Friday, September 30, 2011

Crack...I mean...Katt Williams

The Lacys have some adventures in this world. Let me tell you. When God was handing out "Crazy Ass Life Experiences" juju at the beginning of time, some primordial Lacy took two hand fulls and then put some in a fanny pack for the road. And whenever two or more Lacys get together, there is bound to be a surprise cosmic event, a freak storm, or sighting of a celebrity making a crack purchase.

I swear to God.

Currently, I am in the Atlanta for the impending nuptials of one Paulina Hernandez, old school organizing buddy and partner in crime of mine who also happens to be one half of the fierce femme duo that runs Southerners on New Ground (SONG). I am staying with my fierce little sister Jasmine who moved to the ATL last year with another sister of mine who is off in Kuwait making out with camels and stuff. Last night, I went out with Jas and her crew of mega-fine Atlanta black women (with a couple of half-Koreans in the group to keep it kimchee spicy), to this bourgie black club called Opera, so called because it was, once upon a time, a gorgeous Opera house.

Now, sis and I got to the club around 12:30am, and we had to wait for the rest of her crew. There is a whole etiquette in the straight, hip, fierce black girl world of which I was unaware. For example, you never want to be seen waiting on the street. In fact, we tried to wait in the parking ramp, but the ATL police are REAL serious at night, and we were told to get back in the car or go down to the club. So, we moseyed down to the club but we stayed well back from the line and were actually behind a gyro truck and some scrub brush. The girls were done up to Jesus and I stood there giggling and observing that one side of the street was a club called FlipFlops and it was ALL white folks and directly across the street was us, the coloreds. Tell me that story again about how segregation is over.

While waiting for the folks that had reserved a couple of VIP lounges for this cadre of the fierce, a group of women rolled up about 15 deep along with two mountainous black dudes. Sis leans over to me and says, "There's Katt Williams."

I look around and I don't see him at first. Largely because he was shorter than all the girls around him. That man is a Negro Midget. He lived on the non-Technicolor side of the railroad tracks back in Munchkinland. I spotted him and gave him a shout out.

A minute later, this tall black dude with really ashy elbows comes up and asks me if it was, indeed, Katt Williams. Since we were standing all of 20 feet from the man, I said yes, and I nodded. Ashy Elbows makes a bee line for Katt, and I take that opportunity to snap a picture with my handy dandy iPhone camera, which I have posted here for your enjoyment.

Now, Kat was already lit up and feeling good. We could all see that from where I was standing. Then Ashy Elbows leans over and whispers, loud enough that we could hear, "Mr. Katt Williams, walk over here, I want to talk to you about something." He and Katt walk about ten feet away...I see the hand shuffle happen (if you have ever bought drugs on the know what I am talking about), and then Kat took his entourage towards the club.

Next thing you know, Ashy Elbows pops up screaming at me, "I should give you $100, since you pointed Kat out to he gave me $400 dollars! THANKS KAT! THAT MAN RIGHT THERE IS JESUS CHRIST! THANKS KATT! THAT'S THE MAN!"

Ashy Elbows was so cracked out I think he actually believed that Kat WAS Jesus Christ come back to Earth to score a hit.

The ladies and I had a giggle, said a quiet prayer that Cracky Ashy Elbows got home safely, and we went into the club.

Yes, the Lacys love to have some adventures.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

An Open Letter to Halim: You Have All the Strength You Need

Dear Halim:

I received your email early this morning when I woke up, here, in Manhattan. I am not sure the time difference between Manhattan and Malaysia though I know that the two places are a Hell of a long way away from each other. In fact, right now, I am sure it is tomorrow in your part of the world, and the sun is just setting here, on the eastern edge of the United States.

First, I want to thank you for reaching out. Testing positive for HIV was the single loneliest and scariest moment of my life. I know what you mean when you say that there is all kinds of support in your area but you still feel alone, lonely, and as if you can't trust the folks providing support. I know that story very well. In fact, when I tested positive, for three years exactly three people in the entire world, besides my doctor and my boyfriend, knew about my HIV status: Jennifer, Russell, and Lonnie. In fact, my inability to deal with my HIV status led me to a dark place inside of myself. I stopped thinking of myself as worthy of being loved. I stopped believing that I deserved to be held and valued and supported. I no longer felt that I had the right to companionship, a relationship, or that I was good. I shut myself off from myself. I closed my spirit down and hid it away. I turned to drugs and sex and sex with drugs in order to feel, even for a moment, that I was indeed worthy, loved, desired. For a while it worked. For a while it kept me from myself and from the feelings that I had towards myself: the shame, the loathing, the disappointment, and the fear. It worked, until it stopped working.

