Late in April the state of Arizona essentially made racial profiling legal. You haven’t forgotten SB 1070 have you? I know this might seem like old news to some folks, but it remains relevant to how we think about our LGBT work.
After we learned of SB1070, the question immediately became, how do queer communities react? Is this an LGBT issue? It seems natural to me that, yes, this injustice is something that folks doing queer organizing need to respond to as an issue that directly intersects with our work.
Everything that has happened in Arizona is a painful illustration of the right forcing us into silos. At a time when I believe there is energy for a progressive justice movement that works across issues, strategies like the right is using in Arizona are forcing us into siloed work. Arizona is coming at it from many directions…Women’s rights to control their own bodies are being attacked, homophobia is supported by the law and brown folks are being asked for our papers!
But for me it’s a reminder; we need a multi-issue strategy, we need to hold all progressive agendas equally. Arizona is an opportunity for our movements; it illustrates where we intersect, immigrant justice, racial justice, queer justice, and reproductive justice. What’s happening is an attack on our bodies (and how we use them) and an attack on our right to land and space. The link is clear.
The challenge for me is this; how can we have a political and social awareness and analysis that understands how our work intersects? Let me break it down like this – even if my organizing is primarily with and in queer communities, how can my analysis be one that understands complexities of progressive issues, one that says to be in solidarity with my friend doing immigrant rights organizing, doesn’t mean I have to stop being queer or organizing around LGBT issues, it means that I need to think about how we create shared meaning around justice, how we look at where our needs and wants and visions for change create new definitions for justice.
I heard Beth Zemsky speak at the Bisexual Empowerment Conference in April and she had this to say, “When we think about what it is we want and or want to change, we need to think about who else wants similar changes. Who might be seeking the same justice that I am?”
Beth reminded me of a quote from Urvashi Vaid, “do we want to be a progressive LGBT movement or do we want to be the queers IN a progressive justice movement?”
For me it’s the second, it means we get to be all of who we are all the time, it means we do organizing around queer issues/LGBT rights in a way that honors, holds and understands a shared vision for justice. But it’s also a chicken or the egg type situation; we’ve got some work to do within LGBT communities to position the intersections and become progressive as a queer movement so we are ready to be part of a larger justice movement.
I don’t have all the answers but I believe strongly that to create a more just and equitable world, our progressive movements need to transform how we understand our issues.