Pride 2020

This year, I have left my annual Pride post until near the end of June (and on actual Global Pride day), as I have been taking the time to read, learn and educate myself over the global difficulties of the last few months. Pride is such an important event and it has coincided with a global pandemic and civil unrest- Black Lives Matters is such an important organisation and issue, and is intrinsically linked to Pride, also.

Although I identify as agender, this is not something that has caused me difficulty in my lifetime- an invisible difference, that only a few knew (now the world, may I add!), I wanted to really listen to the voices of the LGBTQA+ community, and the reality of the here and now, growing up with the difficulties a new generation faces. What better way to do this than to introduce a ‘guest’ for this blog- a 17 year old, Magdalena, an Autistic, Non-binary lesbian, studying at college, who writes thoughtfully on the effect of the history and what it means to be LGBTQA+ in the 2000’s. Thank you, Magdalena, for sharing your thoughts.


Identity, intersectionality, and self-reflection, or where we went wrong with Pride 

As a part of my English literature coursework, I’ve spent the past few months studying the gay culture and history of the 1980s. It seems strange to categorise time in such recent memory as history, but for the queer community, the 1980s were massively destructive. The rise of AIDs and the complete lack of accountability from any government means that so many members of the queer community are no longer with us. This has had a profound effect on how gay culture became fetishised within the mainstream in the early 90s and lead us to today’s ‘Rainbow Capitalism’. This Pride, I think it’s vital to take inspiration from the Gay Communities of the 1980s and re-politicise our identities.

To be gay in the ’80s was inherently political – life and love were ruled by legislation. For anyone out and proud, violence was common and expected, employment was tenuous, and family ties were often cut. There was absolutely no way to be gay in a socially acceptable way, and at most tolerance could be expected from cisgender heterosexual friends. But this had a stimulating effect on gay communities – to be an active member of these communities was to ally yourself with other similarly oppressed people.  At first, this was true within queer communities, but soon the complete disenfranchisement from systems of power led to more and more radical politics. Socialism and Civil Rights movements were common within queer communities (not to say that the gay culture within the ’80s was perfect, but that without any ties to bigoted systems of power often people would champion other marginalised groups).  A fascinating example of this is the Lesbians and Gays support of the miner’s movement. For more information, I highly recommend either the film Pride or this documentary made by the group in 1985; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHJhbwEcgrA

With this complete politicisation of identity in mind, I invite you to consider not only queer culture now, but also how the world views queer people at large. One could argue that queer people are now acceptable to society, and the fight for gay rights is over. This is patently untrue – a specific type of queer person is acceptable to society. These people check most of the following boxes: white, able-bodied, cisgender, skinny and either Christian or atheist. Money also helps.

A perfect example of this is Ellen DeGeneres – after she was forced to come out as a lesbian in the mid-90s, she became the most palatable queer person in the media. She was white, skinny, conventionally attractive and already established in the industry. Her talk show is now a staple of American TV, and she has become a household name. Ellen DeGeneres is also now one of the mega-rich; friends with George W Bush (who not only attempted to ban gay marriage constitutionally, but also started the Iraq war – killing an estimated 151,000 – 160,000 Iraqis in the first four years, most of whom were civilians), and is infamous within show business for her alleged terrible behaviour. The only thing that sets Ellen apart from the rest of the 1%, is that she is a lesbian – but based on the above behaviour, how much does she care about the queer community?

This post is not a strange and long call-out post for Ellen DeGeneres, but she serves as an excellent example of what I want to explain. As it becomes more and more acceptable to be queer (providing you are of course massively privileged otherwise), there has been a political shift within communities for us to moderate our behaviour to make other people more comfortable with our identities – we must become entirely non-threatening to be ‘accepted’. This is a step backwards for Queer rights – we cannot align ourselves with bigoted systems of power and present it as progressive. Support for queer people cannot be conditional, because by adding these conditions, we betray the members of our community who fight for us the hardest.

This modern marketing of queer culture harms trans and gender non-conforming people, people of colour, the disabled, and the poor within our communities. These are the people on the frontlines, making changes. The first Pride was a riot, and trans women threw the first bricks. To celebrate Pride, you cannot opt-out of the political side of being queer – to quote Adam Eli “Queer people anywhere are responsible to queer people everywhere.”  I urge queer people reading this to think about how they identify – not just their gender and sexuality – but who they identify with. Do you sympathise with the people upholding and profiting from bigoted systems of power more than those suffering? Do you identify more with the security of your whiteness than the queer community? Do you consider other people’s pain to be somehow their fault?  

Our identities exist within the context of the world around us, and so the question of identity is far more complicated than the mainstream media would have you believe. There is more to being Queer than loving who you love and being who you are because we must be queer in solidarity with others. This Pride, I invite you to remember our history as revolutionaries and support people who are suffering under the same system you are.


I also want to add to this post- that I will be discontinuing my Facebook page, both personal and professional, in the very near future. Why? You may ask- the answer is simple. Social Media can be used for amazing gains- the spreading of knowledge and information to society is essential, especially when the media and government is trying to twist our understanding of the current climate, and maintain the current untenable white supremacist, racist, homophobic and transphobic culture that black, coloured and LGBTQA folk experience on a daily, hourly basis. Part of the problem, I feel, is the lack of accountability on platforms such as Facebook, to actively manage and discontinue the spread of false information and hate speech. I do not feel that Facebook, in particular, has (or will do) an effective job of this, and I am voting with my feet. There are many forms of protest that one can take, the one option I have available to me is this; the ability to leave, to say no and to not buy in to the offensive, racial, homophobic and transphobic narrative that these platforms help to spread.

