Gays Float War Boat
Join the Free Bradley Manning Contingent at SF Pride
20th  Annual Dyke March
9th Annual Trans March
Adrienne Rich
Alan DeWayne Blueford
Maurice Sendak
Tumbling, Fruit and Light
May Day, Earth Day, Revolution Every Day
ACT UP Roars Back
A Year of Revolution in Bahrain
Gay Marriage Hurts My Breasts
Keeping Politics Out of Pride
Murder, Self Defense, Mutual Aid, and The State

Gays Float War Boat

The president has posed a hard question to the nation. “My fellow Americans, what is long and hard and full of seamen?”

With that lead-in, the commander-in-chief announced the commissioning of the first out gay ship in the nation’s history, though there has long been speculation about the USS Abraham Lincoln. The submarine is to be equipped with gaydar-controlled cruise missiles. It is to be named for gay sailor Harvey Milk.

“Nothing could be more appropriate than to name a battleship for an antiwar activist who had to be in the closet while in the Navy,” the president said, with his trademark gaze into the distance.

The Pentagon explained that the president has evolved on this issue since seeing the moving biopic, “Milk:  The Cleve Jones Story.” Hot Wiener, local politico and leader of the GaysAreStraightToo Democratic Club, noted that he has a special affinity with submarines.  “It’s my favorite sandwich,” he said.

The San Francisco-based Old Lesbian Dowagers Clamoring Over War occupied the lobby of the Old Federal Building on Monday, demanding that the nation’s stealth air craft program be christened after lesbian Del Martin.

“Lesbians are, after all, proudly invisible,” said OLDCOW spokesman and leader, Bob Braggert.

Join the Free Bradley Manning Contingent at SF Pride

Sunday, June 24

Meet up at 9:30 am

Howard and Main Streets


20th  Annual Dyke March

Saturday, June 23

6:00 pm

18th and Dolores


9th Annual Trans March

“Trans Generations: Define Your Moment”

See & Be Seen @ Dolores Park

3:30 – 6:30 pm

March to UN Plaza @ 6:30


Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Rich died in March of this year. She was 82 and the cause of death was complications of rheumatoid arthritis. Rich was one of the most influential poets of the last 60 years and she brought the oppression of women and lesbians to the forefront. She was one of the most widely read poets in this country and in her poems and essays, wrote about progressive issues and especially about the disenfranchisement of women in a society run by men. The personal, the political and the poetical were always linked in everything she wrote.

When I lived in Portland in the 1970’s, as a younger lesbian in a different world,  I had friends who wrote poetry and I went to poetry readings  and I tried to see what was good in all that. It didn’t come easily but Adrienne Rich’s poetry was readable and I could even understand what she was saying and appreciate the way she was saying it. Tho I haven’t read very much poetry since, I can still remember the effect she had on me.  I know now that she had that effect on millions of people. I learned that poems didn’t have to be obscure or abstract but they could affect how I saw the world. Rich herself never thought that verse alone could change entrenched social institutions. “Poetry is not a healing lotion, an emotional massage, a kind of linguistic aromatherapy,” she said in 2006, on receiving its medal for distinguished contribution to American letters. “Neither is it a blueprint, nor an instruction manual, nor a billboard.” But rather she saw poetry as a way women’s lives could be illuminated.

Rich became active in the civil rights and anti-war movements in the 1960’s and came out as a lesbian in 1976 in her book, ‘Twenty-One Love Poems’; a book considered at the time “dangerous and disarming.”  For her part, she made no apologies for her writing or herself. “I write as woman, lesbian and feminist,” she said in 1981. “I make no claim to be universal, neuter or androgynous.”

Rich lived in Santa Cruz for years and taught at the university.  She never stopped writing and speaking about radical ideas and movements, even if they were unpopular. She supported women political prisoners in this country and in 2009, she signed on to the Cultural and Academic Boycott of Israel. Her statement explaining her decision was so eloquent that we are reprinting most of it here: “As an American Jew, over almost 30 years, I've joined with other concerned Jews in various kinds of coalition-building and anti-Occupation work. I've seen the kinds of organized efforts to stifle—in the US and elsewhere-- critiques of Israel's policies--the Occupation's denial of Palestinian humanity, destruction of Palestinian lives and livelihoods, the "settlements."

Until now, as a believer in boundary-crossings, I would not have endorsed a cultural and academic boycott. But Israel's continuing, annihilative assaults in Gaza, and the one-sided rationalizations for them have driven me to re-examine my thoughts about cultural exchanges. Israel's blockading of information, compassionate aid, international witness and free cultural and scholarly expression has become extreme and morally stone-blind. Israeli Arab parties have been banned from the elections, Israeli Jewish dissidents arrested, Israeli youth imprisoned for conscientious refusal of military service…U.S. media, institutions and official policy have gone along with all this.

To boycott a repressive military state should not mean backing away from individuals struggling against the policies of that state. So, in continued solidarity with the Palestinian people's long resistance, and also with those Israeli activists, teachers, students, artists, writers, intellectuals, journalists, refuseniks, feminists and others who oppose the means and ends of the Occupation, I have signed my name to this call.”

In a 1984 speech she summed up her reason for writing. What she and her sisters-in-arms were fighting to achieve, she said, was simply “the creation of a society without domination.” How could anyone say it better?

Alan DeWayne Blueford

On May 6, police shot and killed 18-year old Alan DeWayne Blueford near 90th Avenue and Birch in East Oakland. Initially, opd claimed he had shot at the cops and wounded one in the foot, but it soon became clear that the officer had been wounded by a police weapon. On May 12 over 100 people marched to the east Oakland police station to demand justice for Alan, and on May 15 several hundred people, including people from Occupy Oakland and Occupy the Farm joined the family in bringing the issue to the city council meeting. Civil rights attorney John Burris is representing the family.

Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak, the highly unusual children’s writer and illustrator, died on May 8 at 83.

According to a New York Times article:  “His hatreds are fierce and grand, as if produced by Cecil B. DeMille. He hates his uncle (who made a cruel comment about him when he was a boy); he hates anything to do with God or religion, and Judaism in particular (“We were the ‘chosen people,’ chosen to be killed?”); he hates Salman Rushdie (for writing an excoriating review of one of his books); he hates syrupy animation… ‘I hate people,’ he said at one point, extolling the superior company of dogs, like his sweet-tempered German shepherd, Herman (after Melville).”

He also hated Where the Wild Things Are, by far his most famous book.

Sendak did not come out until 2008, one year after the death of his lover of 50 years, a psychoanalyst named Eugene Glynn.

He told Stephen Colbert, in a hilarious interview broadcast a few months ago, that his favorite of his books was the controversial In the Night Kitchen.  The controversy is because it’s about a boy named Mickey who has a naked dream.  Sendak drew Mickey with a penis because … well, because boys have them.  Another of his favorites (also beloved by members of LAGAI) was Higgledy Piggledy Pop, about a dog named Jennie who goes off to join the circus and doesn’t come back.

Here’s an excerpt from one of our favorite Sendak books:

PIERRE:  A Cautionary Tale

There was once a boy named Pierre
who only would say, “I don’t care!”
Read his story, my friend,
for you’ll find at the end
that a suitable moral lies there.

One day his mother said
when Pierre climbed out of bed
“Good morning, darling boy,
you are my only joy.”
Pierre said, “I don’t care!”


Tumbling, Fruit and Light

   By Lisa

Tumbling makes rocks and sand shiny and smooth in rivers and beaches or like the rock tumbler set a friend had that we meant to use but never did. Now tumblr is a web-based blog site where people grab images and words from places on the web and post them on their own site and then they get re-posted again … on and on. And what gets posted most? Images of sex and sexualized images, of course.  Its easy to add spice by re-posting images of lesbians or group sex or what we used to call “kinky” sex in between the banal statements about life and love and sadness.  Each image is its own context as they tumble by or converge in sense and nonsense. 


The love that once dared not speak its name is rolling across the internet and even tumbling off the tongue of the President.   But does this tumbling make it shiny and smooth? Or is it wearing the images and words away until their meaning is gone?  When being lesbian or gay or trans or queer was transgression – we had sharp edges and made the world around us squirm with discomfort and sometimes change. Now as we are tumbled towards the mainstream where the couple is the center of the world with marriage and divorce as prime demands, sometimes it feels like other queers and their “supporters” are trying to knock off  all our rough edges.  Why seek liberation and create families of choice when you can be accepted and live “just like” a nuclear family?


And on the other side of the screen, the stone fruits are ripe – apricots and cherries tumbling into bags at the farmers market -- and the light is getting longer still as we tumble towards summer solstice. When we dared not speak of it, perhaps the long nights of winter tumbling between the sheets were prime-time for queer sex? Or like Brokeback Mountain, were the long days of summer the queerest if you could get far enough away from civilization?  And now that images of queer sex are tumbling across the internet do the seasons matter at all to those in thrall to the screen? 


But the world cannot be ignored and the debris from Fukushima are tumbling onto the shores along the west coast although no one has a plan for cleaning them up.  And the radiation is still spilling into the ocean more than one year later—it continues its tumbling course across the pacific—Brownian motion, currents and tides all conspiring to bring us these gifts.   Perhaps hiding in the internet would be safer if it were only possible.