And when it stopped working my life fell apart. The emptiness that I'd been holding inside had slowly and surely been growing, enlarging, and engulfing me quietly. It was hidden behind the drugs and behind the sex. And in one moment, in the Minneapolis Airport, when my guilt around my drug use and sex use had reached a point that it overwhelmed me, I called everyone in my cell phone and told them about my HIV status and the drugs. And then my mind broke just a little bit and I ran away inside of myself.

Despite the manner in which I told the people that love me about what I was going through, the fact that I told them saved my life. My shame and disappointment in myself had kept me away from the medecine that matters as much as any HAART treatment: the love of friends and family.

And they loved me through the times when I couldn't love myself. They held me accountable to the person that I wanted to be, and they stood in front of the mirror to keep the mirror from telling me lies about myself, lies that I had believed for too long. I made agreements with them that let me stay human but accountable. I could make mistakes. I could be less than perfect, but I had to be honest as best I could and when I couldn't be, I had to at least be honest about that. And, it worked. It worked. It hasn't always been easy, and there have been times I haven't been honest. Over a year ago, because of the situation and fear, I wasn't honest with someone when asked about my status, and it was heartbreaking to have to look at myself closely again and it was even harder work not taking on responsibility for his choices around sex while taking responsibility for mine. But, my friends loved me through that as well. And I wrote about it and talked about it openly and frankly in my blog and with the people I care about. And more healing came from that.

I know that I will continue to make mistakes and continue to be afraid from time to time, but the person that I am now is nothing like the person I was in 2005. What I know now is that sex is amazing (and I love having sex) but sex can be dangerous if it is used to try and fill a hole that can only be filled by learning to love yourself the right way. I learned that fear is terrifying but not facing my fears can lead me to places that can and will, eventually, take me out of this world. I learned that there will be times when people will reject me for my HIV status but that people who really love me never will. I learned that I deserve love and affection. I deserve to be desired. I deserve to have mind blowing sex. I derseve to live free from fear.

And guess what? So do you, my far far away brother.

I am not going to pretend that being queer and being positive is the same in New York as it is in Malaysia. I know next to nothing about what it means to be either of those things outside the borders of the United States. But I do know that even if you can start by telling one friend, if you can cry and start to let out the shame and fear, if you can step into one of those support group meetings even once, if you can turn the mirror around and refuse to listen to the lies it is ready to tell you, if you can be just a little bit brave, just for a little while, over time, you will find yourself full of joy. But you have to make that choice. Even if right now you don't believe the day will come when everything will be alright, you have to CHOOSE to fight and walk forward until that day is here. I promise you. I PROMISE YOU that it will come. You have to yourself...and, if you are a believer, in your God, but mostly you have to faith that you are loved and let those that love you help you through this time. Be smart. Be safe. Be brave. You have all the strength you need.

Brandon in Manhattan

Monday, September 26, 2011

Critique of the Call for a "SlutWalk" from transnational woman/women of color

As an ally to women, but, more specifically, as prioritizing women of color, I absolutely agree with this critique and support the women making it.

AF3IRM Responds to SlutWalk: The Women’s Movement Is Not Monochromatic.

AF3IRM Responds to SlutWalk:

The Women’s Movement Is Not Monochromatic.

From the moment the first call for a SlutWalk in the US went out, the AF3IRM membership – transnational women who are im/migrants or whose families are im/migrants from Latin America, Asia, and Africa – has been analyzing and discussing this burgeoning movement to address the issue of sexual violence and continuing victimization of rape victims by police, the justice system and other agents of authority.

It is a testament to the compelling nature of SlutWalk’s call against women’s victimization that we hung fire for months, hammering out our position and analyzing why, while we applaud the effort of those who organize SlutWalk, we remain uneasy about responding to such a call.

