Beka Valentine is a software developer, hacktivist, captain of the Eureka Maru, and all-around weirdo/massive trans dyke who hates corporate Pride. She is also one of the co-founders of the queer anarchafeminist hackerspace/community workshop/big gay mess Queerious Labs in San Francisco. She was kind enough to give Rachel Haywire an interview for Trigger Warning.
Rachel Haywire: How did you first get into cyberpunk?
Beka Valentine: I was interested in sci-fi from the time I was a kid. I recall reading through Clute and Nicholl’s Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and thinking “Gosh I must know more about this!” By 2000, I’d seen Ghost in the Shell, Blade Runner, and Hackers and was somewhat obsessed with cyberpunk. That’s also around the time I fell into the world of transhumanism and singularitarianism.
Rachel Haywire How do you feel about transhumanism, and how would you say this relates to being transgender?
Beka Valentine: I was really interested in transhumanism starting in high school. I was obsessed with the KurzweilAI.net brain database and browsed it daily. However, I think transhumanisum as a cohesive and conscious exploration of the future was much more relevant in previous decades than it is now. Our culture has changed so much, and people are a lot more comfortable with transhumanist ideas now, so a great deal of transhumanism is far more mainstream than it was back in the day.
Rachel Haywire: Do you think transhumanism can go any further? If so, how?
Beka Valentine: I think as a philosophical movement and tendency, transhumanism has been dead for a while. Kurzweil no longer needs to convince anyone that the “Singularity is Near” because 1/2 of Silicon Valley has bought into the cult. Look how common and corporate these ideas and questions are. You have Elon Musk talking about us living in a simulation, Peter Thiel funding his vampiric blood immortality bid, and vast sums of money are being desperately poured into AI trying to make it “friendly.”
However, transhumanism as an undercurrent of ideas and goals has a bright future. To see what I’m talking about, just talk to radical queers. Scratch the surface of a trans nerd—sometimes you don’t even have to scratch—and you’ll find a cyborg accelerationist.
Rachel Haywire: Being a transperson who is also against corporate exploitation, how do you feel about major corporations and banks waving Pride flags?
Beka Valentine: Police and corporations don’t belong in Pride and need to be stomped out! Social justice is liberation, not the garbage that gets passed off as tolerance. The police and corporations are forces of oppression, not liberation. There can be no queer liberation through capitalism and state violence.
The mainstream gay community is heavily assimilationist. It’s gotten to the point where assholes are complaining about people wearing leather to Pride because “What about the children?” The result of the corporatization of Pride is a parade of fabulous fags that corporations are happy to exploit with a rainbow avatar on Twitter and a stupid fucking float at a parade.
There can be no social justice without resisting rainbow capitalism, because the same forces are at work at both the interpersonal and societal level. The dehumanization of queers that leads to people insisting on using the wrong pronouns is the same dehumanization of queers that leads to Sephora putting up ads with neo-pronouns. It’s all about seeing us not as Real People, but as either subhuman animals or walking wallets. Achieving social justice is about achieving a world where all humans are valued in and of themselves, and are treated with respect and dignity, not achieving a world where queer folx’s existence is merely tolerated.
Rachel Haywire: Would you be willing to speak with a queer nationalist?
Beka Valentine: If by queer nationalist you mean a queer member of the Scottish Nationalist Party, then I’ve probably already done so. But if you mean someone in pink KKK robes, I’d punch them in the face.
Rachel Haywire: Do you believe in democracy or are you a pure anarchist?
Beka Valentine: Everyone has a different conception of what democracy and anarchism means. Any definition will draw disagreements of some readers, regardless of what it is. But if by democracy you mean our current system—which is technically a republic—then no. I don’t think majority rule voting like we have is good.
Rachel Haywire: What are your favorite bands?
Beka Valentine: I’m all over the place. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of instrumental versions of NIN songs, 80s industrial like Front 242 and Fad Gadget, and lots of goth. Mostly Sisters of Mercy —Dominion / Mother Russia is amazing. Light Asylum is also really incredible. Sometimes I also drop back into listening to videogame music—primarily Deus Ex or Wipeout.
Rachel Haywire: Anything else you would like to share? Where can people check out your work?
Beka Valentine: I tweet. A lot. About all sorts of stuff, including the stuff I hack on. I’m @beka_valentine on Twitter if anyone wants to say hello. The hacking work I do is documented @QueeriousLabs on Twitter. We’re going to announce some interesting hacktivist-y stuff in the near future. Make sure to join your local queer anarchafeminist non-profit hackerspaces so we can bring about Fully Automated Queer Luxury Space Anarchism together!
Rachel Haywire is the Founder of Trigger Warning and your hostess for the new insurrection. She is a consultant, author, musician, and model. Currently, she is running for President of the United States under the banner of the United States Transhumanist Party. Her Twitter is @BeyondTheCenter.