I want queer dance parties who take queer dollars to cut this shit out. now. even better retroactively with bountiful reparations given to all of us who’ve experienced this kind of violence.
I want them to be accountable to the people they are supposedly welcoming, to change their practices and principles and understand the kind of power over people who are navigating multiple forms of oppression and violence every day. I want them to come up with principles around holding relationships that they don’t understand because of their privilege and holding lives and experiences that they have benefited from but do not actually know. My most recent experience was this weekend. On Friday night my partner and I went to “SECRET POP UP” Brooklyn Queer dance party at Cubana Social and unsurprisingly experienced multiple levels of oppression and violence throughout our time there.
What Elizabeth & I wrote to the party organizers, expanded for my blog:
My partner Elizabeth and I are a couple in a relationship – one of us identifies as trans and a woman, and the other as genderqueer and commonly read as a woman. We went to a queer party that we knew little about—meaning we had no reason to believe it would be a safe or welcoming space for us. To be honest, we were slightly surprised that we made it into the party easily, given that the bouncer seemed to be profiling people in some way as to whether they were fit to enter (see RACISM and also assumptions of queer bodies).
Being a queer couple that routinely gets targeted with violence because people don’t understand our relationship and as a result seem to threaten people in queer and non-queer spaces (AKA all of them), we’re accustomed to being misread, violated, humiliated, and hurt. But we got through the door just fine — it was minutes later, as we were passing by the bar, that we were confronted. I was walking ahead, and was cruised as I passed someone who was dancing. When that person saw that I was with Elizabeth, they aggressively pressed their ass up against Elizabeth and cornered Elizabeth at the bar, grinding and loudly saying “She wants to get BI” over and over again while Elizabeth was telling them to stop.
Not only was this person making a tired and unfunny bisexual joke while invasively and unconsensually touching Elizabeth, they were misreading of who we are, while violently physically crossing boundaries.
This happened over and over again in front of these people’s friends, who I asked to intervene and whom did nothing to stop the situation. We continued to be harassed until we left the party. This happened in public in full view of many people and not one person from the party or staff checked in to see if we were ok or to find out what happened.
All this after the Hey Queen conversation and activism to have queer dance spaces stop devaluing lives.
We wrote to the party organizers encouraging them be more intentional about how they create space and reflect on what values they uphold. We all know that by maintaining the same old principles so often used to exile trans women and relationships that aren’t understand as queer from queer community but adding “and all gender identities” to your statements will not make for a less oppressive or safer space. When you tell someone a space is theirs, you really need to both mean and practice it.
This was not an exceptional experience. We knew exactly what was happening because it’s happened so many times before. But we responded differently than we have previously because witnessing so much violence, loss, and death has affected the way we experience being pushed out of community spaces. What I mean by this is that these experiences no longer can feel like our fault in any way— for years, we would feel terrible about ourselves, get in arguments about how we respond to violence, feel powerless that we couldn’t protect each other, feel confused about why none of our friends ever saw or recognized the things we were experiencing, try to believe that if we acted differently we’d be able to have a good time. And now, no matter how much personal shit we carry that tells us that we don’t deserve to be valued and loved and alive, it’s just too clear that being exiled from queer space and community resources costs people’s lives. We can’t not know: creating and perpetuating queer space that allows for assumptions and judgements of people’s genders and sexualities is as act of harm.
If this is your experience, then you already understand: there is no easy, or safe social or physical space that holds our relationship. People in queer spaces in particular seem to be under a range of impressions:
That we can pass as straight and therefore experience privilege. I can’t even begin with this one, but it is so violating and pervasive that it must be addressed. When a person is misgendered, this is not a privilege. It is an experience of violence. This, along with assumptions of a person’s sexuality, are generally enacted in a violating if not violent way.
That because one of us identifies as trans and a woman, and the other as genderqueer and commonly read as a woman, there is something invalid about, or missing from, our relationship. As such, people feel entitled to hit on either one of us in front of the other one without knowing anything about how we define our relationship.
That because I’m a queer black trans woman, pretty much anything goes. People feel free to touch me, cut me with their gaze, speak to me however they want without bothering about my consent or desire. Transgressions are constant and most often, nobody else notices when this happens.
That maintaining the same old worldview and behaviors but adding “and trans” to your statements and thinking should make us feel welcome. Holding on to transphobic cultural values while developing a fondness for particular trans women who you can try to fit into your curated cultural spaces is not only disingenuous, it’s actually unsafe for the trans women who you are inviting in.
When you tell someone a space is theirs, you better mean it!
Y’all can do better. We can feel better.