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Is it Still a Radical Act to Live Openly Queer?

Is it Still Radical Live Openly Queer?

Photo of Streetwork Project fashion show by New York Times photographer Vincent Tullo

By Jimmy Meagher
June 15, 2018

I have worked for Safe Horizon since 2008, and I have met with many survivors who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, questioning, transgender, and gender non-conforming. For many of these survivors, the partners who hurt them used their sexual orientation and/or gender identity to further isolate or control them. Some survivors feared being outed, some feared being arrested by the police, some feared deportation, some worried that they would no longer be able to access the spaces where they felt most at home, and some hid who they were when they went into shelter out of fear of being assaulted by other residents. LGBTQ+ survivors, especially queer and trans people of color, face stigma and multiple barriers to safety.

We are living in a country where at least 12 transgender people have been murdered since the beginning of 2018. Often we only hear about trans people, specifically trans women of color, as victims of murder and abuse. The murder of trans and queer people, frequently at the hands of an intimate partner, is a crisis and a national stain. We must work together to prevent these senseless and despicable murders. Helping survivors is about healing. But it must also be about ensuring that queer and trans people, especially people of color, can thrive, achieve success, and live up to their full value and potential. It requires dismantling the racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, and classist systems and structures that value certain lives over others.

It is still a radical act to live openly LGBTQ+ and proud in America and in this world. It is still a radical act for queer folks to join together, to dance, to live, and to love in public. And it is somehow still radical for queer and trans people to just try to survive. Roxana Hernandez, a transgender woman who fled Honduras to escape the violence and hate she suffered as a trans person, died in the custody of ICE last month when she was only trying to find a better and safer life here.

Safe Horizon tries to create a safer space for LGBTQ+ survivors of crime and abuse by training and supporting staff on cultural competency, the necessity of using inclusive language, and the unique and diverse needs and obstacles facing LGBTQ+ communities. Safety planning and counseling for LGBTQ+ clients is not one-size-fits-all; we take the lead from each and every client when safety planning and providing support. When meeting with a survivor, we also remain mindful of the language we use and refrain from making assumptions about their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. The quickest way a counselor can make a survivor feel unsafe and unheard is to misgender them or their partner.

It’s been two years since the mass shooting at Pulse. The impacts of that traumatic event, an attack on LGBTQ+ people of color, are as present as ever. Violence surrounds us and fills the news from around the world each day. Intimate partner violence, sexual violence, hate violence, gender-based violence, gun violence. They never end. People continue to hurt one another. What can we do?

We must work together, all of us, to make our homes, our streets, and our communities safe for everybody, not just some. We must stand behind and alongside survivors of intimate partner violence and all other forms of abuse. We must stand behind and alongside our lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, gender non-conforming, queer, and questioning siblings. None of us will ever be truly free until we are all free.

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