Sometimes It’s The Little Things

As a Queer woman, I’ve been spending a lot of the last couple of days trying to come to terms with what happened in Orlando (and what might have happened at Pride in Los Angeles – an event I almost attended and that many of my friends did attend.)  My heart goes out to the victims and their loved ones, and to my community which is once again reminded that despite the civil rights gains that have been made, we are still not safe.

I’m struck and saddened at how quick people are to respond to this with the same stigma and erasure that perpetuates this kind of violence in the first place –  Ignoring (and suggesting that everyone ignore) the fact that his target was, in fact, Queer and Trans people, ignoring the fact that he didn’t just attack a Queer and Trans gathering place, he attacked a Queer and Trans gathering place on a night specifically dedicated to celebrating Latinx culture, and how many of the victims were Queer and Trans People of Color, who experience violence at higher rates. I’m frustrated and angry with people trying to use this to stoke the fires of dangerous Islamophobia including an attempt to pit two oppressed groups against each other, completely erasing the existence of Queer and Trans Muslims in the process. This is why it’s so important to do our activism from an intersectional perspective.

I’m also  frustrated and angered at politicians and others who, today, tweet their sorrow about the victims, while they spend their time, energy, money every other day working to keep Queer and Trans people as second class citizens, trying to convince people that our mere existence is a threat to society, to “traditional” families, and to people in restrooms. As if that message doesn’t perpetuate this kind of violence. Do me a favor – keep your sorrow, change your behavior.

As a fat queer woman I see parallels between my treatment as a queer person and my treatment as a fat person, and one of those is in the ways that, as both a queer and fat activist I’ve often been told that a problem I’m bringing up is not worth talking about – that it’s too small to worry about, that the activism isn’t worth doing.  And that’s crap. First of all, I don’t think that discouraging activism is a helpful ever, but we need to remember that the small things are what creates an environment that allows the big things to happen.

We can no longer afford to bury our heads in the sand and pretend that the “big things” – being hired less and paid less, receiving sub-par medical treatment,  being the victims violence and more – aren’t the naturally occurring consequences of living in a society, including a government, that suggests in so many subtle and not-so-subtle ways that some of us should be treated as second class citizens, that calls us threats to the “traditional” family, and “epidemics,” that wages war (encouraging everyone to join in) against citizens because of our size, that suggests that some of us are deserving of shame, stigma, bullying, and harassment, that it’s actually for our own good, and the good of society.

When we tolerate these messages, when we tolerate the cyberbullying that is absolutely rampant, when we tolerate any small bits of bigotry,  we are helping to create an environment that breeds ever larger, more dangerous demonstrations of that same bigotry. Nobody can do everything, nobody is obligated to do activism of any kind, but every bit of activism is valuable and important, and doing that activism intersectionally is critical.

If you want more support and information, I recommend the Queer Body Love Series that is kicking off on June 16th. It’s free to listen and  I’m honored to be one of the speakers and so grateful to Elizabeth for putting it together. Click here for more information!

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11 thoughts on “Sometimes It’s The Little Things

  1. Thank you for this. I’m not a member of the LGBT community and the nature of this horrendous incident didn’t hit me until I read some of your posts and then, of course, it all became clear. Thank you for once again helping to educate me. Your activism has impacted my life through education as well as inspiration and in so many other ways, and for that, I am very grateful.

  2. I saw a tweet, saying “We’re heartbroken about what happened in Orlando.” Well, I actively avoid the news, unless it’s something big, so I looked it up.

    All the stories I found (and this was three days after the fact!) said that there was an Islamic terrorist ISIS member, who shot up a nightclub. Only on about the fifth story did they mention anything about LGBT, or Latinx. Mostly, though, I had to stop reading the articles after the first two paragraphs, because they devolved into anti-Muslim hatred.

    Obviously, clicking on the top links in a search results window is NOT the best way to get “fair and balanced reporting.”

    I had to crawl into a hole and avoid the world for a while.

    Then I came out and read about it some more, and by Jiminy! You’re right! Those people were targeted, not for being American, or people at a party, but for celebrating LGBT POC, and it SUCKS! I mean, it sucks even worse than a random shooting.