We realize that we are the ones who compose the majority of sex trafficking victims in this country, who comprise the majority of those sold in the mail-order-bride system, who are the commodities offered in brothel houses ringing US military bases in and out of this country, who are the goods offered for sexual violation in prostitution. We who are and historically have been the “sluts” from whom traffickers, pimps, and other “authorities” of the global corporate sex trade realize $20 billion in earnings annually cannot, with a clear conscience, accept the term in reference to ourselves and our struggle against sexual violence and for women’s liberation.

We therefore feel it is our responsibility to address the organizers and participants of SlutWalk and remind them that Women’s Struggle Cannot and Should not Be Monochromatic.

Our Concerns

We call upon the SlutWalk steering committee to reassess language use and re-examine how it is, in a sense, offensive to our history, how it is neglectful of historical and cultural sensitivity and competency. Indolent ideology only further pushes transnational women, women of color, away from the current mainstream feminist narrative. It prevents us from establishing a broad front that can create a powerfully dynamic and long-lasting women’s movement. The ebb-and-surge of the women’s movement in the US is clear enough an indictment of such neglect of the historic particularities of the condition of transnational women and women of color.

Our collective transnational histories are comprised of 500 years of colonization. As women and descendants of women from Latin America, Asia, and Africa, we cannot truly “reclaim” the word “Slut”. It was never ours to begin with. This label is one forced upon us by colonizers, who transformed our women into commodities and for the entertainment of US soldiers occupying our countries for corporate America. There are many variations of the label “slut”: in Central America it was “little brown fucking machines (LBFMs)", in places in Asia like the Philippines, it was “little brown fucking machines powered by rice (LBFMPBRs)". These events continue to this day, and it would be a grievous dishonor to our cousins who continue to struggle against imperialism, globalization and occupation in our families’ countries of origin to accept a label coming from a white police officer in the city of Toronto, Canada.

There are two pervasive pejorative words used for women globally, and “slut,” puta (in Spanish, Tagalog), sharmoota (Arabic), Jendeh (Farsi), Ahbeh (Lebanese) - is one. This label has become integrated in our languages and cultures, and has followed us across oceans into our own communities here in the United States. It has followed the poisonous spread of feudalism and capitalism into the economies and ultimately cultures of the global South, building its own systems of power and exploitation of women’s bodies. It has followed us into migration and still plagues us in our communities here in the United States. Women are treated and dismissed as “sluts”, “putas”, etc., as a product of both the structurally racist and sexist US society, as well as transplanted cultures from our families’ countries of origin.

We invite you, organizers of SlutWalk, to study how many times im/migrant women of color have been coerced into sex by immigration personnel, by border patrols, by jailors. Surely that will suffice to underscore why even the idea of joining a SlutWalk is like a massive boulder on our chests, squeezing out our breath, killing us, in effect.

We invite you, SlutWalk organizers, to peruse the catalog of women offered to men by mail-order bride agencies. Surely that would suffice to underscore why joining a SlutWalk would be equal to accepting an identity conferred on our being by this sexist, exploitative society of violence.

We invite you, SlutWalk organizers, to walk the brothel houses and see how our women are treated truly as “sluts” – i.e., mindless flesh with orifices from which profit can be made. Surely that would suffice to underscore why every fiber in our mind and being scream in protest at the word.

AF3IRM rejects this label; AFIIRM refuses this identity; AF3IRM views it as an abomination. It has been used to exacerbate class-exploitation, race and gender discrimination. AF3IRM prefers to work to eradicate it from the common vocabulary, along with other five-letter, four-letter, words derogatory of the humanity of womankind. More, AF3IRM works to eradicate the material social conditions which have made these words possible and acceptable.

We are not sluts. We are women, whose struggles are very much layered, trying to end the pervasive view of women as objects and commodities for profit and entertainment.

AF3IRM hopes this will serve as a basis for a dialogue with the Slut Walk organizers, because to achieve the egalitarian society we all aspire for, we need, will need, and have always needed a movement of women of all colors.

Thank you and we await your response.

In order to reach AF3IRM, please feel free to contact its officers from various regions.

National – Jollene Levid, AF3IRM National Chairperson,

New York/New Jersey – Leilani Montes, Coordinator,

Boston – Emelyn De La Pena, Coordinator,

San Francisco/Bay Area– Katrina Socco, Lauren Funiestas, Co-Coordinators

Los Angeles – Angela Bartolome, Coordinator,

Irvine – Mona Lisa Navarro, Coordinator,

Riverside – Gayle Palma, Coordinator,

San Diego – Olive Panes, Coordinator,

Friday, September 23, 2011

Really Gay Racism: Aunt Jamima and Mr. Wong's Dong Emporium (SAY WHAT BITCH?)

