Sometimes, My Community Pisses Me Off a Little

07/22/2010

And by community, I’m specifically referring to my fellow queers in the LGBT community.

If you don’t know anything about the queer netroots, then you might have missed that their is a revolt going on in the community with a large number of LGBT people deciding that all their problems are now the sole responsibility of one Barack Obama.

The campaign was largely started by John Aravosis, who well, has a habit of making up defaming statements about the President and a habit of being a loud, white, gay male racist who only cares about issues that directly effect him.

Now, before I continue on, let me get a few things straight.

I actually agree with most of the actions by this same community of angry queers.

I believe in holding the Administration’s feet to the fire and not giving Democrats free passes on our issues.

Furthermore I go against “sensible liberal” “common wisdom” and believe it is the most solemn duty of an activist to go far beyond what is “politically viable” and argue for full rights in all regards and demand a swift addressing of grievances.

That’s Activism 101. One doesn’t change things by only asking for what is currently viable now, maybe, let me check the polls, because the activists are there to push public opinion towards the right side, pressure politicians to do the right thing rather than reward cowards, and generally be there to create the environment where straight white cis-men don’t have to be scared to throw the minority group a bone or two of necessary social changes.

That’s the point of being an activist, to fight for what is right and necessary independent of “poll numbers” and the like and create the sort of social changes where people realize the necessity of said law changes.

Furthermore, I also agree with my community that the Democratic Congress this last session has been disappointing on gay rights and that many things that look to be inches away from passing have been stalled exceedingly disappointedly, owing to unnecessary cowardice on the part of “moderates”.

I’m angry about it just like the rest of my community, I am fighting for DADT Repeal, DOMA repeal, ENDA, Uniting American Families Act, and so on to pass and for equal rights in general, and I too can smell the blood in the water that is a great chance to push forward some major redressing of social wrongs and long-delayed necessary bills.

In short, I agree with a lot of things with the angry LGBT activists. And I even agree with a lot of the tactics such as repositioning money funding to causes rather than parties, 60s style protests, and constant noise on the behalf of key issues.

But then there are the parts where the need to paint the Obama presidency as a complete wash leads to a sudden glimpse of who exactly my community views as actually being people in the community.

Let’s look at two posts on Pam’s House Blend. And let me get one thing straight, I love Pam’s House Blend. It’s got a lot of good information and she even reaches out very strongly to trans people, with guest blogger Autumn Sandeen. In short, this is one of the “good guys” of this part of the movement rather than the re-emergent horde of “I bet we could pass gay bills if we cut the dykes and the trannies loose” morons.

So what did the good guys post?

First there was this post, which completely ripped into the idea of “Team Obama” and the Democratic Congress passing anything substantial or important for LGBT people. The commenters below most definitely ripping into it, gleeful to retain the image of Obama as queer-hater who would rather spit than help us out.

Then there was this post, justifying the “closing of the gAyTM”.

Now, for a glimpse at what set me off, allow me to focus in on the second picture which has been very popular at the Blend:

Yeah.

Let’s start going into exactly what is so offensive about this.

You’ll notice that there is a lot of effort to bury and minimize one specific action as “not important”, “meaningless”, or little more than a throwaway.

Indeed it’s been so successful that when I tried to bring it to the attention of Pam and the commenters, they were absolutely clueless to what I was talking about. Perhaps you there reading have no idea what I’m talking about.

Let me refresh all of our memories:

Oh yeah, The Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Jr Hate Crimes Act.

This bill is largely overlooked by most of the LGBT community these days, but it was kind of important.

See it was the first federal law ever to recognize gender identity. Thus, this is the first federal legal protection or even legal recognition that trans people have ever received. There is no words to describe how important this is and will be to the whole of transgender legal efforts at the federal level.

And this directly addressed the biggest problem trans people face right now.

How unbelievably often we’re murdered in cold blood for being Trans.

Our hate crime murders have been obscene, especially in the USA, often resulting from a perfect storm of vulnerabilities. We’re small, politically defenseless, “weird”, a direct threat to patriarchal obsessions between men and women, many people have gotten off any punishment for murdering us using a “trans panic” defense, and cops often don’t like us and don’t investigate our murders seriously. Combine that with the fact that many of us, owing to economic discrimination, often end up working as sex workers and sex workers are the number one target of recreational killers and you end up with one big target on trans people everywhere.

We were essentially a free kill and still are to a large degree.

Federal Hate Crimes didn’t solve that problem instantly, but shored up the weaknesses in the police responses.

