Like you, I have been watching the unabashed violence against black life by police and those meant to hold them accountable. I have been learning about the killing of Tony McDade, about whom we have seen misgendering reports, another kind of violence. This weekend, I watched police striking and harassing Memphis residents, including some of my close friends.
As I watch, I think about my LGBTQ+ mindset in bearing witness, and how OUTMemphis can, or sometimes can’t, show leadership.
Every year, we try to say something new and impactful for Pride: June marks the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, when Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and their fearless peers risked their lives for us by rioting against police. They were black, brown, trans, queer, sex workers, homeless youth, lesbians, gay men, genderqueer people, and all of our predecessors. On the first day of Pride, this anniversary celebration, we want to condemn in the strongest possible terms the violence of the police against black people and the escalation of police brutality.
At the same time, I want to acknowledge that OUTMemphis itself was not started by the black community and we have so much work to still be done to become a home for black LGBTQ+ people. It is essential to me that I communicate to our longtime white constituents what this organization is working on: As long as I am in leadership at OUTMemphis, our approach will be as follows: We have an abiding responsibility to dismantle all systems of oppression. LGBTQ+ liberation will not be complete until there is liberation for all BIPOC. We stand alongside — and must learn to stand within — the movement for black lives.
Are we there yet? Not entirely. The questioning and confronting we must do internally, of our past and our present, is far from over. We must use our learning to contribute to what comes after us. We don’t have all the answers. We’re searching for new answers like everyone else.
We also must be committed to amplifying the contributions and needs of trans and queer perspectives in the movement for racial justice. We lift up our black LGBTQ+ community members who were on the streets of Memphis this weekend: We see you and the risks you take for us. Your presence is real and beloved. My work is incomplete without yours.
Like many of you, witnessing the recent scenarios involving police brutality locally and nationally have left me experiencing a myriad of emotions. As a gay black man, these emotions were compounded upon learning of the death of Tony McDade, a Black transgender male killed by police in Tallahassee.
As we prepare later this month to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first pride march, which blossomed from the Stonewall Riots of 1969, it is important to remember the true strength of our collective voice and action. Now is our time to speak out! Police brutality is not just an intersectional issue; it is an intolerable human rights issue. We have seen countless times that no one is immune and, without action, these senseless attacks will only continue to fester if we stand by and do nothing. Just as faith without works is dead, words without action are just as useless.
In the coming weeks and months, dialogue will be needed from all sides to determine where we go from here. Now is the time to appeal to the humanity in all of us. Everyone will need to create and hold productive and intentional space for those still processing emotions related to events during this time.. Our conversations and action should remain outraged, yet pragmatic. We must not lose sight of the purpose and goal.
James Baldwin stated, “not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Now is our time to stand and continue the work. Peace and blessings to all as we navigate through this difficult time. Together.
While anger, outrage, and hurt over the murder of George Floyd still hasn’t subsided – we saw another unnecessary loss of life last week. Tony McDade was a black trans man shot by police in Tallahassee, Florida on the morning of May 25. The circumstances of his shooting are still unknown. However, that doesn’t negate the fact that those close to Tony say he needed help due to a history of trauma and incarceration. Instead, he was shot. As we and the media discuss this, we need to treat him with respect by using his real name and gender. Tony. He/Him/His.
Photo credits: Memphis protest, Joe Rondone, Commercial Appeal; Marsha P. Johnson, Netflix/USA Today; Tony McDade, social media.