Happy Pride Month!
This year Pride has been cancelled in most locations due to COVID-19 and celebrations are looking a bit different. Much of Pride has been overshadowed by the protests for racial justice in the United States.
Additionally, Larry Kramer passed recently. Kramer was one of the gay leaders who has loomed large in my queer development. As a kid, I feared him. He seemed angry, virulent, and too in-your-face with his tactics for my shy self. I respected his work, both with the creation and leadership at GMHC and ACT UP. But his personality scared me.
The more I became involved in queer activism and came into myself, the more I understood and identified with Kramer. In 2018 GMHC awarded Kramer a lifetime achievement award. In his acceptance speech he talked about how he came to believe in evil. Evil, he said, was standing by and watching thousands of people die because a government could not be moved to care about them.
We are witnessing evil. We have been witnessing evil for decades, but now more of us are paying attention. Killing people under the color of law is evil. Using law enforcement to terrorize Black and Latnix communities is evil. Allowing the entire system which keeps these murderers on the streets to hunt more Black and Brown folx is evil.
I am glad to see many of my queer brethren at the protests, supporting protesters, and financially supporting bail and legal funds for protesters. We must keep doing this. We must also work to address the racism which is so rampant in our own queer community.
The skeletons in the backs of the closest we came out of is our own racism. Before you jump in and say, “But I am [fill in a racial ethnicity] so I can’t be racist!” Yes, you can. If you benefit from the white supremacy power structure to benefit you as a slightly more desirable minority candidate because your race is preferred over another and you don’t work against it, that’s racist. If you are part of the power structure (say, in law enforcement) and don’t call it out in your ranks, that’s racist.
Before you jump up and say, “I date a [insert racial minority],” or “My partner is [insert racial minority]” so I’m not racist!” stop. Just because you eat a salad does not mean you are vegetarian. If you haven’t worked on eliminating your racial biases and actively work against racism, you are racist.
We, as the LGBTQ+ community, must actively work to dismantle racism within our ranks.
Within Our Institutions
The queer community has a lot of institutions: LGBTQ+ Centers, Health Centers, Counseling Centers, legal groups, political groups, and more. Most of these groups have boards or other leadership structures. Whatever groups you are part of (or donating too) look at the leadership. Who holds the top spots? Who is making policy? Who is the face of the organization? We must have a diverse racial and ethnic leadership in all of our organizations now! There is no excuse for an all white or majority white board. White folxs (and I say this as one of y’all) cannot adequately represent racial minority voices. I have my Ph.D. in political psychology and have spent 20+ years working to understand race in American and listening to all sorts of folks (and have a Black partner) and still would not claim to be able to speak for Black, Latinix, Native, or Asian folx. Get minority folx in organizational leadership (and more than your one token Black person, please).
Review your organization’s literature. What is the language you are using? Are you inadvertently using coded racialized language? What is being signaled to minority groups in your written documents and websites? Unsure? Ask a group of non-white folx to review your stuff (and pay them).
Review your funding priorities. We must put our money where our mouth is. If we want to deal with our community racism, we need to fund activities both focused on or featuring minority speakers/performers/etc. and we must fund education to help members of our communities unlearn racism.
In Our Social Groups
Racism starts at home. We have long had “white” clubs, “Black” clubs, “Latinix” clubs and other distinctions in our social groups. I am all for racial minority groups having their own bars. Sometimes people don’t want to deal with white BS when they are out for a good time. If you don’t get that, think about how you feel when a group of straight bachelorettes invade the local gay bar and start rubbing upon you and spilling their drinks over their Old Navy capris.
We have to make sure that our bars and clubs are accessible to minority folks. This means creating an atmosphere where someone who isn’t white can come in, be served in a pleasant fashion, included in the nightlife, and leave un-harassed. This means making sure your security staff don’t have different screening standards for non-white people. This means serving people as you would any clientele. This means not doing things like asking your Asian patrons, “So where are you really from?”
It also means looking at your personal circles. What do your close friends look like? Who comes to your parties? If they all look like you there is a pretty good chance you need to unpack some of your racist ideas.
Use Your Skills
Lots of us in the LGBTQ white community have had a shot at higher education and some of us are really well off. Many more of us have skills in social organizing, protesting, and movements. We must leverage these skills to help the current protesters for racial justice.
Know how to run text and phone banks to get people to call their legislators? Sign up with a BLM group to help with that work. Got a law degree? Defend arrested protesters pro bono. Love making signs with lots of glitter? Get to work! “Fuck the Police” looks great if highlighted in silver glitter.
Why Does This Matter
Beyond just being a decent human being and fighting for the right for people to be able to jog, get pulled over at a traffic stop, jay walk, or breathe without being killed by a cop, we have a huge non-white LGBTQ community. If you are shocked by this, well you may have some work to do on your feelings around race. Additionally, this is our fight. The same cops who kill Black folks have killed queer folx. The same politicians who want to keep the current power structure in place want queer folk to go without healthcare, to dissolve our families, and to allow our jobs to fire us for no damn good reason.
This fight is a queer fight.
Go. Be queer. Fuck the patriarchy.