In the last month, there have been two events to which I have been invited via Facebook that have made my blood pressure go from normal to cardiac arrest in less than a nanosecond.

One event was called "Aunt Jemima Brunch," which was to be held at the Yotel. The second was "Mr. Wong's Dong Emporium," which was to be held at Vlada.

Please note that I am using past tense, and while I was not responsible for bringing down either of these events, I am extremely proud that I played a key part in raising such a motherfucking ruckus that both events posted apologies, said some noncommittal white people shit about not meaning to offend people, and changed the names of their events.

Let me give you some background before I really let ya'll have it about privilege white gay men in New York and their benign yet blatant racism.

(Cue flashback sequence here)

The first event came to my attention when I was perusing my invitations to various events. When I saw the invitation at first, with a photo of Aunt Jemima from the 50s (black woman in a head wrap)...I seriously didn't know what to think. I was at work, and I called a colleague over and asked if this was being ironic or should I be angry. I sincerely had a series of confused feelings. Then I proceeded to read the various wall posts related to the event. With each reading my temperature rose until I got to the bottom of the page where one of the four white gay male planners had posted a Youtube video clip of the ITALIAN-AMERICAN WOMAN IN BLACK FACE that originated the role of Aunt Jemima in Hollywood. There was no analysis. There was no irony. This was straight up racism, and the worst thing about it is that the hosts thought the shit was funny and were relating Aunt Jemima to childhood memories of pancakes and home cooking. Nevermind that by the time any of the hosts had ever tasted a drop of that nasty ass syrup the Negress in the Do-Rag had been exchanged for a vaguely British white woman walking and talking syrup bottle....the planners insisted that their naming of the event for Aunt Jemima was just a walk down memory lane.

If any of them had been in arms reach, I would be typing this from jail with a new boyfriend named Big Larry.

And the best part of the engagement with the organizers of the Aunt Jemima event was when one of the organizers posted a note saying that, and I quote, "I am from Canada and we don't have racism there." I almost shat daggers and threw one directly at his throat.

But, after I posted a respectful note on the wall of the brunch invite and also posted a note on my Facebook page, about 200 of my closest, bestest friends went ape shit on the page and within hours it was down.

And then, in a stroke of universal justice, Hurricane Irene hit and shut the whole damn thing down anyway. #BOOM naive self thought that perhaps the Aunt Jemima Brunch was just one of those momentary blips of white gay male racism that bubble up from time to time. Generally, I feel, that there is usuall some good time/space in between when the stupidiy settles upon the brow of another benignly racist white gay man/ contradiction to that old bromide that lightening doesnt strike the same place twice....within a couple of weeks a bright WHITE bolt of stupid lightening struck again...and in the same neighborhood.

Not two or three nights past, a couple of friends of mine sounded the alarm and sent me messages about another party happening in my neighborhood. This time it was "Mr. Wong's Dong Emporium featuring Sum Hung Dancers and the Happy Endings Massage Parlor."

I can honestly say that I have never experienced so much racism in one invitation ever. EVER.

Now...I can honestly say that with the Aunt Jemima party, I was civil and never lost my temper. With the Mr. Wong's party I went King-Kong-Climb-A-Building-Ape-Shit. Yes I did. I called upon all the powers at my command...largely because I actually am acquainted with one of the promoters, and he lives in my neighborhood, and I happen to know that while he is not brown he is a member of another oppressed my rage was amplified expontentially. And it was met, matched, and exceeded by the awesome powers of GAPIMNY (Gay Asian Pacific Island Men of New York). And, after flip tripping on the two benign white racists that were hosting the party, the name was changed post haste.

Ta da.

Now, let me say, I don't think and I do not attribute any overt malintent to any of the clueless human creatures that promoted these parties. I DO, however, attribute to them that they, at the very least, knew that these themes would be risque and raise some behind the hand giggles, like when all the white boys are together and someone makes an "off-color" nigger joke. But whatever the intent the impact on brown queer folks remains the same: it reconstructs, reconstitutes, and reifies the same systems of oppression in the straight world in our own white washed rainbow world.

