Survival vs. Tragedy: Two Films on Black Queer and Trans Self Defense

by Eve Mitchell
This weekend I got to see two films associated with NYC’s LGBT Film Festival, NewFest, Free CeCe!  and Check It.  Both broached the topic of black queer and trans self defense but the two films could not be more different.
I was very impressed with Free CeCe –– Filmmaker Jac Gares clearly allowed the film to be driven by black transwomen (notably Laverne Cox, who produced and is featured in the film) and followed CeCe McDonald‘s narrative arch, rather than imposing some politics of her own onto the film. The film moves from a true crime style documentary showing the who-what-where-how of CeCe’s case to broadening out to show an entire movement mobilized around CeCe’s support, for trans liberation, and against prisons.  The film moves toward straight up prison abolition, placing CeCe within a context of spatially dispersed genocide against black transwomen, and raising difficult questions around self defense in a world where the life expectancy of a black transwoman is only 35 years.  The film clearly lays out the fact that had CeCe not defended herself, she would likely be dead, and shows strong black transwomen in unwavering support for self defense by any means necessary.  This narrative parallels CeCe’s story, who has become a leader and figurehead in the movements for trans liberation and prison abolition.

Repost: Learning to Fight, Learning to Heal

This was originally posted on Unity and Struggle’s blog here.  We have been involved in the formation and execution of this study and we are hoping to host a series on abuse in the coming months.

Like everybody else, Unity and Struggle members have grappled with how to address abuse and patriarchal behavior in our society, and in left organizations including our own. We don’t have easy answers, but we’ve found it helpful to study the nature of abuse under capitalism and different responses to it. Below is the syllabus for an abuse study that some U&S members and friends are currently test-driving in several cities, based on interest. We hope other groups will take up the reading list, adapt it to their needs, and use it to craft responses to abuse in our movement and lives.

Sit El Banat, stencil tribute to the women who were beaten, dragged and stamped on by military forces in December 2011. Image from SuzeInTheCity

Abuse Study Guide

1. Defining Abusive Relations.

Objectives: (1) Gain empirical understanding of the broad range of physical and emotional abuse in intimate partnerships; (2) Explore relationship between objective social relations and individual experience of abuse, consent, trauma; (3) Develop our own definition of abuse;

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Queers for Flint: A May Day After Party and Fundraiser

If you’re in the New  York City area, join us for Queers for Flint: A May Day After Party and Fundraiser!


603 Bushwick Ave
JMZ to Myrtle-Bway
$10 | 8pm doors | all ages
Drag performances by Lady SimonHysteé Lauder and Ms. Ter, Music by Felix and the Future, Art by Cristy Road and Flint-Based Allora Art & Design, Raffles/Prizes and much more!!!

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Soy mujer y soy humana: Una crítica marxista-feminista de la teoría de la interseccionalidad

de Eve Mitchell; traducido por CM

Read English version here


En los Estados Unidos, al final del siglo XX y principios del XXI, domina un conjunto específico de políticas entre la izquierda. Hoy en día, podrías entrar a cualquier universidad, a cualquiera de los numerosos blogs progresistas-izquierdistas o a cualquiera web de noticias y los conceptos de “la identidad” y “la interseccionalidad” encontrarás como la teoría hegemónica. Pero, como toda teoría, ésta corresponde a la actividad de la clase obrera contestando a la composición del capital actual. La teoría no es ninguna nube flotando sobre la clase, lloviendo reflexiones e ideas, sino, como escribe Raya Dunayevskaya, “las acciones del proletariado crean la posibilidad para que el intelectual resuelva la teoría.” (Marxismo y libertad, 114)[1]. Por lo tanto, para entender las teorías dominantes de nuestra época, hay que entender el movimiento verdadero de la clase. En este texto, voy a repasar la historia de las políticas de la identidad y la teoría de la interseccionalidad con el fin de construir una crítica de la teoría de la interseccionalidad y ofrecer una concepción marxista positiva del feminismo.

El contexto de “la identidad” y “la teoría de la interseccionalidad.”

