QUEERS READ THIS
How can I tell you. How can I convince you, brother,
sister that your life is in danger: That everyday you wake
up alive, relatively happy, and a functioning human being,
you are committing a rebellious act. You as an alive and
functioning queer are a revolutionary.
There is nothing on this planet that validates, protects
or encourages your existence. It is a miracle you are
standing here reading these words. You should by all rights
be dead. Don't be fooled, straight people own the world and
the only reason you have been spared is you're smart, lucky
or a fighter.
Straight people have a privilege that allows them to do
whatever they please and fuck without fear. But not only do
they live a life free of fear; they flaunt their freedom in
my face. Their images are on my TV, in the magazine I
bought, in the restaurant I want to eat in, and on the
street where I live. I want there to be a moratorium on
straight marriage, on babies, on public displays of
affection among the opposite sex and media images that
promote heterosexuality. Until I can enjoy the same freedom
of movement and sexuality, as straights, their privilege
must stop and it must be given over to me and my queer
sisters and brothers. Straight people will not do this
voluntarily and so they must be forced into it. Straights
must be frightened into it. Terrorized into it. Fear is the
most powerful motivation. No one will give us what we
deserve. Rights are not given they are taken, by force if
necessary. It is easier to fight when you know who your
enemy is. Straight people are your enemy. They are your
enemy when they don't acknowledge your invisibility and
continue to live in and contribute to a culture that kills
you. Every day one of us is taken by the enemy. Whether
it's an AIDS death due to homophobic government inaction or
a lesbian bashing in an all-night diner (in a supposedly
AN ARMY OF LOVERS CANNOT LOSE
Being queer is not about a right to privacy; it is about
the freedom to be public, to just be who we are. It means
everyday fighting oppression; homophobia, racism, misogyny,
the bigotry of religious hypocrites and our own self-hatred.
(We have been carefully taught to hate ourselves.) And now
of course it means fighting a virus as well, and all those
homo-haters who are using AIDS to wipe us off the face of
the earth. Being queer means leading a different sort of
life. It's not about the mainstream, profit-margins,
patriotism, patriarchy or being assimilated. It's not about
executive directors, privilege and elitism. It's about
being on the margins, defining ourselves; it's about gender-
fuck and secrets, what's beneath the belt and deep inside
the heart; it's about the night. Being queer is "grass
roots" because we know that everyone of us, every body,
every cunt, every heart and ass and dick is a world of
pleasure waiting to be explored. Everyone of us is a world
of infinite possibility. We are an army because we have to
be. We are an army because we are so powerful. (We have so
much to fight for; we are the most precious of endangered
species.) And we are an army of lovers because it is we who
know what love is. Desire and lust, too. We invented them.
We come out of the closet, face the rejection of society,
face firing squads, just to love each other! Every time we
fuck, we win. We must fight for ourselves (no one else is
going to do it) and if in that process we bring greater
freedom to the world at large then great. (We've given so
much to that world: democracy, all the arts, the concepts
of love, philosophy and the soul, to name just a few gifts
from our ancient Greek Dykes, Fags.) Let's make every space
a Lesbian and Gay space. Every street a part of our sexual
geography. A city of yearning and then total satisfaction.
A city and a country where we can be safe and free and more.
We must look at our lives and see what's best in them, see
what is queer and what is straight and let that straight
chaff fall away! Remember there is so, so little time. And
I want to be a lover of each and every one of you. Next
year, we march naked.
"The strong sisters told the brothers that there were two
important things to remember about the coming revolutions,
the first is that we will get our asses kicked. The second,
is that we will win."
I'm angry. I'm angry for being condemned to death by
strangers saying, "You deserve to die" and "AIDS is the
cure." Fury erupts when a Republican woman wearing thousands
of dollars of garments and jewelry minces by the police
lines shaking her head, chuckling and wagging her finger at
us like we are recalcitrant children making absurd demands
and throwing temper tantrum when they aren't met. Angry
while Joseph agonizes over $8,000 a over for AZT which might
keep him alive a little longer and which makes him sicker
than the disease he is diagnosed with. Angry as I listen to
a man tell me that after changing his will five times he's
running out of people to leave things to. All of his best
friends are dead. Angry when stand in a sea of quilt panels,
or go to a candlelight march or attend yet another memorial
service. I will not march silently with a fucking candle
and I want to take that goddamned quilt and wrap myself in
it and furiously rend it and my hair and curse every god
religion ever created. I refuse to accept a creation that
cuts people down in the third decade of their life.
It is cruel and vile and meaningless and everything I
have in me rails against the absurdity and I raise my face
to the clouds and a ragged laugh that sounds more demonic
than joyous erupts from my throat and tears stream down my
face and if this disease doesn't kill me, I may just die of
frustration. My feet pound the streets and Peter's hands
are chained to a pharmaceutical company's reception desk
while the receptionist looks on in horror and Eric's body
lies rotting in a Brooklyn cemetery and I'll never hear his
flute resounding off the walls of the meeting house again.
And I see the old people in Tompkins Square Park huddled in
their long wool coats in June to keep out the cold they
perceive is there and to cling to whatever little life has
left to offer them. I'm reminded of the people who strip and
stand before a mirror each night before they go to bed and
search their bodies for any mark that might not have been
there yesterday. A mark that this scourge has visited them.
And I'm angry when the newspapers call us "victims" and
sound alarms that "it" might soon spread to the "general
population." And I want to scream "Who the fuck am I?" And I
want to scream at New York Hospital with its yellow plastic
bags marked "isolation linen", "ropa infecciosa" and its
orderlies in latex gloves and surgical masks skirting the
bed as if its occupant will suddenly leap out and douse them
with blood and semen giving them too the plague.
