Enough Inclusion, Liberation is the Goal
My politics have been molded by my experiences. I’m a cisgender, effeminate white gay man in the U.S. South. I grew up poor. I grew up in a home with domestic violence and with addiction. I grew up in fear. I was wholly ignorant to many of the privileges I had but I also was ignorant to many of the marginalizations I had. I also caused harm by regurgitating harmful beliefs about others — something all of us have done.
I used to think inclusion was the answer as it is so widely touted as the end all be all.
Inclusion is actually just a tool of maintaining the capitalist kyriarchy we have. It needs more people to operate it, it needs more workers, and it needs people to be docile toward itself. If we feel represented and included, we’re less likely to reject the system.
My Sicilian family arrived here in 1908 back when Sicilians were the “bad” immigrant of the day with their witchy Christianity (Catholicism). Many Sicilians in the U.S. built or joined mutual aid societies and in Tampa, Florida, where I’m from, they worked with Black Americans, Black Cubans, and Spanish Cubans in solidarity in historic Ybor City. While I reject utopianism, I’m certain isms happened there and there is certainly evidence of it being quite patriarchal, the point is Sicilians and Cubans, white and Black, in the U.S. were largely radical, anarchist or communist.
The sweet taste of inclusion changed that narrative and assimilation of both white Cubans and Sicilians is so normal now. In Tampa specifically, white Cubans and Italians are generally conservative and many are quite frankly very capitalist and happily oppressive: including supporting the same brand of xenophobia that they had to fight against.
That is what inclusion is.
The ability to be an oppressor or work with oppressors.
Dr. Angela Davis said in a lecture I once watched, but cannot remember which one, something to the effect of:
I don’t want to be included in white supremacy.
I echo her sentiments and as a lesbian, I imagine she might agree that this applies to other oppressive dominations. I don’t want to be included in cisheteropatriarchy but rather, I want cisheteropatriarchy to be defeated.
I didn’t always have these beliefs. 24 year old me would be shocked to see me saying some of this. But the more inclusion I’m seeing, the less vibrancy I’m seeing in our communities.
A few gay, queer and trans celebs will not bring us liberation. Mainstream queer representation is a relatively new phenomenon and is lacking in many areas. But we know it won’t bring liberation. Women’s representation as a whole has gone from housewife to #girlboss and yet misogyny still flourishes. No amount of Black sitcoms has ended anti Blackness. Jewish stand up comedians are very visible but yet antisemitism is rising.
The largest victim of “single bias” hate crime incidents are toward Black people in the U.S.
The second highest are based on sexual orientation, with the largest recipients being gay men. Gender identity hate crimes are calculated separately now, however, I imagine due to ignorance of municipalities, some of those crimes are categorized improperly. That’s only considering what is both reported AND declared a hate crime.
Let us not forget the double jeopardy of being Black and queer and certainly the horrific often fatal violence transgender women and femmes face, most specifically Black trans women.
The fact is, gay inclusion is our detrime. The Tampa gay scene went from 20 clubs, lounges, shops etc to maybe 3. Drag is now centered on entertaining straight audiences and keeping advertisers happy than it is about us.
A similar thing happened to hip hop which was once an underground cultural connecting and political theater for Black Americans. Drag was also a connector and a tool of telling stories and organizing politically.
Both of these artforms still have local connections to these roots but the mainstream understanding of them are commercialized.
It is one of my many political contradictions though. I love to see us in movies and TV and not being a plot device.
I’m not aiming for the radical of the year award, so I’m not going to pretend I don’t consume or even enjoy the representation, as imperfect as it is.
Plus, I’ve heard that representation has helped people feel less alone and has positive impacts on the well being of gay, queer and trans people.
But pride, which yes I still go to because I love seeing open gayness, is a commodity. Inclusion brought us corporate control over our lives, rarely do we see LGBTQ owned businesses at the center anymore and police march in them now.
