Fresh Meat: just add glitter.
Back in 2010 a long-pondered concept coalesced into a named idea: I wanted to edit a magazine for queer survivors, which I planned to call Fresh Meat. I’d known of the need for affirming materials for queer survivors since I was assaulted in 2007, but the years between did not lend well to editing literary projects. The name, Fresh Meat, initially came from a very clear cover art image that I intended (and intend) to make- a bloody steak covered in red glitter.
At the time I lived with my kid and partner in my mother’s boatshed in Townsend, GA, a very small, very conservative, very rural town along the southern coast. We lived in the boatshed because the bank evicted us from our Atlanta rental after it went into foreclosure. Several months prior to eviction, persistent health issues arising from post traumatic stress disorder resulted in the loss of part of my hearing and my job. The PTSD arose from the assault, which occurred in Atlanta in 2007. At the time of the assault, I lived alone with my child in my mother’s garage. I moved to Atlanta a year later.
Healing from trauma is consuming, exhausting, and frequently feels impossible. Healing from trauma without health insurance or resources for indigent mental health care even more so. Being a transgender guy raped by a transgender guy who was also my long-distance BDSM Daddy, while single parenting a toddler in my mother’s garage in the smallest, most phobic and ass-backwards town along the Golden Isles of deep south Georgia just felt stupid, my own existence profoundly unlikely and illogical. There were so many ways that I, my family of child and self, my body, and the violence infused into my body by my rapist were suppressed and excised from nearly any conversation about community or rape that, at times, it frankly seemed simpler to throw myself away. And in many ways I did.
Many queer community conceptions of place equate rural towns with dearth and death. In my own experience, there is some deeply difficult truth to this. However, the flipside of that equation is that cities are believed to home the only resourceful and relevant populations of queer communities, and rural queers are expected to make exodus to the great glittering cities to seek validity and assimilate, regardless of where their grandparents are buried, or what particular shade of light or stink of marsh mud their heart leaps to. Perceiving no alternative, over the next two years I crossed the 4 hours of interstate roadway between Townsend and Atlanta numerous times, the first to attend the Southern Comfort Conference. There I met other trans people in real life. I also met my rapist.
A slab of meat is a chunk hacked from a body, the physical manifestation of a wound. Within the mainstream meat market, animals are genetically modified, bred, controlled, machinated, exploited and consumed as humans manifest their entitlement to power in the ultimate dominance of flesh. In this context, fresh meat is the penultimate symbol of human violence and consumption. The consumption of this fresh meat functions as masculine- think beefsteak, think Daddy in a man-apron barbecuing in the backyard. The spit and sizzle of cooking flesh. Hot. Porking, porked. A meat injection.
The ultimate symbol of domination and power is the phallus. The phallus is frequently spoken of as a slab of meat. A slab of meat is a chunk hacked from a body, the physical manifestation of a wound.
Masculinity tied to privilege and power troubles and dehumanizes all of us. So does a cultural sexuality that operates with a meat market mentality, separating body parts from beings and displaying them for consumption. In the sexual meat market, bodies are meat consumed by sex. Fresh meat is the hottest commodity. In small queer communities already rocking hard with their own accumulated dramas, the hottest commodity is someone new, naïve, and therefore drama-free. Someone new and naïve is most likely to confuse consumption for affirmation. The precariousness of this situation should not go unnoticed.
Sex positive culture loses its anti-oppression sway when it fails to acknowledge the physical implications of the power dynamics around which all of our brains have formed. Think racism, sexism, classism, ableism. Think curbs, roads, and concrete parking lots. Think rows of irrigated, genetically modified crops sprayed with poison. Think prisons. Hospital beds. Circumcision. Think plastic, Walmart, formula. Think toilet training. Standardized tests. Dams. Mines. The United States of America.
We were born with this, born into and through this. The models to dominate, take, and consume have been enacted for us, to us, and on us so long that we can’t think or wish our way out of it. It is a physical part of us, a pathway of neurons thickened, myelinated, and reinforced by incessant invocation. Even as we grow new pathways around new ways of thinking- feminism, womanism, environmentalism, sex positivity- we easily revert to these older, stronger, faster neurological ropes of dominance and consumption.
And that’s just our brains. That doesn’t touch on the centuries of spiritual, social, and emotional ramifications of western civilization and colonization. We carry that, too. To truly embrace, understand, and employ consent, we must first imagine a world unlike anything we have ever lived, despite the wounds and well-worn pathways we already carry.
And so- a fresh meat steak within the American meat industry is comparable to a freshly de-closeted queer exploring and embracing sex positive, kinky, poly queer community for the first time. At least this is so when we embrace and employ a meat market mentality and call that sex positivity. Or when we rely on our intentions to employ consent and boundaries versus our actual capacity to uphold them. And particularly when we perpetuate and nurture the violences within our communities by keeping quiet about our predators and complicity.
Fresh meat: just add glitter.