We Need to See, Not Look Past, People’s Sexual Orientations

By S. (October 11, 2018)



So this is a thing that pisses me off. If you care about me, you should care about my sexual orientation. My sexual orientation defines so many aspects of my life and it limits me in many ways. Not caring about my orientation means not caring about the ways I am different from our heterosexual norms, or the ways in which I am hurt by the heterosexual norms. THIS IS WHY COMING OUT IS SUCH A BFD! I am literally sharing something very important, potentially very scary, and very fundamental about who I am. Yes, yes you should care.

And you should keep in mind my sexual orientation in our daily interactions. You can’t simply translate assumptions about dating from straight world to gay world. The variables and challenges LGBTQIA peeps face are very different from those of the straight world. Gay men in particular are facing an epidemic of loneliness and such notions of not seeing sexual orientation disregard that epidemic. Of course, in our recent history we faced a much worse, more deadly epidemic, that has not fully disappeared, but seems to have been largely erased from discussion.

Part of the issue is that when we don’t take sexual orientation into account we default to heterosexuality. For example, we are all trained not to assume children’s sexual orientations. However this translates into assuming all children are straight until proven otherwise. This implies that there’s something so distasteful as to be unspeakable about the possibility that a little boy might be gay. (I can’t speak to other sexual orientations and I’m treading on thin ice in generalizing my experience). As a gay child, my queerness was something tiptoed around, something to be corrected, something to be beaten out of me, and something to be ashamed of. This was a source of considerable trauma for me and for many gay men (see The Velvet Rage).

An example of ignoring sexual orientation can be seen in Voltron, of all places. In an interview with one of the producers, they discuss their decision to make one of the mains gay. The producer said that they didn’t put the characters’ orientations in the show’s bible (each serial TV show has a showbible that contains all of the important info about each character) because they didn’t want to focus on orientations. Yet, there’s a straight male character who has a crush on a female character. That’s a sexual orientation, folks. Boy meets girl is such a norm that we don’t realize it is as much a proclamation of sexual orientation as coming out.

You all should be woke enough by now to understand why “I don’t see race” is terrible. When we don’t see race, we are defaulting to a white norm. I hope you all can understand why “I don’t care about your orientation” is just as bad.

See people’s orientations. Respect that their orientation is part of what makes them who they are. Listen and connect. Don’t ignore and hide!

Justice Means Solidarity Politics

By Alex S. Morgan (June 4, 2018)

Happy Pride Month! I’m a queer, non-binary femme trans person who is kinky and polyamorous and who has done sex work under three genders. They/them/their pronouns only, please.

Pride for me is both celebration AND riot. We NEED to celebrate each other and ourselves as we fight for justice, because this is a marathon, not a sprint. And justice also means celebrating, not just mourning or paying lip service to, queer, trans, and two-spirit people of color.

Justice also means solidarity politics over respectability politics: Black trans sex workers were there at Stonewall, and sex workers have done sex work to finance more queer and trans activism than the world may ever know. Sex work is also a lifeline for homeless queer and trans youth who to this day struggle to find accepting shelter beds, and for many adult trans and gender nonconforming folks who face transphobic hiring discrimination.

Our communities have been linked since recorded history (if not sooner). Our entire glittery contingent needs to get behind sex workers’ rights, because the same organizations and movements that are targeting sex workers also have sexual freedom and gender expression in their crosshairs.

Happy Pride Month, and happy (slightly belated) International Sex Workers’ Day.


Our Movements Work Best When We Listen to the Discomfort

By S. (January 28, 2018)

I am not a woman but I am a queer POC of color. We face common enemies but sometimes we become the enemy. I try my best to listen to women so that my behavior is not harmful or at least less harmful to women. My gut instinct in the Grace and Aziz storywas to side with Aziz. This was based on my training to be a toxic male. All of us cis guys get it. I was literally told by an older boy in high school that if I wanted to get laid, that I had to keep pushing a girl past her boundaries, and that eventually she’d give in, and I’d get laid. I was also told that getting laid was the most important accomplishment for a boy and a man. I was given advice to behave how Aziz treated Grace.

