Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Caring About Queers In the Age of the Trumpocalypse

By Kelly Cogswell

After gracing the front pages for what seems like years with major gains in trans rights, and marriage equality, queers are nearly invisible again in the face of neo-Nazis in the White House and board rooms, nuclear war with North Korea, deadly earthquakes in Mexico, fires across the globe, and their evil twins--floods--impolitely fed by global warming.

Traditionally-defined queer issues seem the least of our concerns. Just like after 9/11 when the local TV chains in New York suddenly disappeared everyone from the African American women who did the news, to city fixtures like Al Sharpton and Latina lesbian Council Member Margarita Lopez along with our tiny problems. Police brutality. Health. Housing. Freedom. Equality.

Our replacements--all white guys all the time, the universal news anchor with dark suits and hard-ons, military brass and congressmen next to Rudy Giuliani in his rotating NYPD, NYFD ball caps. George W. Bush denouncing imaginary weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and encouraging citizens to rat each other out. His reps issuing yellow, orange and red terror alerts actively frightening people who are frightened still, and determined to return the country to a moment of pure and peaceful and prosperous white maleness as fake and powerful as Saddam's chemical weapons.

I try to imagine how terrifying it must have been to see those indestructible towers fall from a distance. Because everything is worse from afar. Then how great it must have been for these men equally deflated by strides in feminism, LGBT rights, racial equality to see dark skin and female flesh hidden away. And white guys back on top of the human dungheap sacrificing their lives, being heroes. (Even if there were a few minimized reports buried in back pages that hinted some of the newly named "first responders" shouldn't have been inside the towers at all, were actually ordered not to go in but went in anyway. And so died with their comrades.)

There was no room for queers in the heroic narrative. Except for the gay rugby player who intervened on one of the hijacked flights. And the dead gay priest. There's always room for a dead gay.

Yes, there was a sudden masculinization, a very white washing, a re-heteroization of America. But LGBT people in the U.S. had already ceded cultural ground. The queers I knew in ACT-UP continued to work on global AIDS, but seemed to rarely mention homophobia. Dykes I knew from the Lesbian Avengers kept doing activism, taking to the streets for social justice issues like income equality, but somehow never became advocates for poor dykes. Maybe they imagined that there would be some trickle down, or just wanted to get out of our ghetto.

And so, we queer activists left Gay Inc. to their usual devices, including political maneuvering and backroom deals, and only emerging occasionally to complain about their relatively conservative agenda (same-sex marriage, gays/trans in the military, etc.) though we lustily celebrated each normalizing triumph.

Things are no different now. Tracking my "radical" queer friends on Facebook, they frequently mention women, or people of color, but almost never LGBT people unless Trump does. Like when he tweeted he was booting trans folk from the military or trumpeted his support for homophobic bakers. And yet, these “radical” queers are in the street for everything else, from nuclear war to neo-Nazi posturing.

About queers, they, we, are mostly silent. And in that void of our own creation, the conservative, "family values" nuts have stepped in, stronger than ever. They’re cleaning us out. Quietly.

In New York, the Justice Department butted in a workplace discrimination case arguing that the 1964 Civil Rights Act does not protect workers on the basis of their sexual orientation. Meanwhile, all mention of LGBT people and gender identity has been stripped out of certain federal documents including those for a program for child victims of sex trafficking.

In Tennessee, the Knox County school board is considering changing its harassment policy to remove language explicitly protecting LGBT employees.

And, of course programs for women which somewhat benefit dykes and trans women, programs that fight AIDS in black Southern gay men are all being eliminated and cut.

That’s what you get when no one’s minding the store.

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