The struggle for equality is far from over, despite what your social media streams might still be suggesting this week. Now is as appropriate a time as ever to educate yourself on the less visible histories and continuing struggles of the LGBT movement; a good place to start is this crucial Creative Time Reports op-ed penned last week by NYC artists Darkmatter, a/k/a the trans South Asian collaborative duo made of Janani Balasubramanian and Alok Vaid-Menon. The piece serves as both a history lesson and an interrogation of the hypocritical nature of contemporary pride culture, looking at the ways ‘pride’ as a concept has been co-opted by banks and other corporations. It also outlines the ways in which LGBT communities still continue to be more prone to poverty and overpolicing. “An LGBT movement that focuses on very narrow agendas is not serving a community that, as a whole, has much more urgent and concrete needs, like housing and jobs,” write DarkMatter. “Yet the attitude of some of the most visible LGBT rights organizations seems to be: who needs bread when you can eat wedding cake?”
Further, on their Facebook page, DarkMatter have offered their take on how in recent days, media messaging has tried to position trans rights as a new priority for the LGBT movement. Their full post is below:
This whole “Trans rights is the new priority” fiasco needs to stop. This framing of the trans struggle as a “new” priority absolves Gay INC of its complicity in literally stealing from us, pathologizing us, harming us and erasing us. Trans people have been here lying under your bus forever. We were actually the old struggle of this movement — we just got kicked out of it.
Let’s get a few things straight:
1. The separation of “gay” from “trans” and “sexuality” from “gender identity” has a political history. This distinction was a conscious strategy to make the gay movement more palatable to straight cis white middle class society.
2. “Love” became separated from “Gender” because Gay INC knew that a politics of love would be much more palatable than a politics of gender. “Love” allowed gay activists to say, “We’re just like you!” instead of “We look different from you.” Trans become the repository for difference, for otherness, for transgression.
3. In order for “homosexuality” to become de-pathologized, gender nonconformity had to become re-pathologized. Gayness had to distinguish itself from trans: “We are not freaks like them.” The modern gay subject only emerged in distinguishing him/herself from gender nonconformity.
4. The history of the gay movement is a history of (re)producing the gender binary and gender conformity. It is a history of institutionalized transphobia. The gay movement is foundationally trans violence. It would not exist without trans violence.
5. Now transphobia is discussed with no history or origin story. It’s only discussed as individual episodes of harm and not a structure of violence. This de-historicization of trans violence means that individual trans people are blamed for both their violence and their outrage. People ask, “Why are you so angry?” instead of, “How am I complicit in your oppression?”
6. There is no gay celebration without trans violence. Love won because gender didn’t.
Learn more about DarkMatter’s work, art, appearances, and chapbooks at darkmatterpoetry.com.