Some of our friends are tumbling into new homes and new paths in wheel chairs and on skateboards and others are tumbling along effortlessly as aikido rolls -- while I am still working on my handstand and tumbling into walls still looking for ripe fruit, love, and revolution.


If you want to help track the debris heading for the coast (most of which are likely not radioactive according to government scientists), check out they even have an app for it!




May Day, Earth Day, Revolution Every Day

by Tory

Often I think of November 2, the first Occupy Oakland general strike, during which massive numbers of people marched on the Port of Oakland after a day of mass actions targeting banks, big corporations, capitalism, all that is wrong, demanding everything that is good for all our communities.  The outpouring of people at the port in the evening felt like a celebration, a carnival, a real rising tide of resistance.  Just for a minute I had the feeling that worldwide revolution, insurgency, upheaval might really happen.  On December 12, OO targeted the port again with a second port shutdown, in the face of an enormous criticism from the powerful, now becoming nervous about repeated port shutdowns.  Still, in the face of this pressure, enough people went to the Port to shut it down again, this most deserving of political targets, as no money from the port goes to help Oakland, not for schools, for roads or other infrastructure.

Since that glorious time Occupy has been trying to find its rebel way without the encampment to give a specific community-building focus. A number of successful barbeques were held in various parts of Oakland, bringing Occupy to those communities.  Oakland Occupy Patriarchy also had a vibrant BBQ. Recently there has been twitter noise and even the odd article saying that Occupy Oakland is dead.  The last Oakland Occupy Patriarchy meeting discussed the feeling of discombobulation in the movement after the fractious lead-up to May Day.  One person said they cry often over the loss of the encampment, but went on to express optimism about new things ahead for this movement.

The Occupy movement as a whole put out a call for a general strike on May Day: No Work! No School! No Business as Usual!  Locally, Decolonize Oakland called for a coalition to organize a mass immigrant rights/labor May Day March in keeping with a long standing tradition.  Decolonize is a group of Queer People of Color and People of Color who left Occupy Oakland in December 2011 after proposing to the Occupy Oakland general assembly that the name be changed to Decolonize Oakland because the word occupy evokes the vicious historical occupations of indigenous land and people.  Decolonize Oakland also presented careful criticisms of Occupy Oakland around racism sexism and homophobia.  The May Day coalition included immigrant rights groups, fired Pacific Steel and American Licorice Company workers, other unions, people from Occupy Oakland and Occupy San Francisco, as well as nonprofits and various left groups.  I represented Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism! (QUIT!) and LAGAI-Queer Insurrection.  I also started out representing Occupy Patriarchy but that group became increasingly ambivalent about the coalition.

Occupy Oakland also began its own May Day organizing group.  They planned three strike stations with different themes: the anti capitalist, anti gentrification and anti patriarchy stations.  The plan was to have different marches and direct actions with reconvergences throughout the day.  People from OO also worked on a coalition to shut down the Golden Gate Bridge, called Occupy the Bridge, in support of ferry and bridge workers who have been working without a contract.

The May Day coalition began planning a large mass march.  People from the immigrant rights groups insisted on applying for a permit from the city, feeling it would make it easier for the undocumented community to participate.  People from these groups spoke eloquently and with great feeling about that the community of undocumented people has been left out of the political process for far too long and if it took a permit to help make participation more possible, then we needed to get permits.  Occupy Oakland, on the other hand, took a principled stand against all permits.  A protracted set of negotiations went on between the Dignity and Resistance March/May Day Coalition and Occupy Oakland.  Occupy Oakland agreed to put time and space between more militant actions which might bring police repression and the Dignity and Resistance march.  The OO General Assembly passed a resolution to support the march.  No agreement was reached about permits, including a permit for the use of Oscar Grant Plaza.  People in OO felt strongly that no permit should be taken on the plaza because it was the contested place of the encampment. Some feared that a permit for some part of the day would give the police more license for brutality when the permit ended.  There was also much discussion of maintaining solidarity against the idea that there are “good” protesters and “bad,” an idea constantly pushed in the mainstream media.  The immigrant rights people in the coalition wanted to work with OO and at the same time did not feel comfortable letting go of any part of the permitting of the march and the rally at Oscar Grant Plaza.  A brief abortive attempt was made to put out a joint statement, but in the end the groups worked separately.  It is important to note that the coalition included a number of people from OO who attempted to bridge the political gap throughout the process.

Other complicated relationships existed between the Dignity and Resistance Coalition and Oakland Sin Fronteras, a nonprofit who has organized the immigrant rights march in Oakland for the last five years.  They were actively invited to participate in the coalition, particularly because they had been doing this work previously.  They came to one meeting early on, then came to the last meeting right before march saying they would provide security if they could be the lead contingent.  The coalition had already made a decision to have the Pacific Steel workers lead the march and had been working on a plan for security.  While the coalition wanted the support of Oakland Sin Fronteras, who were bringing a flat bed truck, a community of young Latino activists and a lot of experience, they could not agree to this very last minute proposal.

Oakland Sin Fronteras participated on May Day but left the march just as it arrived at San Antonio Park, before it went to Oscar Grant Plaza. They left when a group of people from Occupy Oakland, some dressed as black bloc, tried to get into the front of the march.  There are varying descriptions of this event; some people say that the “black bloc people were rude and hostile,” others from OO saying that this group wanted to join the march in support. Oakland Sin Fronteras may have always been planning to leave the march at this point, but the black bloc people were the reason they gave for leaving when they did.

May Day, in part because of the previous eight months of organizing and political work spurred by Occupy Oakland, for the first time in my memory entered the consciousness of the mainstream.  ABC actually felt compelled to explain the history and worldwide importance of May Day to workers and immigrants.  The California Nurses Association struck sutter hospitals on May Day and any nurse who went on strike was subsequently locked out for the next four days.  The International Longshore Workers Union which has a contractual right to suspend work for one day a month for a union meeting chose to do it on May Day so the Port of Oakland was shutdown on the day shift.  The Golden Gate Bridge District employees including ferry operators went on strike on May Day causing a disruption of the morning commute.  The unions stopped short of supporting the call to close down the golden gate bridge (there’s a shock).

Although the organizing for the Dignity and Resistance March seemed arduous, the march was quite wonderful. Somewhere between 7-10,000 people came, and in spite of the permits it felt like a militant community uprising thronging the street.  It was led by the Pacific Steel workers.  There was a contingent from the American Postal Workers Union and Aztec dancers.  Decolonize Oakland made a boat-shaped float which said FREE THE LAND, denouncing the colonization by Columbus.  LAGAI carried our QUEERS FOR OPEN BORDERS banner, which people really liked.  The march was big, strong and militant but got little coverage in the mainstream press who favored showing police repression of Occupy Oakland.  The police, of course, were out in force, riding around in their homeland security grant funded armored personal carrier and these dune buggy affairs (your federal tax dollar at work).  They spent the day doing snatch and grab forays into OO demos, beating and arresting people, with their usual single-minded anti occupy viciousness.

While May Day was unfolding, on April 22 -- Earth Day, a group of people now known as “farmers” took over what is call the Gill Tract, land owned by the University of California.  The farmer activists arrived with rototillers and 15,000 seedlings which had been growing in various green houses just waiting for this radical farming opportunity, and planted a two acre farm in the grand tradition of the Brazilian landless peasant movements.  The Gill Tract is 10 acres of class 1 agricultural landed located in Albany California.  It was used for agricultural research but in November of 2011 uc berkeley stopped the research and announced that the land was to be used for a whole foods store, a for-profit senior housing complex, ball parks and a dormitory.  In short, they want to pave it over!  Community people in the area have been fighting UC for the last decade trying to use the land as an urban garden resource.

I made a number of visits to the farm, as did many from the neighboring community, including the graduate student housing next door.  It is a big expanse, bordered with a wild patch of gone-to- seed fava bean plants belonging to uc researchers who cooperated with the farmer-activists.  Within a couple of weeks, the guerrilla farm was complete with scarecrows, chicken coops, a mobile school house, a children’s garden and 70 rows of new vegetable plants.  I was greeted at the entrance to the land by the welcome tent and a sweet person who brought my old dog water.  There was a huge kitchen tent serving food to the farmers, staffed by many people from Occupy Oakland, escaping the disagreements of the political organizing fray.  One said to me “I love it here; it is so peaceful”.  People were camping, playing music and a lot of people were watering the little plants by hand, as immediately after the take-over the university had shut off the water so irrigation was down by trucking in huge containers of water and then hand watering.  The farm felt like a rest cure for the movement, something sufficiently militant but noncontroversial, direct action urban farming everyone could support.

Three weeks later uc police locked the gates, arrested nine people both inside and out of the farm, served 14 people with lawsuits and named 150 john/jane doe defendants.  This was after constant police harassment with daily visits by the uptight uniformed uc police reading dispersal orders and threatening farmers with trespassing charges.  First they locked the gates so that water brigades had to be formed to get the water over the fence and to the plants.  A slide was built so that children and others could slide into the farm.  The supportive researchers from uc tried to get in to start this year’s research but were stopped by the police.  Finally it ended.  The police could be seen driving over the beautiful rows of vegetables for the people, although the farming collective continues to resist uc and was last calling for people to build planter boxes outside the farm gates.