My initial sympathies were with Aziz because of how society has trained both of us to treat women. Intellectually, I knew Aziz was wrong but emotionally it was difficult to see him be criticized. I had to stop and listen. I had to read the various opinion pieces and listen to my female friends to help me work past those initial feelings of sympathy. I still feel sympathy for Aziz, but I’m horrified at how much I discounted Grace’s feelings in my initial assessment.

I too love the pink pussy hats. I love the idea that so many women from around the country and the world got together to knit this hats. My Women’s March 2017 experience was beautiful and exhilarating. I see the hat and my heart soars, it takes me back to a magic special moment. Then I started listening to the discomfort and the pain that some women of color feel regarding the hat. This symbol that has personal power for me is hurtful for someone else. I need to take into account that tension. I need to understand that people with whom I am connected (through politics, race, personal connections, etc.) may see a symbol or an event very differently from me. I also need to consider the power differential in our connections, as the power imbalance may perpetuate harms. For example, as a man, my perspective may unconsciously be supporting a status quo that favors men.

I can’t speak for feminism, but I can speak as a gay man of color. I believe our movements (for me racial equality and advancement of LGBTQIA rights) work best when we stop and listen so that we can address the discomforts of our members and our allies. I think it is critical that we pay extra attention to the voices of those who come from the groups that are more marginalized and have less structural power than ourselves.

Transphobia is Central to Trump’s Ideology, Not a Distraction

By Arun Gupta (July 28, 2017)

This is my take on Trump’s ban on transgender people in the military. It should be vigorously opposed, and that can be done without glorifying or supporting militarism and American Empire

Trump is throwing red meat to his base. It’s meant to delegitimize and dehumanize transgender people. He is telling his base that transgender people are not citizens. They do not have the same rights as you and I to be full social agents. They are not even fully human. That is the message of his ban. The danger is it will increase hatred, discrimination, and violence toward transgender people. And it will ripple outward with new discriminatory laws, policies, and regulations against the lives and well-being of transgender people through government, education, health, criminal justice, employment, and housing.

This transphobia is central to Trump’s white nationalist ideology and base, which is also deeply misogynist and patriarchal. The aim is to use state power to elevate straight white men by pushing everyone else into the shadows and into conditions of fear and even terror.

As such, Trump’s ban on transgender people is not about militarism and imperialism and opposing it is not support for those ideas unless you couch your arguments in those terms. So don’t talk about the patriotism and courage and bravery of transgender people or how they are fully capable of serving with honor, can protect the nation, praising vets who are transgender, and so on.

Do not encourage anyone to serve in the U.S. military, which is a scourge on humanity. But being blase about the ban or even saying, “Good!” because it undermines the military is playing into the reactionary and proto-fascistic attacks on transgendered people in American society.

A final note. I am not criticizing those who do or have served in the military. It’s a machine of death and destruction, but there are good people who I know who are vets, and a few who do still serve. It’s possible to oppose the institution and interests they serve with great vehemence while not demonizing individual soldiers. (Now if they actively participated in war crimes, like John McCain, I sincerely hope they rot.)


There is No Hierarchy of Freedom and Liberty: Another Gift from Audre Lorde

By Christian Matheis (November 14, 2016)



In the 19th and 20th century, when the U.S. was formally, legally segregated under Jim Crow laws, regressives cried “freedom! liberty!” in order to paint a false moral picture of their ill-gotten, mean-spirited grip on political and economic power. When activists responded with efforts to desegregate, those who opposed civil rights often did so with the same rhetoric of “freedom! liberty!” Today, when oppressed communities and their allies make calls for integration, many of which have not yet succeeded, they find the same opposition voiced with cries of “freedom! liberty!” Regressives would have people believe a falsehood: that liberatory movements to provide disenfranchised, oppressed groups with fair, equal shares in society compromise freedom and liberty.

Who knows what we would do without Audre Lorde’s voice reminding us that there is no hierarchy of oppression. In the short essay published in 1983, Lorde put to words what many caretakers, activists, and scholars already deeply felt and clearly understood: we must not allow identity politics, created and maintained in oppressive institutional and cultural systems, to turn people against one another through the belief that some forms oppression outrank others.[1] On the contrary, we should feel suspicious whenever we encounter the idea that suffering oppression in one way or another somehow causes worse harms than suffering oppression at all. That is, no particular form of oppression causes any more or less suffering than another form, despite how easily we might feel otherwise. No, Lorde argues, people cannot cut one another or themselves up in this way. None of us can live regardless of some aspect of ourselves. People are whole, integrated and beautifully complex inclusive of vast characteristics and expressions. Moreover, Lorde’s work illustrates that, to challenge oppression, we need not fully understand one another before choosing to help liberate one another. We can seem quite mysterious and misunderstood to each other while at the same time choosing to act for liberation.

