“What is the queer community’s role in the #BlackLivesMatter movement?”
- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Broderick Greer as part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions*
When I visited Ferguson in late August 2014, I went because I was helpless. I was embarking on my third and final year of seminary and had never felt as lost, confused, or displaced as I felt in the days and weeks following the lynching of Michael Brown. As I joined 40 other young adults on the 28 hour bus ride from Washington, D.C. to Ferguson, MO and back again, I was allowing my body to be, in some way, transported to a place where I – a queer, cisgender, black man – could be in solidarity with the death of a straight, cisgender, black teenager.
Nearly a year before Michael’s death, the queer black women – Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi – penned a “love note to black people” when they created the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. This hashtag was created in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s – a straight, black cisgender teenager – lynching in 2012. So when you ask about the queer community’s role in this movement, I have to take pause, because queer black women are the collective genesis of this movement. Further, queer-identified black people like Alexis Templeton, Brittany Ferrell, Larry Fellows III, Darnell Moore, and DeRay McKesson have used their platforms and activism to center the stories and voices of queer and trans folks.
When black people are lethally targeted by law enforcement officers and vigilantes, those officers and vigilantes don’t see queer bodies, they see black bodies. They see another threat. They see another menace. They see “enemy forces”. There is no discrimination of gender expression or sexual orientation when it comes to state-sponsored violence against black people. This indiscriminate disdain for black life is, therefore, a clarion call for us to bring attention – in the spirit of writer Zach Stafford – to people like our brother Dionte Greene, a gay black man killed in Kansas City in 2014. If the United States government and local law enforcement officials won’t properly investigate and prosecute in the case of deaths like his, Rekia Boyd’s, and Tamir Rice’s, then we must pressure them until they do.
On Twitter, a number of us have asserted that, at this critical juncture in American history, our nation needs an intersectional human rights movement that will confront and transform the systemic realities of racism, white supremacy, sexism, heterosexism, transantagonism, income inequality, and educational disparities. In the words of Audre Lorde, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle, because we do not live single- issue lives.” Since none of us suffer alone, none of us will be liberated alone. If I am oppressed for being black and gay, then I will not be liberated until I am able to operate in the world as a whole, integrated person. And since my identity cannot be parsed, I will either be affirmed for who I am or not at all. You cannot affirm and celebrate my blackness without affirming and celebrating my queerness.
Thankfully, in Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi, and so many others, the movement has voices who understand that our common liberation – whether it be as trans people, people of color, women, queer people, or a combination or cross section of all those ways of being, existing, and identifying in the world – is something deep, broad, and complex. Too many of us are dying due to unchecked, state-sanctioned racism, heterosexism, transantagonism, for us to not see the ways in which the violence waged against us is interrelated.