maybe my first internet rant

Today I have something to get out of my system. First of all, I’ve been thinking a lot about the “elite” place I was the past four years and when our privileges make us repellant and hurtful without us even knowing.

One of my favorite co-workers has been interning at Occidental College in their LGBTQ center. He is a UC Berkeley graduate, an experienced organizer and activist, and an out, queer person of color. A student emailed him outraged last week because he misidentified the “A” in LGBTQIA+ as “ally” instead of “asexual/aromantic/agender.” My friend apologized in an email to the whole Occidental community:

I recognize that working in the LGBTQIA+ community, identities are fluid, [further] marginalized, changing, or emerging and it is imperative to be aware of all identities, in particular those who have been historically excluded and silenced. Though my intention has always been to be inclusive of all identities, I recognize the impact of a recent email I sent might not have conveyed a message of inclusivity for all LGBTQIA+ identities and for that, I apologize. Thus, I am (and always have been) committed to working with marginalized students and various stakeholders to ensure that the challenges and struggles of marginalized students are prioritized.

The student replied:

Hello,

While I appreciate your apology, I wish that you would have focused more on the harm caused by your mistake rather than your intent. Stating that “A” stands for ally hurt asexual/aromantic/agender folks on campus. It weighed down queer students on campus who are fighting for space in a world that prioritizes the desire of the straight community to feel included and validated. As the Graduate Assistant at the CGE you should be able take criticism as an opportunity for self-reflection and move forward with a focus on compassion for those whose suffering you caused.
I am excited for the work you will do in the future that benefits marginalized communities on campus. I hope you have an excellent day.

Oh no.

In my friend’s apology letter, he points out the importance of lifting up those who have been historically excluded and silenced. This does not include asexual/aromantic people.  This means QPOC, trans* and low income folks. The people who are fighting for their lives should be at the forefront of these students’ activism. 

The history of the mainstream LGBTQ+ movement is one that regularly prioritizes the desires of wealthy white folks who often have used the same tools as their straight counterparts to oppress and marginalize the rest of their community. These students should never forget this legacy or the intersections of race and class, and they should never leave these intersections out of the conversations they have. Fighting for a space in a world that prioritizes straight desire? #whitequeerproblems.

I am all for calling out oppression and microaggressions where they exist i.e. everywhere. But not without historicization and not without context. Of course it is not fun to have your identity erased, and a simple request to my friend to do a better job of including the ever-growing list of identities is totally valid. But: our anger is political. What we choose to protest and who we choose to confront matters. As queer white person who attended a liberal arts college, we are compelled to remember that we do not have a right to center our oppression, ESPECIALLY when talking to QPOC.
My friend no longer wants to work with privileged, white queers. White friends who attend liberal arts colleges. I hope we always historicize our rage and pick our battles and pay attention to who we are speaking to.
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