Fighting, F**king, Drinking, but most of all… Laughing.
The D.C. queer community made history last night. At a little, new comedy club on the 14th street corridor (Riot Act), a bunch of faggots, dykes, trannys, queers, butch, old, young, twinks, bears, liberals, femmes, leather aficionados, hairy, moderates, role-players, balding, daddies, lesbos and the apolitical got together and collectively laughed into our community a new tradition: queer comedy night in D.C. I heard about this event from Burgundy Crescent, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender volunteer group for D.C., VA and MD. I was ecstatic to find another venue of pure queer space, an area where all of the queer community could come together. We came together, every seat was filled and those unfortunate enough to be standing held onto the wall to keep from falling over from laughter.
Laughter is the strongest energizer for an activist. Speaking from my experience in the queer community and as a queer individual, I have found that queer people respond to intense repression, the type of repression reserved just for us LGBT folk, through many different forms. For the sake of this post, I have narrowed this down to four of the most popular categories: fighting, fucking, drinkin and most of all, laughing.
The fighters in our community have been the Harvey Milks and Frank Kamenys, the Larry Kramers and Sylvia Riveras. The fighters have fought tooth and nail, body and soul, often frustrated at society for its bigotry, often equally frustrated at fellow queers for complacency (and we all know far too many of us reside in this category of complacency). I consider myself in the fighting category. I came out fighting, helping re-constitute my high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance and interning with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. I constantly work on new fighting projects, increasingly more focused on people of color queer communities, working class queer communities and transgender communities. The history of the fighting category is best visualized by the antics of anti-AIDS complacency group ACT UP. Too often though, the fighters burn out, working themselves crazy, working themselves until they lose all drive, or even worse, working themselves to death. The fighting community never knows when to stop, it continues pushing the boundary, creating the next AIDS Quilt or the next Lawrence V. Texas case. Far too often we lose our fighters because we leave everything up to them.
Homosexuality and the queer community have been sexualized to the point of extremity. On both sides we are sexualized. From the conservative side, we are made to be sexual deviants, who engage in sex in any place possible, with as many people as we can and as often as we can. For some on the left we are glorified as being “sexually liberated” beings who personify the final challenge against a demonized “regular” nuclear family. The queer community is anything but homogenous- in fact any queer person would know that we are constantly feuding among ourselves over everything, just as any family. Efforts to depict us as this or that accurately portray some people in our community, but there is no one description that fits us all. Nonetheless, the obsession by our society of linking our homosexuality to our sexual drive has given many queers the false impression that the main component of the queer community is sex. I cannot count the number of queer people who I have heard tell me about people asking them when they are teenagers or younger individuals “Well if you haven’t had sex yet, how do you know you’re gay?” I’m always tempted to ask the questioner’s young son or daughter, or a young relative of theirs “But you haven’t had sex yet, how do you know you’re straight?” Let me be clear that I am not faulting anyone for their sex drive, no matter how large. As long as you use safe sex, I am fine with your sex drive, but my problem comes when you use sex as a therapy against repression, instead of having sex for sex’s sake. Those in our community who use fucking as a form of releasing themselves from oppression walk dangerous lines that can involve sexual abuse, STDs, emotional instability, or, if they’re lucky, none of these.
Lesbians have a higher risk of breast cancer. No, it’s not because of some genetic thing only lesbians have, but rather the societal implications and factors that come into play when one identifies as a lesbian. Lesbians deal with both homophobia and sexism, while lesbian people of color deal with homophobia, sexism and racism. Eating, smoking and, yes, drinking are all causes of the higher rate of breast cancer in the lesbian community. These vices surface as forms of dealing with various forms of oppression faced in the lesbian community. It’s a fact, homophobia is more than an idea; it kills, LITERALLY. Those in our community turn to drinking also thanks to the highly saturated presence of alcohol ads in our queer spaces and pride parades. That’s right, we allow alcohol companies the right to parade in our pride parade even if they specifically target our community to enslave into alcoholism. We ALLOW these companies to exploit the effects that homophobia has on our community when we allow them to offer us the chance to drown out our worries with a bottle.
And Finally, Laughing…
Laughing energizes the fighters to continue, giving them more energy than before. Laughter takes those having sex to distract themselves from oppression a chance to release with their pants on. And finally, laughter reminds us that our happiness is the key to contentfulness in our lives, not our alcohol consumption. Us D.C. queer people made history tonight by remembering the laughter again. I shudder in delight to think of how all the laughter will eventually re-energize the activists, de-sex the fuckers and help the alcoholics. Laughter, from the bottom of your lungs to the tip of your toungue. From the bottom of your soul to the top of your emotions. Laughter, the best weapon against bigotry
Author’s Note: My name is Kevin Ballie, a student at American University (AU). My area of activism centers particularly around LGBT activism concerning people of color, working class and transgender communities.