Gay Shame Podcast – Episode 1: Abolition is the Floor Not the Ceiling (July 9, 2020)


London Breed 0:00
Chanting Black Lives Matter. This is what has infuriated me.

Mary Brandybuck 0:16
DJ Envy, Angela Yee and Charlemagne the God we are GAY SHAME. Gay Shame is a radical trans/queer, direct action group that’s been around since 2001 and is a response to corporate Pride. And we began initially in direct response to or like in an attempt to try to create an alternate space for queer and trans folks that wasn’t, you know, flooded with corporations. And since then we’ve grown to a year round, organizing collective, in San Francisco, California that uses consensus, that is not a nonprofit. The Wikipedia says that it’s just a tendency.

Mary Westbrook 1:05
I don’t doubt our potential to become a tendency. Well, my name is Mary Westbrook, and I’m mostly in it to sell hair, vitamins.

Mary Daggers 1:18
I’m Mary dagger.

Mary Brandybuck 1:19
This is Mary Brandybuck.

Mary Westbrook 1:22
We collectively drafted the statement known shortly as ‘Abolition is the floor, not the ceiling,’ in the midst of a lot of the protests, in the wake of George Floyd being murdered by the police. And there were some, sort of, the beginnings of different tendencies on the part of like Liberals to coopt or sort of like water down abolitionist demands that we kind of wanted to respond to and intervene in like early, early on. And so the statement includes things like Black mayors are not Black liberation. Since we were seeing in so many major cities across the country, including our own London breed, are being, Black women mayors especially are being like paraded around as spokespeople for the movement who could ultimately sort of like direct people’s energy into finding a way to still love the cops and give them more money. So that’s sort of the context in which the statement and its many different facets emerged.

Mary Daggers 2:39
This is Mary Daggers. ONE. Figureheads and brand ambassadors will emerge as representatives of the community but what they actually represent is the state’s desire to kill the rebellion and restore white order and the willingness of dangerous actors to play the role of covert wet blanket deflectors.

Mary Westbrook 2:55
When I read–when I think about this point, I think a lot of the trauma coming out of moments like Ferguson, where we ended up with assholes like DeRay McKesson, and out of fear of seeing like a similar sort of dynamic emerge. This is a point that we wanted to sort of like include and have there be like discussion and awareness about. And I think one heartening thing about this moment has been sort of seeing the failure of that like, ‘brand activist’ model. In some really stark ways. I just see a lot more mainstream, or not mainstream, but just broad popular support for like criticism of like the Shaun Kings of the world and the ways in which they sort of have these. Like, they’re not close with the communities that they’re fundraising for or speaking about, and they’re mostly just swooping in and using their name and their platform for themselves and they’re not really like in the communities organizing. So seeing that kind of awareness and a lot of discussion about this has definitely been an important part of this latest round of uprisings.

Mary Brandybuck 4:15
This is Mary Brandybuck again. So yeah…Bullet TWO: The outside agitator story is racist as hell. It argues that black people are easily duped and controlled by white people and also denies black rage and the exercise of black collective political agency as a strategy of survival and liberation from burning the plantation to the precinct. That’s really important. It was this whole thing about, there’s these outsiders who are coming and stirring up things and stuff like that, which is like, kind of like a thing that they’ve always said. They’ve said it, you know, during the Civil Rights movement, like a lot of people were sort of recalling that, when you had people doing the Freedom Rides going down south, it was kind of like this weird way to kind of act like, I mean, it was the way that the South would often try to delegitimize people who were trying to support the Black freedom struggle in the South.

Mary Westbrook 5:17
Yeah, it had that effect where it’s, it’s sort of like sowed this sort of like internal division and sort of like trying to create a dynamic where people are siding with the cops to attack people that they think shouldn’t be engaging in whatever actions and like actually snitching on people and like turning them in and like trying to just like, heighten and exploit but for purposes that ultimately just end up benefiting politicians and the cops and the courts.

Mary Brandybuck 5:52
There’s so many things happening in so many different places. It’s really hard to to get like a full sense of whatever it is, I mean, what is undeniable though is that in the end, like with with with respect to George Floyd is that there was like a massive sort of movement of Black folks who were out and who were angry and who wanted to show that.

