On Whiteness and Sound Studies

Sounding Out!

white noiseWorld Listening Month3This is the first post in Sounding Out!’s 4th annual July forum on listening in observation of World Listening Day on July 18th, 2015.  World Listening Day is a time to think about the impacts we have on our auditory environments and, in turn, their effects on us.  For Sounding Out! World Listening Day necessitates discussions of the politics of listening and listening as a political act, beginning this year with Gustavus Stadler’s timely provocation.  –Editor-in-Chief JS

Many amusing incidents attend the exhibition of the Edison phonograph and graphophone, especially in the South, where a negro can be frightened to death almost by a ‘talking machine.’ Western Electrician May 11, 1889, (255).

What does an ever-nearer, ever-louder police siren sound like in an urban neighborhood, depending on the listener’s racial identity? Rescue or invasion? Impending succor or potential violence? These dichotomies are perhaps overly neat, divorced as they are from context. Nonetheless…

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Queerness, Intimacy, Rough Trade and Desire

The complexity of a life lived always in pursuit outside the line of conformity is that the unstable ground of the false lies that build my inner narrative always return to grab my ankle demanding love must be expressed not by the act of intimacy and agency, but by the partnered cardinal that is the myth. I am the virgin whore I seek….Intimacy, that complicates, pushes, grabs my breath only to release me in to the light of shattered limitation…Desire wrapped in the rough trade sex of the ally ways, the submission to another’s intellect, the unfolding of wetness by the banter of discourse, the tenderness of wanting in the eyes of a lover, Yes, I am the Virgin Whore I seek…

Augs,7 2010- June, 12th 2013 “Packing, Police,and Perservence”

