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"the importance of imagining an alternative to the current order is not to lay down a precise programme for the future, but rather to provide a point of alterity or exteriority as a way of interrogating the limits of this order. Moreover, we should think of utopia in terms of action in the immediate sense, of creating alternatives within the present, at localised points…. Utopia is something that emerges in political struggles themselves." -Saul Newman

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since 2-25-11

 

Homodachi and Friends Issue #1: Visibility / Invisibility!

homodachizine:

image

Hello folks!

We are proud to present the first issue of Homodachi and Friends!  This issue looks at the intersections of queerness and concepts of visibility/invisibility.  How does our understanding of queerness change in Japan?  What is the role of visibility, and how does it compare and contrast to our home countries?  What are moments where we need to be hyper-aware of our queerness, in what moments does the invisibility of our queerness surprise us? Our contributors range widely in their writing styles and experiences, so there is sure to be something for everyone!  :)

Click on the image above or click this link to read the first issue for free online!  The file is large so please be patient while it loads!  Print versions will be available in mid-August.  If you would like a print copy, please contact us directly!

If you like the project, please consider sharing it with your friends, liking the facebook page, and following our twitter!  You can also contact us at:

homodachizine (at) gmail.com


Without further adieu, please enjoy!

-H&F

note-a-bear:

odinsblog:

acceber74:

hall70:

blairwald0rk:

andrewjg47:

wabisabiforrobots:

If I’m shopping at Target and I see this, I’m calling the cops.  
Seriously.  I don’t care about your fucking rights, I just want to buy some dad jeans and maybe a tub of frosted animal crackers without having to worry about your casually slung assault rifle going off and the bullet ricocheting off the price checker and right into my ass.  Thanks but no thanks.  

This can not be real

but think about it if it was armed black people or hispanic people. They would be considered “thugs” and “criminals”. If it was a group of people from the middle east they would be terrorists, But because it’s like 800 different shades of mayo they’re using their 2nd amendment rights…smdh. 

rest assured that this rule is not for black people. they would freak out for sure if a black person came into the store carrying…let alone three or four

That’s because white people are automatically deemed “responsible” by default… even when they’re the majority of mass shooters in the US.

100% verified


^^^^^^^ I was waiting for that

note-a-bear:

odinsblog:

acceber74:

hall70:

blairwald0rk:

andrewjg47:

wabisabiforrobots:

If I’m shopping at Target and I see this, I’m calling the cops.  

Seriously.  I don’t care about your fucking rights, I just want to buy some dad jeans and maybe a tub of frosted animal crackers without having to worry about your casually slung assault rifle going off and the bullet ricocheting off the price checker and right into my ass.  Thanks but no thanks.  

This can not be real

but think about it if it was armed black people or hispanic people. They would be considered “thugs” and “criminals”. If it was a group of people from the middle east they would be terrorists, But because it’s like 800 different shades of mayo they’re using their 2nd amendment rights…smdh. 

rest assured that this rule is not for black people. they would freak out for sure if a black person came into the store carrying…let alone three or four

That’s because white people are automatically deemed “responsible” by default… even when they’re the majority of mass shooters in the US.

100% verified

image

^^^^^^^ I was waiting for that

(Source: Mother Jones)

homodachizine:

