Infrastructure adoption

I just went out in a light drizzle to check the storm drain nearest to my house, which I signed up to maintain a while back on SF Adopt-a-Drain. From this site, I get an email when major rain is coming. I forgot to respond to the last one, and then had to cross many intersections around Mission and 30th, enormous, roiling, leafy rivers which my new chair with its excellent clearance plowed right through. Finally as I came to “my” adopted drain I stopped (safely on the curb) and dug out all the leaves with my cane, flipping big globs of trash awkwardly onto the sidewalk where I left them neatly piled. (Unwilling to go so far as to go home and get a bag.)

Well, for a few minutes there I felt like my friend Crystal who keeps getting written up in the news either for shoveling snow in her neighborhood or for politically rustling everyone else up to properly clear the sidewalks.

My suspicion is that the guys in the restaurant on the corner saw me do this and came out to clean the drain afterwards. (Cannot help but be aware that many people would interpret my doing this normal and minor civic action as somehow full of pathos.)

The streets do get swept here every two weeks (by the absolutely adorable streetsweeping machines that I love to watch – what – I love trucks!) but since it’s a very long hill, a lot of leaves pile up during the first few rains. I’ll see tomorrow if the river re-appears or if the drain needs clearing again!

Another good “help maintain the city” tool I like and use: SeeClickFix. It is an interface to the city’s 311 service for reporting all sorts of issues. You can use the SeeClickFi phone app to take a photo and report stuff like sidewalk cracks, potholes, garbage, trees that need maintenance, and so on. Some of “my” issues get fixed and some don’t, but on the whole it’s a pretty nice interface where it is easy to see if there has been any action, or if others in the neighborhood agree about the issue.

Random encounter: scooter demo on the bus

Random encounter: On the 49 bus yesterday I explained my scooter to a woman who was very interested in one for herself. Then had to start over but this time in Spanish for another woman and then the first one began translating for someone who spoke Mandarin. 5 people took cards with the name of the scooter on it (at least…. I may have lost count). Somewhere between 24th St. and 14th St. I finally just took the whole scooter apart, folded it up, passed around the lithium battery, then put it back together (by request). “FREE SHOW Y’ALL!!!”

The first lady (the Chinese translator) nearly got off the bus with me to try it. She had opinions on reupholstering, making it easier to fold, a better cup holder, my decorations, the good qualities of the little bell on my handlebars (which she kept reaching over to ring, looking at me and giggling)

It was a little bit emotionally exhausting and I missed my usual Ingress hacking/Pokémon catching fun for the bus ride but it was also super fun. We had good cameraderie going in the front section of the bus.

If everyone I talk with about mobility scooters gets one, none of us are gonna be able to fit on the bus 😀 They will need more and better buses, that’s all!

Disability Intersectionality Summit 2018 (Bay Area)

This week I’ve left the house every day. Something to celebrate as I’ve spent a couple of months at home. Saturday, I was SO excited to go to the DIS2018 Bay Area event.

Danny and I took the bus and BART over to the Ed Roberts Center. This was nice in itself for me because I like taking trains – and at the BART station plaza we caught a few songs from the Cuban music group Orquestra de 24. It was hard to tear away from that, but they are there every Saturday. The crowd there was having a lot of fun.

On to describe the event and then some of my thoughts about it!

The Disability & Intersectionality Summit (DIS) is a biennial one-day conference that centers the experiences and knowledge of multiply marginalized disabled people such as, queer disabled people of color, undocumented transgender disabled people, or formerly incarcerated disabled people among others. This conference serves as a platform to highlight the multiple oppressions that shape the lived experiences of disabled individuals, as told by disabled people, in a setting organized by disabled activists. DIS aims to create dialogue on how our society must address systemic oppressions using an intersectional approach.

I missed the morning keynote by Mia Mingus but will watch it later on video. (her talk starts about 21:45)

Makers Faire: I only had a few minutes for this, but I bought stickers and zines from Danchan – beautiful, cute, healing. The messages conveyed by her art are in a way something I have been feeling the lack of, so I was instantly just so happy – this is hard to express. Some of the Stay Home Club things give me a similar feeling but these hit the spot more exactly – to encourage & celebrate love and care from this particular perspective. That it is a radical act to care for ourselves and each other. “Vulnerability” – a person in a hoodie holding their arms in the air with a rainbow above; “Hold Each Other Gently” – hands cupped underneath a box wrapped with caution tape; “Stay Loving Stay Angry” with a dagger through a heart. I also liked (and bought) a flag with a blockprint of a powerchair and “SMASH THE FASH” from FatLibInk folks, and some small prints from Mchhim (I can’t find their info but a sticker that says Your Luxury Is Our Displacement and a flower with the roots exposed).

stickers

At another table I picked up a flyer of Sins Invalid’s Access Suggestions for Mobilizations. Sins Invalid also has a very good Access Suggestions for Public Events. I recommend them both. Maybe your organization or event can’t manage all of these things, but the ones you can, you can explicitly SAY that you are planning to provide, in your event information, invites, announcements, and so on. Making that information easy to find, ahead of time, is an important part of access and inclusivity. At least, by providing the info, you’re signaling very clearly, Less Bullshit Than Usual maybe and that you have thought about & worked towards access. The detailed, granular information you provide is part of the accessibility! Basically when I see simply “Wheelchair accessible venue” on an event description, that’s nice, but one, I can never believe it, and two, it doesn’t describe what I need to know.

I also picked up a beautiful postcard with the cover art for Alice Wong’s upcoming anthology, Resistance and Hope: Essays by Disabled People. “Crip wisdom for the people.

The first afternoon talk was Resistance & Hope: a dialogue Alice Wong & Stacey Milbern – moderated by Robin (@sexabled). While I was kinda hoping for one sort of discussion, we got another, just as good or better.

Alice opened by describing her fear, pain, and anger from the 2016 elections, and how she reacted by wondering what she could do best to foster resistance and hope. Her work for the Disability Visibility Project & for this anthology to be a source of hope in creativity.

Stacey then talked about finding hope in the midst of despair; part of that is in the imagination, imagining and creating ways for us as disabled people to lead resistance. Specifically, for queer/trans/POC disabled folks to lead. For example, within disability activism and communities, we can imagine, what if this movement was led by people with intellectual disabilities, people with mental illness? Once we imagine that, we expand the boundaries of what is possible.