Racism does not cause harms in any better or worse ways than sexism and heterosexism. Sexism does not do anything more or less brutal than racism and heterosexism. Heterosexism does not result in any more deeply felt pains than racism and sexism. Even as these forms of oppression differ, they stem from devaluation of human dignity. Sometimes, specific incidents of each involve more or less brutality, and at times we may too easily to believe in hierarchies of oppression, yet we cannot let these false rankings of suffering fool us.

One might wonder whether the two ideas – freedom and liberty – also smuggle something troubling along the way. Or, perhaps, there exists no fundamental flaw within ideas of liberty and freedom except when different people put them into hierarchies, benefitting themselves at the expense of others.

I was born white, relatively able-bodied, cisgender, and male. I grew up speaking English and I have never personally faced extensive poverty. I try to act as the most humane person I can in order to live the life into which I was born, a life I did not earn, and the life I have since earned. When I can, I help facilitate relationships, a labor of making one another, to foster a livable future, feasible for this earth and for my loved ones. As a white, queer, feminist, anarchist, scholar, sometimes I find myself part of some group which the majority defines as deviant, difficult, inferior or just plain “wrong.” However, I also benefit from advantages I did not earn and as a result I often gain unfairly granted opportunities. Moreover, people often treat me as if I am just plain “right.”

Even though people sometimes gain certain rewards for acting as if some forms of oppression are worse than others, such as a small financial gain or a change in civil rights, these often amount to hypnotic carrots dangled before us. The paltry rewards for turning on another can, for a time, seem to give me or you or us an edge over them or those people, but horizontal hostility and internalized oppression (terms I borrow from Suzanne Pharr) can only keep us working against one another.[2] Following after these petty rewards results in a particular kind of self-harm and community-harm – a persistent degradation of dignifying relationships.

At the same time, if we know the game is rigged, we can decipher the feasibility of fostering liberatory coalitions; we can find another key to understanding oppression and solidarity by noticing a message implied in the details of Lorde’s original gift. If there is no hierarchy of oppression, then there is also no hierarchy of liberty and freedom.

Lorde gave us at least two gifts in what initially may read as only one: there is no hierarchy of oppression because all oppression stems from the devaluation of human life. Likewise, no hierarchy of freedom and liberty can endure if freedom and liberty are the affirmation of human life. Each one of these ideas follows from the other.

It might be a bad idea for a white guy from Texas to emend Lorde’s writing. Some say that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Some say it goes “against the rules” to alter what someone else wrote and, in doing so, to put words to someone else’s name without permission. Maybe it breaks some taboo to act as a heretic by revising sacred texts. Sometimes, heresy honors the sacred notions more than devout preservation of the original words as if one way of writing a story counts as the only way. I do not think texts require us to treat the ideas too dogmatically, even if it risks some disrespect. In what follows, I have changed Lorde’s original essay to reveal the complementary notions that I think her original explanation entails. I think that what follows would have to hold true given the original version Lorde wrote. I would like to think that Lorde would forgive me for the things that I do not get quite right.

The phrases marked in italics have been revised to illuminate the underlying idea that there is no hierarchy of freedom and equality, otherwise there is no such thing as freedom and equality for anyone.


“There Is No Hierarchy of Freedom and Liberty”

Inspired by Audre Lorde

I was born Black, and a woman. I am trying to become the strongest person I can become to live the life I have been given and to help effect change toward a liveable future for this earth and for my children. As a Black, lesbian, feminist, socialist, poet, mother of two including one boy and a member of an interracial couple, I usually find myself part of some group in which the majority defines me as deviant, difficult, inferior or just plain “wrong.”