Homodachi and Friends Call For Submissions #1!!!!  Visibility / Invisibility!!!
Welcome to the first issue of Homodachi and Friends. We are dedicated to archiving the diverse voices of the queer and trans community living in Japan. We believe that in telling our stories, we not only empower ourselves, but we also begin to carve space for others to claim their own experiences and identities as well. It is with this hope that we write this call for submissions for the project.In line with our mission statement for the project, the first theme of the first issue will be related to (In)Visibility(s). *Potential ideas include, but are not limited to:* How has the visibility of queerness in your home country compared and contrasted with the visibility of queerness in your area of residence in Japan? How has invisibility also compared and contrasted?What does (in)visibility mean for the queer/trans community? How are these meanings guided by cultural and other discursive forces?In the West, there is a high value assigned to being “out” and “proud,” and often times this can be an entry point in to the community and its politics. How has this conditioned your queerness/transness? How is this in conversation with a Japanese sensibility of tatemae (public, outer face for work / certain spaces) and honne (the true self, the inwards facing self.)?How have you gauged when to be visible and when to be invisible? When was a moment when you felt conflicted about this decision?We as queer/trans folks are never 100% “out.” Coming out is never a complete process, we are always meeting new people and having to come out over and over again. How have you understood this process? How has this process shaped your experiences in your home country and abroad/in Japan?How is visibility and invisibility guided by language? In other words, a lot of our identities are produced when we articulate them, when we speak them. How have language barriers produced visibility / invisibility? What is your relationship to language acquisition / ability and your identity as a queer/trans person in Japan?In Japan, the transgender narrative/body is hypervisible, while the LGB body is comparatively invisible. How has this scripting of queer/trans bodies affected your experiences here in Japan? How has this scripting created communicative moments or moments of intense misunderstanding?_______________________________________ As mentioned above, please do not feel that submissions need to be restricted to or specifically answer these questions. Homodachi is interested in hearing as many different voices as possible, in whatever form or on whatever topic they choose to speak. If in the process of writing your piece unfolds into something else and deviates from the questions above, we’d still love to take a look. If you have an older piece which you think might be relevant to this issue (or not, hey, we’ll read it anyway) please feel free to submit it, too. Prose, memoir, journal entries, meditations, theorizations, poems, rants, letters, and any other genres are more than welcome!Homodachi has a commitment to local artists, poets, and musicians—we would love to have your work in the next issue. If your work is multimedia, we can publish the material here on this blog and on our facebook for our readers!***Please aim to have finalized submissions emailed to us by June 21st, 2014 at HomodachiZine@gmail.com***Included in your submission, please include the name that you would like to be printed under, contact information (email, blog, website, etc.) for our readers, and any other information that you would like to be printed alongside your submission. Also, please include a current mailing address so that the editors can send you a complimentary copy of the first issue as a thanks for helping out with the project :]! Also, the Homodachi editors will need help with layouts and collages, if you would like to participate in a zine-making / background-making session, please email or message the editors.The best way to stay up to date with the project is to “like” the facebook page and to (continue) following the tumblr blog.We greatly appreciate all of the time and effort of the contributors, fellow zinesters, friends, and supporters of the project.We greatly anticipate your work, comments, suggestions, and love. In solidarity:Homodachi Editorial Team
https://www.facebook.com/events/1425198971075417/

homodachizine:

Homodachi and Friends Call For Submissions #1!!!!  Visibility / Invisibility!!!

Welcome to the first issue of Homodachi and Friends. We are dedicated to archiving the diverse voices of the queer and trans community living in Japan. We believe that in telling our stories, we not only empower ourselves, but we also begin to carve space for others to claim their own experiences and identities as well. It is with this hope that we write this call for submissions for the project.

In line with our mission statement for the project, the first theme of the first issue will be related to (In)Visibility(s)

*Potential ideas include, but are not limited to:*
 

How has the visibility of queerness in your home country compared and contrasted with the visibility of queerness in your area of residence in Japan? How has invisibility also compared and contrasted?

What does (in)visibility mean for the queer/trans community? How are these meanings guided by cultural and other discursive forces?

In the West, there is a high value assigned to being “out” and “proud,” and often times this can be an entry point in to the community and its politics. How has this conditioned your queerness/transness? How is this in conversation with a Japanese sensibility of tatemae (public, outer face for work / certain spaces) and honne (the true self, the inwards facing self.)?

How have you gauged when to be visible and when to be invisible? When was a moment when you felt conflicted about this decision?

We as queer/trans folks are never 100% “out.” Coming out is never a complete process, we are always meeting new people and having to come out over and over again. How have you understood this process? How has this process shaped your experiences in your home country and abroad/in Japan?

How is visibility and invisibility guided by language? In other words, a lot of our identities are produced when we articulate them, when we speak them. How have language barriers produced visibility / invisibility? What is your relationship to language acquisition / ability and your identity as a queer/trans person in Japan?

In Japan, the transgender narrative/body is hypervisible, while the LGB body is comparatively invisible. How has this scripting of queer/trans bodies affected your experiences here in Japan? How has this scripting created communicative moments or moments of intense misunderstanding?
_______________________________________ 

As mentioned above, please do not feel that submissions need to be restricted to or specifically answer these questions. Homodachi is interested in hearing as many different voices as possible, in whatever form or on whatever topic they choose to speak. If in the process of writing your piece unfolds into something else and deviates from the questions above, we’d still love to take a look. If you have an older piece which you think might be relevant to this issue (or not, hey, we’ll read it anyway) please feel free to submit it, too. Prose, memoir, journal entries, meditations, theorizations, poems, rants, letters, and any other genres are more than welcome!

Homodachi has a commitment to local artists, poets, and musicians—we would love to have your work in the next issue. If your work is multimedia, we can publish the material here on this blog and on our facebook for our readers!

