By Nicky Reid aka Comrade Hermit
Exile in Happy Valley
The worst thing that can happen to any minority in this twisted empire in decline is to be integrated into the official zeitgeist of mainstream history because that inevitably means being neutered post-mortem and turned into some taxidermy fairytale designed to prove the supremacy of our exceptional national order. We’ve all seen this grotesque fate delivered upon the revolutionary progeny of the slaves forced to build Babylon with that revisionist obscenity that we dare call Black History Month and we have much more recently seen this post-colonial minstrel make-over performed on my own tribe with the Disneyfication of Pride Month.
Centuries of struggle against puritanical conformity have been condensed down to a vapid parade of limp-wristed corporate divas. An empty celebration of the inclusive spirit of the American nightmare set to the ballads of Celine Dion and ending at police gunpoint on the wedding alter. This isn’t us, is it? Where have all the wild faggots gone? Where are all the pissed-off dykes and fearless freaks and perverted provocateurs who died emaciated and diseased but defiantly unbowed with one boney finger extended to the stars and stripes that continue to imprison and violate our bodies? Where are all the dangerous Queers?
Well, they’re all right here of course, for I may be but a petty genderfuck malcontent eking out a meager existence in the shadows of this empire’s colossal rustbelt ruins, but I have devoted myself entirely to performing the role of a gonzo historian, a wild-eyed amateur sleuth compiling the names and stories of my lupen outlaw class and regurgitating them back directly into your eye sockets with my acidic prose. What I perform may not fulfill the high-minded qualifications of a collegiate historiographer but that isn’t my aim. My aim is to construct a counter-mythology to inspire my people to revolt against the elitist mythos designed to sedate us. That is why I still celebrate Pride. To hijack the parade and steer it back to the flaming cop cars of Stonewall. To teach my children the sacred legends of their profane elders. This is my thankless jihad, and these are eleven dangerous Queers that they don’t want you to know about. Tattoo their names on your soul and rage in the glow of their flaming spirits.
Leslie Feinberg– Leslie taught me how to do this. He was the original keeper of our tribe’s hidden history. After living a brutally punishing life as a blue collar transmasculine butch lesbian, Leslie told the world his story in heart wrenching detail with his semi-autobiographical debut novel, Stone Butch Blues. But that influential diary was nothing more than a beautiful brick hurled through the plate glass window of this nation’s gnat-like attention span. Like me, Leslie was a committed revolutionary populist on a mission to take back Queer history from the bourgeoise intellectual elites and tell it in our native tongue. Leslie spent sleepless nights after twelve-hour factory shifts pouring over newspaper stories, books and historical documents at public libraries so he could shed a scolding light on the bones of our forgotten heroes, whether it be in the pages of books like Transgender Warriors, which completely rearranged the way I see the world, or in his tireless tirades in the Workers World newspaper. He is why I write this list, in a quixotic attempt to carry on his massive legacy into another generation of sexual mavericks and gender outlaws and tell them our stories.
Storme DeLarverie– Storme smashed her fist through the snout of history when she threw the first punch of the Stonewall Uprising, but her legacy extends well before and well beyond that glorious weeklong orgy of faggot rage. A biracial child of the Jim Crow South born in the Queer chocolate Gomorrah of New Orleans; Storme first made a name for herself as the lone drag king in the Jewel Box Revue, the nation’s first integrated drag troupe. She also sparked a butch lesbian revolution by bringing her performance to the streets, boldly wearing her three-piece zoot suits and fedoras off-stage and turning female masculinity into a way of life. After Stonewall, Storme added a loaded pistol to her wardrobe and spent nearly fifty years stocking the streets of the Village like a bleach blonde panther, serving as the unofficial bodyguard of her tribe and becoming a breathing symbol of Queer Power and butch strength that lives on to this day. Storme DeLarverie is our John Henry only she was real, and she swung a much bigger dick.
Valerie Solonas– Valerie was a creature of conflict and contradiction. Her legacy is defined by two events that remain as combatively contested as her own spirit: the creation of the infamously incendiary SCUM Manifesto and the near fatal shooting of Andy Warhol. What we know is that Valerie survived an abusive childhood to come out as an aggressively butch lesbian during the gray flannel purgatory of the Eisenhower Era. She graduated with a degree in psychology from the University of Maryland before relocating to the radical hotbed of Berkley where she wrote and self-published the SCUM Manifesto. Here is where things get a bit murky. SCUM stands to this day as the most seething and vitriolic critique of the patriarchy ever written, a call for women to abandon the boredom of domesticity to overthrow the government and destroy the male sex. This screed only entered infamy after Valery shot a Queer celebrity for allegedly trying to steal the publishing rights to her work. The questions that still define her legacy are, was this an act of a vengeful artist pushed too far or the manifestation of the delusions of a paranoid schizophrenic? And was the SCUM Manifesto meant to be a misandric sermon or a dark satire of Freudian chauvinism in reverse?
We may never know the answers to these questions for sure but to both, I say why not all of the above? Solonas was a feminist provocateur in an age when women were rendered completely mute by society. I believe her goal was to make enough noise with both her writing and her actions to end the silence, to obliterate the sexist myth of a weaker sex by any means necessary. It’s a shame that she felt that she needed to obliterate another brilliant Queer artist to achieve this goal but it’s hard to deny that she succeeded. Perhaps she was just trying to speak to America in the only language it seems to understand. Either way, I feel that she has more than earned our undivided attention.
Michel Foucault– Traditionally, the intellectual class has done very little for Queer folk other than to label and categorize us away into easily tokenized objects, but Michel Foucault was the consummate anti-intellectual, raging virulently against all absolutes and systems of intellectual power. And this, more than any sexual preference, is what made him our intellectual. Foucault’s work as an activist professor and groundbreaking philosophical provocateur laid the foundation for generations of radical Queers to liberate themselves from the rigid sexual identities and gender essentialism that the good professor boldly rejected as tools of coercive power structures. Foucault set us free by erasing the barriers of his peers and telling his students to make up their own damn rules. The AIDS virus stole him from us too soon and cretins within the intellectual elite continue to sully his name with baseless slander but Michel’s true legacy lives on in every teenage rebel who builds a new gender identity on Dischord over the weekend just to dismantle it on Monday for the lulz.
Sylvia Rivera & Marsha P. Johnson– Without these two fearless genderqueer sex workers of color there would likely be no Pride to pinkwash. After breaking their heels off in the ass of the fascist pig state at Stonewall, these two transgender warriors took the raw rage of that spontaneous uprising and used it to sculpt a movement. Sylvia and Marsha founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries to provide Queer street kids with the same kind of solidarity and protection that the Black Panthers brought to the projects and they often sold their own bodies to do it. STAR also collaborated closely with other outlaw organizations like the Panthers and the Young Lords because Sylvia and Marsha were true fucking soul sisters of the greater revolution that defined Queer Liberation, turning tricks and raising fists not just for Christopher Street and the Peirs but for Algiers, Harlem and Saigon. They were the original power bottoms of bottom unity and we still have so much to learn from their legacy.