NEWS + BLOG

Hold My Hand, Sing “Kumbaya”

Recently I have witnessed a great deal of conflict within Portland’s local queer community online, in the press, and in real life. Much of this seems to come about as a result of heated debates around social issues, sex, politics, art, and the complicated inner-workings of the LGBT community in PDX (and everywhere). I believe there is much to be learned from conflict, but the way some of this has been playing out lately in the public sphere has felt mean spirited and has been difficult to watch at times.

It is my belief that we were all born inherently kind and connected to one another. Each of us was handed our own set of circumstances at birth, which are sometimes pre-destined long before birth, but most babies are not born angry. As kind queer babies are growing up, we sometimes find ourselves mistreated, abandoned, and ridiculed for being different. We are held down by layer upon layer of systemic oppression buried centuries deep in a culture that has its head shoved so far up its own ass it cannot see the part it plays in the cycle of abuse. This is painful and infuriating.

So what do we do with the fury we carry from having this history? How do we reconcile these justified feelings of outrage? Many of us might not feel powerful enough to take on our families, bosses or governments at the root of our feeling oppressed, so we aim lower and end up putting our pain on one another. Instead of queer people banding together to fight external oppression, we end up oppressing ourselves through infighting. It’s a tale as old as time, but all that cutting our friends amounts to in the end is a divided community, and a divided community is not a strong one.

We are still in the midst of a culture war, friends. While many changes have been made in our favor, we cannot forget that we still live in a country that treats queer people like second-class citizens, and in a state that actively perpetuates this discrimination. I fear sometimes the queer community may be so busy fighting with itself that we forget we are supposed to be organizing a real unified effort for our love, our lives…and that there is true power in numbers. When we spend our time at odds and working in silos instead of enriching each other’s efforts, we chip away at the hard-earned power we do have as a community.

Our fair city holds queers so different from one another it’s sometimes hard to imagine how we all could end up in the same room together, much less at the same table – but there is a place for every single one of us at this table. There just has to be. Each of our queer voices is important and essential to moving us forward as a people. Your lived experiences around love, sex, race, class, violence, religion, family, and all of the struggles that make you human bring a unique perspective to our collective history and your voice must be heard and counted or our history is incomplete.

As someone who believes deeply in a someday world where we are all equal, the question of “How do we get all of these passionate LGBT individuals to work together?” is frequently on my mind. I believe whatever lived experiences we may come from, our end goals are largely the same. I don’t mean to sound Pollyannaish, but we need to somehow remember that we are all on the same team or it is going to take a long time for our movement to actually get somewhere.

You see…the people who would do us harm want us to be fighting with each other. That’s how they keep us down. They don’t want us to get along, because if we get along, we might get organized; and if our 10+ percent of the population ever got truly organized in a unified effort to fight our oppressors, well…we might just have a chance at beating them. The longer we stay living in our local queer bubble cutting one another, the longer they don’t have to worry about cutting us. Under this model, we will ultimately do ourselves in so they won’t have to.

My dream for Portland’s queer community is that we will rise above the norm and come together to work for real, meaningful change; that we will be kinder to one another, assuming good intentions until proven otherwise; that we will insist on having difficult conversations that really nobody wants to have because it’s terribly hard but god damn it we need to have them; and that we will always keep a 40,000 foot view of where we have been, where we are going, and how we are all going to get there…together.

Let’s do this.

Category: Civil Rights, Community, LGBT, life, Love, Non-Profit Work, Portland, Queer, Uncategorized

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