Tone .Are

Something To Prove: Fearing Queer & Being Man About It

In Uncategorized on October 14, 2010 at 7:27 am

Lured Into a Trap, Then Tortured for Being Gay

Uli Seit for The New York Times

From left, Nelson Falu, 17, Idelfonso Mendez, 23, and David Rivera, 21, at right, were among the seven suspects arrested in the abductions and attacks on three men in the Bronx on Oct. 3.

By MICHAEL WILSON and AL BAKER

He was told there was a party at a brick house on Osborne Place, a quiet block set on a steep hill in the Bronx. He showed up last Sunday night as instructed, with plenty of cans of malt liquor. What he walked into was not a party at all, but a night of torture — he was sodomized, burned and whipped.

Yana Paskova for The New York Times

A gay man was tortured in the house, at left, at 1910 Osborne Place in the Bronx, the police said.

All punishment, the police said Friday, for being gay.

There were nine attackers, ranging from 16 to 23 years old and calling themselves the Latin King Goonies, the police said. Before setting upon their 30-year-old victim, they had snatched up two teenage boys whom they beat, the police said — until the boys — one of whom was sodomized with a plunger — admitted to having had sex with the man.

The attackers forced the man to strip to his underwear and tied him to a chair, the police said. One of the teenage victims was still there, and the “Goonies” ordered him to attack the man. The teenager hit him in the face and burned him with a cigarette on his nipple and penis as the others jeered and shouted gay slurs, the police said. Then the attackers whipped the man with a chain and sodomized him with a small baseball bat.

The beatings and robberies went on for hours. They were followed by a remarkably thorough attempt to sanitize the house — including pouring bleach down drains, the police said, as little by little word of the attacks trickled to the police. A crucial clue to the attackers was provided by someone who slipped a note to a police officer outside the crime scene, at 1910 Osborne Place in Morris Heights, near Bronx Community College.

Seven suspects were arrested on Thursday and Friday, and two were still being sought in a crime that the leader of the City Council called among the worst hate crimes she had ever heard of. “It makes you sick,” said the Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, the city’s highest ranking openly gay official.

The charges included abduction, unlawful imprisonment and sodomy, all as hate crimes.

“These suspects deployed terrible, wolf-pack odds of nine against one, which revealed them as predators whose crimes were as cowardly as they were despicable,” Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said at a news conference.

The assaults are the latest in a string of recent episodes of bullying and attacks against gays. A Rutgers University student jumped to his death off the George Washington Bridge last month, prosecutors said, after his roommate had secretly set up a webcam in their room and streamed over the Internet his sexual encounter with another man. Two men were accused of robbing and beating a man in the Stonewall Inn, a landmark gay bar in Greenwich Village, last weekend while shouting slurs….

Article:  “9 Accused of Torturing 3 in Bronx for Being Gay”,  New York Times, 10/8/10

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Something       To    Prove:

Fearing Queer & Being Man About It

.New York City.   The bustle of midtown Manhattan shrinks the tourist wanderer.   It does not so, the native.  Corporate slicker, b-boy, sidewalk vendor, skater, Actress, police officer, bar tender,    be you who you may; you’re from here: you own this city,     and you walk around like you do!

But even for a child of NYC such the hodgepodge 42ndstreet is, for different shapes and colors of people walking in their own ways of life, will risk you to become a stranger in your own skin*at the stone of an eye, *with the bump of a shoulder, *or a tripping insult.   There’s just something trivially intense about having a world which is till this day considerably polarized into ‘types of people’, condensed together around you, whether you reflect yourself in each passing person, or project upon them your most terrifying insecurity.   Not in my imagination had i visualized sharing a glance trading chuckle with a turbaned Man in a one piece garment & sandals, before i experienced it in the city.  By the same token, i couldn’t tell you how many stares have condescended on me into a momentary loss of reception, while i’ve tried unconvincing myself of whether what i interpreted had just happened.