Alice mentioned something I deeply believe, that the people at the margins know the systems they’re in the best. (An idea I first began to understand from Gloria Anzaldua, in the 80s.) In daily lives, we have to fight and resist for so many things, so that something like having plastic straws or riding public transport is part of our resistance. We are struggling to be in public space, as part of our survival.

I appreciated the fun moment where Stacey described Alice as “futuristic”. She said that you can see organizations, non profits, and so on, scrambling to figure out how to use social media. Alice creating the Disability Visibility Project is a good example of using technology effectively – that’s the futuristicness. (Or, think of her with the telepresence robot at the White House!) Consider, from the constraints under which you operate (this is me not Stacey) what you then make happen. To me, that’s part of what it can mean to lead from the margins and why it can be effective. As an important part of that concept, we must challenge the presumed whiteness of disability be centering people of color in the disability justice movement.

Alice responded to Stacey’s talk of being futuristic by saying she likes to think of herself as an alien cyborg. (Darth Vader is a much misunderstood disabled character.)

I hooted appreciatively. Ah, I love them both! And us all! Me too! Cyborg & proud! Alien love! Science fiction is a revolutionary force! Queer feminist cyborg power!! *Explodes from enthusiasm*

Stacey and Alice then turned the discussion to ask the rest of us in the room, What do you resist here in the SF Bay Area? What gives you hope and strength?

I did not always catch who was speaking but did hear, among other things,

* Lily talked about doing the work to create a beloved community
* Brotherhood with neurodivergent men of color who are living on the street, as good resistance work
* Monique talking about struggling with inaccessible bathrooms in the Bay Area and also, that people underestimate the intelligence of others in centers ie, in institutions
* rent
* inaccessible parking
* white supremacy and patriarchy
* categories and labels that block connection to humanity
* ableist public schools
* Sanjay says he resists people who grab him and pray on him in the street and, when ppl say they’re ignorant about disability but they all know someone disabled, they just aren’t listening to or paying attention to their own friends and family
* Reactivity, anger and argumentativeness from someone who says she is trying to educate more patiently on a daily basis
* Academic elitism and snobbery
* Gigi talks about pee in the broken BART elevators and her desire to travel the world. Airlines break our chairs so it’s too risky. Technology and social media give her hope, keep taking pics, report, fight, share.
* Lateef (https://twitter.com/kut2smooth) spoke briefly and passionately about the damage done to us. While I didn’t capture it precisely I had the impression that he had plenty to say that I want to hear. So asked him afterwards for his info – I now see from Lateef’s site that he is a poet too. Poets know! You can buy his book, A Declaration of A Body of Love Poetry – I just did.

I liked how Stacey, Alice, and Robin, Allie taking the mic around, and others, made that space for many people to speak and be heard by everyone in the room. All too brief. Claire made the point at the conference’s closing that this is just a glimpse of each other and we can work over the times to come to make sure we keep in touch and nurture the new connections we’ve made.

Along with others at the DIS2018 Bay Area gathering at the Ed Roberts Center I then watched the closing keynote by Anita Cameron via video streaming from the national event. Anita gave a broad overview of her 33 years working with ADAPT. Kinda 33 years winding up to “How do I bring my full self to this fight?” including blackness, being a woman, a lesbian, all my experiences and identities and anger, to the disability justice movement? The “how” is a long answer too long for a talk. It’s ongoing work, it’s more than having a couple of meetings. It was Mike Brown’s horrible murder in Ferguson that sparked Anita’s re-evaluation of her engagement in ADAPT.

I was thinking from that and previous discussion how hard it is to capture the complexities of these answers. Past the basics, what do we actually do? It is a process of gaining wisdom and experience. We can indicate some ways and truths. We can say things that might sound simple, but hold a world of meaning for your thoughts and actions to explore. Expecting a full explanation in this context is like wanting the content of a person’s life to be poured into your brain. (If only!) This is why we have conversations over time, and novels, and movies, it’s why we have stories, because stories are one of the tools, the main tool, we have for this purpose.

Supporting POC-led events and organizations is super important. For me, it is the logical thing to do. It is often impossible to move an existing organization, or, not impossible, but it is definitely never INSTANT, it’s a long term process. There are many inherent pitfalls in that process (like for example tokenizing people). Personally I will never (again – I did at least once) start an organization run by only or even mostly white people, it just does not work for me, it is too flawed, and I don’t like how that unfolds. At best I think once that happens you can partner with other orgs, in a support role.

While I mention POC led organizations let’s name one, I recall someone referring to it and to Talila Lewis on stage yesterday but not exactly what they said. You might have a look at HEARD. A good organization to support. As you may know, when police in this country kill people, over half of their victims are disabled and they are disproportionately disabled people of color. The violence of the prison system is a perpetual horror and we have to fight it on every level.

Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf (HEARD), is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization that promotes equal access to legal system for individuals who are deaf and for people with disabilities. HEARD primarily focuses on correcting and preventing deaf wrongful convictions, ending deaf prisoner abuse, decreasing recidivism rates for deaf returned citizens, and on increasing representation of the deaf in the justice, legal and corrections professions. HEARD created and maintains the only national database of deaf, hard of hearing and deaf-blind detainees & prisoners.

On holding space open. While I appreciated aspects of everything people said in the “discussion” part of the afternoon, I also think white folks might stand to listen more, and help to hold space more, rather than taking that space. We all need space to speak. Do I have plenty to say on these subjects? Yes obviously, LOL. Did I need to speak in that process, no I did not. I have massive privilege and opportunity to say what I have to say. That time is better spent literally listening to whatever the people have to say who have the most difficulty. Even that one weird motherfucker who went on about his spiritual wife. OK man we’re holding space for you to be your own glorious weird-ass self. That is also what it is for. Now, I’m sure everyone has their struggles and maybe it is particularly important to hear from Brother Berkeley McWhiterpants about his allyship in the very middle of an event centered on and run by people of color but…. Come ON. (end mild rant)

So I am left with the thoughts of the concrete actions I am taking (and that I support others in doing) For me a part of that is to look around me for people to connect with in my neighborhood. I talk about mobility issues and other struggles with people I just run into. And, I try to balance my financial support between organizations and individuals, who I know and who are strangers to me (which I think is important, as if you only share resources with the people you are already friends with, that just keeps whatever systemic patterns exist in their same patterns.