I have been asked by many folks what what happened in Seattle? I am now free to discuss the events that changed my life and had a level of self-loathing return, the likes I had not seen in 25 years when I first got sober. Many of you know that I travel to work in the summer to help find my education, and being a carpenter allows me to do so, but in the summer of 2010 I was able to be of help to my long time friend and logical family member Cath, AKA “My Person”. Cath had throat cancer and was on a wicked treatment plan of chemo and radiation, I was gifted with being able to spend the last three weeks with her during radiation so she could stay at home and not go to hospice.At this point Cath had not been able to speak for about 2.5 weeks and she had had a few very rough nights. Aug, 7th was my transitioning out day as her sister Nora had arrived and I was heading back to Cali for my last year of my Masters on Monday the 9th, with a short stop in seaview Wa. and the down 101 home. Or so I thought!
That Saturday the 7th, I headed out to meet Mitch, Louise, and Shelly at Vivace for coffee and then I was headed over to the Hotflash dance, to meet up with Julia, Lainey and Jack, I never made it to the dance. While on Broadway, enjoying a cup of the best coffee with Mitch, Louise and Shelly, I looked up and saw a parking ticket on my truck, and had the normal reaction, fuck, I said in my head, see I thought it was sunday as I was pretty exhausted at this point, What happens in the next 7 hours was life changing. I at this point was not sporting a goatee, was in Levis,white tee-shirt and motorcycle boots and was soft-packing. I got up from the table and walked over towards my truck and in doing so passed the parking enforcement officer (PEO) as I got about three to 5ft passed him I pivoted on my feet, looked at my friends and flipped a double bird, turned and headed towards my truck with no words or physical contact was made with the peo. As I arrived at my truck, got the ticket and turned the PEO was standing there learning towards me so much so I had to lean back, he waved his finger at me and said did you take a swing at me, I said no, well the a crime and I can call it in, I said again I did not take a swing at you and could you please take your finger out of my face. As I stood up straight he came up to about my shoulders, and again said that he could call it in , I again stated I had not swung at him. He walked off back in his original direction south on Broadway, I started to walk over to the pay ticket stand, when I hear him yell at me from about ten, you don’t need to do that, just put the ticket on your truck, I said I did not trust him and was going to pay and thought that was the end of it.
I put the sticker in my window and walk back to the table to finish my coffee and catch up with my friends. Both Louise and Shelly could see him down the street at the corner and said they thought he might be calling it in and did I want to go, I was like no I had not done anything, and they had my truck on record anyway. Next was the second smartest thing I ever did, the first was getting sober, the second was to say, just in case he was calling it in to ask Mitch to hold my knife. Now at this point it has been over 20 mins, many of us “pack and carry Knives” nothing illegal about either, both come into the story one because it was not on me the other because it was.
The next thing I know two SPD officers arrive and ask’s me to step over to the car which I do without any issue or question as now I am in their house, their rules. The tell me to sit on the front bumper of the squad car, and as I do so more officers arrive, in total about 14 officers arrive. The first officers ask’s me what happen, I describe as I did I above what happened, and they go talk to my friends and several other for witness statements, there are two officer standing in front of me, three on my right stating on the curb, and about six down talking with the PEO, plus the original two. The next thing that happens is the original officer come back states tha the PEO says I took a swing at him and he had duck or dogged not sure which, to which I made a fatal and human mistake, I made an empathic utterance,”I could see how he thought that” which is why I could not proceeded against SPD for first amendment rights violations later. The next thing that happened to me and everyone who had seen what happened is I was cuffed, patted down placed in the back of a squad car, all a first and arrested on misdemeanor assault charges. I was first taken to the 12th st. cop house on capital hill put in a small concrete room still hand cuffed, alone, and scared.Now before this I had been asked if I was female on Broadway, and I said yes as that is what my state id says as well, no this was not the teachable moment moment. and I am a female-bodied masculine queer who is read as male which besides the “packing’ is the real crime I was arrested for. I was aloud to pee at the station and this become important as well, both to show my co=operation and that two female offices nerve said anything about no where the concerned about my “pack”. I was asked to step out of the holding cell turn around and the uncuffed me, and said could use the rest room, I did not move before I asked if they need to go in with me, they said I could go in alone, when I came out I was holding my shirt up so they could see my belt, asked if they needed it, they said no, they did not see or react to anything that might have been viewed as contraband or a weapon. I was placed back in the solid concrete room hand cuffed and alone. The door opened about 20 mins later and a female office asked me to step out, asked if I was female which now was the third time and I said yes, I was then put in her car and we drove down to King County Jail where I was transferred in. Just when I thought it could not get worse, it does, The female office walks me up to about two feet in front of the counter where a male sheriff again ask’s me if I am female, again I say yes, a female sheriff comes from around the counter and the SPD officer leaves and the sheriff ask me to go with her, I do, as we take about 2-6 steps she to again ask’s me if I am female, again I say yes, she then ask’s if I feel comfortable in general population or do I want to be in isolation, the questioned puzzled me, and I said, I was fine in general population, I was then asked to turn right and go down a short hall with three stalls with curtains on the left, and a solid wall on the right, she then said I need to take my earrings out and get undressed, I was not all the way back in the stall I was at the front where if officers behind the desk looked down this short hall at an angle could see me, and she did not say to step back, I knew I was packing, and was already feeling the shame of being gender Queer, so I was very