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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Critical Analysis of the Viability of an LGBTQ movement (2009)

In framing the title/subject of this piece it is not my intent to spell out a detailed critical analysis of an LGBTQ movement in this brief essay, though rather, as best as I can from my perspective, initiate a framework for such an analysis and most importantly hopefully engender a collaborative dialogue on this subject.
The basic premise of this analysis frames itself around the value and effectiveness of a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (add your own other labels) community to rally around the implicit connotation of a full LGBTQ equality movement.  Is this a movement to secure full equality for all diverse genders and sexualities? Is this a movement demanding true sexual and gender revolution or simply sexual and gender reforms?  Is this a movement that truly represents all peoples and diversities within the LGBTQ communities? Or is this a movement to assure full equality within the heterosexual framework of western culture?
I hear many times and from many people that yes the LGBT Equality movement stands for full and diverse equality.  Sadly after many years as a minority trans activist working within this LGBTQ equality movement, I have come to learn that the answer for me is no.  From my perspective, it is by no stretch of the imagination an LGBTQ equality movement in the sense of any true revolutionary movement.  As someone who has struggled to give visibility and a voice to the “T” in the [Connecticut] LGBT movement, during a time when we as a peoples were highly closeted and poorly defined as a community; I have come to learn that though people are willing and open to embrace the “T”, that it will only do so as long as it does not deter them from their objectives and goals.  In the vein of single-issue advocacy this is considered admirable, but in the vein of creating a true movement for equality, this myopic vision is untenable.  Over the years my views and beliefs have evolved from one of believing that the T will succeed through a shared experience and struggle with the LGB movement; to a belief that the T must standalone and must be willing to put its voice, its bodies and its beliefs on the line for equality.  And this is far from easy for I have yet encountered many spaces where the diverse genders and sexualities that represent the T could create an open, affirming and welcoming space.  Many of us seem to not be able to move beyond our myopic hetero-formed vision of gender and sex.  On the one hand I fully understand the safety and comfort of such a view; yet at the same time we as individuals and communities shall never achieve personal liberation through such a distorted window.
Perhaps if our current day LGBTQ equality movement had evolved in the vision of Harry Hay’s “gay liberation” we would be on a different trajectory for equality.  As Harry Hay had said over 50 years ago, our language must be the language of our communities and not the language of the hetero.  Yet despite attempts by many “gay” activists to frame gay liberation as a true liberation from western societies constructs of sex and gender, the LGBTQ communities have taken the easier path of assimilation; believing either that Resistance is Futile or simply been easily manipulated by, and adhering to, the well entrenched heterosexual pattern of social and political organizing.  And so for some reason, as a movement and individuals, we have not been able to affirm our own unique LGBTQ identities, understood and embraced a cultural minority model, and most importantly within and without, engaged in the politics of community and coalition building.  We seem as an equality movement to have missed or forgotten the historical examples of affirmation.  A belief not gone unnoticed by Harry Hay when he affirmed his support of NAMBLA, which in reality was not about NAMBLA per se (nor was it an organization he was affiliated with) but rather a statement that we should not allow our opponents to dictate to us who is and who is not a member of our community.  And that today, as in the many days of our historical struggles for equality, we as a community have sadly accepted assimilation into the dominant culture, reverting as usual to wearing the old hetero, escapist human being mask, and a white, middle-class one, natch! [Harry Hay re: Helms-ILGA controversy, August 31, 1994]
I postulate that the LGBTQ equality movement can never achieve a stand for complete acceptance of gender and sexual diversity as it stands today. That each of the components of L, G, B, T, Q must stand on their own and not rely upon a blending of the struggles.  Yes, most definitely there are clearly areas of overlap, as there are within other diverse movements, yet there are very distinctive and vital differences within our diverse communities.  Yet it seems these days in our struggles for LGBTQ equality we have reduced the beautiful dimensions of our differences to a homogenized and globalized “gay” image and agenda.
The LGBTQ equality movement of today is simply a gay liberation movement viewed through a heterosexist lens and agenda.  Our struggles for equality in marriage, equality in armed services, equality in employment and so on is simply a struggle for equality and assimilation into the heterosexual nuclear family and capitalistic system.  I suggest to all those who truly believe in LGBTQ equality and liberation, to resist the false sirens of equality that will simply lead us down a path of assimilation toward a system that does not honor sincere diversity.  A system that has over many years learned to assure the continued domination of the pecking order!  To recognize that the success of capitalism and heteropatriarchy are rooted in the belief that cultural difference is an obstacle to their systems of power and control.
In this light of viewing our future via a historical lens, especially as we use a revisionist lens to “celebrate” our roots of gay liberation 40 years after Stonewall, I would like to leave the reader with these words from Harry Hay to the organizers of Stonewall 25, where he called upon a reexamination of the liberating principles of the celebration’s namesake, the Rebellion of 1969, and reminded them that the original Stonewall uprising was a cry for full sexual freedom as part of the struggle for social justice:
I’m here today as a survivor as well as founder of the first ongoing Gay liberation group in the United States, the Mattachine Society, formed in Los Angeles in 1950.  I’m here because things we discovered about ourselves, and the first principles we developed between 1950 and 1953, are now, 40 years later, being trashed by Queers who don’t know their own history.  We decided from the beginning that having been almost obliterated for so many centuries, we wouldn’t censor or exclude each other.  If people self-identify themselves to me as Gay or Lesbian, I accept them as brothers and Sisters with love.  When we decided to rejoin the social and political mainstream, we were determinesd to integrate on our own terms, as we saw ourselves and with our own set of values.  Otherwise, we would not integrate at all.  And finally, we no longer permitted any heteros - nationally or internationally, individually or collectively - to tell us who we were, or of whom our groups should or should not consist. If necessary, we would assert the prior rights of collective self-definition and self-determination.  We Queers would decide such matters among ourselves!  Those statements, developed forty-two years ago, still hold.
And they still hold 59 years hence the founding of a gay liberation movement in Los Angeles.


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