And, lord have mercy, if I ever ever ever ever ever hear another white faggatron again say that they can't be racist because they are gay, I am going to stick my size 10 1/2 directly down their throat and then twist at the ankle. I. Am. Just. Saying.

Thank the Lord above that there are organizations such as the Audre Lorde Project that are out there reminding folks that brown queers exist and we aren't to be fucked with and Queers for Economic Justice that organizes broke, brown, and angry queer and trans folks. In fact, QEJ is going to throw a party to show these white gay benign racist how to party without the racism. Stay tuned in for QEJam: The Party without Oppression at Bartini coming to you soon in the next month or so.

Word to your anti-racist Mama.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

"Does this look like AIDS?"

There are those moments in life when an individual opens up his mouth and something so far beyond ridiculous and inappropriate comes out that your first and immediate reaction is to start looking for hidden cameras. As the crazy continues you may even begin to wonder about your own insanity or eyeball your cocktail in an effort to figure out if perhaps you've been roofied and are about to pass out and wake up in a trailer park on the outskirts of Weehawken.

And sometimes when you have those moments you are given a harsh reality check of just how much work there is left to do in this world.

Last night, while at dinner with Keith and the fabulous Chad Pace aka Divine Grace, after a very short foray into Fashion Night Out 2011, we were enjoying delicious margaritas and burritos at Lime Jungle with their signature homemade salsas (try the mango was out of this world), when a gay from New Jersey approached our table.

How did we know he was from Jersey, you might ask yourself, and the answer is that Jersey Gays give off a particular aura that is a combination of old PBR, corn chips, and cheap lube. Oh yeah, and we asked him.

The kid walks up to our table, startling us by his abrupt manifestation, and asks us politely if he might ask us a question. We say yes and the conversation followed:

New Jersey Gay: "Do you think this neighborhood has a higher rate of HIV infection than normal?"

Us: *blink* *blink* *blink* (in unison)

Me: "Well, ummm, I wouldn't know the answer to that question, but I am sure there are resources onine that map out HIV infection rates in a city area, why do you ask?"

New Jersey Gay: "Well let me ask you this...can you get HIV from you know getting a blow job."

Keith: *eyes widen*

Chad: *eyes narrowing*

Me: "Well, you can but the risk of infection is relatively low..."

New Jersey Gay cuts me off and asks, "But what about you know, giving one," and he then mimes giving a blow job."

Me: "Well, as I said the risk is low..."

New Jersey Gay interrupts again,"I have a picture of me with Brittney Spears....not sure if you guys would even care but a guy like me with a picture with someone like know..."

At this point my This-Poor-Gay-Is-Higher-Than-A-Kite-Dar goes off. Chad and Keith start to talk at once.

Chad: "Have you ever heard of the Internet..."

New Jersey Gay (missing the sarcasm): "Yes..."

Chad: "You can get this information from the might want to try it."

Keith: "What was your original question?"

New Jersey Gay: "Can you get HIV from a blow job?"

Me: "No, actually, you asked about HIV infection rates in this neighborhood."

Keith: "Why would you ask that? And why would you come up to us and ask that question?"

New Jersey Gay: "If I got AIDS, I would kill myself. I don't want to get tested."

At this point, I am trying to figure out how to best intervene in the conversation and figure out what this guy really needs in terms of immediate information. So I say: "I am HIV positive, and I live a really amazing life."

This statement seems to break through the young, confused, and tweaked man's head for a moment.

New Jersey Gay: "That's really brave of you to say that." Pity was oozing out of his face.

Me, slightly annoyed, "And it's really dumb to not get tested. You should call GMHC and get tested."

New Jersey Gay: "But I heard that if you are circumcized you can't get it. I'm cut. Are you cut?"

I was so shocked that I actually answered automatically, "Yes."

New Jersey Gay: "And you still got It?"

Then the drugs the guy was on must have kicked in good enough to truly short circuit any ability to think rationally, as he slaps his and on the table, shows us a finger nail with a white half moon on the nail and says:


Right then, Brandon the educator left the building, and Brandon the about to kick-his-ass took over. I said politely, but firmly, "You need to walk away now and go back to your table."

Keith was much less polite and much more forceful. I watched his body contract and compact. I call him the Puma as a term of endearment, but in that moment he seriously looked like he was going to go jungle cat and leap over the table and shred this kid. Keith told the kid to walk away, and though the kid mumbled something about not liking being told what to do. He said so while walking quickly back to his table. A moment later he goes to the bathroom and he returns shortly thereafter with his eyelids fluttering in a manner that says clearly that he is under the influence of some sort of narcotic.

