Liberation is one of my favorite words in the English language. [Though it sounds even cooler in French: libération.] Liberation is defined as “the gaining of equal rights or full social or economic opportunities for a particular group or the gaining of protection from abuse or exploitation.” To me, liberation is freedom. But above and beyond that it is the fight for freedom: freedom from exploitation, freedom from abuse, freedom from discrimination and freedom from oppression. It is a word that can go after so many different fights for freedom: women’s liberation; animal liberation; Black liberation; queer liberation; disabled liberation, etc.
Liberation is radical and revolutionary in scope. It moves beyond traditional democracy or liberalism. It becomes radical in that it wants to get down to the root. It is revolutionary in that it is a forcible overthrow of the government or a general social order in favor of a very different, entirely new system. When I think of liberation, I feel hope. Liberal democracy is not going to cut it. In an era of Trump, an era of absolute political reactionaryism, then liberation is a gleaming, shining prize sitting atop the mountain. It is going to take tremendous effort to achieve, but it is exactly what we need to save material lives and take people out the condition of mental slavery.
I will take liberation and put it in a queer concept since this blog is entitled concepts queered. In recent decades, there has been a continuous push away from queer liberation. Queer liberation was what happened at the Stonewall Inn in 1969 and in the immediate time afterwards. It was dedicated to a complete overhaul. It was not interested in placing gays and lesbians [bi and trans people were not really being talked about] into a discrete minority group. Under queer liberation, there was a desire to liberate the queer in the entire population. There was an understanding that same-sex/gender eroticism and gender nonconformity was something that everyone could enjoy and benefit from, not just self-identified gays and lesbians. Everyone was queer. And the goal of queer liberation was to help the entire populace to realize their inherent queerness.
In addition, queer liberation meant an overhaul of society where no one was discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. This included queer people of color, poor and working-class queer people, disabled queers, gender variant queers, incarcerated queers and everyone else. When we look at the trajectory of the gay/lesbian movement, it has become very conservative. It has become about the ability to adopt children, the ability to serve in the oppressive, imperialistic U.S. military and the ability to enter into the hyper-patriarchal institution of marriage. These things have nothing to do with queer liberation. In fact, under a queer liberationist framework, marriage and military would be abolished, not strengthened through the participation of LGBT people.
Liberation is, as you can see, far reaching. It demands fundamental transformations to the status quo of society. It is not, however, impossible. We must keep our eyes on the prize. We must have a vision of what this looks like or we will never be able to reach it. I breathe in the sweet scent of queer liberation and I am fortified. I am cajoled to push for the kind of society I actually want to live in. Liberation is not dead. In fact, the current evil of Trumpism is incubating it. It will be seen in our lifetime as the people can only labor under this much oppression for so long. It is in reach and we must always remember that.