Some people have to fight for what they have

I am writing in to express my outrage regarding the two letters condemning Coming Out Week on Wednesday. Neither of these commentators seem to understand the circulation of power in our culture. As cultural critic Bell Hooks contends, we live in a white-supremacist, capitalist, patriarchy. Under these interlocking systems of domination, women, people of color, poor and working-class folks and gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex people are systematically devalued, denied rights and oppressed. GLBT people have survived a painful legacy and fought for tremendous changes to our society. We have every right to be proud and to celebrate the many positive contributions that queer people, people of color and feminists have made to our society.

When Barrett Evans states that queer activism is “heinously annoying” he is delivering a slap in the face to the many strong and proud warriors who have fought to radically change the nature of gender and sexuality in the US. Countless people have fought and died so that he, an “openly gay male,” can enjoy the many privileges he has today. As a queer, feminist, transgender individual, I feel that I must be very visible and in-your-face to confront the multiple layers of heterosexism, transphobia and misogyny which pervade our society. Who is Evans to state that “no one cares” about Coming Out week or about GLBT activism? I am greatly disheartened when I think of the relative apathy of so many people in today’s society and by those who think that everything is hunky-dory or that the battle for liberation and equality is over.

That battle continues and we will fight that battle on multiple levels. While Heffelfinger calls for “discussion,” “unheated debate,” and “level-headedness,” Evans asks for a “mature, civilized way” that appeals to the intellect. While all of these represent some tactics for achieving social change, they are by no means the only ones or even the most effective ones. Radical, militant tactics, including demonstrations, street-theatre and even heated confrontations, are what have often helped to turn the tide of bigotry in this country.

We have seen such tactics from the feminist, queer, civil rights and anti-war movements for decades now and they are often highly successful. My own tactical preference is to be bold, audacious, righteously indignant and flamboyant. Now more than ever, it is important for all of us to question the status quo and demand an end to the painful inequalities which plague our culture. I will continue to be “bombastic” and raise my fist in the air until the severe violence, bigotry and discrimination that I and countless others have faced due to their gender, class, race and/or sexual orientation is a remnant of the past. In closing, I wish to thank the organizers of Coming Out Week and the planners of all other events on campus which work to challenge the status quo and create socio-cultural transformation. Your efforts are not in vain; they contribute to building a world worth living in for ALL members of the human family.

Joelle Ruby Ryan