    Almost all the reporters were trying to minimize it, and focus on ISIS, as if to say, “LOOK! The danger to good white Christians is real!” Ummm. OK, maybe it is. But the danger to LGBT and POC, is even greater. Add non-Christian to the mix (such as Wiccan or atheists), and it’s even greater, still. Because these people are targeted by the violent abusers, and NOT PROTECTED by the rest.

  3. On the topic of activism, and the small things being just as important:

    It’s the same thing in rape culture. You can scream and shout all you want about “real rape” and The Stanford Rape(TM), but if you don’t take a stand against sexual harassment, rape jokes that make fun of the victims, date rape drugs, and slut shaming (with a simultaneous idea that “yes” is the default answer for women, even if they’re passed out, or even struggling and saying NO! but not loud enough), then you are part of the problem, and will never stop “real rape.”

    Oppression is like a beehive. One sting won’t kill you, but a whole lot of them will, and this culture is made up of cumulative actions.

    So, GO, RAGEN! I am grateful for ALL you do, big or small.

  4. Very powerful Ragen. Much more powerful in that I’m on my way to visit my daughter and her wife who were only allowed BASIC human right of marriage a handful of years ago.

    I think it’s also important to remember that without that evil gun, this never would have happened. Living in Riverside County, CA…I have a lot of “conservative” friends and neighbors and my message this time is…”yes, we the formerly voice less and marginalized by the NRA progressives, we are coming for your guns. Gun owner ship can no longer be allowed for ANY reason.” The false sense of security gun owners get from thinking they are Rambo with a pistol under the pillow is not worth the dread fear the rest of us have to live with us that at any time our schools, movies and now dance clubs are subject to the whims of a madman. Yes, we are coming for your guns. YES, we are coming for your guns. Let that sink in. Yes, we are coming for your guns.

  5. Who knows if this had much, if anything to do with ISIS? Several reports, including from the owner or manager of the nightclub said the shooter was a fairly frequent patron there. Apparently he has been going to gay clubs and bars for 10 years. How sad that his inability to accept himself was turned outward to cause such horror. Of course, if we lived in a country that accepted people instead of demonizing them he might not have a acted out in such a way.

    I grieve for this country.

    1. You’re probably right. I wouldn’t be at all surprised it it turned out that it was self-hatred at his own homosexuality, and that he blamed ISIS, so that no one would actually suspect him of being gay.

      1. Toxic masculinity is an equally plausible explanation: attacking gay men because how dare they be laughing and kissing and having a good time when he’s over here performing Manliness(TM) and yet the world is not his oyster, and attacking lesbians because how dare they not assume a woman’s proper place in the queue of women he will eventually get around to having sex with and otherwise using to prop up his Manliness(TM). Patronage of gay clubs and bars could have been part of first fantasizing about, then planning his attempt to Show Them All by committing suicide as destructively as possible. He certainly fits other markers of toxic masculinity: native-born young adult, white-passing, wannabe cop, wife beater, etc.

  6. And of course people are bellowing about restricting immigration from Those Countries even though the murderer was American born.

    And flipping out about evil Muslims even though this one held up a giant bloody middle finger to his parents’ religion by committing mass murder during Ramadan.

  7. Hey Ragen, obviously i don’t actually know you but i read every one of your posts the last year or so, so even though i’ve read a dozen similar posts to this one from around the internet, this one made me the saddest because yours is a voice i regularly hear, so it gives me more of a connection i guess. Your writing this post is another example of the small actions. No small action is pointless.

  8. I totally agree. The small things are absolutely important. No big social change happened over night – it’s always a series of changes. And it’s the small changes that lead to having the courage and paces to stand to demand the big changes.

  9. *HUGS*

    As for fighting for the small, stuff, wasn’t it in New York that they discovered fighting small crimes, like graffiti and vandalism helped discourage larger crimes?

    I should think the same principal would work against hate – if people know the small stuff isn’t acceptable and will be stopped, it is a pretty good hint that the big stuff won’t be tolerated either.

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