Many from LAGAI went to the reconvergence march to the Farm after the police crackdown.  It was spirited, militant, moving through the streets chanting FUCK THE COPS, GROW CROPS.  There was a rally outside the gates of the farm and then the people were urged to get on the bus or bicycle down to the Oakland city council to demand an end to police violence and protest the murder of Alan Blueford, a young African American murdered by the police in Oakland on May 6.  Many in the crowd did so.

While May Day was more recognized and bigger than ever and as such was a success, the Oakland organizing suffered from never being able to agree on a joint plan.  In New York the same political disagreements about permitted marches went on between Occupy and the immigrants rights march, but they were able to work together and had a really huge demonstration well attended by unions.  This fracturing leaves us open to COINTELPRO tactics and scandal-mongering by the mainstream media, who are not interested in the real issues but love controversy.



ACT UP Roars Back

On April 6, about 250 Bay Area AIDS activists commemorated the 25th anniversary of ACT-UP (New York) by marching from the wells fargo bank in the Mission to the Mission Dolores, and then to Harvey Milk Plaza. (The name ACT-UP was not used in San Francisco until 1988.)

At the church we threw the ashes of Stephen Fish, a member of LAGAI, ACT-UP, and Stop AIDS Now Or Else. Waiyde Palmer, who helped organize the march was quoted by Pride at Work in an email as saying that the church’s regulations on sexuality, contraception, and a woman’s right to choose “are mirror images of its attitude and policies toward HIV/AIDS… If you oppose contraception on every level beyond the rhythm method, as they do, then HIV is going to spread and unwanted and unplanned pregnancies will occur. Both can be avoided if one has adequate access to health care that isn’t shrouded in shame or religious doctrine.” Stephen hated the church, the government, and all the other institutions that have condemned millions in this world to die of AIDS, poverty, and oppression.

ACT-UP chapters still exist in a few cities including New York, but ACT-UP/SF exists no more, after going through several dysfunctional phases in the mid 1990s that included misogynist attacks and AIDS denial.

Some of the activists who organized the commemoration announced a meeting to re-start ACT-UP. Unconfirmed rumors have them meeting some Thursday evening at Muddy Waters. 


A Year of Revolution in Bahrain

by Kate

Bahrain is a tiny island kingdom in the Persian Gulf.  I never understood what a desert island was before I went to Bahrain.  It’s surrounded by water, dotted with palm trees and boasts miles of beaches (which are off limits to most of the people), but the land is mostly sandy and saline.  Less than 1% of the country’s GDP is from agriculture; they import nearly all of their food.  It’s an oil state and also the finance capital of the Arab world.

Of the 36 islands making up the archipelago, only 5 are inhabited, and on those, the majority of the land is set aside for the king and his cronies, making it one of the most densely populated countries in the world.

Legend recounts that almost 5,000 years ago, Gilgamesh, the epic hero, landed in Bahrain in search of paradise, where he is said to have found the “flower of eternity,” aka the pearl.  Bahrain became famous for its pearls, which have a particular luster due to the combination of freshwater springs and ultrasaline sea.  The country was colonized by the Assyrians, the Babylonians and the Persians.  It was conquered by Portugal in 1521; the Portuguese were thrown out in 1602 by Iranian rulers, who declared Shia Islam the official religion.

The Khalifa, a Sunni Muslim family from the Arabian peninsula, has ruled Bahrain since 1820, mainly through an agreement with the British Empire, which held it as a “Protectorate” until 1971.  In 1972 a constitution was enacted, providing for the election of a National Assembly.  The electorate was defined as “native-born male citizens aged twenty years or older.”  After one election, the emir (king) suspended the constitution and ruled the country under martial law until he died in 1999.

In 1994, partly inspired by the Palestinian intifada, the Shia majority launched an intifada.  Leftists, liberals and Islamists joined in a sustained campaign of protest and civil resistance, demanding the restoration of the constitution, democracy and equality for all Bahrainis.  Forty people were killed and thousands jailed during the six-year uprising.  When Prince Hamad ascended to the throne on the death of his father, Issa, he agreed to restore the constitution and institute democratic reforms, leading to the end of the Intifada.

On February 14, 2001, he introduced a National Action Charter, which was overwhelmingly ratified by the electorate (which included women but not foreign nationals, who make up almost half of the population).  Under the charter, the National Assembly would include an elected lower house which would have total legislative authority, and an appointed upper house which would be strictly advisory.  In 2002, however, Hamad unilaterally imposed the constitution, giving equal power to the two houses, in effect allowing him and his appointees to override decisions of the elected assembly.  In response, the leading opposition parties boycotted the elections.

On February 14, 2011, the anniversary of the National Action Charter referendum, Bahrainis launched the first (and to date only) Arab Spring uprising in the Gulf.  Between February and March, as many as 100,000 Shia citizens took over Pearl Roundabout, the center of the city, which featured the iconic Pearl Monument, built in 1982.  (The Shia make up about 70% of the Bahrini population of roughly 650,000, which means nearly one in five Bahraini Shia actively participated in this intifada.)

On March 16, 2011, 1,000 Saudi Arabian troops and 500 police from the United Arab Emirates helped the Bahraini riot police – who are nearly all foreigners from South Asia or Yemen – drive the people out of the square using tanks, water cannons and massive amounts of tear gas.  On the morning of March 18, 2011, the government tore down the Pearl Monument, announcing on state broadcaster BTV that the monument had been “violated” and “desecrated” by the “vile” anti-government protests, and had to be “cleansed.” In the government's haste, a migrant crane worker was crushed to death by a falling cement arch.

In the aftermath of the brutal suppression of the protests, the government arrested 20 doctors, nurses and medics who worked at the main hospital, Salmaniya.  They were accused of various crimes including “using the hospital for a political platform” and “inviting foreign media and other non-medics into trauma areas.”  They were also accused of stockpiling weapons in the hospital.  The medics, many of whom were not actively involved in the uprising before their arrests, believe they were arrested because they had witnessed the injuries of those chased away from the square.  After six months of hearings and trial, some were sentenced to death, others to life or twenty years in prison.  In response to an international outcry, the convictions were overturned and a new trial ordered.  The retrial is currently in progress.  All but one of the medics were fired from their positions, as were many other government workers.  Hundreds of people were imprisoned, most of those beaten and/or tortured.

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, cofounder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was arrested along with his brother and two sons-in-law.  Abdulhadi was eventually sentenced to life in prison; his brother was sentenced to seven years.  Abdulhadi’s jaw was broken during torture.  On February 8, he began his fourth hunger strike, demanding his freedom and that of all political prisoners.  He is a Danish citizen, having lived there in exile between 1990 and 2002, and the Danish government has requested that he be released to them, but the Khalifa regime has not responded to their request.  In early May, the Bahraini high court ordered a new trial for fourteen political prisoners including al Khawaja, but did not order them released on bail.  When he was on the brink of death, after 70 days on hunger strike, the government began force-feeding him.  Zainab al Khawaja, a leading activist in her own right and the mother of a two-year-old daughter, has been arrested several times for trying to visit her father in the prison hospital.

Bahrain is a close ally of the united states.  The u.s. fifth fleet has been based there since the buildup to the first Gulf war in 1990-91.  In 2010, the U.S. gave Bahrain $19 million in military aid. In 2011, the aid was held up by Patrick Leahy because of the government’s human rights violations. Leahy chairs the senate appropriations subcommittee in the Department of State and Foreign Operations.  Some u.s. media, especially the Washington Post, have also pointed out the obvious double standard of helping to suppress a democracy movement in Bahrain while professing support for the movements in other Arab countries.

I arrived in Bahrain on February 7, 2012, part of an international group of witnesses invited by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and other local activists.  The many grassroots pro-democracy movements, which have continued demonstrating daily over the last year despite the crackdown, were planning massive protests to commemorate the one-year anniversary of what they call their ongoing revolution.  The people were determined to return to Pearl (Lulu) Square on February 14, 2012.  Ahead of the planned protests, the government denied visas to all international human rights organizations and most foreign journalists.  Even al Jazeera was forced to cover the protests from Qatr because they could not get anyone into the country.

The activists feared that the government was planning a bloodbath and wanted to avoid having any witnesses, so they reached out to some people from the International Solidarity Movement whom they had met through Palestine solidarity work and asked if we could come as observers and citizen journalists.  Voices for Creative Nonviolence (formerly Voices in the Wilderness) and Code Pink also recruited volunteers.  We ended up with a group of 12 internationals in the country by February 13.  By February 18, every one of us had been arrested and deported.  They used teams of undercover agents to track us down individually; the Bahraini activists also suspected they were monitoring cellphones of those of us who had put our numbers on press releases.

On February 14, as armored personnel carriers lined the roads leading from the villages to the capital city, and tear gas filled the streets outside the fancy hotels and banks in the center of town, I and five others were arrested in three separate operations involving dozens of cops armed with our names and photos. Some of us were accused of having participated in “illegal” (unpermitted) gatherings.  Others were told they were being deported for the crime of not spending all their nights in the country in the same hotel, or participating in “nontourist” activities while on a tourist visa.