***Please aim to have finalized submissions emailed to us by June 21st, 2014 at HomodachiZine@gmail.com***

Included in your submission, please include the name that you would like to be printed under, contact information (email, blog, website, etc.) for our readers, and any other information that you would like to be printed alongside your submission. Also, please include a current mailing address so that the editors can send you a complimentary copy of the first issue as a thanks for helping out with the project :]! 

Also, the Homodachi editors will need help with layouts and collages, if you would like to participate in a zine-making / background-making session, please email or message the editors.

The best way to stay up to date with the project is to “like” the facebook page and to (continue) following the tumblr blog.

We greatly appreciate all of the time and effort of the contributors, fellow zinesters, friends, and supporters of the project.

We greatly anticipate your work, comments, suggestions, and love. 

In solidarity:
Homodachi Editorial Team

https://www.facebook.com/events/1425198971075417/

vikingpussy:

Slurs are not just “bad words”. They’re part of systemic dehumanization of entire groups of people who are and have historically been subjugated and hated just for being alive.

(Source: aceofcubs)

Here are white men poised to run big marijuana businesses, dreaming of cashing in big—big money, big businesses selling weed—after 40 years of impoverished black kids getting prison time for selling weed, and their families and futures destroyed. Now, white men are planning to get rich doing precisely the same thing? …

After waging a brutal war on poor communities of color, a drug war that has decimated families, spread despair and hopelessness through entire communities, and a war that has fanned the flames of the very violence it was supposedly intended to address and control; after pouring billions of dollars into prisons and allowing schools to fail; we’re gonna simply say, we’re done now? I think we have to be willing, as we’re talking about legalization, to also start talking about reparations for the war on drugs, how to repair the harm caused. …

At the end of apartheid in South Africa there was an understanding that there could be no healing, no progress, no reconciliation without truth. You can’t just destroy a people and then say ‘It’s over, we’re stopping now.’ You have to be willing to deal with the truth, deal with the history openly and honestly.

Michelle Alexander, associate professor of law at Ohio State University and author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness quoted from White Men Get Rich from Legal Pot, Black Men Stay in Prison. Alexander’s thesis is that the USA is addicted to caste systems, regardless of what is deemed legal or illegal. (via nezua)

phoenixx23:

thepoeticrebel:

dontbeabrat:

prettylxxxve:

lolitalovesshoes:

This is not life…

Wow wow wow

oh but nigga we ignorant tho

._.

1958 THESE ARE SOME OF YOUR GRANDPARENTS!!!! 
"slavery was hundreds of years ago. get over it" 
shut THE fuck up. 56 years ago black children were zoo attractions.
the same thing is happening in india as of LAST YEAR. Native Jarwawa peoples are tracked down like creatures on a safari and are forced to dance for food. x 
fuck you. fuck yourself. fuck your “reverse racism”.

phoenixx23:

thepoeticrebel:

dontbeabrat:

prettylxxxve:

lolitalovesshoes:

This is not life…

Wow wow wow

oh but nigga we ignorant tho

._.

1958 THESE ARE SOME OF YOUR GRANDPARENTS!!!! 

"slavery was hundreds of years ago. get over it" 

shut THE fuck up. 56 years ago black children were zoo attractions.

the same thing is happening in india as of LAST YEAR. Native Jarwawa peoples are tracked down like creatures on a safari and are forced to dance for food. x 

fuck you. fuck yourself. fuck your “reverse racism”.

(Source: gold-kushkloudz.tubmlr.com)

On White Privilege

1) having white privilege doesn’t make you a bad person.  Not admitting you have privilege and then not working to educate other white folks on that privilege means you are NOT standing in solidarity with people of color/anti-racist work.  Period.

2) if you’re white, you benefit from society.  You have the luxury to walk through this world without judgment BASED ON the color of your skin.  You don’t have to change your vernacular and your body language around the cops or around possible employers.  You see people with similar body types consistently in the media.  You are never asked to speak on behalf of your entire race on issues.

3) White people do not have perfect lives.  White people have hardships.  So do people of color.  But white peoples’ hardships are not created because of their race.  People of color have hardships BECAUSE of their race.

4) White people can always walk away from a conversation about race and racism.  People of color cannot, they are reminded of their skin color and their “difference” every day.

5) White people can never fully understand what it is like to walk through the world as a person of color.

6) It is not a person of color’s responsibility to teach white folks about anti-racism and anti-racist work.  Being an ally and standing in solidarity means doing a lot of the work yourself.  Demanding it from PoC and then rationalizing away your ignorance is not only selfish, it’s another symptom of your privilege (see number 4).

