Lecture in my US history class yesterday centered on the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement. We discussed Kennedy’s initial concept of containment, how Birmingham, Alabama’s Chief of Police “Bull” Connor’s use of fire hoses and police dogs on non-violent civil rights protestors was a turning point for Kennedy, forcing him to see the movement’s struggle as a moral issue. We discussed the split in the civil rights movement between Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, the concept of “Black Nationalism.” I was thinking about –– waiting to see if my teacher would mention –– Bayard Rustin. Rustin, who organized the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, how then Senator Strom Thurmond called Rustin a “communist, draft-dodger, and homosexual,” and produced a photograph of Rustin talking to Martin Luther King while King bathed. She did not. I thought then of Barbara Gittings being on the first picket lines at the White House in 1965 to protest the Federal Government’s policy on discrimination of homosexuals, how brave that was in 1965, every bit as brave as Elizabeth Eckford trying to attend Little Rock Central High School in 1957 or the Greensboro four refusing to leave the Woolworth’s lunch counter in 1960.
Lecture in my Variations in Human Sexuality class was the introduction to the final segment, HIV and AIDS. The professor began by telling us his personal history, how in 1977 and 1978 he was living in New York City, spending the weekends on the dance floor with his boyfriend doing ecstasy along with about 400 other gay men in a wonderfully safe milieu completely free from heterosexism where gay men could freely express who they were.
I too, remembered those times, those spaces. They seem to be disappearing today. There seems to be less and less spaces for gay men and lesbians to be free of heterosexism, to be able to express themselves openly and honestly. In this context I thought again of Malcolm X as I was crossing the quad for lunch were a Latin band was playing for the La Raza celebration and opposite sex couples were dancing in the middle of the quad. Where opposite sex couples were sitting side by side, arms around each other. Everyday I see these opposite sex displays on campus. In all of my years of schooling have I once seen a similar same-sex display. In this context I thought of the communities fight for marriage equity, how it is framed as “equality for all” when it is not equality for all, when it discounts all of those in the community who can not or do not want to form coupled relationships, or whose relationships fall outside of the defining borders of the heterosexist marriage definition. I thought of the recent attacks on behavior at the Up Your Alley Street Fair and the Folsom Street Fair; how that behavior is being framed as deviant; how once more homosexual safe spaces free of heterosexism are being slowly taken away.
Is it time for Queer Nationalism?