Queer Wisconsin, Queer Work, Queer Rights

Posted by – March 11, 2011

Bilerico has had a couple of good pieces about the connections between how what’s going on in Madison connects to LGBT political organizing.

Susan Raffo’s recent piece mentions the history, references queer historian Allan Bérubé:


In 1919, the labor movement’s successful fight for a 40-hour workweek bought us the time and the space to start coming together as queer people; to come together and take a deep breath and just plain notice ourselves. And in the noticing, we started to ask questions and in asking those questions, to dream of how things could be different. That’s what economic justice creates for us. It creates lives where there is the space to talk to each other, to feel like we can turn our gazes away from making sure there is enough food and a place to sleep and instead begin to act on our dreams.

Caitlin Breedlove commented recently on the unusual alliance she’s experiencing as a queer Madisonian in the midst of what is often white working class organizing:


I believe that in Wisconsin I am in the midst of many working class white people who voted conservative in the November elections based on rights to their guns, or because they don’t like the idea of gays getting married, or because they don’t like that Obama is Black. I am standing next to them in struggle. This is an unusual position for me. I am standing with them as I am watching parts of them being transformed. Many of these people have realized their guns are not as important as having a job, a house, decent public schools for their kids, or healthcare. They are figuring out that, as Michael Moore said from the Madison Capitol this weekend: “America is not broke…the country is awash in cash…it is just that the wealth is not in our hands.” Many of my comrades here have said that it is amazing how many people realize this fight is about capitalism and corporate greed.

Her larger point, about the reclaiming of public space as essential to LGBT people, immigrants, & the working class, is vital information. Our public sector has been under attack for a few decades now by people who want none of us to be empowered in the way our government treats us:

She points to the fact that the Capitol occupation is very much about reclaiming public space. As LGBTQ people, we are systematically pushed out of public space – discouraged from being ourselves at our workplaces, our kids’ schools, at the grocery store, and in our local and state governments. Why do so few of us run for public office? Why are so many of our activists who do not work in LGBTQ-specific areas closeted? Because we have been sent a clear message: public space is not our space. We are not “the Public.”

We are not the only community sent this message.

Immigrants are told something similar every time we open our mouths and speak a language that is not English. The systems of our towns are set up so that on every street, every bus, and every glittering downtown poor people are sent the same message: you do not belong here, this place is not for you.

This week people in Madison are saying that class warfare is real, it needs to be faced head on, and to do that we must reclaim public space. This month, people all over the Middle East are saying this, and so much more. Are we ready to recognize that this struggle (like so many struggles) is our struggle?

I can’t imagine a message that queer people have heard over & over again but her “you do not belong here, this place is not for you.” We know exactly what that means, and we know exactly how it feels, and the queer movement has for years resisted being told where and when we get to exist and have our lives be visible. Without public spaces, without the people’s insistence on government accountability and the right to assembly, both of which are being denied in the state capital of Wisconsin, queer organizing will also be shut out.

Please, queerios, pay attention to what’s happening here. The right to bargain collectively is not just about economics, nor about work. It’s about the right to BE counted as persons and citizens: We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it is a little more like We’re here, get used to it just now.

2 Comments on Queer Wisconsin, Queer Work, Queer Rights

  1. divadarya says:

    Recently on Facebook a friend of mine posted about a rally in downtown LA by the uber-fierce kickass LA County Labor Fed called “Rally for the American Dream”. A local young “LGBT activist” friend posted that she was “So over the American dream thing” and I let her have it with both barrels including the world’s shortest history of labor including the struggle for racial equality, fair wages and the goddamn weekend. I think did say something kinda shitty comparing that changing the bathrooms at the LA Gay and Lesbian center, but I was hot. She responded defensively, and my FTM friend Jake posted “Hanna; shut up, Darya’s right, and you know it”
    I’d like to labor queered up even more, but they are at least trying, for Chrissakes, even the stodgy one I’m in;IATSE.
    Thanks for posting this.

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