7) Again, having white privilege doesn’t make you a bad person.  Being aware of your privilege and reflecting on it makes you a more considerate, awesome person.

8) Histories of colonialism, slavery, and genocide are very much alive and well.  And being from Western countries, we are all complicit in its continuation.  Only by acknowledging our privileges (I certainly have privilege in many other areas which I constantly reflect on) can we start to break down the violently racist systems that create our current world.

9) White privilege and reflecting on that privilege is a lifelong task.  You can never fully develop a tool kit or a set or “rules” to be completely anti-racist.  But approaching the ideal is the goal.

10) You are an awesome person for reading through all of this.  Now start reading and learning!

-Queer Insurrection

wocinsolidarity:

And even a bonus slide for any remaining queries:

Race Peference

whitepeoplesaidwhat:

I never understood how someone would actually try to debate that having a race preference isn’t racist and that it’s somehow should be accepted. It makes no sense logically. Let’s take black people for example, One would say that they don’t like black people as romantic partners. That’s millions of people that you’ve written off from the get go. Why? The skin color? That doesn’t make sense. The black race has entire spectrum of skin colors and tones. Are all those different skin  tones unwanted because they belong to black people? What about other races with similar skin tones? Are they preferred because they are simply not black? Same with hair, culture, language. What about mixed people? Are they not preferred because they are part black or does the non-black part make them valid. It’s completely racist to judge and entire group of people as undesirable because they fall under an abstract grouping. It removes the idea of individuality and denies people humanity. And that’s without the context of certain races have been called ugly and undesirable by entire societies for the past millennium.

preach.  I’m especially side-eyein’ you cis normative gay men.  

powerxcunt:

vampirefinch:

Gonna reblog this every time it crosses my dash.

same

powerxcunt:

vampirefinch:

Gonna reblog this every time it crosses my dash.

same

(Source: totallynotablogger)

Things I think queer folks need to talk about more often:

lesbianspaceprincex:

provocatoria:

  • Intergenerational Relationships/Interactions: I’ve observed and experienced a lot of older queer folks attempting to fuck a younger member of the community under the guise of mentorship. It’s fucking abusive and disgusting, and I think we need to work, as a community, to hold those people accountable. 

  • The lack of healthy queer relationship resources. We have no examples of healthy queer relationships, and I think that a lot of queer couples regurgitate the heteropatriarchy because that’s what we’re fed - and it’s not us. I think trying to navigate the manifestations of heteropatriarchy in queer relationships is so daunting that we never have community conversations about it and  drag it into the light for everyone to confront - leaving queer survivors of intimate partner violence to go at it alone. For queer abusers, I think there’s a huge potential for re-education about healthy relationship ways and we should find some ways to do that. 

  • Intra-POC bullshit. The anti-blackness, the appropriation of black culture by non-black queers, the appropriation of various brown cultures by non-indentifed folks, light skinned folks not taking into account the fucking space we take up, the invalidation of immigrant queers. It’s the small end of the wedge that is just going to grow unless we sit down and address this shit together. I want to say “people of color” and not have any shitty feelings about how that term doesn’t even remotely approach the divisions between our separate communities. 

  • Masculine-of-center queers who are held up as the face of the queer community. /gag. WHY IS FEMME PRESENTATION ONLY REVOLUTIONARY WHEN MASC FOLKS DECIDE THEY WANT TO PUT ON LIPSTICK AND SOME GLITTER FOR THE NIGHT AND LIKE A TUTU OR SOME SHIT. TELL ME WHY. I do this shit every day, but it’s considered decidedly not-queer because I’m femme presenting most days. Unless I’m with a masc person, my femme presentation renders me invisible in queer community. Arm candy for queer masc person = visibility. My queerness is contingent upon masc folks I surround myself with and THIS IS LITERALLY NEVER OKAY

all of this!!!

A Step By Step Guide through Jared Leto’s Trans Ignorance.

transhollywood:

Jared Leto has been winning multiple awards for playing the transgender character of Rayon in the film “Dallas Buyers Club.” The transgender community has then watched him throw them under the bus.

1. LETO"It was the role of a lifetime," he said. "It was an incredible thing to represent this group of people who largely are ignored." 

Ignored. Leto ignored criticism from the trans community and allies who don’t want him representing this group of people in the way he has been. "wouldn’t it have been better if the starring role had gone to an actual trans person" - La Times.  Despite complaints and Leto having one of the most powerful publicists in Hollywood, Leto claimed in December that he had never heard criticisms that trans roles should go to trans actors. When asked what research he did for the role he said “a lot” but he did not formally engage, pay, or study under any trans people.

