Apr. 4th, 2011

supremegoddessofall: (gay terror alert)
Someone wrote "queer" on my car the other day.

Honestly, I have no idea how long it was there - it was my girlfriend who noticed it.

We were getting in the car, headed off to pick up a friend. I got in, but she stood there for a minute and stared at the passenger side door.

"Did you know someone wrote in the dust on your car?"

No, I hadn't.

But they had. Someone had written "queer," and someone (else? the same person?) had then attempted to erase it.

Part of me is curious as to who did it, and why. Was it a neighbor? Someone at school? If, so, who? One of my students? A peer?

And was it designed to be an insult, or a compliment?

I mean, I am, after all, queer. A dyke, a byke, a lesbian-identified woman, a pansexual, a Kinsey 5....I am all of those things, so I can truly be upset if someone else labels me as such?

And yet...

We still live in a world where kids play "smear the queer" as children. Where "queer" is a slur hurled at those who dare to be variant in their gender presentation or love interest. Where "queers" are sometimes beaten, tied to fences, and left to die.

A world where, because I am "queer," I can be fired in many states simply for being perceived as queer. A world where I cannot marry, and am not guaranteed many of the basic rights non-queer people take for granted.

And so I do wonder who decided to whisper queer onto my car. And I wonder what they meant by it. Was it an affirmation of who I am? Or was it yet another way in which to designate me as different, as other.

**********

When I was 20 years old and discovering my political self, Matthew Shepard was murdered shortly before National Coming Out Day (NCOD). At the time, I was heavily involved in the LGBT organization at my school. We already had an event planned for NCOD, and while we were unwilling to allow the tragedy to overshadow what was meant to be a celebration of our lives, we also couldn't ignore it.

And so I was chosen to be the voice of our group. The voice of my people. This is what I said that day, and what was broadcast on the news:

Let me tell you a story: Last week, late Tuesday or early Wednesday in Laramie, Wyoming, two men, Russell Henderson and Aaron Mckinney, drove off from a bar in a truck with a young man named Matthew Shepard. Once inside the truck, they beat Matthew, then drove to the outskirts of Laramie. There, they proceeded to tie him, crucifix style, to a fence, and beat him some more. Then they burned him with cigarettes, smashed in the back of his skull with a handgun, and left him to die. When he was found late Wednesday afternoon, almost eighteen hours after
the ordeal began, the bicyclists who rescued him first thought that he was a scarecrow, dangling and strapped to the fence. Early Monday morning, Matthew died in the hospital, having never regained consciousness.

What did Matthew do to "provoke" this? He embarrassed one of the men. Let me say that again--he embarrassed one of them. Matthew was gay. He made the mistake of making a pass at one of the men. And they killed him for it.

Matthew's killers will be tried for first-degree murder, robbery, and kidnapping. But they will not be charged with committing a hate crime. Wyoming, along with several other states, including New York, has yet to pass hate-crime legislation including hate crimes committed because of real or perceived sexual orientatino. And thus the true reason Matthew
Shepard was murdered will not be entered into the lawbooks. Make no doubtabout it--Matthew Shepard was killed because he was gay.

Why do we tell you this story, especially on today, of all days? Today is supposed to be a celebration, a marking of all the progress we have made. Today we celebrate the tenth anniversary of Coming Out Day. But how can we celebrate, how can we feel we've accomplished anything, when things like this still happen?

Today is the day where queer people all over the country take the step, or celebrate having taken the step, to come out of the closet. To stop hiding, stop pretending. To stop changing pronouns when talking about the people we love. To feel proud of who we are and who we love,
instead of ashamed.

I strongly fear that many of our brothers and sisters may want to return to the safety of that closet. To feel that they have to make a choice between being gay and staying alive.

But we cannot go back, now more than ever. Rather, we need to come out stronger and more often. If we are as visible as we can be, if every gay man and woman came out, perhaps we wouldn't seem so isolated, so few. It's easier to fear and hate what you do not now. And as long as we remain closeted, we shall forever be the other.

We are your mothers and fathers, your brothers and sisters, your aunts and uncles, your cousins, your friends, your neighbors, and your classmates. We are old and young, fat and thin, healthy and not, rich and poor. We are lesbians and gays, bisexuals and transgendereds, fags and dykes, butches and femmes, queers and queens. And we have always been here. Someone you love, right now, is queer. And they are struggling. Let them know that you love them. Make them feel safe. And make sure that we never have another young man or woman die like Matthew Shepard did.

We'd like to ask that everyone in the Union participate in a minute of silence in memory of Matthew Shepard and the countless thousands of gay men and women who have also been murdered whose names are unknown.


You'll be glad to know that the thousand or so onlookers did indeed observe a minute of silence.

***********

I gave that speech more than ten years ago. So much has changed in that time, but so much remains to be changed.

So I will remain watchful, remain vigilant. Sometimes the whisperers don't stop at cowardly writing. Sometimes they come with knives. Or with guns.

It would be easy to remain hidden. As a femme, I often am not visible as a queer woman. It would be a simple matter to allow myself to be perceived as heterosexual.

But I cannot. Or rather, I will not. I will wear my "queer flag" on my sleeve, and I will wear it proudly.

I cannot countenance doing otherwise, as long as my brothers and sisters who can't pass as easily for "straight" do not have the luxury that I do. So I stand in solidarity. I refuse to change pronouns. I speak about my wife, and I use that language to do so. I out myself whenever appropriate, to as many people as appropriate.

Because they need to know we're here, even when they don't think they can see us.

And I won't stop. Not until "queer" is no longer a whispered insult.

Even if that means that sometimes I get "queer" written on my car.

Which I haven't washed. And don't plan to any time in the near future, either.

Let them see I'm queer.

And let them see I won't back down.

I am indeed here. I am indeed queer.

And you better well get used to it.

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supremegoddessofall: (Default)
Kimberly Boyd-Bowman

May 2011

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