The structure of the event at the Ed Roberts Center was interesting in itself.

The stage too was a nice thing, though I would have liked it to be a bit higher, it had a broad ramp integrated with it so that it wasn’t a tedious process for folks to get on and off the stage.

stage with a broad ramp

I liked the MC-ing by Gigi and Claire Light. Claire led some moments of pausing and breathing, something I’m not great at doing, especially in public (because it means listening to my pain instead of blocking it out, and I don’t want to cry or whatever), but I think it was a good thing for many people in the event and a good idea to make space to ground ourselves. There was also a quiet room available. Towards the end of the afternoon I just got on the floor against a wall and laid down to listen and felt zero worry about other people’s opinions of that. (Something I’ve often done when I’m just that much in pain and tired, but don’t want to go home, I’d rather be able to participate, but others are uncomfortable or it breaks various social rules, and yes that’s why some folks have reclining wheelchairs or maybe I’d be better off staying home but, I can get up and down off the floor and it’s RIGHT THERE.)

I immediately had a wild surge of happiness at being in a crowd, without being crowded and trapped. The space itself was arranged in an open way, with tables spaced widely, and plenty of flexible area for use. Within that space and on the nice smooth floors, others were zipping about, I could hear their motors or appreciate the visual nearly silent, quick motion as they (we) rolled around the room. It was like the pleasure of watching swallows in flight. I thought of specific moments like being at Hamilton Pool near Austin, a limestone sinkhole over a large pool of water, with hollowed out, round cliffs, the mud swallow nests clinging to the cliffs 70 feet overhead and the birds darting in complimentary shapes to the arc of the inverted bowl, not acting together as a flock or a swarm, but each in pursuit of their own invisible goals. (Bugs.) Often, in a crowd, like at a conference hall or hotel, I zip around and, especially if the floor is smooth, I feel something of that pleasure of motion. It means having to be mindful of others in a particular way, that ideally includes my modeling of their ability to predict my motion and trust that I am competent. So, it is rare for me to be in a space like that and feel real joy in motion – It has to be open enough and non chaotic enough to allow for our normal motion not to scare people (whether they have good reason or not to startle and freeze or even leap away, as they do). Maybe the Dyke March and its attempts to hold space open between the main banner and the trolley and sound truck for wheelchair users. What I’m winding up to is that I’m often the only wheelybot in group spaces, so it was a specifically embodied pleasure to be not the only one but more than that, to feel so beautifully comfortable in my own erratic orbits alongside others zooming around. It filled me with joy.

Saw so many friends, met new people, haven’t been so excited about being at a conference in a while.

And, final plug for the Disability Visibility Project. Podcasts, a stream of excellent Facebook posts, Twitter chats on #CripTheVote, #CripLit and other topics. Add them right now to your social media of choice and follow along – you will be sure to learn something & have your world expanded.

liz holding smash the fash flag

Some recent Internet reading

An interview with Jaron Lanier, https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/delete-your-account-a-conversation-with-jaron-lanier/#!

So the problem is that when people say, “Oh, we use social media for social justice,” they’re typically correct. And yet in the longer story they’re really vulnerable to a far greater backlash than they would have gotten if they used another technique. At the end of the day, it’s hard to say whether they really benefited or not.

I disagree with what Lanier seems to be trying to say here. Of course if your activism reaches more people you are going to get more backlash. Are the specific people advocating for change ever going to be the ones to personally benefit for that change? Rare!

What they want to do is take whatever input people put into the system and find a way to turn it into the most engagement possible. And the most engagement comes from the startle emotions, like fear and anger and jealousy, because they tend to rise the fastest and then subside the slowest in people, and the algorithms are measuring people very rapidly, so they tend to pick up and amplify startle emotions over slower emotions like the building of trust or affection.

Interesting, and makes me think of Stardew Valley and its slow building of relationships between the player-character and the NPCs, relationships that have to be maintained. I also thought of the first example I was aware of, of the seemingly pointless exchange of tokens of approval in a social network, which I think was my friend Yoz creating something called “Sweeties” in Ning. And tangentially, of all the feminist sf utopias where there are barter based economies. Build in and opting into “slower” economies of attention could be possible – Excuse me while I go invent actual real life friendship, and the postal system – But seriously, I like this point and the only real answer to it may be to point this out to folks and for us all to seriously think about how we want to spend our time.

I am also thinking of my essay on culture clashes and the underlying assumptions of the trolls of the 00s with particular feminist communities. One assumes that showing that you are harmed is evidence you need to be harmed more in order to do you the favor of toughening you up. The other values its “hugbox” (a term used as a pejorative by the trolls) ie, its social contract to be supportive, kind, and to value the courage of vulnerability.

There is something to thinking “well, we SHOULD be alarmed and upset” about how things are – I think that is mistaking the early or middle phases of consciousness raising for a desirable steady state of being. It is normal in my view to have something of a breakdown as we try to integrate awareness of our participation in harmful, terrible or evil events and systems. As we see these truths we have to form some kind of narrative about what is happening and what we’re doing. That is where we’re at right now in public discourse – we are in a phase of rolling chaos and dis-integration.

Another article: This particle physics news was neat to see, as my ex partner used to work on these sorts of experiments (including AMANDA, the precursor to Ice Cube).

There is an open call for submissions to Cripple Punk Zine:

Our goal is to continue spreading radical disability acceptance to as many people as we can. We want to help raise disabled people’s self worth and self esteem, support disabled content creators, and create more spaces for disabled people to unapologetically be themselves. Every single disabled person deserves to feel empowered!

We are currently accepting submissions for the first issue, which will answer the question, “What is Cripple Punk?” and what cripple punk means to different people. The first issue should cover topics central to the cripple punk movement, like fighting ableism, embracing diversity, becoming empowered, and rejecting the roles mainstream society expects you to fit into.

I may write something and send it on.

I enjoyed this essay by Harry Giles (a rec from Sumana) on nurturing vs. shock in performance art.

Learning how to care for your audience is actually far more aesthetically interesting and politically disruptive than working out how to shock them.

This fits well with reading Lanier’s interview.

