Well, Ellen Sturtz certainly has given people something to talk about. First Lady Michelle Obama's heckler has various people blogging, Facebooking, and, in my case, calling friends to talk about... well... to talk about the event, not so much about what the first lady was heckled for, it seems.
To be sure, some people are talking about why Sturtz heckled our FLOTUS: LZ Granderson wrote a piece about it for CNN, and over here on The Huffington Post, doctoral student Taylor Cole Miller touched upon the reasons for the heckling in his overall defense of Sturtz, but still it seems as if the vast majority of pieces are about the appropriateness of heckling and what our response to heckling should be.
Here is the thing: I don't really know what our response should be, because I am not sure what mine is. Given how I perform my blackness and my queerness (I embrace the term "BlaQueer," which I first learned via @blaqueerpoz on Twitter), I, like many other queer people of color, can't separate my race and its history from my sexuality (or my gender performance/identity) and its history. At times it seems as though we're talking about two streams that flow in opposite directions, but the reality is that my body feels like an ocean that is being fed by both, and nobody wants to talk to the ocean or hear hym speak.
How does BlaQueer me cheer on Sturtz for heckling Michelle Obama unless I ignore the racial composition of the encounter (something it seems many of my gay counterparts are able to do) and the history of disrespect that black women (including our FLOTUS) have received in public spaces? How do I shake the historical goosebumps that rise in my flesh when I see a white person heckle either Obama with a certain swagger and sense of entitlement that seems not to have existed when the POTUS and FLOTUS were white Americans, even if it is for rights (in this case, federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBT workers)?
How does BlaQueer me cheer on Michelle Obama for dismissing the heckler unless I ignore the FLOTUS' relationship with and proximity to power and Ellen Sturtz's position as a second-class citizen vis-à-vis her sexuality (not to mention her gender)? How do I quiet the yelps that bubble within me because I want to join her in heckling a symbol of oppressive power? How do I cheer on Michelle Obama when I actually want to expand the ground that the heckling covers?
The thing is that for me, these conflicting questions happen simultaneously and instantly. Snap your fingers. That is how quickly these thoughts go through my mind. Many of my conversations, which often occur with other black queers and with some black gay individuals, are variations of: How do you feel about the heckling of Michelle Obama, and what about the heckling of the Obamas in general? I try to work my way to some resolution; I tell myself to think of the different eras of the gay rights movement, and to situate the heckling of the Obamas within the framework of, say, ACT UP's glorious disruption of public spaces in the late '80s early '90s; I try to link this instance to ways people of color have heckled politicians, but then I see the event again, or someone tries to make ties between the black civil rights movement and the gay civil rights movement without recognizing the latter's problematic history with race and "racial issues," and then I am back where I started:
My body an ocean fed by two streams, the ocean trying to speak.
Follow Maurice Tracy on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Blaqueer