Mary Westbrook 6:16
THREE. Reformists in dusty blue vests have suggested reforms that get their wack nonprofits funding while ensuring Black death. Body cameras don’t stop bullets and being murdered after a warning is no less deadly.

Mary Westbrook 6:30
Yeah, this is another DeRay reference because he came out with that super awful eight point plan for giving the cops more money nationwide, which included suggestions which mostly either already are true in police departments across the country or wouldn’t do anything. Including that if cops are going to kill you, they should give you a warning first. I guess for listener context, there was a public comment over the police budget. And the police commission of San Francisco is convening this meeting and there was one person on the commission in particular, I forget her name, but she kept using her identity as a Black woman. She’s like “As a Black woman, I would love nothing more than to see every police department have a Black Lives Matter mural.” So in the same vein that London Breed does this, she says to activists like, “You can’t tell me as a Black woman what I’m supposed to do to solve police violence against Black people.” It’s just the weaponization of identity to wield state power in the exact way. The exact violent, degrading ways that it is under any other asshole in power.

Mary Daggers 7:51
Yeah, I mean, just the the kinds of reforms that people are proposing say a lot about why they think people are being killed. You know, like when they’re trying to like have more body cams and stuff like that it’s just so clear and so it’s been so resoundingly made clear that people see that people are being murdered even on camera.

Mary Daggers 8:17
FOUR. The feminist, trans, queer dimensions of police murder must not be erased. We have to escalate our collective responses to the murders of Black trans, cis and/or queer women and people. The inscription of masculinity & patriarchy (e.g., the loss of black fatherhood) as both the primary victim as well as the savior within conversations of resisting state violence are another tactic to keep us: divided, suspicious of & un-empathetic to one another, passive to and enamored with authoritative (often abusive) celebrity figureheads, and unaware of the scope of state violence which is fundamentally a (cis-)gendered sexual violence.

Mary Daggers 8:53
It’s echoing this call to like also mourn and remember trans and queer victims of police violence, and also to recognize the ways that like heteronormativity gets kind of recast on to people who are killed by the police, that a lot of the ways that they’re like remembered and mourned, is in the context of who they are in family, and just recognizing the differences that some of the queer and trans folks who have been murdered aren’t, for a variety of reasons, celebrated or mourned in the same way as cis and straight folks who are victimized.

Mary Brandybuck 9:37
I was just going to ask Mary what they felt about the noname and Beyonce thing in the context of that particular bullet point.

Mary Westbrook 9:46
Noname posted a tweet on the internet. And it said something along the lines of, “I wish Angela Davis were as celebrated as Beyonce. And Beyonce stans, the Beyhive, otherwise known as, were all up in noname’s mentions, really mad and picking fights about that statement.

Mary Daggers 10:16
And just in general the like the the critique of beyond says like a capitalist or someone who’s super rich that that’s sort of like an angle that Beyonce his mother took and responding to the criticism as well as she was like, you know, beyond saying my make this money but she’s using it to uplift black businesses and to be out here winning and that’s helping all you win too. So that’s kind of the reaches of the conversation in the different directions that has been going. I don’t think that no name and beyonds are actually having any sort of direct interaction with one another.

Mary Brandybuck 11:01
Pretty much I mean, like most, you know, women in rap music, they’re just getting a just like a kind of just kind of, you know, casual content, like, you know, you can call it like, the glass ceiling of rap music or whatever. Um,

Mary Daggers 11:17
Yeah, like completely like obliterated from the conversation in defensive Beyonce who is so supported. So, like, well taken care of, in so many ways, not just by fans, but by so many like, structures but that dislike how much people will rush to defend like some someone that’s already in power and that hasn’t even it sounds like the end of the conversation with their attention.

Mary Brandybuck 11:41
Like, which is of course, tragic because they are, from what little I’ve been exposed to maybe one of the more impressive. I’m, like broad and kind of wide like sort of thinking political minds in rap music that’s making rap songs per previous big controversy was throwing shade at Jay Cole. Yeah. Do you want to say something about that?

