Machines Will Not Replace Us (with Major Jackson & Baseera Khan) | Crooked Media
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May 11, 2023
Stuck with Damon Young
Machines Will Not Replace Us (with Major Jackson & Baseera Khan)

In This Episode

Poet and educator Major Jackson talks about artificial intelligence’s influence on the future of creative writing. On Dear Damon, visual artist Baseera Khan helps Damon unpack a listener’s consternation over a social poll that challenged their perception of sexual identity and relationship dynamics.

 

 

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

Major Jackson: Can artificial intelligence create a life that has that texture, that is interconnected with other human beings? I don’t have that answer. I don’t fear that answer. But I do know it’s worthy to monitor that answer. [music plays]

 

Damon Young: Hey everybody. Welcome back to Stuck with Damon Young, the show where we’ve all been replaced by ChatGPT. Wait. Or have we? Is this me? I don’t know. Do you? Hmm. Well between a writers strike, numerous popular digital media platforms shutting down and now artificial intelligence coming for our jobs. It’s a strange, strange, strange, strange, strange, strange time to write for a living even stranger than usual. Because it’s always been a strange time to do this and to talk a bit about the future of writing with this dystopian backdrop. Specifically, the future of writing for a living, I’m joined by renowned poet and Vanderbilt University professor Major Jackson, and then award winning visual artist Baseera Khan helps me advise a person who wants to know if it’s biphobic if a straight woman refuses to date a bisexual man. All right y’all.  Let’s get it. [music plays] Major Jackson is an award winning poet and a Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Chair of the Humanities at Vanderbilt University. Major. What’s good? How are you doing? 

 

Major Jackson: I’m doing well. Doing well. It’s rainy here in Nashville. 

 

Damon Young: Okay. 

 

Major Jackson: But I’m feeling sunny on the inside rapping with Damon Young. [laughter]  

 

Damon Young: You’re a poet. Last week, I was in New York City for the National Poetry Series Dinner. 

 

Major Jackson: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Have you ever attended that? 

 

Major Jackson: I have not. So I have FOMO right now, but yes. 

 

Damon Young: Okay. 

 

Major Jackson: It’s a great event on the New York literary calendar. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah, And that FOMO that you talked about. It’s something that I’ve experienced my entire or at least for like the last five or six years. Where? Because I’m in Pittsburgh. You’re in Nashville? 

 

Major Jackson: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: And, you know, New York City is the center of publishing, of the bulk of the literary world. And it’s so many things happening just in that little bit of time. I was there last week. There were about seven different events [laughs] that I wanted to attend. And so my FOMO, I expressed this to my agent and to my editor, and they both told me the exact same thing. Stay the fuck in Pittsburgh. [laughs] Right. No one gets anything done here. 

 

Major Jackson: Right.

 

Damon Young: You stay where you are because when people want to work. They leave. Stay in Pittsburgh. You could always come to the city. And then a couple of days here if you need to, then go back home. But yeah, you get work done when you don’t live here. 

 

Major Jackson: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Right. And you mentioned having a FOMO about this city. Have you had a conversation like that with anybody? 

 

Major Jackson: Sure. I mean, it’s a FOMO of a different variety, but back in the day before Submittable, when you had to walk to the big postal blue box on the corner and drop in your submission for a literary journal. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Major Jackson: I met someone. This is on the tip of Cape Cod in Provincetown with party, and lot of writers are there. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Major Jackson: And I met someone new in that circle who said that he did not live in New York, but he felt as though the publishing world, they were enamored of New York writers. And what he did was when he went to submit his poems, he sent them to a friend with a self-addressed envelope with his friend’s address to then send to the literary journal. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Major Jackson: So it looked like he was a New York writer. This was the most idiotic [laughter] thing that I heard. Because, like your editor friend, I believe. Yes, of course. Colson Whitehead said cross the Brooklyn Bridge and you’re handed your MFA, your Masters of Fine Arts in creative writing. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Major Jackson: But the more interesting work and stories to be told in poems to be written exist in far flung places that where I’m not saying there aren’t real people in New York. I’m not saying that at all. And I’m not saying that there aren’t stories there. But the full width of our humanity has lived in rural spaces. Suburban spaces as well as as cities. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Major Jackson: Fortunately for me, I lived 18 years in Burlington, Vermont, South Burlington, to be specific. And I recently moved to Nashville. But while living in New York, I taught one day a week at NYU. Every fall, I flew down on let’s say Sunday. My class was either Monday or Tuesday. I would get a haircut in Brooklyn because guess what? There are very few Black barbers in the state of Vermont. [laughter] And I would teach at NYU or Columbia. One class. And that one day there was literally an event at 92nd Street Y or St Mark’s Poetry project or KGB bar where there’s a long standing readings. I would go to Jazz Club. I would soak it up, and then I got my fill. I like to say I’m a city mouse and a country mouse. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Major Jackson: You know, there are exciting things, of course, that’s happening there. And it seems as though the literary center of the world is New York. But we know that the stories arise from varied places, you know? 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. And, you know, to your point, I was there from Sunday to Wednesday, and I packed it full of things. 

 

Major Jackson: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Like when I’m there, if I’m in my hotel, it’s the sleep. [laughter] But other than that, I am out, I’m meeting people. I’m going to things, I’m hanging out, whatever, because I don’t really do shit when I’m home. 

 

Major Jackson: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Like I when I’m home, I’m in the house. I take my kids to school, I go to the gym. I might go to the mall like that. That’s it. 

 

Major Jackson: Mm hmm. Mm hmm.

 

Damon Young: Like, I don’t I don’t go out out, when I’m home. But once Wednesday came around, I was thinking, you know, I’m ready to get back home now. [laughter] Like I’ve had enough. Also I’ve spent a little bit too much money. So, like, I’m ready. [laughs] Ready to reset. Get back to the crib.

 

Major Jackson: Right. 

 

Damon Young: Right. 