From my membership in all of these groups I have learned that liberty and freedom and the tolerance of difference come in all shapes and sexes and colors and sexualities; and that among those of us who share the goals of liberation and a workable future for our children, there can be no hierarchies of liberation and freedom. I have learned that sex equality (a belief in the inherent fairness of each sex toward another and thereby everyone’s right to equality) and equality of sexualities (a belief in the inherent value of each pattern of loving respect in fairness as are all others and thereby everyone’s right to equality) both arise from the same source as racial justice – a belief in the inherent fairness of each race with respect toward all others and thereby everyone’s right to equality.

“Oh,” says a voice from the Black community, “but being Black is NORMAL!” Well, I and many Black people of my age can remember grimly the days when it didn’t used to be!

I simply do not believe that one aspect of myself can possibly profit from freedom and liberty any more or less than any other part of my identity can benefit from freedom and liberty. I know that my people necessarily profit from the freedom and equality of any other group which seeks the right to peaceful existence. In fact, we enhance ourselves by securing to all others what we have shed blood to obtain for our own children. And those children need to learn that they do not have to become like each other in the sense of giving up who they are in order to work together for a future they will all share.

The increasing freedom and equality for lesbians and gay men are only an introduction to the increasing freedom and liberty for all Black people, for wherever freedom and liberty manifests itself in this country, Black people are potential beneficiaries. And it is a standard of right-wing cynicism to discourage members of oppressed groups to act toward and in support of freedom and liberty for each other, and so long as we are divided because of our particular identities we cannot join together in effective political action. Yet so long as we are united because of our particular identities we can join together in effective political action.

Within the lesbian community I am Black, and within the Black community I am a lesbian. Any defense of Black people is a lesbian and gay issue, because I and thousands of other Black women are part of the lesbian community. Any defense of lesbians and gays is a Black issue, because thousands of lesbians and gay men are Black. There is no hierarchy of freedom and liberty.

It is not accidental that the Family Protection Act, which is virulently anti-woman and anti-Black, is also anti-gay. As a Black person, I know who my allies are, and when the Ku Klux Klan goes to court in Detroit to try and force the Board of Education to remove books the Klan believes “hint at homosexuality,” then I know I cannot afford the luxury of advocating one form of freedom and liberty only. I cannot afford to believe that guarantees of fairness are the right of only one particular group. And I cannot afford to choose between the fronts upon which I must battle these forces of discrimination, wherever they appear to favor only me. And when they falsely appear to favor only me, it will not be long before they falsely appear to favor only you. But when they appear to favor me as much as they favor you, it will not be long before they appear to favor you as much as they favor me.

[1] Lorde, Audre. “There is No Hierarchy of Oppression.” From “Homophobia and Education” (New York: Council on Interracial Books for Children, 1983). http://www.fuuse.com/article.php?story=20050719163038398

[2] Pharr, Suzanne. 1996. In the Time of the Right: Reflections on Liberation. Berkeley: Chardon Press.

I Remember That We Will Win

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.

You Lied to Us

By Phoenix Calida (June 15, 2016)

Final thoughts on the Pulse shooting-

Something has been bothering me, and I couldn’t land on it until just now.

I realize it was the lie. That’s what’s hurting the most right now.

The lie from the bigots in their own closet. The bigots who are out. The bigots who pretended they weren’t bigots at all.
all of you lied to all of us.

The loud church goers that threaten hell.
The people who stare on the streets when we hold hands.
The people who laugh when we’re called names.
The ones who stand on the floor of government buildings screaming about freedom of religion while pushing ideas to make us subhuman.
The ones who won’t make us wedding cakes or dj our events.
The ones who call child services when we adopt because we are a “danger to children”
The ones who threaten to shoot us if we’re in the wrong bathroom.
The ones who dead name.
The ones who spit on us in the streets.
The ones who won’t hire us.
The one who secretly fantasize about us, but beat us as punishment for their sins.
The ones who call us slurs and try to make us cry.
The ones who threaten rape to correct our behavior.
The ones who call us unnatural abominations.
The ones who leave their own children on the streets for being born this way.
The ones who swear we choose this life for attention.
The ones who don’t understand why we can’t just hide it.
The ones who think we need be locked away because it’s a mental illness.
The ones who think we have an agenda to convert the youth.
The ones who think they can beat and pray the gay away.
The ones who love to remind us we’ll never pass.
The ones who “have gay friends” but don’t support gay rights.

