Author Archives: djtrishna

what makes bad tv better? hot femmes of colour. yeah.

Emily & Maya <3 Pretty Little Liars

I love teen tv. I used to try to pretend like I didn’t and there were points in my life where I sincerely believed I hated it. That was just me trying to resist the “evils” of mainstream culture.

To be honest, most of it is evil (heteronormative, capitalist, racist etc.). But I love watching it.

To be able to forget my own struggles for a little while and indulge in the world of white girl problems is a weekly pleasure that distracts from my everyday life. Also, there’s so much fun in critiquing that shit, as evidenced in this post.

Growing up, I saw the presence of lesbian women on tv as, well, non-existent. I didn’t really know lesbians existed outside of late night naughty television on showcase. I didn’t know of anything other than something referenced as “butch” and ‘bisexual’ I came to understand as a term for femme women who were either confused, being taken advantage of, lost or actually gay but in denial. There were barely any examples of lesbians or bisexual women existing outside of stereotypes, if they existed at all. When they did, they were always white.

The O.C. … remember that shit?

Forward to 2010.

Not only are there homos on tv, but there are actually queer women of colour! Queer FEMME women of colour, like ME.

This both excites and confuses me.

I mean, who is interested in portraying queer women in this particular way? Where are the masculine women? The only female ‘same-sex’ loving I see happening on TV is exclusively between femmes, why is this?

It would seem that femme visibility on tv is still for hetero-male consumption. If straight guys can’t enjoy it, it can’t be on tv.

But seeing these beautiful, fierce, intelligent, femmes of colour on tv not just making out but dating and forming relationships with other femmes (sometimes even other femmes of colour!) is so wonderful, powerful and affirming that I don’t even care that it’s not ‘for me’ because ultimately it is. They’re femmes dating femmes.

I think because I rarely see femme/femme of colour relationships in real life and because my queerness is constantly denied to me as a femme, I’m so intrigued by these tv relationships where this isn’t an issue. The femmephobia that exists in queer spaces, both white and of colour, is so complicated. I get that there is anger and resentment because we ‘pass’ as straight and aren’t subject to the same forms of homophobia/bullying/harassment as androgynous, genderqueer or butch women. I don’t think that phobia is okay, but I understand it.

What I don’t understand is queers playing into homophobia through denying femmes our sexualities by constantly questioning our authenticity, labelling us as a threat or placing definitions of legitimacy for what constitutes queerness onto us. That shit is so damaging and hurtful, especially for queers of colour who have more difficulty in identifying with ‘LGBT’ or even ‘queer’ as terms which have been defined by white folk and are grounded in whiteness. Same thing goes for markers or readers of queerness/queer identity which folks of colour do not have the same access to as white queers. It creates spaces for the constant interrogation I receive from other (mostly white but not always) queers about my politics, relationships and sex life which is forced onto me both because of my femme identity and as a result of being of colour.

That’s why seeing Santana on Glee being so unapologetic (“Only straight I am is straight up bitch”) about being a lesbian is so wonderful to me. There’s no questioning her attraction to other women, she won’t allow for it and neither do the writers which I find really interesting. Same thing goes for Emily on Pretty Little Liars. These homos are homo in and of themselves, not because their lives are horrible or they’ve been traumatized. They’re not experimenting with women through a few episodes only to date men exclusively and never talk about sexuality again once that storyline is over (as has been traditionally the case with lesbian and bi female characters). It has nothing to do with being edgy or controversial.

Their storylines are inherently gay. And I love it.

I love it because it’s so huge! To see a queer femme of colour on some of tv’s biggest shows is a huge victory (not that visibility alone is the be all end all or that it in and of itself changes the discrimination we face). That type of acknowledgement is still lacking from so many queer spaces/organizations that I participate in. Forget the representation bit, I know that it’s token in so many ways and that these characters don’t explicitly ever talk about race, but the presence of these characters themselves acknowledges my identity and experiences as real.

Seeking that type of acknowledgement from the mainstream is dangerous, I know, but I don’t think that I’m seeking it (feel free to challenge me on that). I rarely expect anything positive/awesome/anti-oppressive from the tv shows I watch. It’s just a pleasant surprise in the middle of getting my fix of drama, fashion and pop music. It’s like oh, hey, you know that I exist, well that’s new.

It’s huge because I feel like if I had these characters when I was a teenager, shit would’ve been a lot less confusing for me.

I wouldn’t have had to look to hetero/white folks on Dawson’s Creek. I would’ve seen myself in Emily, Maya and Santana.

That other younger queers of colour have the potential to do so is exciting to me.

The day I’m able to see queer folks of colour (of all genders and sexualities) on both mainstream tv and in alternative media, where we already represent ourselves, will be a fantastic day. I eagerly await seeing masculine women, butches, trans folk, gender queer and gender non-conforming people featured in horrible teen dramas.

