Yes, I used a Hairspray quote for the title. I mean, that seems fitting for a Pride post, right? Doesn’t get much gayer than John Waters + musicals. Hark, my queer comrades, for it’s time once again for Gay Christmas, otherwise known as Pride! Over here in the City on a Hill, this upcoming weekend will be stuffed to bursting with parades, festivals, block parties, club nights, and sexxxy LGBTQ folk as far as the glitter-mascaraed eye can see. In fact, some of us may have already started the debauchery a wee bit early and may on this Tuesday at work be seriously regretting those two Mai Tais last night. Perhaps you should save the Spirits of Stonewall for the weekend, friends. Do as I say, not as I do.
As I have helpfully illustrated with my poor decision-making abilities, Pride is a time for celebration. Every June, the queer community comes together to celebrate many things: our perseverance, our beauty, our diversity, our love, and our victories over the powers that hate. In the US of A, we have many victories to celebrate this year, from the death of the repugnant Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy to Obama officially announcing that he’s down with the gayest of marriages. Over here in Massachusetts, the (great, but far from perfect) Transgender Rights Bill was finally signed into law. This is all fantastic and awesome and a very legitimate excuse for throwing back a rainbow Jell-O shot or eight.
That said, there were a couple news stories that popped up this week that bring to mind the sage words of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman: “There’s a dream/In the future/There’s a struggle/That we have yet to win.” Now, the last thing I want to do is Debbie Downer all over anyone’s parade, but I think it’s important to be aware of how much messed-up stuff is still happening to our community. I’m sure many of you have been following the CeCe McDonald case closely, and like I, were saddened to learn that she has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison for the stabbing of Dean Schmitz – a stabbing which many have argued was in self-defense. Schmitz and his friends reportedly shouted racist, homophobic, and transphobic threats at McDonald at her friends that night. McDonald is a young trans woman of color (don’t even get me started on the number of rags that have gleefully made her gender identity into all-caps, screaming front page sensationalist bullshit) – a part of the queer community that is victimized by a horrifyingly disproportionate level of violence. According to a new report on LGBTQ hate crimes – and the second sobering story I read this week – hate crimes against queer people are at a 14-year high. The report reads:
This year’s report shows that LGBTQH youth and young adults between the ages of 18 and 30 years old were 2.41 times as likely to experience physical violence compared to LGBTQH people age 30 and older.
As in the case of the murder statistics, transgender people and people of color were more likely to experience physical injury in a hate violence incident. The report found that transgender people were 28% as likely to experience physical violence compared to non-transgender people, and that LGBTQ people of color were two times as likely to experience physical violence compared to those who were not LGBTQ people of color.
Is this rise in violence towards queer people a direct result of all those victories we’ve been celebrating? Are violent bigots made even more violent when they realize that they’re losing? Maybe. Probably. Does it matter? Ask the family and friends of Brandy Martell, one of so many trans women of color – usually the young, usually the disenfranchised – murdered this year (although her family insisted on burying her under her “given” name, thereby adding to the tragedy of it all). When I attended the Trans Day of Remembrance last November, nearly every name read from the list of victims was a trans woman of color. That isn’t a statistic; that is an epidemic.
In the story I read about McDonald’s sentencing, the icing on the awful injustice cake was the fact that she is being sent to a men’s prison. People, this is fucking unacceptable. I nearly Hulksmashed my computer when I came across this little gem of cissexist patronizing fuckery:
Then the state will make its own determination of McDonald’s gender, an assessment that will involve reviewing “any and all collateral documentation and a physical and psychological evaluation,” said Russell.
Oh, will it? Will the state make that determination, regardless of what McDonald’s actual gender identity is? Is a human being’s entire sense of self subject to the whims of some shadowy collective of bureaucrats and physicians? This is 2012, is it? This is progress, is it? This is victory? Because it sure as hell doesn’t feel like it.
Look, I am the first person to throw on Mardi Gras beads and get totally wasty-pants while dancing it up to Gaga in a sea of dykes. I love that, and I look forward to that every June. But this year, I’m going to do so while remembering that yes, we have come so far, but we have so, so far to go. We cannot afford to become complacent or to rest on our laurels. Not when our family – not when people like CeCe and Brandy – need us to keep the fight alive. It’s a matter of community. It’s a matter of justice. It’s a matter of pride.