I’ve been meaning to write this post for awhile… but have never quite found the gut to write this in this space–where so many people come to love on the queers for all that they are. But today–perhaps because it’s the 2011 Day of Silence–I’ve decided to be ironic, and say it. I came across a really powerful piece of writing on the PFLAG website that really helped me articulate my feelings, so I’m going to try and rework some of what she said into how I feel. I have some criticisms of the current/popular LGBT rights movement. So to my fellow queer bloggers, to the queers who are reading this blog on the daily, and to all you wonderful, wonderful allies, I write in solidarity and in warmth the following:
- A lot of us, even at JMU, are still calling it the gay rights movement, or the LGBT rights movement. If anyone should know that the language we use matters, it’s us. In order to build a more perfect, more inclusive and loving world, we must begin to include our very perfect and loved gender queer, queer, intersex, transgender, bisexual, panssexual, demisexual and assexual friends, family and lovers in the movement. The word that has begun to take precedence is queer. It is a powerful reclamation, affirmation and most importantly grey word, use it without fear.
- We are not looking hard enough for voices that will speak to the entire diversity of our community. I cannot stress this enough. That those who lie at the intersections of oppression, people of color, who are poor, who are queer, who are women, who are trans, who are disabled… those people, with those mixed identities have beautiful and well-developed ideas of how to bring all of those identities into a safe and equal space, simultaneously. Listen to them, give them substantial representation in leadership positions in the movement, make their voices be heard. As the most heavily funded politically active queer rights organization in the country, HRC‘s staff has four people of color out of 30.
- Referring to our movement as “the last civil rights movement” or “Gay is the new Black”, that one was on the front cover of The Advocate. What this does is tells the rest of America and a lot of the people we need in our movement that people of color, women, the disabled, the poor (you’re getting the gist by now) have already got their rights. That they are just as equal as everybody else. While the social, political and economic disparities for these people still very clearly exist. To alienate them is to become the oppressor…and for our community with such a long history of oppression, for being written out of history and kicked out and around, I strongly doubt we want to “accidentally” assume that role by using this kind of language.
- Playing the, “well if you don’t care about my movement, why should I care about yours” game.For example: writing off a homophobic person of color. You are writing off someone who has experience to which you can share and understand certain commonalities and strategies to end oppression. If they cannot gain something from your experience, then at least try to learn something from theirs. If you really begin to examine some of the root causes of what popular media tells us are the “big issues”, they start looking really similar across a diversity of identities.
- Reshape and rethink the fight for institutions that already seek to stratify the human experience, like marriage. That’s right, I said it. Oh marriage, the poster child of queer headlines. I say, fight for your marriage in the Church, you go queer people. And I say, fight for your Mom to accept the invitation to your ceremony, go for it. But stop and think for a second about what or who this civil marriage thing we’re fighting for is already leaving out, where the gaps are. Why is it that single people, or widowed or divorced or sisters who always lived together or two-best-friends-who-never-found-their-one-true-loves-but-are-perfect-roommates are also left out of those “1,138 federal rights, protections and responsibilities”?
- Start looking for the obvious indicators that mainstream media, politics and of course those really awful people out there like the Phelps family are trying to pit underprivileged groups against each other. Like that whole–7 out of 10 African-American voters said “yes” to Prop 8–thing. Don’t trust the headlines, start delving deeper. Read articles like this one in the LA Times, where in a mainstream newspaper the writer actually critiques the media following the non-existent blacks versus gays controversy.
So I ask us to believe in this one basic fact. We will never reach equality for queers, if we do not reach equality for everyone else too–because let’s face it: we’re made up of a whole lot more than just queer.