Doing it Again – Second Casting Call

Please help spread the word – we’re doing a second round of casting for the erotic documentary Doing it Again specifically looking to cast scenes of trans women with trans partners.  We’re looking for couples, friends, fuckbuddies, and individuals willing to be paired with someone – yes that includes trans men applying individually!  (If you’ve already applied before, please see the note at the top of the new casting call for what this means for you).

Anyone who is trans can apply but we’re specifically trying to get more submissions from:
* Trans Men – as a part of a relationship or individually to be paired with a trans woman.
* People of color
* People in existing relationships (especially long term)
* People over 40
* People in or near Washington DC, New York, Philadelphia, Toronto, Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland

Please Apply!

Please see http://goo.gl/Haxiq for more details about dates, locations, payment, and what this entails.  To learn more about the project in general, see our (completed) kickstarter campaign here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/tobitastic/doing-it-again-in-depth

jiz-kimberly-4 small

Handbasket Productions is Looking for an Intern!

Plain Text Version Accessible Here: http://handbasketproductions.com/intern.htm

Position Details:

This is a contract position for 5-10 hrs/week over a three month period starting in September, with the possibility for extension.  Compensation will be $100 a month.  Additionally, depending on individual interest, there are opportunities for mentorship in areas like running a small business, video production and queer/trans politics.

Application deadline: Sunday September 9th

Basic Qualifications:

  • Being located in or near Seattle (preferred, not required)
  • Attention to detail
  • Organizational skill
  • Basic computer proficiency

Additional Qualifications:

  • Additional computer skill, especially website design or photo and video editing
  • Knowledge or skill with Adobe Photoshop
  • Writing experience or training

Please also note if you have experience in photography, lighting, video production, sound, or video editing software

Job responsibilities:
The main job responsibilities will focus on schedule coordinating, emailing, writing updates and announcements, data entry, organizing work plans and to-do lists, mailings, social media, preparing video and still image files for editing and reviewing footage. Secondary responsibilities are based on interest and could include website maintenance, minor video editing, and/or on site production assistance.

Application questions:

  1. What interests you in this position?
  2. How do you envision this internship best benefiting you and your goals?
  3. What is your experience with trans community, activism and organizing?
  4. What skills and experience makes you a good fit for this internship?
  5. Are there any significant skills and experience you have to offer that could benefit our organization in ways not specifically covered by this position (for example, website design, finance and accounting, graphic design, or media production)?
  6. How did you hear about this position?

References:

Please provide references, paying particular note to people in trans and/or sex positive community and activism (hint: take a look at mutual facebook friends with Tobi Hill-Meyer).

Applications:

Please send application materials including cover letter, answers to questions, references, and resume (optional) to Tobi@HandbasketProductions.com

Does Ignoring Trans People Make Your Point Look Bigger?

The larger focus on women’s rights in this political season and the action rising around it has been heartening to see. However, it’s given rise to many over-simplified discussions of bodies and rights that pose a problem for a movement that intends to include trans women. The image below was recently posted to the facebook for A Girl’s Guide to Taking Over the World. It’s been making it’s way around the internet for months, but it provides an almost textbook example of how simple ignorance can lead to the creation of anti-trans hostile environments in feminist spaces.

dickmakerightsbigger.jpgThe image is a protester wearing a towel with legs and a penis drawn on it and a sign that asks “Does this dick make my rights look bigger?” It may seem glib and silly, but this is not just a hypothetical question for the plenty of women out there who do have dicks – or at least what other’s might interpret as such.

The suggestion that such women gain access to rights because of it is flat out insulting. It is made to sound as if trans women experiencing street harassment or unfair workplace treatment could clear it all up by revealing that they are trans. In reality, trans women are specifically targeted for harassment, discrimination, and violence on top of the harassment, discrimination, and violence we experience as women.

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Seattle Translations Follow Up

When I wrote my report back from the film festival last week, I also reached out to Jason Plourde, the Programming Director at Three Dollar Bill Cinema who helps run the festival.  We sat down last friday to discuss the issues I raised and had a very productive conversation.  The following is what he wanted to share with everyone.

Hi Tobi,

It was really great to speak with you on Friday. Thank you for asking to meet and for your important feedback.  And please feel free to share this email as we discussed.

I do want to apologize to anyone who was hurt or upset by films shown during the Rockin’ Roles program. That certainly was not our intent. For seven years, staff and volunteers have contributed innumerable time and energy to specifically create a festival that supports and celebrates the transgender community.

 

The transgender programmers who selected films for the Rockin’ Roles program did so to broaden the transgender “umbrella” by including films with drag performance and genderqueer expressions on film. Most of the films also included some form of shock value intended to challenge the status quo. I think we did a poor job of contextualizing that intent, and leaned too far on the edgier side of the scale, not considering how many of these messages would be received.

 

I appreciate the feedback from you and others who voiced their opinions of the program and the entire festival. It’s the only way we can make Translations the best community event it can be. I’m glad you were able to appreciate the many other films from around the world that were a part of Translations. We will definitely consider both the successes and missteps when programming for the future of Translations: The Seattle Transgender Film Festival!

From our conversation, we talked about a few things that may have contributed to the problems in this situation.  For one, I was surprised to hear that one approach the selection committee took was to assume that anyone who submitted a film to a trans film festival must have a tran-positive intent.  It was with that assumption that some people were able to see the exaggerated and hurtful images in Tears for My Pussy and Love and Anger and assume that the intention was to ridicule and satarize those images and therefore such images are justified.

The justification “but it’s satire” is the same rationalization made for mainstream animated shock comedy shows.  When the main characters regularly spout horribly prejudicial and hurtful statements the idea is that we are laughing at the ridiculousness of the prejudice rather than laughing along with the actual prejudicial sentiments.  However, while satire uses exaggeration, irony, and sarcasm for ridicule, it requires that an alternative is provided or that there is at least some form of narrative commentary condemning the bigotry.  Otherwise, it is no more than simple mockery.  Exaggerating the bigotry to be more and more hurtful is not enough to make it clear to the audience that the director intends it as a rejection of that prejudice – especially when there are people out there who readily espouse such bigotry and see such representations as funny because they agree with them.

This seems to be a common path for those attempting to be shocking and “edgy.”  I must admit a certain degree of suspicion or distrust of anyone seeking that as a goal when depicting trans people.  All too often, the trans community has been used as a tool to make things more ‘wild’ and ‘out there.’  Need an exciting plot twist?  Reveal a character as trans!  Want an extra-disturbing villain?  Make them trans!  Want to seem extra radical and hip?  Toss in a trans character, no matter how one-dimensional they are..

I make films about trans people and sexuality, two topics that regularly are seen as shocking edgy.  In honesty, while I recognize those topics shock people, I don’t think they should.  When you live your life day in day out, it ceases to seem edgy.  Seeing such mundane daily life made up to be disturbingly exotic or tantalizingly bizarre often strikes me as inappropriate.  So while I’m sure it’s possible to create shocking and edgy media respectfully and responsibly, the history the trans community faces in this area urges significant caution.  The festival attempted such caution with their warnings of explicit violent or sexaul content for the friday shorts night.  However, what was really needed was warnings of explicit and grotesque representations of stereotypes.

Good intentions do not automatically translate into good execution.  We regularly see some of the most transphobic media out there (Ticked off Trannies WIth Knives, The Man Who Would Be Queen, Family Guy, etc) is made with the intention of supporting the trans community.  Beyond that, while assuming good intentions is not a bad ground rule for a support group or a mediated discussion, I don’t believe it’s appropriate for evaluating and giving recognition to art and media.  A selected film’s good intentions should be obvious from its clear and identifiable good outcomes and not simply assumed.  If those outcomes are not clear and many in our community condom it as bigotry, then at the very least it deserves a discussion, perhaps with a panel or moderator, to air grievances and give space for critical analysis.  Simply having the audience applaud at the credits and disperse does a disservice.

 

Translations Film Festival Report Back

The Seattle Translations Trans Film Festival has just wrapped up.  I had a great time at my screening and being on the filmmakers panel, and there was a great response from the audience.  While occasionally disorganized or last minute, the volunteers and staff were a pleasure to work with and I really look forward to working with them again.  That said, there was one rather glaring and difficult to ignore low point in the weekend that we really need to talk about.

Image from Strong and DreamingThe night of shorts on Friday had many really wonderful films.  I really appreciated the music video Transsexual Dominatrix (not available online, but a live performance of the song is) and I had previously seen Strong And Dreaming at Butch Voices and found it absolutely amazing both times.  But there were also films that felt incredibly problematic, even hurtful, and should never have been a part of the lineup.

It just so happens that those films were created by drag queens and as I heard others discussing and debating the issue some defended their inclusion because drag queens are a part of the trans community.  I want to be clear: I believe there is a place for drag queens in the trans community.  Especially with the history of drag spaces being the one place available for those who were kept from medical transition by gatekeepers pushing out anyone who’s a person of color, strongly sexualized, gender non-conforming, or not rich enough.  It’s important to recognize the connection and history drag community has with the trans movement.  Due to the hierarchy set up by medical professionals, transsexualism is often seen as a more legitimate expression of gender identity than drag and sometimes trans women complain about being associated with drag queens — that’s not what this is about.

Nikki Lee Taylor addressed this issue of criticism very well on the filmmakers panel, “Sometimes it’s not that you didn’t ‘get it right’ but that you’re telling your story and not theirs.”  Telling our own story is critical.  When a drag queen plays a character that is a drag queen – perhaps even a representation of themself – the results can be great.  The film Jinkxalicious from that night is a great example of how that can be done right.  But when a filmmaker ventures into telling someone else’s story that they aren’t familiar with or sympathetic to, the results can be detrimental.

Christeene from Tears For My PussyThat’s what occurred in the music video Tears for My Pussy by Paul Soileau aka Christeene.  In this case, a drag performer is playing a character of a homeless trans sex worker on the street.  The character is created by wearing a ratty wig, five o’clock shadow, horribly smeared makeup, and a false gold tooth, all to look more grungy and dirty.  The film plays off of exaggerated stereotypes and cissexist tropes – even including men curiously looking under her panties when she is not paying attention or perhaps is supposed to be too high to care.  Overall, the character is someone meant to inspire revulsion and to laugh at rather than empathize with.  The character was reprised for a second music video later in the night, Fix My Dick, which didn’t reference homelessness or sex work, but continued the unsympathetic portrayal.

The film Love and Anger was also quite hurtful and difficult to sit through.  The 15 year old pregnant teenage girls portrayed in the film are an exaggerated stereotype of welfare queens — they are working class unfit mothers who don’t care about their kids, so much so that they get in a fight after school and throw their babies at each other as if they were weapons.  It’s not clear if the characters are supposed to be Latina, but the presumably white performers definitely portray stereotypical behavior often ridiculed in women of color.  The film also includes many fatphobic insults hurled at the characters.  The main character, a child of one of those teenage moms is referred to as “retarded,” wears fake ‘hillybilly’ teeth, and keeps an expression on her face that, along with her voice and behavior, is reminiscent of people with Down syndrome.  All these characters are unsympathetically portrayed and designed to be laughed at.  For example, one joke that lasts for several minutes involves the main character falling into a “mud hole” and being pooped on by a giant, then frequently told “it’s not mud.”

Cousin Wonderlette, the main character from Love and AngerSeeing these films made me wonder how much contact their cast and producers have with the communities that they portrayed.  These films hit me particularly hard because they purported to represent communities that I know and care about or are a part of myself. I am a trans woman who works in the sex industry, and in the current economy and with the rampant workplace discrimination that trans people face, many of my friends are struggling with or on the verge of homelessness.  I also work closely with friends and colleagues with disabilities who are organizing in opposition to ableism.

It’s painful to think this is how trans homelessness, teenage pregnancy, and disability are thought of in the larger community.  When the audience applauded and laughed, it felt like they were laughing at people I care about.  When we are reaching out to other communities in coalition against oppression, representations like these are detrimental.  They also serve to send the message that trans people of color, trans sex workers, and trans people with disabilities, as well as those who care about them are not necessarily welcome and should not expect to feel safe in this space.

I want to be clear that the other nights I attended the festival the films were amazing and often moved me to tears (La Boyita, and Facing Mirrors, and of course my own Doing it Ourselves).  This was only one small part of the lineup and there was another night of shorts I did not attend.  Nonetheless, it struck me that this was the kind of trans representation I expect in LGb(t) spaces, not in a trans film festival.  These films seemed to be on the same level as the notorious Ticked Off Trannies with Knives, and their inclusion indicates to me that there is a systemic problem here.  I momentarily wondered if they were included because of a low number of submissions, but I recall a friend mentioning to me that their short film was rejected.  A quick internet search also revealed that trans activists had already been criticizing Soileau’s films as transphobic, as well as classist, racist, and called the character Christeene “the next Shirley Q Liquor.”  Soileau responded to the criticism in an interview only by dismissing the criticism as “name calling,” and did not respond to the substance of the concerns.

It brings up many important questions our community needs to address.  Is social justice awareness a job requirement for staff?  Is it a training requirement?  What trans community perspectives are represented or not among the staff and programming committee?  Was there anyone on the committee whose work focuses on opposing ableism, racism, or the oppression of sex workers?  Is there a way to expand the programming committee and/or the community input it receives?  Was the programming committee aware of these concerns, but rationalized including them anyway?  Or were they simply unable to identify the negative impact they would have?  We don’t need to pick apart every last decision, as such a process is rarely ever worth it.  But obviously something went wrong and our community needs to have a conversation about it.

 

Poetry for the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

This post is contributed by someone who is part of the Handbasket family but would like to remain anonymous, in honor of the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

For more info on this day and events in your area, please see http://www.swopusa.org/dec17/.

 

There are two poems I’d like to share with you today. The first is sad, probably triggering, erotic, and sexually explicit; it’s yanked straight out of the experience of being a genderqueer whore. It was previously published in $pread and The Siren. The second is a more uplifting love-and-revolution poem; it’s not specifically about sex work, but I think it’s appropriate nonetheless. I wrote it as a performance piece for a show organized by Lola Broomberg a few years ago. Also, both of them were written to a trans dyke; with all the erasure of trans women in queer women’s and women-and-genderqueer spaces, it is important now and then to make queer trans women visible and appreciated.

Again, if you’re worried about being triggered by descriptions of sexual trauma, it is ok to skip poem 1 (A Poem to a Dyke Like You), and go straight to poem 2 (Love in Action).

~1~

A Poem to a Dyke Like You

he stuck his finger in me
and i tried not to wince
as he shoved through skin that – given a choice – would have said
not today, please
with rough nails and marginally clean hands
tapping my g-spot in just that way
i don’t like
i gasped
in my best imitation of a woman in ecstasy
the sooner he thought i’d come
the sooner he’d knock it off

he shoved his cock into me
he’d said,
don’t laugh, it’s small
god i wish that were true
skin that hadn’t wanted the finger screamed
my belly cramped at the jabs but
it came again and again

he wanted to save me from you, you know
afraid that you were pimping me out
threatened to propose to me
then asked me to lower my rates

you held me close and stroked me
and i am yours completely
surrendered
you read me stories
and let me lick and suck and kiss you and stare into your face
you pushed me down and held me there
and your eyes are glowing
and your smile is shining
you snap on a latex glove
and you ask if i can feel your gentle touches
and you ask what i want
and you ask me how i feel
and make me answer
and i can tell you the truth
you ask if i’d like you to put a finger in me
i answer no
partly because my skin is sore
mostly because i can
and you hold me and i am all yours and i can feel everything and

you won’t slide your finger in until i ask
and you won’t slide another finger in until i’m begging
and you fuck me and talk to me and let me
just feel and just be
and when i want to keep going but need to stop you slide your fingers out and hold me

thank you for caring for me
i feel safe and alive and at peace with you
i want to be tied up and bound down in your love
i want the biggest thing in my body to be your hand
i want to belong to you
i want to be your boy
because it takes
a dyke like you
to love a boy like me

~2~

Love in Action

Please don’t tell me that I’m revolutionary because I’m queer.

OK, we love against the rules, in the face of oppression, but really –

If making out with hot people was all it took, couldn’t we just, y’know, go home early?

Why do I have to spend all night typing up zines and fliers in a windowless basement, all morning trying to scam as
many copies as humanly possible, all afternoon at the rally and all evening staffing the jail support line
Twenty-four hours
When we could be in eachother’s arms?

But
you have to strike a match to burn a flag
and it takes more than dead-eyed civic responsibility to hold a protest sign in the rain for hours while angry white men
in suits scream that you’re the lowest of the low
And who wants a revolution
if you can’t dance?

And maybe that’s it

Because I want you to be able to breathe
and I want to boycott petroleum

And I want to nourish you with organic food from a sustainable garden

And I want you to have work that you love, and good health care,

And I want you to live in a world without borders

or prisons

or war

And I would face down the cops for you any day

Tell me, can you see a difference
between the passion for a lover
and passion for the Earth?
When I love you with the same body that I put in front of S.U.V.s,
with the same mind that confronts bigotry and hate,
with the same heart and hands that carry small wounded animals to safety –

And maybe loving you is revolutionary,

Because what is revolution
If not love
In action?


Handbasket Needs Your Support

Dear Handbasket fans,

We’re incredibly proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish under the banner of Handbasket Productions. In 2010 we completed the first and only porn film by and for trans women and our community, Doing it Ourselves, and were collectively put on VelvetPark’s list of The 25 Most Significant Queer Women of 2010. Just one year later, we released a campy and political sci-fi pornographic parody, The Genderfellator. We won Feminist Porn Awards for both of them.

Since then we’ve kicked off a free trans focused sex education series, beginning with the video Trans Women and Strap Ons. We’ve attended and filmed events such as Girl Talk: A Trans and Cis Women Dialog and the Butch Trans Women Panel from the Butch Voices Conference (coming in segments, beginning next week!), making these important discussions available to those who were unable to attend. And, of course, we have a constantly growing collection of the sexy, insightful and creative zines that started Handbasket in 2006.

But we have to be honest with you; despite being a for-profit business, these projects have yet to make back their original costs. Doing it Ourselves cost us $8,000. After learning from that experience, we were able to create The Genderfellator for $4,000. So far we have only made about $5,000 of that initial $12,000 investment back. That’s not bad, but until we make most of it back we can’t afford to take on any more large projects.

We’re not asking for donations, just for support. Have you been thinking about buying a copy of Doing it Ourselves? Now’s the time. Can you not afford a copy? You can still support Handbasket by telling your friends about our promotion below and how we need your support. You can also check out the wide variety of zines we have for $1-5.

The truth is, Handbasket Productions is a community resource. We’ve heard from dozens of people letting us know how much of an impact our work has had on them. Most media focuses on cis audiences because it’s hard to be profitable otherwise. When businesses are created to support the trans community, they rely on word of mouth and community support in order to stay in business. In multiple anti-oppression online discussions seen critiques of both mainstream and queer porn in which positive things were said about Handbasket Productions’ work. We don’t imagine ourselves to be perfect, but we know that we are doing something important. If you want us to be able to create more, we’re going to need your support. Here’s how:

  • We’re announcing a promotion between now and the end of the year. If we get 30 or more DVD sales, then each of those sales become a two-for-one deal. Full details here.
  • Fay has begun a side business, Spell Binding Books,  making high quality artistic journals and books on Etsy. Sales there support Handbasket as well. Use coupon code: HandbasketFan and get 10% off in addition to free ground shipping for the holiday season.
  • Don’t have much money? Most of our zines are now available for direct download as pdf files for just $1-2, and there are even two free ones!
  • Spread the word about this announcement. It doesn’t cost anything to re-post, or re-blog. Already seen one or both of our films? Write a review about them.

Thank you for your ongoing support. You make our work possible.

Much love,

the Handbasket family

Happy International Fisting Day!

To celebrate I went out and got my first tattoo! I’ve actually been sitting with and refining this tattoo design for quite a while when I heard the call for action on International Fisting Day and decided to finally move forward with it.

I first created the fist design back in the summer of 2010 when I was working on the logos for the Radical Gender Resistance and the Androdyke Brigade for my film, The Genderfellator. When the screenprinter I was working with decided to go on vacation at the last minute, however, the design never made it into the film. So I sat with it, and decided to use it for my own version of the classic raised fist in the feminist symbol design.

Fisting is pretty significant to me. It’s a powerful way to connect with a partner, and to feel someone all around me like that can be breathtaking. And while plenty of straight folks engage in fisting, there’s something about it that feels pretty queer to me.

This symbol also represents the direction my activism faces. By shifting the positioning of the fingers in the fist it shifts from a tool of violence (which certainly has its places) to a tool of giving pleasure. As cheesy as it sounds, long ago I realized that it’s not my path to change the world with an angry fist in the air, but to leave my mark through love, caring, and positive sexuality. Sexual revolution is not solely a transformation of sexual ethics influenced by our politics, but a transformation of politics influenced by our sexual ethics. Step by step, fuck by fuck, things are changing. This mark on my body represents my commitment to that change.

Anti-Trans Company Producing PFLAG Merchandise

Update: As pointed out in the comments below, PFLAG has issued a statement (http://blog.pflag.org/2011/07/statement-on-outwear-pflag-national-and.html) and OUT!wear has taken down web sales for their anti-trans t-shirts.

Further Update: OUT!wear has posted a statement and an apology (http://www.facebook.com/notes/outwear-pridewear-accessories/an-open-letter-to-the-lgbt-community-and-its-allies-re-the-wbw-product-line/171857096212704)

Yesterday the news spread through facebook that OUT!wear, a company that produces gay and lesbian designs for shirts and clothing — including a line of PFLAG merchandise — has released a new design in preperation for the Michigan Women’s Music Festival to promote the exclusion of trans women. Several people complained that the shirt, which reads “100% WBW,” is in contradiction with their mission:WBW_100Sticker_sm_200x133.jpg

“OUT!wear™ is quality custom Pridewear and Accessories “WORN WITH PRIDE” to promote visibility, unity and self esteem amongst Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans-gendered persons.To promote a positive image within our community, whether bold or discreet.”

However, all negative comments on their facebook page were quickly deleted.

I can only assume that PFLAG is unaware of this situation, so I wrote to them to inform them of it. My email follows below.

I have worked with my local PFLAG off and on for almost a decade and was always very proud of how strongly supportive of the trans community they were. There are little to no trans resources in my small town and PFLAG stepped up to the plate. Many of the trans people coming out have found care and support from PFLAG — it has literally been life saving. And I remember just after the turn of the millennium when PFLAG was among the first national organizations to declare that they would only support non-discrimination policies and other civil rights legislation if they are trans inclusive.

That’s why I find it so disturbing to recently discover that the company OUT!wear is spreading a message frequently used to deny equal rights to and justify discrimination against trans women and it seems they have enjoyed a long term partnership with PFLAG, developing and promoting a line of PFLAG merchandise.
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Empowerment in a Police State

I hate watching know-your-rights videos.

I’m glad they exist. I appreciate the civil rights activists who relentlessly pour out their energy, time and spirit to fill this gaping need for skills and information that’s been hollowed out by a coercive police state. I know that education helps people stay safer, and I want as much of it to get out as possible. But I can’t watch simulated police harassment and brutality and listen to rational narration about how the people being violated could have prevented it, gathering tips and absorbing strategies and letting my spirit swell with empowerment. It hurts too much.

