Monday, May 4, 2009
I'm not talking no gay and lesbian reform, I'm talking revolution
lorenzo hererra y lozano shares this raw, hardly edited work in progress with lifelube
It is no secret to anyone, friends or not, that I’m not down with most things about the Gay and Lesbian Movement. In fact, I make it a point to call it a Gay and Lesbian Movement, rather than queer, LGBT, LGBTI, LGBTTISGLTS, and so on, because it isn’t any of those. As a movement, our identities, our experiences, our realities and our very bodies are summed up in letters/acronyms and just as easily chopped of when the opportunity presents itself. Incremental gains, after all, is a pretty way of saying “Not you, not now, not ever.”
By now I’ve made a good name for myself as being angry and perpetually unhappy with anything. I’d like to think I bring my critiques to the table along with some potential suggestions (however vague and useless) and maybe even some solutions (however equally vague and useless.. and irrelevant). This morning, however, I realized that for too long I’ve been focusing on the details, the little things, the nuances, the ego really.
So in the way Oprah taught me to say “AHA!” (then run out and drive a Ford Focus), I came to this place this morning (I drove there in the Focus):
The Gay and Lesbian Movement has gone too far, too many times and is fundamentally flawed institutionally and (to quote Micaela Díaz-Sánchez, though in a different context) “by design.” I’ve spent almost a decade kicking and screaming about the exclusion of people of color and the consistently offensive nature of our random and haphazard inclusion. We cant reform this, we must flip it on its head.
It is no secret, no mystery and no surprise that communities of color have a lot of work to do when it comes to homophobia. But, homophobia is not ours alone, nor have we mastered the art of all things homophobic, in fact, so much of who we are and what we put out in the world is inherently anti-homophobic (so stop using machismo with us!). Again, homophobia exists in our homes, yes, but let us also think about the connections Suzanne Pharr made in Homophobia: A Weapon of Sexism (Women’s Project, 1997 – though it originally came out in the 80’s), about how homophobia is in fact a weapon, a tool of sexism and is fundamentally about misogyny, the hatred of the feminine.
When we talk about uprooting homophobia, let us dig deeper and think about what it would mean to uproot misogyny. Perhaps gay and bi cisgender men would then see the inherit connections between our rights and a woman’s right to choose. And, let us not talk about these isms and phobias in contexts that imply people of color hold the trademark on evil.
This isn’t about homophobia alone, however, it is about the more profound dilemma of the Gay and Lesbian Movement’s apparently inherent inability to entertain or fathom the complexities of our realities. We do not need ANOTHER survey, poll or focus group process. We are not that THAT complicated and hard to crack open. We could learn a lot by just looking at what people of color have been screaming about for the past say, 20-30-40-500 years?
The Gay and Lesbian Movement has done too much harm far too many times. From the trans-exclusion in ENDA to the white supremacist attacks on people of color (many of whom queer, many of which by queer/people of color) post-Prop 8 passing. From the ridiculous and insulting minimalist funding of our organizations to the overtly outrageous and idiotic overbearing almost white-only leadership of what could be multi-racial organizations, but instead are really white organizations with some people of color (some of which might know they are people of color) sprinkled in their diversity departments.
I mean no disrespect to the people of color working in these organizations, those working to change these organizations, and to the race-conscious and downass white people who have had our backs even when we might have not known or be able to have our own backs. This is not about individuals, this is about institution, structure, underlying values and subsequent actions.
There is no turning back, there is no reforming, there is only revolutionizing. It is not enough to bring affirmative action ‘a la Pipeline Project and pour more people of color (who, by the way, might only be trained on how to behave in front of white people and people of color who know no better or know better but act like they don’t) into these potentially multi-racial but really, white organizations. My liberation is not tied to brown men in philanthropy, my liberation is tied to movement, actual flowing-moving forward-thinking and shaking movement. Affirmative action is not good enough and might even work against us.
Advisory boards are not enough, diversity committees were never enough and slapping a black face on a billboard.. not enough. These acts, if anything, are only further indication of how far off track we are from bringing about real, comprehensive, revolutionary, life-saving, world-spinning change. We’ve tried these things over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. They haven't worked. They have only scarred us deeper.
I’m not talking no gay and lesbian reform, I’m talking revolution. I’m not even talking revolution out into the world, I’m talking about internal and internalized slamming the door on old, tired, useless, racist, classist, and sexist ways. I’m talking about opening the door to another possibility, another reality.
The damage is to wide, the wounds are too deep, the tears are too sharp for us to settle for more of the same. Because of the scarcity of our realities, I could only think of radical and perhaps extreme measures. The balance is so far off that perhaps only by going in the complete opposite direction can we begin to talk about finding middle ground.