Mary Daggers 12:18
Sure. And she just made this beautiful piece that was like, all, like addressing how Jay Cole hasn’t like, wasn’t doing enough in response to the murders and wasn’t taking a stand in the way that she was like, use your platform, you know, like, use your fame. And he responded in a song where he said that he didn’t like her tone. And so then a lot of people were, you know, responding to him and she had this really powerful response that was just like, calling them out further and refusing to be shamed and dogs into like not having her tone.

Mary Brandybuck 12:58
And then she fucking deleted it. That’s what killed me. It feels like she’s trying to create another kind of space. Just one that one day, it’s like opens it up for women and opens opens up for like, you know, queer and trans people in a kind of explicit way that I think is actually really exciting. It’s like even more I mean, I don’t know this is probably unfair, but I feel like she’s probably done more for at least creating a kind of aesthetic and political approach that I find that I find personally exciting. I feel like they’ve done more than like, a lot of so called gay rappers have done also which which feels really fucked up. Like she may or may not be clear, who knows. But I feel that um, she has done maybe the most Interesting intervention in service of queer, queer and trans black people in rap music since and this is just my personal opinion, my favorite Mykki Blanco song, Join My Militia that was that is like, I mean, I tried to listen to a bunch of other songs we went to go see her that was a that was kind of a disaster. Um, but like I love that fucking Mykki Blanco song like I liked the vibe it’s going for like, I’m not saying that it’s like an astute political rap duck, you know, document. But it just kind of feels that no name is kind of like picking it up and taking it there and like further and more interestingly, like in in kind of a way that makes a lot of sense. Like, okay, you could say, I mean, I don’t know, you could maybe say that like Chuck D in rap music is kind of like a more or less an equivalent of like Kwame Ture or something noname kind of feels like a lot like she’s kind of on a Michelle Wallace vibe like she’s kind of be like she says she’s just she’s just she’s just trying to like talk about like you know the patriarchy lie to your face and like these problems and forcing you to deal with them like not backing down in a kind of way that’s just fucking for you know fears.

Mary Westbrook 15:24
So Beyonce needs to put some respect on nonames name.

Mary Daggers 15:28
That’s right. Summed up nicely.

Mary Westbrook 15:31
FIVE. Gentrification is a form of black terror. We have all seen the Black Lives Matter signs on luxury condos where black people were evicted. Displacement is murder by other means and must be fought with the same fierceness. Avenge Iris Canada.

Mary Daggers 15:47
Iris Canada was an elder who was evicted from her house when she was 100 years old. And there was a huge campaign to try to get her to be able to come home. She passed away after being displaced. Like I think within a month.

Mary Westbrook 16:04
London breed may have been the President of the Board of Supervisors at the time or she had just won like her D. five campaign or something. I believe Iris Canada was in her district.

Mary Brandybuck 16:15
I still kind of feel like when people listen to this and other places, just knowing that for anarchists or whatever, is probably not going to be enough. They’re going to be like, Damn, they really hate that black woman whose bear it says I remember that there were two one-hundred year old women who died, were they both black?

Mary Westbrook 16:31
I don’t know. But I know Iris Canada was.

Mary Brandybuck 16:33
There was like maybe like right after the looters hit Grant Street, and they like went to the Prada store and emptied it out and like all that shit, she was like, this is not funny. She really–

Mary Westbrook 16:46
–it was like I will I will not stand by while black businesses are being attacked.

Mary Brandybuck 16:51
She was up there was like the black police chief, it’s so busted. She said she wanted to turn in, she wanted people to turn in their family members.

Mary Westbrook 17:00
‘The Klan came to my house. They had torches, they had tiki torches.’

[NEWS BREAK] “Joining us now is Mayor London Breed. Mayor, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for having me. Let’s start by expanding upon that tell us more about the ways that you’ve seen the message of these protests get twisted or turned into a joke.”

