WHY WE DANCE

25Jun16

905_ghosts.jpg

So the New York Times Lens Blog decided to publish my images + an essay I wrote this week.  I wrote it over five sleepless nights while grieving for Orlando (Rest in Power. Rest in Joy. #SayTheirNames) and ran out of time to get the words quite right.  If you want to hear more of the back-story, there is an interview with Minnesota Public Radio you can listen to.

These images come from a moment in time much earlier in my transformation into queerness, and my “we” has evolved a lot since then.  In the piece I wasn’t able to acknowledge the parallel underground movements happening in other extended queer families across the city/country/world – nor was there space to link to the excellent work of Samantha Box or Gerard Gaskin, Elle Perez or Linda Simpson, or countless other brilliant community photographers who have also recorded their intimate perspectives of our people.  If this reads as whitewashing and feels typical of the NYT – I accept that as accurate critique and take responsibility for my role in it, however unintentional.  And ultimately I hope it won’t overshadow my deep intentionality to use this rare access to a dominant media platform to communicate messages about queer love, death and community to a very broad audience.

My first queer family was a Jewish one, which I wish I had stated more clearly in the published text.  In 2009 I met some genderfuckers while helping out with Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, a rad group I hooked up with in NYC after spending several years organizing in the immigrant rights movement in Minnesota.  My new friends opened up to me a collective, liberated world of artists and activists that I had not been exposed to before, and I immediately felt like I had found “my people.”

It didn’t take long before I cut off my hair and dove head first into queer community, dancing every weekend I could, until early 2011 when I experienced PTSD and had to put my camera down (more on that story here) and ultimately – redirected my energies into filmmaking, community and movement-building, and curating other peoples’ art.

The story of the pictures begins here in 2010 with Between Two Worlds: Who Loved You Before You Were Mine, a reprise performance of a play my friend Killer had dreamed up with a collection of friends from JFREJ + elsewhere.  The performance seemed to tranifest (a word I use to describe queer imagination come to life) secret dreams that I held too, and when I looked up and realized how beautiful my friends were, I suddenly HAD to start photographing.

It was also a way for me to channel my frustration with the kind of “objective” documentary photography I was reviewing for my job at the Open Society Foundations’ Documentary Photography Project – work that I sometimes loved, but which often frustrated me.  I had long gotten over the idea of objectivity, I was tired of looking at neatly composed color images shot on high-end digital cameras, and I kind of just wanted to fuck with all of the rules.  A chrome-faced camera felt sexy in my hands, and using it broke a several-year dry spell of photographer burnout.

Ultimately these first friends led me through circle after circle of queers upon queers upon queers, and my work since then to make these circles more inclusive and attempt to stitch them all together for greater cultural transformation is documented on this blog and speaks for itself.  Every queer friend I’ve met is gloriously unique – that’s a basic principle most of us share – and it’s our ability to listen, understand, rage together, and hold each other despite our differences that makes us strong.

And probably all of us have found ourselves on a queer dance floor at some point.  🙂

The work of unraveling white supremacy and cultural imperialism, understanding how it has impacted ALL our behaviors and imaginations, and developing new habits of love and interdependence is critical work particularly in our generations, when (due to the internet and other factors) we’re able to develop more inclusive shared analysis and visions for the future. In my collective we call this “doing the wrrq” and if yr down for it – drop us a note, we are happy to help you figure out how you can best get involved – no matter where you live.  If you’ve got more money than time we’d be happy to redirect those funds to artists taking responsibility for various projects, or project expenses (we need to raise $15,000 to get over 50 artists through this year’s summer retreat, for example).

The photos remain as beautiful now as when I first shot them, and I’m proud to see them out in the world now representing my particular memories of the queer love that shaped me.  I will always try to contextualize them with active, urgent stories from my global gender-free sisterhood.

Extra love to three of my queer fam in these images, who walked first through the doors they dreamed into being:

* Xavier Ruiz Cabo Flores aka DJ Sirlinda, whose countless beats we marched and danced to
* Taueret Davis aka AfroTitty, whose fierce organizing and performances created new worlds for fat black femmes
* the elegant acerbic and magical Bryn Kelly, whose dead-honest writing exposed us to the hilarious side of life as a poor HIV-positive transwoman
* and to Kate Spencer of New Alternatives, whose generous heart supported countless transient young people over decades of care

(OK so the captions as I submitted them read like a history of love for queer Brooklyn and had links to every artist in every photograph. A lot of those words and links were cut, as were words like “genderfucker” and pronouns like “they” and gentler terms than “committed suicide.” But the rest of the words are pretty much my own, and I’m grateful to the editors for supporting my voice as I spoke for myself.)

Thanks again to Ezra Berkley Nepon for some brilliant last-minute editing support, Sarah Peters for keeping me alive through five sleepless nights of writing through grief, Karina Claudio-Betancourt, Ignacio J Medina and Houston Cypress of Love the Everglades for sharing their voices, and to every one of my fierce and brilliant friends, for being yourselves every day “in a constructed world that wasn’t built for us.”

Advertisements


No Responses Yet to “WHY WE DANCE”

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: