Long time ago when I washed dishes for cash, the lunch chef was getting fancy with this beautiful knife, steel handle with black dimples and very sexy curves. She told me it was a Global knife, from Japan, and was cheaper than the usual pro kitchen knives and just as good.
Some years later, in one of those rare I have cash student moments, I bought my first one, I think a G2 cook’s knife, with which I’ve been slicing and dicing for probably twenty years, and occasionally adding chunks of finger and fingernail to whatever I’m mincing. I had some unexpected cash to finish 2020 (thanks pandemic?), and have been going down my list of necessary shit I haven’t had coin for in the last decade, and arrived at, “Buy some new Global knives.” Which I did.
I always wanted a proper blocky vegetable knife for bouncing alongside my safely clawed knuckles over a head of garlic. And having a sleek as little peeling knife to match. And here we are, doubling my collection of those dimple-handled knives. Number four is a 15cm utility knife I bought maybe mid-’00s, which is currently primarily on bread and cheese duty, though I’m very tempted to buy a couple more just for that. Along with one of them magnetic knife racks and a couple of tree stumps worth of chopping boards.
It’s been a while. I didn’t have any spare cash for a bit, then I had slightly too much (as far as the Finanzamt is concerned), and then I realised I’d decided not to blog for a few weeks (thanks pandemic and enragingly piss poor response by Berlin, Germany, Europe, and so very very many str8wyt men in all those places), and now see me trying to make an effort like showing up for the exam and everyone knows I didn’t do the work.
Yallah, a pile of books I’m reading (pretending to read) in the second half of 2020, to which I’ll add another pile because I dunno, not enough money to buy anything substantial but just enough to incur a hefty tax bill if I don’t spend it. Weird how poverty is emplaced through institutional, structural and legislative punishment.
All the poetry, and I do mean all the poetry is entirely because of Omar Sakr. Him and Sunny Singh (of the Jhalak Prize) on Twitter are responsible for a large chunk of my reading, whether directly or retweeting interesting people who turn out to be writers and poets.
Also poetry, semi-poetry, poetry-ish, with a history in a festival, Rachel De-Lahay’s My White Best Friend: (And Other Letters Left Unsaid), mainly because I read anything with Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan in it.
Continuing the theme of books recommended by other authors, or cited in their bibliographies. Olivette Otele’s African Europeans: An Untold History, which I already blogged, but these six-monthly book dumps seem to deserve all the books. No idea where I heard about this, but either Twitter authors or one of the blogs I read. And from that, Geraldine Heng’s The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages. Real-time internet archaeology as I write here, I likely read about both on In the Middle, the medieval studies blog, where, on Monday, Geraldine Heng responded to the hit-piece on her and this book.
Which reminded me of the double bind I periodically find myself in. The first time I personally experienced it was with JT LeRoy, who I read in the early-’00s and thought was a trans femme who I could relate to. Turned out JT only existed as a fiction of a white, cis woman, and she’s still making a profit and career off our lives. Funny how consequences slide off them like teflon. More recently it was Medieval PoC – who I used to contribute photographs of Black and Brown people in art when I was on my museum bender – and a deeply messy history going back years of her claiming Native, Roma, and other ancestry. And this year it’s been a regular feast of white cis women in academia and the arts getting sprung for building their careers on false claims of BIPoC ancestry. On the other side of the double bind, it’s white supremacy trying to flip medieval European history to its own agenda, and a ceaseless barrage of racism, misogyny, transphobia, and all the other shit against cis and trans BIPoC authors, academics, artists, very regularly from white, cis women in academia and the arts, like the 46-page (!!!) hit-piece Heng responds to.
I mean, I just wanna read books and have a good time and learn shit and be amazed and generally chill the fuck out with a bunch of words and instead it’s white people colouring up or white people doing hit jobs.
Last couple in the non-fiction pile, then. Peta Stephenson’s The Outsiders Within: Telling Australia’s Indigenous-Asian Story. The one she wrote before Islam Dreaming: Indigenous Muslims in Australia, which it turns out I may not have blogged either. That latter was a big one for me. And keeping on the Islam history thing, John M. Steele’s A Brief Introduction to Astronomy in the Middle East, recommended to me by Dr. Danielle Kira Adams of Lowell Observatory, and responsible for Two Deserts, One Sky — Arab Star Calendars (novel research things there).