A couple of weeks ago, while waiting for the light to change at the corner of 8th avenue,  i was forced to struggle through having observed what in the context of my being, was something of a relatively inverse, yet wholly relevant scenario.  Juxtaposition of my identity as a person of color, and social privilege, as a Man, positioned me to incur a sense of responsibility, all the while inhibiting from confronting a group of young Men about the homophobic rod waved in top decibel of their Jamaican patois.  As it does whenever I’m within earshot of white people spewing racial bigotry, or to keep it particular to the circumstance, young Black&Brown Men, lashing at females with misogyny, their words froze up my veins.

Even from the POV of  some 3rd  person, and so it goes, the world in all of it’s microcosms remains fertile ground for inter-social landmines.   Magnified becomes this phenomenon, to the impending danger of a crisis liable to pressure the points beneath our American idealism that trigger screams of protest, when the threat of violence whispers from an oppressor.  And those young Men were, as are all men so determined by birth into universal hegemony, groomed oppressors.  As a silent accomplice to their belligerence, i myself became more than an oppressor, i became the larger atmosphere of oppression around Queer peoples in society.  Dually significant, is the reality, that i added another accomplice, and territory to the atmosphere of oppression WITHIN the being of these men; in their mentality, their emotional and psychological experience, their physical expression.   Especially having the full understanding, that the internal Man has landmines of his own;  and in having chosen to forgo any type of intervention, watched as they continued to distance themselves from their own humanity.

“I am NOT going on that block,” one of them yelled “That block is full of boTTy fish (translation: Faggots)”

He said it like there was nobody bigger than him.  And in his mind, nobody was! (oppressor).  He knew he was a big fish, swimming in a sea of what he could count on, would remain small fish (‘Straight’ Privilege).  Ironic how implicit in his choice of words was his fear,  of Queer.. his fear of that sector of  humanity which he can’t identify with, and thus, doesn’t feel so secure being around.

iT – ALWAys – gEts Me – hoW – “MAN” – oNe cAn Be – aBoUt – BEinG – “BiTCh”

(In other words, how he can be dominated by a fear of what he’s convinced himself is an embodiment of weakness; and fail to recognize how deluded such irony makes him.)

I don’t believe i’d ever be capable of imagining what it is like to be Gay.  I’d actually be interested to know whether Gay elders, think they could themselves imagine what it like to be Gay in this day in age.  A brilliant mind whose tutelage i had the privilege of enjoying, (for the record a Gay man; professional Dancer/Actor), once explained sexual orientation with a tennis analogy.  “Some people like the back hand,” he said “and others like the forehand.  Simple.”  But i have to believe he was speaking in jest (in fact i’m quite sure that he was.. come on).  ‘Homosexuality’ cannot be simplified down to preference of an awkward vs comfortable stroke.  He had actually made the comment in a seminar setting, in response to a younger Queer Brother, whom proudly claimed to be militant about living in full expression of his identity.  The insinuation was, that there is no reason to carry anger; simply be.  Having been challenged by the young man to consider the oppression Queer people experience in the world, the elder was quick to retort “Oh, i could see all the rage 20 years ago.  But today?  I mean, it’s actually becoming cool.”

In a more ideal America, I favor to imagine that the tennis racket comparison would suffice to explain an undisputed reality.  The recent re-focusing of press headlines on hate crime against Gays, however, is reminder that being ‘out’ in the larger society is as dangerous as it ever was.  Oppressed people can choose whether or not to accept that there won’t be a day in our lives we don’t step out amongst the populous, as a target;  but we all understand how powerless we are in determining whether tomorrow will be the day we walk out and become one!  Whether or not we care to fill the notion with any effort of energy, every single one of us live in this world a martyr.  It goes for Womyn, People of Color, Queer People…   Yet, while i can identify with the general experience of existing as an other, I’ve witnessed the subjugation of Queer folk to abuse, across institutions; and as the identified oppressor (me being ‘straight’, ally or not) i cannot say that albeit compassionate/angry,  i haven’t been able to allow myself to feel perfectly safe in spaces which have opened themselves to harboring what i can only describe as outright emotional/psychological assault, if not torture!    Without exaggeration, for Queer Peoples, these are the times we live in.

