On Queer Anarchism
The following is an interview I had with Gywnevere, an administrator of the Facebook page Pink and Black anarchists, where we discuss her interest in anarchism, an anarchist take on the modern LGBT movement, and finish with how people can learn more about queer anarchism.
1. If you can, tell us a little bit about the history of queer anarchism and how you yourself became an anarchist.
My introduction to the anarchist school of thought has come about rather recently, perhaps within the last six months I have fully come to appreciate where my beliefs lay. However, given my interest in politics, I believe it was inevitable. I grew up listening to Paul Harvey and Rush Limbaugh on the radio with my grandparents, often they’d discuss their feelings on it through their own lens. After 9-11 occurred, my mother joined in on politicking, and my immediate sphere of influence was cemented in as a right-wing echo chamber.
I have known that I was a transgender woman since I was old enough to create memories of the world, and as I began to critique my own beliefs and theirs it began to chip away at the prison which had been constructed around me. As I desired for other people to be free from the same cages I had to deal with, I steadily shifted towards libertarianism of the right. When Obama proposed the Affordable Care Act, I viewed it as an egregious overreach of government, and quickly took to the streets in protest, gave speeches, the whole nine yards. It was during that research that I first discovered the feelings of cognitive dissonance. While pouring through the thousands of pages of the legislation, I could not verify any of the right-wing distortions about it nor any evidence that it could be anything but a blessing for thirty million people. Yet, I still swallowed the bitter pill and forged ahead – ignoring it and my own principles.
From what I have seen these last few months, the history of anarchism is a principled one. More often than the adherents do not, an ethical stance is chosen through careful consideration of the complexities of a topic until it is picked clean as though carrion beetles defleshed it themselves. Emma Goldman’s explanation for why she chose to stand up for her friend Oscar Wilde when he was convicted for his sexuality in the 1900s struck the biggest chord with me, “No daring is required to protest against a great injustice.” Her collection of thoughtful pieces published in 1910, “Anarchism and Other Essays,” shaped the lens through which I burned away my nationalist feelings, my internalized misogyny, and my support for the prison industrial complex. It’s a lens through which I must continuously burn away what society constantly heaps upon us. Beyond hearing of other names here and there, I know little of the exact history of anarchism, as often state education glosses over an individual’s ties to the community, their contributions, or the individual entirely. However, I continue to add writings and facts to my knowledge daily, and I hope others will take the opportunity to do the same with me. We all must start somewhere.
2. In what ways do you on an individual level interact with the mainstream LGBT movement, if at all?
I believe that the biggest way in which I interact with the community is by being very vocal, proud, and unapologetically secure in who I am as a femandrogyne individual. However, many of my friends are also somewhere in the community – even prior to my own coming out. If there was one issue which would make my blood boil during a holiday with my immediate family around it was the rights for LGBTQIA+ people. I still flashback to July 4, 2012 where I yelled at my grandmother for being ignorant and stormed off to another room while being yelled after by the two reactionaries left in the room. That incident uncorked the bottle on feeling as though the ideology I was a member of was wrong and that I should begin to be extremely vocal when something was an injustice – no matter the victim. After all, at that point in time, I was simply an “ally.”
These days I spend most of my time posting thoughts into the void as myself based on the identities that intersect with my own life. For the past two years or so, I’ve also been running a page focused on bringing positivity or select information to individuals of the LGBTQIA+ community, but with the recent election results that has been ever-so-slightly changed. Keeping up morale and sharing information, both behind the scenes and at the forefront, has been my life for the last several years as I have grown to understand myself and others.
3. Why would you say that'd the history of LGBT people, especially more radical instances such as Stonewall, are glossed over while simultaneously being held up as important events in US history?
I do not recall ever hearing about anyone’s sexuality when studying at public school or in any community college classes I had. The first time it was ever acknowledge was in a university course on American literature where the teacher wanted to highlight the identities of the authors so that we could better understand them.
It seems likely that such information is glossed over mainly because it is viewed as trivial. As I often recall seeing in other courses, “It is an exercise better left up to the student to figure out.” I do not believe that is the only reason, however, because many of our textbooks are printed with the state of Texas, my home state, in mind. The Texas State Board of Education has a longstanding history of historical revisionism, inaccuracies, and outright errors which they convince companies to publish, as they are the largest purchaser of school texts in the nation. They carry a lot of weight, thanks in part to how our society has been constructed, and as such they dictate what is emphasized, ignored, and omitted based on their own traditionalist lens. I recall having a set of books for home, a set readily available in the classroom, and a set in the back storage if either were damaged, a grand total of six textbooks, for a single English class. I never understood it, in the past.
4. There seems to be a lot of support for groups like HRC, which in reality is a hotbed of white gay men who aid each other (I will include the link later) to the detriment of lesbians and transgender people. Why do you suppose this is?
If I am perfectly honest, I believe it is the byproduct of a traditionalist society within which we live. The clear majority of us were indoctrinated within households that viewed the male figure as superior or dominant which arose from the major influence that Christianity has had on our country’s society both past and present. Couple that view of male superiority with the white supremacy that seethes within the United States, and it gives the predominant figure which is likely to be chosen to “normalize” LGBTQIA+ people: a white gay man. It is not that other platforms which aid transgender and lesbian individuals do not exist, it is merely that the most “socially acceptable” ones as described previously bubble to the top in our social consciousness.
5. Are there any strategies you use to get people, especially LGBT people, to understand that it is OK for LGBT people to defend themselves from violence? As we have seen, the only acceptable LGBT person is one who sits there smiling, while the other person screams that they should die and are going to hell.
I try to engage with them both in public and in private to help them grapple with their fear of direct action or their pacifist/peaceful ways. I share the resources that I have used to help me to shape my own stances on when violence is justified or not. I believe that the only way through which we can help people overcome our natural desire to protect everyone against those who cannot fathom such altruistic behavior without incentive is directly. One-on-one. Engaging with our friends, family, or even acquaintances and getting them to a level to where they may engage with others trying to fathom the kind of brutish behavior exhibited by those with a reckless disregard for those which lay beyond their in-group.
6. How can people learn more about LGBT anarchism?
Reading. Seeking out information. Filling one’s mind with the observations and critiques which combine ethos, pathos, and logos in powerful ways. I found that “Queering Anarchism: Addressing and Undressing Power and Desire” (2013) by Deric Shannon et. al. was a deeply insightful work which helped solidify my feelings about anarchism in place. It discusses why we must protect one another within this community, and those who have yet to realize they are a part of it, with our love and our actions. “Resistance to Civil Government” (1849) by Thoreau, while not particularly tied to LGBT anarchism, I believe is also a necessary read as it highlights the struggle to apply pacifism when the laws themselves are unjust and unethical. There’s so much information online and elsewhere, but with this starting point I hope individuals that are just realizing that their liberty is at stake and threatened will gain as much information as they can as quickly as possible so that we may move forward together.