 

Major Jackson: Well, that romanticizing of the New York writer kind of is fairly outsized. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Major Jackson: In the sense that so many of writers, of course, got their start there. But have you know, I start surveying the landscape of American literature. I’m taken to places like New Orleans or Maine or Montana or you know, Fargo, North Dakota. The Appalachians. I think Whitman hit it right in terms of wanting to celebrate the plurality and diversity of what constitutes humanity in this part of the continent, this part of the world. And the literature should reflect that. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Major Jackson: No doubt it’s both exciting. But when you look at your bank account, you’re like, all right, I’m exhausted. [laughter] How many museums can I go to in a year? 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

Major Jackson: I was just there at the New York Public Library and needed to hit a deadline, so I was there in the Rose Room. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Major Jackson: And I did look around and wonder who were students, who were tourists, who were writers, who were people going there 9 to 5 in that room because of the imposed quiet? 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Major Jackson: That, too, was exciting, because you think about this legendary space, how it’s still functioning, along with the fact that there is so much activity outside that building. Yet. In this room, there’s this concentrated intensity towards books and letters and the humanities, in action right there in that room. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. And I think that could even be a part of the allure, the mythology, and even some of the self-consciousness. 

 

Major Jackson: Mm. 

 

Damon Young: That people who maybe are not from there or who haven’t lived there might experience, is that if you are a writer, there are places where writing for a living like it means something. Now it means something everywhere, right? It means something. It means something. I don’t want to misspeak about that. But that allure exists in New York City. It does exist. 

 

Major Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Right. It could be pretentious. It could be superficial. But it is a thing if you’re looking for the reference, if you’re looking for the prestige, if you’re looking for a space that is going to like, you know, this is where writers are going to be. 

 

Major Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: So you need to be respectful of the writers who are here. 

 

Major Jackson: Yeah. The parallel for me right now is living in Nashville, and when I first arrived here and I was going to restaurants with friends and there would be this kind of like table bet and, you know, be something like no high stakes, like, I get to steal your fries. If. If. Here we go. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Major Jackson: If your waiter is a musician who arrived in Nashville to kind of break into the music industry and more than 50 to 75% of the time, that was the case. And I have to admit, I often with reverence, look on this person with great fondness because I’m watching them pursue their dreams. I don’t know what level of success. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Major Jackson: But there is a number of venues here in Nashville where people can, you know, much like open mics and in New York City or the tons of reading series that one can kind of tap into to help build a career. Similarly, you find that here in Nashville for musicians, and I’m so excited because you can almost read the great kind of like dream on their face. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Major Jackson: Yeah. And maybe even a certain hunger. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. I’m glad that you brought that up. And, you know, particularly the idea of having to be in a physical location in order to be able to sustain your craft. And you cannot miss the conversation today about A.I., about artificial intelligence, and how it’s coming for all of the writing jobs. 

 

Major Jackson: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Whenever there is a new tech related thing that we’re supposed to be terrified about, I’m always like, all right, whatever. Because, I mean, Y2K, for instance, when, you know, there was this idea that was the clock hit 12 midnight and it was the year 2000, and all these atomic bombs were going to go off, every computer in the world was going to shut down, and that the world might just end right there. And that obviously didn’t happen. 

 

Major Jackson: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: And so I was feeling the same way about A.I., like, okay, the sky’s falling, whatever. But then the person who’s considered the godfather of A.I., his name is Geoffrey Hinton. He quit his position at Google, and he was like, yeah, we need to be very fucking worried about this. 

 

Major Jackson: Mm hmm. Mm hmm.

 

Damon Young: You know, he he called it an existential risk. 

 

Major Jackson: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: And, you know, and just basically this this sounded the alarm of the possible danger of, like, a true digital intelligence. 

 

Major Jackson: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Now, have you given any thought? Because, you know, our currency is words, and this is a thing that, you know, tries to replicate them? 

 

Major Jackson: Yeah. Yeah. I recently have been telling this story about maybe about six years ago now, being in Hong Kong for International Poetry Festival. When representatives from a number of countries, from Poland to Korea to Australia, Ireland. And because it was an international gathering of writers, there was a four hour press conference with all the writers on one side of the room and all the journalists and cameras and crews on the other side. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Major Jackson: Something out of a movie. There were sensible questions that were asked. They all were sensible. But the one that generated the most engagement, of course, after discussions about the role of a national literature, the question that followed up six years ago was unconnected, by the way. But a journalist asked. Will A.I. write a poem as good, if not better, then all of you up there? I remember the man from Poland grabbing his hair [laughter] with immense outrage. I remember that the gentleman from Portugal similarly outraged. The big feedback was what informs our poems is deep experience. 

 

Damon Young: Hmm. 

 

Major Jackson: I mean, lived experience and the resulting emotions that shape us. The perceptions and observations of day to day living. Can artificial intelligence create a life that has that texture, that has that, that width that is interconnected with other human beings? I don’t have that answer. I don’t fear that answer. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Major Jackson: But I do know it’s worthy to monitor that answer. Watch it as it evolves. I think A.I. has to be used with great ethical and moral standards. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Major Jackson: I like going bowling with my kids, and occasionally I’ll hit the button [laughs] that raises the bumpers. I think we need those bumpers when we talk about technology. 

 

Damon Young: Hmm. 

 

Major Jackson: We have at least 50 years, if not more, of popular culture to prepare us for this particular moment. And I would I would imagine that companies, as much as they’re driven by the bottom line, they’re also driven by, one hopes, a certain kind of responsibility to the human family. That gesture of that executives stepping down or that particular scientist stepping down. Suggests there may not be enough of that, that guarding and protecting human family from technology. 

 

Damon Young: There’s two I’m not going to call them fears, right. 

 

Major Jackson: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: I don’t even know if they if they reached the point of anxieties. But concerns, I guess, about this. 

 

Major Jackson: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: And first. You know, to paraphrase Jeff Goldblum from Jurassic Park, where, you know, you spend all this time thinking about whether or not you could create this technology, you didn’t think about whether or not you should. 

 

Major Jackson: Hmm. 

 

Damon Young: And so your idea of the bumpers, it’s like, well, who who is that? 

 

Major Jackson: Mm hmm. Mm hmm

 

Damon Young: Is it. Is it us? Is it the artists? Is are or the writers to the poets, are we the bumpers? Or is it the consumers? Are the bumpers the people who are government regulators, perhaps people in place at Google, at Facebook, at these giant tech companies who are. And I think the answer to that last question is no. [laughs] Right. It’s definitely not. People are these at these companies or this building, building, building with not much of a care. 

 

Major Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: About how it will affect humanity. 

 

Major Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Who would that be? 