On shock and harm in art:

In each of these works, it is clear the people are actively harmed by the art, and this raises vital artistic and political questions. Who is it that is harmed, and why? Is it worth it? In Pussy Riot’s case, the punk gig offends worshippers and people who believe in a certain sanctity of the church space, who feel violated, but I would argue that in this case the violence is justified in the cause of attacking a patriarchy whose foundations rest in part on that very sanctity. But these are not easy arguments to make, and they are not artworks that I think can be taken or performed lightly.

I thought of myself and some of the activism I have done, for example, times I have been naked for a cause. Was my going shirtless at riot grrrl concerts or stripping down for a picture for body positivity with Nakedjen in various places a positive, transgressive act, or a rude, offensive, illegal, non consensual violation of other people’s space that possibly harmed someone? Is it different from Kavanaugh flashing Ramirez at a frat party and if so, how? My view here is that the potential harm is important to acknowledge, and that the expression, intention, exuberant joy, humor, etc. was worth the risk, and the context has to be considered.

thumbnail of two women

Not looking away

Quick blog post so that I feel more centered. There is no way to catch up as everything is moving so fast.
I had trouble looking at news after the election until a week before the inauguration. I read a lot of books instead and spent time with my family. (Huge binge on novels by Margaret Oliphant and some re-reading of many books by Octavia Butler, among others.) Posting lazily on Facebook instead of here, which doesn’t make any sense…. I feel better posting here, because it fits my philosophies of open information and an open web, anyone can link to it and read it without any fuss, and I control it. Though I like the interactiveness of getting comments on FB and the relative ease of posting photos.

Last week I went with the kids to the women’s march in Oakland joining up with an informal “crip contingent” with many friends. It was beautiful and heartening. I have not made it out to many marches in the last few years, but tried to support Occupy and Black Lives Matter and other protests through sifting through information on Twitter and livestreams and news and so on, gathering, filtering, verifying, amplifying. Protests are exhausting but also energizing! I want to show up, represent, be there in solidarity.

Here I am with the big banner. I live tweeted the whole time with one hand while driving my scooter, except for when I was holding one side of the banner. It was challenging to scoot while balancing it and to keep in pace with whoever was on the other side, in the middle of a huge, often packed, crowd. Corbett brought the banners and signs with help from others (I can’t remember the name of the woman who made the banner.. Kathrine? Kathleen? starts with a K. ) As always, I felt this amazing glow of pride and love to be with a radical crip crew and other disability rights activists, advocates, writers, poets, gorgeous people! The march was huge. They said 80-100 thousand people were marching in downtown Oakland that day.


Here’s Mariana and Ian with the banner, which reads “American Dream Must Be Accessible”. This photo got circulated a lot, as people liked the sign and it being carried by wheelchair users and I think also because of the dramatic arrow painted in the road in front of them, pointing forward.


Both kids are in this too but they are holding the middle of the banner and a sign. I was so proud of the kids stepping up to help out in whatever ways were needed, taping or zip tying signs and banners, steadying the signs which was exhausting and needed constant attention, watching out for little kids, scouting ahead for our group and reporting back. As I told them before hand there is nothing like a bunch of radical crips for radicalness and not giving a fuck. TRUE.

Meanwhile I had to work pretty hard at work doing Firefox release stuff for two weeks solid along with the rest of my team and other teams. The week before a release is super intense and the week after that is also a bumpy unpredictable ride. If it goes smoothly you can relax a bit. If not then it’s more of the absorbing the firehose and figuring out what to do. The complexity is enjoyable. I also feel useful and responsible. Getting you the best possible browser that we can!

I went to Point Reyes with my sister on a day trip and had a great time driving around in the sun through the green hills. We saw baby (newborn) seals at Drake’s Beach. I also bought fancy beautiful scarves at the place next to Cowgirl Creamery, getting really into this middle aged lady scarf wearing thing, admiring other people’s clearly beloved fancy scarves and fiddling with my own (ideally warm, and beautiful, and with a texture nice to feel as I fidget a lot and like something in my hands)

I have also been doing senior tai chi classes since mid-December trying to work something local and easy to get to into my life. Danny has been walking a mile every day. In theory I will add in daily youtube video tai chi workouts even if it’s just 10 minutes. I can do the hour long one at the Bernal Heights senior center but cannot keep up with even 5 minutes of the one across the street at the Library. The one at the 30th St. center, I can do the first half but not the 2nd. (Yet).

Saturday my plans were to rest and write (exhausted from my tai-chi-ing, work, the march) but instead because of the “Muslim ban” I went out to the airport with Danny and we joined the protest there. I live-tweeted the SFO protest as is my habit, for the time that I was there, till around 5. It feels like the way I can contribute best, to report on things live, be amusing, fierce, convey the excitement and passion of the crowd and that I’m feeling. Next time I will try typing as I can do it much faster, write more liveblog style, and type without looking at a screen unlike using the phone to tweet. (I come with a built in desk, my lap, since i’m sitting in a wheelchair!) It is also very informative and mindblowing to look at others’ impressions and reporting in real time. Again suitable for my skills of fast reading and absorbing information.

The protest started small before the suggested time of 3pm with a few dozen to 150 or so people in a loose circle chanting with signs and a lot of news media hanging on the fringes interviewing people who looked like airport bureaucrats, and police of many stripes hanging back complacently. A little bit before three, crowds of people surged into the international terminal area! The crowd doubled in size fast and then grew to well over a thousand. Lots of families, small groups of people with homemade signs on cardboard boxes or paper plates or just pieces of paper. No Trump, No Pence, No Wall, No Fence was a good chant, also LET THEM GO, LET THEM GO and Move, Trump, Move out the way. We went into the street blocking it off for a while and then moved back onto the sidewalks. It became clear people were planning to stay all night. Until everyone detained was released, and until the new planes flew in and they make sure everyone gets out! The lawyers set up makeshift offices — people even brought printers! Lots of people brought food (my friend Heather baked cookies and brought them by to drop off). It was beautifully spontaneous! Keep in mind the entire thing was a surprise as Trump announced it the afternoon before and people all over the country had the idea to go do sit-ins at the airports. It is still going on.

