The Stonewall Blues (Still Dreaming of a Queer Nation)

I should be such a happy Queer, shouldn’t I? At least that’s what I’m told. After all, aren’t all the other Queer folks just so goddamn happy? The ones on TV certainly appear to be, and even the ones I know seem to agree that shit’s getting better and I suppose in many respects it is. Then why do I find myself feeling like a genderfuck Charlie Brown every July, once the parades have gone home? This year’s Pride Month seemed particularly festive, even with the much hyped specter of COVID lurking just behind every glory hole. After all, 2020 marked the 5th year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision to essentially legalize gay marriage across all 50 states and the 5th year anniversary of the Democrats pretending they were for it all along. It also marked another landmark decision from the Supreme Court this year to recognize that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 actually applies to us. Yet, whenever people ask me about these winds of change, my response always leaves them flummoxed and disjointed, like they expect me to slap my hands together like an excited seal and my refusal to perform as expected makes me jaded, ungrateful, contrarian, and a bunch of other adjectives which give people a very PC way to accuse me of being a bad Queer.

So what do I tell them? Do I tell them that I resent going to a bunch of cis-het 1 percenters in robes, hat in hand, to beg for rights that I feel they have no right to grant or deny? Do I reiterate again what it means to be a Queer anarchist and a minority at the mercy of the same people who got rich at Wall Street law firms while my people were nearly wiped out by a plague nobody straight but Liz Taylor could be bothered to give a fuck about? Do I tell them that the plaintiffs in this latest Supreme Court case were all Queer people who managed to pass for long enough to get hired before getting fired? Do I tell them that out gender non-conforming Queers such as myself never even get through the front door? That we get denied job after job after job for totally legal but conveniently non-specified reasons? Reasons we all know without ever being said? Do I really have to point out that this is the reason that nearly sixty years after the original Civil Right’s Act, black and brown people are still grossly unemployed and underpaid? Do I have to explain to them that no top-down legal system can ever equalize the playing field between labor and management? That we require radical trade unions and general strikes to make shit like that happen? Do I explain to them the ideas of Rudolf Rocker before or after the theory of Judith Butler? Do I inform them that state marriage is a patriarchal and puritanical relic with its roots in conjugal subjugation? Do I tell them that Queer people have been engaged in various forms of marriage forever without ever seeking the approval of the state that went out of its way to outlaw our existence before adopting us as some kind of domesticated mascot for the neoliberal experiment? Do I explain to them that there are forms of Queer love far too radical for any state to ever even be capable of recognizing? Do I tell them that I’m far more concerned with poor transwomen of color being raped and tortured in the guts of the prison industrial complex that’s more powerful than ever than a few glorified photo-ops for white gender conforming upper-middle class Queers to enjoy? I could tell them all those things and more, and I suppose I just did, but it would still be beside the point. The real reason for my yearly post-Pride malaise would still remain obscured.

I suppose that the best way to explain where I’m coming from is to explain that there are essentially two major schools of civil rights activism, the Martin Luther King kind, seeking social justice by peacefully reforming a devilish system and integrating its past victims to the society that had refused them equality, and the Malcolm X brand of civil rights, that realizes that the system itself has always been the problem and that integration into such a system is a form of cultural assimilation which erases proud traditions of resistance to its subjugation. You could apply these two schools of thought to nearly any civil rights struggle, and I’m sure that it will surprise exactly zero of my dearest motherfuckers that this faggot has always been a little more Malcolm X than MLK. It’s not that I have anything against Doctor King. Allah knows Malcolm himself respected the shit out of the motherfucker, even when he was pissing him off. But the hard knocks reality is that some of us choose not to play nice with the master class but a lot of us never really had that option to begin with. Malcolm was triple fucked, not just Black, but a Muslim and an ex-con to boot. He had no White Jesus to cuddle with, to keep the bigots chill. He only had two hard fists and a fast mouth to keep him alive, and many Queers like me find ourselves in similar yet undeniably different positions. For some of us, assimilation is just not an option and it never has been.