I had planned to spend about twelve days in the country, but was deported after only one week.  During that time, I fell in love with the spirit of the people.  I went to demonstrations almost every day; some held at night in villages after people got off of work, some during the day in the center of the capital city as people made attempt after attempt to get back to Lulu Square.  Some of the demonstrations were completely nonviolent on the part of the crowds; others involved a diversity of tactics, including Molotov cocktails and stone-throwing.  The biggest, permitted marches I attended drew tens of thousands of people, perhaps as many as 50,000.  The smallest involved a few dozen people.

All but one of the protests I attended was attacked by riot police with tear gas; some were also attacked with water cannons, rubber bullets, buckshot or birdshot.  The organizing groups buy gas masks by the case in advance of major demonstrations.

People have developed creative forms of protest.  At the protests, they chant, “Down, down Hamad,” but it is illegal to say that, so when people are in smaller groups, they beep out the rhythm on their air horns or car horns.  For ten days leading up to the February 14 anniversary, people went up on their roofs every night, in every village, and chanted “Allahu akbar” (Allah is the greatest) for ten minutes.  A friend, Mohammed, explained that it is not really a religious chant, but rather represents purification before a battle or test.  (You can hear this powerful expression of solidarity in the al Jazeera documentary “Shouting in the Dark,” about last year’s uprising, which is available online.)

Every demonstration I witnessed was at least half women, and women were very active in organizing.  The movement in Bahrain does not seem to be gender segregated at all.  Most of the Shia women I met worked outside the home, many as lawyers, doctors, engineers, journalists.  I met a woman – the sister-in-law of a friend – who runs a domestic violence counseling program.  Not everyone was participating in the movement, but all of them supported it.  Someone who has not actively participated told me that she believes 50% of the Shia supported the intifada in the 1990s, but 90% support the current one.  I also talked to the Filipina maid who works for Nabeel Rajab, director of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, one of our hosts.  She was very supportive of the movement herself, saying, “We [the Philippines] won our freedom in 1987.  This is their turn.”  The taxi driver who drove me from the airport, who was South Asian, also expressed support, though I did not see any foreign workers participating in the demonstrations.

The government portrays the movement as orchestrated by Iran and Syria to impose a Shia Islamist government.  The people are adamant that it is not about religion; they just want equal rights for everyone in the country.  Zainab al-Khawaja said that at the beginning of the uprising last year, one of the chants was “Shia and Sunni are brothers.”  Even when I asked people what they thought should happen to the king, they said, “Well, he’s Bahraini, he should be able to live here like anyone else.  We are against the regime, not the person.”

In early May, Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and one of the people who hosted our delegation, was arrested at the airport after a trip to Lebanon. Nabeel was charged with “insulting the statutory bodies”. The charges were based on tweets deemed “insulting” to the Ministry of Interior. Nabeel is one of the leading tweeters in the Arab world, with over 140,000 followers.  On May 12th, Mr. Rajab was again presented before the Public Prosecutor, who informed him of a new case against him for charges of “calling for and participating in an illegal gathering”.  He is scheduled to return to court next week.

Just as I arrived in Bahrain, the obama administration had sent to Congress a request for $54 million in arms sales to Bahrain.  Partly because of the publicity we were able to do about the repression of the demonstrations, working with sympathetic journalists at home, that deal was put on hold.  However, the administration made plans to go ahead, by breaking up the deal into smaller ones that do not require Congressional approval.  Two weeks ago, when the crown prince was in washington, hillary clinton announced that the u.s. would be resuming arms shipments to the Bahraini regime.

The regime receives more than arms from the u.s.  They have also hired a u.s. public relations company, Qorvis, to manage their spin.  Qorvis’s other clients include the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus, The Sugar Association, the Smithsonian, Adobe and GQ magazine.  The khalifa regime has also hired John Timoney, former police chief of Philadelphia and Miami, as a consultant in crowd control.  Timoney was the chief during the republican convention in Philadelphia in 2000, when police broke into activist convergence spaces and ransacked them for puppets, and arrested organizers preemptively for talking on cellphones.  Working with John Yates, a former London police commissioner, Timoney was the architect of the plans for suppressing the demonstrations around February 14 as well as the recent Formula One Grand Prix, an annual car race which was met by large protests.

Timoney explained to u.s. press that it is legitimate to use violence to quell demonstrations if they threaten to tie up traffic or interfere with business.  (Sound familiar?)  I couldn’t help wondering if they didn’t think that shooting onto the highway and filling downtown with tear gas might be more disruptive to business and traffic than a peaceful demonstration.

But as our dear departed friend Joan Kaye used to say, “They don’t make them bosses because they’re smart.”

We continue to send international observers to Bahrain.  Check out (@WitnessBahrain) for news, interviews and video.





By Chaya and Deni




The Hunger Games: When we first heard about The Hunger Games, it sounded violent and weird (teenagers forced to kill each other and it’s all televised), but Deni knows some progressive teachers who have read it with their classes and recommended it. So out of curiosity, we read the book. The story takes place in Panem, a futuristic country (formerly North America before the apocalypse). The wealthy Capitol controls the surrounding 12 poor districts with a brutal, repressive, Big Brother style, as punishment for a failed rebellion against the Capitol. Our heroine is 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, played in the film by Jennifer Lawrence. Katniss winds up as one of the representatives from her district to fight to the death in the annual games, for the amusement of the Capitol. Author Suzanne Collins, who co-produced and co-wrote the screenplay, says that her inspiration came from flipping by a reality show on one t.v. channel and the invasion of Iraq on another; this juxtaposition "began to blur in this very unsettling way" and the idea of a ruthless government forcing people to fight to the death as popular entertainment was born.


Chaya: I liked the book and I liked the movie, and I tried not to hold it against the movie just because it’s the successor to the blockbuster adolescent franchise after Twilight (we abandoned the first Twilight movie about half way through). Unlike Twilight, Hunger Games has some interesting political themes about government control, authoritarianism, and use of economic class (keep the people poor and starving) as a political strategy. When Collins was asked in an interview what she hoped readers of the book would come away with, she said, “Questions about how elements of the book might be relevant in their own lives. And, if they're disturbing, what they might do about them.” The violence was there, but it wasn’t much compared to your average episode of CSI.


Jennifer Lawrence is the best actor to come down the pike in a long while (we loved her in Winter’s Bone). As with all novels that get made into movies, most of the details and backstories have to be cut, which makes the movie shallower than the book. But the movie had a few other things going for it besides Jennifer Lawrence. Collins (you can see some of her previous work if you watch Clifford the Big Red Dog on PBS, no violence there) has a spare style, and the book was not terribly descriptive about what District 12 (an Appalachian coal mining area), or the Capitol looked like. Taking a cue from Oz’s Emerald City, the movie’s visual creation of the Capitol was pretty spectacular, with its fantastical styles and colors. The movie also did a really good job of depicting how the Gamemakers manipulated the games as they progressed. And Collins has created a very strong, self-sufficient, pro-active character in Katniss Everdeen. Which is why it was a tad crushing that Collins also created not 1 but 2 male love interests for Katniss. Oh well, you can’t have everything and I guess Collins didn’t share my idea that Katniss was the second coming of the Amazons.


The movie provoked many controversies. Some reviewers felt that Jennifer Lawrence was miscast as Katniss because she didn’t look like she had been starving her whole life. Oh my. First of all, the body standard for female actresses seems to have no bottom, they just can’t be thin enough no matter how very very thin they may be. Jennifer Lawrence is definitely thin, but she’s very athletic (“toned” as they say about women) and she has curves. She could be a real woman! L.V. Anderson of Slate pointed out that nobody complained about Lawrence’s buff male co-stars. Responses to an audience poll by MTV reported that most found criticism of Lawrence's weight “misguided.” Lawrence herself said, “Girls should never put their health at risk just because they feel they must attain some ideal of beauty that is both ridiculous and risky. It’s not right and it’s not healthy. I’m just so sick of these young girls with diets. I remember when I was 13 and it was cool to pretend to have an eating disorder because there were rumors that Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Richie were anorexic. I thought it was crazy. I went home and told my mom, ‘Nobody’s eating bread – I just had to finish everyone’s burgers.’ I think it’s really important for girls to have people to look up to and to feel good about themselves.” Sounds like Amazon material to us!


