In case you haven’t guessed, I’m Queer, too

We can meet till the cows come home and discuss how to “Fight the Right” without recognizing that in some cases we are the Right. Lance Hill, who directed the Louisiana campaigns against David Duke’s candidacies, told me that Duke’s campaign for Governor in 1990 was active in the gay bars of the French Quarter in New Orleans. Neo-Nazis could have access there because those bars are largely segregated. I offer this example not to say that Louisiana is an anomoly, but to say that the Duke campaign brought out a weakness of gay movements in most cities. We gay people look with justified concern at the way the Religious Right uses homophobia to divide, for example, the African American community, to persuade some of its church people to organize to their own detriment and destruction. We need to look with equal concern at the practices of our movement, our community, which are also the dry wood on which fascism burns, For many gay and lesbian people of color, it is every bit as much an expense of spirit to be in a room with us radical queer white activists as with the most hair-raising fundamentalist minister-just as exhausting and insulting. We can no longer take for granted the presence of our brothers and sisters of color among us, their talents and their resources. The arsonists of the Christian Coalition have lit their fires, and the hot winds are rising.
-From “A Bridge, Not a Wedge” an essay in Memoir of a Race Traitor by Mab Segrest

Originally posted by LJ’s ladyjax, who highly recommends the entire book.

7 Responses

  1. I found this snippet engaging.

    “We can meet till the cows come home and discuss how to “Fight the Right” without recognizing that in some cases we are the Right.”

    During the debate about Valenti’s _Full Frontal Feminism_ (which I don’t remember if you followed), the women of color who felt that the book was representative of women of color’s concerns felt marginalized. The rhetoric sometimes suggested they weren’t real woc.

    I’m not entirely sure how to resolve that kind of situation. To try to relate it to my own experience, with the understanding that it will create an imperfect analogy, I think it remains important to underscore that the interests of underrepresented groups are better served by the (radical) left. It seems to me that underscoring that inevitably puts one’s comments into conflict with individuals who disagree, and who want to argue that they understand their own best interests, which they may.

    There’s a linguistic slip between the class of people (whose interests are probably better served by the left) and the individual (who may be an outlier [or mistaken]). Reiterating and respecting that difference seems like an important first step, but I’m not sure it solves the whole problem — because it still creates the impression of a race, class, gender, etc. traitor who is working against the interests of hir class as a class.

    As to the latter half of the paragraph, it doesn’t surprise me that this phenomenon exists — I would expect racism to exist within gay activism just as it does in feminism and most (if not all) other types of activism.

    I remain wary of statements of equivalency:

    “…For many gay and lesbian people of color, it is every bit as much an expense of spirit to be in a room with us radical queer white activists as with the most hair-raising fundamentalist minister-just as exhausting and insulting.” [my emphasis]

    Making a slant analogy, I generally prefer to spend time with liberal men who are clueless on feminism than with … well, radical conservatives of every stripe. But that’s A) just me and my taste, B) not an identical situation, since (among other factors, such as the obvious difference in the situations) I may have more identities in common with liberal men than the writer has in common with gay rights activists, and C) I’m an atheist, so I’m never particularly at home in passionate religious groups; I can enjoy the dynamic when it’s respectful, but I’m never exactly comfortable.

    Still, it would seem intuitively to me that there’s an important difference between the racism of most queer activists and the homobigotry exhibited by “the most hair-raising fundamentalist minister.” I’ve no doubt that most white queer activists are racist, and enact that racism in power dynamics and othering. Nevertheless, I’d imagine that most of them struggle against this impulse to the extent that they recognize it, that they recognize it is wrong, and that they oppose more easily observable (to whites) forms of racism. Whereas the homobigotry exhibited by “the most hair-raising fundemantalist minister” would seem to be less ameliorated by ambiguity.

    Perhaps I’m overstating Segrest’s claim, though. She’s talking about exhaustion and insult, which aren’t necessarily about the logic of who wants to kill you when the conversation is over. It’s obviously really exhausting and insulting to have to deal with unacknowledged racism that results in dismissal and ignorant statements, which it’s emotionally costly to point out. At least the fundamentalist’s hatred is overt.

    And of course Segrest isn’t answerable to logic, or to me, about which situation is more exhausting or insulting. Whatever she feels is what she feels. I don’t mean to quibble about her emotions; but it seems to me she was trying to provoke a reaction with the statement of equivalency, so I don’t think it’s necessarily nitpicking to examine the ramifications of her statement. Interesting stuff.

  2. Rereading the above, I seem I’m implying that logic leads to a different conclusion than Segrest’s. That’s not necessarily true. MINE does. That doesn’t mean I’m right.

    I just meant that even if I were to accept hypothetically that I was right, it wouldn’t invalidate her statement.

    [/posting]

  3. mandolin- i wish i could orchestrate my points like the way you just did.

  4. I’m very familiar with Mab and her work. I agree with her on at least two points in this case.

    First, progressive organizers need to be aware that there is a wide range of politics and ideology within identity-based political movements. In the queer community, which I know better than others, there are the Log Cabin Republicans on one end and the Queer Economic Justice Project and National Gay & Lesbian Task Force on the other.