 

Major Jackson: You know, I think the people are going to be a combination of people who think deeply about humanity. And that will be the folks who kind of inspire critical thinking, who have a historical perspective, who knows how science can run amok, who bring to all of this an awareness of the potential impact alongside the scientists. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Major Jackson: And just recently, talking to a colleague who participated in the discussion with some of the folks who are at the forefront of this. She reported that it’s quite possible the folks who are responsible for bringing this to the market do not know the questions to ask. They know the questions to help create it. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Major Jackson: But the questions to ask involving impact, involving an ethical rollout, it’s frankly not there. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah, that’s one of the concerns, right. That has been on my mind. Right, with this. And the second one might be a bit more immediate and might be a bit more nebulous also. You know, so the question that was asked at this press conference six years ago, will A.I. ever be able to produce a work as great as the work that you all create? I think the answer is an immediate and unqualified no, right? Because you’re just not going to be able to replicate to a T all of the all the shit that makes up all the fears, anxieties, experiences, you know, the width the tactile nature of, you know, our experience and translating that to the page. But will it matter? [laughter] That’s the question I keep coming back to. And, you know, one example is there was an A.I. interpretation of a Drake song. It was Drake featuring the Weeknd. Right. Completely computer generated. And people who know Drake’s cadence who know rap and who listen hard. 

 

Major Jackson: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Are like, yo, this is wack. This isn’t. This stylistically doesn’t make sense. It might. It’s like a cover band. It’s like it’s like a cover band of a cover band. [laughter] Right. And it’s easy to discern that. It’s easy to hear it. And it’s easy to just listen to, like, oh, this is it. He wouldn’t say that. This this is wack. This is this is like the music, the rap music they played between scenes on CSI. [laughter] But those people were in the minority. 

 

Major Jackson: Hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Most people who heard this were saying, oh, wow, this sounds just like Drake. 

 

Major Jackson: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Oh, wow. This sounds just like the Weeknd. Oh, my goodness. This is terrifying. This is amazing. And so the casual fan, the person who in not a hard listener and the person who’s not a hard reader, I don’t know if there’s enough distinction for them between the human creation and the artificial creation. If the artificial creation is, you know even if it’s a cover band, if they recognize that it’s a cover band. 

 

Major Jackson: The simulacrum has a simulacrum [laughter] which is to say imitation imitates another imitation, which is fascinating to me. I love this example that you bring up because it reminds me the extent to which the standards by which we assess art will be created by A.I., which has me wonder. It’s like, remember the Coke Pepsi test? 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Major Jackson: Like, absent the label, could you tell which was Coke, which was Pepsi and which was a knock off RC Cola or something like that. And we do not agree, at least in the in my world, in poetry of a hierarchy of esthetics. And that’s chiefly because we have a democratic sense of art. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Major Jackson: We’ve gotten rid of Shakespeare is the best poet that there ever lived, followed by some other European guy in the 17th, 18th century. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Major Jackson: There are more voices. And this guy who came to America to study democracy, Tocqueville said, with democracy versus an aristocracy, with democracy is going to be a kind of watering down of aesthetics. Now, when I played Basketball JV and my coach had me I was gonna say, audition that’s not the right—

 

Damon Young: Try out. [laughter] 

 

Major Jackson: Had me try out for varsity. It was a three on three he put me with two guys who could barely pass the ball. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Major Jackson: Who couldn’t make a shot and the first of three. They went on to the next round. And I got cut and I went up to talk to him about it. What was that like? You should have shined more. Now I throw this up as an allegory to say, if A.I. is creating a standard by which we assess art, will the authentic rise or appeal to our ears even more? Will the poem that A.I. create and you’re right, it is eventually is going to be enough of it that we’re going to be asking. And I already announced this at readings. I started doing it earlier this year. Whenever I give a public reading, first thing I say is these poems were written by a human. 

 

Damon Young: Okay. [laughter]

 

Major Jackson: It’s going to come to that. It’s going to come to that. Going back to that question at that conference in Hong Kong. Will the work distinguish itself enough that we know instinctively and on the surface that this is straight? This isn’t a A.I. This is a poem written by a Major, not an artificially intelligent machine or software. From what I understand, talking to friends, to be honest, I’ve never opened it. I’ve never opened ChatGPT. I’m one of those people who is like, as soon as I open it, it’s going to be like. Like what we used to call the dark web. [laughter] But I know people who have and from what they report. If you want a poem that sounds like Shakespeare, you’re going to get that from ChatGPT. If you want a poem that is contemporary, that has the texture of lived experience, that that has the feel of a of a parent hugging their child on the way out the door as they go to school. And that felt in the poem ChatGPT is not going to give that to you, A.I. is not going to give that to me and I will do what my father did some years ago, which he went and saw Big Blue play Kasparov. And yes, Big Blue won most of those games. But I will happily engage in that blind test of whether or not a poem was written by A.I. or [both speaking] just a real life flesh and blood human being. 

 

Damon Young: I would definitely sign up to to be a judge and also to be in the audience. If I didn’t get selected to be a judge, this would be riveting. 

 

Major Jackson: Right. 

 

Damon Young: Last thing I want to talk about really quickly is money, because. 

 

Major Jackson: Mmm. 

 

Damon Young: I feel like this conversation is connected to money and, you know, replacement of jobs. You know, we see the writers on strike, and I speak to high school or college kids. And, you know, I occasionally get a question of if someone was trying to have a career like mine, like, what would they do? What would I advise them to follow my footsteps. And my answer is always no. Just because the things that existed when I was their age just don’t exist anymore. And that’s even more, I guess, relevant now, because there are so many platforms that a 25 year old, a 30 year old me would have been pitching to. Vice, BuzzFeed, Washington Post magazine, which I was a part of, which just shuttered, you know, etc., etc., that no longer exist. And so I guess the question I want to ask you as a as a living, you know, working poet is how exactly do you make money? You don’t have to tell me how much you make [laughs] but how how do you survive as a poet today? 

 

Major Jackson: Very pertinent. And thank you for the directness of that question. So how do I make money? I have been teaching formally since 1996. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Major Jackson: And what I often say to my students is that it’s a decent middle class job. If you publish a book and you have a graduate degree, which is the terminal degree, as you know, for us writers teaching at a university or college, even a community college. Can allow you to live with relative security. Ambition has driven me to also not only publish books, but to get my work out there. And so I would say since 2002, actually, I published my first chapbook with a friend of mine, one Wadud Ahmad. He was also a performance poet. Most people know his work through the jazz musician Jamaaladeen Tacuma and early the Roots albums he’s featured on there. And we grew up together and we graduated from school together. We put out a chapbook together, and we started giving performances. And I’ll never forget my first paycheck. It was from Miami-Dade Community College. They invited us down. It was 500 dollars. This was 1992. We had just graduated. That took care of rent for two weeks for me back then. [laughter]

 

Damon Young: Okay. 

