Guest Blogger

When queer meant no war and fighting against the body police

Filed By Guest Blogger | March 15, 2010 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Politics
Tags: body police, Gay Liberation, gay pride, genderqueer, pride, queer, sexual liberation, Susan Raffo

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Susan Raffo lives in Minneapolis where she writes, is a bodyworker, parents, lives in communal housing, organizes and, when the weather permits, gardens. She is planning on going to Detroit for the US Social Forum. She'll see you there.

susan_raffo.jpgWhat's a queer to do? You're tired of the war, tired of folks being poor, tired of a lack of healthcare, welfare and general radical love. Showing up in your local park during the last weekend in June doesn't seem make you feel better as one corporation after another vies for your attention with rainbow key chains, cell phone holders and shopping bags. The orgy of plastic free things feels so much emptier than the orgies you used to remember. Less skin, more swag. What happened? Were did your people go? And how do you find them again?

In the old days, it was pretty easy. Being gay (the all-encompassing word back then for genderqueer/sexqueer) usually meant being smart about a lot of things. In particular, we seemed to understand more rapidly the ways in which our bodies were connected to every other body that had been and was being policed. When on June 28, 1970, the Gay Liberation Front of NYC organized a Gay Liberation March to commemorate the Stonewall Rebellion of the year before, the organizers aimed to free sexuality, transform the family as an institution, end anti-queer violence, and develop a new vocabulary for the erotic. To do this, it was understood that the march had to be organized against consumerism, militarism, racism and sexism. You couldn't do one without the other. That's what we used to understand.

It wasn't until the 1980s that "Gay Liberation" turned into the word, "Pride," which then evolved into themes like "Equality through Visibility" or "Proud of our Families." Not one of these themes points a finger, however politely, at those holding power. None of them talks about the differences among us, the ways in which being GLBT can sometimes be just one of your worries when you are also struggling with homelessness or a deported parent or a lack of accessible employment or the US government violating yet another treaty. None of those Pride themes imagines a different or better world. Instead, they just try and fit some of us more easily into the world we already have. That doesn't feel very visionary. Let alone hopeful. And it sure leaves a whole bunch of us out of the picture, particularly those for whom the current world just plain doesn't work.

So what are you to do with all if this? Where do you go in the middle of June? Do you just throw back your head and howl for the long gone days of the Gay Liberation Front?

Well, that would be fine if you did it really loudly and in front of a lot of people with some clearly written hand-outs that you can share, all about why you are throwing your head back and howling. However you do it, this June, please join with me to do something, really ANYTHING different from the cuddly gay approach. There are a lot of options.

  1. If there is a Pride celebration in your hometown, do something to stand out. While a lot of the bigger cities have "Queers against the War," and "Gay Shame" contingencies, a lot of the smaller cities and towns are largely protest-quiet. Gather some of your friends and, if you're feeling artsy, make a float with some queer fabulous approach to demanding universal health care, or recognizing the truth of queer homelessness. Really, anything that shows we are more than marriage, don't ask don't tell, and ending discrimination in (mostly middle class) jobs. If you're not the artsy type, then just get some big paper, scrawl words on them, and walk or roll down the street carrying those words. I'm particularly fond of things like: "We're a movement, not a market," and "Marriage does not equal liberation."
  2. Write an op-ed for your local LGBT media outlet, if they'll let you. There are all kinds of op-eds that others have written that you can try and get reprinted. Queers for Economic Justice, Bilerico.com and others have lots of great material that pushes hard against the assimilationist approach to LGBT organizing.
  3. Go to the US Social Forum in Detroit in June 2010. It's organized right before the anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, from June 21 through June 26th and, like the Stonewall Rebellion, the US Social Forum is visioned and led by people of color, poor folks, young people - all of those most affected by the ravages of global capitalism and, dare we say it, heteronormativity - a big fancy word meaning the assumption that normal is straight-acting, straight-being, and yes, straight-buying. In this case, "straight" doesn't just mean heterosexual, it means big time power-status-quo. Some of the straightest people I know have a same sex partner. And like those Gay Liberation days, the US Social Forum is against consumerism, militarism, racism and sexism. And it's for a lot of love, connection and making beautiful communities.