Para entender “la identidad” y “la teoría de la interseccionalidad”, hay que entender la circulación del capital (es decir, la totalidad de las relaciones sociales de la producción en el modo actual de producción) que precedió el desarrollo de tales conceptos en los años 1960 y 1970 en los EEUU. Más específico aún, ya que “la teoría de la interseccionalidad” se desarrollaba principalmente como reacción al feminismo de la segunda ola, hay que estudiar cómo se desarrollaban las relaciones de género bajo el capitalismo.

En el movimiento del feudalismo al capitalismo, la división del trabajo por género, y luego las relaciones de género dentro de la clase, empezó a tomar una nueva forma que correspondía a las necesidades del capital. Algunas de las nuevas relaciones incluyen las siguientes:

(1) El desarrollo del salario. El salario es la forma capitalista de la coerción. Tal como lo explica Maria Mies en el libro, El patriarcado y la acumulación a escala mundial, el salario reemplazaba a la servidumbre y a la esclavitud como el método de forzar el trabajo alienado (quiere decir, el trabajo que realiza un trabajador para otra persona). Bajo el capitalismo, los que producen (los trabajadores) no poseen los medios de producción, así que tienen que trabajar por los que sí poseen los medios de producción (los capitalistas). Así pues, los obreros tienen que vender al capitalista lo único que poseen, la capacidad de trabajar, o la fuerza de trabajo. Este es un elemento clave porque los obreros no son remunerados por el trabajo vivo sensitivo – el acto de producir – sino por la capacidad de trabajar. La ruptura entre el trabajo y la fuerza de trabajo causa una falsa impresión de un intercambio equitativo de valor – al parecer, el trabajador cobra por la cantidad que uno produce, pero más bien el trabajador cobra únicamente por la capacidad de trabajar por un período determinado.

Además, la jornada laboral se divide en dos: el tiempo de trabajo necesario y el tiempo de trabajo excedente. El tiempo de trabajo necesario es el tiempo (como promedio) para que un trabajador produzca suficiente valor para comprar todo lo necesario para reproducirse (todas las cosas, desde la comida hasta un iPhone). El tiempo de trabajo excedente es el tiempo que uno trabaja más allá de lo necesario. Ya que la tasa vigente de la fuerza de trabajo (nuevamente, la capacidad de trabajar – no el trabajo vivo en sí) es el valor de todo lo que un trabajador necesita para reproducirse, el valor que genera el trabajo excedente va directamente hacia los bolsillos del capitalista. Digamos que yo trabajo en una empresa de los Furby. Cobro $10 por día por 10 horas del trabajo, produzco 10 Furby diariamente, y cada Furby se vende por $10. El capitalista me paga por la capacidad de trabajar una hora diaria para producir suficiente valor para reproducirme (1 Furby = 1 hora de trabajo = $10). Así, el tiempo de trabajo necesario es una hora y el tiempo del trabajo excedente son 9 horas (10-1). El sueldo esconde la verdad. Recuerde que, dentro del capitalismo, parece que cobramos por el valor equitativo de lo que producimos. Sin embargo, cobramos solamente por el tiempo de trabajo necesario, o la cantidad mínima necesaria para reproducirnos. Bajo el feudalismo, fue distinto y fue muy claro cuánto tiempo trabajaba cada uno por sí mismo y cuánto tiempo trabajaba por otro. Por ejemplo, si la sierva labraba la tierra cinco horas por semana para producir la comida para el señor feudal, luego el tiempo restante le pertenecía a ella. El surgimiento del salario es clave porque fue el mismo salario que impuso la división del trabajo por género.

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Interview with Out of the Flames of Ferguson

See an intro to this piece and an update on We’re Hir We’re Queer here.

Image provided by OOTFF

Who is Out of the Flames of Ferguson (OOTFF)?  How did you all get together?  What are your politics and what kind of work do you all do?

