by Zachary Pullin -
Special to the SGN
A few years ago I watched a Discovery Channel show about the volcanoes of Hawaii. I've always loved Hawaii. But even more so, I love volcanoes. Their raw power and mystery. It's the beauty in the destruction. And the poetry of creation.
There was the usual ominous background music, filling the moments when the narrator was silent. The most poignant moment occurred near the end of the show, when the focus was on expansion of existing islands as a result of lava solidifying once it hit the Pacific Ocean.
The lava drops off the ridge, at the edge of an island. As it topples into the sea, the viscous lava solidifies - obviously only the outside. Inside still exists molten lava: heat, movement, and energy. But, there's still so much heat. Energy. Life. And this blob of lava continuously breaks the shell and expands over and over until it eventually adds another, valuable layer to the island. A newness. Progress. Growth.
THE LGBTQ VOLCANO
That's kind of how I think about the modern LGBTQ movement. With the oppressive powers of government, institutions, and cultures an LGBTQ person - or our community - can solidify. And those who don't understand our energy, our gravitas, our moxie, our heat, our life, our spirit, or our unity don't yet understand that despite being pushed off, reacting to our environment and seeming to form a shell, we are intensely and intently awaiting our moment to break that cooled shell, and create movement. Create a movement. Expand and grow.
We had been brushed aside and pushed off enough. We all worked hard - through various phone banks, door-to-door outreach, dinner-table conversations, and financial donations - and our heat and energy finally broke that shell. We won marriage equality in Washington state. We activated ourselves and now we see our raw power and the efficacy of our voice.
After Referendum 74 passed, Social Outreach Seattle and all of our community partners wanted to direct energy into social justice issues that were apparent and important. As dynamic people, LGBTQs are merely the collective creation of the various identities we carry with us. Inside, our identities seem like all the wires in a computer server room - criss-crossing, interwoven, and inextricably linked to who we are. So, we're using that energy and heat to focus on other pertinent issues affecting people - our people - as oppression in different forms.
It's this important understanding, much like the South African saying Ubuntu, which means 'I am who I am because of who we all are.' So, if anyone of us are experiencing injustice, we all are. When one benefits, we all do!
OTHER ISSUES REMAIN
This is where my story with Social Outreach Seattle and our INTERSECTIONS conversation series begins. Last night was our official launch of the INTERSECTIONS initiative. Born out of a desire to leverage and harness our energy, passion, and commitment to social justice, we are trying to engage our community in other important avenues to end oppression and injustice in all its forms. The first topic is particularly important to me, and not because I have a personal connection to immigration. It's because as a human being, it's easy for us to see injustice and recognize it, but it's what we do with that knowledge that really matters. When we knowingly see oppression, we must engage and help move toward reform and progress. There are 267,000 undocumented adult immigrants, and almost 700,000 adult documented immigrants in the United States. Damn right it's important. There are immigrants - undocumented and documented - who also identify as LGBTQ so it's absolutely imperative we join their movement and support them.
See, it's easy to assume that the LGBTQ and allied community have a one-track mind. Honestly, people would be mistaken if they thought our work was over just because we have marriage equality in Washington. However, it's far from over. We are proud and excited for the accomplishment of the hard work put into marriage equality. We are proud of those who've come before us. I like to think that if we looked down we'd all see that we're standing on the shoulders of giants. The giants who demanded people talk about the AIDS crisis. The giants who fought against DADT. The giants who fought, and still fight, against DOMA.
So, quietly, while some were taking down the balloons and cleaning up the confetti on the morning of November 7, a few of us said, 'Imagine more than marriage!' Imagine comprehensive immigration reform because it affects LGBTQ people. Imagine dismantling racism because it affects LGBTQ people. Imagine the full inclusion of Trans people into our conversations and considerations. Imagine health care for all because it affects LGBTQ people. Imagine deconstructing sexual violence and the marginalization of women because it affects LGBTQ people. We are the heat and we are cracking that outer layer. We are breaking through and creating new energy. We're making progress and adding a valuable layer to our society.
STRUGGLE AND SUPPORT
The personal stories of struggle and perseverance from some people at the INTERSECTIONS/Immigration & LGBTQ event was incredible. Despite the overwhelming costs of visas, the hassles of applying to be a citizen, the deportations and detentions, many are hopeful for comprehensive immigration reform. They just need more voices. More support. More people like the LGBTQ community to hear what they need and support them in making real, lasting change.
We were so lucky to have experts from both LGBTQ and allied organizations talking about immigration and asylum. So, we are very pleased with the turnout. One panelist said he's hopeful that our community is engaged and ready to help where we can because 'there was a line out the door [of Gay City] just to get into the auditorium.'
There are real things we can do now to help advocate. King County and Seattle City both send visa-holders, refugees, and other immigrant people who violate the law to ICE - Immigration & Customs Enforcement. If they break even a small law our municipalities send them to a privately owned detention center in Tacoma. And LGBTQ people are at a disadvantage in the care they receive. Often they are put into solitary confinement 'for their own safety.' Today, you can call your King County and Seattle City councilpersons and demand they stop sending low-level offenders to a detention center. It's not right.
THE NEXT CONVERSATION
INTERSECTIONS didn't end Wednesday night. We will continue engaging the LGBTQ and allied community in conversations that are real and valuable. Our next conversation, in the East Hall of Century Ballroom (915 E. Pine St.), on Tuesday, April 30, at 7 p.m., will be about body diversity and sizeism. It will feature an eclectic photo exhibit illustrating the body diversity that exists within the LGBTQ community and why it's important we acknowledge and have discourse about healthy body image.
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