By Chris Crass (June 16, 2016)
I remember the hurt of feeling my male friends pull their hand out of mine, as we walked in public. And I remember why they did, as people yelled homophobic slurs and gave us looks of disgust.
I remember how much anger, threats of violence, and slurs, my public, beautiful, defiant, high school love, for my dear Mike generated.
I remember the first hundred times I kissed boys and said yes to my heart and my joy.
I remember holding hands in public when I was scared, but wanted love and liberation to be stronger.
I remember the first time I met an out Gay man, and me and my high school friends, instantly felt community and friendship. And I remember when he told us that his church, in Whittier, CA, had just received a bomb threat, along with the usual hate mail they received (mostly from supposed other “Christians”).
I remember our crew of young people instantly saying, “If you want, we will stand in front of your church next Sunday and show our solidarity against homophobic hate.” I remember the all too familiar mix of fear and pride as we stood there, vitriol spitting from the faces of homophobes. I remember how each person driving by who smiled, gave a thumbs up, honked their horn in support, helped me feel a little more free, a little more powerful, a little more clear that the more we all worked for queer liberation, the more we would win.
I remember when our multiracial coalition in Orange Country, CA, working for Ethnic Studies, strained when the LGBTQ club received hate mail, and some of us in our group that was part of the coalition, publicly stood in solidarity, declared that some of us were queer too, and put forward that liberation also means queer liberation. I remember the fear of thinking I may have lost friends (which I did), that I may no longer be welcomed (and with some, no longer was), and I remember the Latino leader of the coalition, one of my mentors, leaving his group because of their homophobia and sexism, and forming a new Latina/o group that embraced queer liberation and feminism. I remember the women leaders of the Black Student Union coming out in support of the LGBTQ club as well.
I remember meeting with leaders of the LGBTQ club who were scared, but also defiant, despite the small size of their public membership, and I asked one of the leaders to write something for the underground newspaper that I edited, and she said yes. I remember being so nervous when I was handing out copies of that issue, in 1994, that featured a powerful denouncing of homophobia and articulation of LBGTQ equality and freedom, and I remember when long time supporters handed it back to me in disgust, as well as people I hadn’t seen asking for copies to help distribute.
I remember standing with my community, when homophones with baseball bats came to bring violence to our outdoor revolutionary dance party and we stood together chanting “no violence” and broke their confident stride and sent them back.
I remember when the first time a boy I was kissing told me he was gay, and soon afterwards he broke open the closet and came out to everyone, and expanded what was possible for all of us.
I remember the first time I was walking in the Castro in San Francisco and saw men everywhere holding hands and being publicly affectionate with other men, and no one yelled at them, and I felt, in my heart and soul, that another world was possible.
I remember that the South African anti-apartheid movement said, “Revolution is the struggle of memory against forgetting,” and I commit to rituals of remembering that everyday, beautiful, defiant, sometimes scared, people have come out, lived full queer lives, have created powerful justice movements for liberation and have continued to make another world possible. I remember the courage and the radiance of LGBTQ people, everywhere, living and loving, in defiance of the nightmare of heterosexism, the nightmare of homophobia in institutions and individual acts, and I look to nourish that courage and radiance in my family, in my community, in my life.
I will remember #Orlando and the lives of so many beautiful people taken from this world by the hatred and violence of homophobia, homophobia fueled and given cover by anti-Trans and anti-queer legislation and all who support such legislation.
And I remember how much much I love you, freedom fighters, members of the rebel alliance against the empire of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, and I remember that we will win.