As a Queer woman, I’ve been spending a lot of the last couple of days trying to come to terms with what happened in Orlando (and what might have happened at Pride in Los Angeles – an event I almost attended and that many of my friends did attend.) My heart goes out to the victims and their loved ones, and to my community which is once again reminded that despite the civil rights gains that have been made, we are still not safe.
I’m struck and saddended by how quick people are to respond to this with the same stigma and erasure that perpetuates this kind of violence in the first place – Ignoring (and suggesting that everyone ignore) the fact that his target was Queer and Trans people, ignoring the fact that he didn’t just attack a Queer and Trans gathering place, he attacked a Queer and Trans gathering place on a night specifically dedicated to celebrating Latinx culture, and how many of the victims were Queer and Trans People of Color, who experience violence at higher rates. I’m frustrated and angry with people trying to use this to stoke the fires of dangerous Islamophobia including an attempt to pit two oppressed groups against each other, completely erasing the existence of Queer and Trans Muslims in the process. This is why it’s so important to do our activism from an intersectional perspective.
I’m also frustrated and angered at politicians and others who, today, tweet their sorrow about the victims, while they spend their time, energy, money every other day working to keep Queer and Trans people as second class citizens, trying to convince people that our mere existence is a threat to society, to “traditional” families, and to people in restrooms. As if that message doesn’t perpetuate this kind of violence. Do me a favor – keep your sorrow, change your behavior.
As a fat queer woman I see parallels between my treatment as a queer person and my treatment as a fat person, and one of those is in the ways that, as both a queer and fat activist I’ve often been told that a problem I’m bringing up is not worth talking about – that it’s too small to worry about, that the activism isn’t worth doing. And that’s crap. First of all, I don’t think that discouraging activism is a helpful ever, but we need to remember that the small things are what creates an environment that allows the big things to happen.
We can no longer afford to bury our heads in the sand and pretend that the “big things” – being hired less and paid less, receiving sub-par medical treatment, being the victims violence and more – aren’t the naturally occurring consequences of living in a society, including a government, that suggests in so many subtle and not-so-subtle ways that some of us should be treated as second class citizens, that calls us threats to the “traditional” family, and “epidemics,” that wages war (encouraging everyone to join in) against citizens because of our size, that suggests that some of us are deserving of shame, stigma, bullying, and harassment, that it’s actually for our own good, and the good of society. When we tolerate these messages, when we tolerate the cyberbullying that is absolutely rampant, when we tolerate any small bits of bigotry, we are helping to create an environment that breeds ever larger, more dangerous demonstrations of that same bigotry. Nobody can do everything, nobody is obligated to do activism of any kind, but every bit of activism is valuable and important, and doing that activism intersectionally is critical.
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