I can remember the first time I visited Chicago, Illinois. This Nebraska-raised queer, was not only awed by the bustling streets and towering buildings, but the displays of “queerness,” I had never dreamed of experiencing. Sitting at a cafe on Michigan Avenue, I witnessed, from my perspective, a queer couple walking hand-in-hand, culminating in a kiss at a red-lighted intersection. Initially, I was emotionally preparing myself for a mob of people to devour the pair in the name of “decency” and a “moral high-ground,” but to my astonishment, nobody seemed to be affected by two queers kissing.
Four months later, I flew west of Nebraska for the first time in my life, at age 19. Mesmerized by seeing the Grand Canyon, mountains, and an ocean below the airplane, I found myself confronted with a daunting reality, the world is really big. Spending five days in Los Angeles, participating in Pride events, and merely walking around, I was again, completely taken aback. Queer expression, couples, flags, and representation was everywhere. I was both overjoyed and saddened, envious of the seemingly abundant external community queers provide one another in these places.
Now far be it from me to assert that if you are queer and live in New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles, your life has been easy, fair, or without the presence of bigotry. I am merely attempting to point out the different between spaces which are open to allowing visibility, and spaces where queers are actively mandated to remain invisible. Progressive cities are pragmatic places for queers to reside, ‘Boystown’ in Chicago or ‘West Hollywood’ in L.A. are communities where queerness is celebrated, uplifted, and allowed to function as a norm. Queers built the communities they are now thriving in across the country. Larger concentrations of queers, allow for a promotion of queer visibility, acceptance, respect, and a sense of support. However, it is absolutely vital, that activists and organizations in these places remember that this country does not function in such a supportive way everywhere.
Access to university scholarships, specifically for queer minority students, in Middle America, is practically nonexistent. As I applied to college, databases with scholarship opportunities for queer students were disproportionately available to coastal students. I was disheartened to find scholarship after scholarship defined as for New York or California students only. While the secular moralities of ‘red’ states may perpetuate anti-queer agendas, ignoring the communities which exist within their boundaries is equally detrimental to achieving a thriving queer family. Scholarships, programs for queer youth, supportive networking, and resources extended to queers in ‘red’ communities are not only imperative, they are our responsibility as a queer family to protect and safeguard our most vulnerable.
The plight of disenfranchised queers in ‘red’ America exists. “Religious Freedom” bills are rampant in ‘red’ states. Denying adoption rights to queer couples, allowing establishments to refuse service to queer individuals, and leaving employment, housing, human rights violations to be in the hands of specific communities.
As our political climate ushers in a mentality of “state” level decisions, it is important to keep in mind what this truly means. If the “legalization” of marriage equality happens to be overturned during the coming years, the states who will be affected are the ones who did not legalize marriage equality on an individual basis. Interesting, those states would happen to also be a majority of ‘red’ states.
When visibility has been secularly “achieved,” it can be difficult to remember about those, even in your own communities, who are still fighting for “existence.” Trans* people, non-binary people, gender-variant people, and queers who are not the “face” of cis queerness, exist. Many of us are still fighting to be allowed existence in spaces. Our seeking of “visibility” is, at this point, dangerous and life threatening.
The revolutionary work of activists, allies, and movements across this country are not only commendable, they are vital. When women rise, queers rise. When racial inequality is confronted, queers rise. When cis, queer people are allowed to be visible, it is inherently unacceptable for trans* and non-binary people to remain fighting for existence. When queers rise, we must do so together. All of us.
These issues must transcend political ideologies. A person’s right to visibility is not political, it is personal and humane. A person’s liberation should not be drawn along congressional district lines and by the permission of a court’s decree.
We breathe, we are due the right to be.
We exist. We deserve advocacy. We deserve solidarity. We are a part of the queer family too. If we want change, we must do so together. That includes acknowledging cis power in society, racism in the queer community, and the divides that exist between urban and rural, blue and red, communities and how they support minorities.
Sincerely in Ink and Radical Love,
Above is a link to the Human Rights Campaign’s interactive map of LGBTQ+ policies and institutional visibility by states. As a tool for you to know your current policies, but also as a way to compare “policy” maps to the electoral college map above. Take note of which states do not recognize Transgender healthcare, which states do not have discrimination/ hate crime laws in place, and their correspondence to ‘red’ states above. These are the places where the queer community is going to suffer the most from problematic conservative and anti-queer agendas.