too angry to constructively comment. It was a typical bubble-world testimony of coastal queers thinking the entire world is their liberal city, where apparently transqueers are running wild en masse. I’ve never found it easy to find my own folks, in fact out here in the Midwest the closest feminine (not femme, just feminine) transguy is a nine hour drive away and I only met him last year. Yeah, us femme guys are a real invasion.  Claim your radical status and sex partners now before its too late!

Not only am I invisible but I’m getting fucked over by my own communities. Folks like me, we’re the Fucked-Over Femmes. We have to deal with similar oppressions to female femmes but we aren’t allowed to bond and unite over it because we are male or masculine. How much male privilege you think is allowed someone like me? Not a fuckin lot, if I’m even read as male at all. Femininity is considered equal to woman, and not being a woman I am frequently denied the identity of femme, even by those who know me well. Instead I am habitually told how ‘gay’ I am, which I don’t mind because I am queer, but the use of gay here is incorrect and it says something about unconscious gendering. Someone may lovingly say “JAC, you’re so gay'” because I’m wearing a poofy skirt but they don’t say it when I’m restoring a bike. I’m the same person but I’m not expressing the same “gayness” AKA male femininity. Pushing against masculinity is hard; coping with scrutiny from other guys for not being ‘man enough,’ even pitied for getting delt the femme hand in life. I am continually asked why I transitioned at all if I was just going to be like a girl. I do not deserve to pass as well or get the right pronoun because I don’t exude the hypermasculinity that would make me worthy of it and if I am at all bothered by this it is my own fault for not being a “normal guy.”

I love my femme communities and I will continually work hard for them. And I know for a fact that the general community of Femme Con is awesome and strives for inclusiveness, but – and you know there is always a ‘but’ on this blog – different types of femmes have many different oppressions to battle and no one is harder than another. In general we are all up against the same shit: You get cat-called, I get called fag. You’re afraid, I’m afraid. Our big similarities outweigh the tiny differences. I may be a Fucked-Over Femme, but not any more or less than any other femme. You may feel invisible, but no more or less than I am. What is more frustrating that seeing your community when it refuses to see you? We all feel invisible, we are all getting fucked over, we all need to fight together. We all are undervalued and stereotyped because, as Kate Bornstein so eloquently said in her keynote, “sexy is evil and cute is dumb.” How are we supposed to rise above the oppressions put on us when we are still counting people out, or counting people as less-than? (sound familiar?) Kate talked about how no femme is truly invisible, but femmes are still being fucked over, sometimes by each other. We need to stop the legitimacy wars and start doing what we do best, fighting for justice and looking fabulous while we do it.

‘Oh Canada’ for Queers

Just returned from a fantastic journey to Canada for Toronto Pride. I was invited by the awesome troupe the Royal Renegades of Columbus to perform with them and our friends Ceci My Playmate and Her Dollies the  at the festival. It was a ton of fun. I was the EMCEE for the majority of the show which was a special treat. There were so many young people in the audience, it was adorable. That is the best thing about Pride, seeing all the kids and young folks come out, all excited and beaming – before they get bitter and jaded like the rest of us. lol


With the Renegades before the show.

I’ve never been one to go nuts over rainbows and Pride, but I have to admit the way Toronto handles it is an experience. It wasn’t the size alone (with was staggering) that was amazing, but more so the way the city responded to Pride. In Toronto, Pride is treated like any other holiday. Stores in the main shopping drag of the city hung rainbow flags and ‘gay’ themed store displays. Now, I realize that its all corporate consumerism, but even with that it was strange to be so… normalized.  There’s little chance of any mall in Cincinnati having store after store with queer themes. People wouldn’t go to them out of protest, but in Toronto people don’t think twice. The Pride parade was also televised live in full as well as evening coverage; it was even on the weather.

Clothing store near Easton Center, downtown Toronto — Pride on Toronto’s weather

Granted, Canada is arguably one of the most liberal, queer-friendly countries in the world and Toronto is its largest, (and most liberal) city, so talking about how queer friendly it is may seem redundant. Even so, its not something this Midwestern boy is used to. I wonder if it is like San Francisco Pride,or New York, or D.C., but even there I don’t know if Pride is on the weather. I can’t even put my finger on the feelings surrounding it because its something I’ve never experienced on this scale.

I was hoping to see tons of transfolk at Pride, but sadly I didn’t. I missed the Trans March by a day, I guess after the march all the trans folk didn’t want to come out (maybe they were too tired, ba dum ching!) I saw a couple older women, but I couldn’t even spot any folks that could be either lesbians or transguys but you can’t tell. It was surprising and disappointing… I asked around, but to no avail. I’m curious as to what the trans community is like there now. All I could find out was that the guys and gals were pretty separated, and most transmasculine folks seemed to be younger and have ‘different interests’ from the women. Sound familiar? Eh, well, guess I’ll have to go back and look some more.

The visibility and normalization, if you will, of Toronto Pride left me thinking about my own recent experiences with Cincinnati Pride and the controversy of accessibility and inclusion. Toronto seemed to do a good job with family-friendly and youth-specific spaces, as well as safe spaces for various parts of our community including the disabled, trans and gqs, and POCs. There was also a pretty prominent international presence in the parade which was awesome. I am certain that all Prides have their issues, but as a literal foreigner I wasn’t savvy to them. It made me think about the attempts of sanitizing Cincy Pride, and further reiterated my feelings on the issue. From what I could tell from being present in the festival, working with volunteers, and attending events, Toronto’s way of managing Pride was very community run and community focused. There was a surprising lack of corporate ads etc with a plethora of community groups and locally run industry (even the city transportation services were in the parade). Maybe a good idea for Midwest communities would be to have community marches. The Toronto Dyke March grossed 200,000 – which I learned from the news coverage about it. Of course, a big place like Toronto has the resources and people power for such a thing which stresses how a city with low community resources can raise all the money it wants for pride, but without a supported people all you’ll end up with is a shell of a festival with low representation and even lower involvement.

As for an update on Cincinnati Pride workings, there isn’t much of one. After a brief period of motion and success the opposition seems to be stonewalling us, so we must push on and keep up the work until some sort of resolution and be accomplished. Maybe one day Cincy pride can manage something like Toronto (to scale) but we haven’t gotten there yet.