From now until at least the midterm elections in November, we’ll be featuring essays from powerful cultural voices alongside one simple thing, chosen by the author, that you can do to take action against the paralyzing apoplexy of the daily news. Maybe it’ll be an organization that deserves your donation; maybe it’ll be an issue that deserves greater awareness. Whatever it is, our aim is to remind you, and ourselves, of the big and small things we can do to work toward justice and change.

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Politically Correct? Hear Me Out, Please
by CAConrad

“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” — Audre Lorde

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I commit to vote in 2018 because of the high number of anti-LGBTQ laws and referendums forthcoming in states like Iowa, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Alaska, Georgia, and others.

The term “politically correct” has always bothered me because it suggests that the need to forge safe spaces in which people can live without fear is merely wallowing in the filth and conspiracy of politics. When I was outed in high school in the mid-’80s, I watched friends trade my kindness and love for them for the homophobic cruelty aimed at me by everyone else. When the heterosexual Christian town you live in brands you the Town Faggot, is it politically correct to ask for the violence to stop? When my boyfriend Earth was brutally tortured, raped, and burned alive in Tennessee, and the police refused to investigate, and the sheriff called me Faggot like it was my name and told me to mind my own business, was it politically correct of me to want justice for the man I loved?

Instead of politically correct, maybe it’s just plain correct to love someone and want them to have a place in this world where they are not persecuted and murdered. If you are someone who uses the term “politically correct” to dismiss the needs and concerns of others, try taking a moment before you say the words and ask yourself why you need to say them at all. What does it cost you to consider keeping your mouth shut? Better yet, what would it cost you to open your mouth and ask people what they may need and what you can do to help?

If you are a registered voter in the United States, please look carefully into your state’s upcoming elections for anti-LGBTQ referendums and bigoted politicians who need to be fired. Voters in Massachusetts, for instance, are complacent in their state’s usually progressive political leanings, but this November will see a truly vicious referendum called the Massachusetts Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Veto Referendum: an attempt by neo-fascists to remove a law that protects LGBTQ people from discrimination in hotels, restaurants, and other privately owned public places where heterosexuals have always been welcome. This referendum needs to be read carefully, because many liberal voters will think that voting no means voting against discriminatory practices — when in fact they need to vote yes to uphold the protections the law still provides.

Let us take this time before the elections to contact all of our friends and family across the nation and ask them to please pay close attention to these laws.

Here is some good news: business owners in Kentucky are taking their state’s anti-LGBTQ legislation into their own hands before the upcoming elections. Many businesses throughout Kentucky are placing stickers on their doors that read WE DON’T DISCRIMINATE: IF YOU’RE BUYING, WE’RE SELLING. Remember the anti-LGBTQ legislation Vice President Pence approved as governor of Indiana? Well, high-school students are holding the first ever Pride event in his hometown of Columbus, Indiana. In more good news, voters in Michigan who are tired of Christian conversion therapy being used on young LGBTQ people are trying to pass Bill 5550, which will ban conversion therapy in their state.

The rise of ACT UP and Queer Nation was the time when we took back the word queer. Queer took the power back, not asking for but demanding our space in the world. Queer was the first time I felt comrades had my back. Queer was sick and tired of the racism, misogyny, transphobia, and classism in the gay and lesbian community. Politically correct, you say? Oh no, you have it all wrong! The people who claim my community is politically correct are actually the ones doing the correct political things to make the United States a ruthless, murderous nation of intolerance.

Sasha Wall of South Carolina bravely lived the last three years of her life as a woman. Her dream, she thought, could fit into this world of dreamers. On Easter Sunday this year she was shot to death while sitting in her car at an intersection. For two hours people drove around her dead body slumped over the steering wheel until someone finally checked to see if she needed help. African American transwomen have one of the highest rates of murder in the United States. If it has not been apparent before, I hope it is finally becoming clear that LGBTQ organizations have spent too much time and too many resources on “marriage equality” and supporting a racist military-industrial complex while the most vulnerable members of our community go without proper care for their health and safety. BLACK TRANS LIVES MATTER!

According to the Los Angeles Blade, more than 70 percent of the 2017 spike in violence against LGBTQ people in the United States was against queer people of color. Yet many conservative minds today, like Jordan Peterson, are busy whining that political correctness is a form of mind control instead of asking why it is people need to demand space to speak, space to actually exist without being shot to death in their cars. Does Peterson, wealthy, white, heterosexual man that he is, think Sasha Wall was politically correct in her quest to live her dream, the quest that cost her her life?

Yes, I am queer, but even if you are not, my community is still your community just as much as your community is mine. It is time to finally get rid of all and any lawmakers who terrorize LGBTQ people. Be careful with Democrats who are too eager to reach across party lines. Georgia, Kansas, and Oklahoma have upcoming adoption laws “protecting” Christian adoption agencies from LGBTQ parents.

Subcomandante Marcos said, “In our dreams we have seen another world, an honest world, a world decidedly more fair than the one in which we now live.” In saying this he was telling us we share this dream, one we must admit is our bond, and now we must manifest it, build it, walk directly into that future we dream together. The price of not believing we can make this other, better world is living in the same old world of inequity we feel tearing our bodies apart. What is stopping our faith in one another is merely a handful of people. When we consider the fact that three million more popular votes went to Hillary Clinton, it is easy to see that the majority has a different kind of dream than Trump’s much smaller neo-fascist constituency. With the weight of three million more humans, let the dream-manifesting begin!

As grim as things are, we really are standing together on a political hinge. Let’s force the right and the right-leaning left as far left as possible. Let’s not settle for more neoliberal candidates as Democrats any more than we settle for Republicans of any kind. Let’s use this opportunity we have today to tip our nation in the direction of an America worthy of the principles the politicians are so busy bragging about. Be well and let’s work together!

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Take action today:

  • Sign this petition requesting a public hearing on HB 5550, which proposes to ban conversion therapy on minors in Michigan.
  • Look into bills and propositions in your home state that target LGBTQ people.
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CAConrad is the author of nine books of poetry and essays, the latest of which is While Standing in Line for Death. Please visit them online here.