Transgender roles should go to transgender actors and if that is not possible (for whatever reason) productions should hire transgender consultants to “get it right” instead of perpetuating negative stereotypes. 

Jared ignores this: 

2. LETO"you wouldn’t want to stick a transgender person with only transgender roles, so it goes both ways." 

Transgender people DO NOT GET cisgender roles. It does not go both ways due to systemic oppression. Cisgender people take transgender roles then do what Leto is doing instead of the advocating and “possibility modeling” of Laverne Cox in “Orange is the New Black.” She represents trans people beyond the screen role in the media in positive ways never experienced before. This creates “teachable moments” as Katie Couric put it after her problematic questioning.  When a cis person takes a trans role, trans stories are exploitation, not representation. 

Meanwhile, Trans Hollywood’s experience is that trans people are often told they do not have enough experience for key roles. It’s a systemic problem, cis people take trans roles, trans actors are left with nothing. 

3.  "I thought I’d look pretty good in a skirt." 

No Jared, the character of Rayon is fictional in this film “based on a true story.” She was ahistorically written in order to be the “most gay” and visually problematic for Matthew McConaughey’s character Ron Woodroof. You removed your eyebrows (?) and played her with intense makeup, hair, and clothing to make Ron uncomfortable and a very unlikely ally.

image

You weren’t there to look good, you were there to look bad. You are perpetuating the “man in a dress” stereotype of transgender women. 

image

What if the role had gone to these transgender women?  Would the theater laughed as hard at Ron ripping down Rayon’s photo while masturbating? How would the supermarket scene have played out if Ron was just seen walking around with a beautiful woman vs. a straight cis male playing….what…..

4.LETO: ”This wonderful creature who was unfortunately addicted to drugs and dying of AIDS and fighting for her life.” and “beautiful creature….”

While you’ve made it clear in interviews that Rayon was living life as a woman and wanted trans related medial care but you don’t talk about playing a woman or trans woman. You talk about playing a “creature.” USE THE WORDS “TRANSGENDER WOMAN.” Again, how do you feel you are representing “this group of people” if you never use the terminology? If you call one of us a creature. We don’t want you up there Jared if you are just going to be a bro about it. 

5. LETO: ”It’s wild, even putting on lipstick is a very shocking thing, [and] putting on heels is a very shocking thing, putting on tights is a shocking thing” “. One of the things I did was wax my entire body including my eyebrows,’ 'I'm just fortunate that it wasn't a period piece so I didn't have to do a full Brazilian [wax].  'Ladies, you know what I'm talking about though…and so do some of you men, I think.'

All superficial gendering. People are not giving the award to rockstar Jared Leto who talks about how weird it is to do things femme cis women and femme trans women do every day. They gave it to what seemed like a serious actor in a demanding role. Jared did not use the role as a learning moment to be forever changed by trans struggle. Instead he jokes about it like a cis man does, it’s trans misogyny. When asked about leaving the role behind….

6. LETO “I tucked those balls firmly away… I’m still coughing them out.”

Come on, is he our drunk uncle making fun of us? And on criticism for his Golden Globe’s speech…

7. LETO “obviously I didn’t prepare a speech.” 

But he did! He gave nearly the identical speech at the Hollywood Film Awards. 

Hollywood Film Awards Speech: 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvrdfggN8RY&noredirect=1

Golden Globes Speech: 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FymvWjHYMN8

This led to proper criticism over the transphobia and exploitation: 

Jared Leto and Michael Douglas’ Homophobic Acceptance Speeches

The Golden Globes gave Jared Leto an award for playing a trans woman because Hollywood is terrible. 

C’mon Hollywood

So is anything changing? YES!. Leto’s SAG AWARD Speech dispensed with the cheap jokes and had some class, dedicating the award to the groups he borrowed emotional equity from instead of being about himself, his waxing, and his return to film after six years, and the great parties: 

8. LETO: " I’d like to share it with the Rayons of the world. To the people who have made a choice to live their lives … as they have chosen to dream it. I’m so proud that i’ve been able to glimpse the world through your eyes." 

