I’m starting to think about a paper I’m going to be writing for a class on Non-Violence…trying to evaluate the relationship of radical queer activism to more peaceful movements. And I keep getting the sneaking suspicion that they’re more related that we’d often like to admit. I’d like to believe in Ghandi, King, and the power of non-violence that can change the enemy, but I wonder if they have a dependence on more extreme and nationalist movements in order to give them appeal in the minds of the majoritarian community. As Negrodamus so aptly put it, the reason white people like Wayne Brady is that he makes Bryant Gumbel look like Malcom X. Do we need ACT UP to make the Human Rights Campaign look like a mainstream and appealing choice for America? Or is it that groups like the HRC are so civilized and assimilated to the “political realities” of this age that they make any real advocacy look like extremism?

The question is live. From Amnesty via Feministing…

In the early hours of 2 March 2003, police reportedly raided The Power Plant, a popular gay after-hours club in Highland Park, Michigan. They arrested the club owner and several hundred patrons. The club operator was arrested on several charges, including operating an illegal establishment, and selling alcohol without a liquor licence. The patrons were issued with misdemeanour citations for illegal trespass and more than 150 cars were impounded and towed from the scene. Reportedly, 50 to 100 officers stormed the premises dressed in black and using laser sights, causing panic. Patrons were bound with their hands behind their back and forced to lie face down on the concrete floor, in some cases for more than eight hours. Reports indicate that those arrested were not permitted to use the bathroom and several were forced to relieve themselves where they lay. Some reported being kicked in the head and back, slammed into walls, and verbally abused.

To be sure, that is far from the worst of it. The AI report is filled with brutalities, sexual assaults, and other misconduct that ought to put the hair on the back of your neck on end. But I used that story because it reminds us most of Stonewall. It also points out how much more overwhelming police power can be in this age, and how difficult and dangerous resistance can be. But at the same time, such travesties remind us of the courage found in despair and exhaustion with being victimized.

In the face of systematized violence, who gets to make the choice of how “we” respond. In the kinship of the queer communities, how do we make decisions about if the system is just responsive enough to justify working from within, and when we must strike outside the ground rules that are meant to silence our concerns?

Maybe it’s just me, but the memory of Stonewall seems to be wearing off on both sides. Homophobic power seems to be getting bolder and bolder (it is no accident that misogynist and anti-sex rhetorics are having the same “revival”) and some in the community seem stuck to the means of the “political solution.” I’ve got great hope for the future in terms of queer acceptance, the numbers for marriage get better with nearly every poll. We held them off on a amendment, and the majority will someday swing. But as we win victories in some quarters, the opposition is increasingly emboldened to find extralegal means to enforce their fear. And to our shame, the community is not responding well. To the affluent and privileged among us, it may not seem like an issue. This is not a Red State issue, this is not a rural thing, this is not a not poor thing, this is an “us” thing. Queer is a fictive community with no ontological truth. It is as real as far as we act for it, care for one another, and stand together. Reports like this one must mobilize us, radicalize us, and drive us to force the recognition our community. It is a cycle to break, for whosoever is not seen as a person can be violated, whomever can resist violence will be seen as a person. This imperial type thought is not appealing, and we may feel disgust in playing by such rules. But Stonewall was not in vain. Queer resistance bought us the ability to operate in political arenas. But the work is incomplete. What will it take to end the violence that is used against our lives, loves, and bodies?

I don’t have an answer. I don’t yet know what is necessary in “by whatever means necessary.”

But I’ll be thinking.

-sly

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