Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Just a little something to brighten your day!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Queer Theory

I feel a special affinity for queer theory whenever we study it in classes. I think it's partially because my first year of college I would go down to the basement of the library to the HQ section (homos and queers) and devour books about LGBT issues that often used a queer lens to view the world. So now reading queer theory always brings back memories of browsing through the stacks, sitting down in the aisle propping my feet up against one shelf and leaning back against another and completely losing track of time.

There are several aspects of queer theory that I really enjoy. For one thing, queer theory has an emphasis on context, and admitting the context that theory and experience grows from. So admitting class, history, cultural influences, personal experience etc. all shape your viewpoint. Part of this is a recognition of multiplicity, that there are many different and valid ways of being and seeing the world. I admire this, I think it allows people to stand where they are but to be able to understand how the world would look differently if they stood in a different position.

In addition, queer theory grew out of a combination of academics and activism. While queer theory can sometimes be complicated and described in complicated language, the basic concepts aren't that difficult to grasp, and many of the ideas of queer theory are already lived on within certain social groups.

Another aspect of queer theory I appreciate is the fact that queer can be a noun, an adjective and verb. Queer as a noun and an adjective are kind of self explanatory. Queer as a verb on the other hand, is one of my favorite usages. To queer, to unfix from prior definition, to shatter preconceptions and rebuild new meanings, to challenge binaries, to challenge who creates knowledge.

One aspect of queer theory that I've struggled with is the notion of identity, labeling and queer theory. I think my current conclusion, after a lot of thought, is that queer theory and labeling aren't necessarily contradictions. Labels can be useful, and I think the point isn't to do away with fixed identity and labels. I think the idea is to challenge identity and labels, and to realize that that's all they are, labels. To admit their use, to use them and then discard them when they are no longer necessary. Of course that's easier said than done.

One downside of queer theory is that it is centered in a western context, and it doesn't really translate to non-western contexts as well. In addition, it was developed mainly by white people. Again, while queer theory does emphasize being grounded in context, it's important to remember the contexts that allowed queer theory to develop.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Sometimes I feel like even though I've gotten to the point where I know that I need to transition, and that it's the right choice for me, it'll never actually happen. That I will never get rid of the complete and utter disconnect between my inner embodiment and my physical embodiment. I'm feeling like my body has betrayed me and playing some cruel prank on me by having the breasts and hips it does.
Nonetheless, life strangely enough feels incredibly static right now. Bizarre since my senior paper is due tomorrow, graduation is less than a month away, and I still haven't decided what I'm going to do this summer. And again, I feel like I'm never actually going to accomplish any of the physical changes I need to make to live and stay sane.
I hate being melodramatic like that. Oh well. Cliché as it may be, I know that transitioning sooner rather than later will definitely contribute in a positive way to my well being.
And now, I really need to finish my senior paper. Since it's due tomorrow at 5. *sigh*

Saturday, April 19, 2008


We went to Postville this week with my confronting the borders class. We arrived, and walked around town in small groups visiting stores and talking to people. One of the most interesting conversations I had was at the only flower shop in town. We (myself and two of my classmates) ended up talking to the two white women working in the shop. The interesting part of the conversation was when we asked about holidays. One of the women talked about how they do flowers for everyone, for "those Jewish celebrations" and also for the "Mexican" celebrations, "like Cinco se Mayo." Yes, that's right, she completely mispronounced it. The hilarious part was that she then continued to say "I think that's coming up soon, isn't it May 10th?"

We also asked about education, and that also got us a few entertaining responses. We got on to the topic of athletics because we mentioned we were from Decorah and Postville beat Decorah at some high school athletic event recently. One of the women mentioned that there are several Latino wrestlers on the high school team, but that they don't always show up for practice or put in the effort. I asked her why she thought that was the case. Her comment was very insightful. She said it was because the parents didn't push their children or instill the right values of attending practice every day. However, she analyzed her own comment (unknowingly) by stating that when the parents work and their kids need to go home to babysit or to work and make money, they don't always show up for practice.

Another entertaining interaction we had was with a strange old man outside the Guatemalan restaurant. He stopped us and called us "you Decorah people" before proceeding to tell us about how integrated the town is, that there is a Mexican and Guatemalan restaurant, that the "a Taste of Postville" celebration in the summer always brings the community together, and that the kosher grocery store has a very nice selection. He then proceeded to tell us that he had eaten the fried chicken at the Guatemalan restaurant. I could be wrong, but I don't think fried chicken is a Guatemalan specialty. The most interesting topic he talked about was the laundromat connected to "The Sweet Spot," which is an ice cream parlor. He made a comment that it was very good for the immigrants in town because "those people don't have washers and dryers" and that their children can play in the back room that they've got set up with coloring tables and blocks, and that they can get ice cream while they wait. Weird assumptions made on many counts.