People holding signs in the protest outside SFO’s International Terminal on Saturday:

Sunday I considered going back but exhaustion and pain made me think that was a bad idea. It’s not going to help anything if I go into a pain/inflammation flareup and am stuck in bed for days or weeks. So I stayed in bed and wrote. I was going to write this blog post, but instead had the urge to respond to what I thought was a very moving act of support from the guy who runs the SFBART social media accounts, and the SF airport officials announcing their own support of civic action of the protesters. So, I wrote a silly sweet fanfic of SFO and BART being roommates, having tea together and watching Doctor Who, discussing their political beliefs and their job as civic infrastructure. My feeling was that this would be emotionally supportive for many people, sort of comforting…. and my silly fiction impulse would be a form of activism, like when I pass out zines and stickers to make people feel happy at getting a random gift. (ZINE FAIRY!!!!) Then someone who had read my tweets asked me if I’d write up a description of the protest, for Crimethinc, “Don’t see what happens, be what happens“. Not the most shining example of writing but there it is.

Tonight the ongoing struggles and constant flow of scary news of what Trump and co. are doing is tough but we are all very determined. I have read plenty of history of how dictatorships go down and have been worrying about this coming for a while. I thought during my lifetime I had a chance of not experiencing it super directly, dictatorship oppression and war and I still hope not. As my characters mention in the ridiculous infrastructure fic, obviously, not everyone is experiencing the safety and comfort I have been lucky enough to have so far in life, which makes the safetey and comfort less good to have, we can’t be unaware of injustice and inequality and suffering around us. As I see other very privileged people like myself shaken by fear since the elections and especially in the last week, it is also very clear that people experiencing worse oppression all around us, from racism, police violence and impunity, the experience of prison and poverty, justly feel angry and impatient to see middle class white people wake up… finally….. It is very annoying to know that our particular voices are not heard, believed, felt, to be real experiences worthy of action even if it is fairly natural for people not to act until they feel threatened. We have to look out for each other and please think on who is more vulnerable than you, if you can, around you in your community and find out what they need rather than worrying about your 401K or the dreaded knock on the door that might come from your imprudent tweets, coming back to bite you in the ass in our potential future under dictatorship. If you can’t I do think that’s understandable, but what is your comfort, even your survival, worth, under what conditions? Time to think about things on that level, very soon now if you haven’t yet.

The great injustice of this country has been for many years that we exist in comfort while people are incarcerated with the most ridiculous inequality and over-zealous application of law, law that should protect us all has been used to harm people in poverty and most deadly, harming people of color, black and latino people, black men in particular, and you can see from who gets shot by cops that a high proportion are disabled people of color. We need to support Black Lives Matter and fight against not only police shootings and violence but the extreme…. EXTREME violence of the state in locking people up for years, for their entire lives, for basing entire sections of the economy on exploiting their incarceration, making the prison industrial complex a true horror of our time in the United States. We live with this reality, to me, something just unbelieveable, unspeakable! You will, maybe, look back and wonder how this happpened, how we lived with it, how we were complicit, how we had jobs that others might have had but for the school to prison pipeline, the way it underpins our entire country. It is vile and it doesn’t have to be this way!
Still, I went out tonight to the Internet Archive to “Lost Landscapes of San Francisco,” a collection of film clips from the last century, very beautiful, lovely short introduction by Rick Prelinger speaking on the theater as commons and the ways that art and history that we make and participate in are a way of resistance in dark difficult times. I will keep doing my work, part of which is writing poetry and bits of ridiculousness, broadcasting enthusiasms, caring for people around me lovingly, making my ephemeral zines, and tweeting idealistically into the air.

Love,
Me.

(originally posted Jan 30 2017 – reconstructing from old backups, pics still to come)

Inciting to protest

It’s hard to know how to describe how this looks to me, but I have read a fair amount of history and I don’t think it will go well here.

The President-Elect’s tweet today: “Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!”

Protesters incited

I’ve been a blogger for over 10 years, and as part of the media, I’d like to incite you all to protest anything you please, since that is a fundamental part of our rights in this country. Protest is an incredibly important way that we can drive political change. I believe in protest, and also in the power of civil disobedience. Not just laws but obviously, the principles behind creating laws are worth defending, and discussing, and protesting.

Maybe a more fair way to do things for the President-Elect would be for him to appoint an oversight board to tell the media what they can publish and also making not only protest but suggesting protest or covering protests as news into a federal crime. I can’t think where we have seen this idea before, maybe in various dictatorships over the years.

Failing that, maybe someone could tip off the President-Elect about the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States including our right to free speech and peaceful assembly. There is a nice explanation of it on some useful government web sites. Have a look!

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the United States Congress from enacting legislation that would abridge the right of the people to assemble peaceably. The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution makes this prohibition applicable to state governments”

So, anyway, sarcasm aside, looks like they gave the President-Elect his Twitter account back.

I am so proud of the protestors and especially of the San Francisco students who walked out of class and marched today in protest.

“More than 1,000 students left campuses across the city and marched toward Civic Center Plaza, according to the San Francisco Unified School District.”

I look forward to more protests, teach-ins and consciousness raising and whatever activism and political action comes from the protests.

I also look forward to reading and writing about the work of excellent journalists who will never be silenced . . .

4th of July parade ACLU

Today's small political actions

Today I am reaching out to my friends through chat and email, both hackerspaces I’m connected with (Noisebridge and Double Union), our various women in tech organizations, and in person. I woke up this morning (from my grief and disassociation last night) with staunch, fierce determination full of energy and fire and ideas.

I read through the President-Elect’s 100 day plan. Have a look. It’s quite scary. For instance how many people do you know who have health care through the Affordable Care Act, or who have it through their marriages to same sex partners — here we have a direct threat to their family health. Also deeply on my mind – what will happen with Sanctuary cities?

My friend hazelbroom and I met for coffee and discussed our lives, what we do to support others, what support we need, what we can change, what structurally we might be able to affect. A lot of my ideas are around mutual aid networks. How can we create them and make them sustainable? But here is a brief outline: better self care, mutual support for activists, support for others in our communities and beyond, political engagement with whatever politicians represent us. We try to move beyond a charity model and it is often not greatly successful.

For me, I have good mutual support with several friends for example I am around to help out if a friend is down on their luck and needs help with a medical bill, or getting a ride, or groceries during an illness, or wrapping your mind around a complicated legal or bureaucratic situation — and many friends have helped and visited me when I’ve been in difficulties. In those situations, boundaries are hard to negotiate and maintain – hard to even articulate. Learning to have that kind of conversation is likely part of the work we need to do. Hazelbroom pointed out that as queer folks we have more practice than many others with that kind of “chosen family” bond. Those bonds are something more like quasi-cousins, loose partnerships for emotional and economic support. I have many ideas here, and will be writing about them over the coming days and weeks.

