Larger analysis of all forms of oppression needed to secure authentic justice

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July 7, 2011
By: Jason Lydon/TRT Columnist
Around the country, and likely around the world, liberal and progressive people are celebrating the passage of same-sex/gay marriage in New York. The timing during the Pride Festivities elated organizers and fueled the overwhelming joy that many experienced. A parade that once started as a militant response against the violence of the state embodied state recognition and assimilation. For many LGBTQ folks and straight allies this is a great success, a moment to pat ourselves on the back and prepare to take the fight for “equality” to another state and to the national level.

After Proposition 8 passed in California Dean Spade and Craig Willse released a statement in response.  Along with a critique of the marriage movement they also wrote about how we could better use our queer/trans resources and skills. They wrote, “Expanding marriage to include a narrow band of same-sex couples only strengthens that system of marginalization and supports the idea that the state should pick which types of families to reward and recognize and which to punish and endanger. We still demand a queer political agenda that centralizes the experiences of prisoners, poor people, immigrants, trans people, and people with disabilities. We reject a gay agenda that pours millions of dollars into campaigns for access to oppressive institutions for a few that stand to benefit.”

While this statement may have been written over a year ago, it rings very true in the aftermath of New York’s decision to grant same-sex couples the state-sanctioned right of marriage. I was at the annual meeting of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregation’s General Assembly in Charlotte, North Carolina, when CNN announced the news. Our General Assembly delegates passed a responsive resolution celebrating the passage of marriage, however, they also included a recognition that there is far more work to be done.  I do not believe that the successes of marriage are moving us in a liberating direction but I am impressed that the Unitarian Universalists understand that marriage is not the litmus test of GLBTQ justice. A larger analysis of racism, capitalism, imperialism, and all forms of oppression are essential if our queer/trans movements wish to have any real impact in securing authentic justice.

I am saddened that people can rally so strongly for marriage while the response to the displacement of OPTIONZ, the Queer Women of Color and Friends Pride Week event, has hardly been recognized.  Spectra wrote in Queer Women of Color Still Face Racism During Pride, Among Other Things, “If you follow QWOC+ Boston, you may have noticed on Facebook or any of our other social media channels, that our OPTIONZ party needed to be relocated to a new venue. The reason for the venue change is that, last-minute, the previous venue, Caprice Lounge, presented me with some new terms: ‘No Hip Hop music, because of issues we’ve had in the past.’” Do you know how many clubs in Boston, or across New England, have racist policies? Spectra even recognizes later in the article that the club OPTIONZ moved to, Market, also has a racist and patriarchal dress code policy, “No hats, no sneakers, no do-rags, no athletic wear … women in dresses/skirts, men in collars etc.” Between this publication of The Rainbow Times and the next I will be talking more with Spectra, other event organizers, and club managers to find out what kind of policies exist. What does it mean for us to be a truly welcoming and inclusive movement? How can we herald so-called diversity while the venues that we utilize isolate and marginalize large segments of our disconnected community? As all of the joy and excitement of Pride comes to a close I am hopeful that we can keep some of our determination strong.  Surely holding clubs accountable for their racist and sexist policies is not the pinnacle of liberation, but we need to send a message to each other that we are listening and aware.  I will do my part to investigate and educate and I know there are those already leading and crafting responses, something others will need to join in on.

Dean and Craig remind us that, “This political moment calls for anti-homophobic politics that centralize anti-racism and anti-poverty.” We can build that movement! For more information, follow Spectra at www.spectraspeaks.com.