But my assertion, that i cannot imagine what it must be like being Gay in this day in age, is not a tongue in cheek recognition of how difficult it has got to be, in as much as it is a passive fiending of inquiry into what it really must be like.  I am perfectly aware that there was a time in which it wasn’t even a conversation, anywhere; there was zero tolerance; millions of people woke up and went to school and work, came back to their families, and even congregated together forced to live in the most literal sense, a subversive existence.  What isn’t often explored from this point is how the dialectic differentiates the total experience.  So while the time upon us is certainly defined by levels of tolerance and therefore, comfort which couldn’t be exploited by Queer People in the past; there comes, in effect, a more and more aggressive push to suppress a resistance which hadn’t presented itself as a challenge to the status quo before.  And the targets, they make themselves clear.

Shamefully, it was the generation i came up in which harvested a resurgence of epithet specific bigotry on a mainstream(if not pseudo mainstream/certainly urban) social level.  By the time i was 10 years old Nigga had gained a far more popular conveyance than Brother/Sister, Sir/Mam, and Buddy/My Friend, maybe combined!  And before long, -i was about 16-, the No Homo era was in full bloom.  Not only has the language accessed full normalization since; manifested through it have been heightened levels of hate and domestic violence.  To my observation, having worked with young people over the course of the past decade, the impact of pop culture’s perpetuation as complimented by our communities’ enabling of homophobia has been undeniably pervasive.  I walk into the room prepared to be informed how unbeknownst to me, everything from homework to school lunch ‘is gay’.  Despite our structuring in of safe space rules, and constant reinforcement of our agreement to make the classroom a no-hate zone, i am consistantly reminded to trail an eye towards a young Womyn/Man whom i suspect may be Queer, in order to read whether they are struggling in the fore-drop of an isolating conversation between self proclaimed ‘straight’ students speaking as though they have something to prove .

There are several methods of coping which i can lay out in the name of Gay youth i’ve attested to having survived such an environment, methods which not surprisingly, are to my knowledge/experience, commonly assumed by all oppressed peoples.

  1. They refuse to acknowledge it; ignore the comments until they have seemingly managed to white it all out.
  2. They tire under the pressure to maintain invisibility and whether or not consciously, begin to stray.
  3. They occasionally step up to confront the oppressor whether by direct/confrontational means, or subtly.
  4. They create themselves from out of the circumstance, and reappear firm in a unapologetically Queer identity!
  5. They internalize the ignorance, and begin to sling their own share of “No Homos” and “Faggots”

Reading through my analysis one may be fair in questioning what i might be looking to imagine about ‘what it must be like being Gay’.  He seems to have a considerable grasp on the stress of adapting to the oppression ::  You may iterate to yourself ::   He seems to be capable of gauging that there is a range of interpretation even/especially by Queer People themselves, to which one may subscribe, about the Queer experience :: What Tone, do you expect there may be to imagine, besides the fact that Gay People like chocolate and hate paying taxes like the rest ?!?!

When i purport an intrigue in imagining what it must be like to confront the world as a Queer individual, the feeling i’d pay a million dollars to connect with, is that of a Gay Man or Womyn whom has been able to see through to the fear beneath the phobia.  I can only imagine, amidst the frustration triggered by society’s prevailing facade of ignorance and rejection, the perhaps liberating indication that behind the curtain are manifestations of freedom, of life, soon to come.  That the giant is shrinking, and it’s hands too weak to prop the shadow much longer.     Because as a straight Man and Queer ally, i am just as much inclined in position to mind the Queer from an insiders perspective, that the ‘straight’ are weak, as i am inclined in position to mind the ‘Straight’, that we had better get strong enough in our own skin, to be able to share and embrace in the arms and minds of  all people, before we lose ourselves.. in a masses quickly moving past us for the day.

.

It is high time, as

 

we are already

talking to ourselves!

 

 

– Tone Are

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