Our first practical action was to leave the cafe and go a few blocks down the street to the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center. We signed up as volunteers and got some information from them and talked to Executive Director Gina Dacus, who super nicely took the time to give us an outline of what the BHNC does. I knew already they provide a lot of the low income housing support of our neighborhood and there is some sort of senior center. I found to my happy surprise that the senior services and classes are “senior and disabled” which means : Free senior/arthritis tai chi classes for me just a few blocks away, JUST what I need and have been wishing for!

We described some of our skills for Gina (Hazelbroom: she is an RN, so can give flu shots and that sort of thing! Me: some thoughts on helping with informational discussions of wheelchairs and scooters.) I am donating to the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center right now, online. Our next step is to pull in our local friends and neighbors (including all our energetic, healthy teenage children) to show up to the community engagement meeting, and listen to see if we get any immediate ideas where we might be needed and we can be helpful.

Another next step, I am donating immediately to CARECEN SF, picked a bit randomly out of a list of community organizations in my neighborhood of Bernal Heights-Mission.

colorful mural at 26th and mission

Happy National Coming Out Day!

It’s that day again! I wrote a coming-out story some years ago, and it’s in a book, Can I Sit With You?.

Here’s a link to the full story online if you’d like to read it. It’s called “The Sex Change of Zyax II“.

True story from my 5th grade life in Houston, Texas in 1980.

Here is a picture of me at around that time, in my big plastic glasses frame, slightly stringy brown hair, and a tshirt with an iron-on patch that says “Friends Are Forever”.

Liz 1981

While the legal and cultural situation for GLBT people has changed somewhat for the better in the U.S. since my coming out experience 35 years ago, I think that we can’t underestimate the damage that hateful bigots still do even with those changes taking place. LGBTQ youth are still at greatly increased risk of being targeted for violence, and at more risk for suicide, than straight kids.

I was pleased recently to see this new of a dude escaping from a bad situation from his family, and that he had good legal support: https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2015/10/06/trans-man-trapped-in-india-by-parents-allowed-to-return-home/.

Anyway, keep speaking up and representing, because this battle isn’t over.

On a ramble in the city in the sun

Up betimes and to the office, where I had a lively time in various conference rooms and having lunch. Milo brought Minecraft and a book; we hung out talking about role playing games and science fiction with my co-worker Marc and my team’s intern Kate; then had a strangely nice time (for a day when a lot of technical infrastructure broke and we had to flail around to get things to work). I remarked to Ritu and Kate in our free form working-on-things meeting that I was so happy they are both interrupters. If only one of us was, it would be awkward. But with three rapidly thinking juggernaut talkers we jostled ideas and work around them, getting a lot done and building a group understanding of how we’re reading bugs and documentation, looking at metrics, and making decisions. My other team members are also like this. We can listen too — it is a comfortable mosh pit.

As usual I am wildly impressed by the deep knowledge of so many engineers at work. Stuff breaks or we have conflict and yet so much happens. My goal in going after a job at Mozilla was to be in a huge collaboration to make things bigger than I would ever know how to make on my own (after years of mostly lone projects, from zines to book editing to being a lone developer grubbing away in a dark corner). I am still obsessed with what collaboration can be and how it can be structured, and see interesting traces of generations of idealism echoed in our tools. (insert imaginary digression into c2 and meatball wiki history and LambdaMOO…. ) The answer to “why can’t you delete your bugzilla comments?” is actually this giant wild ride into epistemology and communication and truth but you would not necessarily suspect that if you weren’t there. So many things are like this. You look at a bridge, and if you know what ideals inspired the engineers of the time you understand why it is the way it is. Looking at every object, you have to assume that may be the case, just as every person has a deep background from which they have constructed themselves and been constructed. I was feeling this a lot today. This engineering perspective is why I love reading Henry Petroski….

I did promise a ramble! Milo and I went out along the Embarcadero, playing Ingress. I wanted to go down to the end of the pier near the Ferry Building, on this rare warm day when I had the (faked) energy to be out of the house. The sun baked us, we looked at the painted tiles and poetry quotes along the pier, talked to fishermen (who were catching two foot long sharks) and watched a giant cargo ship (in real life and on MarineTraffic.com) go under the Bay Bridge. Oil tanker, Maltese flag, coming from Benicia. Without even trying, we spent an hour loafing around the pier. Pelicans were diving. People asked me about my mobility scooter. Water sparkling, ferries zooming around, someone in a bathing cap swimming around in the freezing ocean! I love waterfronts because they make me feel like I’m in a Richard Scarry Busy Busy World page!

San Francisco waterfront

My plan was then to adventurously take a MUNI train from underground instead of doubling back to get on the F, then transfer to the J to go home Instead, we braved the confusion of underground. The plan: go to the Castro for comic book shopping and dinner. Everything worked out. The train was crowded, but no one was awful. The smellavators, I mean elevators, all worked. We speculated on what it would be like if they just made the lifts into actual toilet stalls. Milo now unfazed by all this chaos while 5 years ago he would have been miserable to be dragged around, needing to check out and daydream or read in order to tolerate it.

I had never been in the Castro underground MUNI station. Weird huh? I knew abstractly that’s what those stairs must be for. But why would I ever go down them? I also have no clue how to get to the underground bit of the Church muni stop. Someday will pop out of it like a gopher and stitch those geographic manifolds.

Everything today was suffused with contentment. I could not stop just quietly enjoying the sunny warmness, the city, thinking on how we were in a place that other people around the world come to on purpose to enjoy.

Pain was terrible today honestly but I was in a state where I could ride it — And enjoy everything.

Liz on a pier in the sun

Cannot do that more than one day in a row. Tomorrow is for working from bed, ice packs on the ankles, and doing nothing more difficult than hobbling out to water the plants on the front porch.