Fiction, then. Science-fiction mostly. Becky Chambers, who I’ve been reading for the last few years and pretty content at the moment in reading another one from her, To Be Taught, If Fortunate. Another also from Charles Stross, Dead Lies Dreaming, though after fifteen years this might be the last I read from him, just not really doing it for me and the trans character is very written by a cis. Tamsyn Muir’sGideon the Ninth, which I’ve already read, and the sequel Harrow the Ninth, which I’m currently reading / wading through it’s corpsey gore. Claire G. Coleman’sTerra Nullius, Indigetrans colonial invasion sci-fi but not really sci-fi. And speaking of trans, Juno Dawson’sWonderland, which I kinda liked but wished the literary fixation on Alice in Wonderland stories didn’t exist (same like I wish dance fixation on ‘reimagining’ Swan Lake and the classics didn’t exist).
Lucky last. Fiction but more like Chingona autobiography ghost story, Myriam Gurba’sMean. Recommended to me by Vass. Thanks babe, she’s fucking with me.
That’s a lot, eh. Piling up, getting partly read then left, words look smaller than they used to and I need glasses but that means organising shit like ophthalmologist appointments and shelling out cash and fuck it I can squint. Though I wonder if the reason why I’m not reading as much as I used to is ’cos words in book form’s blurry all the time.
There was a big gap this year when I had a little money for and no way of getting books. All that talk on social media of supporting artists during pandemic quarantine by buying their books hit up against furloughed supply chains.
Completely off topic here, I discovered yesterday I’d been using the entirely wrong word, furlong instead of furlough (and lifetime usage of either is in the single digits). And then I discovered furlong is 1/8th of a mile, so now I have Vin Diesel, or rather Dominic Toretto in my head going, “I live my life two furlongs at a time.”
Back to buying books. And no, e-books are not an option. I like paper, I like the feel and smell and aesthetics of books, I like how line lengths, page size, fonts, typography, layout, margins, the density of ink on paper, all that, I like how it creates a specific way of reading. So, no new books for some months and a rapidly dwindling pile of that variety which take months or years to read (Spivak, I’m looking at you.)
And then my favourite bookshop let me know books were available again and damn did I go hard. First, the Jhalak Prize announced its 2020 long and short lists and the winner, and I’m doing that thing again where I’ll end up throwing cash at about half the long list.
What is the Jhalak Prize (’cos clicking links scares me or something)? It was started in 2017 by Sunny Singh, Nikesh Shukla, and the sadly defunct Media Diversified and is an annual award for British and British resident writers of colour in any genre. And it’s consistently a banger. If I had the cash, I would without question by everything on the long list as soon as it’s announced.
And second, a bunch of weird old books I’ve been hitting my bookshop up for availability and prices for absolutely years turned up. A couple I’ve been asking about for five years. No, I cannot say no.
Some of these books have been sitting on my reading shelf since last year; some of them I finished months ago. I’m not doing that way too intense essay per book and annual Book(s) of The Year thing anymore, pumped the brakes on that. I still want to remind myself and celebrate a pile of authors who, all of whom did that indescribable magic a book can do. Some of these (’cos that’s my tendency) are hard, painful reads. Even these have beauty and joy and hope in them, and I reach for that. All these authors are my teachers and I’m grateful beyond words to have enough space in my life that I can read and appreciate and celebrate them.
I had Islam Dreaming on my list for a long time and suddenly it turned up. I didn't expect it to be so personally relevant, to read these pages and how simply and matter-of-fact this relationship was understood. It's something I've struggled to understand for myself for so long, and once again, it's Indigenous knowledge and life that helped. Different continents and I'm not Indigenous Australian, and trying to be careful here in not selectively appropriating a specific historical and geographic experience. I read these two pages over and over, recognising similarities to myself and my family's history in this.
I’ve lived through this shit as a trans femme since working it out on my own, not even in my teens, in the ’80s. That fucking long ago. I’m tired of this. I’m tired of cis cunts coming for my people. I’m tired of the white supremacy and TERFs in feminism and queer spaces and so so many cis-heteronormative people, white and BIPOC, taking so fucking long to say something. If you even do. You’re killing us. You get that, right? You’re responsible for our deaths.
Donate & protect Black & Indigenous trans femme futures ✊🏿✊🏿✊🏿
Do the work. Find community-based organisations in your city and country who explicitly support Black and Indigenous and Brown and Migrant trans femmes. And not LGBT orgs who reliably use the T for publicity, spend all the money prioritising cisgender ‘issues’ and tell us to wait and they’ll come back for us. They never did and they never will.
