What we should talk about: HRT access, queer self-defense, the failure of respectability politics, building up community resources
What we talk about: Is it valid to be bi? Is it valid to be pan? Is it valid to be queer? Is it valid to be kinky? Is it valid to be ace? Is it valid to be trans? Is it valid to be non-binary? Is it valid t
uhhhh… I agree,
Mostly on the basis that I don’t actually know what those are…
Can someone explain what: HRT access, queer self defense (like as in fighting? Or like defending their validity?), respectability politics, and community resources (is that like educational resources? Or like… Food and other essentials stuff? Or like public areas? Idk what we’re talking about here…) are?
HRT stands for “hormone replacement therapy.” For trans folks whose bodies produce a suite of hormones that make their bodies uncomfortable or painful to inhabit, that therapy can be absolutely lifesaving. It’s also something that doesn’t stop being needed across a person’s life, so it’s really vulnerable to disruptions in care like health insurance access or having to experience the prison system. HRT is the most visible aspect of trans medical care that involves ongoing medical support, not a one time access to medical care like gender affirming surgery.
Queer self defense as a concept usually is “community defense from outside attack”. Historically and often currently, queer people have not been able to depend on police or other general community peacekeeping resources to defend us when people try to hurt us, which is a special problem when being disrespectable or shameful makes us vulnerable.
If you’ve heard the story of Kitty Genovese, the woman who was murdered on a New York street and screamed and no one called the cops or intervened? A useful bit of contextualization to that story was that Kitty was a lesbian who lived in a queer part of town, and while police actually were called and notified and some people did try to intervene, other people–especially a gay friend and neighbor!–were very much intimidated to call the cops because, well, mostly local experience with the cops was that they were the assholes who raided queer bars and arrested people for going out and trying to have a drink with each other. There’s a great episode of a podcast called You’re Wrong About on Kitty Genovese that will give you more context on that if you want it.
Additionally, both homophobia and transphobia have often been used as justification for murders of queer and trans people in the context of hate crimes, and this has repeatedly been a successful legal defense for these murders. If you want to know more about that, I recommend looking into the “gay panic defense” and the trials of the killers of Matthew Shepherd, Brandon Teena, and Harvey Milk–there’s another great You’re Wrong About episode on that one. Queer self defense is a philosophy that holds that if cops and public law won’t keep our communities safe, we need to do it for ourselves, ideally before anyone is actually dead. The Pink Pistols, an organization who teach queer and trans folks to safely carry and use firearms, have a lot of discussion about those ideas on their websites.
Respectability politics is a concept that is much broader than queerness and queer people, but it impacts queer organizing a lot. Broadly, the more respectable people in your community are–wealthy, not scandalous, law-abiding, religious, clean and well groomed, and so forth–the easier it is to convince onlookers outside of that community that people should have basic human rights. For example, Rosa Parks wasn’t actually the person who first sat down in the white section of the bus; an unwed black teenage mother named Claudette Colvin took a similar stand on the bus nine months earlier, but the fledgling NAACP thought that Parks, who was married and could be presented as a nice respectable married lady, would make a better test case against the segregation laws.
For queer communities, historically we have found that it is easier to agitate for rights and respectability for clean-cut, middle class to wealthy, monogamous gay and lesbian couples who are broadly gender conforming. Think the guys from Modern Family, or the messaging surrounding marriage equality. We have not historically found it as easy to advocate for: AIDS patients and HIV+ queer folks, queer street youth abandoned by their parents, trans folks full stop, queer folk of color, gender non-conforming folks, polyamorous queer folks and/or queer folks who have sex out of “marriage” (before that was legal), working class folks, people whose primary source of community is illegal queer bars, openly kinky queer folks like leather and furry communities, and anyone whose lives and loves don’t fit that nice, respectable mold.
The irony that the least respectable people among us need our community support and health the most has not been lost on most activist groups. Often conflicts about respectability politics hinge on what feels attainable and what is necessary to protect others in need as best we can. The general shift in political organizing from AIDS relief to marriage equality, for example, is very much something that went from a low-respectability fight to a high-respectability one, and respectability politics are something many queer activists have grappled with in the past several decades. It’s worth noting that advances won using respectability tactics often benefit much more disrespectable community members, but it’s also worth noting that the advances won by folks using respectability politics tend to be tailored to the needs and desires of the relatively wealthy and respectable demographics of our communities.
Community resources is just as broad as it sounds and can refer to a whole bunch of things. Some of the community resources that have been present in groups I’ve been a part of have included:
-a big traveling bag of clothes from a variety of sizes and gender stuff, alongside things like binders in a bunch of sizes and cosmetics in many skin tones, designed to allow trans and questioning college students at my college queer org to experiment with gender presentation without having to buy a lot of shit up front
-books on queer topics that anyone can read and check out, including expensive books produced by specialty presses that can be hard to find elsewhere
-informal networks of people offering to shelter other folks in their homes in case of natural disaster or familial abandonment
-ongoing meetup support and chat groups that can be used to find other folks like you in your approximate geographic area
-lists of therapists who know what asexuality is and can be trusted to be supportive of asexual clients
-groups of people trained to go out and educate straight classes about the lived experience of adult queer people
-folks who offer to talk to relatives of people who are questioning and help them process what being queer is really about, or answer questions from local youth about what being an adult queer person is like
-queer community run garage sale using items donated from a dozen households, money to go to maintaining a small local fund to provide access for people who need financial support to go to social events
And so forth. Community resources are broad and range from massive international nonprofit organizations like the Trevor Project to little informal things, like that bag of traveling clothes. They can be permanent or temporary, and they are tailored to the needs of the community they serve. Building queer specific ones is usually a matter of talking to people in queer communities and working out what people need and want, then thinking for ourselves how best to help bring those resources into the world. It’s a vague concept because coming up with these ideas to serve us is a hard thing to do, and there’s a LOT of things that fall under that umbrella.
Does any of that help you get a better idea of what that first half is talking about?