Gentle Reader, the Supreme court of the United States is currently contemplating a matter that many would consider the culmination of the Stonewall Riots. Personally, I disagree – I’m an orthodox Radical Queer* – but Marriage Equality may very soon be the law of the land. Which I support whole-heartedly!
Be that as it may;
I have very little respect for the law. The law has been used to justify all sorts of atrocity – it’s been used to restrict, repress and reduce people. There are still people alive who are considered sexual offenders, whose police records reflect that – for being convicted of the crime of sodomy – which hasn’t been a crime since 2003. The law is frequently unjust, the law frequently changes; the law is unreliable. And when those whose duty is to enforce the law overstep their bounds – and they’re only people, you know, who are handed a lot of power over other people – when the law oversteps its bounds, people are bound to react.
The Stonewall Riots are the foundation of the LGBTQIA community, and we commemorate that birth in blood every June, with Pride. As was pointed out to me yesterday, it is hypocritical in the extreme for people in our community to be clutching their pearls and wagging their fingers over the events in Baltimore, in Ferguson, anywhere that huddled masses are yearning to breathe free – particularly a month or so before Pride.
Obviously, I can’t speak for the people who are involved in the Baltimore Uprising, or the various uprisings around the country that are a community’s reaction to continuing police violence. I just wanted to take a moment to point out that riots can be a force for change, that good can come out of them. The most we queers could ask for 45 years ago was for our existence not to be illegal – for our right to gather together in public – to be served a drink without the police smashing down the door†. Now we’re debating in the highest courts in the land whether the law will recognize long-established relationships. The police, the firebombs and thrown bricks are left out of it. We’ve come a long way, and that trail we’ve come down was blazed with violence‡. We need to reflect on that.
I can’t speak for those poor men and women who were savagely murdered by the police, and I can’t speak for the communities that rose up against the everyday brutality they face. We all have a duty to listen to what they’re saying, and why they’re saying it, and do anything we can to support them. Societal attitudes can change for the better through violence – the Marriage Equality movement is proof of that – and we need to do everything in our power to build a culture where we all feel safe.
*I’ve always felt that doing something about the high rates of homeless queer youth should be more of a priority for the LGBTQIA community than the marriage situation. Or the high rates of depression and suicide amongst our people. Oh! There’s also the whole huge problem of addiction that’s rampant in our community. And we need to do more to support our Trans folk, who are too often ignored – and face blatant discrimination within the community. Just throwing a few things out there. But hey – Marriage Equality is good, too.
†I almost didn’t include the “having a drink” thing, but I think it’s important to mention the sip-ins that used to happen. Organized by the Mattachine Society, back in the days when it was illegal to serve a homosexual a drink, large groups of gay men would go to bars, order drinks together, and after they were all served publicly come out. Police were frequently called, and there was some violence there, too, even though the protests were perfectly peaceful.
‡For example, trans people in particular are attacked and murdered with a frequency that’s horrifying. The violence isn’t over; we’re all subject to attack for having the audacity to exist. Marriage equality seriously isn’t the end-game, it’s just a small victory.