I reminisced a bit to Milo about memories of past SF Pride parades and the Dyke March, and how I feel a little surge of the happiness of coming to SF every time I see the rainbow flags on Market Street. I said how the fact that I roller skated half naked down Market and the next year was in my manual wheelchair hanging onto the back of some strange guy’s motorcycle with my sister pulled along behind me, gives me this weird feeling of strength and history. And how I have been going since 1991, a long time now. We used to take Milo to the playground at Civic Center with my ex Nadine and her family and the kids would just be like, Mom… there is a guy dressed only in balloons. (Yes dear! He’s celebrating! How amusing! Many of the rules of life get broken today!) While I don’t often tell stories about my life to the kids I try to mention at least some of the facts or things that will make them think of their own experiences as existing in a story or history as well and to appreciate everyone around them has experiences as interesting to know as reading a good book. And, I think it would be weird to think of your parent as just your parent, and then 20 years later go, Oh, and by the way surprise she was flouncing around naked in the streets back in the day. Better to know up front so as to get used to the mildly scandalous facts. There is no need to go into details.

So our wandering around today was like my substitute pride weekend. I’ll be out of town this year for work, and anyway, have difficulty keeping up with the crowds. How much nicer to sit in Harvey’s on a mellow day like today — mediocre food but a nice spot to have a drink and gaze out at the rainbow crosswalks – people passing by in their shorts and tank tops. We read the little flyer about Harvey Milk while pondering injustice. Alas, the comic book store was closed on Monday.

Then to avoid the horrors of the 24 at rush hour (always full, passes me up regularly from that direction, rage-inducing) we flaneured down 18th to look out over the park and take the J train. I felt happy thinking of the excellent punk band J Church. Lovely view over Dolores Park. Pointed at our history pet, the Golden Hydrant. (Also, it is a portal, so, hacked it.)

I feel lucky my son can enjoy my quiet pace of wandering around the city and that he is such a good companion for observing and talking, chilling out and reading books in random places. Not for the first or last time I thought of that kind of cheesy sentimental Juana de Ibarbourou prose poem Diary of a Young Mother.

I will be old when my son becomes a man. And when we go out to walk together, I will pretend to be hunchbacked, so that he will seem, at my side, to be more gallant. I will be a little old woman full of crafty tricks. I will learn to stumble once in a while, so that he can support me. I’ll have to feign exhaustion, so that he’ll give me his arm, saying:
          “You’re tired, Mom?”
          And the girls, who surely will all fall in love with him like fools, will say:
          “That crippled old lady on the arm of this handsome elegant man — it’s his mother.”
          And I’ll walk on secretly swelled with pride!

Unlike Juana I don’t have to pretend! And yet am more likely to be the support, open the door, carry his books (since I have this handy sturdy exoskeleton).

Part of a plan! Teen fantasy/sf book and comic book club at Borderlands. I will help Milo make it happen this summer. Isn’t it odd that the libraries, despite having a gazillionty kid/teen events, don’t have just like… a get together for kids who love to read? Not an improving aspirational reading list for the summer or a workshop on origami but … talk with people who love to read for fun, who are your age. Milo remarked how it took him until very recently to realize that most other people don’t read for fun but see it as this special educational activity. It’s good to find your people. It boggles his mind that people would consider one form of culture or art or writing to be somehow elite and high and others, not, when obviously that changes over time anyway and with every new art form! The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree in this case! But it’s like he gets to avoid my horrible childhood snobbery!

I thought of my nice day yesterday going out with Danny to eat oysters and weird candy cap mushroom creme brulee. We had just a day to catch up between two of his work trips and a ton of ideas to talk about, his talk at PDF, the general odd zeitgeist, what will happen with the elections and disinformation and astroturfing (my code for this is just muttering “venezuela” which if you followed the last 10 years of politics there and online arguments you will know means, you can’t tell what the hell is going on and everything is fucked). (Obviously that political situation is not special to VZ; it’s just that I was paying attention to it at the time.) We talked about writing projects. Gossip — ranging far afield — the psychology of everyone — ourselves — etc.

So, meanwhile, I complain about spending a lot of time just being in bed or on the couch. And sometimes resent that going to the drugstore 3 blocks away is my outside of the house activity for the week. How pathetic that little bit of happiness seems when I feel down or when I’m wishing to travel all over the world. But it isn’t really a bad thing and I think never will be. When I’m 90 I’ll sit on a bench feeling the sun, taking pleasure in that. It will be just fine.

A small but determined ambition: have periodic short writing times, with many different people, including Milo and Danny…. Some sporadic instances of Writing Together but separately time and talking over projects, rather than a regular habit which none of us can stick to because of the structures of our lives. How will I model sustainable feminist activism? This question my therapist posed has been a fine mantra over the past 8 months or so.

This last week I thought a lot about my friends and people in my life, thinking of them with huge affection. I want to write letters to everyone. What if I just write nice letters to people over this next year? But not “just”. The idea I was ticking over at this time last year was to do an anthology that is exactly to my taste of memoir and essay. I want to pull people together to represent this moment as intensely as possible. I am picturing this process and this artifact and will make it happen. I want to get out a lot of my books and stuff about diaries, and memoir, and feminist ethics, and jump from thought to thought to see what gets thrown into the mix before this project coalesces. Last year’s events made it hard for me to settle. Now I think I know what to do here. Think on history and activism. Riot grrrl slips into the realm of the mythical past. Moments flame up like comets. Collisions are bright shining. You know the Combahee River Collective didn’t last forever. But the people carried on their work in different trajectories. What they built still stands. The effort to collaborate that intensely is not failure because it’s ephemeral – Like all relationships.

Anyway, back to the day.

I felt content and good today. The good wishes of hundreds of people casually on Facebook (that exploitable butterfly) made me think fondly of everyone and I felt loved and appreciated for whatever it is I’m doing now, though it isn’t splashy or what I had planned. People are cynical about that “shallow” social interaction but I do love it. What could be wrong about thinking of another person for a moment, even if you don’t have them in mind all the time, or even for years?

Going across town is still a big deal for me that makes me happy. I do miss being able to get in my car and drive around exploring waterfronts and going all the places possible from the map. Instead: this is the time I’m in this city, in this way, and I’m going to enjoy it.

Small ambition!! Friday I am thinking to get a tres leches cake with pineapple whipped cream from Lelenita’s and invite a few people over. Cake time! Maybe… cake and poetry? Salon time; small private spaces. My feeling of not being ready to write a new different (poetry) book solidified oddly while Danny and I talked at our fancy Sunday lunch. I begin to see the problem there. It is our view of the failures of our collectives. Returning to our romantic idea of the End of Greatness. To get there I need to look further somehow.

