Queer Poets in Revolt
March 8, 2018
As a part of the Poetry Coalition’s new initiative Where My Dreaming and My Loving Live: Poetry & the Body, Lambda Literary invited poets to respond to the theme with a short essay. (Read last week’s contribution by Raquel Salas Rivera here.)
“I believe in social dislocation and creative trouble.”
November 2018 will have anti-LGBTQ referendums and measures in the voting booths in half a dozen states like Iowa, Kentucky, and Alaska. The “Massachusetts Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Veto Referendum” has been spurring the most conversation because everyone wants Massachusetts and the North in general to pose as a liberal safety zone. Pose is all it has ever done, frankly, with an extraordinarily high number of suicides and murders among LGBTQ people, especially African American trans women. I had a conversation with a rich white straight couple from Vermont, the kind of Democrats who typify the argument Stokely Carmichael makes when he says, “What a liberal really wants is to bring about change that will not in any way endanger his position.” I do not remember who brought up the Massachusetts referendum, but the couple used the same mindless talking points many people like them have made: “There’s no way it will go through,” and, “Everyone needs to calm down,” and my favorite, “You’re making a mountain out of a molehill!”
You can read the vicious Massachusetts referendum at this link.
The trick to it is that many uninformed liberal voters will click “No,” thinking they are doing the right thing, when they really need to be clicking “Yes.” It is the “Yes” vote that fortifies a former senate bill protecting our LGBTQ community from discriminatory practices. But in my argument with the couple from Vermont I said, “We need to understand just how violent it is that this referendum exists at all!” State-sanctioned violence begins with such measures. Even if it does not go through, it endangers LGBTQ people just by the fact that there is a law many people rallied around and signed petitions to have on the ballot that would make us third-class citizens, threatening to have us evicted from hotels, restaurants, or wherever else they want. And of course the right to threaten eviction is a mere step away from endorsing physical violence.
In my latest book, While Standing in Line for Death (Wave, 2017), there are three political action poetry writing rituals. One is titled “Power Sissy Intervention #1: Queer Bubbles.” After the anti-transgender, anti-queer HB2 law in North Carolina was passed, I was on the streets at demonstrations with many brave, strong trans and queer people. For me the demonstrations were the vital meeting spaces not only for us to shout louder with our collective volume, but also to feel and know our solidarity as real. I was unconvinced that the liberal town of Asheville, North Carolina was as progressive as it purports to be. With my Queer Bubbles poetry ritual I sat on a lawn chair on a very busy street corner one Saturday afternoon where many feel-good Democrats like to stroll and window-shop with their children. I had a giant container of bubbles and a large plastic wand and would blow bubbles, filling the air with them until everyone said, “Ooo and ahh,” and the children gathered around me catching them with their little hands. When their parents would walk near me I looked up from my chair and said, “These are queer bubbles and they are going to make your children queer revolutionaries who will help rid the world of transphobia, homophobia, racism, misogyny, classism and other forms of stupidity.” Some of the Asheville hippy parents thought it was great and said they will love their children no matter what, and frankly their children seemed to be the happiest among the squealing kids trying to catch the iridescent orbs. Most parents however were not happy about my queer bubbles and grabbed their children and pulled them away, but like all good liberals they felt guilty and would always say, “Sorry, sorry,” as they quickly walked off. I would say after them, “What are you sorry for? You better be sorry, especially when your kids grow up to be queers!” Terrorizing parents with bubbles is one way I have a different kind of conversation about the violence many are complicit in with their faux-political concerns.
This year we queers need to be active in all of the states with anti-LGBTQ measures in their voting booths. We need to rally again! I propose statewide protests with mock funerals and creative forms of conversation with the public about the very real violence the lawmakers in these states are currently bringing to our LGBTQ community whether the bills pass or not. We need to be writing to companies in these states, demanding their assistance—or we will call for a boycott of their products and services until they give it. We need to be writing to pop singers, athletes, and other touring professionals to garner their support in boycotting these states until the laws of safety are made equitable. We need to be on the streets together to see one another, acknowledge our collective strength in surviving this world. When I think of my time on the streets with ACT UP, where I first met my boyfriend Earth who was later murdered, I’m not as sad about what is happening all these decades later as I am angry. Let our anger come together on the streets before November, let’s let the world know our days of living in terror of violence for being LGBTQ is over! If some lawmakers think safety is too much to ask for, then let us be as unreasonable as possible until we make our security seen as a basic human right! ENOUGH! Be well, and see you on the streets!
A 2018 Lambda Literary Award Finalist, CAConrad is the author of 9 books of poetry and essays; the latest is titled While Standing in Line for Death (Wave Books, 2017). A recipient of a Pew Fellowship in the Arts for Literature, they also received The Believer Magazine Book Award and The Gil Ott Book Award. CA is currently working on a (Soma)tic poetry ritual titled “Resurrect Extinct Vibration,” which investigates effects the vibrational absence of recently extinct species has on the body of the poet and the poems. They teach regularly at the Sandberg Art Institute in Amsterdam and their books, essays, films, interviews, rituals and other publications can be found online at http://bit.ly/88CAConrad.