From “A Different Church,” which Gail has preached several times, most notably at UU General Assembly in 2006. It is reprinted in a 2012 UU World Magazine, as well as the UU Pocket Guide (5th edition).
ETA: I am hurting today, and my safety may be in jeopardy sometimes. And it is still not the fear and pain that queer people of color are likely to live with everyday. White queers, we have work to do too.
I am sharing this very specifically today, the day after the Orlando massacre at Pulse nightclub, a self-identified safe space for the LGBT communities of Orlando, Florida. I am angry. I am angry and sad for the loss of beautiful Latinx queer life, for the erasure of Wounded Knee and indigenous lives lost to American imperialism in the reporting of this, and the focus on the religion of the shooter. I am angry that I have to explain this to my children, again.
I don’t believe that safe space exists anywhere. The Orlando massacre is just one example of how perceived safe space is repeatedly ripped away from us in marginalized communities. We assemble and re-assemble ourselves using harm reduction methods. What is the least un-safe place for us to gather?
Imagine that, if you are white and straight, please. Imagine if you made decisions about where to go based on which is the least un-safe.
I am a privileged white woman, with an education, a home, a good job. So is my beloved. We also live in a relatively queer-friendly part of the state/country. We still make choices based on safety due to homoantagonism.
I don’t use the bathroom in public places unless it is urgent, and even then, I know where all of the single stall and family restrooms are in the places I visit regularly (yes, even church). This has been my reality for 20 years, not just since HB 2.
We both make decisions about when and where to be affectionate with one another. We also both believe, to our very bones, that we have no reason to hide or feel shame. Still.
I am unabashedly queer, lesbian, butch. My license plate is “RAD LEZ” for crying out loud. I don’t hide. I have that privilege-be it skin, class, geographic, I have it.
But I also experience anxiety when someone gets too close to my car on the freeway, concerned that they are having a reaction to that license plate.
I experience anxiety when people double-take as they see me walk in some place. People still stare, in Ann Arbor, in 2016.
Imagine that, if you are white and straight, as well. Imagine that every time you went somewhere new, the people in that place stared at you, your family, the love of your life. Stared with barely concealed contempt, or even just inappropriate curiosity.
So, I am sharing this today because I feel this. I felt it before I walked into UUAA for the first time (though, truth be told, I used far more colorful, if less poetic, language to express it), and I felt it yesterday as I walked in for the however many hundredth time. In spite of the rainbow flag out front. And yes, in spite of the entirely queer worship team.
Being an ally is not an achievement, but a process.
It is not for me, or any queer, to become more palatable to you. I will not. I may even grow to be less so as I age.
It is for you to learn how you take safe space away from us, and then work hard to fix it. And keep trying. Never, never, never, never give up trying to fix it. And if you will not, you can fry ice. Or kick rocks. Or fuck right off. Take your pick.