Sunday, 22 September 2013

The realities of queer fear

When I first came out of the closet, I had it pretty easy compared to a lot of people. It was after the end of a near-decade relationship with a heterosexual, white, military guy, in which I was able to benefit from passing as straight. I had lived invisibly as a bisexual (I wasn't aware of the term pansexual at the time) into my late 20's and so by the time I entered into a same-sex relationship I had a solid sense of self and wasn't afraid to be visibly queer.

That's not to say there was no fear. There was and still is, especially given some recent events. It's not the fear of "people won't like me because my spouse is a woman" or "people will hurt my feelings because I'm in a homosexual relationship". It's a fear of violence. And it is well-precedented.

Many of us are aware of our history, of why the pink triangle is a symbol of solidarity for the queer community. We hear about the anti-LGBT legislation in Russia, about the murders of trans women in Brazil, about the uptick in anti-LGBT organizing in the US, about all the places in the world where it is simply not safe to be out, and about all the crap that is still going on in Canada, 8 years after same sex marriage was legalized.

And even for those who have not read the history books and aren't up to date on what is happening on a global scale, many of them still carry a sense of danger. Because they are bullied and bashed, because they have friends who have already committed suicide, because there are acts of violence against queers they know or that they see in the local news, and because there are messages all around us that tell us there are real and tangible threats to our safety.

What persons who have straight privilege may not be acutely aware of, is that freedom from oppression is not a straight  line. Any freedoms we have fought for are easily retracted if we are not vigilant. And often even if we are..

So, when a newspaper prints letters to the editor, in a climate where there have been overt displays of hostility and dehumanization towards the LGBT community, this isn't a benign act:


Those acts of violence start from a place of dehumanization. They exist on a continuum where queer folk are not considered "normal" or fully human. To call queer folk "abnormal" is to mark them as targets of all sorts of discrimination than often culminates in violence.

Do not mistake this for queer folk and their allies "taking offense", because our livelihoods and lives are literally at stake. If you were not aware that was the case, now you are. To go from here and claim there is no risk to us from anti-LGBT posters and propaganda is to act under a willful ignorance at best, and a malicious disingenuousness at worst, to greenlight putting us in harm's way. Words matter, so choose yours now wisely.

2 comments:

  1. Agreed. The publication repeatedly of Letters to the Editor which carry a message which dehumanizes queers, suggests that LGBTQ people are abnormal and that they should accept discrimination in whatever form it rears its head - is far from benign. And ignorance seems to be the hideous gift that keeps giving.

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