London Breed 17:21
Well, the problem I have, for example, the other evening, there were white protesters who came to my house with torches of fire the fireworks, setting off fireworks and calling me kind of names that were disrespectful while while chanting Black Lives Matter. pulling on my gay telling me to come outside. And the thing that bothered me the most about it. I mean, people I understand rightfully so should protest. But it reminded me of what the KKK would do to African Americans when they would come to their home, set their homes on fire, pull them out of their homes and sometimes lynched people, African Americans, and the fact that you would come to the black mayor’s home…

Mary Brandybuck 18:12
I think it’s just a really important way to get this just people, people who aren’t from San Francisco. It’s like, it sounds like we’re really just trying to just come for everybody’s favorite black mayor, or whatever. But all this shit she’s doing. She’s doing it to black people. And I mean, that’s kind of the trend just in case people don’t know, or understand that was even the case. London Breed is described as a protege of Willie Brown. Willie Brown did a lot to sort of, get San Francisco to its so unique 5%–it was 3% for a while–I understand it’s at 5%. Now, like 5% of us living here. Um and it’s just really important. Like, that’s like not insignificant. That’s what’s really interesting. Um, when you feel when you see people who are like, still a little timid around critiquing her and her policies and what she does and you know what she stands for, like that is her actual legacy. Like when she gets up there and is talking about like, these Black Lives Matters protesters came to my house, and it felt like the Klan rally you know, like she’s invoking actual racist history that’s happened to people in this incredibly fucked up way to kind of completely distract from her old personal, really intense hatred of black people. Let’s just pretend that she’s not like, you know, rabidly anti black like she just really hates black people like she just wants to destroy them. Even her just being like a capitalist like a very pro real estate person who always sites with landlords, just in modern society. There’s is no way that you can be pro landlord and be pro black at the same time like you know what I mean? Like Black landlords? No. It’s just it’s just like so if people want to like maybe like believe that she doesn’t have a habit habit personally in for us like if you don’t want to believe that just know that her commitment to neoliberalism pretty much ensures that she’s just going to be like in practice, like a, you know, actively anti black.

Mary Brandybuck 20:30
SIX. Defunding the cops is necessary. But it can also become a trap because the state will gather behind “defunding” to front like they are making material changes while not doing shit. Did they just reclassify police activity to slide it under the Parks Department’s budget? Did they take money from affordable housing to pay for useless “diversity and inclusions” trainings?

Mary Brandybuck 21:01
I would say like last year, none of us would have ever in 1000 years like no one who’s been anti police could ever possibly have predicted this current moment. Like if it becomes some sort of weird collaboration between like the State community volunteers probably become whether or not it’s going to like create another sort of oppressive structured.

Mary Westbrook 21:19
Yeah, I think that’s sort of like, where the danger arises, especially like working with like liberal reformists is that they start to circle like vultures in this way because they love to tinker with policy and law, and to make line items like see numbers going up and down and then feel like they can check off a victory. And then tell it to their nonprofit board and get more funding for their salary position so that they can do more nothing and more incremental change until the end of time. Rather than just making the whole thing obsolete by abolishing the police all together and I think that this argument comes up in a lot of different subtle ways too, because sometimes people will defend the defund, ask because to them, they’re like, this is a material win that we can do right now when people’s lives are at stake, etc, and so forth. But, you know, like we’ve seen, we’ve seen this how many times like some bullshit happens, and some institution like loses a little bit of legitimacy. They like change the name of it, and like, fire a white dude and put a minority in his place. And then they keep doing the same thing for decades until you know more. Destruction has been wrought in the meantime and people are getting fed up in a new way because the system itself was never really fundamentally shifted. It was just tinkered with. And so I think like really resisting that impulse and resisting a lot of the emotional appeals to it, and like really continuing to, like, hold the line on what abolitionists actually is and requires, and why it’s important to treat it as an immediate demand and not something that we’re just going to build toward piece by piece over the course of decades. I think that’ll be like really critical.

Mary Brandybuck 23:19
They’re just gonna have to figure out another way to to organize the world, or the world will no longer exist, which, you know, death cult, maybe that’s maybe that is the actual plan. So I don’t know.

Mary Westbrook 23:31
It’s a total death cult. It’s like, people’s wives are like a 30 year strategic plan, like all of us, as far as I know, have one lifetime and you’ve already wasted half of mine.

