I recently noticed many unexpected people seem to support me. They might hold conservative opinions, like wanting to keep out immigrants and refugees, justifying the murders of black people, not caring how many innocents are killed in American airstrikes or are doing their best to ensure it’s legal to physically and psychologically torture me until I either lie about my sexuality or die. But they make one thing very clear — it’s because they care about LGBTQ+ people. It’s because they care about me.
They only want to protect me from those “evil homophobic Muslims,” those “backward immigrants,” those “dangerous black men,” my own autonomy and the continued existence of anyone they disagree with.
“It’s for the good of your community,” they say, and then turn their backs when transgender women of color are murdered.
“Any gay or lesbian people who oppose me must not understand the issue,” they say, and step away from the mic to thunderous applause, job done. The gays are saved. Any words I have to say have already been preempted — I must not be allowed to endanger myself with independence.
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I wish I could say I was exaggerating, but this last example happened to me at an Associated Students of Madison meeting last week. During the discussion on the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, a speaker against divestment made a remark insinuating that we should support Israel for the sake of queer people, and then another said basically that exact quote — that he didn’t understand how gay and lesbian people could disagree with him or that we’d been “tricked.” It became obvious they were using queer people as a point in their favor without actually consulting any queer people who might disagree.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay to speak. Fortunately, I can write. All those who wish to save me from the “dark area” of the Middle East, or from the supposed prejudice of non-white, non-Christian, non-American, rural, poor, uneducated or disabled people, hear me now: How dare you. How dare you?
How dare you silence me, shove hate speech down my throat, and claim it’s my own voice? How dare you cover my mouth, twist my arm and drag me in front of your racist words like a human shield? How dare you leave families to die in war zones, poverty, prisons and the very streets where they live and then use me to assuage your guilt in the vain hope that whatever god there is will take one look at the ideology you gagged me with and cross “murder” off your list of crimes? No.
Even if everyone is dealt with fairly in the end, we can’t afford to wait that long. We shouldn’t have to spend our time refuting statements you made on our behalf without our consent. That is not our job.
As I stood in the back of the meeting, I was shaking with rage and humiliation as another speaker told the room what I would have said if only I had been there. If only I had a voice of my own, poor marginalized me. If only I actually existed, if only I was more than a plot point convenient for the story they wanted to tell. If only I had been able to fight through all the Middle Eastern people who apparently hate me (nevermind the Palestinian Muslim woman invited me there). If only it was possible to ask me what I thought.
But why make the effort, when apparently it’s obvious that we’re all eager to run into the open arms of the Israeli government? That’s enough, it seems. That decides the matter, shuts down the debate and erases decades of violence. The gays were saved, yet again.
I shouldn’t have to spend my time correcting these assumptions. But I am willing to do it because it needs to be done and because I know my privilege means you might hear me talking even if you ignore others yelling.
Please listen. I know you may be reading through this, feeling unfairly judged because you don’t support conversion therapy, or you don’t hate Muslims, etc. This is exactly my point.
You don’t get to deny the harm you’re doing by pointing at all the people you haven’t hurt. This is a common derailment and deflection tactic, and you aren’t fooling us.
Please don’t fool yourself, either. You might be the most compassionate and caring person except for that one prejudice you just can’t get over, but frankly it doesn’t matter. You don’t get to hide it with a smokescreen of conditional acceptance. Yes, your acceptance and support of us is conditional, no matter what you think.
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Whatever marginalized group you’re hurting, some of them are transgender. Some of them are queer. Some of them are asexual, aromantic, pansexual, nonbinary and any other identity you may claim to support. If you want people detained and deported, then you only care about us if we are not immigrants. If you throw your support behind the police, then you only care about us if we are white, abled, neurotypical and not actually identifiable as LGBTQ+ people, especially transgender people. All the while you are silencing us.
You only “care” in the sense that we matter to you as props for your argument, and it needs to stop. We are right here. Ask a bunch of us what we think. Not just high-profile people, not just us white LGBTQ+ people, not just men, not just cisgender people, not just abled and neurotypical people, not just those of us who might agree with you. If you genuinely want to help, listen and learn.
If you’re not willing to do that, then even saying that we don’t want your support would be giving you too much credit. We never had your support. Stop thinking you have ours.
Gwynna Norton ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in mathematics.