This past week, I had several conversations with friends about violence and Queer* people of color.
In these conversations, we were not focusing on the ways in which we are attacked, hunted and violated by heterosexual identified individuals. We were not focusing on the death or the fear that some of us experience walking our neighborhoods or through a crowd on our blocks.
No, in these conversations we talked about how we fight back. We talked about how we have witnessed (and been) the Queer people on the streets, buses and trains that in the face of street harassment and potential assault, collectively and individually talk back to that aggression and challenge our would be attackers.
We talked about how the public discourse that situates us ( Queer people of color) as only victims who have no connections to our communities is not the absolute nor authoritative narrative that it is often assumed to be.
We talked about how that narrative dismisses the fact that many of us as LGBTQ people of color are fiercely loved in our blocks/neighborhoods, have friendships and camradarie with those who the mainstream community would say are only our “attackers” ( i;e heterosexual masculine men of color), and that many times when we are attacked we fight back and we WIN.*
In fact, My friend Kevin Bynes said long ago that the only reason some of us as Queer people of color could walk safely on many streets was because of the ways in which “fierce” queer people responded to harassment and violence. Their responses were not “turning the other cheek” but instead head on, defensive and yes sometimes violent. Kevin would say it’s because of those “girls” that alot of the “straight boys” dare not try it as much as they would had those “girls” not fought back and “paved the way.”
Now clearly these responses have also led to violent scenarios that ended up in horrible assaults or worse, but these stories still bear telling and can help us understand the complex relationship that we as queer people of color inhabit in our communities.
It can also be helpful in empowering us to recognize the creative ways we already respond to violence and work to develop those processess. For instance, witty comebacks are one way I used to “get the straight boys” together. Sometimes using comedy and poking fun were quick ways to diffuse a situation and also add a more lighthearted tone to the space. There are many more ways that are not violent that queer folks of color use that are often under explored by anti-violence organizations. Many have missed out on those methods and have instead helped to enforce the “fearful disempowered person” narrative that I don’t think gets us anywhere.
I believe it’s also important because this mainstream discourse on violence “against” Queer people often equates us being nothing more than objects which violence happens to, a useless and dangerous narrative. I have seen this happen with the violence “against” women discourse which often erases the power that women have to make their own choices and the ways in which women can and do resist. I don’t want to see this continue to happen to us as Queer people. I want us to realize that yes we live in homophobic world but at the same time we can and do have the power to protect ourselves. It does not mean that we will always be able to prevent violence against ourselves; but even in those instances it does not mean that we don’t have power.
So yes I think it’s important to highlight our resistance. Not to minimize the fact that there are times in which we did all that we could do, and we were still violated..Not to glorify violence, or suggest that a militia type response to violence is what we should be considering…But instead to clarify that we have agency.
In the myriad of ways it can be understood, yes, we do “fight” back.
Some of us “fight back” violently and some non-violently. Some of us “fight back” with witty comebacks, strategic manipulation and yes, some of us even use homophobia and heterosexism.
Whatever we do wherever we are….
We do and will continue to find a way to “fight back”.
*Check out my Workshops on Violence.
*”Win” is being used in this context to mean beating the person that is being fought. The author recognizes the challenges of a patriarchal power over discourse where there are “winners” and losers. All of us lose when some one has to be hurt and violence is inflicted. however for the purposes of this essay and the dominant paradigm “win” was the term chosen.
*I use queer in this context to be all inclusive. (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender)
*I intentionally chose the term “fight back.” While the concept of “fighting” can be argued to be patriarchal and counter intuitive as it relates to transforming violence, I also find that the term “fight” awakens the aggressive impulse within individuals which can then be channeled into another medium of expression which is not violence if individuals are given the tools with which to do so.