Truth be told those early Gay Liberation days weren't perfect. Contrary to what I said in an earlier paragraph, gay didn't always mean genderqueer/desirequeer. A lot of times it meant gay men. And other times it meant gays and lesbians. Too often it meant white. Across our history, we have made mistakes, people were left out, and we've been very confused about power, about liberation and about individual versus collective strategies. But we were trying to do things differently.

And, even though it can be hard to see it through the haze of mainstreaming, there are still a lot of people out there trying to do things differently. People who want to honor the legacy of those fierce transfolk of color, those loud and visionary bodies who ran out of the Stonewall Inn, refusing to be pushed back one more time. Doing things differently means being committed to ending all of what was trying to push those fabulous queers back. Doing things differently means not forcing anyone to have to choose between their race, their class, gender, desire and cultural beliefs. It means recognizing that we are strongest when we build from our grassroots, when those who are most oppressed are at the center of envisioning what must come next. This is different from how things sadly most often happen, when it is the folks with the most money who are at the center of visioning what comes next.

Here in Minneapolis, the snow is melting. That means that summer is just around the corner. It's time to start planning. Start building your floats, making your signs and creating your street theater. If you go to a Pride celebration, get crowds of people to just wander past those corporate tables without picking anything up. Tell them our real friends don't worry if loving us is profitable. Don't be afraid to have the leatherfolk dancing next to the childcare space. Make out in public. Refuse to use spaces that are not accessible to people with disabilities. Demand all kinds of access. Go to the US Social Forum. Say things like "Open immigration" and "No more policing any of our bodies, including racial profiling." Do it with flare and drama or do it directly. Love all of those people who get mad at you and tell you to go back into your commie pinko closet. Love them, smile at them, and then flounce the other way. It's the queer thing to do.


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"We're a movement, not a market" Is something that really stood out for me.

Last year all I remember about our local pride celebration was how commercialized it had become. It had lost any of the meaning that the original pride parades stood for.

Great post, I look forward to reading more from you.

Eric :)

"ending discrimination in (mostly middle class) jobs"???????

FAIL!

ENDA applies to any nonreligious, civilian business with 15 or more employees. While there are certainly many business with less than 15 employees that because of the nature of their product or service would generate "middle class" salaries for its workers, there are vastly more with 15 or more employees that don't such as restaurants and countless other "minimum wage" entities.

Further, are you asserting that everyone who HAS a "middle class" job is LESS worthy of discrimination protection or somehow anti-liberation?

No Michael, it is not a "fail". Susan is correct in her assessment of ENDA, and you are the one who is mistaken.

When we have an ENDA that protects poor people working at workfare jobs (required for people on welfare), or working in unregulated businesses (like home-care workers), or working off the books (ie - at restaurants or bars), or in the underground economy (like sex workers), -- only THEN will that be an ENDA that protects everyone.

But that is not what ENDA does, nor is it something that any ENDA could ever do. So does that mean that ENDA is not worthwhile? No.
Nor does Susan say that it ENDA is not worthwhile.

What she is saying, and what is true, is that it fails to protect the most vulnerable of us, which is true. And as such, we also need a much broader agenda.

Susan, I remember you from many years back when I lived in MPLS. I remember yr book on working class queers that I couldn't afford. So, I read it in the bookstore.


I live in the SF Bay Area and I never attend pride, not because I think it's assimilationist, but because I think all the politics are gone from it and what's left is a glorification of mostly irrelevant gay culture which only serves the gay corporatists and marketers.

I think it's a real failure of the gay left to insist that being gay means anything other than what it is. It's an ugly truth, but the truth nonetheless, that consumerism and the identification of gay markets have driven acceptance of gay people.

Another failure of the gay left and the failure of this blog post is to make like 'assimilation' is an actual substantive issue for queers. Gay people come from all backgrounds, and if anything, gay culture asks people to abandon their original cultures and value systems and assimilate to it. To accuse gay people of assimilation for getting married or not having far left politics or just not being queer enough is total non-sense.

