Queerness & Fear
As queer people, it takes existential courage to live our lives. We live in a culture where we are routinely harassed, bashed and discriminated against. Homophobia and transphobia are deeply engrained in the culture. I have faced prejudice and discrimination my whole life as a trans and queer person. It has taken a lot out of me to be sure, and in fact I believe it is going to shorten my life span. There is good data that minority stress takes its toll on all marginalized groups in the U.S. and beyond. While there are many positive things associated with being queer for me, I never sugar-coat the experience or de-emphasize the very real systemic oppression that we face.
Given this reality of oppression, it is not surprising that we often live our lives in fear. We are fearful to come out of the closet. We are fearful to walk the streets as gender diverse people. People are afraid to walk hand and hand with their same-gender partner. People are afraid of discrimination in their workplace. People are afraid of being denied housing. Youth are afraid of being ejected from their house. Queer people are fearful of being brutalized by the police. Queer elders are afraid of discrimination in assisted living facilities. The list goes on and on.
I have been afraid so many times due to my sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Fear has almost become a constant. As stated in my first post, I do not believe “getting rid” of fear is the answer. It is figuring out how to live with it. Because in order to get rid of our fear, we need to get rid of systemic oppression. The reasons for our fear is real. How could we not be afraid given the forces that are aligned against us? The same goes for People of Color, People with Disabilities and other marginalized groups. Intersectional oppression means that people that occupy multiple targeted identities face double or triple the amount of oppression.
It can seem like a hopeless situation. What serves as an antidote to the fear for me is courage. Courage is standing up to the oppressor, looking them square in the face, and demanding that we be treated as full and equal citizens and humans. Whether one comes or not, one can fight for what’s right, and that includes liberation for the whole spectrum of rainbow identities. In addition to courage, I believe that determination can combat fear. I believe that perseverance can outlive fear. And I believe that love can overpower hate. If you are going to be an activist, it means that you must be determined and that you must persevere. Being an activist does not mean a week or a month or a year. It is a life-long commitment. That takes courage and determination and perseverance. It may involve a spiritual component, as the setbacks and opposition are tremendous and spirituality can give people the strength to continue the struggle. It is not a straight upward line to freedom. There are lots of fits and starts. And our opponents can ramp up the fear-mongering, causing us to fear for our lives and the people in the dominant group to fear us.
One of my favorite quotes is by Audre Lorde. “When I dare to be powerful—to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” Lorde was a Black, Lesbian, Socialist, Mother, Warrior, Poet who wrote and fought for social justice her entire life until she passed away in 1992. I like this quote because it is telling us to go for it, to reach for it, to fight for it. It is telling us to be powerful and strong, and not to let fear be an impediment for the realization of our most liberatory and revolutionary visions of a new world. Icons like Lorde inspire us to shoot for the stars, because this is our one and only precious life and we are ordained by the Universe to live it with integrity and courage. As queer people, our lives are filled with fear. But they are also filled with courage, and that gives me hope for the dawning of a radically different world.