Wednesday, August 30, 2017

On Pride and Prejudice

So just some thoughts that have been rolling around in my anxious brain I wanted to share with my queer community. I have avoided wading into this mostly for my own mental health (it has been a difficult month) but the proliferation of casual racism and bullshit I have seen on my feed in the last week alone has forced my hand.

The queer community has made some amazing strides in the past 60 plus years. We achieved this by: demanding change, organizing, protesting, rioting, educating and even dying to further the status of queer people. Fighting to make sure the next generation had an easier, better life. Change did not come from many of societies’ institutions out of kindness or because they saw us as people (they didn't) but because we demanded they treat us like everyone else. I am eternally grateful to those that came before that stopped the wheels of inequity from crushing them and demanded change. They have created a far better world for me to live in. This great work is a tapestry of a billion inches taken here and there that have moved mountains. It is with great regret however that I need to inform you that despite what you may have been told the work is not done.

In my work both professionally and in the community I have had the opportunity to meet people on both sides of the debate on the appropriateness for uniforms and weapons in pride. I have seen first hand the passion and hard work that these people are doing to enact change both internally and externally. Meeting all of these people has helped me immensely to consider and recognize my own biases and blind spots and try to address them and this work is always ongoing but ultimately the work is not done. When I look at the commentary from fellow community members that I have seen on my Facebook page the last year, what has come to the forefront is that much of it is reductive, myopic and offensive and does a great disservice to the hard work that is happening behind the headlines. I am disappointed in many of you for resorting to rhetoric instead of taking the path of empathy and understanding. Calling members of your own community who are undeniably subjects of systemic racism, snowflakes/whiners for standing up for themselves is unacceptable. Calling queer service/law enforcement members fascists/racists for wanting to be recognized for the hard work they have done to change these institutions and make them better for queer people from the inside is also unacceptable (I have yet to see any cases of this on my feed tbh). As subjects of discrimination I expect more from us when sections of our community cry out for help, which is why it is so clear to me that the work is not done.

You don’t understand the issues? Don’t know anyone directly affected by this? Get involved and maybe you will learn why people are asking for the things they are. I do not begrudge activists for using the same tools prior generations did to enact change. I know my perspective shifted after meeting people directly affected by both sides of this. I also think the best way to honor the achievements of the previous and current generation is to continue on the work that started so long ago. I know there is no ideal solution. There never has been, which is why we have had and will have to fight, organize and communicate so fiercely to continue on. The quest for true equality is a maze. There will be many stops, starts and dead ends that require some backtracking because there never was and never will be a clear path forward. Anyone that tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something. The key is to keep walking together on that path and make sure that we aren’t leaving anyone behind to get to the end faster. Unless we get there together the work is not done.

Some of us have been left behind. The fruits of this revolution that have benefited me so greatly have not been shared with all of us. Nelson Mandela once said “As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest”. I think about this often when I look around at the increasingly grim world I am faced with. I have always been of the “think global act local perspective” when it comes to change because otherwise the task it too big. The achievements we have made in the last 60 years are so delicate, tenuous and new. I see that every day when I look at news coming out of the US or Chechnya or one of the many other countries where people are treated differently because of who they are. This great revolution is the legacy of anyone marching under the queer banner to carry on and continue because the work is not done.

So I ask you internet friends who have been so confident in your opinions and blanket statements who have the privilege to be able to stick your heads in the sand and say “THIS PROBLEM DOESN’T AFFECT ME SO I DON’T SEE IT AS A PROBLEM” these last few months to engage in some real introspection. I ask that you think about why your experiences alone may not be enough to be so certain about the correct solution? I ask that you put real thought into what the lives of others are like who live with completely different challenges than you do. I ask you to reflect on what is more important symbols and institutions or the actual people they effect? I ask you to think about ways we can honor our queer service/law enforcement member’s achievements while helping tackle systemic problems in the organizations that they work for? I ask you to think about your own biases and blind spots and how they have affected your world view and opinions. I ask you to consider how we can make sure that no one gets left behind? After you have done these things then you are ready to answer the last question. What have you done with the benefits you received from over half a century of activism to help get the work done and make things better for the next generation that comes?

I stand by Calgary Pride and the hard thankless work these volunteers are doing to try and make sure that we all make it there together. Happy Pride everyone let’s get to work!

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