Also, I think that the mere inclusion of gay people in all areas of our society actually changes culture. The NYTimes had an article recently about how same sex marriages, more often than not, were non-monogamous. It said that overall the institution of marriage was changing for everyone. What I took from that article was evidence that gay marriage was modernizing our society. That IS the change that the 60s/70s gay liberationists were seeking.

My gay-dad foster parents recently celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary. In SF when the vindictive and divisive political action group "GAY SHAME" started plastering the city with anti-gay marriage posters, I called my dad and asked him what he had been fighting for in his stint in early 70s gay liberation. He said that they wanted new forms in marriage and not to have to repeat the past. What he told me was nuanced and real.

I remember shortly after their wedding, a 'friend' of my parents came up to me after a show at Ruby's Cabaret in MPLS and gave me a short lecture about how he thought them getting married was all about fitting in and he didn't see any reason for gay people to get married. He was basically accusing my dads of assimilation. I was annoyed, it was like that guy just threw out the previous 20 years of activism on my dad's part and couldn't participate in their happiness... and he was telling me, of all people! Totally dysfunctional.

Gay Marriage is worth fighting for. So is the fight against DADT. In some ways those are unglamorous fights, but what they are about at the core is fighting for full equality under the law. Civil equality benefits gay people in tangible ways.

Michael @ LeonardMatlovich.com | March 15, 2010 4:44 PM

FAIL to you, too, Joseph. You've not demonstrated I was incorrect in any way.

The ONLY thing I addressed in her epistle, and, note, I quoted it EXACTLY, was her mischaracterization regarding the income levels ENDA would cover. And that including noting that many of the type of workers you note would not be covered by virtue of their working for entities with less than 15 employees. And, nowhere did I assert that was fair.

But when you lump in lack of government protection for employees that, by definition ["off the books," and the redundant "sex workers"] the government could not protect because they aren't aware of them, you conflate an entirely different problem for which you offer no solution.

Michael, I am well aware that I did not offer a solution in my brief post. I was not attempting to do so. All I was attempting to do was to show that ENDA does not cover the most vulnerable in our society. The solution to that is the subject for a lengthier conversation elsewhere. But for Susan to say that ENDA predominantly protects middle-class workers is absolutely true, whether you care to admit it or not.

If you know it to be "absolutely true" then you must have some government statistics, e.g., Small Business Administration, to back that up.

I'd be very interested in reading them.

Thank you.

I don't like the whole idea that we should all have the same political agenda. Seems to me that you are complaining that most of us are not the right kind of Queers and that we are somehow less than. I have gotten so tired of people telling me the right way to be.
What makes your telling us any different from the therapists who say we should convert to straight or the HRC telling us that we should act straight? You seem to be telling us the right way to be. Oh wait I get it you are different because you are right.

Hey Susan,

You are brilliant. Thanks for the article.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | March 16, 2010 3:21 AM

Thanks for your comments Susan. I don't agree with all you have to say but these are the questions we have to solve to win.

In my opinion the way foward for our movement is not just a matter of organizing demonstrations, however massive.

Not is it finished when we connect the capitalist dots - enlistment in the genocidal oil wars, the Democrats, homohating, mysogony, immigrant bashing, an all pervasive racism, the Republican party and the role of the cults in tying it all together.

Both of those are important steps forward but we need a strategy because push is going to come to shove sooner than most people think.

Some propose a strategy of appeasing and enlisting the support of cult leaders without understanding that these parasites make a living organizing hatred and bigotry. Cuddling up them is a wildly self-defeating strategy.

Others insist on a legal and legislative strategy without taking into account that, with the exception of a few thousand civil liberties attorneys and anti-corporatist trial lawyers, most lawyers and most legislators are devoted employees of the looter class.

Lawyers make their money defending murderers from HMOs and other corporate polluters and plunderers. Like clerics they’re parasites without a shred of ethics.

There are two classes in American society.

People who work for a living without being parasites are the vast majority of the population. Their – our - standard of living is being deliberately and steadily eroded, with the proceeds of that erosion are going up the ladder. The rich are getting obscenely richer and working people are getting economical raped. (1)

But it’s working people who alone have the social weight and the potential to bring about fundamental change when the question of state power is starkly posed by unemployment, union busting and homelessness.

