by Adison Quin Petti
Co-founder, Colorado Springs Queer Collective
2016 has marked another historic year for queer/trans communities.
In March 2016, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory introduced House Bill 2. The Public Facilities Security and Privacy Act requires anyone using bathrooms in public schools and agencies to use only those designated for the sex noted on their birth certificates—thus barring transgender employees and students from using the bathroom consistent with their gender identities. When the U.S. Department of Justice notified him that the bill likely violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he angrily called it “Washington overreach”. Echoing his stance, The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education even ruled favor of allowing defensive sprays, like mace or pepper spray, on its school campuses beginning this fall. Board member Chuck Hughes, for example, voiced support of students carrying sprays, saying it could be a useful weapon should transgender students be allowed to use the restroom that matches their gender identity. This example, already familiar to many states throughout the U.S, illustrates how “denial of bathroom access perpetuates the “othering” of trans people and leads to the continued violence and harassment of trans people nation-wide”.
Leadership’s response to HB2 has been sharp, sparking a sweep of federal actions last week.
On May 9th, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced “a significant law enforcement action” to file a Federal Civil Rights claim against the State of North Carolina, Governor Pat McCrory, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, and the University of North Carolina. Lynch explicitly challenged the assertion that HB2 was designed to protect vulnerable communities. She was also uncommonly clear on the interrelated significance of Jim Crow, Brown v. Board of Education, and a history of state bans against same sex partnerships. Calling on a shared commitment to inclusion, diversity and equality for all Americans, Lynch ended by speaking directly to trans people– “we see you; we stand with you; and we will do everything we can to protect you going forward. Please know that history is on your side”.
Now is a critical moment to heed these words seriously.
It is especially critical for LGBTQ and allied leadership locally. Because trans people have already fought– and are universally tired of– bathroom bills. While we often celebrate pronouncements for victory, we frequently fail to directly recognize or address the deeply embedded challenges that remain in our own backyards. Allowing old and shallow attacks on queer/trans communities to dominate our message and resources — from bathroom bills to marriage equality– continues to perpetuate harm within our communities. It distracts our attention from pressing challenges like war and poverty, and actively –not passively– diverts time, energy, and financial resources from collaborative movements for racial, economic, and reproductive justice in our neighborhoods. For these reasons, it will no longer suffice to rely on recycled soundbites for political contributions or corporate campaigns if we truly hope to press past “trending news” or address inequality. Recent history shows that securing and protecting LGBTQ freedoms increasingly necessitates a willingness to engage in direct action and a radical shift in our own rhetoric, rather than in the oppressor’s alone.
Now is the time to elevate queer discourse publicly.
During her 2016 visit to Colorado Springs, Reverend Yvette Flunder called for “a more radical inclusivity. Her message ran parallel to many of the issues that concern local organizations in our community, like Colorado Springs Queer Collective and NAACP, whose struggles for liberation are inextricably linked. We can no longer champion justice or decry civil rights violations for trans folks in public facilities if we are simultaneously unwilling to organize and engage more meaningfully around the needs of people in prison, youth of color, or families experiencing hunger and homelessness.
The 2016 theme for Colorado Springs’ 26th Annual Pride Parade and Festival is “Building Community”.
Building from a social justice framework is vital to create the safe and inclusive communities we envision here. While LGBTQ folks have gained tremendous support from our allies, we often struggle to be strong or visible allies ourselves. To begin, we must amplify and reconnect with our roots. Originally drafted in 1993, The International Bill of Gender Rights offers a universal standard for the right to freely define and express one’s own gender; the right to secure and retain employment with just compensation; the right to access gendered space and participate in gendered activities; the right to change and control one’s own body; the right to competent and professional medical care; freedom from involuntary psychiatric diagnosis or treatment; and the right to exert sexual, reproductive, and parental agency. LGBTQ and allied leaders have a special responsibility to uphold these ideals. As Head of the Civil Rights Division, Vanita Gupta remarked, “Throughout the arc of our country’s history – from tragedies of injustice to marches for equality – there have been pivotal moments when America’s leaders chose to stand up and speak out to safeguard the ideal of equal justice under law.
Now is the time to advance this standard for all people.
Colorado Springs Queer Collective fosters community leadership, education, and empowerment. Our mission is to address inequality, reinvest in the local economy, and celebrate the creative contributions of queer, trans, and two-spirit communities. We lead with a visible commitment to intersectional and intergenerational work.
Queer Collective’s 2015-2016 theme was “Race, Class, and Gender in Colorado Springs. Our 2016-2017 theme is “Radical Inclusivity” following the recent visit by Bishop Yvette Flunder. Please join us for #QUEERFEST and The 2nd Annual People’s March July 9th-10th 2Q16 in Downtown Colorado Springs.