When the conversation started, I really felt that it was a moment for education. The guys questions, though massively ill informed were legitimate. It was obvious that despite the tremendous amount of public education that has happened around HIV/AIDS prevention/transmission that somewhere somehow the public education campaign had failed this kid. From what we could tell from the outside, the kid (aka somewhere in his mid-20s early 30s) was white, probably middle to upper middle class and spoke as if he had received formal education. How he had such little knowledge about HIV transmission or could imagine that AIDS was something that you could identify vis a vis a fingernail abnormality was probably a combination of lack of education and the seemingly very efficacious illegal substances he was on, but the overall situation was so surreal that all three of us, afterwards, would have sworn it was a group hallucination if the kid hadn't still been visible to us less than 10 feet away.

In the end, despite the overall screwed up nature of the situation and the immediate internal emotional drama it stirred up for me as a person living with HIV, the real lesson was that HIV/AIDS prevention education has not reached as broadly or deeply as it should after 30 years of the pandemic. Abstinence only laws and Right wing religious education that short circuits real life saving education has an impact in places that are unexpected (aka not only the Deep South but just across the river in Jersey or in the rural Midwest and Southwest). And, there is a lot of work to do to stop the ignorance that lack of education around HIV and STIs breeds.

And if I ever see the New Jersey Gay on the street...he may get a free baptism in the Hudson.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

It Ain't Truth If It Doesn't Hurt: A Great Big Thank You!

Sometimes miracles do happen. I haven't learned how to walk on water yet, but I'll be damned if I didn't finally have a book release party for my long awaited poetry collection: It Ain't Truth If It Doesn't Hurt. The collaboration with artist David Berube is stunning. The reviews so far have been amazing. It's my publisher's number one best selling volume right now. It has been selling out on It's available online and in stores at Barnes and Noble. Ladies and's official...I am an author.

And I have all ya'll to thank for it.

From those of you that have put me on stages, encouraged me to write, sat through performances, workshopped my writing, loved me through my shit, brought me to your campuses, put me on your panels, invited me to speak at your conferences, fed me, fucked me, loved me, held me, hated me, walked away from me, walked towards me, published me, rejected me, infected me, gave birth to me, raised me, abused me, healed me, taught me, and brought me to this exact point in my life...this book was given to the world.

Thank you.

This last Wednesday, by the grace of God, I turned 34 years old. That same day, I had my book release party at Bartini Ultra-Lounge in Hell's Kitchen. Thank you to the owners Joe Puc and Ted Arenas for donating the space for the party. I hope the 60 odd folks I brought in during happy hour drank enough to make it worth while! I was surprised at my book party by the most effing amazing cake that I have ever seen or eaten. Master cake baker Huascar Aquino of H Cakes in New York made an exact replica of my book, completely edible, that was so real that no less than THREE people tried to open the damn thing before I could shout them down (Brandon Dean I am talking to you!).

Mr. Andrew Werner of Andrew Werner Photography was on hand to photo document the event and put his magic eye on things, and I am deeply appreciative of his support as well.

Old friends and very new friends showed up to cheer me on and buy copies of the book! The party was a fantastic success, and I left the party feel loved, supported, and mostly content to be at the place I am at in my life. It ain't perfect, but it is my truth, and it is a glorious truth even if sometimes it really does hurt.

Thank you again to my publisher Sven Davisson of Rebel Satori Press, Bathabile Mthombeni and riKu Matsuda for putting me on their radio shows to promote the book, and Ebony "Miss Celie" Adams for hosting my first book party in Los Angeles. Your book and your ducats gonna be to you soon gal.

And thank you all ya'll that continue to show me love and to support my work. I love you all.

(PS for regular updates on the book, performances and signings related to the book, and occassional bloggings about it....please check out's barebones right now, but I am working on it).

