The gay marriage debate has taken over all the attention from the queer movement left and right. The right wing is consistently and stubbornly denying the existence of queer folks by saying that it’s an immoral choice of lifestyle. The liberal gay and lesbian organizations are continually pulling millions and millions of dollars to appeal to the state for marriage equality under the rhetoric of “we are all the same.” On the other hand, queer separatists are fiercely combating the liberals with the slogan: “we are totally and absolutely different from the heteros,” and have made good points on criticizing the oppressive patriarchal nature of the institution of marriage and how queers should not seek this type of inclusion (see: against equality). However, these critiques have not necessarily been able to generate an alternative grassroots movement which can seriously take on the demands of those queers who are marginalized–queer people of color, trans folks, working-class queers, queers with disabilities, and third world and immigrant queers–from all of the above approaches.
“Amanda Milan and the rebirth of Street Trans Action Revolutionaries” by Benjamin Shepard in From ACT UP to WTO.
Street Trans Action Revolutionaries (STAR) was founded as a caucus within Gay Liberation Front (GLF) in 1971 to put forth trans demands in the gay liberation movement. The co-founder of STAR, Sylvia Rivera, was a Puerto Rican trans woman who led the Stonewall Riots in New York City in 1969 along with other trans of color. Yet gradually, the gay liberation movement was co-opted by white middle-class folks who are gender-conforming and became conservative. Gay Activists Alliance (GAA), a New York based gay rights group was founded by ex-members of GLF who did not appreciate its radicalism and wanted to form a single-issued organization that only focused on reformist gay rights. GAA’s conservatism and transphobia showed when they dropped the trans demands while advocating citywide anti-discrimination rights in the 70s. They saw actions put on by STAR and Sylvia Rivera as too “dangerous,” “crazy,” and “extreme.”
The following essay by Walter Benn Michaels appeared in the London Review of Books.
Here are some excerpts:
“My point is not that anti-racism and anti-sexism are not good things. It is rather that they currently have nothing to do with left-wing politics, and that, insofar as they function as a substitute for it, can be a bad thing. American universities are exemplary here: they are less racist and sexist than they were 40 years ago and at the same time more elitist. The one serves as an alibi for the other: when you ask them for more equality, what they give you is more diversity. The neoliberal heart leaps up at the sound of glass ceilings shattering and at the sight of doctors, lawyers and professors of colour taking their place in the upper middle class. Whence the many corporations which pursue diversity almost as enthusiastically as they pursue profits, and proclaim over and over again not only that the two are compatible but that they have a causal connection – that diversity is good for business. But a diversified elite is not made any the less elite by its diversity and, as a response to the demand for equality, far from being left-wing politics, it is right-wing politics.”
“Thus the primacy of anti-discrimination not only performs the economic function of making markets more efficient, it also performs the therapeutic function of making those of us who have benefited from those markets sleep better at night. And, perhaps more important, it has, ‘for a long time’, as Wendy Bottero says in her contribution to the recent Runnymede Trust collection Who Cares about the White Working Class?, also performed the intellectual function of focusing social analysis on what she calls ‘questions of racial or sexual identity’ and on ‘cultural differences’ instead of on ‘the way in which capitalist economies create large numbers of low-wage, low-skill jobs with poor job security’. The message of Who Cares about the White Working Class?, however, is that class has re-emerged: ‘What we learn here’, according to the collection’s editor, Kjartan Páll Sveinsson, is that ‘life chances for today’s children are overwhelmingly linked to parental income, occupations and educational qualifications – in other words, class.’”
Read the essay over at the London Review of Books.
The following are two speeches, one by myself and the other by Wen, given at a rally protesting Israel’s Independence Day at the University of Washington in April, 2009.
Each year, the Zionist groups on campus take the opportunity to hold what they call “IsraelPalooza,” which they frame as a purely cultural Independence Day celebration. As part of the Palestine solidarity campaign that Wen and i were involved in, we decided to crash their apartheid party.
While the Zionists tried to emphasize their event as a celebration of Israeli culture, we decided to celebrate 61 years of Palestinian resistance to apartheid. At their event, they offered live music, henna, hookah, falafel, and a “dialogue” tent, ostensibly to prove that they were nice, reasonable people. However, once we began our rally not far away, the white supremacist insults began. First we heard, “There’s no such thing as a Palestinian, you idiot!” Later, Zionists tried to verbally and physically provoke those on our side. We held our cool, while the campus police, who had promised to keep the groups separated, stood back and did nothing to prevent the Zionist hostility.
After several speeches were made and some lively chants recited (including: “From Mexico to Palestine, tear down the wall!”), we began a loud march around the perimeter of the apartheid party. Being that the event was outdoors and advertised as free and open to the public, we decided that we would enter their settlement-like party as a contingent. However, when we tried to enter, the cops formed a human barricade and denied us entry. While they were not willing to intervene when the Zionists were trying to provoke physical fights, the cops were all too happy to bar us from a free event. In comparing the two opposing sides, as we stood face to face with each other, two things were clear: 1) They were overwhelmingly white and we were majority people of color; and 2) The cops were willing to use force to “protect” the whiteys and their “culture” from all the scary brown people. For a brief moment that day, it was like we were living under legally enforced segregation.
Just in case their white supremacy wasn’t obvious enough, the Zionists helped make it crystal clear when one of them yelled at our brown group, “Swine Flu.” When an anti-Zionist Jewish woman who was part of our rally tried to enter IsraelPalooza, the cops barred her, while a couple Zionists behind the cops screamed, “Don’t let her in. She might be a suicide bomber.”
Anyway, after a lengthy showdown with the pigs, we marched through campus, still full of energy, right to a local Palestinian falafel restaurant. The food there was good; much better, i imagine, than the appropriated, blood-soaked falafel that the Zionists were giving out.
I wish i could post video from the event, but it has been lost, so i am posting the flyer for the event along with the two speeches. Continue reading Crashing the Party: Protesting Apartheid Celebrations in Seattle