Until then, I’m going to envision some type of amazing cross-over drama where Emily transfers to Ohio and becomes a Cheerio. Or, I’ll just keep watching and waiting.

Hells yeah.

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what separates us from omar khadr?

posted by djtrishna

Today is a big day for Toronto.

I’m not talking about the election.

I’m talking about the 3013th day that we have been without our brother Omar Khadr.

Omar, a Toronto kid like myself, has been held at Guantanamo Bay since he was 15. The Omar Khadr case has been widely publicized, as he is not only Guantanamo Bay’s youngest detainee, but also the only Canadian to ever be held at the facility.

The case has also received media attention because of the extreme injustices Omar has faced. He was held for three years before ever being charged and for two years without access to legal counsel. He was subject to inhumane conditions including physical and psychological abuse as well as torture. Additionally, he is the first child soldier in modern history to be prosecuted for alleged war crimes.

Today, Omar accepted a plea bargain, pleading guilty to five separate charges including murder after spending a third of his life in Guantanamo Bay. This means that Omar will spend one more year in Guantanamo after which he may have the opportunity to return to Canada.

Thus far, our Prime Minister has demonstrated no interest in repatriating Omar. He has consistently avoided commenting on the case claiming that it is up to the U.S. to decide, despite our Supreme Court ruling that Omar’s rights have been violated and our Federal Court ordering Ottawa to pursue his repatriation.

But Harper’s silence speaks volumes.

It demonstrates the unwillingness of our government to stand up for one of our own children, one of our brothers. It clarifies our government’s feelings towards specifically racialized populations. I am of course talking about Arabs and Muslims and those of us who are racialized  alongside them in the big web of racism.

What I’m getting at here is that if Omar, a 15 year old Toronto kid, could be tried in U.S. military court for war crimes after being held at Guantanamo for 8 years, without ANY intervention on the part of our government, what makes any of us safe? What kind of justice system are we upholding? Isn’t this case terrifying? Does it not uncover the fallacy of Canada as a model ‘multicultural’ state?

Toronto is missing a child, a brother, and a friend. He is one of many missing people whom the government is eager to silence. Their lack of commentary on this issue is extremely unjust, but not uncommon. It is evident in the face of hundreds of missing and murdered Indigenous women. It is evident in their increasing criminalization of dissent, of being poor, of being brown, of being queer, or being anything but ‘normal’. And this criminalization has been normalized. How else can we explain what is happening to Alex Hundert and the other G20 detainees? How else can such disregard for our stolen sisters persist?

We cannot simply remain silent. We must demand for Omar’s return home. Just as we must demand for inquiry into the cases of our stolen sisters and for the charges against Alex and the other G20 defendants to be dropped.

 

 

 

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an open letter to profs who ‘include’ diversity week

posted by djtrishna

Dear Educators,

I understand that you are well intentioned. That you have degrees and have studied for years and have worked hard to become an expert in your field. I know that you want to create a classroom experience that is enriching and really makes us students think. That you want us all to be included (sometimes).

But please, seriously, take the fucking ‘diversity’ week out of your fucking curriculum. It would save students of colour from enduring the pain of having our identities put on trial, having our experiences questioned and our realities of racism denied. It would save Indigenous peoples from being invisibilized.

Not only are you miseducating large groups of white students, you are attacking us while we sit here. If diversity week is about teaching white kids how to interact with us, which it is, then please, just be explicit in that so that WE DO NOT SIT THROUGH IT.

It’s not just offensive, it’s plain fucked up. As if you can have a WEEK on ‘diversity’ and expect for us to have an enriching fucking experience. The only thing you’ve enriched me to is that DIVERSITY WEEK IS FRIGGING TOKENIZING.

Especially if your field ISN’T IN RACE STUDIES (and sometimes even if it is), STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM EDUCATING OTHERS ABOUT RACE.

It would save me from ripping out my hair.

Thanks,

DJTrishna

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i want to get your name right!

posted by djtrishna

This video is effing hilarious.

“That’s it, I’m leaving. I need some whisky.”

I hear ya girl, I hear ya.

I am mostly laughing at Steve here. And how often this happens to folks of colour on a daily basis. It’s funny cause it’s true and I understand how it feels. And it’s totally absurd.

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azns in hip-hop [1]

posted by djtrishna

In the land of hip hop, female MCs are a rare breed. At least that’s what the mainstream would have us believe.

Right now there are countless female artists fighting intense discrimination in the industry while producing some of the best hip hop out there. Many of whom are reppin it for us Azns.

Case in point? Shadia Mansour.

If you’ve never heard of this extremely talented artist before, you are in for a treat. I would describe her as the more intelligent, politically conscious, Palestinian female version of Drake. Just kidding, that would be a complete diss to Shadia because she could totally tear Drake apart in a throw down, just sayin.

