I remember what is was like when gay men and lesbians had no rights at all. When most people thought that it was safer to be in the closet than to be out. Our rights are fragile. What is happening in Russia and Turkey could happen here; Donald Trump doesn’t have to win the election for intolerance and intimidation to take hold.
It is dangerous to get too comfortable, or complacent. To believe that Walmart and TDBank and the other corporate sponsors care about us, when they are just marketing to us. To believe that if you are mainstream enough, if you are assimilated enough, then you can make yourself safe.
I don’t feel threatened by the recent murders in Orlando, San Bernadino, and Charleston. It is the routine institutional, legal, and bureaucratic violence that gets to me, and the interpersonal violence – the unintentional (but relentless) assumption of straight and cisgender identity.
I recognize that I have it easy in many respects. I own my own home. I have money in the bank. I have white privilege (whether I want it or not) and a college education. I choose to look queer, to look butch, to look trans, to look like myself, because it is the way I fight the pressure to conform. That pressure kills more people in the LGBT community than guns do.
I don’t have a gun and I don’t want a gun. I have friends who are responsible rifle owners. They hunt ducks and deer. I don’t want to take their guns away, but I want to make it at least as difficult to buy a hunting rifle as it is to get a driver’s license and buy a car. I want to make it illegal to own an assault rifle. I was robbed at gunpoint in NYC during the crack epidemic; gun violence doesn’t happen in a vacuum. There are other issues that need to be dealt with, including poverty and racism.
There is nothing I can do to guarantee my safety, but there are things I can do to reduce my risk. Staying home and avoiding crowds is not one of them. According to the Centers for Disease Control, my top five risks are: heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury (drugs, car accidents, etc.), suicide, and liver disease. I need to eat properly, watch my weight, keep my drinking under control, exercise, drive defensively, and stay connected to my friends and my community.
I’m probably not marching in the big parade on Sunday, but I am definitely going to two marches this week. On Friday, I’m going to the Trans Day of Action. On Saturday, I’m going to the Dyke March. I know it sounds like a contradiction, but I belong at both.
Notes: The Centers For Disease Control produced three informative charts on causes of death by age group. The most recent statistics are from 2014. Here are the links to the “10 Leading Causes of Death by Age Group, United States – 2014”, the “10 Leading Causes of Injury Deaths by Age Group Highlighting Unintentional Injury Deaths”, and the “10 Leading Causes of Injury Deaths by Age Group Highlighting Violence Related Injury Deaths.”
There is 3 minutes of footage on YouTube of the Russian LGBT activists being arrested for unfurling a rainbow banner on May Day here.