On the whole, the town is a pretty fascinating mix of Hasidic Jews, white rural Iowans, and immigrant workers from Eastern Europe and Latin America. I kind of hope that a more updated book gets written than the one that was written in the 1990s. I feel like a lot has changed in the world since then, and that the United States obsession/fear with/of terrorism and immigrants probably had a significant affect on the town.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Alejandra Pizarnik

I really loved the poems of Alejandra Pizarnik. They were absolutely beautiful. I wish that I knew Spanish so that I could read them in their original language, not just translations. One of the poems that struck me the most was the following:

"like a poem buried in
the silence of things
you speak to ignore me"

I felt this poem could be applied to many different situations. Relationships, where one person is always talking over the other person, where whoever has the power to talk first and longest has more power overall. It also reminded me of the power that the United States exerts over the rest of the world. How the military spouts off the doctrine of aiding and assisting Iraqi citizens, in particular when they talk about helping women get out of abusive situations while quieting down the stories of American soldiers raping Iraqi women. Of the f School of the Americas, now WHINSEC, where the US military trains guerilla soldiers from Latin American countries in tactics and torture, then send them back to their countries where they rape, murder and upset the rightful governments and install puppet dictatorships. The US military denies all of the wrongful actions the graduates of this school have done, and have refused to acknowledge all of the death and carnage they have perpetuated by training these soldiers.

I'm sure I could go on and think of situations where one party that has power uses language, uses the power of speaking over another to silence those around them. The question that comes to mind for me is then how do you speak up when you don't have as much power? I think as with most other goals of activism, it's a question of critical mass. You need to build up enough people, enough collective power to make yourself heard.

One aspect of the poetry reading that I didn't enjoy as much were the poems of Susan Bassnett. I found her actual poetry to be clunky and heavy-handed, especially in contrast to Pizarnik's poetry.. The metaphors and the topics of the poems were kind of boring. I also found it problematic that Bassnett claimed this close connection to a woman who lived in a very different situation. Not because of their different experiences, but because they never actually meet and the level of closeness that Bassnett described was presumptuous. It seemed too much like western white feminists saying they know what the best way to advocate for women's rights in all other countries and contexts.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

more poetry

queer def poetry

A little def poetry for you.. "i see gay people"

Monday, April 7, 2008

against, into, through

I have been feeling conflicted about the movement exercises we did in class. We did several different exercises, on the floor, against the wall. Mainly just moving, seeing how our bodies felt as we moved with our eyes closed. For one thing, I've been menstruating this week which is always challenging for me. Usually I can maintain a distance, a division between my mental being and my physical being, but menstruation always has this tendency to pull me back into my body. It's always intellectually complicated for me, because I feel like I shouldn't be as concerned about menstruating. It's a biological fact, and there's really nothing to be done about it for now.

In the same manner, the movement exercises also kept seeming to push me back into my body. I think it's partially because the exercises made me more aware of having breasts, and they kept feeling like they were getting in the way, moving in ways I didn't want them to. Which really means moving in any way that reminds me they are there. My drawing that I did reflects this actually, I drew a black form that represents my body as I see, as I wish it would be, while the red curves I drew represent my body as it is. It was interesting, because while other students in the class shared that it was easier and more comfortable with their eyes closed because they were able to shut off their external view of themselves, it was more difficult for me. I think this is partially because keeping my eyes open allows me to maintain my self-image of my body without feeling completely in my body. Closing my eyes and focusing on how my body moved was incredibly uncomfortable at times.

On the other hand, my discomfort is a good illustration of my struggle with embodiment and borders. The exercise in pushing against the wall, into the wall, through the wall was actually pretty illuminating. A lot of times I feel like I'm pushing against myself when it might be more constructive, healthier, to conceptualize my struggle with my body as pushing into myself, becoming myself.

After class I was thinking about the similarities between "Nervous Conditions" and the exercises we did. For one thing, Nyasha and Tambu both experience a schism between their lives as Africans, as women, and as students. Nyasha's experience in particular seemed parallel. Nyasha struggles more than Tambu because she lived in England when she was young, and saw the complications between colonization, education, globalization and being a woman and how these affected her own experience. She was constantly pushing against her father, against the social expectations placed on her, against her own expectations of herself. However, for both Tambu and Nyasha it isn't as easy as learning to push into their obstacles. When Tambu goes to the mission and then the integrated school it's evident that assimilation is not the best method, but staying at the homestead wasn't an option either. Basically, no matter what they do, Nyasha, Tambu and their relatives are all bound to struggle because of the forces of colonization, globalization and development active in their lives.

The Nicest Thing

A friend sent me this lovely video this morning. It's quite beautiful... the lyrics are so poetic and I'm impressed by the simplicity of the violin and guitar parts. So yeah.. enjoy.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Maya Angelou

Happy 80th Birthday Maya Angelou!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

terma collective

Today was a long day. I feel like my breasts are getting larger and that's really distressing to me. Either way, right now I am drained and exhausted, and I just don't feel up to blogging. Hopefully tomorrow I'll have a chance to sit down and type.
I'll leave you with a little bit of writing by the Terma Collective that I found in my email inbox when I was cleaning it out.

May our eyes remain open even in the face of tragedy.
May we not become disheartened.
May we find in the dissolution of our apathy and denial, the cup of the broken heart.
May we discover the gift of the fire burning in the inner chamber of our being -
burning great and bright enough to transform any poison.
May we offer the power of our sorrow to the service
of something greater than ourselves.
May our guilt not rise up to form yet another defensive wall.
May the suffering purify and not paralyze us.
May we endure; may sorrow bond us and not separate us.
May we realize the greatness of our sorrow and not run from its touch or its flame
May clarity be our ally and wisdom our support.
May our wrath be cleansing, cutting through the confusion of denial and greed.
May we not be afraid to see or speak our truth.
May the bleakness of the wasteland be dispelled.
May the soul's journey be revealed and the true hunger fed.
May we be forgiven for what we have forgotten
and be blessed with the remembrance of who we really are.
-The Terma Collective