There is learning happening but it seems more as a response to backlash than actual learning or community. What is next? We do not identify as “Rayons.” Say the word “TRANSGENDER.” We appreciate the attempt at recognizing a marginalized group but Leto is avoiding our self identity, making up his own point of view on what we are and should be called. We are organizing so this learning curve never happens again. We need trans actors in trans roles for visibility, representation, and positive models instead of wanting to vomit listening to a cis man make fun of us. We don’t want to be writing Tumblr posts and articles defending ourself from a person who thinks they are representing us. While in this period of civil rights, we want to see ourselves truly represented and moving forward.

returnthegayze:

We Are Nothing (And That is Beautiful) 
Full Text by Alok Vaid-Menon

I’d like to begin with a poem

remember the first day of freshman year of college when we were nothing but a name and a dot on the map at the front of the hall?

remember when we did not cry when our parents left us in those rooms too cramped for all of our expectations (and, perhaps, naïveté)?

remember the first time we met and you told me that you were still open, but you were pretty sure
you’d declare a major in philosophy or english because
you wept the first time you read the perks of being a wallflower
and we shared a sacred and unquenchable lust for bad science fiction

remember how hopeful we were –
that this school would
allow us to “find ourselves,” 
“change the world,”
and other slogans we
recited from all the view books
the ones we stitched to our throats 
when they asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up

so when you changed your major to econ,
so when you pledged that fraternity,
so when you replaced t-shirt with j-crew, 
so when you accepted that ‘prestigious’ position at an investment bank 
and expected me to be proud of you because you were going to ‘dismantle the system from within’
because you were different from ‘them’

i couldn’t help but wonder at what point
we become the tucked in shirt, the
wallet in pocket, the 9-5
we grew up fearing

you: whose love of learning stuck longer than the stickers your teachers adorned your homework with
you: who couldn’t fall asleep after reading marx in debate camp because things finally made sense again
you: who came to this university with a spirit unable to be disciplined 

what happened to you?

you who sacrificed dream for diploma,
revolution for resume,
in that factory that produces profit out of potential prophet
where change falls from hearts into pockets
won’t teach you how to stop it
'cuz gotta make that endowment rocket!

‘liberal arts college degree’ becomes a fancy way of saying
‘can spend 8 hours designing power point slides’  
OR
‘can forget all promises for promotion’
OR
'can quote classic literature at business dinners to seduce the clients'

so what if this education was really about making you so ignorant that you forgot how to think for yourself? 

so what if the best way to dominate a world is to pretend that you are saving it? 

you, the twenty something year old
idealist gone corporate in your 
first suit throwing theory at a Wall that will swallow you up and spit you back on the Street discharged like the cold hard cash
of an ATM machine your heart beat reduced
to a series of transactions
when you hugged me goodbye i almost expected you to ask me for a receipt:
proof of purchase for a friendship you
consumed when it made cents for your
career trajectory.

I’m sorry i did not make
the cut for the walking resume
you mistake as a body

But
I want to believe you because I want to believe in the power of a creativity undisciplined: that time we read our first book, saw our first eclipse, saw her smile. The joy and chaos of it all.

So what if it’s just chaos? 
That space and time before friendship got postponed by deadlines
future segregated into interviews and internships

So what if we are really insignificant like the dot on the map from freshman year?
Why does it matter?  What if we are nothing? What if that is beautiful? 
What if we cried when our parents left us but didn’t tell each other? 
What if I am crying because you are leaving me but will not tell you because I do not have the market value to make you listen
that I think you are worth more than any salary increase they will give you, that your mind cannot be transcribed on a spreadsheet of numbers, that I am waiting here for you, broke, but not broken,
remembering what you could have done
before you
sold out.

Thank you.

In the spirit of full disclosure I am here to recruit you. This is not a recruitment interview like the ones your career centers have prepared you for. This is not about your resume and job skills. I do not care where you went to school nor what you majored in. These things are no longer relevant in a world where we are losing some of our most creative minds to the epidemic of success.

This is not the crisis they tell you about on the news: that the economy is tanking, the world is at war. This is something different. This is a crisis of success. Too many things are working too well. The government isn’t broken; it is thriving. The universities are not broken; they are perfect. Our generation is not apathetic; it is flourishing.

This means that you are not actually a leader, an innovator, an exceptional student, and all of the other medals they have placed around your neck. These are merely accomplishments that you have been taught define your worth. Should you desire to be successful you will not actually bring human rights for all, eliminate poverty, end nuclear war, or fix Congress. If you go in with this mindset chances are you will be defeated like all the generations before us.

The key to changing the world is to fail to live up to its expectations.