Out of the Flames of Ferguson (OOTFF) is a group of community members and organizers from around Houston working to combat police violence against Black and Brown people, particularly women, low-income, and trans and queer people of color through educational and community building events such as Know Your Rights (KYR) workshops, movie nights, panels and discussion, as well as direct action including protests, rallies, marches, and speak-outs. We believe that the police are an inherently racist, patriarchal, homophobic and transphobic institution; our hope for change is thus not in reform but, rather, in the capacity of our communities to envision, model, and create a more just society. Our framework for this kind of radical imagining and work is what we call the “3 D’s:” Disempower, Disarm, and Disband the police.

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A Year of Struggle and the Future of We’re Hir We’re Queer

by We’re Hir We’re Queer

We’re Hir We’re Queer has undergone several transitions over the years. In 2009, we launched the site as we were helping to form a community queer theory study group in Austin, Texas. We were hoping the blog (and the study group) would take on a life of its own – articulating the politics coming out of the study group. Best case scenario, we were hoping to consolidate a small group of political thinkers and activists who would want to build an organization that would put our collective theory into practice. Unfortunately, in the midst of dealing with practical, painful gender contradictions (not related to the queer theory study group), we decided to backburner our hopes for building a fighting group in Austin and allow We’re Hir We’re Queer to just be what it was. It was a propaganda project, an experiment in grappling with theory, and a catalyst for us to practice our writing skills and articulate our deeply political, gendered and sexualized, daily experiences. There have been periods of consistent writing and engagement, and periods of stagnation. We later decided to transition into a pamphlet and zine distro. It is important to circulate the political writings that have informed our organizing projects and ourselves as militants. We are still researching what that will mean and will have updates about these changes very soon

In between the starts and stops that make up We’re Hir We’re Queer’s spotty history, we have not given up our commitment to fighting organizations.  We have since moved from Texas to New York City.  Here, we have been involved in many struggle groups.  Most recently, in a moment when we hoped to end We’re Hir We’re Queer’s inactivity once and for all, like thousands of militants across the country, we got swept up in the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.  Since then, we have been dealing with a wave of activity:  the flows and eventual ebbs of actions and daily organizing, the high and low energies and moods that accompanies those ebbs and flows, state repression, contradictions and questions, and a myriad of other things that inevitably come up through the process of struggle.  We have come out of the height of the BLM movement, again contemplating shifts in forms and activity.  Still, we maintain our commitment to fighting organizations.  We believe that slow, respectful, day to day work is necessary to lace together the highs and lows, and cultivate continuity between the various terrains of struggle we have experienced.  


Photograph by Robert Fairchild

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Our Favorite Movies of 2015

by We’re Hir We’re Queer

These were our favorite movies from 2015.  We’d love to hear what others thought of these gems.  Many of these reviews will *spoil* the endings so please read with caution.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.


Alright, to be fair, this movie was released in 2014. However, we did not see it until 2015 and we just love this movie so much, we knew we had to include it. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a highly stylized vampire spaghetti western. For those unfamiliar with the term spaghetti western, that usually means it is more violent than traditional westerns and the protagonist’s motivations are considered usually less than honorable than classic western heroes’. Obviously this is dependent on the values one has and whether or not the colonization of the west during manifest destiny can be seen as honorable. But we digress. A Girl takes place in an Iranian town called Bad Town. It’s devoid of most everything: people, activity , joy–very western-esque some might say. The city is inhabited by a vampire, whose name we never learn, that preys on abusive men.

It’s directed by Ana Lily Amirpour who notes influences David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino. These influences are visible but Amirpour is definitely speaking through her own sensibilities. Stylistically it all comes together to feel like some sort of comic book movie love child between Sin City and Persepolis. And we love it.

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No Safehouses: Patriarchy on the Left Part 2 of 4

Originally posted on here.

by Jocelyn Cohn and Eve Mitchell

This is the second part of a four part series that attempts to understand patriarchy in our current society.  The first part, “No Lamps, No Candles, No More Light” explored the relationship between gender, patriarchy, and sexism broadly in capitalist society.  This section will explore the expressions of patriarchy specifically in the “left” subculture.  Parts three and four will look more specifically at recent attempts to deal with patriarchy on the left, some critiques and potential solutions.

