just wanted to add some kind of picture/public service announcement that involved food
It was the 90's and I spent most of that time either in Texas, Kansas, or New York. I came out in the mid 80's and a great deal of the activism around me involved HIV/AIDS. Much of that was coming from ACT UP. The direct action work that was going on then didn't focus on just getting health care to gay men with AIDS, but to fight the pharmaceutical corporations from making enormous profits from peoples' illnesses and death.
Much of the time, as Mattilda mentions, the direct action moved to other social justice work, especially in bigger cities where the Queer community brushed up against communities of color. Many times it was this Queer community, people already living on the fringes of society on so many levels, that would try to organize some kind of direct action when a cop killed a person of color. In her words: "ACT UP meant fighting AIDS because everyone was dying, and it also meant making connections - between government neglect of people with AIDS and structural homophobia and racism; between the US war machine and the lack of funding for health care; between misogyny and the absence of resources for women with AIDS; between the war on drugs and the abandonment of HIV-positive drug addicts and prisoners."
Then something started to happen. Some weird kind of shift. Mattilda writes about a moment during one of their direct action planning meeting, they were all set to make it a go, and someone said something along the lines of not really wanting to do it anymore because it had nothing to do with them personally. I remember several similar discussions in the communities I was working in, and had the same kind of jaw dropping reaction: "what the hell did they think social justice advocacy work was about?"
It was also around this time that I started hearing more and more about some kind of national movement around Gay Marriage. Language is key here. NOT Queer marriage, NOT LGBT marriage. But Gay marriage. For folks like me who see the inclusion of only Gay as the equivalent of entitled white privilege middle to upper class folks who want to be just like the rest of the population, they just happen to fall in love with people of the same sex/gender. Oh, and they love to toss out the word LOVE.
At the start of this movement, there was a chance (in Dallas anyway) of working with opposite sex/gender couples who also wanted to see the way marriage is defined and treated in society and the legal system, done differently. The national Gay Marriage movement refused to work with any other group. It didn't take long for this movement to gather the majority of the resource (people and money and time), and for those of us working in other areas to either give up or struggle super hard.
I was working with queer youth at the time, and decided to give up. If I questioned the decision to move in this direction... well I was straight up ignored sometimes in very hostile ways.
In the interest of full disclosure, I was also in the midst of my first big relationship, and we had decided to have a commitment ceremony. I am not against people wanting to celebrate that in this crazy world, 2 (or more) people have found one another and want to make a go of a relationship, however they decide to define it... no laws or government or church has to sanction it to be true. I also recognize the huge importance of having your community gather together and make a commitment to support your commitment. I get it, but I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT IT IS MAKING ANYONE SAFER! And I think that the Queer community could lead the way in changing how we celebrate and define relationships! If there is something we are good at, its celebrating... even our struggles.
If "we" really want to have health care for all, true and just immigration reform, domestic rights, tax reform, an end to the industrial military complex, the end of patriarchal/misogynistic relationships, and all those other things that proponents of Gay Marriage say they want, then we need to bring the down the systems that have created and support them, not try and get included in them. How can the Gay establishment start making the critical connections between the critique of the institutional power structure of the mainstream world, and the gay establishment's obsession with accessing that same power via gay marriage and gays in the military? And where does this leave those of us that, for the moment, are choosing to stay out of relationships?
There is also the gentrification issue of the Gay neighborhoods, not just our neighborhoods, but also our culture. People not queer moved in, open shops, increased the value of the property, started going to "our" dance clubs, wear "our" cloths, watch "our" movies, etc. Then started evicting those same crazy kids that built those communities. Many times by having to fight the city, Mafia, bigots, and violence that happened before gay was cool.
What happens when the mainstream world takes on one of their sub-culture's identity? How does that community maintain an identity? Because for me, assimilation does NOT feel safer. And the statistics of queer youth suicide are proving that.
So how to wrap this up, and not just keep going on some kind of rant? When I finally heard Mattilda speak, and read her words, I was finally able to feel all those things I stuffed down 20 years ago when I wanted to burn every rainbow freaking flag I saw and every "equality" sticker I was handed. I can once again feel proud to be QUEER. QUEER in a way that means "fuck the norm" "fuck the expectations" and "to hell with YOUR rules."
We can make a world that is a safer place for one and all (all includes those that are not defined as human). In social justice work, there is no single issue fight. You can not separate issues. They are all connected.... even human rights and animal rights.... you can't have one with out the other. After all, if you won't wear sweatshop made Nike clothes, then why would you wave a sweatshop made rainbow flag?
P.S. Since I stated revisiting this issue, several people that I care deeply about, have announced that they are getting married. To them, I say congratulations! Truly, from the bottom of my heart... and I have told them so.