The other class is the looter class, the ruling class, the rich. Whatever you want to call them they make the parasitism of pulpit pimps and ambulance chaser look pathetic by comparison.

The looters and rulers are very powerful indeed. They have the twin parties at their beck and call and for now prefer the Democrats for their superior lying ability. They can get more done than Republicans who are only a few steps away from wearing armbands. They control the economy, police, prosecutors and legislators and the officer corps.

Formidable as they seem, they won’t stand a chance when poverty, pauperization, homelessness and obdurate unemployment and underemployment pose the question of their fitness to rule.

The goal of LGBT activists should be to break with their parties and focus on joining, building and leading unions and the fights of unemployed people, immigrants and other groups condemned to poverty by the obscene greed of the looters. We should be in the forefront of the choice, antiwar and anti-enlistment movements and help organize the fight of students for an affordable education and the broader fight for socialized medicine.

(1) Describing working people and pauperized people as some sort of middle class is a fundamental error. Middle class refers to a dwindling g layer small farmers and business owners being squeezed out by predator companies like Wal-Mart.

Hey friends. First, thank you for all of your comments. There is no doubt that this is going to be an ongoing conversation. For me - as is obvious because of what I wrote - this is the heart of movement building right now: who is defining the issues and strategies, how are they being articulated, what/who is being left out, what is the greater vision and dream?

There is no doubt that initiatives like gay marriage, ENDA, repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell, etc will "do things." They will do many things - there will be lives that will be infinitely easier or safer as a result. But there are also others whose lives won't be touched.

I am not a fan of topdown organizing. This is, to me, what GLBT (mostly GL) organizing looks like in most places right now. There is a trajectory of social movements - as templated as any reality show- and we are in no way unusual. The death throes of a social movement (see the Conservative Right for another example - they are earlier upstream but heading for the same place) take place when the majority of the issues/strategies are being defined by those with the most social/economic power within the community - with the outcome being that folks with power within that community will gain more power and folks struggling for basic needs will continue to struggle.

Anything about employment right now that doesn't directly address the lack of living wage employment, the destruction of labor unions, and the attachment of social/health benefits to labor (leaving out many of us) is clearly conceptualized by those who have no problem getting jobs with benefits that pay their bills. Anything that focuses on health care as a benefit attached to employment (primarily) with a secondary system for those folks who can't get a decent job is conceptualized by those who have jobs with health insurance. It is shallow thinking.

For me, much of the current "gay agenda" is like dealing with an abusive partner by asking them to just move out of your bedroom and into another bedroom - or into the cheaper rent house across the alley - so they're more at a distance and you feel a bit safer but they are still harassing other folks. Ok, so maybe that isn't a great analogy but it's an attempt.

And here's another layer of working with the not-so-good analogy - I wouldn't want to deal with the abusive partner by shipping that abusive family member off to prison where they are likely to learn even more creative ways of being abusive or else get even more broken - I am interested in the cycle of violence, the ways in which social collective violence (racism, poverty, ableism, sexism, trans and homophobia) are reactions that come from somewhere. Incarceration doesn't end the cycle. Band aid laws don't end the cycle, they just muffle it a bit.

But that's another piece for another time. Maybe one of you want to write it?

I appreciate your strength in writing this piece. A lot of it resonated with me, and it's given me an opportunity to think of different ways in which to voice my politics.

Thanks, Susan!

There are many of us who work on marriage equality and believe in universal health care, services for all homeless people, support for LGBT youth, etc, etc. And work for those things at the same time we're pushing for ENDA, an end to DADT and Marriage equality.

I think those that can, do. Those who can't write articles like this one criticizing those that are doing.

Someone should remind this author that people serving in the military are sometimes serving because they didn't think they could afford to go to college otherwise, didn't think there was another option, didn't think they'd find a job --- and they don't deserve to live in fear of being kicked out for being who they are and they DO deserve to have their families benefit from their service just like heterosexual people serving in the military do.
Someone should remind this author that for a lot of us, marriage equality is about economic JUSTICE, not economic advantage.

