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October 16, 2017 | by  | in Opinion |
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On Queer Activism in 2017

How do we change the world and the people in it, for the better?

I’ve recently become aware of the anger activism within the LGBTQIA+ community. The “man hating” / “cis hating” / “straight hating” / “oppressor hating” anger that informs a lot of our activism. I hold a lot of this anger myself, but I’ve recently realised that there’s a time and a place for anger, and a time and a place for love and compassion.

My friend, an older gay man, has pointed out that one of the biggest reasons the community faces such hate and confusion is because people truly don’t know what we’re fighting for. As queer people, we think about things like gender, identity politics, and sexuality all the time; a lot more than anyone who is straight, cisgender, monogamous, etc. I’ve often considered ignorance to be a bad thing, but it has been rephrased for me, as something that is normal. Because we feel so othered we are constantly aware that someone might — out of the blue — say something that goes against us and our existence. To protect ourselves from that, we get scared, and that instantly turns into getting defensive. I get it, I live it, I still do it, but I think it’s something we need to start breaking down if we’re going to move forward at this point in time.

We need our allies — our parents, workmates, neighbours, friends. I don’t want to exist with anger. I want to exist in peace. And I’m beginning to think that a part of that is putting down the anger — for the time being — taking a breath, and offering out my hand. Starting a conversation with those we have deemed as other to ourselves. We can’t get society to unlearn queerphobia without first understanding that one should want to unlearn it. Putting faces to identities, people to problems, so that we can be seen fully for what we are.

And no, this won’t change all the minds or win all the fights. But I think it’s as good a time as any to stand back and think about how we’re conducting our social activism. It needs to be holistic and inclusive if we’re going to keep taking steps forward, rather than backwards.

This isn’t about turning the other cheek to violence or intentional harm — it’s about not alienating others, via aggression, who have no ill intent but only ignorance. It’s about destroying the systems, not the people. We need to step up and stop talking about it as “us vs them” or “them vs us” — we can’t solve our problems by seeing everyone who isn’t LGBTQIA+ as an enemy. Because they’re enemies with blindfolds on, a lot of a time they don’t know what they’re doing that is queerphobic, and no one can fault them for that. Like every other queer person, I’m tired of educating others, but by not doing so we’re just pushing ourselves further out from the centre of the conversation.

Trans rights need to be at the front of this new conversation. The suicide rate for trans youth is five times higher than it is for cisgender youth in New Zealand. We need to work to show people why this is an issue — not just point out that youth are dying, but talk about why they are dying. All the various factors, how it looks on a larger scale. And what we can all do to challenge that.

This community is full of people from such diverse backgrounds, no one of us are the same. We yell and scream about what needs to be done, we hate on each other, but at the end of the day all I care about is queer and trans people being safe, loved, and cared for. That’s all that matters. So take a breath, and open your hurting heart.

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