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Austin Stonewall Rally & RiseAboveH8 Vigils

2:46 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

For more of MyFDL’s coverage of OccuPride, see also Why Occupy Pride, Gay Crumbs from the Table of the Masters, and the Watercooler posts Pride, Pride Revisited and Vigil.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on MyFDL, unlike most cities Austin celebrates ‘official’ LGBTQ pride in September. However for the past two years the same organization which holds pride has honored the actual anniversary of the Stonewall Riots with a rally at the Texas State Capitol. A small contingent of the Occupy Austin OccuQueers attended last Thursday, bringing our new Stonewall Was a Riot banner along with fliers for OccupyJ4 (our own all-day Independence Day rally at the Capitol).

About 75 people gathered for the rally by the south steps of the Capitol. As members of the queer community recited the history of the day and read from first-hand accounts, it was hard not to compare the radical, angry nature of the original riots with the sedate, low energy rally. Though there may be valid complaints about Austin’s official queer pride events (such as their sponsorship by Wells Fargo), I can’t lay all the blame at their feet — in weather over a hundred degrees, it was hard to imagine much more revolutionary fervor from that crowd. It was still interesting to compare where we’d been (angry drag queens throwing pennies at police) with where we are now (long debates between nonviolent activist groups about the definition of nonviolence), for better or worse.

For me the highlight of the rally was a drag show with about a dozen drag queens. It may have been a historic occasion — possibly the first every drag show at the Texas Capitol. Just as importantly, it was a gesture by Austin’s Pride organizers that they aren’t trying to whitewash the history of pride, as has often been the case with other events (or groups like Human Rights Campaign and their anti-transgender stances).

There was an even bigger sense of community — and I believe a bigger turn out — the following day for a vigil for Kristene Chapa and Mollie Olgin, the two victims of a shooting in Portland, Texas, one of two dozen vigils organized across North America by Get Equal TX. Mollie Olgin died at the scene, but her girlfriend Mary Kristene Chapa remains in the hospital without health insurance, though she has recovered consciousness, motion to one side of her body, and memory of the night of the shooting. In Austin, our numbers filled City Hall steps and spilled over beyond.

Two occupiers in rainbow clothing hold a banner, "Stonewall Was a Riot."

Two members of the OccupyAustin OccuQueers 'Rainbowbloc' at the Austin Stonewall Rally (Photo: @OccuQueers, used with permission).

This rally was an opportunity for the queer community to draw together in our grief, to send not just supportive energy, but also comforting notes, gifts, and financial support to the survivors of this tragedy. We set up a small altar; it began with a stuffed animal and some lights and ended the night covered in signs, flowers, glowing LED lights and other gifts as each of the dozens in attendance visited it to pray, reflect, or meditate on the events. I choked up a little when I saw a sign reading “Your Austin Family Loves You” surrounded by glowing offerings. That was hardly the only moment that tugged on our hearts — I was not the only one with tears in my eyes as Michael Diviesti led the vigil in singing (see video above) or when event organizer Amanda Williams and gay dad Paul Rodriguez‘s voices quavered with emotion as they compared Kristine & Mollie to their own children.

Though police still say there is no sign that sexual orientation provoked the killer, we all have to join together against crimes that are so hateful, regardless of whether they qualify as hate crimes. At the end of the night, the girls’ relatives and friends seemed deeply moved as we helped them fill bags with our gifts — moved by the outpouring of loving, grieving, unified energy as much as by anything physical we’d given.

Visit Approximately 8,000 Words for more photos from these events.

Gay Crumbs From the Table of the Masters (by Daniel Edward Massoglia)

9:30 am in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

By Daniel Edward Massoglia (@jujueyeball). Originally published on the Occupied Chicago Tribune. For more MyFDL coverage of Occupied Pride events, see Why Occupy Pride and the watercooler posts Pride and Pride Revisited.

Protest Banner: Take Back Pride Queers Against Racism And Corporate Greed

OccuPride Banner in Chicago (Photo: Philip DeVon, used with permission)

If you had, at the time, asked a participant in the Stonewall Riots—whose occurrence annual LGBTQ Pride parades commemorate—whether they envisioned a future where their cause was vocally supported by JP Morgan, Doritos, and the President of the United States, chances are your answer would have been a swift and sure “No.” But, in 21st century America, this is the case, and, sadly, Pride has let itself be changed by this, with little thought given to the consequences and ramifications.