Here are just a few, off the cuff, not unique and not comprehensively thought-out ideas:
Leadership: Bring on the radical, the poor, the working class, the woman, the trans, the young, the elder and roll up into positions of power. I aint talking no director of diversity or outreach, I’m talking administrative, foundational, hierarchical leadership power. Add in some mad, mad, MAD skills to get this job done and some good, healthy, healing and loving support systems to facilitate the journey. Add in insanely and irrationally high expectations that these leaders of color hold and embody a radical racial justice analysis. People of color spewing the same thing we’ve tried to run away from, is not what we need. We need only look at the RNC.
Values: Let us test every single one of our assumptions and throw out the ones that make no sense. No more honoring of elected officials because they say they want to support us in getting married, while simultaneously establishing poverty courts and pushing people out of their cities. No more celebrating the ringing of Wall Street bells when Wall Street thrives off the decimation of people’s homes and bodies globally and here in our homes. It’s time for some overt, explicit, unapologetic, proactive and rooted values.
Issues: Let us finally have that damn conversation about marriage. Is it relevant or not? Is it our fight or not? Do we really want it or not? If we do, let’s do this, but let us just have that conversation once and for all. Let us challenge our ability to think beyond the confines of what we believe are the limits of our desire. Let us think of how the opening of the borders is a queer issue, let us challenge gay and lesbian gentrification of poor and working class neighborhoods. Let us figure some shit out.
Priorities: Let us flip this baby on its head. If we must prioritize, let us put our poor and working class young trans folk of color at the top, with even brown cisgender queer men at the bottom, just above white men. Let us really fundamentally transform and transgress the meaning of priorities. For someone’s god’s sake, let us fucking think.
Bipartisanship: I’m over hearing about reaching across the aisle. I’m not interested in finding compromise with people who believe I might be able to wed my partner but my grandmother living with dementia cannot receive adequate and efficient health care. No more. My grandmother is not a negotiating tool, nor is my love for my man. I’m in favor of full-on in your face partisanship. I’m ready to live in a world of crazy commie socialist tree-hugging vegan-wearing lefties. I’m not looking for (nor interested) in a world where we all agree and think the same, but I am looking for a world where certain values are unwavering and non-negotiable. We can argue on strategy all we want, but the fundamentals, no.
Anti-Bias: My ass is biased, period. I believe trans folk have a basic right to receive proper and good health care, period. I don’t want to have conversations about fiscal conservatives or pragmatic approaches. No, I’m biased, I view the world through a biased lens that says all life is sacred and all bodies are sacred, period. Let us start testing our biases, own them and check ourselves and each other when our biases are fed by isms and phobias instead of love and liberation.
Organizations: Let us survey our worlds and name those of us who are still around. Where are our organizations? Which ones are still here? Which ones did we have to close? Why? Let us go out into the wildernesses of our own fears and organizing heartbreaks and find the hearts and minds of those of us no longer around. Let us re-think what is possible and necessary for us to thrive. If it is through organizations or a combination thereof, let it be. But let us make it happen in healthy, affirming, thriving and sustainable ways. Enough of weekly cash flow scares (for the lucky ones) and enough of philanthropic prescription (for the questionable luckier ones). This is our movement, let us make some sense of it.
Organizing: Let us check ourselves and our assumptions on what is feasible, doable and legitimate. A structured, registered, well-funded organization stands in no way above rank of grass roots, campus-based, workspace-based, home-based volunteer-run, budget-less organizing. Perhaps a comprehensive approach to organizing is needed to bring about the lasting and sustainable change we need. Let us then begin honoring all forms of organizing.
Academia: Enough of academics living in their own planets, going to their own conferences and writing their papers “about” people who look like them, but people they don’t always get to be near, around, or loved and fed by. This isn't a jab at academic sisterhood who are doing mad good work breaking shit down and helping us make sense of our worlds. This is a slap at institutions that do not support genuine relationship building and nurturing. But, too, if you’re in school reading, writing and getting grades about and because of queer xicana performance artists, your ass better be showing up to their performances and throwing down some substantive and tangible love.
Arts: Let us get some artists up in this, now. I recall being interviewed by the Washington Blade and asked how I felt identifying as an artist/writer while still being a “leader.” I remember laughing, not at the irony, but at the idea that anyone would not see the connection or inherent nature of the arts and their place in our movements for centuries. Let us begin honoring our artists, not only in word and by applause, but by tearing open our pockets and supporting our artists in doing their thing, which is our thing, and advancing our place in this world.
[Let me be clear, these ideas are not ranked in any particular order. While my brain is un-linear, Facebook, email and Blogger are.]
I have spent the last several years lamenting the bridges I burned. I often go through life wondering what bridge I burn with each step I take, each word I type. Then, on occasion, I look around and realize there never was a bridge to begin with. All this time I have been standing in the high current with water up to my neck. And really, the current is where the movement is. We need no bridge, we need only jump in the river and storm through.
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