If we are going to refuse to support our own and others’ oppression, how do we leave and cease to cooperate with anti-queer (and racist, transphobic, and other oppressive) forces without abandoning both the oppressed and the oppressor who remain behind?
I don’t, by any means, have all the other answers and so I would love to hear your perspectives as well. Below are some of mine to get us started:
Leaving is not abandoning
I no longer attend the church I grew up in but I have not abandoned it. I still maintain relationships with many of the folks I knew while a member, including one of the pastors. These relationships include an honesty about my current beliefs and perspectives and an unflinching explanation that their beliefs are oppressive and ultimately harmful. For a few years, I would attend services and other events there occasionally. I still go to the young adults programs on occasion but do not attend the main service. It does not feed me and I cannot, by my presence, condone the racist, classist, nationalist beliefs and actions actively espoused from the pulpit (and the implicit homophobia and transphobia which pervades the culture). Instead, I engage the community through small groups, Bible studies, and social events where dialogue is open. I am openly queer and do my best to model affirmation through my presence and words.
Staying is not (necessarily) supporting
Don’t we often decide to stay in an effort to support the community or to make change from within? That’s a noble goal which isn’t necessarily achieved through staying put. What does it say to those around us when we pour our time and talent (and often money) into an organization which beats us up, forces us to remain silent, and asks us to choose between parts of our identities?
Straight folks might have it easier: they may not need to lie about who they are or they may not be forced out. What happens when straight people are allowed to stay in places where queer folks are not? Is it appropriate to say “I need to go be with the queers… the oppressed are more important than the oppressor”? What happens when the only voices are those for whom this is an “issue” and not an everyday lived reality?
Staying in an oppressive community or institution might bring about change. If that is going to be the tactic, we need to be sure that it is one of active resistance and creative re-imagining. If we stay only to be silent, to be told we are worthless, to be shunned, then we are saying with our consent “We don’t matter” and that will do more harm than good.
So then what?
What then shall we do? Share your experiences in the comments below of times when you’ve walked away and times when you’ve said. What did you do? What happened? What have you learned? How have you changed?
Photo by Valentin Ottone
Want to get those each week (plus some occasional, more private thoughts on sex & relationships)? I’d love to keep in touch. Drop your email address below and I’ll keep you in the loop!
P.S. hit reply to any email from me to start a conversation!