 

Major Jackson: So I knew what was possible. And this is pre poetry slam days. But there was already a culture of poetry in university. So along with teaching, I also have been giving readings and lectures and talks. That’s a source of income. I’ve also have done journalism. 

 

Damon Young: Hmm. 

 

Major Jackson: Written essays for magazines, a few of them long form. Those are the three streams of income. And I’ve had the great privilege and pleasure of serving as a writer in residence at various institutions. I think my model of a writer, particularly a poet, is pretty standard. I’m not writing screenplays. That would be nice. Someday I hope to write a novel or a work of nonfiction. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Major Jackson: I used to have a friend who on a Friday, when I asked him to hang out, he said, no I’m isolating myself this weekend. I’m going into the cave, and I would come out with 50 pages of a 50 to 100 pages of a collection of essays or memoir. Actually, it was a memoir. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Major Jackson: I was like, okay, do you man, that’s good, I’ll see you on the other side of the weekend. And sure enough, he wrote a hundred pages and over three days, which blew my mind. 

 

Damon Young: That’s that. That is. That is. That’s impressive. 

 

Major Jackson: A week later, he handed it in, and then two weeks later, his books was was auctioned. I was blown away. At that time, I was like, God, am I gotta lose the line breaks [laughter] all these, like, little short poems I write. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

Major Jackson: I admire, what I do, man. Totally. [both speaking] How bout yourself?

 

Damon Young: I will say, I’ll answered the question. [laughter] Na, I can’t. I can’t just put you on the spot and not say anything. 

 

Major Jackson: I appreciate it. 

 

Damon Young: I actually was just telling somebody about how poets really are the only people who make me self-conscious. 

 

Major Jackson: Mmm. 

 

Damon Young: When I’m in the same space. Particularly poets who have been able to make that transition too to writing longer form, you know, memoir, essay or whatever. And it’s like, I can’t do nothing with you because you already mastered the economy of language. 

 

Major Jackson: That’s kind. 

 

Damon Young: And and the diction and the punctuation that is necessary to be a great poet. Like, you got that part and then you, you’re doing mapping, right? [laughter] And then the other part, too. I’ve gotten better at reading aloud, but that is not my strong suit. Whereas most of the poets I know who have experienced performing have experience reading in front of crowds, are just, amazing readers too. Like I did a thing with [?] about three or four years ago in Miami. We were on same panel. We were both, you know, scheduled to read some of our work. And I read it. I read, you know, and I thought I did well [laughs] you know, and then [?] came on and it was like, am I supposed to be up here? [laughter] Right? With this performance, the modulation of voice and the clarity and the strength of the voice and everything, its so—

 

Major Jackson: Presence. 

 

Damon Young: Anyway, the answer to answer your question. My question. Podcasting, one. Is a is a revenue stream. This is the second season of the podcast, and it’s been something that—

 

Major Jackson: Congratulations. 

 

Damon Young: You know when I agreed to do this back in late 2019. This was one of the reasons why, like obviously I wanted to try a new medium. 

 

Major Jackson: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: And just see if it was able to expand my relationship with the written word, but also is another revenue stream. 

 

Major Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Books. And those pay out, if you’re lucky enough to get an advantage you get an advance and then once you hit certain metrics, you get a chunk for each metric that you hit. So when you submit your third draft or when your book is published, you know, you get another chunk. Once you hit like a certain amount of sales, if you’re fortunate enough to do that, then you start getting money in that way, too. You know, once you’ve made enough where you pay back your advance, basically. 

 

Major Jackson: Yep. 

 

Damon Young: And then there are also fellowships. Residencies.

 

Major Jackson: That’s right. 

 

Damon Young: Endowments, you know, that are available if you’re aware of them. But those are things that that a lot of writers use to sustain a, you know, writer in residency writer, residence. You know, those those things matter. 

 

Major Jackson: I totally agree. And and as you’re talking, several things come to mind. One of them is I think write my last royalty check. I was like, this is going to be my motivator. I like tacked it up on my wall, like [laughter] I gotta get moving, man. There’s retirement coming down the road. But, you know, I will say one aspect of our contemporary moment that I hope never goes away is the support of the arts. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Major Jackson: A lot of nonprofits and foundations have stepped up to make it viable for artists to exist and do their thing. And I. I just want to applaud all those people who have supported me. But I know so many other writers, particularly during the pandemic, and I was part of several efforts to award writers in need. And I’m so grateful for some of those folks. Most prominently from me, where I participated with was poets and writers. But yeah, you’re right to mention those fellowships in those unexpected places of support. I’m quick to tell my students to look to their state. Often there is some some grant individual grants for writers or for emerging artists that I find to be, again, useful and helpful. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Major Jackson: Yeah. The royalty thing, though, has always eluded me because I don’t have a perspective other than just being out in public doing readings at bookstores and universities and literary centers. I think, God, I know I sold a lot this year [laughter] like the check comes and oh, yes, I work at poetry. But, you know, I will say there used to be the days when your publisher organized a tour for you full of, you know, press interviews, readings. And for a lot of the writers that I know, they would do that tour for like a week or two, stay at hotels. Some of them told me, like limousines would pick them up. The publishers got wise to that. 

 

Damon Young: Okay yeah limos. 

 

Major Jackson: They dropped that. Like dinners with your friends. Those were the glory days. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

Major Jackson: And then they would go home and sit back and watch the numbers go because they got this hearty exposure. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Major Jackson: Public exposure. Whereas I always said the difference between prose writers and poets is that the poets always have to be in front. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Major Jackson: And this is why in front of their work behind it and in front of it, which is to say the readings are by necessary. If you are building a life as a writer, a career as a writer, you have to think about yourself on the page and and off the page. And so there is carefully constructed. Reputations of writers. Writers are doing a number of things. They’re editing. They’re hosting readings. They are also essayists. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Major Jackson: It’s a hustle. But I tell you, it’s an enriching hustle. You know, it’s super enriching. And the readings are where you kind of hone your skills and your you raise the level of your chops. 

 

Damon Young: It’s definitely it’s definitely a hustle and that’s [laughter] something I’ll tell anyone any person who wants to do this is like, you have to be prepared. 

 

Major Jackson: You said something when, I asked, you said, podcasting, you wanted to see how it impacted your relationship to the word. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Major Jackson: And I feel that that’s something that I hadn’t expected. But I’m far more careful of how language is operating in this particular medium and also how it operates on the page. And I was curious if that was the case for you or what lessons you are attentive to. 