While this certainly benefits some gay, queer and trans people in the short term, especially the affluent ones, it has long standing impacts on the community.
We continue to support racism, misogyny, ableism and cissexism and now more and more gay people are gaining more institutional power. Just like the Cubans and Sicilians, we are gaining the power to be even larger oppressors. In the past, most of us enforced oppression in gay spaces, which was bad enough and painfully ironic. Now, we have openly gay Mayor’s ballooning police budgets and gay and trans people participating in imperialism via the U.S. military.
I think back to Dr. Davis. I don’t want to be included in that!
I believe all gay, queer and trans people should live their life how they like. If a monogamous neo nuclear family is your goal, do that. Don’t enforce it on others.
Be who you want personally but politically be queer.
I’d love to see more radical queer political organizing in the South with a goal of dismantling the oppression system, not rainbowing the system.
I believe we should have a national organizing strategy that isn’t focused on electoral politics itself. Individuals could still engage in political electoral work if they desire (I do and still would) but it wouldn’t be the center of this work.
I know this type of organizing exists but to my knowledge, there isn’t much of it on one aligned mission.
Alignment is powe. It doesn’t mean you agree on EVERYTHING but it means you use your people power to fight the fight.
What I’d Want to See
It would be useful if there was aligned guiding principles so every chapter had tools to align to a common cause, even though every City in the U.S. will have different priorities they will have a common road map.
- Anti assimilatonism. Individual queer people can live how they want but no way of living should be considered dominant or normal, even if it is the most common.
- Abolitionist response to internal harm including difficult harm. Using restorative justice, non violent communication & community accountability to handle harm. A restorative justice panel should exist nationally and exist at a local level. The panel should consist of people who continue to train on abolition and who bring those trainings to the coalition at large. It must have trans, disabled and/or BIPOC members on it and it should have a mix of orientations and identities. The panel can be engaged to handle anything from internal conflict to more serious harms .
- Liberation for all gay, queer and trans people is at the center. There will be no leaving so-and-so out to “advance the cause”. We already have done and do that now with trans and QTPOC and we should learn from that.
What would we do?
CREATE A COMMUNITY PROTECTION PANEL
A panel of LGBTQ members would exist that are trained in non violent communication, CPR, physical and mental first aid, deescalation, cop watching, disaster and crisis rapid response and so forth. They will attend any event and function and serve as people that you can go to if you feel unsafe or experience harm. They will be a safety marshals and they will also help you engage the restorative justice process.
CREATE A LOCALIZED AND NATIONAL MUTUAL AID FUND
We are the masters at events! From Drag Royal bingo, speed dating, 5ks, alternative pride, we could fundraise. The aforementioned panel could be the custodian of the funds and have a non invasive process to distribute funds rapidly directly to other members based on need.
A trans woman can’t pay her rent? We fund it. A gay man has been arrested? We bail him out. A lesbian can’t afford a car, we get her a bus pass or even a car if we can. A bi woman can’t pay access her birth control, we help. A nonbinary individual wants to change their name, we help cover that.
We would not police them or verify! It would be open to all members who are LGBTQ to request, but priority to QTPOC and/or disabled members.
WE HAVE A VOLUNTARY DUES PAYING SCALE
Members would be asked to contribute what they can if they can per month. The funds would be divided between the chapters operational costs (such as paying queer vendors at alt pride) and between the mutual aid funds to keep it growing at all times.
LOCAL AND NATIONAL POLITICAL EDUCATION
Zoom calls and, once safer, in person for local chapters to review books, videos, lectures, documentaries and the like about radical queer theory.
Each chapter would have delegates that create a curriculu. Consistency will be important to creating alignment! It is reviewed annually for changes. Local chapters can add to it based on their will, but everyone will do the base studying.
It would need to be accessible but likely it would need to be mandatory. Absolutely no one is so perfect that they don’t need political education.
