Dear White Gays:
I've been missing you in the streets. Since the cops who killed Mike Brown and Eric Garner were let off the hook, there's been an uprising across the country, fighting to end white supremacy and to hold law enforcement accountable to reasonable standards. I bet a lot of you remember the days when cops raided our bars and marches, beat us and arrested us, published our names and pictures in the papers to humiliate us. And those of us who are too young to remember these things teared up and felt angry when we saw footage of the raids in MILK and countless documentaries. These scenes don't just remind us of our history: they show us undeniably that we're part of something bigger than ourselves. Have we forgotten that?
Oh, there have been a few of us white gays out marching in the streets. We've been isolated, scattered, fragmented. We've blended in instead of doing what we do best: standing out and being fabulous. We should be out and proud en masse, making ourselves known, following black leadership, expressing our firm solidarity with the dignity of black and brown youth, and building bridges. But we're not.
The experiences of white gays and of Black Americans aren't equivalent, but we certainly have grounds for empathy and friendship. Most white gays alive today remember the sodomy laws, which weren't declared unconstitutional until the turn of the century. That means that having sex was an act of nonviolent civil disobedience. Most of us were turned into direct action activists simply by living our lives and expressing our sexuality. And then there was the epidemic: thousands of us dropping dead while Reagan laughed and the rest of the country either shamed or ignored us. Have we forgotten that too? Don't these memories stir deep down in our souls when we see black kids shot dead in the street or the park, when we see scared and angry mothers, when we see all of these killers let off the hook while black communities plead with broken hearts for justice they will never receive?
Do you remember the rallying cry of AIDS activism? Silence = Death. Why are we silent now? What are we doing in this moment that is so urgent, so compelling, that we can't reach out a hand and march with our black sisters and brothers - many of whom are themselves LGBTQ. It was those very trans and genderqueer folks of color who rioted against the police raids at the Stonewall Inn and ignited the LGBTQ rights movement as we know it today. We seem to have forgotten this as well.
We've celebrated many victories these last few years. We took to the streets for our own national uprising when California voters passed Prop 8 and stripped away our rights at the ballot, and we won. We repealed Don't Ask, Don't Tell. We established protections from hate crimes and, in some places, from housing and employment discrimination. We've raised awareness of bullying and suicide, and we've fought back against religious persecution at home and abroad. Some of our most beloved drag queens and Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence recently made national news for their successful campaign to change Facebook's proposed "real names" policy. We're making great strides with the #BornPerfect campaign to ban the use of so-called "conversion therapy" with LGBTQ youth. And now we're on the verge of establishing the fundamental civil right to marry our same-sex partners anywhere in this country.
As we achieve rights, safety, opportunity, and status, will we forget ourselves? Will we forget where we came from? The #BlackLivesMatter uprising is an incredible moment for us to define who we really are, to speak and act in alignment with our core values, to cultivate solidarity rather than division and brokenness, and to remember that we're all a part of something bigger than ourselves.
So all my white gays: A lot hinges on this moment. Who are we, really?
Marching ever onward,