Until such a time as I feel the various media outlets, like Facebook, are listening to morality, I do not want to be a part of the machine, so I am removing my cog. Thank you for following this page, I am still active on Twitter (who are actively trying to address the bigoted, socially unjust narrative spewed by the likes of Trump) and my own webpage, www.wandahowell.com


As the black author Eldridge Cleaver said- “If you are not a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem.” 

Black Lives Matter

I have been watching, with horror, the events unfolding in the USA over the last week. To say I understand, would make me part of the problem; I don’t understand fully the pain of these communities, as I can never have the lived experience of a black person. I can listen, learn, empathise and I can help to educate other white people, whilst educating myself, as to why Black Lives Matter. #BlackLivesMatter

History, right up to the very present day, has recognised, and put central, white achievements, and the fact that as white people we do not realise it ourselves is a direct effect of our privilege. For me, just being able to walk to the shop or school, without fear, gives me that entitlement. If you are black, or a POC, this doesn’t happen – you cannot forget the effect racism has on our society because that effect is a constant in your life. I cannot imagine having to have a conversation with my young children, explaining what to do around authority to keep yourself safe and protected, because the majority of authority will be prejudiced against you, yet this is the reality of where we are today. There are no “good cops” and “bad cops.” There are no “racists” or “non-racists.” There is only a justice system so ingrained with racism that to try and separate the two is impossible. This is a blatant case of white people violently assaulting black people because of the systematic white-supremacy that runs deep within our society.

I have no words to convey my feelings over what is happening to black and brown people all over the world, but it HAS to stop. Now. This is unacceptable. To not speak up about this would make me part of the problem- now is not the time to be complacent, now is the time to show support, be vocal, be active. What started off as peaceful protests have been forced into violence by the very figures decrying protestors for their violence. I am not claiming ‘all lives matter’, because we live in a society where no one has to remind the people in power that I, as a white person, matter. I am shouting that #BlackLivesMatter.

June marks the start of #Pride month and we must also remember the role that the LGBTQA+ community have played in the BLM movement; starting with Black-trans activist Marsha P. Johnson proclaiming that “the streets belong to the people” as she, along with Puerto Rican-trans activist Sylvia Rivera, argued that Black and Latinx transgender youth living in New York City have a right to walk up and down streets without threat or harm from everyday folk or police officers (Green Jnr, 2019). Queer communities are inextricably linked with protests and riots, and with the struggles of others as well. To turn your back on people who are suffering from violence at the hands of the state but to celebrate your people’s fight for freedom and acceptance against the very same violence is an incredibly harmful case of ignorance and selfishness. I speak from what I know, and what my family experience, and I know that the power and empathy of the LGBTQA+ community must be extended to the Black Lives Matter movement.

The #BlackLivesMatter movement started with the murder of Trayvon Martin, 17, in 2012, but we need to remember everyone who has suffered, everyone who has died, both before Trayvon and after. As white people, we need to stand up to insidious racism and say ‘no more’. It is not the time to be quietly ‘not racist’- now is the time to be vocally ANTI-racist. 

  • Educate ourselves on the history of why Black Lives Matter- look it up, read about it for yourself. Don’t just go on what you have heard or been told; it might not be accurate.
  • Don’t put the responsibility of your education and action onto black people – to have to explain the history of your people’s oppression and defend your actions is exhausting – educate yourself using pre made online resources, from folks who have the time and energy to share.
  • Think critically about what you see and what you post. While the video of George Floyd’s murder is an important piece of evidence, and it will certainly have shocked many white viewers into action, be mindful of sharing this sort of video. For black people on the internet now, it is very difficult to avoid incredibly graphic footage of people being murdered for being black – the toll this takes on their mental health is huge. Prioritise constructive action and be mindful of how helpful to the movement what you post is. Would you be as comfortable sharing a video of a white man being murdered?
  • Recognise our white privilege- this is not a case of denying our difficulties, everyone experiences difficulties in life, the difference is that we don’t risk being murdered for ours.
  • Educate the people around you – share the experiences of black people, work to combat casual racism. But don’t make this all about you – Raise Up black voices, don’t speak over them.

https://www.change.org/p/mayor-jacob-frey-justice-for-george-floyd

https://www.gofundme.com/f/georgefloyd?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet If you can afford to donate to show your support

https://minnesotafreedomfund.org help with bail bonds to enable

https://blacklivesmatter.com

https://www.vogue.co.uk/arts-and-lifestyle/article/black-lives-matter-reading-list a really good list of books to read to gain more knowledge of what is happening and why.

https://www.newsfromnowhere.org.uk/books/DisplayBooklist.php?BookListID=372 A great list of Anti-racist books to share with your little ones.

References:

Green Jnr, D. B. (2019, February 6). Hearing the Queer Roots of Black Lives Matter. Retrieved from Medium: https://medium.com/national-center-for-institutional-diversity/hearing-the-queer-roots-of-black-lives-matter-2e69834a65cd