Deni: I liked the book in the beginning but about half way through, it began to bother me, and this same unease carried over to the movie. There was something slightly shallow/manipulative in the writing of plot and characters that left me vaguely on edge. Also, the “love interests” were annoying in the book, and worse in the movie. Though I did feel that the book described District 12 and gave me a picture of Katniss’ home, the visuals in the movie made the contrast very pronounced between the poverty of District 12 and the wealth and abundance of architecture, food, and clothing in the Capitol. I followed the “racial controversy” that arose through blogs on, the controversy being the racist reaction of some white fans of the book to the casting of three black characters in the movie, two of whom are clearly described in the book as black. Through back and forth online commentary, one can hope that these fans will actually learn from their racist reactions and be willing to challenge their own preconceptions. As for the movie, I wanted it to hit as hard as Winter’s Bone, to get deep inside in that way. I think the characters are fighting a slight glibness of writing and Hollywood, in addition to the Capitol…


Monsieur Lazhar: This excellent French Canadian film takes place at an elementary school in Montreal. A teacher kills herself in the classroom, and the school is in grief and shock. Bachir Lazhar, an Algerian immigrant, is hired to take over the class. He tells no one that he himself is in grief and shock from his own personal tragedy. He has a few other secrets also. Engagingly played by Mohamed Fellag, Mr. Lazhar tries to adapt to the cultural differences between Montreal and Algeria, but often he isn’t even aware that he has done something wrong (for example, on his first day at the school, he has the students rearrange their desks from a semicircle back into more traditional rows). The movie explores the themes of loss, cultural differences, educational techniques and teacher-student relationships with depth, but director-screenwriter Philippe Falardeau avoids the big cheesy Hollywood moments that would have detracted from the charm of the film. Great acting from the supporting cast including Sophie Nélisse as Mr. Lazhar’s favorite student, Alice. It was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Oscar. This stunning film stayed with us for days after. See it!


The Last Mountain (review by Cole): Appalachia is pretty much off the national radar screen, which may explain why the mountain top coal mining that's decimating the region doesn't get much attention.  This documentary points out why our myopia needs to be corrected. Communities adjacent to the sites are subject to shocking rates of cancer, autism, and asthma -- all of which is serving to de-populate the area - but the impact reaches further to poison large segments of the water supply in the South. The film chronicles residents' efforts to organize against the coal companies and highlights women's leadership in the struggle. The description of the depth and breadth of the companies' influence is chilling and it's acknowledged that Democrats share the blame with Republicans. The locals are successful in developing a proposal for a wind turbine project that would generate more energy than the coal, create more jobs than mining and significantly increase county tax revenue (not surprisingly, the coal companies enjoy a special tax break). While it's unclear whether this project will come to fruition, the organizers' courage, dedication and creativity are heartening. Seeing this movie is a priority!


Habibi (review by Deni): Director-screenwriter Susan Youssef's film won the best Arab feature award at the Dubai Film Festival for this film drama that she’s been working on since 2002. The movie, shot in Occupied Palestine, was based on an ancient Sufi parable with a “doomed lovers” theme. Political issues throughout the film range from the effects of the Israeli occupation on life in Gaza (where the two main characters lived), political tensions/differences within the Palestinian community, to the feminist struggle of Layla to control her own life, opposed by her family and the community at large. Unfortunately, the film was quite disappointing on many levels. The writing and script were more trite than challenging and the film was poorly edited, with some important scenes chopped and less important scenes dragged out. The character Qays (Layla’s lover) was annoying and naively jeopardized both families’ safety in a way that didn’t seem believable. The film’s ending was unnecessarily confusing. Despite some good acting by Maisa Abd Elhadi (Layla), we hoped for a more forceful film. This wasn’t it.


Autumn Gem: This documentary about Qiu Jin (1875-1907), a Chinese radical women’s rights activist, has been shown internationally, on Chinese TV in the U.S. and in many Bay Area locales. The film was made by local artist-filmmaker-media workers Rae Chang and Adam Tow. It tells the story of Qiu Jin who defied traditional female roles and became the first woman leader of a revolutionary army, attempting an armed uprising against the Qing dynasty. Her role in this uprising was discovered and she was executed in 1907. She was part of the nationalist struggle that put Sun Yat Sen in power in 1911, and worked with him in exile in Japan. She was an eloquent orator who spoke out for women's rights, such as the freedom to marry, freedom of education, and abolishment of the practice of foot binding. She was also an accomplished poet, fond of martial arts, and known by her acquaintances for wearing Western male clothing, and for her left-wing ideology. Qiu Jin is a well-know heroine and martyr in China, but largely unknown in the U.S. When the filmmakers themselves (both American born Chinese) realized they’d never heard of Qiu Jin, though their parents (born in China) were familiar with her story, they decided to make this first documentary in the U.S. about her. With a combination of dramatic recreations, archival materials, and interviews with scholars, Qiu Jin and her struggles are illuminated. There are striking performances by Li Jing, a martial artist and Hollywood stunt actor who portrays the adult Qiu Jin, and by Melissa Chin, a martial artist who plays Qiu Jin as a child, which add to the strength of this film. Check out the website for more info. We leave you with a first line from one of her poems: “Don't tell me women are not the stuff of heroes…”


In Time (review by Cole): Science fiction has the potential to raise political issues in a creative fashion; In Time achieves that goal. Perhaps as homage to Bladerunner, the movie is set in a near-future Los Angeles where time has replaced money as the medium of exchange. Everyone is guaranteed the first 25 years of life; after that, you must earn, borrow, steal or beg time to ensure your continuing existence (how the human race arrived at this point is never explained, but I'm a big fan of artistic license).  Inequities in time possession have become the substitute for uneven distribution of money, with usurious time lending institutions serving as a comment on check cashing centers' pay day advances. Justin Timberlake (who does a better job than you might think) is the beneficiary of a rich guy's generosity and decides to go full throttle in beating the system. While the film may not be great art, there's a good enjoyment level and a popular culture display of undisguised anti-capitalist sentiments provides a pleasant surprise. 




DOLL (Dangerous Older Lesbians Leafleting): Ok, truth in reporting compels us to admit that only one of the lesbians (Deni) is “older,” but we couldn’t resist the acronym. QUIT (Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism) started a leafleting campaign at Cliff’s, the ever-popular hardware/all-purpose store in the Castro.  The campaign (which is not a boycott of Cliff’s) is aimed at encouraging Cliff’s shoppers to tell Cliff’s to stop carrying SodaStream. SS is a product that fizzes up water and there’s an international boycott against it because the product is made in illegally occupied Israeli territories, (though labeled Made in Israel so it can continue to get the tax breaks). Prior to leafleting, we spoke with the housewares buyer at Cliff’s to give him the info and the choice to stop carrying the product on their own. The housewares buyer said that “Israel seems to be working within the relative rules of an occupying country.” (Whew… kind of a low bar!) The first time we leafleted, Cliff’s warned us we were violating the law by standing on “their” sidewalk and threatened to call the cops. When we told them to go ahead and call, they did! The cops (both women, of course – we’ve come a long way, baby) came and (surprise surprise) finally decided we were in fact legally allowed to hand out leaflets. However, one cop strongly warned that we were blocking the sidewalk when we engaged in even a 1 minute conversation with someone about the leaflet, so we had to STAND BACK or be cited. What an advance in the defense of our civil liberties! But keep track of the main issue here: go into Cliff’s – whether you shop there or not – and tell them to STOP carrying SodaStream!


And Speaking Of Boycotts: Actress Emma Thompson (loved her in Sense and Sensibility and Angels in America) and director Mike Leigh (Secrets and Lies, Vera Drake – two of our favorites of his many films) were among a number of leading British actors, directors and authors challenging the Globe to Globe World Shakespeare Festival, part of the London Cultural Olympiad. GTGWSF invited an Israeli theater company, which performs for settlers on illegally occupied Palestinian land. In an open letter published in The Guardian (a major British newspaper) the signers say the Israeli National Theatre, Habima, “has a shameful record of involvement with illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory.”


They call on Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London to withdraw the invitation “so the festival is not complicit with human rights violations and the illegal colonization of occupied land.” Habima is scheduled to perform The Merchant of Venice in Hebrew at the Globe on May 28 and 29 as one of 37 Shakespeare plays in 37 world languages during the seven week festival. The Globe’s response to appeals from Israeli, Palestinian and British campaigners to withdraw Habima’s invitation has been a resounding no, with the tired chestnut that the World Shakespeare Festival “must be inclusive and keep channels of cultural communication open.” David Calder, a British actor who’s played many Shakespearian roles there, said that Habima “placed itself outside the general case of ‘bridge-making culture’ by being prepared to play before a segregated audience of illegal settlers in a theatre from which Palestinians themselves are barred.” Calder said that leading Israeli company Habima is part of “a cultural fig leaf” for Israel’s daily brutality. We really like that “cultural fig leaf” phrase – you may see it again in the MOCHA column…


Cultural Fig Leaf Hits Philly Queer Community: About 20 people gathered outside the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Philadelphia on May 3 to demonstrate against the decision of the “Equality Forum” (a group which coordinates LGBT month in Philadelphia) to have Israel as this year’s “featured nation.” Equality Forum is also partnering with the Israeli Ministry of Tourism and the Israeli Embassy in Washington. Brand Israel and Pinkwashing were targeted at the protest. It was truly nauseating to look at the website for this event and see the Israeli flag shining on a globe filled with rainbow flags. Wait! We still have some stunning “No Pride In Occupation” bumper stickers left over from QUIT’s campaign against holding “World Pride” in Tel Aviv in 2005. Perhaps our queer Philly Palestinian supporters could use them…


Spin This One, George Orwell: On May 8 and then again on May 19, both Israeli authorities and Zionist settlers uprooted olive trees and leveled fields in the Palestinian villages of Beit Ula and Beit Amar near Hebron. Bulldozers demolished stone terraces and uprooted irrigation networks, claiming that the land was Israeli state property. The MOCHA column is wondering if perhaps this will be the next exhibit site for a current exhibition at the SF Contemporary Jewish Museum entitled “Do Not Destroy: Trees, Art, and Jewish Thought.” The exhibit’s online description says that “The tree is a universally potent symbol with particular significance in Judaism, especially now as global environmental concerns have begun to impact contemporary Jewish practice. The title of the exhibition Do Not Destroy (Bal Tashchit in Hebrew), is taken from a commandment in the Torah (Deuteronomy 20:19) that forbids the wanton destruction of trees during wartime. This concept has been broadened to encompass humanity’s responsibility to shield all of nature from unnecessary harm.” We guess “all” really means “ABP” – all but Palestinians.


