Editorial: Why I’ll Take This Marriage Win For QPOCs – But, I’m Still Mad About It & Demand More

June 27, 2015
It's about more than marriage. Courtesy of GetEqual

It’s about more than marriage. Courtesy of GetEqual

The US Supreme Court spoke powerfully on Friday; and, though I am thrilled at the decision, it’s hard not to think that same-sex marriage became a whitewashed money-driven politicized campaign issue that has little effect on marginalized queer people, especially QPOCs.

To me, this statement from the NBJC says it all:

“Today, the Supreme Court’s decision to recognize that all people have the right to marry affirms the powerful work of so many in our beloved community who organized and paved the way for us to see this day, and be respected with the dignity due to us as human beings.”

And then the reality, too, that this is just a point on the timeline, with many more to go continuing with, “There is still much work to be done moving forward in the pursuit of racial justice, full equality and an equitable country for all people. For those that live at the intersection of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, faith and many other identities, critical issues like violence against our community, access to employment and housing, stigma and hate crimes, immigrant rights—or simply being accepted by family, houses of worship, and your community—are present barriers that prevent many in the Black LGBT community from living their most open and authentic lives. Lifting up these issues that impact the most marginalized in our communities is the unfinished business for full equality in our nation.”

I know, I know “but we should be happy, right?” Sure, at the same time, allow me to echo the message of my timelines and twitter lists and the statement above: Marriage is a victory; however, it is absolutely the case that we are nowhere near the end of our fight and must continue to demand much more focus on the issues prominent in the minds of people whose voices have been silenced or further marginalized in order for love to win. And it’s up to our LGBTQ organizations to help lift the QPOC groups that have been fighting for these causes while they weren’t, not take them over and push people further out of view.

“It will have a positive impact on same sex couples and LGBT families across the nation, but of course, it won’t solve everything, said Ineke Mushovic, Executive Director of LGBT Movement Advancement Project, the organization that released the report on LGBT POC economic instability last April. That report outlined three reasons why QPOCs are more likely to suffer from economic instability. Number 2 was lack of family recognition by governments.  Numbers 1 and 3 are lack of comprehensive LGBTQ inclusive-measures in schools, and lack of protections from systematic discrimination in areas such as housing. So even the data says we’re not done.

While people were trying to get married, these things were also happening: Violence against POC and LGBT POC – both physical and psychological, securing full trans* rights and protections, rampant global murders against trans* women of color and transphobia, lack of universal protection against employment and housing discrimination, systemic racism, xenophobia and mistreatment of immigrants, unfair immigration policies governing entry into stolen land, continued oppression of indigenous populations and displacement from their original lands, heterosexism and misogyny and other unquantifiable institutionalized barriers to LGBTQ POC, POC and LGBTQ success. Those are all important issues literally affecting the lives and livelihoods of millions that have been ignored or pushed to the side or overshadowed by the blind pursuit for marriage. And i’m tired. People are fucking dying.  We can and should still be fired-up and angry about those things, and the government and Gay Inc.’s ignorance of them, all day every day until we get the resolution we demand. So know that I have no desire to tell anyone how they should feel about this ruling. I do want to outline just how this ruling will have more impact on LGBTQ POC than some perceive , especially those who are in same-sex partnerships with children.

Screenshot from report "Paying an Unfair Price" from LGBTMAP

Screenshot from report “Paying an Unfair Price” from LGBTMAP

In our Why Are QPOC So Broke segment earlier this year, we discussed some of the economic factors that cause LGBTQ POC to be at an increased risk for economic instability and the results of the report Paying a Higher Price: The Cost of LGBT POC …Those who live in states that formerly prohibited same-sex marriage missed out on several economic and legal protections for themselves and their families that are now guaranteed. Access to adoption, taxation benefits, insurance, pension – all of these things can have true financial benefits for QPOC families. Plus, the security that comes for children when both their parents are legally able to protect them and advocate them despite biology is priceless. But, those things are only guaranteed if, and only if, if you and your spouse have walked down the aisle and/or signed the dotted line of a marriage certificate. And that’s simply not enough.

“We also have to recognize that different families are living in different circumstances, and the most important thing is that we look at ways to create laws that protect families and children, even if by choice or by circumstance they aren’t in the type of legal relationship that we normally would think of,” said Mushovic.

