There has been a disturbing trend I have noticed in discussions of queer history and I think it is important to address.
There are a lot of people saying things like “people who talk about queer history and don’t know about (fill in the blank) are ridiculous”. And that in itself is not a problem but the blank is ALWAYS filled with something from American/British history.
I have discussed this before but I want to say it again, prioritizing American/British history is a horrible trend that is aggressively prevalent within the queer community. And posts and discussions that place those narratives as Need to Know yet never place importance on stories from other countries are incredibly damaging and something people need to keep an eye on in the projects and work they follow and in themselves.
We can do better than this, we have to do better than this.
I think it’s also super important to note that access to information, including need-to-know historical info, is not equally distributed. This intersects with the above issue- when you prioritize american and british history regardless of the context (usually on the assumption that internet spaces are inherently american/british spaces which is super gross) you’re actively decreasing access to non-american, non-british historical info. Part of why this info is hard to find is because it isn’t treated as important. But also, even within america, american queer history can be very hard to access if you aren’t given certain opportunities growing up. It’s important to recognize that lack of familiarity with our own history is a structural issue, not just an issue of personal responsibility. Especially considering this is usually aimed at very young people, who are mostly only aware of information that has come to them, and haven’t reached a part of their lives where it’s become important to actively seek out knowledge on their own- 13, 14, 15 year olds on this site get criticized for not knowing queer history without any consideration for the fact that it’s not widely taught and they are only just now learning how little they actually know and how imperative it is for them to seek out information instead of passively accepting whatever school and parents teach them.
I wonder if that’s part of the reason that so many exclusionists talk about queer history as if they DEFINITELY know all about it – but tell a history that’s just repeated from other exclusionists, unsourced and incomplete.
(Not that queer history is ever complete. I’m continually learning about things that I had never heard of, like the pre-Stonewall riots by trans people at Cooper Do-Nuts and Compton’s Cafeteria.)
Is it partly that they get that attitude from others, that’s like “why don’t you know this, you are ridiculous for not knowing this particular US-centric historical detail”? And then it becomes a defense mechanism, to assume that those few details are the entire picture and extrapolate from there?
Like “the community started to fight homophobia and transphobia!” over and over.
Meaning that it started at Stonewall – in, of course, the U.S., totally disconnected from the (erased) community and history and activism in other countries.
Acting like that was a formal meeting of some kind, not a riot – and, especially, not a riot that started to fight police brutality. Particularly of often-dirt-poor people who were trans, or were perceived as trans; and, especially, of people of color.
Especially, acting like the movement that emerged from it was ever actually united to fight “homophobia and transphobia,” never even mind anything the rest of us face. I can’t find any major organizations, in the US, that actually fought for trans rights before the ‘00s.
Most of them didn’t include us even in name. The “Gay and Lesbian March on Washington” in ‘93? pretty much only included bisexuals in name, and flat out refused to include trans people. And when bi activists fought for the bi and trans communities to be included in the march, the organizers told them bisexuals could be included if they agreed to leave trans people out. (The bi activists refused that deal.)
There are definitely other countries that use a longer acronym than “LGBT,” and maybe people elsewhere actually did create an integrated movement. But the movement here in the US has always been around gay rights, and has always looked at every other battle in terms of whether fighting it will help gay rights.
And I’m so, so, so tired of being told that the movement is only this mythical thing that started in the United States and always included trans people.