The ones who say “keep it away from me”

You f*cking lied to me. To us.

Because we did keep it away. We kept in a dimly lit club, away from your sensitive eyes. We pay to hold hands and kiss on dance floors inside buildings where we won’t be seen. We sing with our friends under flashing lights that obscure clear vision. We create relationships in secret. In the dark. In a club designated for freaks like us. In a designated safe space where we could just live, and you didn’t have to look at us and be disgusted.

From the outside, you couldn’t see what we are doing.

We did as we were told.

We kept it away from you.

But you murdered us anyway.

You never meant what you said. You don’t want us to merely “keep it away” from you. This isn’t about your physical proximity to women kissing or men holding hands. When you said “keep it away from us” you didn’t mean act straight while on the bus with you, you meant keep it in another realm of existence.

“Keep it away from us” means we aren’t entitled to share the same planet with you. I know that now, but saying “I just don’t wanna see a bunch of queers” doesn’t fully encompass your vitriol. I didn’t fully understand that a few days ago.

We hid in a dark club because of you, because you said that was enough. And you lied. Being in the dark wasn’t enough. Because a club isn’t as dark as a morgue. Or a coffin. Or a freshly dug grave.

And there’s where you’ve wanted us all along.

On Orlando: A Letter from a Gay Friend

By Mark Naison (June 14, 2016)

I just received this letter from a former student living in Brazil who came out shortly after he graduated.. I needed to share it here because of its powerful message:

Hey Doc, I wanted to reach out to you about what happened in Orlando. I’ve been shaken by this in a way that I’m having a hard time putting to words.

As someone who has always known the dangers of living in a world that is often hostile to gay people, I’ve always tried to tell myself that the best of people will inevitably prevail. Yesterday, I was wrong.

Gay bars and gay clubs are where men and women who are rejected from every other place in society go to. They have always been a place where no matter how bad someone felt about themselves, there were others who probably felt the same way. When most institutions turn their back, gay clubs are often the one place that, with all their shortcomings, accept gay people explicitly for who they are. The one place where you can express that purest of emotion without the fear of harm or judgment. Something as simple as a hug or a kiss.

This was an attack on a vulnerable community and if I’m drawing any strength from this, it’s been from the outpouring of support from around the world. From Muslim brothers and sisters who have denounced this act and have lined up to donate blood. From our President who affirmed the dignity of the LGBTQ community and from my friends near and far.

The gay community will not be broken by this because perhaps more than most communities, gay people know full well what hate can lead to. I believe that the best of America will emerge in the aftermath of what happened not because I think so but because I must.

Thanks for listening Doc. I just needed to share that with someone and I know you’ll take my words to heart as you do for all those you stand up for and defend.

Unrelenting love,


(Feature image by Jere Keys under Creative Commons)

The Case of the Pink Porta Potty

By Chelsea Whitlow Shay (October 8, 2015)

Several weekends ago I worked the Corvallis Fall Festival, something I do every year to raise money for a youth group I work with. Each year I work several festivals, all of which use porta potties. The Corvallis Fall Festival is the only one where I’ve seen gender specific porta potties. I don’t mean that there were porta potties and urinal troughs. That is quite common at festivals and makes a good deal of sense to move a lot of people through the bathrooms at one time. What I’m talking about is pink porta potties “for her.” Continue reading “The Case of the Pink Porta Potty”

We Can All Wear the Shoes We Love


By Chris Crass (August 20, 2015)

“What shoes do you want to wear to school?”

River responded, “The kids at school said I can’t wear my Elsa (Frozen) shoes, because I’m a boy and they said they are girl shoes.” Continue reading “We Can All Wear the Shoes We Love”

Progress Worth Celebrating (But It Doesn’t End Here)

By Alex S. Morgan  (June 26, 2015)

This is progress worth celebrating. It doesn’t stop here, and there is so much left to do, especially for LGBT folks who have been multiply marginalized: sex workers, immigrants, folks with complex health needs, the incarcerated, and queer and trans people of color, but celebrating these milestone victories gives us the momentum to keep going. Continue reading “Progress Worth Celebrating (But It Doesn’t End Here)”