Thursday, June 30, 2011

Vandalism comes in many forms

Somewhat big news on the LGBT front is that HRC’s Dupont Circle Action(?) Center and Store(!) in D.C. was vandalized over Pride weekend. Apparently a group calling themselves “The Right Honorable Wicked Stepmothers’ Traveling, Drinking and Debating Society and Men’s Auxiliary” (as much as I hate acronyms, I think they need one) took responsibility for the action through a press release. HRC’s interpretation: “…some are more interested in fostering division in the community.” 

A few thoughts…

After living in San Francisco and being indoctrinated in its composting ways, I would disagree with the paint-throwing tactic; it’s not very green. The spray painted “Stonewall” on the sidewalk, while symbolic, will end up washed away into sewer drains, more than likely eventually landing in the drinking water of poor families or what wildlife is left surrounding D.C. No es bueno.

However, there is something to be said about acts of resistance. In its press release, the Urgently In Need of An Acronym group evokes the three nights of Stonewall, ACT-UP and the first Pride march in New York. And while folks at Queerty are right to say that these three historic efforts were all public, I wouldn’t completely dismiss this weekend’s actions as mere irresponsible or drug and alcohol-induced vandalism. I think there is more to unearth here.

To be clear, I am not a member of the pink paint group (I would have insisted on a less tongue-twisting name), nor am I interested in throwing paint or any other materials at people or organizations. But I am interested in thinking about the ways in which acts of resistance serve to agitate and make clear that the status quo institutions pretend to glide through does not go unnoticed. Vandalism comes in many forms.

HRC’s betrayal of Trans folks by standing behind a non-Trans inclusive Employment Nondiscrimination Act was an act of vandalism against our communities. The consistent exclusion of people of color is an act of vandalism against our communities (one report does not constitute inclusion nor relevance). The obscene argument for “incremental gains” is an act of vandalism against our communities.

Our communities have a history of being vandalized. We carry the scars and remnants of the paint of betrayal and indifference thrown at us year after year. This paint is toxic too.

I am not proposing we go on defacing organization’s storefronts or enacting any form of violence. What I am proposing is that we remember and be critical of the fact that HRC and other LGBT institutions have long lost the pulse of our communities (assuming they ever knew how to find our pulse). To assume that embodying values and carrying forward agendas that are at once irrelevant and fundamentally against queer liberation, racial justice, economic justice, gender justice, and so on, without being held accountable is both irresponsible and offensive. This is how division is fostered.

If there’s one thing that pink paint left spelled on the HRC glass, it’s that our communities are watching. 

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