    Second, we need to push for a broad progressive, multi-issue approach in our political work (racism, homo/bi/transphobia, sexism, economic justice & poverty, workers’ rights, etc.).

    Identity issues play into this in a couple of ways. Some people only ‘get’ or care about their particular identity frame(s) [white gay men who only care about heterosexism, white women who only care about sexism, middle class activists of color who only care about racism, etc.]. These folks are useful political allies to a broader progressive movement, but are unlikely to support it as such. Political education within such identity-framed communities is very useful as they are allies some of whom will ‘get it’ and join you if engaged. It also creates more space for collaboration.

    If the goal is an ideologically progressive movement, which is to say one based on some analysis grounded in human rights and economic justice, it doesn’t make sense to ground the mission in an identity frame or an identity-based community.

    I used to work at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) here in Boston. When I left one of my colleagues asked me why I was leaving. I replied that I was a socialist who happened to be a gay man, not a gay man who happened to be a socialist.

    I certainly still support GLAD and the broader lgbt movement, but mine is a wider leftist-inspired politics. I’m thrilled that same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts (one of GLAD’s projects). However, it is what it is. Access to marriage rights for same-sex couples, while an important step forward, does little or nothing for the desperate issue of economic disparity in the U.S. or of rabid corporate influence in electoral and legislative politics. Or for any number of other issues.

  5. Madolin said:

    “Still, it would seem intuitively to me that there’s an important difference between the racism of most queer activists and the homobigotry exhibited by “the most hair-raising fundamentalist minister.” I’ve no doubt that most white queer activists are racist, and enact that racism in power dynamics and othering. Nevertheless, I’d imagine that most of them struggle against this impulse to the extent that they recognize it, that they recognize it is wrong, and that they oppose more easily observable (to whites) forms of racism. Whereas the homobigotry exhibited by “the most hair-raising fundemantalist minister” would seem to be less ameliorated by ambiguity.

    Perhaps I’m overstating Segrest’s claim, though. She’s talking about exhaustion and insult, which aren’t necessarily about the logic of who wants to kill you when the conversation is over. It’s obviously really exhausting and insulting to have to deal with unacknowledged racism that results in dismissal and ignorant statements, which it’s emotionally costly to point out. At least the fundamentalist’s hatred is overt.”

    Hi there,

    I’ve read through this a couple of times and turned it over in my head.

    First off, I highly recommend reading all of Segrest’s speech because she has a lot to say about progressive politics and whiteness and how it all plays out. I pulled that particular quote because it was related to some stuff that was swirling around some other online communities that I’m a part of and I just nodded and said, “Yep, that’s it in a nutshell.”

    As to your feeling of underserved populations being better served by the radical left, my first inclination is to ask, “Which part of the radical left?” These days I don’t put too much stock in a lot of the self-proclaimed radical left if but for the defening silence that occurred in regards to things like Props 187 and 209 here in California. There were some but more often than not, those groups were groups of color, people who were directly affected by what was going down and some white allies but not a whole lot.

    Now if this was twenty years ago, say about 1987, I’d probably be more inclined to agree with you as well as have a handy list of people to call on for support.

    Secondly, it’s just as tiring to deal with clueless self-proclaimed radicals as it is to deal with the most contrary fundamentalist. Both sap my energy and time and I’m not in a space these days to wait around for the lefties in question to get their stuff together. I consider myself religious so the fundamentalist is very familiar to me and yes, they are overt in their hatreds and dislikes. But that’s almost too easy to dismiss them as such and assume that the radical is doing in-depth self-examination.

  6. Fair enough, Lady Jax. I was in junior high when prop 287 passed. My mother and the other educators at her high school were very upset, but it didn’t seem like the teachers’ voices got listened to.

    My experience of political communities as communities is primarily through the blogosphere, so I’m inclined to look at things through that very incomplete lens.

  7. First of all, I am sooo sorry for resurrecting an old post, and if my question here is inappropriate please let me know.

    I am wondering if anyone can suggest blogs, readings, etc., on this issue (LGBTQ PoC), particularly as relates to education. The reason I ask is that I am currently doing research for a professor who is writing an article on social justice/diversity/LGBT issues as they concern teacher educators. The thing is, there is a very distinct *lack* of published articles that address the intersections of race and sexuality, especially in terms of education.

    So my question is, how big an issue do you think the intersection of race/sexuality is for LGBTQ students of color?
    I think the LACK of attention paid to this intersection by queer educators is probably a serious issue. I mean, all the articles say that we need to confront racism, sexism, homophobia, blah blah, but there’s really nothing that suggests that there are intersections between the two things. My suspicion is that this is just kind of paying lip service to the idea of inclusivity while showing ignorance of the racism within LGBTQ circles, but I don’t know. Maybe not. I really don’t know much about the issue.

    So I guess my question is, do you think teachers need to be made more aware of intersections between race and sexuality? And do you think the lack of info on this subject is an example of racism within the LGBT movement, even as it pushes for more tolerance/diversity re: heterosexism? Does failing to directly address the intersection of race and sexuality erase LGBTQ people of color?

    Again, I am sorry for resurrecting an old post. And if my questions are inappropriate, I really do apologize. I would love to hear any opinions on this, because if it is a problem I’d like to address it (rather than contributing to it).

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