 

Damon Young: Well, because this is you know, this is a different medium. Things heard out loud. You’re not in front of people so people can read your body language, etc.. So I just make adjustments. 

 

Major Jackson: Yeah, yeah. 

 

Damon Young: And some of those adjustments actually have followed me to the words that I write. Just, you know, for for essays and books or whatever, where I’ll write a thing up. Always done this where I’m writing and I’m also reading it aloud in my head. But now it’s like I’m I think I’m less pretentious with language. 

 

Major Jackson: [laughs] Right. Right. Right. 

 

Major Jackson: You know, less, less so laser focus on finding, like, the perfect word all the time or the most impressive word instead of the word that fits. 

 

Major Jackson: I’m with that. 

 

Damon Young: And the word fits the rhythm of what I’m trying to say. 

 

Major Jackson: I’m with that. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

Major Jackson: I’m with that because the cadence and the idioms of our moment convey as much meaning sometimes as the bon mot, the perfect word. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

Major Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Major Jackson, it was great. Great having you on. This is a pleasure. I hope that we one day are able to meet in the same space in person. 

 

Major Jackson: I’m there this summer. 

 

Damon Young: In Pittsburgh? 

 

Major Jackson: Yeah, I’m. I’m doing Cave Canem on the second week of June, and I know I have a reading at City of Asylum. It’s been a minute.

 

Damon Young: I will be there. 

 

Major Jackson: Hey, let’s toast. I’m so deeply appreciative of talking to you. And. And an admirer. So it’s even more special. So appreciate that.  

 

Damon Young: Will ditto. Kudos. Thank you. Thank you so much for joining us today. 

 

Major Jackson: Indeed. [music plays]

 

Damon Young: Up next is Dear Damon with award winning visual artist Baseera Khan. But right now, is Damon hates. [music plays] My normal morning routine, at least on Mondays, is that I get up and take my kids to school, and then I go to the gym and I’m there for about an hour and a half, and then I go back home. Now, when I go to the gym, I parked my car in the lot, and when I left the gym to go home, I noticed that someone had keyed about maybe about a foot and a half, maybe two feet long. You know, stripe of missing paint [laughs] right next to the driver’s side door. And so first thought was, did this just happen at the gym or is this something that happened while the car was sitting in front of my house and I just finally noticed it when I was at the gym? I actually think it is the latter that it didn’t happen at the gym, that it happened while the car was sitting in front of my house, you know, during the night. But that brings me to another question. And this is the thing that’s kind of fucking with me right now, is that, okay, there’s two different scenarios here. There’s option one, which is someone, some random motherfucker was just walking by and decided to key my car and just went about their day and kept walking down the street. Okay, shit happens. That shit happens sometimes and it’s whatever. That’s just, you know, the price you pay sometimes for living in the city and having a car parked in public. But then there’s scenario two, which is that someone intentionally sought out my car [laughs] and keyed it as like a message or a vendetta or like some sort of beef or something that they that they need resolved. And so that lack of clarity right there is fucking me. There’s many reasons why it’s fucking with me. But I guess the biggest reason is that it I guess it dictates what my response will be, because if it’s just some random occurrence, just some kids or just some person who walked past and did that shit, well, what do you want to do? You know, shit happens. It happens. It might happen again, you know, but it’s whatever. You can’t really lose any sleep or some shit like that. But if someone has beef, you know what I mean [laughs] if someone is trying to send me a message through my car, then it’s like, okay, all right, so what do we do about this one? What should I do about this? Right? And so that part I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t I don’t know. I don’t know, like, how what am I supposed to do? And that is fucking with me. And I hate that. [music plays] Joining us this week on their dear Damon is award winning visual artist Baseera Khan, whose new exhibit titled The Liberator will be on display at the Smithsonian Museum in D.C. starting in May. Morgan the producer, what we got this week?

 

Morgan Moody: Dear Damon, I saw a hypothetical on Twitter last week asking presumably straight women if they’d rather date a straight man who was a cheater or a bisexual man who has been faithful to them. Seems like there should be an obvious answer to me, but some women chose the first option. This doesn’t make sense to me. 

 

Damon Young: Baseera, what’s going on? 

 

Baseera Khan: Working against some painting deadlines. I think I’m going to handle it. It’s a beautiful day out. I’m in my studio wishing I was outside, but, you know, sacrifices. 

 

Damon Young: Okay. All right. So this question, it feels like and I’m sure you’ve experienced this on panels and during talks where a person will stand up and they just want to get their shit off. They don’t really have a question. They just have shit on their mind that they want to share with the audience and with people on stage. So that wasn’t a question, but there was a question in there and it was just trying to attempt to understand why a presumably straight woman and a number of them, according to the question, are so opposed to being with the man who is bisexual that they would choose a toxic relationship over that. 

 

Baseera Khan: Well, I think a lot of people have forgotten how to truly love. And in today’s time, it is so much about the exchange. And so I think that dating has become very political. And I mean, maybe we can make the argument it was always political because like in the forties and fifties, I don’t think women even had bank accounts. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Baseera Khan: So that was political of its own. But I think that right now there’s like a level of unknowing for a person who hasn’t truly experienced life. Meaning like gender fluidity. So I think the unknowing of whether that person can truly love them because maybe they haven’t done the work to love themselves prevents them from actually, you know, choosing a person who’s dedicated to them versus choosing the norm, choosing the social sort of etiquette cases of like black and white or like, you know, the binary. 

 

Damon Young: That’s a really good point because, you know, you don’t think of it as necessarily being safe. 

 

Baseera Khan: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: You know, you don’t think of that sort of toxicity being safe and maybe safe isn’t necessarily the right word. 

 

Baseera Khan: I think it’s a good word, actually. 

 

Damon Young: Well, safe, connotates that you’re safe from danger, but safe can also be like normative, safe can also be routine, something that you’re used to. 

 

Baseera Khan: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: And I guess for these hypothetical [laughs] for these women that exist in this nebulous space, a man, a presumably straight man cheating, although that is not behavior, that is something that I’m sure that they want. It exists on a spectrum of expectation. 

 

Baseera Khan: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Whereas a man who might be attracted to other men doesn’t exist on that spectrum for them. And so they end up choosing the safety over the unknown, even if the unknown is healthier. 

 

Baseera Khan: Right. We’re also always talking about we’re in this place where we want men to talk about vulnerability, and there’s all of these kind of affronts and attacks on male virility, but there’s a virility involved with femininity and being being a woman. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Baseera Khan: And on some level, I think that there’s a lot of ways in which women start to feel less than as well. 