No longer could local police shrug off and half-ass investigations into our murders. If they refuse to progress or progress half-assedly, feds can be called in to aid the investigations. Since the passing of the law, a good number of the trans murders have quickly produced suspects and have otherwise been taken seriously.

Furthermore, the adding of trans people to the suspect class of hate crimes means that the “Trans Panic” defense (but jury, I thought she was a transperson freak, of course I had to kill her) is no longer usable, because it shows direct bias based on gender identity and the belief that deserves death. I.e. the definition of a hate crime murder.

Indeed the whole thing was instrumental to a quick turnaround in the Jorge Mercado slaying and ensured Jorge’s cross-dressing wasn’t used as either a defensible excuse nor a reason for the Puerto Rico police to half-ass the investigation.

And yeah, it affects me personally.

Not only does this help make me feel safer walking the street, but it also affects things like planning road-trips.

I don’t have to do things like look at the city or state hate crime laws before figuring out a cross-state road-trip or seeing which cities would be safe to stop in and which I should keep on driving.

It means wherever I go, I may be hated by the locals for who I am, but by law (Insert obligatory Stallone joke here), they have to care whether I live or die.

Measurable, notable, massive improvements of my life from Day 1 versus Day 2 with one law.

Let’s look at that picture again.

To many of my community, it was literally nothing. Unremarkable, unimportant, forgettable. It was an illusion or a bad dream.

Again, this was from one of the White Hats, one of the people who actually stands up and fights for the T in LGBT. This wasn’t from the far more massive part of this movement who openly talk about “cutting loose the T” or treat the T like an unfortunate infection.

And the White Hats, when pressed, think something that directly addresses the issue of whether I live or die was nothing.

Let that sink in.

And why wouldn’t they? Especially for the originators of these memes like open bigot John Aravosis? For white well-off gays living in progressive neighborhoods this must have felt like a cheap watch. How does this effect their day to day lives or the day to day lives of people they wish they could be.

No wonder DADT is more important in their eyes (Note, I very much believe DADT repeal is very important). This isn’t a gay bill in their minds, so why should they give more than the token fuck about the T contingent?

And you bet that that feels othering. You bet that makes me feel just as invisible and unwanted as the infamous “non-inclusive ENDA”. You bet that reminds everyone paying attention exactly who really “counts” when the tallying starts on “improvements in queer life”.

And it’s an unnecessary thing. A division growing to justify a hate-on for a President who has been positive, but hardly the Magic Negro some wanted him to be (able to fix Congress in a single bound). A division created solely to justify ignoring a big positive improvement in LGBT law.

One which inevitably ignores and muzzles the Trans community so none can say, hey wait, things did change for the better.

I’m still planning on continuing the fight, speaking out loudly on issues pertaining to the greater LGBT community, even issues like DADT that I have absolutely zero personal investment in (outside being fanatically devoted to equality). And I will do it for these people who openly marginalize me and dismiss me as nothing and things that affect me as “no gay bill”.

Because what is right is what is right and it’s bigger than petty things like that.

But sometimes, despite that, I hate my community just a little.

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4 Responses to “Sometimes, My Community Pisses Me Off a Little”

  1. Hey Cerberus,

    I’m sorry to hear how T gets the short end of the stick in LGBT issues. I believe that it’s largely due to the fact that, even as a gay community, we haven’t learn to fully accept trans people (perhaps for cultural reason. I hear that some countries are more accepting but I’m still skeptical). We also tend to over look those things that don’t directly affect us. I’m optimistic that these things will change though. 🙂

  2. The campaign was largely started by John Aravosis,

    I wrote him off a long time ago as tabloid trash and have never gone back. While I didn’t recognize the trans dismissal, I did recognize his racism, classism, and his religious bigotry. He would often do things like criticize Scientology and get all haughty about it when he is a member of the biggest anti-LGBT religious cult out there–a Catholic.

    And you are right, the Matthew Shepard Act was a big deal, especially for trans people, and, as you say, it is already being put to good use. There are just too many hate crimes against LGBT people, so it was much needed.

    What gets me is that the president then turns around the next minute and shakes hands with the bigots and gives them far too much latitude to continue working against us. That just shot my enthusiasm for him and his platform all to hell. I’ll give him credit for being narrowly progressive, as in not vetoing pro-LGBT legislation and expressing some vague kind of pro-equality stance that somehow excludes full equality, but I’m still disappointed overall.

  3. […] So in an earlier post, I went off on a problem that has been bothering me for awhile in the way that many of my fellow […]

  4. […] topic was inspired by this piece over at RENWL, linked to by Cerberus in her excellent post about the dismissal of the deaths of trans people by the wider LGBTQ community. For the […]

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