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At the opening of 2019, I'm reviewing the state of something in 2019: what's on the scene now and what to look for in the coming year! This week, it's the State Of Queer 2019, and who better to talk about it with than one of the queerest people I know, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, author and editor of multiple queerer than queer books, including her new novel, Sketchtasy, her deeply moving memoir about abuse, The End of San Francisco, and the collection, That's Revolting!: Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation. Mattilda is also an outspoken activist, and the only person I know who legit looks like she could tie Adam West's Batman to a buzzsaw and then go dancing afterward. She's also written the most scathing film review I've ever read; a review that not only condemns the film, but mainstream gay culture in general.
Mattilda and I talk nostalgia, how people make "queer" an accoutrement rather than a radically felt and enacted principle, the trans military ban and why patriotism is the opposite of queerness, the generation of queers that grew up in AIDS culture but weren't dying en masse from it, the naive celebration of Truvada for PrEP, why gay marriage is a compromised strategy(and honestly just kinda sucks), why you should never invite Mattilda to your wedding, masculinity and A Star Is Born, and more.
I wanted to go on and on with Mattilda, but we'll talk and collaborate again for sure. For now, enjoy MBS & CH doing the State Of Queer 2019!
• For more Mattilda, go to her website, and if you're lucky enough to be on the West Coast at the end of her Sketchtasy book tour (which is running till the end of February), go see her read. The dates are here. Of course, you can and should read her other books, including the novels So Many Ways to Sleep Badly, as well as her absolutely legendary curatorial books, including Why Are Faggots So Afraid Of Faggots?: Flaming Challenges to Masculinity, Objectification, and the Desire to Conform, and Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity . Mattilda also co-edited a book of essays on feminism, which I have a short essay in, called Feminisms in Motion: Voices for Justice, Liberation, and Transformation.
• Mattilda and I both love Sarah Schulman's writing and activism. Sarah (pictured below) is the author of many books, but perhaps most notably for our moment, Conflict Is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair. I'll have Sarah on the show sooner or later. But until then, do read "The Future Is Coming, That’s a Fact: Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore and Sarah Schulman in Conversation".
• Death and the Maiden is an incredible play by Ariel Dorfman that became an incredible film by Roman Polanski starring Sigourney Weaver. It's also one of my favorite pieces of music, by Schubert.
• The essay Mattilda wrote on the trans military ban, and the opportunity it presents us with, is entitled "Swords into Marketshare" and you should definitely read it.
• If you don't follow Abby Martin, Mike Prysner, and Chelsea Manning on twitter, well...What are you waiting for??
• Queer Arab author Rabih Alameddine appeared on AEWCH 39, and we talked about AIDS, literature, and reckoning.
• I remember what a revelation The Mad Man: Or, The Mysteries of Manhattan by Samuel Delany was for me and so many others.
• Okay, so I got the details of that episode if Mr. Belvedere wrong, but pretty close! One of Wesley (Brice Beckham's) friends was pulled out of school because of HIV stigma.
• I have no idea how Mattilda missed Paul Rudnick's incredible movie (featuring Patrick Stewart for fuck's sake!) Jeffrey. A sex positive film in the middle of an epidemic that unmasks HIV stigma? Yes, please.
• In 2014, I was commissioned by a major magazine to write an article on Truvada (the once-a-day pill that prevents HIV transmission/infection) in San Francisco. I initially turned the offer down, even though they paid a dollar/word and it was a 4-8K word piece. I told them I wasn't capable of writing a slice-of-life essay on the drug, like they wanted. They told me I could write anything I wanted. I went on to write an essay highly supportive of individuals who wanted to take Truvada, and highly critical of the institutions (public health and pharmaceutical companies) and pathways through which it was being introduced to us, and what that would mean for me.
The article was a big, messy beast. I went through several stages of editing, but the publisher was hostile on several levels. Most notably, they kept insisting I cut the voices of women, trans people, and more. After a rather harsh edit - in which the editor said the sex scholar I interviewed (a woman) was "way too woo woo", I fired back, "You're editing out all the marginalized people." His response was stunning and the final straw: "This isn't an essay about marginalized people, it's an essay about San Franciscans." I told him to pay me my kill fee and that there was no way I could write something so entirely out of my integrity. If you're a patron of my Patreon, you can read a whole draft of the essay here.
• The concept of actualization comes up in bell hooks's work, and I'm not deeply familiar with all her stuff, so I'll just link The bell hooks Institute here as a starter. And soon, I'll dig deeper, too!