Last week I had the article ‘We need to return to our liberation roots‘ published in the Sydney Star Observer (if you haven’t read it I would suggest you do so if you want to read this post). There’s been a number of comments on the piece and quite a few negative reactions to it. So, I thought I would take this opportunity to expand on my argument.
Firstly, I think it is interesting that a lot of the comments on this post framed my argument as one that is anti-marriage. This is despite the fact that overall, I didn’t see this as an anti-same sex marriage argument. Whilst I used some elements of the marriage equality campaign as examples, this definitely wasn’t designed as an attack on the idea of campaigning for same-sex marriage. To be clear, despite the fact that I have reservations about many parts of the same-sex marriage campaign, I am not opposed to it. I just think we need to use it as a step to a broader goal of sexual liberation, not the end in and of itself.
Moving beyond this however, I think there were two lines of attack on my argument.
First, was that I am not being ‘practical’. This article was definitely not an attack on the idea of campaigns and movements being practical in their approach. In fact I think it is essential. My approach to a lot of these things is that practicality (along with radicalness) is essential to winning campaigns.
What I was trying to say in this article however, was that practicality should never come at the expense of our core principles. For me, there is no point winning practical fights if in doing so we throw out everything we believe in. Unfortunately this is what I think is happening in parts of the queer movement. In particular, what I am seeing is an exclusionary approach being adopted by many, in which particular queer groups (i.e. poly people) are being actively excluded in order to achieve short term goals. For me, that is not an acceptable cost to achieve these goals.
The second criticism has been focused at my class analysis of why I think these exclusionary approaches have become to proliferate. Some have called me classist and others have said that my approach would be to ‘exclude the middle class’ from the queer movement. Let me say from the outset, that is absolutely not what I was aiming to do. I have no desire at all to exclude anyone from any level of the movement (if I were the advocate excluding middle class people from the queer movement, I would be excluding myself).
My argument is about privilege. Privilege is an important factor in our society. Some people have it and they benefit from it. And even though sometimes we can talk about privilege between different social classes and groups, we very rarely talk about it within social classes and groups. My argument is that the reality is that, even though we may not like to talk about it, there are privileged elements within the queer movement; the middle class white activists I spoke about*.
Moving beyond this, my argument is not that these people need to stop being active in the queer movement. It is simply that they need to check their privilege as participants within this movement. I think that I, as a middle-class white man, need to ensure that as someone who does have privilege within my community based solely on those traits, ensure that I work as hard as I can to be an inclusive as a member of the queer movement. It is not about excluding myself because I have privilege, but rather making sure I don’t let that privilege get my issues ahead of others.
And that is where this argument culminates in my discussion on liberation. If you take an analysis of our society that accepts the role of privilege, then I think liberation is the natural course that we need to take. The simple fact is that the heteropatriarchy is based on privilege and no matter how much we fight for entry into it, someone is always going to be excluded from it. That is the natural way it works and that is why, as movement that I think is based on inclusivity, that we need to return to our liberation roots.
Anyway, I hope that explains what I was thinking more. Definitely happy to discuss more. This definitely is an interesting topic.
*Note that this description is a generalisation, and actively describes a social class rather than aiming to pin-point individuals. For example, it is clear that there are some middle class white people, such as those in poly relationships, who may not be privileged within queer debates. On the other side, you don’t actually have to be white to fit within this group. It is a general term, in which people move in and out of.