America is an oligarchy organized by the hierarchy of the white supremacist patriarchy. Pancake Brain is a (free) Friday newsletter dedicated to replacing the status quo with equitable public power, and a community dedicated to building the discipline of democracy that equity requires. We move through the world committed to a daily practice of activism and critical thinking. We reject limitations and embrace the possibilities of social imagination, certain that the queer future is better than anything we’ve yet dreamed up. We insist on our right and duty to the political conversation, and empower others to join us. Out of love for ourselves and the collective, we are engaged in a sustainable practice of freedom, endlessly un-fucking our brains.
Dearest Pancake Brains,
Allegedly, today is Monday, but I had too many feelings to wait to hit send.
I publicly came out as gay in January 2018 in the middle of a date with a woman. Her name is Ellyn, and I knew I liked her from the moment I spotted her in the back corner of the cocktail bar where we met in the Lower East Side. We had both been married to a man in a past life, and the shared origin story threw our bonding process into hyper-speed. We were one Negroni into our first night together, when I said, “OK, fuck it,” out loud, and tweeted, “I’m getting divorced and I’m queer. Update my Wikipedia.”
About an hour later, Ellyn and I furiously made out, then pulled back, and realized we had just become lifelong best friends. We’ve texted each other close to every day since. She works for the mayor’s office, and so I heard this morning’s news from her first: New York City Pride has been cancelled along with all festivals, concerts, and parades through June.
She followed up with a photo of me at last year’s Dyke March: topless and blissed out on nothing more than my immediate surroundings.
I reflected on the experience during National Coming Out Day this past October: In the sea of meticulous undercuts and ineffably erotic carabiners, I developed countless crushes and aesthetic aspirations, just barely distinguishing between the sort of person I wanted to be and the sort of person I wanted to sleep with. If only our brains could swim in queer energy all of the time.
I didn’t have the term yet, but, in retrospect, I can say with total certainty that the Dyke March was my first experience of what the academic José Esteban Muñoz calls “queer futurity.” “The future is queerness’s domain,” he writes in Cruising Utopia. “Queerness is a structuring and educated mode of desiring that allows us to see and feel beyond the quagmire of the present. … We must strive, in the face of the here and now’s totalizing rendering of reality, to think and feel a then and there.”
The cancellation of events due to the coronavirus has included weddings, proms, and life as we know it. Still, the loss of #NYCPride seems uniquely tragic because of how rare it is to walk around in a physical reality that is better than the world in which we typically reside. It is critical that we continue the project of social imagination, even if that means doing it virtually for the time being.
No matter how you identify, I think this is the most essential takeaway of our reigning nightmare. Our new normal is truly unimaginable in that it is worse than anything we could have dreamed up. Survival will depend on our ability to flip the paradigm of dystopia on its head: If things can get worse than we ever thought, what might unimaginable look like in the opposite direction?
When the coronavirus finally recedes, we will have to rebuild society, and the possibilities are endless. I’m thinking about queer liberation, obviously, and also equitable public power and climate change solutions that guarantee the planet will last longer than a fucking warranty from Best Buy. Political and media gatekeepers across the aisle have declared this utopia to be impossible, but we’re currently living with a lot of things that seemed impossible just last month.
This afternoon, the writer and activist Charlotte Clymer tweeted, “Listen, in 2020, November is Pride Month. We’re going to make the ballot box the greatest Pride celebration ever.” As usual, she got it exactly right. If you are crushed by the lack of a parade, I hope you’ll make a commitment to ensure every person you love celebrates queer futurity on Tuesday, November 3rd.
I told Ellyn that we needed to FaceTime topless in place of Pride, and she immediately agreed, then sent a video of her and her girlfriend bopping around to a workout video to cheer me up. I needed that message and Charlotte’s.
Today has reminded me that clicking into optimism requires constant effort. Living through a global pandemic means we will be forced to cobble together the practicalities of day-to-day survival while imaging the equity and sustainability we all deserve. It will be harder to conjure positive social imagination without a month-long festival of rainbows, but we owe it to each other to summon the energy that shift requires. There may not be a parade this year, but we can make certain there is still Pride. That means dreaming, and voting, and dancing — it means getting by with the help of our friends. Queer futurity is a utopia that is better than anything we can possibly imagine, and a choice that we make all the time.
With all the love in my heart,
p.s. If you dig this post, or any past issues of this newsletter, I’d very much appreciate if you could share it with anyone who might be interested. (Tag me in a tweet with the link or quote tweet me, if you’re active on the hell site known as Twitter dot com. Facebook posts and Instagram stories are great, too.)
I’m trying to grow this little community into a virtual garden where we can have the kind of thoughtful conversation so sorely missing on social media. I’m glad you’re here, and appreciate your help as in spreading the word. <3