Watching violence is painful. It’s triggering. It takes me back to feeling like my body could burst into tiny, glittering pieces and scatter through the wind at any moment while still somehow so relentlessly solid that there is no way I will ever escape this squad car, these handcuffs, these batons and riot gear, this furious cop who in this time and place is the only concrete manifestation of law. It takes me back to bruised friends, friends in tears, friends missing for hours or days or lifetimes. It takes me back to being sure that there was a 50-50 chance that I would die in this holding cell without anyone ever knowing where I was.

And then the narrator explains how to deal with cops correctly, and how if you screw up you will get hurt. Whether it is explicit or thinly veiled subtext, the lesson is repeated over and over again: if you fail these skills when you are tested in real life, whatever violation of you body and mind you experience will be your fault. Whatever harm is done to you will simply be evidence of your failure, because if you had followed the instructions and handled authority like an explosives expert handling dynamite, you would have remained unscathed.

The words of the first feminist self-defense teacher I met stand out in sharp, powerful contrast to this. Before training us in the general theory and practice of how to break noses and kneecaps, she made it clear that any time you survive an assault, the fact that you are here means that you did exactly the right thing. Self-defense skills can be useful, even lifesaving, but core fact remains that in any violent situation all burden of fault is on the perpetrator. All the bad choices and screw ups are theirs alone. However the survivor deals with it, they are already doing more than should be required.

Three days was the longest the California police could keep me in jail without going to trial, and with several van-loads of people charged with various survival crimes and a broken computer system there was no chance of even get me in the same room with a judge on that timeframe. Three days was also plenty of time to think about all the things I could have done differently and obsess over every perceived failure. There wasn’t that much to do in jail: talk with the other prisoners until you all figure out that prison is a concrete manifestation of patriarchy (which, incidentally, takes about 3 years in a women and gender studies program, and about 3 minutes in a women’s correctional facility), make some new friends, line up and walk somewhere, and mull over every single thing that you think you did wrong and how because of your mistakes your friends might be in trouble and you’re stuck behind a bunch of barbed wire. That was pretty much it.  By the time I was released and back with my friends, I was more or less hemorrhaging apologies and self-deprecations.

I think it shows that I had stumbled into one of the healthiest, most oppression-aware anarchist communities on the west coast that most people simply told me that I had handled a pretty much impossible situation just fine, reassured me that everyone else was completely fine, asked me if I was all right, listened to me ramble through marginally linear narratives about the women I had met, and hugged me and held me and told me how glad they were to see me again.

And a few people pointed out things that I “should” have said or done. Fortunately, I had enough supportive influences to adopt an  “ok, if you know so much then next time you can get grabbed by the cops so that you can say all the right things” attitude. Inwardly, though, I hung on to enough guilt that it was years before I realized that almost none of their hindsight strategies would have helped at all anyway. The essential issue was that a cop really, really hated that I was messing with a system that was providing him with privilege and a status quo he approved of, and he was choosing to use every tool available to subdue me.

Still, just writing that last sentence sends me into a spiral of shame, wondering if maybe in fact I did bring it on myself by not being quick and clever enough, wondering whether I am even worthy enough to write this, waiting for someone to deride me for my inadequacies and my inability to acknowledge them. But this is a familiar shame; it is the same feeling that has kept me silent too many times about too many violations. It is a product of a victim-blaming, survivor-blaming culture, and it only benefits perpetrators. It is a hard feeling to break away from, but it is not justified.

We live under a constant threat of violence and we need skills to deal with that, including strategies for dealing with police. And at the root of that, we need an understanding that violence is the fault of perpetrators. Blame should lie with the police who enact violence, lawmakers who approve and at times demand police violence, and a culture that criminalizes the survival of entire communities and says that controlling another person’s body is OK if it is done with legal approval. It should not be placed on the person who did their best while trapped and terrified. When we remember this, we are destroying a lie that is crucial to violent, authoritarian culture. And in its place, we are building strength, compassion and empowerment for all of us.