When OUT first released their annual power list, I rushed to my personal blog and wrote a piece exclusively about how wrong and exclusive and narrow-minded OUT was for compiling such a list. You may ask why, because, after all, it is just a silly list. But, you see, these lists matter. They are not fluff for us to passively consume; instead, they tell us about the world in which we move. This year's list particularly affected me because it revealed that of the most powerful LGBT people, only four (maybe five) are people of color. Of those, two are black, one is Asian, and one is Latino -- what about the American Indians, the mestizos and the multiracial people? And only 11 of the people on the list are women. What this tells brown people, black people, trans people, genderqueer people and women is that we do not have a place at the table. Now, is that OUT's fault? No. Though I do think that they could have published this list and offered some critical analysis of it at the same time, they are not responsible for who has access to certain kinds of power.
We must ask why, in 2013, the most powerful people in the LGBT community look the same as those in the non-LGBT community: mostly white, mostly male and mostly cis. Have we failed if we are simply miming our heterosexual cousins? To find the answers to these questions, we must do something uncomfortable: We must look at ourselves and our friends and ask what privileges and access to power we have, why we have them and how we acquired them. We must look at lists like this and not dismiss them as fluff but see them, and the reactions they provoke, as real reflections of society. We must recognize that beside power sits privilege, and occasionally (I would argue often) privilege begets power and vice versa. And we should ask what privileges each of the people on these lists benefits from (e.g., white privilege, male privilege, cisgender privilege, etc.).
We should also question power itself: what is it, who decides it and what makes one "powerful." For whom are the people on the OUT Power List powerful? We marginalized communities need to rethink what power is and who holds power, because, hunty, I have power in my own house when I'm sitting at the dinner table talking about the news with my Baptist pastor father while I'm wearing black nail polish and mascara. The sissy walking down the street in a rough neighborhood has more power to change minds in his world than any celebrity or wealthy person does. So, hunty, when you talk about "power," define it accordingly, and make explicit how narrow your scope is. You want to talk about power, but we want to talk about powa.
For those who can use the OUT Power List as a mirror, let this articulation (and there have been many before this one, articulated by others smarter and wittier and more eloquent than I) serve as an alarm: There are fissures in the LGBT community (wait, do we even have a community, or is it communities?), and they only seem to be widening.
Nevertheless, there is something for us, the further and continually and consistently marginalized, to take from this list: There is no place for us at the mostly male, almost entirely white and almost entirely cisgender table, and the mostly male, almost entirely white and almost entirely cisgender people at that table are not looking to pull out seats for us anyway. In response, what we need to do first is remember that we do hold power; the modern LGBT rights movement started because queens fought back, and look at what the mamas have birthed. Let's not demand a place at their table; if the movement, which we have aided, marched for, preached for and made sacrifices for, does not want us, our bodies, our minds, our stories and our truths, let's make another table.
And let's make our table better; they can join us if they want, but it is not necessary (and they won't anyway, because when the bullied are invited to the popular kids' table, they find it so hard to leave it). We won't let them thrust upon us the labels "difficult," "separatist" or "hypersensitive"; we are not. We will be responding to what they tell us every day from their Grindr chat room talks ("no blacks, no fats, no femmes") to their boardroom taks: that they, the mostly male, mostly white and mostly cisgender, have set up the game so that they have the advantage and the power and we have only a precious few magical "negros."
Let's scream a giant "fuck you, fuck white privilege, fuck male privilege, fuck cisgender privilege, fuck your so-called power, and fuck your table!"
Let's be honest that we, the further and continually and consistently marginalized, are angry and have been angry for some time. Let's be honest that our reaction is not about OUT and their list but about what the list forces us to once again see: that we have no place at the table, and that as long as the LGBT rights movement pushes for acceptance and not radical change, we will never have a place, only spaces we create and carve out for ourselves.