conscious about sliding my packer into my pant leg and rolling my pants up, I continued to undress until I was naked, she then saw my nipple piercings and said that they too had to come out, no one looks good under florescent lights, my glow in the white self did not either, no was the shame coming over me there naked, taking the bars out of my nipples feel anything more than my dehumanization. At this point I thought we were done, but the next few minutes would be the most humiliating, dehumanizing moments I have been through in my life, I was told to turn around bend over grab my checks and spread them! then given a red jump suit and put in holding. As I was put in holding another inmate said, “why are you putting a man in here” I they were not, I sat down on the cold metal bench, another inmate sat next to me drunk and asked if she could put here head in my lap, to which I polity said no, and be watch another inmate figured out how to call cath’s to talk with her sister Nora. This was another layer of shame for me was to add any stress to cath’s at this point in her recovery.By the grace of Spirit, Cath’s brother peter, was able to make it to a bonds place for the 950.00 bail and the paper work came just after I had been given my bracelet and 5 mins before I was to go to the 9th floor, un-like Oakland, you can not bail out on sunday, so I would have been there till possible monday cause we know folks get lost.
I also know folks here in Seattle who work on the police accountability board and in the Prison Abolition movement so sunday I made some calls. the first was to Sheri Day who I a long time fierce Black women activist and part of my logical family. I was given a trail date and I could not leave the state to return home until or even possible if the court though I was a flight risk. Sheri had me call folks she knew at the Seatte Defenders office, I was told to come in monday, and they like me and everyone else when I saw that I was attested for flipping the PEO off are in total “You have to be kidding me”, Now I like many of you know if you your are a POC you can be and have been lynch and or arrested for just living, I understand this intellectually and also know this to be a fact because I have witnessed it and I have been told this. next in line for being targeted for violence by the state and others are white gender self-determining folks like me. I secured representation on that monday, my case was to be heard thursday. Mitch went with me to court, where I was offered two years probation and a year of anger management, and again I was like what, my attorney went back, they counters with 1 year probation 6 months anger management, again we said, I was called in court and my lawyer said that she would be representing Ms. Sullivan and the the whole court room, as Tupac states :
“all eyes on me” the Judge he even looked up twice to make sure. My Attorny was able to set a date in oct., get my bail charge dismissed and I was allowed to return to cali until Oct.
I returned to classes, and went to therapy as i was a not doing well, but only could afford a short bit and relied on AA thinking the feeling would pass. In oct. my case was dismissed for “Proof issues” setting up my retaining of a lawyer to bring a first amendment case against the city, and the jail. Meanwhile I started to spiral down, isolating, short tempered, and trying to finish my MA. By the end of spring at graduation time, I was having a full PTSD melt down and was in therapy once a week. Many of you know I applied and got in a local PhD program that in the summer of 2011 began what was to be two year change that included three core facualty changes, and in the second year a complete program change in its purpose. This instability along with the ptsd was almost to much for me as I considered checking off.
It sounds dramatic, but the for those that do not know my whole story or my Phd work here is a brief connection to why this event in Seattle though harmful and dehumanizing to anyone, those of us that have spent our whole live as being the target of state, medical, social, and individual violence for being ourselves are extra vulnerable when the same structures of power put their Boot on us. I was 7 years old, already ad sexual abuse survivor for the pedophile up the street, when my pediatrician suggested to my mother I be taking to the UCLA GENDER IDENTITY RESEARCH CLINIC for Reparative therapy. Two of the most controversial and their where many at this clinic were Dr. Robert Stoller Director and Dr. Richard Green who wrote the book ” THe Sissy Boy Syndrome”, the study for this book was for young effeminate boys, so I was outsourced to a for Female Grad student now Doctor herself in private practice. I was forced in and out of therapy to “correct” my behavior and presentation until I left home at 18. That is the re-traumatization in short, the upcoming Dissertation/book will have more detail.
Anyway, it has been a long road back, lot’s of self-work, therapy and good friends who loved me back to a place of loving myself. Seattle June, 12th 2013. We know you do not seek justices in our justices system, and no compensation will ever be enough for what was taken, but what I could not see as I plug along in school, struggling to and fighting to get myself back was what this day would bring. I suited up, showed up and said NO you do not get to make us invisible. I was able to take my Dignity back, not through monetary means, though I can get a new lap to for the work ahead on comps and my dissertation, which is exactly what I need. I was able to see how to be an ally where I have the most legitimacy, I as a White Masculine person was able to seed plant in a room of other white folks in Power (The lead city investigator,a top Prosecutor, the head policy person for the Jail, a retires judge of 25 years on the bench and my Lawyer a civil right attorney for over 25years). I was able to talk about “what is a legitimate body? How does racism impact gender” I heard my lawyer say “Gender is between your ears and sex is between your legs and have the judge say wow that is really useful and simple way explaining the difference” What I won was our rights to ours and others dignity, not on the grand scale as we know it is a long fight, but in the hearts and minds of a few who then can teach a few. I was given my part of the collective struggle, and yes it almost broke me, but life is like that right. I was able through what my logical family, community,friends and professors use what I have been taught over the last three years and apply my love for theory into action. I am so grateful, for this chance to be able to final be free to talk about it, the legal process is not kind as we know, silence is one. Another,thing I learned during the Early years of Aids, was to thank people while they are here so THANK YOU! Stay Blessed I am

