Mon May 27, 2024
May 27, 2024

Building a queer liberation mass movement in North America

By RUSS O’SHEA

Entering pride season 2024, Queer people find ourselves in a world characterized by unprecedented attacks on our rights, environmental devastation, ongoing genocide, and skyrocketing rents and inflation, among other crises. The legal and extralegal offensive against Queer lives has prompted the Human Rights Campaign to declare a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ Americans. Anti-LGBTQ+ bills have reached a historic high in the U.S., with nearly 500 being tracked by the ACLU in legislatures so far this year at the time of writing. Many of these bills target trans people, specifically and especially trans youth, who have found themselves in the crosshairs of a campaign by the ruling class to turn back the clock on limited but hard-won rights and protections.

Queer people are being targeted in every aspect of life, including civil rights, health care, education, employment, and housing. The disproportionate attacks on trans lives are part of a very deliberate agenda to codify trans genocide into law and open the floodgates to attacks on other oppressed people, mostly immediately women and the Queer community as a whole. Thousands of leaked emails dating back to 2019 reveal a task force of right-wing politicians, doctors, lawyers, and religious figures who designed a legal framework to achieve this goal, as reported in a Mother Jones exposé.

More well known is Project 2025, which aims to push the U.S. government further to the right and has been crafted by a coalition of conservative groups, most prominently The Heritage Foundation. A primary focus of this project is destroying LGBTQ+ and other rights.

Around the country, conservatives are calling for books depicting trans and Queer as well as Black characters and topics to be banned. This is not limited to red states but is a way that right-wing forces are gaining a foothold even in “progressive” states. Librarians are increasingly threatened by the far right as their work allows Queer people to have a voice. In Montana, a law was passed that bans drag performers from reading to children in public schools and libraries, defining them as “sexually oriented shows” that expose children to sexually explicit content. This law was invoked to cancel a trans author’s lecture on Indigenous history in Montana last June. In schools, new laws entailing things like forced outings and restricting trans access to bathrooms combined with the appointment of far-right figures to school board positions create the conditions to eliminate any sense of safety queer youth might have.

Calls made to LGBTQ+ youth crisis hotlines have skyrocketed in recent years. “Young people will say, ‘My government hates me,’ ‘My school hates me,’ ‘They don’t want me to exist,’’ said Rainbow Youth Project founder and executive director Lance Preston. This is the context that made possible the recent murder of Nex Benedict, a trans Choctaw youth whose death sent shockwaves across the Queer community.

Drag shows in particular are under constant threat of far-right attacks. Again and again, the rhetoric of “protecting children” is used in conjunction with the notion that all Queer people are pedophilic or sexually predatory. Anyone who challenges cishet norms, even purely artistically, is branded the label of groomer. At a Wadsworth, Ohio drag show, openly fascistic elements made themselves known, waving Nazi flags and chanting, “Weimar problems, Weimar solutions,” in reference to the Third Reich’s genocide of Queer people and destruction of the first transgender care clinic.

Mass shootings at gay clubs are becoming more and more commonplace. Trans Day of Remembrance 2022 was marked by the loss of five people killed at a mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs. As has been the consistent trend, while the police didn’t do anything to stop the tragedy, Queer people fought back and two gay veterans were able to disarm the shooter.

Why is this all happening? Why are we now moving back when it seemed we had just started moving forward? We can point to the ongoing capitalist crises. As the rate of profit continues to fall and burgeoning social movements develop to challenge the worst attacks on rights and quality of life, the ruling class recognizes that to maintain control and keep the profit flowing it must tighten its grip on the working class, including destroying these movements.

Queer people are just one part of the working class that faces special oppression for the sake of greasing the gears of this machine. The gender binary and nuclear family model that forms the foundation of the reproduction and maintenance of the working class are dependent on the erasure of Queer experiences and identities. The capitalists fear trans people especially because if gendered subordination is allowed to be challenged it opens the door to challenging other forms of subordination that are necessary for keeping the existing system in place (for example racial subordination/white supremacy). The police and the far right are used to enforce these oppressive systems, and as such are supported by the ruling class and its representatives in government—even if some liberal politicians claim opposition to the violent repression which is characteristic of both forces, fundamentally their interests are aligned with this repression.

As the attacks on Queer and trans lives ramp up, many find themselves joining the waves of refugees moving to blue states, which are seen as safe. But this is a false sense of security, as even in “safe” states the far right and other anti-Queer forces are mobilizing. These states only attained their LGBTQ-friendly image through mass struggles of Queer people who refused to accept the status quo, and the same will be necessary to protect them.

In any case, “progressive” forces like the Democratic Party have shown themselves to be content to rest on their laurels and do nothing to meaningfully counter the offensive even as it creeps into their “territory.” In January, New Hampshire Democrats voted with Republicans to pass anti-trans bills. The Democratic Party’s solution for places like Florida (which has become a flashpoint in the anti-LGBTQ+ offensive) is a mass exodus of Queer people from those areas. Instead of leaving the most vulnerable behind and ceding ground to the right, Queer people must build a movement everywhere for their defense and liberation. After all, if attacks on Queer rights are allowed to happen anywhere, they very soon will happen everywhere.

It follows that as the crises of capitalism are manifested in increasingly barbaric ways, many other sectors of the working class also find themselves under attack. The overturning of Roe v. Wade marked a turning point in the offensive on reproductive rights and bodily autonomy; immigrants are facing attacks helped along by racist myths including that of a “border crisis”; people of color are murdered by police with no consequences, just to name a few ways these attacks unfold. Like Queer people, these oppressed groups are fodder used by both political wings of the ruling class to maximize profits.

Only a movement that brings together these forces under an independent banner of the working class will be powerful enough to challenge the existing social setup and build a new society that serves the needs of working people. A better world is possible, but it is not something that can be achieved at the ballot box; the fight for such a world must be taken to the streets. Every instance of violence against Queer lives must be met by a mobilization of millions. Workers and oppressed communities must join forces and respond to the crises of the ruling class by creating a crisis for the ruling class.

No illusions in the Democratic Party, or any party of the ruling class! Moving to a blue state is not a solution! For a mass movement for Queer liberation, for a workers’ party, for revolution!

First published on Workers’ Voice Website on 4/11/2024

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