Mary Daggers 23:47
SEVEN. Don’t kneel, hug or merge with cops ever. This is a tactic they’re successful using to defuse the necessary intensity of the uprising. They’re not your friends.

Mary Daggers 23:55
And then just to expand on that, like just what a nightmare it is that the cops started kneeling with protesters as like fake solidarity when it was like a kneeling gesture that murdered George Floyd in the first place just like how fucking twisted and evil that is. to have all these cops kneeling and people demanding cops in the own stuff, just…what a shame.

Unknown Speaker 24:18
Yeah, I feel as though I and others have kind of like lost the plot in terms of what the kneel is meant to represent and why people are even doing it in the first place. Because it does have that slippage between being like the Kaepernick kneel and then being the kneel on George Floyd’s neck. And either way, I’m just kind of like, I don’t want to be doing this in front of cops and I definitely don’t want to see them doing it. Or Nancy Pelosi, like to me that’s just them wanting their knees on our necks at all times.

Mary Brandybuck 24:50
It just feels it’s important like hold on to, like activities that remain unsanctioned. That remain a problem. And mostly to stay active doing things, you know, doing things that like are against the state. You know, you have Mayor DeBlasio out there in front of Trump Tower in New York, like painting Black Lives Matter with like Al Sharpton. You know, NASCAR is cool with getting rid of the Confederate flag, you know, I mean, sure, why not? You know what I mean? But it’s like, it starts to become these kind of gradual gestures. And then it’s like, like, the statues, for example, like you like you have this situation where people don’t actually get an opportunity to tear the statues down, like the state comes in and then gets rid of them. You know what I mean? And it’s like, oh, we all of a sudden feel ashamed of the statues. So we’re going to rob you of, because I feel like when people get together to tell, like tear those statues down, like they’re just, I mean, it becomes like, an opportunity for like, people to kind of organize and come together, you know, however, it’s done like, you know, you say it’s spontaneous but it just becomes like a kind of thing that people get to do together that builds fucking community against the state. And it kind of feels like as these things are droning on, that, they’re trying to like, deflate, I gradually deflate all these different things and have these other spectacles that kind of feel like, Oh, look, the state’s, like rising to meet your demands, like the all these things are happening. And I’m just worried about, like, where all this is headed. You know, like, when people run out of things to do, because they will do things that are like, you know, kind of dangerous, or like, kind of, like, you know, like, really, then they’ll just get isolated, and then there’ll be, like, easier to kind of alienate from the rest of it. And you can be like, decontextualized and be like, Well, you know, everyone else doesn’t even talk about the Confederate flag anymore. I mean, I’m, I’m just concerned that people aren’t going to like me Know how to like adapt things to the situation and like maintain like a radical thing. It’s like, “Okay, you got rid of the Confederate flag, but you still have police.”

Mary Westbrook 27:12
Yeah, it definitely highlights the sort of like tension that exists there between like the disproportion between like, taking down something that is symbolic of the violence system. And then like all that, actually dismantling that violence system entails like, I think of the, the how Lando lakes the butter company changed their logo recently, and they removed the image of the indigenous woman and now it’s just the landscape. And someone replied to the lambda lakes tweet and they said, Well, I see that you still kept her land, which is both like figuratively true in the sense that they kept the image of the land and then also like, the like the land is still under colonial control. And so you know like that yeah it is a tension that exists of like okay how do we move from these like there’s there’s the work that that symbolic removal and taking down does to sort of like you know in engage with these historical symbols and a really like active political way but then also like being able to shift the power relations that make that what that is.

Mary Daggers 28:27
You want to keep the pressure on like to keep on asking for more and not settle for the ways that this is gonna be coopted.

Mary Brandybuck 28:39
This has been Gay Shame the fire is in the system, no, not that virus.

Mary Westbrook 28:45
If you’re not ashamed, you’re not paying attention.

Unknown Speaker 28:46
With your hosts, Mary Westbrook, Mary Daggers and Mary Brandybuck.

London Breed 29:02
Chanting Black Lives Matter… This is what has infuriated me!

Mary Daggers 29:07
Make me unimpeachable!