 

Damon Young: Okay. 

 

Baseera Khan: Being a teacher and an artist, I can see a spectrum of shift in power. There’s more women in graduate schools and continuing education. There are a lot of women that are being hired in higher positions. And I’m not saying that that takes away from the historical pain of systemic racism and gender bias, but what it’s doing is like when a woman sees a man who could potentially choose another man over them, it hurts their ego or it hurts their female virility, kind of in the same way that we’ve been talking about male virility and vulnerability. 

 

Damon Young: When we were talking last, I think we talked a bit about gender affirming behavior. 

 

Baseera Khan: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: And how this would be gender validating behavior in terms of if a man they are with were to choose to be with another man instead of them, then perhaps. They will look at that as like an indictment on what they bring to the table. 

 

Baseera Khan: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: On their own. I don’t know. Attractiveness. 

 

Baseera Khan: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Or sexuality or whatever. But I guess I’m wondering how to distinguish that from a man that you’re with being attracted or being with another woman. 

 

Baseera Khan: So there’s another layer to this. And I wanted to ask, in a way, what the age frame is for these young ladies who are asking these questions. But on the other hand, I think the way that history and politics works is that it kind of gets passed down, whether we believe it or not, it gets passed down from generation to generation. And I know that you and I are kind of similar ages, and we came from this sort of potentially similar assimilation into this country. Now, in the nineties, we had this huge culture war. And I think that it we’re still sort of reeling from the effects of you can’t touch a gay person. Right. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Baseera Khan: You can’t, like, deal with a person who’s queer because there’s too many diseases and STIs and, oh, there could be AIDS. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Baseera Khan: So I do think that that’s the backdrop of all of the, like, you know, like. Shaming that’s going on in the government against the LGBTQI community. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah, I mean, and again, you know, we we were both teenagers in the nineties and I do very, very intensely remember how you were propagandized. You were socialized to be terrified of AIDS, of HIV, and how for, you know, the first decade and a half that it was a part of public consciousness. It was thought of being something that that if not, if it wasn’t exclusive to to gay people, particularly gay men, it was predominantly. 

 

Baseera Khan: Yes. 

 

Damon Young: Them. And they were the ones who were passing it and catching it. And and then you had to hold down low, DL thing, which was more thing like the late nineties, early aughts where there was a lot of attention being paid to, you know, men who lived a quote unquote “straight life” but had gay sex on the side. 

 

Baseera Khan: Mm. 

 

Damon Young: And that contributed to this hysteria. And in in and I do think that there are people who are in their thirties or forties who still have remnants. Of that, you know, remnants of the residue of those conversations. Like I even remember, I was in middle school when I first heard that Magic Johnson, you know, was retired from the NBA because he had contracted HIV. And I was in sixth grade. Seventh grade. I forgot got exactly which grade. But I remember hanging out with my basketball teammates and the first conversation was about, oh, I guess Magic Johnson must be gay, because if he has HIV. 

 

Baseera Khan: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: That’s what this means. And then I started crying. 

 

Baseera Khan: Hmm. 

 

Damon Young: I remember my first reaction was tears, because I thought, oh, this means that Magic, who’s one of my favorite players, is going to die. 

 

Baseera Khan: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: I’m going to watch Magic Johnson die. And so— 

 

Baseera Khan: I felt the same way. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

Baseera Khan: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: I mean, it was. [laughs]

 

Baseera Khan: It was traumatic.

 

Damon Young: It was a scary time. 

 

Baseera Khan: Yeah, it was traumatic. I mean, I still, to this date, don’t even really [laughs] date because I’m still dealing with some of the the kinds of, like throwback from growing up in that time frame when you’re young and you are told, like, all these terrible, horrible things can happen to you. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

Baseera Khan: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: I wonder and your question about the age of the person to ask this question is something I didn’t really consider when when I saw this question, because again, I just didn’t consider it. But it does I do think it makes a difference. Like I just listening to the question. Thinking of the question right now, I presume this person’s probably in like between like 35 and 45. 

 

Baseera Khan: Oh, really? 

 

Damon Young: Which, which would put them in like the prime. I do not think that this is like a 22 year old or 25 year old asking this question. 

 

Baseera Khan: Because they’re so much more evolved as humans. 

 

Damon Young: [laughter] Maybe. Maybe not. 

 

Baseera Khan: Exactly. 

 

Damon Young: I don’t know. I but to your point about just, you know, people who came up from a certain time. 

 

Baseera Khan: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Came up in a certain era have this. I don’t know, this traumatic idea of of what queer sex means and what, you know, who has STDs and how they’re passed. 

 

Baseera Khan: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: That can’t contribute. 

 

Baseera Khan: And it’s just so wild to me how like it’s so wild to me how like a like a general straight dude can just get away with so much, like, irresponsibility, you know, like, there’s no regard to the actions in which one particular person, such as a straight guy, can have like the idea of even, like signing on and then sneaking behind someone’s back and like, have, you know, having all of these like, platitudes with other people just does it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense because I think like and this is like me going out on a limb here, but like, I think back in the day before, we had kind of like more light and support in like marginalized communities, like a lot of people did a lot of things behind a lot of people’s backs. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Baseera Khan: And it was it was also like a moment where where, you know, you couldn’t even really marry the person you wanted to marry because it had to be political as well, because of, you know, like when you when you have such gross inequities in gender and class and race, then that’s when, you know, tribes have to like. Make deals with other tribes, because that’s kind of what was happening, right. But nowadays, when like there’s a little bit more freedom in terms of like, I want to be an artist, so I’m pursuing to be an artist. You know, you’re a writer, you want to pursue, to be a writer. You know, this person over here is deciding not to have kids. This person over here is deciding not to get married. This person over here is deciding to get into a throuple like that is on some level, the way our society is going. However, the government is always trying to throw rocks in our way. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Baseera Khan: And sort of like pull us back to a time where tribes had to be married to tribes and everything had to be very political. So it’s it is it’s also a way to keep society in control so that a very particular group of people can have control over those people. 

 

Damon Young: That’s a great point. You know, you know, we could just blame the government [laughs] blame the man. I mean, I’m good with it. I’m always, it’s always—

 

Baseera Khan: I’m not necessarily blaming the government—

 

Damon Young: —it’s always the trump card. Yeah. Just boom, the big joker. 