How whiteness is re-centered

One thing I have come to realize is something happened when I turned 50 last year. I realized that I had lived most of my life, a life full on many adventure, a front row seat to what might be called modern western Queer history. I was born in 1962 and benefited in my childhood in Santa Monica Ca. from many of the rights, education and history lessons learned and beginning to be taught in the public school system from the Civil Rights to Queer rights. I still am in touch with many of my childhood friends and we make up many tribes, with some overlap and some just wanting a just equitable world. I have carry many gifts of difference into my adulthood from those days from Grant school to the pool at Santa Monica College, the peir, ice rink and third ave before it had a Tiffany’s, But I digress. I want to tell a story about how and why it is important to know not just your story but others story, some might think I am looking to be the “good white ally” some might think, “wow insightful” others “could careless”, I care and one thing that has come through in the last few years especially from school is to make the invisible visible. It is easy to see the clan or call out the recent Islamaphobia stemming from Boston, what is harder to see is how I and other well intention white-folks participate without our knowledge in structural racism. The point of this story is to see how oppression is used as a tool in re-centering whiteness, I hope it helps folks think and question.

In 1986 me and two other Dykes went to get tested for HIV at the men’s health clinic, they did not want to test us as they did not seem to think we were at high risk, now mind you we are all white, my friend stated to the young white gay man, What part of sleeping with fags and shoot drugs is not high risk? Well all our lives change after the test came back, one of the two friends had Aids, A dyke. We mobilized, started the women and Aids task force, my positive friend was fundamental in starting Needle exchange in Seattle, we passed out safe sex packages to women in dyke bars who thought they were not at risk. I wrote a paper showing the stats on HIV and women in the US in 1987, showing the the highest number if HIV case was Black women between 15-25, a current stat as well, Indigenous women where not track by the cdc at the time, and a Dyke was considered a women who had not had sex with a man in 10 years. As with most thing the Queer community was very separate as was the organizing. Much of the resources went to white gay men and in that vain several other friends of mine started People of Color Against AIDS Network (was formed in 1987 for the express purpose of responding to an epidemic that was having and continues to have a devastating impact on communities of color in the United States and throughout the world. POCAAN began as a project of the American Friends Service Committee with a staff of one and a handful of community volunteers.Ms. P. Catlin Fullwood, whose background in the battered women’s movement made her an ideal advocate for under-served people of color, had the vision to launch POCAAN as a separate entity.In Seattle, in the spring of 1987, the founding group of POCAAN decided that, by whatever means, they needed to figure out how to alert our communities to the imminent threat of AIDS without creating havoc, chaos and persecution of those thought to be the “carriers’ of the disease.)The divide in who need and got services and who where the “experts” is a core problem in the non-profit industry and still is.

Fast forward to 2007, I have graduated from Mills with a BA in Ethnic Studies, I have done HIV out reach work in Rural Houston TXS, plus I did early work as stated above. I have returned to Seattle and I am looking for work. Now here is what I want to expose about not understanding structural racism and the savior mentality.I applied for an outreach position and in the interview by one white gay man and one white straight women I am asked this question after my ego has been stroke well about my background, how it seems I have all the skills needed for this position, they asks me how comfortable I feel working in communities of colour? Now mind you the issue here is “working” not hanging out. Now these two had no idea of my history in Seattle communities, and as funding gets tighter all agency’s write grants for specific populations,so finding a “qualified person to do the work” meant asking me if I with my “legitimate education” which of course gives me “authority” in communities of colour felt “comfortable” “teaching” to Folks of Colour HIV Prevention. Now that is how whiteness is re-centered under the Savior ideology, how my ego and wanting to do good can be used in structural racism. My response to the question was to ask how their relationship with POCAAN was, needless to say I did not get the job. That is not the point of this story, nor is it to say as white folks we should not take the job, But what we are required to do is see if we are being used against the very thing we say we are fighting against, racism, structural, institutional, and personal. Research community stories, if you understand there is racial inequity, do not let your Queerness be the tool of oppressing others.The “Good White Ally” means understand our part in how the system use us against the very thing we are fighting against. Folks of Colour and other marginalized groups do not need us teaching, they need us listening. This where the big word, intersectinality comes in handy and how to step up and step back, there is as James Baldwin states, A price for the ticket that is whiteness, What is the cost not to but the ticket? Blessings

