Fighting for civil rights & attainment: Validating the system’s ways or losing our own selves?

January 6, 2011
By: Jason Lydon/TRT Columnist
On December 22nd President Obama signed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Many gay and lesbian people around the country have heralded this as an incredible accomplishment for civil rights for our LGBT communities. The money, resources, and time that have gone into this campaign are countless, so many people’s lives dedicated to this fight. It is without question that many people have passionately fought for the freedom to join the military and fight openly as a gay, lesbian, or bisexual person. This fight was fought and the fight for the repeal is over, but what has this accomplished for us?

Queers for Economic Justice, QEJ, wrote in a press release on the 22nd that, even as so many have claimed this repeal as a victory for poor and working class LGBT people in the military, “military service is not economic justice, and it is immoral that the military is the nation’s de facto jobs program for poor and working-class people. And since QEJ organizes LGBTQ homeless people in New York City, we wanted to remind the LGBT community and progressive anti-war allies that militarism and war profiteering do not serve the interests of LGBT people.” They then go on to list four essential points of how the military is not serving LGBTQ people including the rates of sexual violence within the military, the realities of the lack of resources available for veterans, and the epidemic of PTSD that is tearing at the minds and hearts of veterans. Not only is the treatment of the soldiers immoral, what the U.S. military sends these people to do around the world is one of the greatest forces of immorality in the world. These soldiers, including openly gay ones, will be responsible for operating drones that kill civilians in Pakistan, marching through Arab cities taking people’s lives to steal resources, and other global military atrocities.

Queers for Economic Justice continued in their statement, “We stand in solidarity with other LGBTQ people around the globe, and do not condone violence against them or their home countries so that ‘our gays’ have the ‘right’ to serve openly in the military.” Yet, the moment has come, the ban has been lifted, and openly gay people will be joining the violence of U.S. militarism. The question we must ask ourselves is which side of the queer family are we fighting for now? Must we continue to fight for assimilating into the system of hetero/homo-normative gender conforming systems of domination?  Is that our greatest possible achievement? Will we achieve true success if we get a GLB and/or T president in the White House? When we simply fight for civil rights it seems to me that we are losing our greatly creative selves. When we fight to join the systems that are hurting us it seems to me that we are simply validating their existence and the harm they cause to other communities. I am sad that the fight to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” took so much of our resources and time as a community. Now that you have won that fight the next struggle must be taken on, so how will that decision be made?

When a movement exists there are endless campaigns within it fighting toward some beautiful end goal. The demands are made clear and tactics are decided upon after the targets of power are understood. Visionary ideas are essential at this moment. Decisions need to be made by those most directly affected by oppression. This means that poor queer/trans people, queer/trans prisoners, queers/trans folks with disabilities, queer/trans youth, Palestinian queers/trans folks, queers/trans folks of color, and so many others need to be heard at any decision-making table about their lives. Are we willing to take the time to reflect on what the actual priorities should be or are we rushing so quickly to assimilate that we are unwilling to hear other voices? I am hoping that in 2011 one of our resolutions can be to listen and to move forward creating campaigns and demands that meet the needs of our collective liberation, not our mainstream assimilation.

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