Patriarchy is a total social relation that takes particular forms of expression in a society dominated by the capitalist mode of production.  There are no “safehouses” or “patriarchy-free zones,” because patriarchy is defined in its deeply personal and bodily expressions.  We carry its effects with us everywhere.  However, as also discussed in the last section, patriarchy finds different forms of expression in different areas of life.  Individual expressions of gendered and patriarchal relations within the working class can be known as “sexism.”  In this section we will explore the ways that we have seen and understood sexism in “left” organizing spaces and subcultures specifically.  This is meant as a broad sketch of what we find most prevalent.  Not all people will have the same experiences, and we are not able to discuss every person’s individual conditions, but we do hope others will find resonance here.

Who is The Left?

By “the left” we mean radical/activist/progressive/socialist/anarchist/communist political and social milieus.  While we recognize that all people have political experiences and the ability to comprehend and articulate extremely complicated aspects of capital, there is a material difference between those who make up the organized and subcultural left and those who make up the broader working class. When we discuss “sexism on the left,” we are talking about a relatively small group of people who see themselves consciously as activists, leftists, theoreticians or revolutionaries and who, in this moment, are objectively isolated from the working class itself.  This is despite the fact that most individuals on the left are proletarians, in that they do not own the means of production and therefore must sell their labor power to survive under capitalism. This is the result of historical and objective factors such as the murder, incarceration, and institutionalization of revolutionaries; neoliberalism; the capitalist subsumption of much activism; the absence of a generalized movement that blurs the line between activists and proletarians; etc.  There are also revolutionaries’ subjective failures such as an inability or refusal to develop lasting roots in organizing projects that build contacts and trust among working class communities.

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No Lamps, No Candles, No More Light: Patriarchy on the Left Part 1 of 4

This piece was originally posted on here.

by Jocelyn Cohen and Eve Mitchell

Many months ago, the two of us began writing a piece on dealing with patriarchy on the left.  In the process of writing we began to realize that we did not have 100% agreement on the question.  To us, this is very telling:  no one has the answer and perhaps there is no one answer.  We have thus decided to go forward in writing separate pieces on patriarchy on the left.  This project was inspired by the combination of difficulties we have faced in our organizing, accountability processes we have been part of, as well as the attempts we have witnessed to address patriarchy on the left.  We agree that the primary challenge facing many people in dealing with conflicts—especially those about gender—in left organizations and milieus is the confusion of the particular situation of individuals with the general conditions, creating situations where one person’s situation is taken to characterize all of society, thus leading to a solution which attempts to abolish a total social relation through a particular case.  Similarly, we agree that none of us are able to deal with patriarchy as individuals, or as small groups of people operating outside of the transformation of total society.

Although there are certainly a wide variety of attempts to address patriarchy, this conflation of the particular and the universal is the most consistent thread that we have identified in both practical and theoretical traditions in the United States in the last decade. While we will discuss this further in all four parts of this project, we see our first task as clarifying the relationship between patriarchy as a total social relation.  Following this part, we will co-publish a piece describing the individual forms of sexism in our political formations.  Finally, having clarified the categories and objective material conditions, we will examine how we can reasonably expect to respond.  Our third and fourth installments will be separate pieces delving deeper into dealing with patriarchy on the left.

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Women and Children First … But the First Shall Be Last

by Eve Mitchell

Last week I went to a film screening of “No Sanctuary:  The Big Business of Family Detention”  here in NYC hosted by Grassroots Leadership, Families for Freedom, and several other groups.  The event attempted to raise awareness and encourage local activists to think about how to support the struggle against family detention in the southwest.  More specifically, Grassroots Leadership and others are struggling around a new facility in Dilley, Texas, the largest family detention project since Japanese internment.  While I always approach these questions wondering what I can do, I couldn’t help but also wonder why this is happening.

Incarceration Rates

Immigration detention has been steadily climbing over the past few decades.  Some cite the prison boom as a 1980s-90s phenomenon, since the U.S. saw massive rates of incarceration of primarily black men due to draconian drug laws, mandatory minimum sentencing, and other strategies for criminalizing the black working class.

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