You Win Some, You Lose Some: The list of honorees of the Presidential Medal of Freedom was announced at the end of April. Some of the honorees are truly amazing people, like Toni Morrison, the author of so many stunning, heart-rending books, and Gordon Hirabayashi, who openly defied the forced relocation and internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. However, Israeli president Shimon Peres is also on the list (he left his own party in 2005 to support Ariel Sharon, the butcher behind the 1982 massacres in Sabra and Shatila). Sharon is joined on the list by Bob Dylan, who in 1983 wrote a horrible Zionist song “Neighborhood Bully” and just this last summer ignored the cultural boycott of Israel to play a concert in Tel Aviv. Clearly, these two will have a lot to talk about.


Stand-Your-Ground Not Just for Florida: We’ve all been appalled by the justification of the murder of Trayvon Martin under Florida’s Stand-Your-Ground law, but did you know that California has a similar rule? Court decisions going back 100 years have held that you can use whatever force in self-defense is needed if you reasonably believe that you are threatened with death or serious injury from an attacker. If you’re on your front porch, you don’t even need to go in the house! Just shoot first, ok? Deriving from old English law, this Castle Doctrine (no duty to retreat) will protect you. Your home is your castle, after all (well, it was back in merry old England if you were a white, male landowner). Since 2005, over 20 states have passed laws expanding the right to use deadly force in confrontations. Go ahead, make my day, and overturn these laws.


LAGAI Leads Lesbians: Some years ago, LAGAI held a great Queer Divorce rally at Harvey Milk Plaza. (You remember Harvey Milk – the gay anti-war supe who may have a battleship named for him!) Though not a fan of “gay marriage,” the rally anticipated how much fun/fury could be had at the sure-to-be divorces. Now, taking its cues from LAGAI, the state of Maryland’s highest court has just ruled, in a case brought by two lesbians married in California, that gay couples can divorce in Maryland, although the state itself does not permit same-sex marriage. (Got it?) Ok, let’s see you evolve to that, Obama! That’s yes on divorce, no on marriage…




Gay Marriage Hurts My Breasts

Yasmin Nair


Making It Through

I'm here for a mammogram. I am practically a charity case at my local health care provider, a private organisation with some kind of a grant to guarantee all their female patients free yearly mammograms. It's a nice gesture, especially in a climate where unmarried, non-child-bearing women are considered expendable and useless and even procreative women are deemed useful only as bearers of children....

The Near North Health Service Corporation is staffed by lovely people and even some decent doctors, but it habitually messes up its paperwork. This has meant that, on the one hand, it allowed me a free appointment for a lingering ear infection with an ENT specialist at Northwestern University Medical Hospital. On the other hand, it failed to file my “charity” papers on time – testifying that I would not have to pay because of my income bracket.  As a result, the hospital sent my bill, for a service that was to be paid by Near North, to a collection agency.

So, understandably, even though I had called Near North ahead of time to confirm that my appointment was indeed free, I arrived that morning at the gleaming doors of The Lynn Sage Comprehensive Breast Center at Northwestern's Prentice Women's Hospital in Chicago (I call it, "The Breast Place") with some trepidation, anxious about being turned away, marked with a scarlet P for too fucking Poor to qualify.

Being a charity patient also meant that my appointment was scheduled for a year after I had asked for one. Apparently, charity cases need to be extra careful in watching their health. My appointment sheet came with strict instructions: I was to wear no perfume, make-up, or deodorant. Somewhere, written in invisible ink, was an additional injunction: You must guarantee that you will not actually develop any mammary irregularities for an entire year from this date.

... I am led through another door, and a nurse hands me a hospital gown with instructions to disrobe in one of the changing cubicles and to “cinch it nice and tight.” She is a slender white woman, and I wonder if she's terrified of large brown breasts, in the familiar racism of Chicago, or is simply echoing the American hospital industry's fear of naked bodies in general. Perhaps both. I'm reminded of how, every single time I've had my vagina examined, the doctor in question has always done so decorously, with a large cloth between the two of us, screening us both from the horrific possibility that we might see my pussy at the same time and, who knows, be overtaken by a lusty yearning for it and each other.

So here I am, waiting for a mammogram among people who are terrified of seeing my breasts out of context.

My mind wanders on Whitmanesque lines: In my breasts, I hold multitudes.


The Absurdity of It All

...I was asked if I wanted to make an appointment for next year. I said, “Yes,” feeling a kind of we-are-women-we-must-be-responsible-for-our-breasts kind of peer pressure. But the truth is that I had woken up that morning struck by the absurdity of it all and had even considered cancelling my appointment.

I knew that there was one of three diagnoses I could receive after the mammogram: nothing, benign, or malignant. None of them would make a difference to me.


All of this strikes me as exquisitely absurd for a number of reasons.

The first is that, lacking healthcare, a diagnosis of breast cancer would mean little to me other than my impending death. Without the proper resources – such as a health corporation that would even bother to file my poverty papers on time, or money to pay for medications – I would be at the mercy of the state. I know too much about what unpaid/free health care looks like in the United States and at Chicago's notorious Cook County hospital, where the poorest and most indigent get their “health care.” I know that I would die of bureaucratic ineptitude before I died of the cancer.

Upon receiving a diagnosis, I would simply roll over and choose to die a long lingering death without treatment of any sort. I would first call my friends R. and K., who would need to be told so that they could sort through my utterly disorganised effects and my burgeoning Hello Kitty collection, and take care of my cat. I would then proceed to fundraise for six months of rent so that I could finish my book. I would find a way to painlessly kill myself before the stench of my putrefying breasts became unbearable.

Lesbian? Breast Cancer? Marry or Die!

If the Centers for Disease Control were to include “sexual orientation” in its breast cancer surveys, I would have to be counted as a lesbian. “Queer” is still a word that causes discomfort among well-meaning straight people who don't want to be accused of being homophobic. At home, I google “lesbian breast cancer” and find that the entire movement for lesbian women's health care has already been co-opted by the gay marriage movement.

On the website of the National LGBT Cancer Network, I find a piece on breast cancer by Liz Margolies. Her words pretend to offer comfort to women suffering from the adverse effects of being lesbian in a homophobic society and seeking culturally competent health care; yet she also echoes the pervasive medicalised logic that the blame either rests with lesbians who get sick or with the sad, unfortunate fact that the poor dears cannot be married...

It's the pregnancy link that jumps out at me. Writing about, “The four most-cited cancer risk factors in the research on lesbians and breast cancer risk,” she states that “lesbians are less likely to have biological children before age 30, which would offer some protection against cancer.”

Pregnancy. Of course. I knew I had missed something. And, alas, my cat, no matter how hard I try, will never substitute for a child.

...If you didn't want breast cancer, you should have had children, you fucking freak.

Margolies gets worse, as she develops a rationale for why lesbians are more likely to develop breast cancer:

To begin with, lesbians are less likely to have adequate health insurance coverage than heterosexual women, as most employers do not offer coverage for unmarried domestic partners ...

...So there you have it. GAY MARRIAGE WOULD SAVE MY BREASTS. Having children would make breast cancer less possible. Silly, silly, me.

Get A Pair!

Such narratives about breast cancer abound everywhere, and they are echoed by various “institutes” and foundations which purport to do studies on queer poverty but always manage, through mysteriously frequent studies, to place the blame for all our woes guessed it, the lack of gay marriage. It is much more rare to find centers or foundations willing to place lesbian breast cancer in its proper context: the lousy, non-existent health care in the United States which is killing more people than we care to count.

...I don't deny that inclusion and expansion of categories to include lesbians/queer women are important (although I suspect that the medical industry will freeze alongside hell before it begins to think that poly/slutty/non-familial queers actually deserve care of any sort). I do think that if we are to consider people's health care needs in the larger contexts of how they live and fuck, then considering lesbian sex lives and the effects of cancer upon them is as important.

But. If any of these foundations or people like Margolies were to grow a pair of, well, firm melon-like tits and actually speak to the truth of the situation, they would admit that lesbians don't get breast cancer because they are lesbians who demonstrate characteristic lesbian behavior (i.e they don't have children or smoke or are larger than straight women) but because they, like transgender people, poor and indigent people, and a lot of non-conforming queers who can't get jobs, let alone have the capacity to sue their employers for non-discrimination in the first place, are fucked over by a larger cultural rationale that they simply don't deserve health care – after denying them employment precisely because they are seen as people who will never fit in the workplace.