Why should we be paying attention to her? Shadia’s flow is intuitive, expertly dropped over well produced beats and vocals that could carry her career on their own. Her lyrics resist the current trend of mainstream hip hop to produce formulaic lines that ignore social and political realities, which she does without getting cheesy. And the first single “El Kofeyye 3arabeyye”, off of her new album features M1 of Dead Prez.

Yes, as in Dead Prez, Dead Prez. If you don’t think this is a testament to her skills and potential as an MC, perhaps you should examine what you think you know about hip hop.

El Kofeyye 3arabeyye is a brilliant track that explores the cultural roots of the Kofeyye and challenges its appropriation.

Her depth and dynamism as an artist can be seen in this track but also through her collaborations and performances with other Arab artists such as Canada’s own The Narcicyst and the UK’s Lowkey in which she holds her own amongst the presence of such strong men.

Shadia is also uncompromising her in image as a Palestinian female performer. She rocks keffiyehs and traditional Palestinian dress onstage, constantly reminding us of her identity. Shadia has been nicknamed the First Lady of Arab Hip-Hop. To me, this is particularly important in an era of hip hop in which artists would rather wear Louis Vutton in an effort to assimilate to whiteness than have their audiences deal with their racial other-ness.

Her album is set to drop sometime before year’s end. You can be sure to expect big things out of Shadia in her reclamation of hip hop.

Check out her myspace here.

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my anger wants to write

posted by dj trishna

I’m so angry right now. It’s one of those nights where you’re so angry, you can’t sleep, no matter how hard you try to distract yourself. I didn’t even know I was this angry. I let myself cross off a few things from the old list of to-dos and felt at 5AM it was finally time to retire. I thought I exhausted myself so that I would be able to sleep.

Turns out my anger has other plans.

My anger wants to write.

Write about the racial profiling and police harassment I was the target of tonight. Surprise!

And it’s not even that that’s really bothering me. It’s that I didn’t think that my race was a factor in it. That’s what bugs me.

I assumed my activist history and involvement in G20 organizing were the grounds for their harassment.

Tonight I was pulled over by the cops.

On my bicycle.

When I was biking around a low-income neighbourhood of town.

Shocking, I know.

The officer was so freaking smug, believing himself to have caught me in the midst of doing so much wrong.

“Have you ever been in trouble with the police before?”

“No.”

He asked me that about 4 different times before calling in my license and pulling up squat.

Before that happened though, he enjoyed lecturing me on speaking back and being rude after I had asserted my rights to him.

He was sittin pretty, waiting for the call to come back saying that I had a history or was involved in something scandalous.

Nope. Just ridin my bike around with my white male friend.

“Why didn’t you want to give me your I.D.?”

“Because I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong.”

“And you weren’t. But how was I supposed to know that? What do you expect would happen if I let off every person who refused to give me I.D.? There’d be an awful lot of offenders out there wouldn’t there?”

“And what do you expect when you decide to pull over a woman of colour at night who isn’t violating any laws?”

Except that the last sentence was in my head, burning behind my tongue, fighting to make its way out.

I silenced myself. I silenced my anger.

And here I am up at 6 AM paying the price.

He didn’t choose to harass my friend, he didn’t even speak to him. He chose to harass me. He chose to threaten me, lie to me, and try to get me in trouble, he tried to make me take the bait, and I didn’t.

So why am I angry?

Because he still won. Because he thought he was doing me a favour by not giving me a ticket. Because he was able to feel comfortable in harassing me without just cause. Because he got away with doing it.

But mostly because I silenced myself in the face of his blatant racism.

And it’s because I couldn’t conceive of it in that way. As the sentenced formulated in my brain, I struggled with the thought of bringing the “race card” into play. The fact that I could even think of it like that signifies a huge problem, it’s called “internalized racism” and it apparently just doesn’t go away no matter how much theory you read, campaigns you organize or how deeply you identify with anti-racism (this isn’t to say we can’t deal with it, but that is another post in itself). It’s a reality that comes with being brown (read: non-white).

I reacted that way because I’ve internalized those global systems of oppression that tell us the officer was “just doing his job”. It’s true. He was. But I forgot momentarily that his job is to harass people of colour and those who occupy other-ed identities. His job is to police what is considered normal.

He said I was suspicious for being out so late at night in a “seedy neighbourhood”. Here, “out so late at night” can be substituted with “of colour” and “seedy” with “poor”.

I was unable to confront him because I was faced with confronting the global system of oppression in that moment.

But here and now, in my room breathing steadied and feet on ground, I recognize that his ultimate victory lies theoretically in quelling my resistance.

And while I feel violated, dehumanized as well as disgusted with the system and upset with myself, my resistance is far from being over.

If anything, he just reminds me why I need to do the work that I do.

See you in the streets, officer.

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