Made in America With Mexican Parts
ROMO - a radical queer Xicana cabroncita, art making, word slinging revolutionary making observations about the personal and the political...with the occasional weather report.
A Letter to My White Sisters, Brothers, Transgender, & Gender Non-Conforming LGBTQ Community by R. Romo
I have been of late trying to staunch the loss of blood as my heart repeatedly shatters and bleeds out each time one of you parrots the narratives that Mike Brown and Eric Garner would not be dead if they’d just done what they were told by an officer.
As a queer Latina I understand that we are all products of our race/ethnicities, home communities, cultures, our countries of origin, abilities and religions. I intellectually understand that being queer does not mean that we are ourselves automatically immune from being perpetrators of racism, prejudice, bigotry and discriminatory behaviors. And yet, I find myself repeatedly grief stricken when white LGBTQ people take up the racist narrative that supports the death of people of color at the hands of law enforcement. That because he was a big black kid, Mike Brown somehow deserved to die, shot multiple times by a policeman and left to lie dying in the street. That Eric Garner somehow deserved to be choked to death by a banned hold. That despite the NYC coroner declaring Eric Garner’s death a homicide, somehow you can still believe that he deserved to die. Both of these encounters began with ticketing misdemeanors, jaywalking and allegedly selling single cigarettes.
Even worse, is that you can believe that the officers involved in these deaths should be immune, that they should not have to stand trial. There’s no room for you to seriously consider that not only was there police misconduct, but there was also misconduct by the prosecutor as well. You willingly give face value to a badge as somehow automatically decreeing fair and just treatment. Worse still that you buy into a false narrative about black people and crime, but refuse to consider and examine the reality of police brutality against black people.
I have listened to white LGBTQ people repeatedly condemn these two men while vilifying the anguished rage of black people who have lashed out against a system that has repeatedly targeted their lives. And although I know the why of your thinking, a product of whiteness and the ensuing privilege of skin color; ridiculous on my part though it be, I still marvel at your lapses in memory.
LGBTQ people RIOTED because they were sick and tired of being targeted, harassed, arrested, beaten and in some cases raped by the police. Stonewall. It. Was. A. Riot. Stonewall, a bar in New York City patronized primarily by working class drag queens, transgender folks, lesbians and gay men, a great many of them people of color. On a hot summer night in June these are the ones who were a part of the infant Rainbow Revolution, those who fought back against the oppressive brutality of the police. Transgender women of color; Sylvia Rivera, Miss Major, and Marsha P. Johnson were right there in the thick of it. Before that was the Compton Cafeteria Riot where police targeted drag queens, transwomen and others. Sick and tired, they too fought back against police brutality.
Let’s not get this twisted. LGBTQ people of all hues have been historically oppressively policed, arrested and brutalized at the hands of the police. And many of us still are, right now, today. Although the reality is that LGBTQ people of color are much more likely to have a negative encounter with law enforcement; especially if they are visibly Trans, stud, or gender-nonconforming. BINGO! These are who have an increased risk of being profiled and targeted by the police. Right now. Today.
LGBTQ people in America have historically been reviled, demonized, and criminalized. We have been beaten and we have been murdered, just for being who we are. We have been stopped and terrorized by the police again and again, simply for being who we are. We have been disowned from our families and churches, fired from our jobs, evicted from our homes, refused services - simply for being who we are. Just for being who we are, something that the vast majority of us can no more choose than choosing the color of one’s skin.
As LGBTQ people we have had to beg and plead for straight people to learn about us, to understand that we too are human beings; that our families are valuable and that we have the same needs of living wage jobs, education access, housing, health care, etc. We continuously plead with straight people to not assume that they know us based on what Fred Phelps, Jerry Cox, Pat Robertson, etc. say about us. Right now, today there is a minister in Arizona who is proclaiming from his pulpit that ALL LGBTQ people should be put to death. We as LGBTQ people are still locked in a fight for equality. And while marriage equality is grand, it doesn’t help us all. A legal same sex marriage will not protect employment, housing and public accommodations. Despite being more accepted by society, we are STILL NOT EQUAL under the law.
We still are not being treated equally by many of our fellow Americans. And many of us are still profiled and targeted by the police. Our LGBTQ kids are still killing themselves in the face of the violence and bullying they endure, the hallways of their schools are still battlefields, they are still being kicked out of their homes or running away from them trying to save themselves.
But. We have also had enough white people in our ranks with the money and power to begin shifting slowly but surely the narrative of who we are as LGBTQ people. Although that narrative has more often than not excluded LGBTQ people of color in an effort intentional or otherwise, to more solidly proclaim the defining mantra “We are just like you!”
And let’s not forget that within the LGBTQ community there is racial profiling, transphobia, classism, etc. There is bigotry, prejudice and discrimination against one another. We absolutely have to do better in our own house! And there must be an intentional examination of the learned values that perpetuates the blindness of white LGBTQ people to the real struggles of people of color. Because right now the way I see it, it’s a bunch of folks sitting in a sinking boat, throwing rocks at other folks in their sinking boat. And we are all going to drown together if we don’t start holding one another up, teaching each other how to swim in our various truths.
No. Just stop right there. Don’t come at me with that mess that black people are the most homophobic, because that it also another ugly stereotype, a myth. I will be glad to sit down with you and start calling all these fine white churches and asking them what they think on the subject. The reality is that across the board white, black, brown, etc., homo/transphobia is a reality for some of those folks. But it is not all of any of them. Think about it, if white LGBTQ people buy into the myth that black people are the most homo/transphobic, the only thing that belief system supports is a deeper divide between folks who might all get further along on the equality trail if they figured out how to help each other.
It’s true some people are criminals. And they can be found in all groups across the board; racial/ethnic, LGBTQ, gender, age, economic status, immigrant, etc. It’s also true that depending on what group you belong to, you will likely be policed differently. It's also true that the group that you belong to does not mean that you have am encoded genetic predisposition to become a criminal or a sexual predator, or child molester.
The reality is that LGBTQ people are suffering. Black people are suffering. In the end, both of us want the same things. The only way we can get there is for each individual to be willing to listen, to do some work to better understand the other person’s perspective, to make room for the truth being told, and to not buy into the rhetoric. It’s hard to overcome a lifetime of thinking. We as LGBTQ people see how hard many straight people, especially people of faith are struggling to overcome that indoctrination about our community. And we see how many of them are in fact doing the hard, often painful work. We also see how many of them cling to their stereotypes, myths and outright lies about us.
In the end, that’s all that I’m asking here, for more white LGBTQ people to consider for themselves taking on the hard work to listen and to learn and to strive to overcome the ways that racism subconsciously and consciously fuels your thinking and actions. Although this letter may feel harsh, know that it is written in love for all of my beloved community. It is because of my profound and deepest love for us as a people that I have written this. If it stings, I ask that you sit with it before you respond, think on it, re-read it. Ask yourself why you feel stung. Then decide if you will choose indignation and anger or if you are ready to roll up your sleeves. We need us all.
NOTE: I have written this referencing the current issues of black people and law enforcement in the media. But this narrative of police brutality is not limited to LGBTQ people. It includes Latino, Indigenous and Asian/Pacific Islanders who are also more likely to be targeted by the police than whites .