When Margolies imagines that couple in Utah, she is only imagining what she wants them to look like: safe, normal, cute, with perhaps a few quirks, like the couple in The Kids Are All Right. ... She and her ilk have quietly absorbed the message from the gay marriage movement in the U.S., a message which states, as baldly and boldly as possible, that the primary reason for gay marriage is that it would provide health care for gays and lesbians. This leaves out millions of queers who don't want to marry or simply don't, for any number of reasons. In states like Massachusetts where gay marriage is now legal, you will not be allowed to share in your partner's healthcare if you don't get married. The logic is simple: Because you can get married, you must. This means that straight and queer couples who might prefer the relative flexibility of civil unions or domestic partnerships are left out in the cold. Even in Illinois, which only grants civil unions at this point and which proclaims how progressive it is for granting healthcare to couples in such arrangements, the state mandates that you must enter one in order to gain healthcare.

You want health care but not marriage or commitment? Tough titties. Get married or die.


Gay marriage is supposed to help my breasts. The gay marriage movement, in its relentless search for rationales for what is inherently a conservative movement around “normalcy” and acceptance, often makes the case that healthcare is a primary reason to make it legal. In the process, it has created a climate where the most progressive/lefty people, gay and straight, fail to see that healthcare is an economic matter and something that should go to everyone, regardless of their marital status...

Titty Terrorism: My Plans for the Future

My breasts may be more pliant but they are no less political.

In the event of a breast cancer diagnosis, I will let my breasts rot and putrefy into a state that few of these pink narratives, with their tidy, nervous pinkitude, ever care to discuss (what happens to a breast in the late stages of cancer is not pretty). I have already decided to send little bits of my cancer to all the gay marriage proponents. Although I’m not good with pain or even with discomfort, I will hack away at and chop off bits and pieces of my rotting breasts and engage in a form of titty terrorism. Instead of anthrax, I will send bits of my stinking boobs to gay marriage proponents like Evan Wolfson and the heads of the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and to, yes, Liz Margolies and Dr. Susan Love.

In my breasts, I hold multitudes.

This is war, baby.  And my tits are the mighty soldiers.

I will take no prisoners.  I will squish my floopy breasts against the windows of Lambda Legal's Freedom to Marry galas. I will use my dripping, pus-laden blood from the open sores to create a poster with the words, Gay Marriage Hurts My Breasts, and march alongside those walking for “gay rights” (read: marriage or else). I will stalk and flash gay marriage activists (Dan Savage, you've been warned) on the subway and on the streets, exposing their rot and stench, allowing them to smell the potential success of their campaign. Look, I will say, This is what gay marriage does for me.

My non-diagnosis brought me as close to death as I will ever want to be. I will not go quietly into that good night. I am angry; my breasts are rotting.

In my breasts, I hold multitudes.


Keeping Politics Out of Pride

“I don’t think taxpayers want their money used for political protests.”  -- Toronto deputy mayor doug holyday, in conveying the threat to withdraw over $100,000 in city funding for 2012 Toronto Pride if Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) march in the parade. Last year, a similar threat caused QuAIA not to march. We have little sympathy for the idea that marches for liberation require hundreds of thousands of dollars (like SF Pride, for example), and less for the idea that queer liberation isn’t political.  QuAIA can be found at


“Frameline is an arts and culture organization, and we don’t take political points of view,” Kenneth C. Price, executive director of Frameline, in responding to calls for Frameline to honor the cultural boycott of Israel. In April, it was revealed that he had colluded with the israeli consulate to counter the campaign initiated by QUIT!. Emails also revealed that he had consulted with the Israeli consul general in selecting films for the 2011 festival, prior to the actual official selection procedure. You can read all about framelinegate at: Philip Weiss’ blog,, or Tom Leger’s blog,


Murder, Self Defense, Mutual Aid, and The State

by V.I. Lenin*

Brandy Martell, a 37 year old African American transwoman from Hayward, was shot and killed near 13th and Franklin in Oakland at about 5 a.m. on Sunday, April 29. The Oakland police, who eventually responded to the shooting, did not try to save her life, although a passerby first aider (who had been trained by Occupy Oakland medics) was trying to stop the bleeding and had asked them for help. The police have not said whether they are investigating this murder as a hate crime, although Brandy was shot in the genitals before being fatally wounded in the chest. Brandy had been a peer advocate at the Tri-City Health Center in Fremont.

According to press reports, a witness said that at about 3:30 in the morning, she, Brandy and other transwomen were sitting in a car when they were approached by two men, who were hitting on them. The women told the men that they were trans, and the men went away. She said that it was one of those men who came back and shot Brandy.

On April 29 Occupy Oakland held an emergency response demonstration, and a sidewalk memorial was set up. Brandy’s family had her buried dressed as a man, under her birth name on May 9. Later that day, some of Brandy’s friends, queer activists, and other supporters held a memorial at 13th and Franklin, where they celebrated her life. There was also a speak-out for justice at Oscar Grant Plaza on May 13. 


In Minneapolis, a 23-year old Black transwoman, CeCe McDonald, is being prosecuted for having survived an attack by several white bigots outside a bar. CeCe and several other Black friends were walking to a grocery store around midnight June 5, 2011, when they passed the Schooner Tavern. Four white individuals were standing outside, including Dean Schmitz and Molly Flaherty. Schmitz, Flaherty  and maybe others, made racist and transphobic remarks to CeCe and her friends. CeCe tried to walk away, but Flaherty smashed a glass across CeCe’s face, which cut through her cheek and lacerated her salivary gland. CeCe defended herself from Flaherty and Schmitz. CeCe tried to leave to get medical care, and made it to the intersection, but Schmitz ran after her. CeCe pulled scissors out of her purse to defend herself. Schmitz pulled CeCe toward him and the scissors ended up in his chest. Schmitz died of his stab wound, and CeCe had to be treated at a hospital for her injury.

CeCe was originally charged with second degree murder, a charge carrying a possible 40 year sentence. An active support committee put pressure on the county attorney to recognize the transphobic and racist nature of the attack and drop the charges. They gathered worldwide support, including 15,000 signatures on a petition. Stone Butch Blues author Leslie Feinberg visited her in jail. CeCe was eventually offered a plea bargain, reducing the charge to second degree manslaughter, with a sentence of 41 months, which will be further reduced by time served and by one-third for “good time”.  As part of the plea bargain, on May 2, CeCe had to give up her right to plead self-defense and admit she had handled the scissors in a way that created an “unreasonable risk” to Schmidt. At a rally after the plea hearing, Katie Burgess of the Trans Youth Support Network said, “Over the past 10 months I have witnessed the legal system isolating and attacking another young trans woman of color in our community, CeCe McDonald. And over the past 10 months, I have also witnessed our community say very clearly, ‘You are not alone, CeCe! And we have had enough!’

“With the whole world watching, Freeman’s office consistently chose not to take the opportunity to stand up against racism and transphobia. Freeman [the prosecutor] himself said, and I quote, ‘The criminal justice system is not built for, nor is it necessarily good at, solving a lot of society’s problems.’

“We know that this system is not designed to deliver justice to young trans women of color. We are going to continue to support CeCe as she goes through this process and continue to stand for justice for all trans people and people of color so that this is the last time a young trans woman of color has to go through this.”

Supporters will pack the courtroom for the sentencing on June 4th and continue to rally support for McDonald and to demand justice for all trans people and people of color. For further updates, visit


Patreese Johnson, NJ 4

Meanwhile, Patreese Johnson, of the New Jersey 4, was moved from the new york state prison at taconic to beacon correctional facility, where she no longer has access to programs such as college courses, and is further away from her family. Patreese was one of 7 young Black lesbians from New Jersey who on August 16, 2006 were accosted in New York City’s West village by Dwayne Buckle, who eventually grabbed one of them. The others came to her aid. Buckle sustained a stab wound during the fight. It is still unclear whether his subsequent surgery was due to the wound or another condition. Patreese was charged with using a steak knife that she carried for self-defense. Buckle survived his wounds, spent some time publicly speaking against the NJ4, and trying to find someone to sue who had money.

They were all charged with gang assault, and branded in the media as a “lesbian wolf-pack.” Three took a plea, and the other four, Terrain Dandridge, Renata Hill, Patreese Johnson, and Venice Brown were put on trial in 2007. The prosecution and trial were so biased that NY’s first district appellate court reversed all of Terrain’s convictions, and dismissed the indictment with prejudice, although by that time she had served almost two years in jail/prison. In October of 2008, a retrial was granted on the felony gang assault charges against Renata and Venice, and they both got out on bail after serving more than two years. Patreese’s sentence was reduced to 8 from 11 years, but not overturned. Renata was later returned to prison for over a year, as part of settling the remaining charges against her. Patreese is due to be released on August 13, 2013.  You can write to Patreese at:

Patreese Johnson


Beacon Correctional Facility

P.O. Box 780

Beacon, MY 12508-0780


In Florida, home of the “stand your ground” law that the state attorney initially applied in refusing to prosecute George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin, Marissa Alexander, a 31 year old African American woman was sentenced to 20 years for firing a warning shot over the head of her abusive husband, who had confronted her when she returned to their house to retrieve her belongings. Her two 11-year old sons were allegedly with the husband when she fired the shot. She was not allowed to plead self-defense or “stand your ground,” despite the fact that she had a restraining order against him. The jury deliberated for 12 minutes. Alexander was sentenced under a state law mandating a 20 year sentence if a gun was fired during the commission of certain felonies. The NAACP has said the case illustrates how these laws often result in long sentences for people of color. Greg Newburn of Families Against Mandatory Minimums said, “The irony of the 10-20-life law is the people who actually think they're innocent of the crime, they roll the dice and take their chances, and they get the really harsh prison sentences. Whereas the people who think they are actually guilty of the crime take the plea deal and get out (of prison) well before."