When did I fall in Love with Theory

Yes, I also know when I fell in love with Hip hop too 1978. I fell in love with theory late in my life’s journey I was 41, that was tens years ago. Davis,hooks,Hall,Fanon,Spivack,Bhabha,Foucault,Butler,Spade,Rubin are only a small taste, Race theory, Queer, theory,Trans Theory, Disability Theory, Feminist Theory, Subaltern Theory. I was not a child that read, nor is it the first form of learning I choose, but I think that my ability to listen and watch folks live theory has informed my love of theory.It’s funny though, coming out and saying you love theory has been difficult, if fact at times I have been made to feel shame, or I am an elitist, or I think I am smarter than others, or accused of being in accessible and privileged.Having learning disabilities, reading and writing come to me difficultly asks any of my professors and friends who have struggled to read, edit, and help me push through.But back to theory, I think I love it most for its story telling ability, to link conversations global, historically, and visionary. Theory is not owned by anyone person or discipline, writing or spoken. I think though if I loved music,poetry,and dance (which I do) I would find the response much different, I love the beat of the song, the cadence of your words, the image of your body when it is doing what it loves. What is it about theory? why is it such a dirty shameful word, I work out 2-8 hours a day, I am dedicated,frustrated,mad at, fall back in love with,sacrifice and yes skip a day,but when I use it, unlike those who take their shirt off after years of working out who we admire,I am made to feel bad. Yes knowing your audience is important, making connections is great. I find poetry hard to understand sometimes,but poetry is story telling, like dance is story telling, and sculpting ones body, So, yes I fell in love with theory, deep complicated, frustrating, beautiful, love, love I can not get enough of….I write this as a newly outed theory head and claiming as a part of a self-loving act.

What is in a word is a pathological apparatus!

So as in most limits of language I find myself having a visceral reaction to the term “gender non-conforming” each time I hear it, read it, and even at times I have used it. For me, it felt like the term lesbian which never fit me either (for me), Butch Dyke was were I have spent most of my identified life, and now when asked I say female-bodied masculine queer. But back to the concept “non-conforming” and gender. As a child targeted as a “gender non-conforming” person and subjected to the psychiatric practices involved in reparative and correctional therapies,I have had a long relationship with the violence required for “conformity”. In my research of the UCLA Gender Identity Research Project (Founded in 1963) were I was taken as a third grader I found this quote in the archive,

“While privately, one might prefer to modify society’s attitudes towards cross-gender behavior, in the consultation room with an unhappy youngster, one feels far more optimistic about modifying the behavior of that one child than the entire of society” (Green, Newman & Stroller, 1972, p.217).

This is one of, if not a key pathological theory and methodologies for targeting natural human expression in children and adults. It centers heteronormative gender expectations that arise from invented and socially constructed biologically markers of sex difference as “normative” and targets with a pathology (Mental illness) of “non-conformity”. Social and political agenda has always shaped sex & gender, “Choosing which criteria to use to determine sex, and choosing to make the determination at all, are social decisions for which scientist can offer no absolute guidelines (Fausto-Sterling, 2000:5), the process of social bias supports the above quote about changing the “Unhappy Child”. What is also known is that, “…scientist create truths about sexuality; how our bodies incorporate and confirm these truths…” are “sculpted by the social milieu in which biologist practice their trade, in turn refashion our cultural environment” (Fausto-Sterling, 2000:5), “Non-conformity” then is born of social and political power, the power to place value on false notions of difference.
The relationship between western science and population control have been married from the start, therefore privilege, surveillance, and violence create a trinity that “Non-conformity” thrives on both in the public and private lives of people.In the nineteenth century, Gender Identity Disorder(GID 1965),now Gender Dysphoria (2013) began its path into the social and cultural consciousness and the medical and sociological discourse as researchers encountered individuals seeking Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) that was not related to biological or physiological variation. Hermaphroditism, the term once used for “intersexed” or “transgender” individuals, is not new to humanity but took on a different connotation under the western clinical gaze due to how it was viewed as something that “taunted the social order” (Stryker, 2006:13), thereby helping to spur “the development of sexology, psychiatry, endocrinology, and other medical-scientific fields involved in social regulatory practices” (Stryker, 2006:13). Body modification, human fluidity to gender identity and sexuality are the human experience, classification such as race, able-bodied, class and nation, when interjected into the human experience of gender identity and sexuality produces un-match violence and privilege.That is not to say that currently in some cases the need for the controversial target of GID/GD for some folks seeking healthcare or agency within the prison industrial complex who are at higher rates POC folks that I do not see the need for both the support of and the destruction of body surveillance and being targeted as “non-conforming”.