Obligatory mention of books: Cixin Liu – just read everything of his that you can lay your hands. The novellas and short stories are beautiful. Read many of them in a row! You won’t be sorry.

And in undercurrents, violence against women

Some of the things I read today. Sometimes you look at the news and, damn.

Famous dude doxxes some trolls

* Former MLB pitcher, 38 Studios founder doxes his daughter’s online abusers
* Curt S.’s blog post about it all
* Daily mail article about the same thing

I would like to add to Gabby Schilling’s statement that ‘No one should be able to get away with saying those things to a father about his daughter.’ OK I can roll with that if I translate it 8 different ways in my head, but no one should get away with saying those things to anyone about anyone. And this should happen to exactly no one, nowhere, ever, in public or private.

Plenty more to say about how Curt Schilling handled this. Short version: Compare what happens when this dude doxxes people who say misogynist shit, to what happens when women report harassment against themselves. Extra bonus, all the framing of ownership and protectiveness and patriarchy and threats and jokes just makes it worse in some ways, even though I appreciate anyone fighting misogyny and harassment, it’s like, oh did the entire history of women defending themselves and each other just never happen? And I’m supposed to care more about this girl more than other girls because she has a dad and a boyfriend? Oh ok. OK whatever man.

Oh also noting that news article give the real names of two of the harassers, and it should not be hard at all to find the names of the rest of them. It isn’t like they tried to be anonymous or anything, it was just routine behavior for the lot of them.

University health records aren’t private

* University of Oregon doubles down on a rape survivor who sued them for mishandling her case. Educational institution medical records aren’t covered by HIPAA. I had no idea. Horrible on top of horribleness.

Students: Don’t go to your college counseling center to seek therapy. Go to an off-site counseling center. If, God forbid, you’ve been sexually assaulted, try to find a rape-crisis center.

So that pissed me off.

Ferguson Police Department are horrible

* Surprising no one, Ferguson Police dept. shows some very racist patterns of behavior and sends some stupid racist emails.

Smokin’ in the Girl’s Room

Some a-hole named Michael Rosner (who has not heard of the Streisand Effect) in Baltimore has apparently started a civil liberties complaint. Not sure what this means. An actual lawsuit? If so then I look forward to reading this ridiculousness in PACER and putting it straight into RECAP. He seems to be part of Baltimore Node, a local hackerspace, and is one of those people who are the self-appointed photographers of tech events. In a sadly now deleted post on some Baltimore tech group’s Facebook page, he compared himself to Rosa Parks. A+ drama and ludicrousness.

The repugnant thing of course is the chilling effect this kind of thing can have on other groups who want to hold events. I have certainly spent years hearing people say in meetings, “Oh but what if someone sues us for being reverse sexist/racist” etc. and not only can they fuck off, the people who actually get to the point of litigation can fuck right off and go start their own damn coding club.

First prize for douchebaggery goes to a poet

You would think that is enough for one day. And yet we have more!
* Poet Greg Frankson sues peers for more than $300,000 for libel and defamation
Dude, Ritallin, this isn’t how it works. You aren’t supposed to piss off the bard because the bard can write a scornful poem about you. Go write a scathing spoken word piece! Lawyers? Really?! Weak. Oh well! This is why the 21 women wanted to be anonymous in the first place. So that your punitive and extra harassing lawsuits wouldn’t screw up their emails with subpoenas from now till forever. So, apparently he was banned from some poetry organizations and events because 21 different women reported incidents of sexual harassment and assault. Frankson is now suing some of the people involved, and they’re now fundraising for their legal defense.

Politics and policy

I strongly think that reporting and witnessing harassment and sexual assault is political speech and should be protected as such. Anti-SLAPP law should protect us from these punitive defamation lawsuits. At the least it seems a reasonable defense. There is a long history, not over obviously, of violence against women and in particular sexualized violence against women, and backlash against reporting it. (Or prior restraint stops anyone from publishing it for fear of being sued, even when it’s true.)

It is extremely important that we fight on a legal and policy level against chilling effects to our free speech. I also see these lawsuits as having an effect on our ability and right to organize politically. If we can’t tell each other who raped us, how can we fight? In order to protect that right I think we also will need organizations and legal help that will keep our right to communicate privileged information to each other. But that is not all since we also need public disclosure for our activism. The legal definitions of harassment are centered around work environments and the responsibilities of employers to protect their employees.

While I am ranting, I see this as part of a horrible trend to privatize all the functions of a civil society. Having a job in a particular way should not be the precondition for having health care, a hope of a sustainable life in old age aka “retirement”, other basic needs of life, or, legal protection from abusive behavior. Our right to participate in public spaces should be protected. Not just in “workplaces”.

India’s Daughter

Let us look at one more spectacularly hideous example of pushing women out of the right to public life. All the content warnings or trigger warnings possible on this one….

I also read Leslee Udwin’s statement about interviewing some of the men from Delhi who raped and murdered a woman on a bus. There is heartening protest and activism against this sort of attitude as you can see in the many other articles about “India’s Daughter” but it is clearly also not just the rapists who think this way about their right to do whatever they want to women.

I am not trying to equate harassing people on twitter with rape and murder, I am saying that they are facets of the same oppressive attitude and power dynamic reflected. And that one underpins the other. We need to fight all of it.

A good book if you like books

On that note I have a book recommendation: Framing the Rape Victim: Gender and Agency Reconsidered by Carine M. Mardorossian. About the book:

Contesting the notion that rape is the result of deviant behaviors of victims or perpetrators, Mardorossian argues that rape saturates our culture and defines masculinity’s relation to femininity, both of which are structural positions rather than biologically derived ones.

And a bit I highlighted from the book:

We need to understand that the will to dominate is not an expression of free will or of a subject bound to gendered expectations that have turned the will to dominate into identity itself. Indeed, the failure to dominate produces a “terror machine” because it threatens the subject with complete annihilation: once one subscribes to the tenets of this identity-making machine, one is nothing if one does not dominate.

This book connects and clarifies sexualized violence and its role in many forms of oppression. “All violence is sexualized violence.” Food for thought.