Post the Forty-Seventh or On Taking up Space

I went to a party the other night for a friend of a friend who was celebrating his first anniversary of being on T. I was in a room full of gender-varient queers with awesome music playing and lots of hotties to look at. Why, then, did I feel so alone in that space? These people, ostensibly, are my peers. They are my comrades-at-arms against cissexism and heteropatriarchy. What was the problem?

And then I realized that there were only 3 women of color (you know we were in a group the whole time) at the party, myself included, and no transwomen, brown or otherwise. The room was full of white transmen and queer women. And many of them live in JP, the same neighborhood that the party was held. A neighborhood that has been historically a community of mostly Black and Latin@ working class people. And yet here are all these white, upwardly mobile queers gentrifying (read: internal colonization) the hood and they didn’t even have the decency to have any sort of real diversity?

More to the point, this party was explicitly billed as a queer/trans party celebrating someone’s transmasculine identity. And while the party in and of itself isn’t bad (aside from my reaction to if being on of discomfort), you can invite who ever the eff you want to your party, I think that it says a lot about that general trends of what is visible in the queer/trans community. And that is that it is mostly white and mostly transmasculine.

And don’t give me that, “Oh we reached out to communities of color but they didn’t come! It’s their fault for not participating!” Because that is just bullshit. The reason why POC don’t show up for your event/party/campaign etc is because there is no space made for them. Why would anyone want to enter a space where their voices, histories and thoughts are ignored? Why would anyone want to enter a space where folks were committing microagressions left and right? Moreover, who would want to be in a space that has historically excluded them?

I think one of the things that the white queer/trans community fails to realize is that there are many communities held within the queer community. And as such, one can’t expect the queer experience to be universal or think that all queers want the same thing. I couldn’t care less if middle-upper class white gays get to marry. That’s just not salient to me. I do care about non-discrimination legislations (although not hate crimes legislation cause that shit doesn’t work and it just adds black and brown bodies to the PIC). I do care about affordable housing and access to healthcare and educational/job opportunities. These are the things that are important in my life.

But all the time, energy and money is spent trying to get marriage equality and why is that? Because it is the thing that effects white people the most. The folks who participate and run Gay, Inc (read: HRC) already have access to safe housing, healthcare, education etc. The single issue politics involved in advocating for marriage equality just alienating and frustrating because the purport to speak for the whole of the queer community when, in fact, they only speak for a small section of it.

And to add insult to injury, if one creates a space for black and brown queers only or focus on the accomplishments of queer people of color, white people get butt hurt and insist that they be included because it would be “racist” otherwise. They won’t make a space for us with them (and if they do it tokenizing) and when we do it for ourselves, they feel entitled to that space.

I write this so that my white sisters and brothers (and others with privileged identities like being able bodied, wealthy, male etc) will understand that they take up space by default and that their voices, histories, thoughts and opinions are given precedence over POC voices. I want my white allies to not only be anti-racist but to be aware of how they are taking up space. I want my white allies to be able to co-create room for POC voices.I want my queer/trans white allies to have the concerns of POC in the forefront of their minds while the plan campaigns.Most of all, I want my white allies to check other white people on their white privilege and tell them if they are taking up to much space so that a POC doesn’t have too. This is because it is not our responsibility to educate white folks on white privilege, which is often a very pain process for us, it is yours.

And I also want my fierce queer/trans people of color to come together and make space for ourselves. I want to see more transwomen of color coming together in sisterhood. I want to see transmen of color come together for brotherhood. And I want us all to come together to keep each other safe, supported, and loved. I want us to come out of the alienating space of white queerness that doesn’t have a critical analysis of race, which tokenizes us and keeps us separated, and unite so that we can create self-actualizing communities that feed us.

Communities that give us the strength to fight this battle called racism in america and win.