My name is Alok Vaid-Menon and you could call me a fashionista, activist, or provocateur but I’d prefer to call myself a professional failure: someone who (at least my mother reminds me) was set for all the riches of the world but somehow took a detour on the way. You see, I grew up in a comfortable middle class Indian family where the expectation was that I’d always be some fancy schmancy academic. Both of my parents were PhD’s so from a young age the bar was set high: I remember getting chastised for talking on the phone rather than reading the New York Times. I had to learn how to argue for the legitimacy of everything. The key was finding a scholar who had written about something and then it became magically legitimate: this is how I discovered Critical Youtube Studies (it’s real).

It’s not that my parents pressured me to do well in school; it was more of a quiet expectation. This was part of our immigration story: to move to this country and not challenge its rules, but do better than everyone else. Which goes to say that from an early age success seemed like the only way to justify my parents’ journey across the ocean. When I got into Stanford my parents didn’t really congratulate me, it was something more, well…expected.

But when I got to school I started to see how violent success could actually be.

At my opening convocation – before we had actually done anything — I was told that I was surrounded by the future leaders of the world. Yet what I soon realized is that the way we were defining success was less about our impact and actually more about prestige

In the beginning everyone seemed to have some brilliant idea of what it was going to take to change the world. But then at some point the methods became… shall we say…less specific. We were expected to congratulate the class leader– a self proclaimed ‘public servant’ – even though he accepted a job offer at a corporation that left hundreds of thousands of people starving. We were expected to applaud for a successful keynote speaker and not mention his vocal support for racist policies. Low and behold my classmates continued to flock to all of the talks by these ‘success stories’ not because of what they’d actually done, but because of this elusive concept of who they were.

Success has never really been about fixing problems; it’s been about perpetuating them. The pomp and circumstance around success masks over the incredible violence it takes to accomplish. Think about it: What happened to the thousands of students who were denied admission to your university? What happened to the hundreds of applicants who didn’t get the job you got? Who is made to suffer so that you can thrive? Do you even care?

Success is about self-promotion, not putting change into motion.

We are part of a generation whose elders expect us to fix the problems we inherited. But the irony is that we are bound to fail just like them because we are using the same tactics.

Success just isn’t going to cut it anymore.

Ask yourself this:

If all the best universities really produced the most successful leaders then why do we still have so much corruption? 

If all the success stories throughout time were really successful then why do we still find ourselves living in a violently unequal world? 

I think it’s time we broke up with success, at least as it’s currently been defined.

I know you’re skeptical. This contradicts well everything we’ve been taught about how the world works. Success feels good and I am asking you to feel bad about it.  I get in: I sound totally ridiculous. It’s like what would it have felt like in second grade to write your first love poem and have your teach respond “you failed!” Hear me out. 

I didn’t always think this way. It took me failing — and recognizing how beautiful that was — to understand.

In 2011 I had the opportunity to work with transgender movement in South Africa. I was there to study the discrepancy between progressive legislation and the tremendous experience of violence. Naturally – as a type A model minority — things went according to plan. I got the most generous research grants, obtained cutting edge interviews and I genuinely felt that I had identified what could be fixed.

I returned to the US to start writing my thesis. In the process I got an email that one of the women I worked with in the office with had passed way. I had just listened to her interview the day before. Her name was Cym.

What is the point of a thesis written in a language inaccessible by the very people it is about? What is the point of a researcher who knows the name of theorists but not the names of her own neighbors? Who is invited to present a paper on a movement and who must die for it?

I never spent the time getting to know Cym because I was so fixated on being the perfect academic. I was so concerned with success that I glossed over the places where real transformative work could have occurred: the work of building trust, solidarity, empathy. The hard and invisible parts. I shared the same office with her for two months and I couldn’t tell you her favorite color, where she lived, and what made her weep for joy. The only parts of her that mattered were the parts that fit into my own analysis. 

Success can be a violent and manipulative process. The thesis committee didn’t care about my ability to contribute to the movement, my ability to make the knowledge relevant and accessible by local organizers. The publishing of my thesis would do nothing to end violence in South Africa – if anything it would continue it so that future foreign researchers could come and study it for their own job promotion. Let’s call that a success story.

So I changed my topic. I deleted Cym’s interview. And I started thinking. Even though I failed at being an academic, I succeeded at becoming a better human being. Failure is, in its own way, another type of success.

The system isn’t broken.

Every problem in the world can actually be reconsidered as the successful implementation of an idea: the persistence of segregated schools is the accomplishment of institutionalized racism, the crisis of student debt reveals the success of the logic that we should pay for our education rather than be entitled to it, the persistence of violence against LGBT people reveals the clout of a currency of intolerance. These issues are not problems. They are victories; they are success stories.

The system isn’t broken. It’s working. It is working so well that it teaches us that it broken in order to keep us continually trying to improve it rather than building alternatives.