For some people I know (hell even for me, with all of the privileges that I have ) who are queer, or trans* or LGB people of color, the other protections not currently granted, coupled with the rampant intolerance, hatred, anti-queerness, anti-minority sentiments that still exist right now in all corners of our nation and even our world  are much more present at the top of our minds than marriage equality. And everyone’s excitement about it only serves to increase our acute awareness of how little those other issues matter to the mainstream, and how invisible we still are.

At the same time, damn it, we’re not ready to marry! Not because we haven’t found love or don’t want it, but because many of us still cannot live our full selves openly. Who is going to run to the altar when many people like me didn’t even used to see gay marriage as an option, and still live with those psycohological scars of growing up in America as a gay, black child? A child conditioned to think  that he can’t possibly be in a partnership with a man in the same way they can be with a woman? A child who knows that, because the institutionalized heteronormative, white supremacist, anti-queer and anti-black rules of conformity have conditioned them to believing it is right, some see people like me  as unsuitable partners or toys to be played with and put away. And they treat people like me as second class.

How about my trans* sisters and brothers who tell me they experience trauma daily, from going to the grocery store and enduring stares like they’re on display at Macy’s, or being accosted by the police and then harrassed because of identity documentation that doesn’t accurately reflect their identity, or having to defend their very right to live to people, queer or not,  who feel somehow supreme because of their gender identity and exact violence with their words or actions. Or being killed because someone felt uncomfortable and felt that their comfort meant more than a life.

It’s a happy day, but it’s a sad day. People are still dying because of intolerance, and whether or not this ruling has an effect on changing that is yet to be determined. I’m cautiously optimistic. It’s a victory, but it’s certainly not the victory – we’re capable of so much more.

We cannot and will not continue to allow voices to be suppressed, ignored, marginalized, silenced, whitesplained, queersplained, cis-splained, demoralized, dehumanized and/or victimized any longer as they have been throughout our history as a nation, and specifically throughout this movement toward same-sex marriage. Voices were excluded from the conversations; and, those voices were the ones whose messages we critically needed to hear. The result was sharp increase in trauma against LGBTQ POCs from both queer and non-queer people alike. It’s time to listen and act on what we hear from new voices, now. It’s really time for these big organizations who usurped all of our resources in order to move the marriage equality movement forward to give back and step back so that other progresses can be made, and use the resources and capital they’ve built to help strengthen the lives of LGBTQ POC and other marginalized queer people. That needs to happen right now, today and until all those things I mentioned above are much closer to being the past instead of the present or future. HRC don’t call me and ask for another goddamn dime until your agenda and actions begin to make marked improvements in the lives of queer and trans* people of color. But, again, I’m not the only one…many, many writers and reporters and activists have echoed these sentiments…it’s just time to actually listen, hear and act.

Last week, my friends and I experienced blatant and traumatic homophobia and racism which I wrote about in the coming up show blog. Like many instances, it’s still burned in my mind, for now. Then i’ll file it away in the trauma folder and move forward.  Every day it’s real to me just how deep the problems are in this country, and how much still we need to achieve so everyone feels empowered, capable and able to live their full life and be their authentic selves to everyone. Again, it’s so much more than marriage that needs to happen in our world that I can’t even fully explain – but the United States government literally affirmed that all marriages are equal, our couples (many of whom are comprised of LGBTQ POCs) can marry like everyone else and that is still a “big fuckin’ deal”.

Imagine if our government  put an emphasis on ending violence against trans* women of color 5 or 10 years ago? Or there was no “War on Drugs” or “Broken Windows” policies unfairly criminalizing and targeting poor people and people of color, or unjust sex work prohibitions that also unfairly target poor people and people of color. What about if our government started to really explore and find solutions for how systemic racism, homophobia and transphobia have permeated through our social structures at all levels back when the AIDS epidemic first became news in the 1980s, or even the civil rights movements in the 60s or the women’s rights movements before that? What if race riots didn’t burn black settlements, businesses and communities in the post-Slavery era? We might have fewer names on the lists we keep to remember our fallen minority men and women who have lost their lives at the hand of systemic violence…we might have had fewer young people and adults who took their lives because they thought the world would never accept them.  We’d have fewer people in jails serving ridiculous sentences and fewer people who are unemployable after rehabilitation because of criminal pasts, also disproportionally poor and of color. Fewer people could have died from AIDS. Not only do the laws we have not truly protect us, our great nation did (if one even thinks it did any job) a poor job of of making it right after we “gave people their rights” either by law or by order. So, trust,  I surely understand and join in the skepticism, criticism and even disbelief in the fact that this order of the court really matters to our every day lives. Show me the change, and i’ll believe it. The time is now, and as many have said we are not asking, we are demanding!