I read articles like this and I think that in the time it took to craft together words you learned in your gender studies class at the elite university you attended that your parents paid for ---- you could have been writing a note to your legislator, volunteering at a queer youth program, donating your time to a local soup kitchen or getting involved in one of the many movements pushing for health care reform.

If you don't think pride has what you're looking for, create an event that does. If you don't want to work on marriage equality or ENDA, work on something you do care about.

Evidently if she doesn't want to work on it the rest of us shouldn't. She doesn't like the agenda put together by someone else so she has put together her own, which is fine for her. But suddenly her agenda is the correct agenda and it would seem that it is the original agenda from which the rest of us have strayed but it was the original intent and we need to get back to our roots.
Seems to me that what things have become has been led a lot by people who were involved all along. As to pride day. I would point out all those little pride parades that go on and which are not funded or supported by marketing but are just a few people willing to get out there and march through a little town. Like where will there be a little town having the very first pride day this year? And it isn't an advertising or marketing event.
And no real activism happens at the big pride parades and NYC has lost the idea from that original march. It isn't like the First Nations and other people of color were getting thrown out of pride last year by the police and they certainly didn't have to raise hell on the spot ion order to continue and none of my friends were insulted or forced to leave the parade by the police because he didn't agree.
I think that the author needs to get a clue because and get out more. Maybe go and march in a pride in a small town.
I don't need Buffalo Joe S. setting an agenda for me and I don't need this author setting a different agenda for me. I don't need instructions on how to be the right kind of queer and what the right kind of queer politics looks like.

I remember when queer meant not straight and not heteronormative and didn't have a prescribed political agenda which included lots of social issues.
I fight for social issues and always have. I fight for them because they are right not because of my sexuality or gender identity or race or ethnicity or education. Being queer doesn't have to dictate a social or political agenda. In fact it is this type of assumption about what it meas to be queer that causes a lot fractiousness. Maybe we should just accept that we each come at things differently. I thought that was what queer was, every since those other nice kids in the 4th grade told me that I was queer. Now it seems that to be the right kind of queer you just need to participate in another conformity and conform to the ideas that another person has for what it means to be queer.
How enlightening. The more I process this post the more irritated I get.

Wow, thanks Susan!

It's intense the various reactions to this post...I can really resonate with some of them and it's helping me sort through some of my own stuck places. It's amazing how scary it can be when someone voices an opinion that differs from our own, it feels almost like a personal attack. One thing I absolutely believe (most things I just kind of believe) is that there can be no effective change if we can't disagree without attacking one another. If your feathers are riled from this post that's really good information to look at, why are you riled? What of your core beliefs are being challenged? Is there a way to engage in respectful dialogue about it? I, personally, think it's a gift to be challenged from time to time. I write a lot of stories about folks...they primarily involve them being a trust fund kid with a fancy education who never has to work for anything and just sits around all day thinking up ways to make me feel stupid. Lucky for me this has never actually been true of a single person I know, however, telling myself that story is an excellent distraction from my own fear of doing it wrong,not doing enough, or actually being stupid.

If I were brave enough to write a blog post it would be called something like "dialogue and manners, easy ways to change the world" But if I were to do that I would need to really prepare myself to be peppered with other peoples insecurities... I think I'll hold out on it for a bit.

Again Susan, thanks for making me think.

Gradylee:

Thank you for your kind words... it's funny. I was waiting a few days to write and respond to the assorted blog posts, feeling pretty strongly that whatever my response, I wanted it to come out of love and compassion rather than shut down. I get being triggered. I get disagreeing. Half the time I make strong opinions and then somewhere down the road, notice I am disagreeing with myself. The art of perfection is not one that I am skilled at. Having said that, I do deeply believe that as long as we are creating visions for a new world that, at their base, leave some of us out or never include some of us in their imagining, then the visions will not get us where we want them to be. It is interesting to me that lots of comments above agree about the anticonsumerism or antimilitarism or class issues embedded in professional LGBT spaces, but struggle with my opinion on marriage, ENDA and so on. As I've said, I do believe that those approaches WILL make changes for some of us. But not for all. Some have said, well, it's just one step at a time, start with what's easy and then move forward. But I can't think of a time when a liberal gain has been won and then the organizers of that liberal gain have taken a step back and said, well, that was the first step. Now let's go and dig deeper and keep on working just as hard until every one of us is free in every way. Instead, parties are thrown and the email accounts are deactivated.

