While tabling for LGBTOUT during Frosh 2014, some students expressed concern that LGBTOUT has invited Olivia Chow and Kristyn Wong-Tam to our Queer Orientation Meet n Greet.
“Yes!” we answered, “but everything is political”. We were surprised to realize that queer people were unwilling to accept this! Not going to lie, it has bothered the LGBTOUT Exec. Although we know this view is widespread, we want to discuss it openly.
Everything is political. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s something we need to accept as we mature into adulthood—the same way we we come to understand that Santa isn’t real.
What’s worrying from LGBTOUT’s perspective though, is how labelling things as “political” gets used to protect privileges.
When we say everything is political, we simply mean power relations affect everything, from how white heterosexual (and closeted) politicians refused to accommodate LGBTQ existence, the refusal to fund HIV/AIDS research and treatment, to how our education as university students is government funded. We feel safer in Canada because of some remarkable people who got “political!”
The problem isn’t that things are political. It’s that the issues that matter are depoliticized. It’s what happens when something is labeled as “political” to convey the feeling that “this makes me think about things I’m uncomfortable with … stop!” After all, accepting everything is political means we have to be accountable for ourselves to each other.
Sorry, not sorry. LGBTOUT was founded when their members organized kiss-ins expecting violence, when gay men could not assemble in one place without the fear of arrest, when “gay-bashing” was a perfectly acceptable way to spend a Saturday night out on the town and was something that members of this university openly indulged in. The LGBTOUT mandate is to challenge homophobia and transphobia alongside racism, sexism, settler-colonialism, ableism, etc—it’s a long list. To parody Jon Stewart, if you feel thinking about any given form of oppression is hard, just imagine living with it.
And this brings us back to Olivia Chow. As only candidate with a transit plan that will sufficiently service low-income neighbourhoods, meaningfully improve young people’s chances of finding work, and invest in mitigating climate change, we see her as the most suitable candidate. Moreover, Olivia marched in Toronto Pride downtown since the 1980s. Back when Pride was not officially recognized by the Toronto Government, and protesters were ordered not to walk down Yonge Street. Back when most queer people were too scared to march in it. She is not just an ally, she is an accomplice.
And four years of a homophobic, misogynistic and racist Mayor has made it painfully clear that being quiet fails LGBTQ people, it fails students, and it fails Toronto. We don’t want Ford more years, and we don’t want a Mayor whose Tory leanings will fail on racial justice, class justice, and environmental justice. We want transit to low income neighbourhoods, we want investment in an LGBTQ shelter, and we want a Mayor who has been on our side all along.
And Council matters too. Kristyn Wong-Tam is our girl. She’s been out from the age of 16 and actively fighting for queer rights since then. What matters most to us is she is leading Council initiatives to create a queer homeless shelter in Toronto. Re-Electing Wong-Tam in Ward 27 will continue progress towards fixing an obvious hole in our social services.
So when LGBTOUT gets “political,” please do not be surprised. We have always been. We would not live up to our name if we were closeted about that.
[This Article was written by Cathie Renner and Ben DW)