Let this be said: Chicago Pride was awesome. Hundreds of thousands (850,000 by the city of Chicago’s estimation) joined together in Chicago’s Lakeview and Wrigleyville neighborhoods in an exuberant celebration of humanity. People of all races, ages, sexual orientations and gender identities celebrated the wonder of life in all its forms. Gay cowboys line-danced. Dykes occupied their bikes. Even the handful of bigots ended up looking silly, flanked on either side by a sign directed at the preacher (“Secretly Gay”) and an honest to goodness “Gay Jesus” impersonator, fabulous from beard to sandals. It really was beautiful. In one interfaith segment, Mormons, Catholics, Buddhists, and other groups marched, carrying signs saying, “Gays are God’s People.” Even with all the upbeat, sun-driven joy, however, there were a number of troubling elements to the parade.

Underwritten by the 1%

Pride initially represented the cry, “We exist!” shouted from an ignored and stigmatized community to the larger population of the country. It was a celebration of the margins. While this is still the case in some ways, the LGBTQ community has now found itself underwritten by the most oppressive elements of American society—banks, politicians, and corporations, the ultimate ostracizers—and it has largely accepted this. It is a shift almost as dizzying in scope as the shift in mainstream consciousness towards LGBTQ rights. Decades ago, from the margins came a movement, one which has now, years later, unfortunately and almost unblinkingly accepted the subsidy of organizations and individuals that actively enable the perpetual, repressive “othering” of the powerless.

Read the rest of this entry →

Watercooler: Global Protest

6:00 pm in Watercooler by Kit OConnell

Hi, y’all.

Been thinking about the state of things, like I often do, and inspired as usual by conversations with my friends.

Look at the example set recently by other countries, like Canada or Mexico, with their vibrant street protests. It’s painful to compare it to the United States sometimes. When our northern neighbors enact new laws against free speech and protest, the people take to the streets nationwide. Here, there hardly seems to be a reaction, or the reaction is one of fear.

At my optimistic moments though, I imagine that a wave of globally connected, technologically-enhanced protest reached our shores in fall of last year, and while it’s at low ebb here in the United States now, its washing over other places. We’re ready here — the channels of connection, communication, and key networks of radical activists — waiting for the return of the wave when the time comes. Will it be a tidal wave next time?

That’s what’s on my mind today. I’m off to the Austin Stonewall protest tonight, though it’ll be over by the time you read these words. I’ll let you know how it goes!

And this is today’s open thread — what’s on your mind? Any more thoughts on today’s healthcare decision (or anything else)?

Watercooler: Pride Revisited (UPDATED)

5:48 pm in Watercooler by Kit OConnell

Hi, y’all.

In a previous watercooler I wrote about LGBTQ pride events and how they’ve become increasingly driven by the “pink dollar” of corporate sponsorship, and divorced from the real origin of the event — the anger of queer people at a long history of oppression based on orientation, gender identity, and race.

Sadly, the anniversary of Stonewall comes close on the heels of a tragic reminder of the struggle still ahead: the shooting of a young lesbian couple in Portland, Texas. Though there are apparently no suspects and the motive is therefore still unknown, police are quick to dismiss the potential hate crime angle:

“A motive in this case has not been established,” Portland, Texas, Police Chief Randy Wright said in a statement late Tuesday. “However, there is no current evidence to indicate the attacks were motivated by that relationship.”

Regardless of the particulars of the case as they develop, is this the world we want to live in — where some of our youngest and most vulnerable minorities are preyed on while mainstream Pride celebrates the small donations of a few big corporations? Though not as serious as the Texas case, there is violence everywhere. Shortly after the Seattle Police Department created their own It Gets Better video, an officer pepper-sprayed a peaceful LGBTQ street party then charged the victim with assault.

We have to keep fighting. When we’re bashed, we must bash back.

On Thursday, the Occupy Austin OccuQueers will Occupy the Austin Stonewall Rally. Then on Friday, Austin will host a candlelit vigil for the victims of the Portland shooting in solidarity with the vigil occurring in Portland, Texas.

See also: Why Occupy Pride

Update: Mary Christine Chapa, the surviving half of the couple, is making an extraordinary recovery but lacks health insurance. GetEqual TX reports that solidarity vigils are planned for 18 cities in North America.

This is tonight’s open thread. What’s on your mind?