Jul 15, 2012

Past Tense

It feels crazy to talk about Fed Up Queers so completely in the past tense, like those were the glory days, and they're so over. But the facts are that I now live in the burbs and am surrounded by mostly heterosexual people, rarely get to do any street activism, and don't have a go-to group of people to make noise with.

I get riled up when people talk about how all of FUQ's drama was because all of us dykes were sleeping together. Sure, there was some of that, but a lot of the drama was an entirely different kind of passion. We cared about our message. We cared about what was right. We cared about making a difference, rattling people's comfort with the horrible things happening in NYC. And it felt fantastic. Exhausting too, but exhilarating to be part of a group that spent every week fighting for what mattered. Not all of our decisions were on target, and we spent a lot of time just spraypainting messages, which also meant a lot of time running from the police. But we also were in the thick of it. We got 10,000 people to show up for a demo in just four days, we got the Diallo protests rolling, we drew attention to every tranny murdered in NYC, Giuliani and his people knew who we were and knew they could expect us to cause him trouble wherever he went. I remember how it felt hearing "Fed Up Queers" on the radio, and on the tv news. The group drove me insane, and I loved them dearly. I remember how it felt when the whole thing fell apart because one person wanted to promote "inter-generational sex" as some radical cause, and all the dykes who'd suffered sexual abuse couldn't stop crying, and we couldn't get him to leave, and so we folded. I remember how angry I felt, and powerless. FUQ had been my power, and it was being taken away by a sexual predator. The whole thing made me mute. How typical.

I wasn't vegan then. I mean, I had been vegan for years and years, but then, when I moved East, it eventually fell away because I didn't know anyone who did animal rights. I was broke and depressed and dealing with massive police brutality in my little town. My head was elsewhere. When I moved to Brooklyn and met other queer activists and eventually became this powerful little gang called Fed Up Queers, I felt like my brain finally un-numbed, and I started to remember things that mattered to me. I remembered them in detail.

When FUQ was infiltrated and our actions started to fail, when we would get arrested before our actions had gone down, we decided to go to a skillshare in the swamp to learn some new tactics. We sold a bunch of "Brooklyn Out of Palestine" t-shirts to fund the trip, and it was there I went vegan again. The whole gathering was vegetarian, and really mostly vegan. My girlfriend and I had decided to spend the three weeks there eating vegan, dabbling with making the commitment while someone else was preparing the food.

Learning to climb was hard for me. Some of our gang took to it like monkeys, understood the physics, learned the knots easily, just excelled. It was slower for me: I had more weight to haul up that rope, was insanely scared of heights, terrible at math. I made it to the top of the scaffolding, but had a breakdown up there before I could come down. I was grateful to meditate with a group at the camp, felt it helped even though it felt funny, self-indulgent.

Then the fights started. Two guys who were too good to camp with us and were staying in hotels decided that the camp being vegetarian was racist. The whole production shut down, hundreds of people in multiple workshops, everyone stopped everything to discuss meat eating and race. No matter that indigenous Brazilians talked about cattle production destroying their land, no matter that indigenous Canadians talked about how, although they weren't vegetarian, that factory farms were against everything they believed in. No matter that people of every color, veg and not, talked about how the camp's basis in environmental activism required that it be vegetarian. Everything stopped to let two guys (whose favorite word was maricon) talk about how they'd lose their culture if they didn't eat meat. And they did eat meat, brought in styrofoam containers from a deli every day.

For fear of being called racist, the camp ceased being vegetarian, the (Iranian) director quit, the kitchen staff quit, and everyone went home having learned half of what they intended to learn. But my girlfriend and I were vehemently vegan from then on, having so many people to make up for.

The camp fell apart, and, despite our best efforts, FUQ fell apart too. I stayed friends with those queers, and sometimes did activism with some of them. All but the sexual predator, and the one woman who supported him and who I ceased to trust. None of them ever trusted our care for animals, either, always thinking "there are more important things" and forgetting that there are many things all at once.

I read a friend's writing about FUQ and about seeing Le Tigre in the 90's in a tiny space in Brooklyn and how we were all freezing and about an action in Central Park in the Ramble when gay men where getting arrested there. And I can tell that she hasn't felt that exhilaration since, that momentum, that belief that anything can happen. And that makes me sad. We've given power over to that child molester, to that infiltrator, to those silly men who think they'd lose themselves by not eating meat. We've gone silent.