Toshio Meronek

The Appropriation of Stonewall, 'Bad' Immigrants, & Sex Policing

Filed By Toshio Meronek | June 30, 2011 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, The Movement
Tags: Captive Genders, Eric A. Stanley, immigration, Ralowe T. Ampu, SROs, Stonewall, Yasmin Nair

captivegenders-188x300.jpgBy the end of this year, we'll have three new books covering the shamefully under-addressed issue of the targeting of queer people by the American court, policing, and prison systems.

Available now for summer beach reading, there's Joey Mogul, Andrea Ritchie, and Kay Whitlock's Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States; Dean Spade's Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law will follow in September.

Out August 15 is Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex, to which Bilerico's own Yasmin Nair is a contributor. She and activist Ralowe T. Ampu spoke with one of the book's editors, Eric A. Stanley, about the historical and ongoing criminalization of queer bodies. I recommend reading the entire interview, but for those accustomed to reading in blurb format, here are a few highlights:

On Stonewall's 42nd Anniversary:

Yasmin Nair: ...mainstream gays and lesbians and straights continually erase the reality that such moments were largely initiated by trans people, hustlers, drag queens, very, very angry queens and queers - precisely the sort of misbehaving misfits they'd like to pretend don't exist...

A lot of queers, especially the ones who don't conform and can't get jobs with health care and benefits, end up penniless; a lot of the drag queens and hustlers who participated in riots ended up bereft. I'm not interested in recovering any of them as lost heroes/heroines; I want to see more of a discussion about how they weren't just screwed over by people who couldn't stand their sexual identity, but by capitalism...

Ralowe T. Ampu: Within the last few years whenever I've overheard "respectable," "clean," "decent" folks in the Left talk about remembering riots like Compton's Cafeteria or Stonewall it's always been with suspicion. Last time I checked, riots don't exist in the realm of respectability. My initial response is that the only ethical way to remember Stonewall is with another'd be infinitely more useful for us all if they simply remained mum on our riots in their rhetoric, for the sake of maintaining consistency throughout their institutional practice...

It's critical to recuperate our powerlessness and dream of intervention because it's the best way to commemorate Stonewall without speciously memorializing it as a sign of progress.

On "Good" Immigrants vs. "Bad" Ones:

Yasmin Nair: [In] Chicago...DREAM Act activists, predominantly undocumented youth who would benefit from the legislation, have used the rhetoric of "coming out" as an explicit form of "queering" the movement. A significant number of them, perhaps even the near majority, are in fact queer, and the discourse of "coming out" allows them to form a kind of solidarity with the gay movement. But it also allows them to emphasize that they are, like the mainstream gays whose support they seek, the "good" undocumented: the high school valedictorians, the ones who go on to universities like the University of Illinois or the University of Chicago and are working towards degrees in Law, the ones who will be "productive" citizens.

But there are many countless numbers of youth, queer or not, who have simply not been able to access the same advantages because they and their parents never "made it" - or who may not want to "make it," for any number of reasons, including a deep suspicion of the state and its supposed munificence, or because they don't care for the military component of the DREAM Act...

On Sex Policing at SROs:

Ralowe T. Ampu: In my experience in San Francisco, SROs are specifically about containing and policing the bodies of poor people. The evidence of this is in how hotel operators respond to an assumption of a "criminal class." It's this property-owner culture that leads directly into fortifying points-of-sale in bulletproof glass. This culture of rationalizations can arise independently of an actual incident...

[The associated] deep psychological costs are all always legitimized by hotel operator discourses on wanting to prevent "freeloaders" (multiple people in one room) and other activities associated with the underground economy. For example, in my hotel I can only have 10 overnight visitors a month, which works to control our sexual activity, at least in theory...

Again, the full interview's up here, at AK Press's website, where interviews with other Captive Genders contributors are coming soon.

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