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About witchymorgan

I'm a 22 year old womanist, sex positive, pansexual, polyamorous, queer, bruja, transwoman. Social justice activist by day, social justice activist by night. Fun! View all posts by witchymorgan

5 responses to “Post the Forty-Seventh or On Taking up Space

  • mo

    greetings, morgan! my name is morgan too. 🙂 i’m the head writer for a bed stuy based collective called bklyn boihood. (i’ll spare you/me the process of writing out our official m+v) we work to promote the empowerment and visibility of bois of color, all over the masculine-of-center spectrum. i edit the ‘bois will be bois’ blog and would love to repost this. please email me at mwillis@bklynboihood.com if you are interested. respect. -mo. – http://www.bklynboihood.com

  • Anonymous

    You said it right when you said, “You can invite who ever the eff you want to your party.” This was not a public event, nor was it using public space. This was not billed as a community event. It was a party to honor an individual, in a private home. Asking someone to fight gentrification, transmasculine privilege in the queer world, and a centuries-long history of macro- and microaggressive racism is a whole lot to put on a single party, don’t you think? Is it possible that you are using your very brief time at a party as a launchpad for a discussion that actually has nothing to do with the party, or the partygoers, whose gender identities and color you (mis)judged in the 10-15 minutes you were there?

    • witchymorgan

      Anonymous,

      Do I think it is to much to ask for people with privilege to examine, interrogate and challenge that privilege; given the long history of oppression, genocide and enslavement that people with said privilege have committed and continue to commit today? Namely, do I think it is to much to ask of middle and upper class, white queers to examine, interrogate and challenge their white and class privilege; given the long history of oppression, genocide and enslavement that said folks have committed and continue to commit today? I’m afraid to say that no, I don’t think that is a lot to ask.

      While the party was in a private home, honoring an individual, it was still a public event on Facebook with an open invite, which leads me to believe that while it wasn’t explicitly a community event, it was implicitly so. (Since when do public events no longer happen in private homes?) Further, you are correct to say that I used my experience there to launch into a discussion about the greater lack of visibility and space for transwomen of color. However, the party itself was symptomatic of all of those problems and demonstrated very clearly what the problems with the queer community are. Namely, its uninterrogated race and class privilege and its exclusion of transfeminine people.

      It is absolutely possible that there were some light-skinned folks there and trans women who I read as cis women who were in attendance at the party, but the fact that there was not an articulated presence of those folks at the party (or in white queer spaces in general) only lends itself to the problem. The lack of analysis and explicit inclusion is still there because, clearly, assimilation into the majority never solves the underlying inequities that lead to that need/want for assimilation. Passing privilege does not an inclusive space make. It, in fact, does the opposite.

      Finally, I find it interesting that you are so defensive when I already included in my piece that the party itself wasn’t a problem (hence the “you can invite who every you want”) but rather the symptoms it exhibited. Why defend what hasn’t been attacked?

      En la Lucha,
      Morgan Robyn

      PS Why do you think I spent only a short time at the party?

  • mattsmith1

    Hey Morgan! Haven’t read you in a long time. Good to catch up on the blog.

    I’m happy to hear you calling on people to examine ourselves. I’m okay seeing a party that reflects society’s oppressions if the people there are trying to figure out what to do about them. But if gentrification or White dominance or male dominance are taken for granted, that’s when I call foul.

    Your complaint about White folks feeling entitled to POC-only safe spaces is right on. I saw a parallel situation with heterosexism when I taught a social justice class at UT. A straight student wanted to attend/infiltrate a queer women’s therapy group to observe/study them for a project on getting to know an unfamiliar oppressed identity. !!! (In case it’s not clear, therapy groups are confidential to begin with, and closed to non-members, plus she wasn’t even eligible to be a member as a straight-identified woman.) She called the counseling center for information. When they asked about her and learned she wasn’t a queer woman looking for group therapy, they said no.

    She was very put out. I was horrified that she’d done it and didn’t see a problem with it – felt perfectly entitled to sit in on their therapy group. Oy.

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