This trans, queer, multiethnic, Muslim, immigrant, working class, child sexual abuse survivor, on-the-spectrum, sex worker, femme chick says:
Black and Indigenous Trans Lives Matter
Fuck the Police
TERFs and white supremacy can choke on my dick
This is about the minimum space I need to not feel compressed right now.
And I wanted to write about dismantling – rather than diversity in – white cisgender masculine heteronormative space but I’m tired. When I ride I’m usually the only woman in a sea of dudes. I’m definitely the only trans feminine, queer, non-white person. And on the very rare occasion I’m in a woman-centric space, like the Rapha Women’s 100 last year, I’ll still be one of the only non-white (yeah I’m specifically using that term), and definitely the only trans feminine person. And in dude space or white cis women space I never feel safe or comfortable or able to relax and I’m tired. I can’t trust you all and I’m tired.
Recreational and athletic space is highly, highly normalised as white, cis– and heterocentric and masculine, and that includes cis women doing the policing. I don’t want to have to engage with that as a precondition for physical recreation or as an athlete, and it feels like this is the bare minimum of space I – we need to have some room to breath. But I don’t want to talk about all that ’cos I’m tired of saying it in so many different ways for a lifetime and seeing my siblings say it and live it and lose their lives for it for way more than a lifetime.
So, for all you BIPOC trans femme riders, and those of you prepared to educate yourselves, Cyclista Zine has been making me feel good about myself lately.
And for the rest of you, educate yourselves and donate to Black and Indigenous trans funds and support organisations like:
Fuck I will not even try and keep it civil at all anymore.
Fucking educate yourselves.
This is for white people as well as POC who bring anti-Blackness into the room and for people in countries like Germany and Australia who look at the US and are all, “Damn they’re racist!” like every colonised and colonising country wasn’t built on Indigenous genocide and isn’t continuing that European project today.
And not just to US orgs who definitely need support ’cos there’s no healthcare system in that country and the for-profit carceral system works by setting impossible bail bonds. Donate to community orgs in your own countries, especially Indigenous ones, and ones doing the fucking thanklessly hard work at the margins and intersections.
And if you don’t get why the death of Tony McDade is inextricable from the death of George Floyd, go back to 1. and fucking repeat until you do.
Thank you, dear.
Wait for the final edits. So many other photos we are going through.
Expressing the shit of this time.
reminds me a bit of this photographer from the 80s / 90s who did black and white stagings
trying to remember his name
My friend in the photos took his inspiration from him but I cannot recall his name.
Such powerful works he did.
Crazy dark stuff with people with disabilities, corpses, etc.
Decapitated corpse heads kissing. This guy.
i wish you could see how stunned with the beauty of these i am.
I met Michael Garza in Guangzhou eighteen years ago. He’s still there, still principal bassoon with the orchestra, also with a woodwind quintet, Pan Pacific Ensemble, we see each other every couple of years when he blows (ha ha) through Europe, and he’s my strongest connection to a city I have a deep love for, as well as being one of my dearest friends.
He sent me these photos a few days ago and like I said, I was stunned. Chinese puppet theatre, butoh, Día de Muertos, deep queerness, heavy memories of AIDS in the ’80s, SARS (which we were both in Guangzhou for, the smell of burning vinegar in the damp winter air, and that train ride with Yunna back from Wuhan in the night, getting messages telling us to stay away from the city because there was a plague). Photos by Gustavo Thomas so ya know.
Michael’s orchestra closed a couple of months ago, long before the rest of the world got over their racist fuckery and thought about taking this shit seriously. (Very aside here, I think the disaster underway in Europe and America is substantially because of the nationalist and white supremacist ideology stretching back to the Renaissance – or late-19th century imperialism and colonialism if that’s too long a time for you to grasp.) Every single artist I know or know of woke up some time in the last weeks and found themselves unemployed, all their upcoming work cancelled, and no idea when they might return. The better-off ones have – for the moment – family and friends to rely on, but there’s a lot, a very large lot who were already doing it hard. Not all of them artists either. I already see this for myself, trans, immigrant, neurodiverse (fuck I hate that word), multiethnic, queer, not in a relationship, there’s a marked difference already. I fully expect, like every other time in European history when shit got bad, people like us are going to be the first to get fucked. Art like this, then, arriving across continents and hemispheres in a messaging app convo, feels good, feels necessary, feels like we’re forcing our way into being remembered, holding on to beauty and love when we’re being told, again, to give it up.