For me, organizing around families means building alliances between ALL families who are policed - queer families, poor families, families with members in prison, families of people in prostitution, and so on. Build the alliances and out of the alliances, see what movement grows. The conservative Christian Right has no problem seeing us as linked - we are all the deviants who do things the wrong way, dangerous way and either must be punished or pitied. When our own members don't see or understand or only fiercely rebel against those connections, it's worth looking at. What's at the heart? Which fear or anger or, well, -ism is at the heart? How many of us white folks are so unused to being aligned with the bodies of people of color on terms other than the ones we set that it just plain confuses or scares or unsettles us? And so we react. Ragefully, passionately.... but we react. And we react from our power. And we shut the doors and refuse to listen and sometimes much much worse. Ditto for a whole host of other things.

I have to run out the door but thanks for being in dialogue and willing to be pushed and push back from a place of open-ness. That's the space where my faith lies.

Thanks for sharing this Susan, ran into this while doing a little web search. I appreciate your thoughtful comments & the discussion here. Lookin forward to seeing you at the US Social Forum. http://ussf2010.org.

Curt Prins | March 18, 2010 4:16 AM

Susan:

Your post made me smile, but it didn't shake my foundations.

As a gay white guy from a lower middle-class family in West Michigan, I've arrived from a different path to our LGBTA community. While I fully understand that my path was far easier than most, I and many others still got here without selling out, and are actively working to ease the paths of others.

There are many advocates within our community that are quietly, but steadily pushing upwards in traditional top-down organizations—the “cuddly” folk. Many are within corporations, communities of faith or other institutions. Their efforts should also be acknowledged.

My grandma always says that banging on a pot often just makes a lot of noise, but cooking with it always brings people together. With that in mind, here are some pragmatic ideas for creating change inclusively:

1. If your local pride event seems too commercialized, do what most people in the LGBT community do: don’t go. Better yet, find a pride event within smaller communities or within communities of color and just show up—they’ll be glad you visited, and chances are that you’ll get more out of participating.
2. Forget about the local LGBT press, few people read their ad-bloated pride issues anyway. Post your letter or reprinted article in your community newspaper, church bulletin, or elsewhere online. They are always craving content, and your efforts will have a greater impact on a larger audience.
3. You don’t need to go to Detroit to make an impact. (But if you do head to my adopted hometown, be sure to head to the Eastern Market on Saturday morning.) Lasting change can more easily be created within institutions and organizations than from outside of them—it just requires a little more courage; patience and enrollment (ie always bring people with you). I’ve talk with many legislators, school administrators, and other public-facing leaders—the telephone is more effective than the bullhorn.

Now let’s talk about “mainstreaming.” As a gay-for-pay youth worker, I’m seeing more LGBTA youth mainstream these days when they have a supportive network of family and friends. And they are often doing so inclusively, without diving into consumerism. The same is true for adults.

It’s not a bad thing. It’s not a movement. It’s just plain progress.

And many of us are working to make it the new norm with youth leading the way. We’re not there yet, but we’re working to support and strengthen all LGBTA youth within, regardless of their current path.

Whether you chose to bang a pot, cook in it or do both, just stay engage. No way is better than the other, unless you do nothing at all.

Thank you for writing this Susan,

-Curt

Susan,

Thanks for writing this incredibly nuanced and delicate post. And welcome to Bilerico; I hope you can stick around.

I think gradylee is right on about how this post exposes people's insecurities. I'm struck by how many here have made judgments about who and what you are based entirely on this one piece. Apparently, sophisticated writing is an indication that one is simply too elite too care about everyday queer folk. Following that logic, I suppose, good activism needs to be...badly expressed and with no awareness or analysis of power?

Susan is also the author of Queerly Classed: Gay Man & Lesbians Write About Class, a co-editor of Restricted Access: Lesbians on Disability and a bona fide community organiser who also walks the walk when it comes to ideals of community living and everyday political and civic engagement. She's well known in activist circles for her fierce work within the communities she has lived in.