In my opinion, we mark this in the book as a “W” in a scorecard yet to be fully tallied. That’s a good thing. And we did this. QPOCs did this. Sure the billboards and the ads were blindingly white, and the talking heads were cis gay and lesbian couples from affluent backgrounds. But we know the truth, and just as we call out and say “you built this movement on our backs”, we also have to know that it’s ours. I think of the movie “The New Black” and all of the communities like that who fought against amendments in their local areas. The QPOCs that fought. This victory is ours, too. And now that we know our government and our courts can be responsive to what we want as a people, let’s get more of what we deserve. (and here is where I delve into the part of the editorial referred to as the “call to action” – take it as you will)

Keep being loud. Keep talking about what we experience every day. Keep making people with privilege uncomfortable with raw, fruitful and engaging conversations about your experiences. Take the asterisks of the word nigger and the word faggot and all the other slurs and talk about how the problem is NOT that they are offensive to our sensibilities; but, that the problem is how those words and other overt and covert words, phrases, symbols, images, ideals and beliefs are tools in the toolbox used to form opinions and prejudices in the minds of people causing them to do unjust, violent and oppressive things to us nearly every moment of our lives. And, that ceasing to use them or give them power is not succumbing to the “PC-police”, the “liberal agenda” or the “language police”, but trying to create a more affirming world for all to live their best, true selves.

If you are a person of intersectional identity, continue to call people in on topics of race, gender, sexual orientation, disability status and other marginalized identities to which you ascribe, but maintain your presence as a person who has a right to exist without justification or legitimization from others and maintain your safety and wellness above all else! We are not hear for your entertainment, education or information – but, and I can only speak for myself, I will engage and educate anyone who respectfully comes to me to do so. If you feel empowered or comfortable enough to do so, I encourage you to do, as it builds bridges stronger than anything else. And I offer you QueerMinded as a platform to help bring your stories to light, and to keep our communities informed.

If you are an ally to a person with a marginalized identity — even if you, too, hold a different marginalized identity — recognize that you’re experience and opinion, however valid, may only be so in the perspective of your experience as an ally. It DOES NOT refute or replace the first-hand experiences of a person living a specific marginalized identity or intersection of one or more marginalized identities. Your strongest asset is your ability to speak in spaces inaccessible to marginalized groups, and have conversations (albeit, uncomfortable ones) with people like you about people like us. It is not to question, condemn or explain our feelings or experiences. Be our cheerleader, advocate and defender in those spaces where we have no access or voice; because, in my opinion that’s where it matters most. And learn to be supportive, and sometimes silent, in our spaces – because the depth of the trauma we have endured may make us very sensitive to those who have not directly experienced what we have, and your mere presence or words may invoke flashbacks of violence or trauma. I know that I have both felt that from allies, as well as caused those feelings to those whom I wanted to be an ally.

President Obama just echoed what scholars, activists, grassroots leaders and others have said for years – racism is everywhere, homophobia is everywhere, misogyny is everywhere and we have to disinfect our society of it from top to bottom. I think of people like Audre Lorde, Silvia Rivera, pioneers in our movement that many people don’t even know about. People before us who said powerful things that are still true today, that some of us don’t even want to acknowledge. Laws, flags, symbols – they are all just things created as a part of a complex, oppressive and inherently biased system that really is THE problem. Rulings like these are like spraying a spot of cleaner on a really dirty bathroom, in a really messed up house. We haven’t even begun to get into all the nooks and crannies around the back of the toilet, but hopefully, eventually, we’ll get our whole house clean (Or at least presentable enough for company, as my mom would say).

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