Sunday, June 27, 2010

Overlapping oppressions and the gay pride parade today

I just saw an excellent guest post on the blog Stuff White People Do regarding the interconnectedness of multiple oppressions. It writes about famous Gender Studies professor Judith Butler refusing an award from an LGBT rights organization that's racist and anti-immigrant. I applaud Judith Butler for doing this, and it made me think once again about how LGBT rights groups have ignored other overlapping kinds of oppression.

Back in February, I wrote a guest post for that same blog about how the idea of gays as homogeneously white and wealthy is perpetuated. Months later, the stereotype clearly continues, but thank God Butler and others want to challenge such stereotypes and white gay racism itself. Additionally, I am writing about racism and classism after a long day of walking and watching the gay pride Parade in Chicago. The parade appears in a very gentrified neighborhood, around Wrigley Field and a host of other attractions, a neighborhood that I admittedly have supported by sometimes shopping in some stores there. Therefore, I think it would be hypocritical for me to attack the gentrification of East Lakeview/"Boystown," but I will admit that what disturbed me more was what Michel Foucault called the masking of power, which has much to do with power structures advancing business and profits and little to do with advancing all marginalized people's rights.

LGBT culture today has powerful allies in some corporations and other institutions--or so it seems. Many of these institutions are for wealthy clients, which means they can espouse any pro-LGBT message they want in order for it to add to their profits. That's not to say that there aren't any genuine pro-LGBT businesses out there. But many of those promoted in parades like the one today are for wealthy LGBT people only, which is not truly pro-LGBT rights when you think about it, since other LGBT people with less money are excluded. This also means that the stereotype of gay people being all white and wealthy is once again perpetuated.

And to be fair, there were some organizations at the parade that serve non-white, non-wealthy people, instead of just consumption of products some LGBT folks can afford. I was encouraged by organizations that were specifically affiliated with blacks, Asians, Latinos, and other groups. I was encouraged by the slogan I heard one organization say: "Power to the people, no one is illegal!" I was encouraged by multiple religious organizations that help LGBT people of different faiths hopefully find a sense of meaning in their faiths. I was encouraged by a couple of parade floats that encouraged sending a strong message to Democrats and Republicans alike that LGBT people are tired of waiting for their rights and that political independence is an option. I was encouraged by the presence of organizations like PFLAG that have strong histories of alliances with LGBT youth, for example.

But I was more than discouraged by the majority of businesses promoting their products with gay-friendly logos and slogans, but without advocating any real action, as far as I could tell, beyond consumption. I was discouraged, albeit less so, by the number of political candidates who likely have not (if in office) promoted, or will not promote, LGBT rights beyond election season.

And yet, I came home, checked some blogs, and found that Judith Butler and others are standing up against racism, classism, and xenophobia in addition to homophobia, transphobia, and patriarchy.

And I remembered, if we truly support LGBT people and the rights they deserve, we must support all LGBT people, not just a wealthy constituency therein. So as long as businesses support LGBT rights but not for people of color and immigrants, including LGBT ones; as long as white racism and owning-class classism are rampant in such communities as "Boystown"; as long as the voices of LGBT people of color are discounted in the service of continuing "the way things are"--as long as these things continue, we have a lot of work to do.

Personally, I may have to start by finding out where my money really goes, really consuming less, and researching what purposes the co-opting and assimilation of LGBT culture in wealthy society really serve.

And now I ask: what can you do, personally, and what can we do, collectively?

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