SAFER QUEER SPACES TRAINING FOR QUEER BUSINESSES
I love gay bars but like all aspects of society, they have problems! Lack of trans and POC on staff. Ableism. Security guard issues. Sexual harassment. Seedy management.
We could create a training course for all staff.
- Identifying and disrupting the isms.
- Implicit bias
- Equitable pricing
- Hiring practices
- Cultural competency
- Identifying and preventing the risk of consent violations and assault (and better responses when they do happen).
- Active shooter, fire, explosion and danger preparedness
- Implementation of safety marshals in businesses.
- Identifying when someone is too drunk or overdosing.
Of course, most of this is applicable in non bars too!
We would work to make the spaces SAFER but 100% safety isn’t a thing.
Businesses could even pay a fee and hire members to facilitate this and ongoing commitment to education. We could eventually create Safer Queer Spaces Response Teams who help diffuse situations and help use abolitionist responses when harm happens to help reduce the likelihood of police or state involvement. These would be similar to the Community Protection Panel but dedicated to businesses ran by or largely designed for queer people.
(I suppose we could do some of this at non queer places as a way to bring revenue to the org)
HEALING AND ACCOUNTABILITY CIRCLES
The RJ Panel could all be trained circle keepers and host general circles for all queer people while also hosting specific ones such as Black trans healing space, sexual assault survivors and so on.
These can be in response to a specific harm, a world event or just done in general.
Similarly, accountability circles can exist for people who’ve caused harm in the past or during membership to sort through any emotional injury the consequences of the harm they’ve caused has on them while not burdening that with those they did harm.
ANTI OPPRESSION CIRCLES
Ran similar to healing circles, these would be specific to helping people with a privileged identity deal with, understand and do better with oppressive beliefs they have or enforce.
It would be led by paid facilitators of the specific marginalized group who feel safe being in a space where people will unpack their oppressive views and occasionally become defensive. It MUST be a non cancel space, so injury is likely as people will say harmful things in their journey.
A separate version may exist to help people deal with internalized oppressions.
This could be anything from racism, cissexism, to internalized heterosexism.
Leadership exists to support the chapters and to support the wor. They aren’t bosse. They are more like project managers who will serve in a specific role. For example, a Restorative Justice Leader, a Outreach Leader, a Community Protection Leader, a Political Education Leader.
The roles rotate. Perhaps yearly or every six months. And no one can exceed their term but can run for another leadership role if they want. The leadership answers to the members not the other way.
In addition to the leadership roles, a Leadership Advisory Team should exist and must intentionally reserve seats for QTPOC and/or disabled and other marginalized identities. This panel would become subject matter experts on national and local bylaws and also will help leadership hold themselves accountable and steer them in the right direction if they fall short.
If funds are available, those who own leadership roles should at least get a stipend, as well as the advisory panelists.
The stipend should be higher when Black, Indigenous and/or trans people hold the role to help fight pay inequities.
The particulars must be defined but in order to avoid replication of oppression in every way possible, voting for leaders, actions, amendments to bylaws etc should be weighted.
Since all members are LGBTQ, we would look at other identities and tabulate accordingly.
Default weight is 1 vote is 1 vote.
If you’re a non man, add .5 to that. Black or Indigenous add .5. Trans add .5. Disabled add .5. And so on. People who live at a multiplicity of these identities will have higher vote weights, while those of us with more privileged identities will still be heard but have less weight.
QUEER SEX EDUCATION
We would have sex education for those who want it and we will offer it to the community. Everyone. It would center on the different types of sex based on different bodies, preferences, identities and abilities.
We could make revenue for the organization by offering this to organizations that want it as well as doing it grassroots for members and interested communities.
Those are just some of the ideas of what we would do and all of them in some form of another do exist and have existed, just not specifically on a national scale or at least not that I know of. If it does, please invite me!
If you like these ideas and want to make it a thing, feel free to contact me! Maybe it can be a reality!