BLM 2017 Toronto Pride

BLM-TO at the Toronto Pride Parade – June 25, 2017. Photo by Kami Chisholm.

The LGBT “community” has a racism and white supremacy problem.

There is a long history of sexual minorities embracing fetishes for uniforms in combination with the promotion of fascist, racist, militaristic, nationalistic, and/or other violent and discriminatory institutions (including the police). From Ernst Rohm, who, with a cadre of other gay men, ran the SS and was instrumental in the Nazi’s rise to power (before they were all purged and executed for being homosexual), to rights-based organizing for LGBT “inclusion” in the military, to contemporary affinities among some for the “rights” of police to parade in uniform at LGBT events, there is no shortage today of  LGBT people and organizations who feel quite comfortable expressing – mostly, but not only, online – their racist and white supremacist beliefs.

To wit: a handful of vocal police-in-uniform fetishists in Toronto this year were so upset about the exclusion of the police as an institution from Toronto pride that they decided to run their own pro-cop “Unity Festival” at the same time as the Toronto Pride Parade. They brought in a giant screen and live streamed the NYC pride parade so that they could watch cops from Toronto, NYC and elsewhere parade in uniform and otherwise share their love for the same institution that continues to inflict harm, abuses, and harassment on queer and trans communities (including sex workers, not to mention setting up sting operations in known queer cruising ares) as well as communities of color and Indigenous communities.

Thankfully, support for explicitly white supremacist and fascist organizing – well, that is, beyond organizing for hate crimes and military inclusion, which is implicitly but less overtly fascist and white supremacist – at this point still seems fairly limited. Less than a dozen people appear to have turned out for the “unity festival,” while 10s of thousands screamed with support for the Black Lives Matter contingent in the pride parade (a truly awesome display like I have never seen or heard… and I was there for the entirety of the parde documenting the BLM march). We also only spotted a less than a dozen detractors who felt compelled to openly deride BLM as they marched, out of the thousands in the crowd.

Few turn out to pro-cop Toronto "unity festival"

Few turn out to pro-cop Toronto “unity festival,” where a screen was erected to allow the small crowd to watch police march in uniform in New York City’s pride parade. Photo courtesy of CBC.

 

However, while racist/white supremacist LGBT people may, for the most part at this time, prefer to promote their ideology and hate online rather than coming together in groups in public, their posts in online forums, not to mention the direct harassment and threats that they send to BLM as a group and to prominent queers of color, such as Pride Toronto’s Executive Director Olivia Nuamah (whom Bryn Hendricks, the primary organizer of the “unity festival,” doxxed last month on his Facebook and Twitter profiles – and yes, I have screenshots), are no small issue and contribute to a climate of hostility and violence/fear of violence that is actually unparalleled outside of more “traditional” heteronormative white supremacist organizing on and offline.

Perhaps you think I am exaggerating. So let me show you what I am talking about, though I am going to do it on a separate page so that those who do not wish to read racist, anti-Black commentary do not have look at it here. All that happened yesterday was this: a group of Black queer and trans people marched in the Toronto Pride parade. They marched mostly silently, sometimes with fists raised in the Black power salute, and occasionally they chanted slogans like “Black lives matter, Black queer lives matter, Black trans lives matter.” They carried signs challenging the racism and anti-Blackness they and many others have experienced from LGBT people in the past year since their sit in at pride in 2016. They asserted their right to exist, not to mention take part in pride festivities along with everyone else. Here are a few of the signs, designed by fabulous local Black artist Syrus Marcus Ware:

Black Lives Matter signs

BLM protesters carry signs saying “May we never again need to remind you that we, too, are queer – BLACK LIVES MATTER” and “May we never again need to remind you that WE built this – BLACK LIVES MATTER”. Poster designs by Syrus Marcus Ware. Photo by Kami Chisholm.

 

All these Black queer and trans people did was march, just like everyone else, except with explicitly pro-queer/Black messaging. Yet there is an onslaught of mostly (though not entirely) white LGBT vitriol taking over Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere in response to news reports documenting this march. And while these active anti-Black racists and white supremacists are by all evidence only a small minority among the Toronto queer and LGBT communities, the space they take up, not to mention the psychic and other harm caused to those who come into contact with their incessant ravings, is nonetheless significant.

I’m not going to repeat the racist slurs, you can read them for yourselves but you can see here commentary that is typical (and largely repetitive) of that I have been documenting for the past year. Commenters describe Black queer people taking part in the pride parade as terrorists, bullies, racists, supremacists, patsies of George Soros, and a cancer. Following in the step of those outraged at Black/BLM organizing to end police violence by deflecting and asking why they don’t focus on”black on black crime” instead, commenters repeatedly ask why BLM is “bothering” LGBT people by challenging anti-Black racism within LGBT spaces rather than protesting homophbia in Black communities (a stereotypical trope that refuses the possibility of Black queer and trans people and presumes that homphobia is more prevalent in communities of color than among white people)  at Caribana, an annual Caribean/people of color festival held in Toronto. There is also the typical erasure of violence and racism toward black communities, queer trans straight and cis alike, with the invocation of “all lives matter.” And the commenters talk about how the pride parade should be “inclusive” while denigrating Black people for participating in the same sentence.

For too long LGBT communities, and white LGBT people in particular, have promoted the message that to be “pro-gay” – regardless of how narrowly construed such expressions may be, and regardless of whether pro-gay movements are actually supporting the same normativities, nationalisms, and endorsements of state violence and institutions that continue to oppress not only many queer and trans people, but also communities of color and other marginalized groups – is to be “progressive.”   White LGBT people openly express the specious notion that to be LGBT is to be inherently progressive and exempt from accusations of racism and white supremacy. White LGBT people also perpetuate the notion that they are the oppressed, not the oppressors, that many groups and individuals have clearly become. (See the work of Against Equality, Dean Spade, and others to learn more about this)

But there is a reason why so many nation-states have in recent years declared themselves pro-LGBT, why same-sex marriage is now the law, why LGBT organizing for inclusion in the military has been successful. And it is a simple one: the inclusion of certain pro-state, assimilationist LGBT people into these institutions does not challenge them, it supports, bolsters, and legitimizes them. This is called pinkwashing, and governments such as the US, Canada, and Israel have become masterful at wrapping themselves in the pride flag – and using all of us who identify as queer or LGBT or related identities – as cover for their atrocities at home and abroad. And by atrocities I am first and foremost speaking about how these states use notions of LGBT rights, or “protecting” LGBT people, to justify settler colonialism, war, imperialism, mass murder, and genocide. This is what is being done by these states, in our names.

Racism and white supremacy in LGBT communities is not a new thing: it has been part and parcel not only of the actions of individuals but is endemic to the most prominent LGBT “rights” organizations, which is largely why “movements” for marriage, military, and hate crimes laws have been so successful. But these “successes,” along with the near eradication of police violence towards gender normative and white LGBT people (but not toward people of color of all genders and sexualities, and many others), are not progress. They are simply the marker of of elite LGBT people and institutions’ complicity with state violence and the marginalization of everyone else that doesn’t share their wealth, race, gender normativity, and other privileges.

The LGBT community has a racism and white supremacy problem. So what are we going to do about it?

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Categories: Racism