Laid bare - Page 2

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore's new memoir The End of San Francisco captures tumultuous times

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And Sycamore has surprising words for those who think queer punk, riot grrrl, the bathhouse disco and clone-look revival, or the scene at the SF Eagle were essential to the queer activist movement (Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill makes a memorable appearance — Sycamore befriended her without knowing who she was, and later attended the first Le Tigre show.) Her habit of questioning everything can often paint her into corners of abrasive self-absorption, but she continues to raise interesting points about the fetishization of machismo in the FTM, leather, and punk communities, the emptiness of hipster activism, and the capitalist-colluding hypocrisy of "alternative culture."

As usual though, she saves her heaviest judgments for the mainstream gay morass, its Borg-like drive toward cultural hegemony via marriage, military, and consumerism — even as she acknowledges the necessary symbiosis that binds queer outcasts together. At 1993's March on Washington, "where suddenly there were a million white gay people in white t-shirts applying for Community Spirit cards": "Gays in the military was the big issue and what could be more horrifying but here's the thing: freaks actually found one another — we were so alienated that we went right up and said hi, I like your hair..."

This, then, is the tenderness that drives Bernstein to keep speaking out, despite the personal costs. As we weather another dot-com boom of homogenizing gentrification, The End of San Francisco is a timely reminder of the community that can spring from resistance.

MATTILDA BERNSTEIN SYCAMORE reads Tue/30, 7pm, free at City Lights Bookstore, 261 Columbus, SF. www.citylights.com, and Thursday, May 9, 7:30pm, free at the GLBT History Museum, 4127 18th St., SF. www.glbthistory.org

 

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