…and have no idea what we want…
So the other day I went to an organizing meeting at the LGBTQIA community center in my town. Since the place is closing down for a variety of reasons and doesn’t yet have plans (and may not make any) for a new space to move into, they were looking for the community’s input on what to do next, (it was a “Where Do We Go From Here?” sort of thing). The general demographic of the community center and its board members is middle class, white, middle aged and liberal, they host things like bingo nights and want the right to get gay married. Most of the people I organize with are militant anarchists and anti-assimilationist queers. We don’t show up at the community center often.
Earlier this year, a group of us that had stopped trying to engage with the local branch of Occupy because of rampant unchecked privilege, refusal to acknowledge diversity of tactics and repeated marginalization of women’s, queer’s, and POC’s voices formed what we’d been casually referring to as “the queer group”. Essentially we were meeting to discuss the state of queer/trans* centric activism in the city and what we would want to see/do/organize around (also a “Where Do We Go From Here?” sort of thing). We ran out of momentum because we had trouble finding free places to have meetings (an obsurdly difficult thing to do in this town if you can’t cram 20 people into your apartment) and because, while we were all there and ready to work together, we didn’t really know what we wanted. we never managed to clearly define goals we would organize to work towards. The same thing happened at this meeting at the community center. The queer/trans* community of this town came together to organize and discuss across the generational divide (something that rarely happens due to widely divergent goals and tactics between people of different age groups) ready to work together and yet I couldn’t help but feel like it was all going to just fizzle out.
We talked about everything under the sun, but we couldn’t come up with concrete goals for what we want to see in this city. This was frustrating for me because I came to the meeting to listen, to see what it was the community felt like it needed. I came to listen to other people voice concerns to try to establish a running list of goals in my head, because for a couple months now I’ve been kicking around the idea of trying to start a space for visible queer/trans* organizing, but as someone who’s only been an active part of organizing in this city for a year and a half I don’t really know what I want to see or what this city needs in terms of this. I just know it needs something, because it hasn’t got a whole lot.
The other thing that boggled my mind as well as the minds of several other people who attended the meeting with me was the fact that the community center makes well over $50,000 dollars in revenue a year and can’t pay to keep the building they’re in. Where the hell is that money going?? Whatever they’re doing they’re doing it wrong, the people I work with we pull our projects off and keep our spaces running on shoestring budgets. The things we do almost never generate revenue and are almost always funded out of our own pockets. With that kind of money the kids I organize with could run several spaces and dozens of projects and they’d all be free for the public to use/access, unlike the community center.
The one thing that was definitely positive about the meeting was that the older liberal folks were really glad to have us there and actually listened and valued our opinions, which due to personal experience, I totally was not expecting. When we spoke up about the marginalization of POC, poor people, trans*/gender variant people, and others in the mainstream gay rights movement they listened. We even heard some of the older folks express anti-assimilationist sentiments or at least awareness of the existence of those sentiments amongst younger queer folk.
Overall, I feel like there was positive dialogue across the generational gap and that if we make an effort to engage with the older folks in our community they will be more than happy to organize with us, which is really awesome, though I’m still pretty bummed that we don’t know what we trying to organize for in our community.