August 07, 2006

even in the communities we build

So recently I was hanging out in a queer progressive kind of space with some people I know and some people I know less well. I don't think any of them knew I was on Quench. At least, we hadn't talked about it. Anyhow, someone brought up the topic of Quench and someone else said, "yes, well, i generally like it but it seems like they've had some off-topic and random posts sometimes."

I am imagining this to be the result of my shenanigans. (eg. the post about the giant ball of tape and international relations). Anyhow, like a good activist, I responded with a question, "What about these off-topic posts is bothering you?"

And she responded, "there are some people who just keep whining about healthcare and poverty. I mean, the blog is supposed to be about sexuality and feminism or something?"

Firstly, I have never actually seen a mission statement for Quench. Maybe it would be cool to have one of those second lines under our title like QueerToday does.

So I answer, "do you see anti-poverty work and queer or feminist work as related?"

And she basically took a long route to get to saying "no."

Those of you who are new to this blog may not know me, so just for clarity's sake, I strongly disagree. In a world where some families hold wealth for generations, passed down through marriage and children (these are families that queers are all too often kicked out of or unable to enter), I think that sexuality and class are certainly related. In a world where people who are visibly queer often have many obstacles to face in terms of getting employment, it is hard not to link income and gender and sexuality expression. In a world where health care is often expected to be distributed through employers and through marriage, sexuality and access to healthcare are linked. In a world where there is a marriage movement working against women, particularly women of color, working-class folks (especially women of color), and queer folks, in the name of "family values," we are all linked in a struggle - or at least we should be. (see for more information). In a world where LGBT youth are kicked out of their homes and become homeless at alarming frequencies (some studies say 1/3 of homeless youth identify as LGBT), how can we say queerness and homelessness are not connected?

Examples - one study in DC showed that

  • One third of transgender people were earning $10,000 or less per year.
  • 29% of respondents were unemployed.
  • Only one in four respondents reported being satisfied with his or her housing situation.
  • 13% of respondents reported not feeling safe in their current housing.
  • 15% reported losing a job due to discrimination in the workplace.
  • Only 58% had paid employment.
In LA, another showed that of transgender people
  • 64% made less than $25,000 a year.
  • Over 40% did not have health insurance.
  • One in five did not have stable housing.
In less than five minutes of perusing websites like that of Immigration Equality, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, Boston Glass, Somos Latin@s, or dozens of others to be aware that not only are liberation from opression based on gender and sexuality tied in with class, race, and nationality, but that many organizations work successfully on several of these issues at a time.

And in working together on a variety of issues, people with power and privilege only hurt our movement by claiming our struggles to be independant. As a white person, if I claim that working on sexuality is independent from working on race, how many other people will avoid working with me because I am working for such a narrow group. I am calling on people in our communities to open up their eyes and realize - it is only white people who have the privilege to act as if sexuality and race are unrelated, it is only rich people who have the privilege to act as if sexuality and class are unrelated. Those of us who are white and have class privilege need to push ourselves and each other to stop hindering the LGBT movement.

Hopefully, someday we can not only stop hindering it but we would help it as well. This is going to involve a lot less talking and a lot more listening in order to allow us to use the resources we have access to to effect social change.


icarus said...

thank you for this post.
as one of those consummate "whiners," i appreciate it. ;-)

tea cozy said...

thank you, wtto!

they came for the sex, but they stayed for the well-articulated "whining" about poverty and health care

i love quench!

;) teacozy

Anonymous said...

Thank you for responding to this issue, WTTO.

How can you separate queer and genderqueer issues from racial, ethnic, sex-related, class and wealth issues? That's amazingly blind. Unbelievably so.

Staggering, to say the least.

kaveat said...

Dear WTTO,

I wish there were some way to immortalize this post. It's an argument I repeat time and again, except you've articulated it so eloquently - can we draft a Quench statement based on this?

Hugs to all quenchers

Nakia said...

Perhaps people don't see (gender)queer issues as related to class because, as all poor people, poor (gender)queers are invisible. The culture doesn't reflect either their poverty, sexuality or gender identity, and if you're broke, grand PR campaigns or slick talking lobbies will take a back seat to food and rent. Perhaps a grassroots campaign would be best, and guilt trip the pride parade princesses into helping fund efforts.

maudite entendante said...

As far as I recall, the "mission statement" when Quench was founded was something along the lines of: "Hey, we have a lot of things to say. We should totally make a zine."

As it happens, we were a group of queer Harvard women, and a lot of the things we had to say had to do with feminism, gender, fuckery, etc. But even in the first issue of the zine, we had pages about mental health, small-town police blotters, religion, and - oh yes - class, (perceived) race, and quality children's literature. Point being, from the very beginning, there was nothing that was "off-topic" for Quench.

And now that we're in Generation 2 or 3 of Quench, and our writership is now best defined as something closer to "mostly-queer mostly-Harvard mostly-women," there's still a tendency to write a lot about feminism and gender and fuckery, because that's still what's on a lot of people's minds. But we're also a group of people concerned about class, and about race, and about giant balls of tape and moose rescued by helicopters. But our mission statement, such as it is, remains the same: "Hey, we have a lot of things to say - wouldn't it be cool to say them?"

As long as we stick to things we care about and want to say, we are on topic.

maudite entendante said...

By the way, WTTO, can those of us who aren't white and/or didn't grow up with class privilege play in the "pushing ourselves" sandbox, too?

'cause, y'know, there are Quenchfolk who aren't white and upper-class...

wannatakethisoutside said...

Absolutely. I was just saying that those of us with class privilege (or educational privilege, white privilege, etc.) are often the ones who fuck up and hinder what could be a better movement.

And also some of us have a variety of kinds of class privilege. (eg. growing up with it, attending an elite institution or having graduated from one, a variety of kinds of privileges depending on our nationalities).

I definitely agree with you ME that we should all be pushing ourselves. I didn't mean to make that call sound one-sided. I don't, however, want to diffuse responsibility or say that it is the responsiblity of any one group of people to deal with a problem alone (as the person I heard talking seemed to think).