As soon as “Experiments in the Species Self”, the opening night ceremony for the 2012 Allied Media Conference, was over, Adrienne rushed up to me to ask me if I could post the text of my talk online. The 2012 Allied Media Conference was the most amazing conference I’ve ever been to, and I go to a lot of events. It’s perfect that the poem I read was about finding each other, finding the ones who you love and who love you, the ones who will sow insurrection with you and finding home, and at the AMC I felt like I found all of those things. I have never been so welcomed, had my work so appreciated and been so intimately transformed by the connections I made at an event like this. I left the AMC completely on fire, inspired for years to come, and I am so, so grateful to the organizers and to the whole community. In particular, I’m especially grateful to Althea Baird, Mariana Castaneda & Indee Mitchell for performing with me! Also to Jenny Lee who encouraged me to include everything in my performance, the poem, the talk and the movement. I have so many plans for next year and even hope to get back to Detroit sooner than next year to keep working on Autonets with the queer youth of color groups there. If you missed AMC this year or have never been, you absolutely have to plan now to be there next year, because it will change you in such beautiful and amazing ways. I want so much to keep in touch with the AMC community and to give back so much of the love I received that I’m going to post the text of my performance here. After Adrienne, more people asked me throughout the weekend, including dream hampton, to post the text of my talk online, so here it is. Please share and enjoy.
You can watch the video of this performance here, skip to 1:35 if you want to see my part, but watch the whole thing, it was all so, so amazing and inspiring. When the first speaker went up I had to try so hard not to cry and make my mascara run everywhere before I went onstage.
[32' 53 6.4608 // -117 14 20.4282]
Working on the Transborder Immigrant Tool was a given for me.
After years of creating electronic disturbance online,
Ricardo and Brett came to me with a plan
to create border disturbance, at the intersection of
recycled electronics and networked gps satellites
To use cell phones to direct people attempting to survive the desert of
the Mexico/US border to water.
My father fled the violence of the drug war in colombia, and ended up in miami,
kendall drive and 152nd avenue.
My birth was a result of the neo-colonial policies sending weapons and
neoliberalism to colombia,
and a result of the endless hunger of the US for illegal drugs,
the same drug war causing massive non-violent uprisings across Mexico
Six years ago,
3,000 miles away from miami’s anti-castro anti-gay anti-communism
away from my parents’ catholicism, both irish and colombian.
I finally found a queer community and an activist life that
supported me in being the trans girl I’ve wanted to be for so long,
after leaving another activist community that couldn’t handle my transition
and wanted me to go to the men’s group.
thanks to the femme wisdom of my lovers and friends,
thanks to the femme science we are developing,
thanks to spironolactone,
I started passing as female, passing enough to get harassed on the street.
[32' 50 26.4402 // -117 15 31.6542]
Walking around as a femme in most places,
feels like walking around being hunted.
I am conscious everyday that I live in a country, the US,
that silences victims of sexual violence and often provides more
safety for rapists than for their survivors,
every night as we walk home from wherever we can find parking,
often in dark alleys or poorly lit streets,
since we can’t afford housing that includes parking.
Fearing for our physical safety,
constantly avoiding the men who stare at us, leering,
is perhaps a nanoscale molecule of the feeling of being hunted by the
Border Patrol that migrant people feel when they cross borders.
Hungry eyes like hollow circles of night vision goggles.
The year that I finally felt that people saw me as a woman,
was also the year I joined so many women I’ve been close to
who were survivors of sexual violence of some kind.
In January, I learned I was a survivor of sexual violence I could not remember,
committed by a family member, incest.
First came the numbness, then came the paralyzing fear of telling anyone,
the fear of being wrapped up and written off in a narrative of pathology.
I was reminded of the words of Professor K Wayne Yang to his students:
You may not choose to be in this war, but you were born into it.
Perhaps, again like how people born in the global south feel,
in countries like Colombia and Mexico, terrorized by war and poverty,
do they feel that they were born into it,
that through no fault of their own they are survivors of violence, like me?
Violence of colonial steel walls, corrugated and mesh,
akin to the force of sexual and gender violence,
We are constantly navigating the violence of borders of all kinds,
skittering across earth pinging satellites that never correctly know our exact locations,
for they never know how many kinds of thirst we feel.
[ 34.088705, -118.281894 ]
Now this fierce mixed race transgender incest survivor queer femme pornoterrorista
is even more unraveled, bare,
even more pissed, behind her eyeliner, in her too red lipstick,
leather V heels and
her black miniskirt dress,
even more ready to burn and
create and dream new worlds into existence,
where the logic of western reason isn’t used to uphold some false
image of nations and laws that
mask the absolute violence faced by so many who step outside of the borders,
or who are born outside of them, or who choose to cross them.
and I am here to fight and fuck and give birth
to border disturbances,
to queer and mayan technologies that can reveal national borders for
the fictions they are,
to technologies of survival and femme disturbance.
I am the intersection, of too many coordinate systems to name.
We are the intersections, and we exceed the borders placed upon us.
I’m so honored to be here tonight and to be here at the AMC for the first time meeting so many of my inspirations in person.
My question for you tonight is: as we’re creating the future of technology, thinking about transhumanism, posthumanism or augmented bodies, why are we presented with images like contact lenses with computer displays in them, and not wheelchairs, lipstick and prescribed hormones? Why is one the image of the future, and the other the image of marginalization?
