We are also responsible.
I spend much of my life talking about race. More specifically, I engage in difficult dialogue about how people who believe themselves to be White (h/t Ta-Nehisi Coates) uphold a system of racism.
I get that.
And, it is long overdue, my cis- and hetero- friends, that we take responsibility for homophobia and transphobia. Even if we consider ourselves to "not be homophobic or transphobic." We benefit from a system that was created for us, shaped for us, and reinforced by us.
I certainly can't take individual responsibility for the recent tragedy, but I must take responsibility for the ways in which my cis- and hetero- privilege contribute to the oppression and marginalization of people who identify and are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender as well as gender fluid and gender non-conforming.
We can pray all we want for the families and individuals impacted by oppression and equality; but, we need to take responsibility.
So, here are the things I take responsibility for that contribute to homophobia and transphobia:
- I am responsible for the times when I do not address homophobic remarks -- veiled or unveiled.
- I am responsible for when I have done a "double take" when I have seen, or believe to see, a human being who may be transgender.
- I am responsible for when I have assumed gender pronouns of an individual, regardless of how one expresses oneself.
- I am responsible for when I enter into a bathroom that aligns with my gender identity, reinforcing a structural and belief privilege that protects me from discrimination or harm.
- I am responsible for when I enter into a gender inclusive (gender neutral) bathroom as an act of solidarity but, also contribute to a longer line in a space where trans and gender-fluid people feel safer.
- I am responsible for when I assume, even in my head, that someone has a spouse or partner of the opposite gender, sex, or gender identity.
- I am responsible for times when I have witnessed people show affection to their partners and may have, at times, displayed micro-expressions that displayed my homophobic upbringing and childhood. This may have been a raised eyebrow or a side head tilt.
- I am responsible for when my children may have witnessed micro-expressions that de-legitimitized people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender or gender fluid.
- I am responsible for when I have leaned away from having difficult conversations with my children or loved ones about LGBT equality and rights.
- I am responsible for when I have not changed policies that oppress people who are transgender - including guests, visitors, families, and friends -- in the workplace.
- I am responsible for when I have not shown up to political protests, meetings, action groups or workshops that are aimed at equality and equity.
- I am responsible for not going to school board meetings when issues of inclusion, particularly around identities, are addressed.
- I am responsible for not fighting for the equality of families when events like a "Father/Daughter" or "Mother/Son" dance are presented. Events, even ones that seek to build community, must be more inclusive -- not just because it includes families but also because it raises awareness for all of us of who are structurally excluded when we host these types of events.
- I am responsible for reinforcing heteronormativity when I do not critique songs or music that only speak to hetero-centric relationships, especially when my children are listening and watching.
- I am responsible for reinforcing heteronormativity when I do not address comments directed at my children that affirm their cisgender identities.
- I am responsible for not being more intentional about un-learning my own homophobia and transphobia that were ingrained early in my life.
- I am responsible for when I Whitewash LGBTQ issues and fail my communities of color.
- I am responsible for the types of articles I choose to forward, the tweets I like or retweet or quote, and emails I send that privilege cis- and hetero- communities.
- I am responsible for silencing voices when I participate in choosing leadership on committees that privilege, and thereby affirm structures, people who identify as cis- and hetero- people.
- I am responsible for perpetuating leadership that privileges cis- and hetero- people when I fail to reach out to LGBTQ communities and develop relationships in hiring processes.
- I am responsible for the oppression of LGBTQ people when I fail to keep their diverse, and shared, needs when they are not represented in decision making positions.
- I am responsible when I scroll past articles that impact -- and could serve to inform me about -- the LGBT communities.
And, more each day. Every day, I participate in a system that privileges my identities. And, each day that I allow these to occur in my own life, contributes to oppression and marginalization of LGBTQ people.
I have responsibility in the oppression and marginalization of LGBTQ people.
Friends, these are mine. And you might have read these and felt kin to some of these. But, let me be clear, I also realize that my cis- and hetero- privileged identities participate in interest convergence. Some of these, by nature of oppression, benefit me.
Naturally, as they should, any of these (and all of these) should be critiqued. People, especially different identities and experiences, will critique these. And, they are meant to be. I don't write these to be controversial. These, at its most simple, are for me to challenge my own role in oppression.
As a Catholic, my prayers, indeed, are with the families and friends who have experienced loss. My heart is with the many LGBTQ friends who, despite legal protections, are not protected. In fact, their identities are under attack every day. And, my call to action is for people to show up.
As with many communities, many have come before us who have sacrificed their lives for our rights to vote.
Think. Act. Reflect. Vote. Walk the walk. Pray AND do more than pray. Interrogate your cis- and hetero-privilege. And do something. We must contribute to a community where people who identify as LGBTQ do not have to go to a single nightclub to be safe, but who experience safety and protection everywhere.