Friday, September 2, 2011

TransMisogyny Isn't Cute: Rivers of Honey Community Responds

A little over a week ago, I received a phone call from a dear friend that also happens to be a tremendous performer, artist, and organizer. They'd asked to talk to me about a recent saddening change that had taken place with Rivers of Honey (ROH). ROH, which for eight of its 13 years of existence has explicitly been a performance venue for womyn of color and trans folks of color was now redefining itself to EXLUCDE trans women while still including trans men. In fact, the new mission of ROH described itself as a female bodied space for folks that were raised as girls. The active exclusion of transwomen from a women's space is nothing short of trans-misogyny, the oppressive policing of women's bodies and vagina-checking at its worst. It equates womanhood with genitalia and in expressly including transmen in the mission as welcome in women's space it ignores the sovereignity of transmen and boldly states that having a vulva, despite your choice of gender expression, is all that is necessary to make (or keep you from being) a woman.

As an ally to trans and gender non conforming folks of whatever ilk (and as someone that identiies as genderqueer), I will not tolerate transphobia, transmisogyny, gender policing, or genitalia checking. I support self-organized spaces but I do not accept active oppression in creating those spaces.

I have read the historical documents from Rivers of Honey. I have seen past posters and flyers that are explicitly trans inclusive, and I have read the responses from the current producers of Rivers of Honey, and I find their response to be lacking, surface, and smoke and mirrors to try and cover up their transmisogyny. I stand with and am a part of the Rivers of Honey Community, and I am happy to share with you the response of the Rivers of Honey Community to the mission change of Rivers of Honey.


Rivers of Honey is a women-centered monthly cabaret at WOW Café Theatre in NYC. Since it began in 1998 Rivers has served as a major cultural institution, a launch pad for artists and producers whose work might never have been seen and celebrated in mainstream venues, and a vital, queer-centric POC community space.

In August 2011, a small and closed Rivers of Honey team stated the cabaret is now a "platform for womyn of color, defined as female-bodied individuals." Under this new policy trans women are no longer welcome to produce or perform. Trans men and other female-assigned gender non-conforming people are still welcome provided they identify with the "female-bodied" women's only space.

For the past 8 years of Rivers’ 13 year existence, trans women, trans men and gender non-conforming people have all been welcomed be a part Rivers of Honey. Until recently, language inclusive of all women and trans folks has appeared on Rivers of Honey fliers, the WOW website, and Facebook and MySpace pages. A Rivers of Honey mission statement that was collectively written and agreed upon in August 2009 states that: "Rivers of Honey is a monthly women's cabaret featuring queer and trans artists of color."

Questions about how these decisions were made, requests for clarification, and objections to the policy have been met with silencing, dismissal, and the refusal of further discussion.

Rivers of Honey is an important institution for our community. We love and value it deeply and therefore do not wish to see it replicate the trans misogyny and transphobia we struggle so fiercely against in our larger society.


1. The exclusion of trans women of color from the women's space of Rivers of Honey is an act of trans misogyny – a form of transphobia directed specifically against trans women. Such exclusion is part of a damaging pattern of discrimination that contributes to the already tremendous degrees of bigotry, harassment and violence that trans women of color face.

2. The current language is not truly inclusive of trans men and gender non-conforming people of color. Just as the current language implies that trans women are not truly women, it also implies that trans men and gender non-conforming people are, in the end, actually women despite their own self-identification. In both cases, people are being robbed of their agency to define their own identities.


We, queer and trans people of color, community members, past performers, producers and audience members want to see:

Rivers of Honey reject trans misogyny and include all women of color equally, whether they are cisgender women or trans women;

If trans men and gender non-conforming people of color continue to be welcomed as performers at Rivers of Honey, the language of Rivers of Honey should be changed to "a space for all women, trans men and gender non-conforming people of color";

Rivers of Honey return to its longstanding tradition of being an open, accountable, and collectively-run space where dialogue is encouraged, disagreement is allowed, and decisions are made in an open, transparent, and community-inclusive manner.


We ask our community members and allies to join us in voicing your opinions and concerns. We offer these ideas for participation:

Share this note with your communities, families, colleagues, and friends via email, Facebook, Twitter, personal blog, etc.

Click here to be added to the list of signatories for this letter. Please include your name and organization as you would like it to be listed.

If you choose not to attend or perform at Rivers of Honey because of these changes, or if you attend or perform but disagree with or have questions about these changes, please voice your questions/concerns to the current producers at

RSVP to this event It will be updated to take place at the same time as each monthly Rivers of Honey until the policy of trans inclusion is reinstated. Updates about actions related to trans inclusion at Rivers will also be sent to folks who RSVP to the event.

In solidarity,

Rivers of Honey Community