Blogging “Yes” Day 17: Violence in Queer Communities
It’s day seventeen of the Blogging “Yes” project, and today I read the short but gorgeously powerful essay entitled “Shame is the First Betrayer,” by Toni Amato. It’s hard to know what to say about this essay, because it says so much in such a concise format. It does really resonate, though, and is an important reminder of how violence creeps up in queer communities, with queer people not only as victims but as perpetrators.
We are all of us taught the subtle, and not so subtle, sex and gender norms required to make us upstanding citizens and eager, compliant consumers. Breaking or even bending the norms means suffering consequences. We learn these lessons early on. The newly born intersex infant whose genitals are surgically “reassigned” without consent, supposedly so ze they [sic] can better assimilate into society; the little girl who is told that her developing body must be covered and constrained in order to be acceptable and safe; the small boy who, in the name of helping him to become a big, strong man, is told that boys don’t cry. Ask any rape victim who has been interrogated about her sex life […] or what she was wearing, ask any victim of a gay bashing who was asked why he chose to kiss his lover in public, and ask any trans or genderqueer victim of a hate crime who was told that the perpetrator was understandably upset and angry since they couldn’t tell what binary gender ze was. For all of them, for all of us, shame is the first betrayer.
Amato goes on to discuss violence in queer communities, and how the violence we are taught from bullying and hate crimes translates into same-sex partner abuse. Violence becomes normalized, and I think the big takeaway from all of this is that we are the ones who must change, not society. We learn that we are problematic, that we need to assimilate, not that society is incomplete and lacking because it does not incorporate us. We learn that sexual expression is weird and unsafe, that gender variance is dangerous, that same-sex romance makes “normal” people uncomfortable. And so some of us absorb these lessons in the form of self-hatred, in the form of hate directed at our communities. What can we do about it? Amato has, I think, the perfect solution:
We can and we do gather to mourn our losses, resist our oppressors, and celebrate our passionate and loving selves. We need to affirm one another’s sticky, sultry, messy, and miraculous humanity in every possible way. We need to celebrate often, and well. Not just yearly and in large gatherings, but day by day and person to person. Shame is the first betrayers, but love can, and will, overcome.