Upon arriving on campus, I was the wide-eyed idealist looking for a revolution to spark. And that was what I didn’t find in my first few months at my university.
Activism was dead, someone told me. And he had the written proof. In Yale, the LGBTQ community are facing the same lethargy when it comes to rallies and protests. Organized rallies, no doubt, still find hundreds of supporters as we’ve seen with the nationwide Prop 8 rallies but any other political activism finds a mere handful of “radical queers” screaming chants and holding up signs. It was the same on my campus. “We are way pass that age,” someone wrote.
My sense of radicalism and political activism for the queer movement flickered out and died. I had to grapple with another identity – being gay and accepted. But that was when things began to change. Slowly, as more discussions took place within the Gender and Sexuality department and among transgender allies who are “tired of standing on the shoulders of gay and lesbian activists”, there began a call for more inclusion within the gay and lesbian community on campus. It is time that political activism included more people than just gay and lesbians. Discrimination is not over for the transgender community. And marriage isn’t everything. No doubt the ongoing work seeking marriage equality is one that is must be done, but at the same time, there are a growing number of individuals who feel that “Yes, we’ll fight for the equal right to marry. But we don’t necessarily like it.” A discourse begins to take shape. “Striving for equality shouldn’t be just an equality within a heteronormative model. Let’s move beyond there.”
Activism is reborn. Here comes Queer.
This is how I choose to identify — I am queer. It is a renewed sense of pride in the fact that we are different – in terms of how we view sexuality and gender – and that we are happy staying that way. Yes, we want equal and fair treatment. Yes, we want an end to discrimination. But no, we are not necessarily going to live within the heteronomartive model that has been set up. Some of us don’t want to get married. Some of us, who identify as males, and like other males, do not necessarily identify as gay. Some of us think that sexuality and gender are not two separate things. I am not heterosexual, but also, I am not a “man” – a stable, gendered, and performative body that is regulated through a political and social discourse.
We’ve change the group name on campus from LGBTSA to QSA – Queer Students and Allies to reflect the inclusiveness we wish to encourage in the discussions that go on. In some ways, activism is rekindled. People have fought to continue anonymous HIV testing, to ensure gender-neutral housing policies, and most importantly, to see that the university is committed to making as many of its social spaces and records gender-neutral. We are definitely seeing some spark of revolution return.
In the following video, historian and eloquent public speaker Tim McCarthy, tells us why we should not allow queer activism die. He is a wonderful speaker with great talent – his speech brings the listener on a turbulent journey through the comings-to-be of queer theory and politics in the United States and how milestone events such as the Stonewall riots have played a role in how we view the queer rights movement today. I won’t spoil the punch line/thesis of his speech, but he asks: What sort of queers are we when we forget who got us here today to be able to so casually dismiss our identities as part of other things?
The only reason why I can organize my identity politics around the axis of art, for example, owes a lot to the great work done by queer activists before me. Understanding that, knowing that, inspires me to organize my identity politics around the axis of being … queer, queer, queer!
The video is here.