I would like to suggest that instead of using pathological language that serves as an “othering apparatus” we might consider using the Term “Gender Self-determining”. This language removes the target of a pathology (mental illness) and at the same time covers the expansive fluidity of those folks moving through, between, or not participating in, “normative gender expectation” by either conforming or non-conforming. As we know language is limiting, but my request comes from a lived experience of wanting language and “policies” that center agency in the experience of those affected by material conditions that can be both exclusionary and pathological instead of acknowledging healthy natural expression of humanity. As we stand on the shoulders of those who come before us let us reflect on one of the many things we have learned from Black feminist thought in the Combahee River Collective Statement from 1977. A key and fundamental point was this, “Above all else, our politics initially sprang from the shared belief that Black Women are inherently valuable, that our liberation is a necessity not as adjunct to somebody’s else’s but because of our need as human persons for autonomy” (31). I urge us as a collective community to find in our language the refusal of the term “Gender non-conforming” and the inclusion of Gender Self Determining as a form of autonomy and agency for those of us that want a choice. Let us keeping the vision to move beyond language that in its good intention still targets those it is trying to help.

Fausto-Sterling, Anne. 2000. Sexing the Body Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality. New York, NY. Basic Books, A member of the Perseus Books Group
Fausto-Sterling, Anne. 2005. The Bare Bones of Sex: Part 1–Sex and Gender. Journal of Women in Culture and Society 2005, vol. 30, no. 2 The University of Chicago

Stryker, Susan 2006. “(De)Subjugated Knowledge An Introduction to Transgender Studies” Pp. 1-17 in The Transgender Studies Reader, edited by Susan Stryker and Stephen Whittle New York, NY. Routledge

“White Man’s Burden”

Is the supposed or presumed responsibility of white people to govern and impart their culture to nonwhite people, often advanced as a justification for European colonialism.
Below is a link to the poem and a Picture of the Pear’s Soap image. I post these today as a resource and a invitation to begin to research an understand the intentional structure of difference that capitalism needs to survive.This idea of Racial superiority is in the fabric of our daily lives, legally, socially and politically.It grants us White folks an inheritance of unearned privilege. In my discussion this week about racism in the TBGLQ ‘community’ specifically in response to a Leather Bar in Portland hiring and canceling of a racism for pay act by a white gay man doing “black face” but not limited to this one event but a daily refusal by many white folks to see how we participate, benefit, and ignore how racism impacts POC.How we refuse to hear from POC how we have done harm or attempt to tell POC that that is not what just happened. The main offense is that we take it personal when we are called out like it is our desire to harm. I know that very few white folks including me run around try to act in harmful racist ways. What took me many years and I still struggle with is that my experience is not the only one happening. This goes for many other things, but here I am speaking about racism.I am not a bad racist person because I do racist things, I am a white person who does not see my white privilege or the structural and institutional benefits I take for granted because I am white. My intention in this blog is to have conversations, give resources, and learn from others. This is hard and often painful work for us as white folks to realize often it is not about us, that we are not wanted in certain spaces, that some of the space we create feel unwelcoming to POC or that our other white friends back away, do not want to hang out, say your to serious ECT. This work of unlearning white privilege is not about being an ally, though if that happens great, it is about a paridiam shift about healing cause we are dying from racism too. We are deprived of our own humanity when we stay silent in the face of oppression. Owning our racism, working on ourselves is the spiritual work. We need to stop thinking working on racism means working in communities of Colour and start working in our own backyards, racism is not over there, it is right here in ourlives, in our families with our white friends. Read, research, ask other white people how they work on it, stop relying on POC to teach us or thank us, it is our responsibility to break the cycle. Being white is not the crime or something to be ashamed of, being silent and complicit is. When the youth ask you what you did to stop racism, What will you say? Blessing

Modern History Sourcebook:
Rudyard Kipling, The White Man’s Burden, 1899
This famous poem, written by Britain’s imperial poet, was a response to the American take over of the Phillipines after the Spanish-American War.
http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/kipling.asp 2/8/13 Downloaded