Congresswoman Corinne Brown, who has been an advocate for Alexander, was present at the sentencing. The Huffington Post quoted Brown as saying to demonstrators outside the court, "The Florida criminal justice system has sent two clear messages today. One is that if women who are victims of domestic violence try to protect themselves, the `Stand Your Ground Law' will not apply to them. ... The second message is that if you are black, the system will treat you differently."



* On May 7, 2012 the New York Times reported that Dr. Harry Vinters, professor of neurology and neuropathology at UCLA and Russian historian Lev Lurie addressed a clinicopathology conference on May 4. They have determined that V.I. Lenin was probably poisoned, leading to his sudden death on January 21, 1924. The leading suspect was Josef Stalin.


Out of Time


Marilyn Buck’s Poetry Released 

In s i d e / O u t , a  significant and  stunning selection  of the poetry of  Marilyn Buck has  just been published  and released by  City Lights Books  in San Francisco.  May 16, a standing  room only group of  friends, supporters  and admirers of  Marilyn celebrated  the opening launch at  the historic bookstore.

  PoetsDavidMeltzer,  Graciela Trevisan and  Devorah Major read  from Inside/Out and  spoke emotionally about their creative  relationships with Marilyn. Activist/ /emcee  Gemma Mirkinson  noted that the occasion  was both joyful  and bittersweet—  celebratory because  Marilyn’s work is now  available to all—and  bittersweet because  Marilyn could not be  there in person to be the  voice of her own work.

  Just short of two  years since her death,  Marilyn Buck was  and remains a loved  and dearly missed  friend, comrade,  political prisoner,  revolutionary, writer,  translator, artist and  acclaimed poet. Many of Marilyn’s poems  have appeared on the pages of Out of Time  over the years, and we are  thrilled that now a substantial  selection of her powerful  work can be shared.

  Marilyn served over  30 years of an 80-year  prison sentence for actions  undertaken in support of selfdetermination  and national  liberation and in opposition  to racial injustice and U.S.  imperialism. Throughout  her years in prison, Marilyn  remained a steadfast supporter  of fellow political prisoners  and an advocate for the  women with whom she was  imprisoned

  During her incarceration,  Marilyn participated in a  series of poetry workshops  led, behind prison walls,  by June Jordan’s Poetry for  the People. She went on to  earn a Master’s degree in  Poetics from New College  of California. Marilyn was  awarded three prizes by the  PEN Prison Writing Program,  including first prize for poetry  in 2001 for her chapbook,  Rescue the Word.

  In 2008 Marilyn published a translation  of Uruguayan poet-in-exile Cristina Peri  Rossi’s extraordinary collection, State of  Exile. The book, also published by City  Lights, includes two personal/political  essays on exile, one by Peri Rossi and  one by Marilyn.

  Additional book launches for Inside/  Out will be held May 16, Resistencia  Books Austin, Texas; May 19, Chuco  Justice Center, Inglewood California; June  17, East Side Cultural Center, Oakland;  June 27, Modern Times Bookstore, San  Francisco. Other events are planned for  New York, Philadelphia, Albuquerque  and Kentucky. 

Inside/Out: Selected Poems by Marilyn  Buck; Foreword by David Meltzer (2012:  City Lights Books, San Francisco);  Paperback; 128 pp. List Price: $13.95;  ISBN-13: 9780872865778 You can obtain  Inside/Out online for 30% off the cover  price at

  Sites with more information about  Marilyn include:;  buck.html;  category/poetry/ n 

Trans Detainees Lives At Risk 

(Excerpted from:—Andrew  Harmon, May 7, 2012) 

Recently The Advocate featured an article  exposing the prison rape and solitary faced  by transgender detainees  in U.S. Immigrations and  Customs Enforcement (ICE)  facilities. According to Just  Detention International  trans prisoners in general  are disproportionately  abused. Because prisoners  are detained based on their  gender at birth, trans women  with breasts may be locked  up with men, leaving them  vulnerable to violence and  sexual assault. 67% of LGBT  prisoners in California report  being assaulted while in  prison.

  The Advoca te tel ls  the story of Kripcia, a  transgender woman, a native  of El Salvador, who was arrested for failure  to pay a cab fare. She was held in solitary for  eight months at Rappanhannock Regional Jail,  south of DC in Stafford, Virginia. ICE calls  this “administrative segregation” but it is 22  hours per day in a tiny cell with little access  to recreation or other people and not because  she had defied any jail rules. She was told it  was for her own good, for her safety. Kripcia’s  cell was located in a special unit of the jail  usually reserved for male sex offenders. 

The problem, Ruby Corado and other  immigration advocates say, is that ICE  detention standards aren’t legally binding.  There is a “turf war” going on between the  Justice Department and the  Department of Homeland  Security (DHS), which  includes ICE.

  DHS (ICE) insists the laws  and regulations concerning  the treatment of federal  prisoners do not bind it.  Key among these laws in  question is the Prison Rape  Elimination Act, which  is meant to address the  epidemic of sexual assaults  in U.S. prisons.

  Ms. Corado, a relentless  advocate and transgender  activist believes “Segregation  is inhuman. And how they’re  treated, how they’re abused?  It’s inexcusable. Even if  they’ve done something wrong, you want the  best for these people. But I’ve never seen a  case of a transgender detainee who was actually  treated like a human being.”

  For more information on transgender  prisoners, contact: Trans  Gender Variant Intersex Justice; query@,Transgender Law and  Policy Institute n 

Extreme double standard in Florida

Free Marissa Alexander!

By Monica Moorehead

 [Excerpted from Workers World, April, 2012] 

Marissa Alexander is a young African-American mother in Jacksonville, Fla., who  was arrested in August 2010 for defending herself against her abusive, estranged  spouse. At the time of her arrest she had just given birth to her third child. Angela Corey,  the special prosecutor assigned to the  Trayvon Martin murder case, is seeking  a 20-year prison sentence for Alexander.

  Corey’s actions in this case completely  ignore Florida’s “Stand Your Ground”  law that supposedly justifies the right  to self-defense—including taking  someone’s life—for anyone who feels  he or she will be harmed by anyone in  any way. This is the same law that the  Sanford, Fla., police allowed George  Zimmerman to use to remain free for 45  days after he shot and killed unarmed,  17-year-old Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26.

  Once Zimmerman claimed that he felt  “threatened” by a “suspicious” looking Martin, who was wearing a hoodie, the police  refused to even arrest him. It was only after a massive, sustained outcry of protests  throughout the U.S. that Corey was forced on April 11 to arrest Zimmerman, who was  then freed on bail on April 23.

  Alexander defended herself against a violent attack on Aug. 1, 2010, by her estranged  spouse, but she is now facing many years in prison as the alleged assailant. It didn’t seem  to matter to the prosecutor that she had an order of protection against her spouse and that  she only fired a warning shot in her own home to scare him of f.

  Alexander’s case is an important example of the double standard that African Americans,  in this case particularly African-American women, face in defending themselves against  attack, including domestic violence. It makes clear that the so-called Stand Your Ground laws  — which exist in many states — are really only designed to protect white male gun owners.

  An open letter by Alexander, written on April 3 in consultation with her lawyer, states  in part:

  “On August 1, 2010, my premature baby girl, born nine days earlier, was in the Baptist  South N.I.C.U. fighting for her life and I would too be fighting for my life in my own  home against an attack from my husband. I am a mother of three children, but at the  present time, I am not able to be with them due to the following circumstances. I am  currently sitting in the Pretrial Detention Facility in Jacksonville, Fla., Duval County  awaiting a sentence for three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon with  no intent to harm. …

  “I am a law-abiding citizen and I take great pride in my liberty, rights, and privileges  as one. I have vehemently proclaimed my innocence and my actions that day. The  enigma I face since that fateful day I was charged [and throughout the] trial: Does the  law cover and apply to me too? A step further and more importantly is in light of recent  news: [Does] justice for all include everyone, regardless of gender, race or aristocratic  dichotomies? I simply want my story heard, reviewed, and the egregious way in which  my case was handled from start to finish serve as an eye-opener for all and especially  those responsible for upholding judicial affairs.”

  To read the entire letter, sign the national petition to demand Alexander’s freedom,  and find out how to get involved in this struggle for justice, go to justiceformarissa. n