Being part of the straight world was never an option for me. Even before I knew what Queer was I didn’t pass. I grew up being treated as a horribly unwelcome presence by grown adults from a very young age. I never walked into a single classroom where I felt welcome. I was always treated as something strange and dangerous for reasons I could never comprehend. It was as if others could smell the difference on me long before any of us could put our finger on what it was. It’s really little wonder looking back now that in an overwhelmingly white community my earliest friends were a half-Thai bastard crossbreed and an adopted Black hillbilly. It wasn’t like we were looking for each other, but like all the adults staring at us, we knew that we were different, and that together we felt safe. I ended up looking to people of color for inspiration growing up, especially Black people. In the Nineties, the perception of Black people in rural America was that they were still dangerous but that this danger was precisely what made them so fucking cool. For an unsuccessfully closeted kid who inspired his grade school teachers to regularly convene meetings with parents on how to deal with me, watching a bunch of flashy dangerous Black people getting rich telling normal white folk to go fuck themselves was kind of inspiring. My favorite childhood hero was Dennis Rodman, who wore whatever the fuck he wanted, kicked ass on the court, and fucked the hottest chicks in town. I didn’t realize it at the time, but in his own odd way, The Worm was like my first lesbian roll model. He was basically Storme DeLarverie with a slightly longer clit.

In my teens, I became enamored with the Black revolutionaries of the Sixties and Seventies. Huey Newton, Malcolm X, Angela Davis, George Jackson, Fred Hampton, Kuwasi Balagoon, all fighting “the Man”, freaking him out, resisting inclusion to create a better, darker, realer America from the ashes of the one they promised to burn to the ground. I was enthralled, and still struggling with my gender identity and the post traumatic stress disorder of being treated like a dangerous circus freak as a child, I was pissed off too. I shared their anger intimately. All the people they frightened looked a lot like the people who were frightened of me; the cops, the priests, the teachers. When I heard H. Rap Brown call out, “If America Doesn’t come around, we’re gonna burn it down!” I wanted to stand up and shout. By the time I finally realized that I was a gender non-conforming dyke trapped in a male’s body, I was done with whiteness. Queer sisters like Marsha P. Johnson and Miss Major showed me how to strut and veteran race-traitor Noel Ignatiev offered me a way out with his rejection of the white social construct. I never once felt like the majority of the people I grew up with and I was hellbent to make Queer my race and to make it every bit as radical as my teenage heroes made theirs.

So what does that make me? A Queer Nationalist? In a stateless sort of way, I suppose it does, which is likely the reason why a degenerate commie dyke like me finds herself something of a fellow traveler of the stateless conservatives in the National Anarchist Movement. But I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m a separatist. I may reject the poison gift of melting pot assimilation but I still have plenty of good breeder friends, some I’d go so far as to call family. And as a lifelong libidinous race mixer who’s been chasing Asian and Latina cis-girls for as long as I knew they existed, the idea of any form of segregation, however voluntary, has never really sat right with me. I prefer autonomy. Something akin to the Amish, only with more glitter and some gunpowder to defend it with.

This is why Pride Month brings me down. Because I still dream of a Queer Autonomous Zone, a Bookchinite confederacy of blinking syndicalist red light republics dotting the abandoned Rust Belt towns of the Great Lakes, providing refugees, runaways and throwaways of all ages and ethnicities from across the Bible Belt and Middle America with a nation where gender and sexuality are as fluid as the water at our backs. Where you can wake up every day and ask yourself, “Who do I want to be today and how do I want to be it?” A nation where sex work is seen as both an artform and a trade to be revered and protected by guilds of proud empowered whores. Where people choose their own damn families and build their homes however the hell they want, with three mommies, three daddies and six overage foster kids, or just a couple of leather-clad daddies and a gimp on a leash out back. A nation where bathrooms are only segregated by the sex people can or can’t have in them rather than the sex on some government birth certificate. A nation where discrimination is handled case by case by truly democratic trade unions as quickly as it occurs. A nation where children are treated as equals and don’t have to grow up so terrified of the mysteries of their own bodies that they spend the rest of their painful lives getting even with adults through angry blog posts like this.

That’s the fucking nation I dream of, dearest motherfuckers, and it hasn’t got a goddamn thing to do with America.

Nicky Reid is an agoraphobic anarcho-genderqueer gonzo blogger from Central Pennsylvania and assistant editor for Attack the System. You can find her online at Exile in Happy Valley.