But, of course, none of this matters to those who've decided that Susan needs to "to get a clue because and get out more" and [ma]ybe go and march in a pride in a small town." Or who have decided that she has no clue what it means to spend time writing a "note to your legislator, volunteering at a queer youth program, donating your time to a local soup kitchen or getting involved in one of the many movements pushing for health care reform."

I could post her entire cv out here and it wouldn't matter, because, well, gosh, shucks, good activists just don't write well! And good queers are just good, plain folk who don't use words like "genderqueer" or offer, oh, no, sophisticated analyses that go to the heart of critiquing mainstream politics. And, oh, yeah, let's not forget the Golden Rule: Analysis Must Never Accompany Action! And I must be lying about her cred because I agree with her politics.

How is any of this, this insistence that Susan is not a good-enough queer, that she must surely be one of those privileged queers whose parents paid for her education, that she needs to go work in a small town, etc. any different from Sarah Palin's insistence that the good Americans are the ones who live in places like Wasilla, Alasaka and the bad Americans live in New York City?

And let's assume that Susan's piece is written entirely out of thin air, that she has no experience to base any of this on - does this still make her critique invalid? Does formulating a sound critique have to be different completely separate from working in one's communities? I work with rad, fierce queer youth in Chicago - yes, I'm one of those big-city Queers, silence me now! - and let me tell you, those youth, all current or just-graduated public school students, would and will blow your socks off. They have the best analysis of why the public school system is screwed up as a capitalist, neoliberal, and privatised system. AND they have continually marched into CPS headquartes and demanded, and got, meetings to make their points heard and are working to make actual policy changes that affect their lives and that of thousands of other students in CPS.

Action and analysis HAVE to go together. Without that, you're reduced to reinventing the wheel and only depending on the immediacy of emotional pleas. Which only makes change for one generation, or even just one semester - it does nothing to guarantee systemic change.

And Rob, correct me if I'm wrong - but don't you live in Boston, as you've said here numerous times? Why aren't you living and organising Pride marches in a small town? The point being: We could all play endless games here challenging how or whether this writer's life matches her activism or whether her life and activism are good and pure enough or not - but that's a convenient distraction, isn't it, from the fact that, as gradylee points out, this post has really got a lot of people riled up to the point where they keep showing up to tell her how angry they are?

Which is to say: Clearly, the critique sticks because it actually makes sense. Degrading Susan's contributions by insisting that she must live in some ivory tower or is out of touch with reality is a tactic no different than that of the Sarah Palins and George W. Bushs who resort to Moose-hunting and ranching narratives to hide their privilege and inability to show that they are actually part of the problem.

And, no, Susan was under no obligation to give everyone her full cv. As readers, we owe the writers here the dignity of assuming they actually know what they're talking about. If anyone can find out that she has been upholding the laws of rampant capitalism, or that she holds to the power of the oppressive gender binary, or that she has a stake in some bank that's been throwing renters and homeowners out on their ears - go at it and critique her for her hypocrisy. But until then, let's stick to what's been written and engage with her piece and suggestions instead of hiding behind the false ramparts of personalised attacks and hypocritical folksy notions of what counts as "real activism."

Man, I started reading this comment and I thought to myself: "God this person is pompous". Then I get the bottom and I see that it's Yasmin. Figures.

Hey friends:

Yasmin, you are too kind and generous in your description of my work and I am grateful that some of the folks I work with locally would challenge that - because otherwise I sound too scary in your estimation (:

Curt, you and I politically disagree about future direction pretty profoundly - and that is about more than what is being expressed in your post and it's a local conversation - but I am grateful for your joining in this forum.

Wagnerian, I am sorry that you confuse passion with pomposity. I think we've lost so much ground with this most recent political generation that our trust of regular old passionate debate that is open-hearted and includes listening as much as orating has been deeply eroded. Right wingism (did I just coin that?) has almost put a default of bipolarism into our conversations - a sort of measuring always Side A and Side B. In the words of my other work - we have a lot of healing to do.

I am not going to comment more on this blog posting - instead (and no, Yasmin, I wasn't scared off... silly) I am going to write something else to throw out there. I am interested in reading all of your words.