 

Baseera Khan: I’m not blaming the government because we know the government ain’t shit, right? It’s like more like the Koch brothers or like these huge, like, conglomerates of, like, trillionaires and billionaires. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Baseera Khan: Like. They’re the ones that that feed whatever the scenario may be. It has nothing to do with government. It really has nothing to do with, like humanity even. It’s just greed and ownership. And that trickles down. 

 

Damon Young: There’s control. 

 

Baseera Khan: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: I want to veer a bit, I’m thinking about, like, the concept of bias and for context, like, I’ve seen similar conversations like this existing, like on on, on Twitter or Facebook or whatever, And you have people who profess out loud that they have issues with being in a romantic partnership in any in any sort of way with someone who is bisexual. 

 

Baseera Khan: Mm. 

 

Damon Young: Right. But they will not admit to themselves that they’re biphobic or homophobic. And so I’m wondering why people are so loathe to just admit that. Oh, yes, I actually am biphobic. Yes, I actually am hom—

 

Baseera Khan: Hmm. 

 

Damon Young: I mean, even as I ask that question, I get it because you could say or you could you could provide the entire definition. But once you actually admit to the thing out loud, then that’s not allowed in polite society. 

 

Baseera Khan: Mm. 

 

Damon Young: Where now you are labeled as this thing, you know, as this terrible, awful thing, and people are going to treat you based on a label. Whereas if you admit to the behaviors that suggest you are that label but don’t actually label yourself, then you’re able to kind of it’s a loophole. It’s like a linguistic loophole. 

 

Baseera Khan: But what about what about and I’m not disagreeing with what you’re saying, but what about the person themselves getting to choose who they let in and out of their life? Like, I would never want to date a polyamorous person. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Baseera Khan: I just couldn’t do that. I’d rather mess around with a group of people and and head into the unknown, you know, knowing that that that didn’t work out. Whether then, like, I wouldn’t want to, like, get into an evolved relationship with a person where I’m like, the second person on a list of people and it’s all organized and I get that person every Monday night. You know, it’s like, this isn’t my life and I’m not signing up for it, you know? 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

Baseera Khan: So in that same way, I wonder if a person who refuses to be with a person who is gender fluid or sexually fluid, I wonder if it does that make them homophobic or biphobic or does that make them a person who’s just sort of still has a lot of work to do on themselves? Like I mean, or not, you know, like a person gets to choose who they will be with or what kind of lifestyle they sign up for. 

 

Damon Young: Well, you’re talking about preferences. 

 

Baseera Khan: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Right? And I think that it does get a little nebulous, a little messy when we when we actually talk about preferences. Cause you’re right. You know, there’s no more intimate, you know, act than you know who we decide to have in our lives in that way. 

 

Baseera Khan: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Right. And so, yeah, if someone has any sort of standard as any sort of deal breaker, as any sort of likes or dislikes or whatever, they should stick to them. Right, in that regard. But I think I think the difference with this question is like, okay, so you wouldn’t sign up to be in a in a poly polyamorous relationship where you’re like your your name is Wednesday. Like they don’t even have your name, saved, in their phone. You’re just Wednesday. 

 

Baseera Khan: Right. 

 

Damon Young: In their phone. Right. But, but that’s based off of also the behavior and that’s also based off of how the relationship would look and how your role in a relationship would look, how you function in relationship, how they would function in a relationship. 

 

Baseera Khan: Okay. I watch a I watch enough television about the stuff, to, to be able to ask this question. [laughter] To me it just sounds like an episode of 90210, so so this couple were together to, they found each other. They love each other. And then one day the guy’s like, oh, by the way, I’m bi. And then she’s like, okay, I’m bouncing out of this relationship. So here’s here’s me contradicting myself. If I met someone and I’ve developed a strong friendship with them because I’m in Aquarian and I have to put people in the friendzone first. So it’s like if I start a relationship with you and I have a close bond with you, and then one day we’re like, hey, screw it, let’s do this. Let’s be together, let’s let’s, let’s make love. Let’s like, get this going now. Then that person says, I’m poly. Now I have to decide whether or not I want to move forward in this relationship because there’s been a close bond that’s been formed. Okay. So so these things are complicated. So, you know, if a woman is in a relationship with a man and they have this close bond and then one day he says, oh, I’m bi, she can probably have a couple of questions about honesty and transparency that that’s that becomes an issue because there’s a there’s a level of obscurity in the relationship. What else are you hiding from me? Right. 

 

Damon Young: That’s a fair point. 

 

Baseera Khan: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: That that is, you know, when you’re. Because if this person springs this on you. Right. And maybe it wasn’t even him trying to hide it. It’s just. It wasn’t relevant information. 

 

Baseera Khan: Mm. When two people are intimate with each other and, you know, they’re talking about a half a dozen other things, I think that, you know, one’s sexual preference has to has to be at the table. Like, I think that couples that are in relationships for three years or some such, then like all of a sudden one day, you know, one of the partners says, oh, I never wanted to have kids. Like, these are things. 

 

Damon Young: That’s, that’s—

 

Baseera Khan: These, they’re similar. You know, it’s like about preferences. We’re talking about preferences here. You know. 

 

Damon Young: What if in this circumstance, two people, they’re going strong, they’re dating. It looks like they’re about to like, you know what, we’re going to make this official. We’re going to even post each other on on Instagram so everyone knows and not even like an elbow. We’re going to we’re going to post an actual picture and we’re going to tag each other on IG. [laughter] We’re going to make it. We’re practically married. 

 

Baseera Khan: I can’t believe that IG is the is this like the ring, you know.

 

Damon Young: It is. It’s the official thing. Let’s say they’re having a conversation one day about, like, you know, their past, you know, shit they did in college, shit they did, you know, when they were in their twenties and early thirties and whatnot. And the guy mentions, oh, yeah, you know, when I was the junior in college, you know, me and this guy, you know, we hooked up and, you know, that was that and that happened. 

 

Baseera Khan: But does that make that guy bi just because he hooked up? I mean, women do this all the time. Women. Women have sexual proclivities with women all the time. 

 

Damon Young: Well, I don’t think it makes someone. 

 

Baseera Khan: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: But I’m not an expert in this topic. What I do know, though, is that that sort of scenario, this is the scenario basically posed in the question. 

 

Baseera Khan: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: And that sort of scenario, which doesn’t affect we’re talking about past behavior, not about future behavior. 

 

Baseera Khan: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: And so a person mentioned this thing from their past. 

 

Baseera Khan: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: You know, and is it homophobic or is it biphobic or is it some type of phobic to automatically discount them for a romantic future because of something that may have happened in their past? 