My current project, Local Autonomy Networks (Autonets) is inspired by a drive to create networks of communication to increase community autonomy and reduce violence against women, LGBTQI people, people of color and all people who continue to survive violence on a daily basis. The networks will be both online and offline, including handmade wearable electronic fashion and face to face agreements between people. The networks will be established through a series of performances and workshops, such as our Science of the Oppressed session on sunday. This project came out of my experience working on the Transborder Immigrant Tool and time spent in Colombia learning first hand of the continued disappearances of people across Latin America.
Autonets includes a line of mesh networked electronic clothing with the goal of building autonomous local networks that don’t rely on corporate infrastructure to function, inspired by community based, anti-racist, prison abolitionist responses to gendered violence. The Autonets garments, when activated, will alert everyone in range of the local mesh network who is wearing another autonet garment that someone needs help and will indicate that person’s direction and distance.
Wearable electronics are a new form of electronics that are enabled by threads and fabrics which have conductive material woven into them. The approach I am starting with uses the Lilypad Arduino and Xbee wireless transmitters, led lights and EL Wire.
For example, a group of sex workers collectively organize to protect each other from violence. A group of bicyclists want to flock together for a group ride. A group of women, transgender and cisgender, agree to let each other know when they are walking home and when they’ve arrived home safely. All of these communities can benefit from Autonets, remapping urban environments.
Governments have demonstrated from Egypt to San Francisco that they’re willing to shut down cell phone networks to prevent protest. We cannot rely on corporations to provide us our means of communication any longer. Autonets considers the potential uses of wearable electronics to create networks of communication based on mesh networking that do not rely on the internet to function. In economic and ecological crises, large scale communications networks often fail and locally based, mesh networked solutions become life saving technologies. Mesh networking is bottom up instead of top down, not depending on telephone company infrastructure, each garment in the network relays messages to other surrounding garments.
The point is to change the story about these forms of violence so that they are no longer seen as an individual problem to be solved on an individual basis, but as social problems to be dealt with collectively, to think about these problems, as Thenmohzi said, through the species self.
As our bodies continue to be transformed by technology, my work urges us to consider the social marginalization of people based on the categorization of their bodies in order to not replicate these patterns, but to imagine new possibilities for human freedom and autonomy enabled by body extension technologies. If we want to learn about going beyond the body, we should ask transgender people, who are permanently biologically modified, or mentally ill people who have a totally different cognitive experience or differently abled people who live with technological extensions every day, so that we don’t extend and worsen social inequality with new technologies but instead work
towards a world in which people who are currently marginalized and oppressed based on their bodies can instead be valued and safe.
Find each other,
the Invisible Committee urges us.
How do we find each other?
How do we
Rows of black helmets with translucent face shields,
amber street lights wash out all color as the crowds undulate and
morph like sea creatures,
speeds moving between endless waiting and running towards the line of
The riot cops have blocked all the exits from the camp but one,
I try not to lose you,
because I won’t let you be deported,
but we both want to be here,
staying close, we talk about Le Guin, the Dispossesed and Urras,
somehow our presence adds to both the fight and the safety
How do we find help
in the moment of violence
the surprising speed of assault
the silence of disappearance.
What if that violence is in our intimate places
or in our memories
or farther, out of our memories?
Can we make networks to respond
and not replicate violence?
Can we create new logics,
where we stop putting people in cages?
How do we find the ones
who will sow insurrection with us
protect us from violence
love and be loved by us
satisfy our bodies?
How long do we have to grope in the indigo dark
put out signals
hurl out lines
before we find the one
or the ones
who our stories will resonate with?
Desire, dance and queer femme erotics,
it’s impossible to notice anyone else when you move,
shared care for people named ill connected us,
we told each other stories in photos, words, films,
light and sound connecting times in our lives and dreams,
elastic bubble gum bonds sticking stretching across spacetime,
folding together our narratives until they touch electrically, and kiss, deeply.
How do we subsist, they ask?
In the face of deadly economics,
multitudes of byzantine categorizations of our bodies and our lives,
how do we survive?
How can we build networks, relationships,
span the gaps between individuals,
of connection and affection,
made visible with electroluminescence and soft circuits.
Bodies rushing through downtown LA nights,
searching for pleasure in the flashing colors and beats.
Bodies running through Overtown at dusk,
friends hunted by police.
How will these networks transform us?
How have they transformed us?
In sweaty riotous moments in massive crowds in
Los Angeles, Genoa, San Francisco, Cancun, Miami,
or sweaty moments in bed with our lover, as loud as a climax.
We are transformed by our networks,
and we transform and create them with our affections,
with the commitments we carry in our bodies and breathe out of our mouths.
What is the practical meaning
of deposing power locally
How can we make time for ourselves,
in a world that demands our attention, thoughts and emotions?
How can we know when we’ve found each other?
When to let go
and when to build new homes,
out of which extend
fields of lines, curved, topographies of light, color, feeling,
moving outwards in waves across planes,
Are the networks we make,
the disturbance, the resistance and the goal?
Heat, warmth, love, rest, repose, safety, care, understanding,
all the things that power and capital can’t offer
are right here in this bed
with our leopard print blanket
that smells like sex and home.
for the first time,