To be successful is actually to maintain the status quo. Few of us have thought about who determines the standards of success let alone challenged them. Because we have allowed the crisis of success to go unregulated, we find ourselves in a peculiar state of contradiction: celebrating so many success stories while by and large – the world is actually getting more unhealthy, unequal, and unbearable for the majority of people.

Those of us interested in solving these problems can no longer defer to the typical success sorry. We have to create new models of success: models that are not as superficial and selfish. Our models might be thought of as failures, and to some degree they are right. We are failing to accept a world of injustice. We are failing to buy into the myth of progress. We are failing to leave one another behind.

So I encourage you to fail more.

Consider how your passion has been stolen from you and manipulated into a career trajectory oriented toward status and not substance. Think about whose standards define success and what this success will actually and realistically accomplish for people beyond yourself.

And what I hope you will find by failing is that a whole new world of possibilities opens up for you: like the time I failed and remembered how to love strangers. There are possibilities for transformation hidden by our drive to succeed. This is actually the most important work: work like building relationships with your neighbors, crying together, making art and movements, healing, and all of the million skills that will never fit on your resume. These can become your new standards of success. Think about the parts of the day you do not tell people about, the gray areas that do not make it into your conversations and job interviews. These parts are the most exciting and transformative. Major in that feeling.

Personally I am trying my best to reconsider the parts of my life I used to think were insignificant and find beauty in them in. The most important work I do now is entering data in spreadsheets, ordering food for political organizing meetings, listening to people share their stories, and calling my mom every night to explain my politics. These things are not going directly change legislation, they will not give me an award or a degree, but I hope they are doing the slow work of tearing the fabric of our culture.

And this, I think, is what is going to change the world. It’s not going to happen tomorrow or the next day it’s going to happen when we stop aspiring to be successful and reaching to the top, but rather reaching our arms out and clinging onto one another desperately and ferociously. Remembering an interconnectivity that our schools, our careers, our own insecurities are trying to eradicate. Remembering that we are nothing and how beautiful that is because they won’t be able to anticipate what is coming.

I’d like to close with a poem to honor Cym and all of the other casualties of our success stories.

my summer in cape town: or, i’m sorry for using you

They will ask you
Whether your project can inflict ‘harm’
And you will respond: “minor discomfort” to expedite the review process 

Her name is Cym,
And the arc of her smile mirrors her painted eyebrows,

On Mondays she asks you what you did over the weekend.
You do not tell her. 

You are guilty of the conversion rate, how you can afford a club, a skin, a language that she never will.
She wants to know what it feels like to live in America
If you have a handsome boyfriend there who will buy you dinner sometimes

In your field research class they will teach you about the importance of obtaining consent.

Cym cannot sign your forms
So she communicates with the earnesty of hazel eyes
Smiles, tells you how she used to let heroine and men
Inside of her and sometimes couldn’t tell the difference,
Laughs
Tells you how the cops would beat her in men’s prisons

In the international research workshop they will tell you not to get involved in your subjects’ personal life.

Your palms are sweaty, do not let them smear the ink.
Keep writing as she laughs and encourages you to ask more questions

An aneurysm is a blood-filled bulge in the wall of a blood vessel. When the size of an aneurysm increases, there is a significant risk of rupture, often resulting in death.

A researcher is an ambitious distraction at the back of the room. When the amount of information increases, there is a significant risk of an epiphany, often resulting in a published paper. 

She will die nine months after your interview. 
You can still remember the scent her smile 

One.
Dear Cym: In America I am learning how to think that I am better than you.
In fact, I am majoring in you. Don’t worry, they don’t use your name, keep it confidential

Two.
I am turning your body into a new theory
Academics work like Johns sometimes
Don’t worry they will pay me to use you,
I will cut you some of the profit in my acknowledgements.

Three.
My thesis will be in English,
In the accent you heard on re-runs of friends, Cym I’m sorry we weren’t friends, but I wanted to keep it professional
I promise I will print it on the whitest paper I can find,
So they can see the black in your words

Four.
I will bury you in a library,
I hope you will find home there
In this haunted house of quotations
Hanging on the shelves like skeletons

Listen to the recorded transcript on repeat,
Feel her laughter crawl into you,
Watch it spark the timber wood of your bones,
And burn your paper in the flames

And cry because we refuse to let people inside of us in fear of imploding
And cry because you have the story of a woman nested in the back of your throat and you do not deserve it.

Dear Cym

What I really meant to ask is:
What theory did you use to stay warm at night? 
Is, Can you teach me?