 

Baseera Khan: I don’t think that it’s I don’t think you can place phobia on it quite, quite the same way, because I’m sure that that person would support a litany of people in their lives that are queer or that are bi or that are, you know, this, that and the third, it’s just like about themselves and their fear of the unknown. 

 

Damon Young: Wasn’t that phobia?

 

Baseera Khan: I don’t think being afraid of someone leaving them, you know, for for. It’s a it’s about the fear of abandonment. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Baseera Khan: Because. Because. And now we’re talking about double standards. Because a woman can have sex with 30 women in college and then go meet the man. And the man is like, yeah, I knew you weren’t gay this whole time, but a man can have one sexual encounter in college, and then all of a sudden that labels him gay and like, he’s never the biggest problem with women in the women community. If I can speak to all the women [both speaking] in the world without an eye roll. 

 

Damon Young: The women in the women community. [laughs]

 

Baseera Khan: The women in the women community, okay [laughter] the biggest the biggest thing that I think the running gag is that there’s no such thing as a bi man. There’s only a gay man that still has some, like, residual effects of women. 

 

Damon Young: I mean, I don’t disagree with you. I think, you know, I’ll speak for the—

 

Baseera Khan: This is a very complicated question.

 

Damon Young: I’ll speak for the male community also [laughs] right?

 

Baseera Khan: Right. The male community. The male village. All over the world—

 

Damon Young: The male community, the male community, I’m speaking for all the men in the world [laughter] right now in that I that that notion that there’s no such thing as a bi man it it it’s I don’t know it transcends. Right. Because I think there are a lot of men who believe that too. 

 

Baseera Khan: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: That if a man is either straight or he is gay. 

 

Baseera Khan: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: And if he has sex with a man, he’s interested in men, then he is a gay man who is pretending— 

 

Baseera Khan: There’s no such thing as bi. Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: There is no such thing as bi. And so in this gets to to the point about like there just being such a strict as just a strict construct just a strict rule. 

 

Baseera Khan: Yeah.

 

Damon Young: A strict rubric on what it means to be a straight man. 

 

Baseera Khan: It’s also just a deficit of the language, you know. 

 

Damon Young: Deficit of language. 

 

Baseera Khan: Yeah, it’s a deficit of the language because I’ve known women that have had gay lovers. 

 

Damon Young: Hmm. 

 

Baseera Khan: And I’m speaking in reference to the deficit of language. 

 

Damon Young: Okay. 

 

Baseera Khan: So I’ve had girlfriends who’ve had gay lovers. They have sex in a very particular way where the man is basically assuming the kinds of like sex that he would have with another male partner. But he. But he’s with a woman because—

 

Damon Young: So like pegging and things of that nature?

 

Baseera Khan: Yeah. I mean I don’t know I’m like such a I’m such a like I should have grown up in a Montessori school like I, I don’t know all the stuff that’s going on in the world because I, like, I wake up, I do my work, I stick to myself. I’m not a hermit. I go to parties and stuff, but I just like I’m not somebody who’s like really out there on the dating scene. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Baseera Khan: So I don’t know all the stuff that’s going on, but. I do have a lot of friends that go to a lot of things and do a lot of things, and I live vicariously through people. So what I’m trying to say is that there is a specific kind of love that people are looking for, and sometimes it’s really just about mind and it’s not about body. And I think that that’s the thing that is missing from the language in which we speak the English language or whatever kind of language is that there is a kind of psychic space that’s involved in lovemaking and or like in seduction or in desire or in, you know, sex drives. And and this is what makes this this conversation really pleasant to have, but also very confusing to have because, you know, I think that a lot of times when people are intimate with each other, it’s not really about sex. It’s about being seen. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Baseera Khan: And and that’s the unfortunate part of the way that we have sort of been brought up in a country such as a new country. Right. This is a new country. It’s it’s just that everything’s been about ownership and we’re still hiding behind the fact that we owned people and killed people to have this land, no matter what our skin tone or our gender or our whatever is. It’s just like we’re still we’re living on stolen land. And so I think a lot of the ideas around dating is more about real estate, commerce, ownership. And that’s why I said at the beginning of this conversation, like, unfortunately, I think dating is more about exchange and politics than it is about like truly understanding oneself and understanding that other person. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. Baseera Khan, thank you for joining us today. Where can people find you? Can you name three places? You don’t have to name the 20 places that you are. Can you name the three places where you want people to look for you? 

 

Baseera Khan: I’m currently on view at the Hirshhorn Museum of Art until the end of July. I can be found @baseerakhan on Instagram and I have a solo exhibition up in Cincinnati at the CAC closes in August. 

 

Damon Young: And you have something coming up, too, in D.C.? 

 

Baseera Khan: Yes. So the Hirshhorn Museum of Art is I currently have an exhibition up at the Hirshhorn Museum of Art, and I will do a public talk and reception on May 25th. 

 

Damon Young: Okay. 

 

Baseera Khan: From 6 to 9. 

 

Damon Young: All right. 

 

Baseera Khan: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Thank you. Thank you for joining us. 

 

Baseera Khan: Yeah, you’re welcome. [music plays]

 

Damon Young: So, again, I just want to thank Major Jackson, Baseera Khan for coming through, joining us today with great conversations. Both conversations went unexpected places. And I appreciate that about, you know, about this show whenever we could get there. So, again, thank you, Major. Thank you, Baseera, for coming through. Also, thank you all for listening again for you could be anywhere. So many podcasts that exist. But you decided to spend your time with us on Stuck with Damon Young. And also, subscribe it’s free. Tell a friend, tell all your friends. Tell enemies, tell everyone, Stuck with Damon Young. Listen to us. Also, if you have any questions about anything whatsoever, hit me at deardamon@crooked.com. All right y’all. See you next week. [music plays] Stuck with Damon Young is hosted by me, Damon Young. From Crooked Media, our executive producers are Kendra James and Meredith Heringer. Our producers are Ryan Wallerson and Morgan Moody. Mixing sound and mastering by Sara Gibble-Laska and the folks at Chapter Four. Theme music and score by Taka Yasuzawa. And special thanks to Charlotte Landes. And from Gimlet and Spotify our executive producers are Krystal Hawes-Dressler, Lauren Silverman, Nicole Beemsterboer, Neil Drumming and Matt Shilts. Special thanks to Lesley Gwam. Follow and subscribe to Stuck on Spotify. Tap the follow button and hit the bell icon to be notified when a new episode drops.