For those of us who straddle the transatlantic divide, front foot cautiously stepping onto these islands, back foot beginning to lift from the lands of Turtle Island (colonised as North America), October itself marks a month of intersections. In the UK, October is Black History Month, marked in February on the other side of the Atlantic; conversely, there, October is LGBT History Month, marked here in February. This week’s review seeks to honour Black queer/trans communities, exploring the tensions that result from failing to forever recognise the multiplicity of intersecting and overlapping identities.
Following on from the last review, it is important for me to situate my own social location here: not only do I straddle that transatlantic divide, but questions of racialisation and sexuality are always close to my heart as a queer person of colour. I acknowledge, however, that my racialisation is not the same as that which Black people experience, and for this reason, Dr Maynard’s words should take priority over my own. I also acknowledge that I will forever be in the intellectual, cultural, and moral debt of the trans women of colour who laid the ground for me.
There is an uncomfortable parallel at the beginning of Dr Maynard’s* piece given the events of this October. He begins by situating his analysis in relation to the previous Dave Chappelle ‘comedy’ special Sticks and Stones, in which Chapelle ’suggest[ed] that queers were all powerful’ (139). Chapelle’s most recent special The Closer took aim at trans folks in particular, exposing anew the tensions in ‘being asked to choose’ (142) between Blackness and queerness, something altogether impossible. The acceptance accorded to queer life over the last 20-30 years has been driven by ‘[a] form of “queer liberalism”, which co[n]signs racism to the past and erases the voices of people of colour’ (142), in effect, sanitising queer life into a whitened sepulchre of itself.
The pressure Dr Maynard feels invokes the precise social circumstances that gave rise to Kimberlé Crenshaw’s percussive contribution of intersectionality to the legal field (and expanding more broadly thereafter). While ‘[i]n activist communities, the struggle against police brutality has served as a convergence between anti-racism and queer liberation efforts[, t]here is a disconnect between the activist streets and some […] individual responses’ (144-145), not to mention the concerted attempts to demonise intersectionality and Critical Race Theory.
The final line of Dr Maynard’s piece is this:
‘I hope we move forward on this because microaggressions within minority communities are that much more painful and traumatic for the individual to recover from.’ (145)
I could not agree more, and as the Sheku Bayoh inquiry begins in earnest on 18 November, we have much to keep in to mind.
Black lives matter. Black queer lives matter. Black trans lives matter. All Black lives matter.
*Dr Maynard is Assistant Professor of Business Law and Ethics at Indiana University.
‘As white gay men began to climb the respectability ladder, queers of color were left behind. Parts of the queer community have contributed to the perception that “queer” equals “white,” by offering a safe, assimilationist version of queerness that increasingly stands in contrast to its more diverse beginnings.’ (142)
‘The activists seem to be clear on Black queer lives mattering, but I continue to worry about what happens outside of these spaces.’ (144)
‘A place to start is to explore some possible explanations for the phenomenon: (1) gaps in our teaching of intersectionality (e.g., not providing enough or the most illustrative examples); (2) a mismatch between the theory and some perceived reality that at times you do have to choose between identities (3) some resistance to theory in general because of its association with intellectuals and academia; (4) an almost inevitable reproduction of hierarchy that should be expected; and/or (5) real fears about the loosening of the Black coalition and its implications.’ (145)
Review by Arün Smith, Student Advisor
Full citation: (2021) 30 Tulane Journal of Law and Sexuality 139 <https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A669352064/ITOF?u=ustrath&sid=bookmark-ITOF&xid=f8c5d8b7>
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