Queers in Alphabet City

What a mess. Already in March somebody suggested that trans people take their T and exit from the LGBT movement. And I eavesdropped on an all too typical election year conversation in which a young gay man long mentored by a dyke called her something along the lines of idiot cunt, indicating just how much the G’s despise the L’s, and not just when they vote for Clinton. The invisibility of B’s continues, though these days duck and cover seems a sensible life hack.

Queers of color, on the other hand, are less invisible than they were, thanks to some extent to their roles in #BlackLivesMatter. This, however, translates less into actual power in the queer community than new attacks from the right, as well as from the white left, which dismisses them as not authentically black, Latino, Asian… should they happen to support a white woman whose husband signed a crime law eventually used to send a huge swath of black men to jail. No matter that many in the African-American community –– as well as the Congressional Black Caucus –– applauded the law. At the time. Because they were sinfully short on hindsight.

The kind of stupidity that divides the L’s, G’s, B’s, and T’s is nothing new, but it certainly seems louder, faster, and more insistent. If in the old days, a lie could travel half way around the world while the truth was putting on its shoes, now, thanks to social media, it can circumnavigate the globe four or five million times, replicating itself in carefully witty memes, while the truth is still opening the closet and figuring out which pair of kicks to grab.

A Dyke Abroad

Ironic, considering I used to think that the Internet was the best antidote to lies. During the George W. Bush administrations, I spent my time reading the latest nonsense his press office produced about everything from global warming to WMD, then writing articles in response proving why they were wrong using actual facts and offering as much context as I could manage. When it came to policy, I’d even try to think of alternatives.

Of course, the news cycle was longer then. Not as long as when we all waited for the early edition of the daily newspaper to come out, but you’d have a couple hours, maybe even a couple days between travesties that gave you time to assess the quality of information. See how ideas and information and trends fit together.

Sure, there’s an upside to the new speed of media. When Hillary Clinton said something idiotic at Nancy Reagan’s funeral, praising her as a “low-key AIDS” advocate, the Internet immediately blew up. And just a few hours later she issued not just an apology but a full-fledged position paper on HIV/ AIDS, highlighting the decades of mostly queer activism that have tried to stop it.

But even this speed troubles me. It somehow redefines our sense of what is right or true. We judge truthfulness by how meme-ish the tidbit becomes in the echo chamber of our followers and friends. When newsfeeds are refreshed every minute or two, and things appear by the second on social media, delays are lies. Context and scale are meaningless. Most importantly, we have no time to consider the future. Or even the different layers of the past, because we are so busy keeping up with the now.

Living in Internet time, our sense of the possible has been warped into a form of magical thinking. More and more we see cycles of impossible promises on the part of politicians and a backlash of rage when it turns out that the mayor or governor or president has to pass a law before they can give out free ponies. And to become a law, a bill has to get past committees and congresses and courts. And if it does eventually appear on the executive’s desk, we are shocked to discover that the pony has become a hamster, funded by cuts in after-school programs.

Which is why the process gets called sausage-making and often makes us sick. And why a quickie revolution can seem so attractive. Especially if you don’t know most revolutions are unimaginable disasters. There are lots of victims. Usually the first people to support them.

Shit. I’m not saying what I need to. Maybe because I can’t hear myself think. Everybody seems to be screaming. There’s no time or space to think about the future lurking there just a little ways past this continuous present.

Nevertheless, we are building one out of mud and howls, mostly. The smuggest fury I’ve ever seen. And many of us are using against each other what Audre Lorde called the “master’s tools,” reinforcing homophobia. Racism. Misogyny. These deep-rooted and timeless hates.

Kelly Cogswell is the author of “Eating Fire: My Life as a Lesbian Avenger,” from the University of Minnesota Press.

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