It Gets Better: Sanctioning Routine Violence

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Image by nettsu via Flickr

Between the movement for marriage equality and the It Gets Better campaign, I’m just about ready to give up my membership in the LGBT community.

But I checked, and it turns out that I don’t have a membership card.

It’s not even about the smiling white faces inundating us with the message that all shall be well one day. That’s certainly annoying but it is the message that is dangerous. It serves to normalize political violence by telling us that it goes away as we get older.

Violence isn’t just a physical act. It is present in our cultures, institutions and meanings. Violence is political and politics is war by other means. Violence constitutes white privilege, unjust and unfair laws that target minorities, an immigration system that rips families apart, an economy where the rich get richer and poor get poorer, and every instance that the state creates and sustains categories of people. These are all acts of violence — violence sanctioned by the state through systemic racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism and colonialism.

Violence is another site where we see the production and reproduction of power. This violence is the power to omit historical narratives of the Other from state archives. It includes the construction of the subject / object, self / other, us / them that creates majorities and minorities, and subsequently omits dissenting voices and counter-narratives from official History. Violence is then, the entire disciplining and normalization of social behavior and existence legitimated by the hegemonic state.

It’s no wonder that the head of the state has his own it gets better video. Big Gay just came out in support of Obama and his re-election campaign, while he smiles and keeps waging war against our families en route his European pub crawl. I’m also sure Big Gay has absolutely no idea what I’m talking about.

It is simple. It actually doesn’t get better for a vast majority of people. Lets start from there . You’ll learn to like it.*

*Shamelessly borrowing the quote from my new friend with the Montana Human Rights Network.


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Matthew Shephard Hate Crimes Legislation Passes House – Ambivalent Feelings From A Queer

The Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Protection Act passed the House today after 10 years of lobbying and educating that the LGBT community needed protection too.

I have always been divided on hate crimes legislation. On one level, this act of Congress made me feel a little bit more ‘equal’ in terms of rights. I know if someone hates and commits violence against me for my sexual orientation, at least the U.S. House of Representatives realizes that it is akin to hating me for being a woman or a person of color. And I would be lying if I said that it does not matter. It matters to me just like ‘gay marriage,’ which I personally don’t support.

But on another level, the state has absolutely no business in categorizing deviant behavior and differences, and then labeling Others as unacceptable for certain rights and privileges. With hate crimes legislation, political identities and differences are institutionalized rather than discarded.

Yet, it is not a bill that I will publicly stand against.

I wear the Matthew Shepard pendant for Understanding, Acceptance and Compassion quite fondly.

Ten years.

I was in Fiji, 13, and having my first coming out affair when Mathew Sheppard was killed. At that point, I did not really think that I could have a family someday or that I could convince my own family to love me despite my love for someone else.

I remember coming to the United States and going through high school in silence of the hatred that I had faced in school, silent about the ridicule, hatred and violence I faced at home.

I would screen The Laramie Project in school, write passionately for hate crimes legislation and lament quite a lot about how we are not included in federal protections.

Recently I watched Twilight of the Golds, a movie starring Jennifer Beals that explored the hypothetical possibility of knowing your unborn child would be gay. The mother (Jennifer Beals), torn apart by the challenges, considered an abortion even as her own brother (Brendan Fraser) was openly gay. I knew that if it had been possible to predetermine sexuality before birth, I wouldn’t be alive. That is a violence that no one has perpetuated, but that I have internalized; it is routine violence that is constructed with identity politics and hate crimes legislation will do little to prevent that.

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