And I'm angry at straight people who sit smugly wrapped
in their self-protective coat of monogamy and
heterosexuality confident that this disease has nothing to
do with them because "it" only happens to "them." And the
teenage boys who upon spotting my Silence=Death button begin
chanting "Faggot's gonna die" and I wonder, who taught them
this? Enveloped in fury and fear, I remain silent while my
button mocks me every step of the way. And the anger I fell
when a television program on the quilt gives profiles of the
dead and the list begins with a baby, a teenage girl who got
a blood transfusion, an elderly baptist minister and his
wife and when they finally show a gay man, he's described as
someone who knowingly infected teenage male prostitutes with
the virus. What else can you expect from a faggot? I'm angry.
Since time began, the world has been inspired by the work
of queer artists. In exchange, there has been suffering,
there has been pain, there has been violence. Throughout
history, society has struck a bargain with its queer
citizens: they may pursue creative careers, if they do it
discreetly. Through the arts queers are productive,
lucrative, entertaining and even uplifting. These are the
clear-cut and useful by-products of what is otherwise
considered antisocial behavior. In cultured circles, queers
may quietly coexist with an otherwise disapproving power
At the forefront of the most recent campaign to bash
queer artists is Jesse Helms, arbiter of all that is decent,
moral, christian and amerikan. For Helms, queer art is
quite simply a threat to the world. In his imaginings,
heterosexual culture is too fragile to bear up to the
admission of human or sexual diversity. Quite simply, the
structure of power in the Judeo-Christian world has made
procreation its cornerstone. Families having children
assures consumers for the nation's products and a work force
to produce them, as well as a built-in family system to care
for its ill, reducing the expense of public healthcare
ALL NON-PROCREATIVE BEHAVIOR IS CONSIDERED A THREAT
From homosexuality to birth control to abortion as an option. It
is not enough, according to the religious right, to
consistently advertise procreation and heterosexuality ...
it is also necessary to destroy any alternatives. It is not
art Helms is after .... IT IS OUR LIVES! Art is the last
safe place for lesbians and gay men to thrive. Helms knows
this, and has developed a program to purge queers from the
one arena they have been permitted to contribute to our
Helms is advocating a world free from diversity or
dissent. It is easy to imagine why that might feel more
comfortable to those in charge of such a world. It is also
easy to envision an amerikan landscape flattened by such
power. Helms should just ask for what he is hinting at:
State sponsored art, art of totalitarianism, art that speaks
only in christian terms, art which supports the goals of
those in power, art that matches the sofas in the Oval
Office. Ask for what you want, Jesse, so that men and women
of conscience can mobilize against it, as we do against the
human rights violations of other countries, and fight to
free our own country's dissidents.
IF YOU'RE QUEER,
Queers are under siege.
Queers are being attacked on all fronts and I'm afraid
it's ok with us.
In 1969, there were 50 "Queer Bashings" in the month of
May alone. Violent attacks, 3,720 men, women and children
died of AIDS in the same month, caused by a more violent
attack --- government inaction, rooted in society's growing
homophobia. This is institutionalized violence, perhaps
more dangerous to the existence of queers because the
attackers are faceless. We allow these attacks by our own
continued lack of action against them. AIDS has affected
the straight world and now they're blaming us for AIDS and
using it as a way to justify their violence against us.
They don't want us anymore. They will beat us, rape us and
kill us before they will continue to live with us. What
will it take for this not to be ok? Feel some rage. If rage
doesn't empower you, try fear. If that doesn't work, try
Be proud. Do whatever you need to do to tear yourself
away from your customary state of acceptance. Be free.
In 1969, Queers fought back. In 1990, Queers say ok.
Next year, will we be here?
I HATE ...
I hate Jesse Helms. I hate Jesse Helms so much I'd
rejoice if he dropped down dead. If someone killed him I'd
consider it his own fault.
I hate Ronald Reagan, too, because he mass-murdered my
people for eight years. But to be honest, I hate him even
more for eulogizing Ryan White without first admitting his
guilt, without begging forgiveness for Ryan's death and for
the deaths of tens of thousands of other PWA's --- most of
them queer. I hate him for making a mockery of our grief.
I hate the fucking Pope, and I hate John fucking Cardinal
fucking O'Connor, and I hate the whole fucking Catholic
Church. The same goes for the Military, and especially for
Amerika's Law Enforcement Officials --- the cops --- state
sanctioned sadists who brutalize street transvestites,
prostitutes and queer prisoners. I also hate the medical
and mental health establishments, particularly the
psychiatrist who conviced me not to have sex with men for
three years until we (meaning he) could make me bisexual
rather than queer. I also hate the education profession,
for its share in driving thousands of queer teens to suicide
every year. I hate the "respectable" art world; and the
entertainment industry, and the mainstream media, especially
The New York Times. In fact, I hate every sector of the
straight establishment in this country --- the worst of whom
actively want all queers dead, the best of whom never stick
their necks out to keep us alive.
I hate straight people who think they have anything
intelligent to say about "outing." I hate straight people
who think stories about themselves are "universal" but
stories about us are only about homosexuality. I hate
straight recording artists who make their careers off of
queer people, then attack us, then act hurt when we get
angry and then deny having wronged us rather than apologize
for it. I hate straight people who say, "I don't see why
you feel the need to wear those buttons and t-shirts. I
don't go around telling the whole world I'm straight."
I hate that in twelve years of public education I was
never taught about queer people. I hate that I grew up
thinking I was the only queer in the world, and I hate even
more that most queer kids still grow up the same way. I
hate that I was tormented by other kids for being a faggot,
but more that I was taught to feel ashamed for being the
object of their cruelty, taught to feel it was my fault. I
hate that the Supreme Court of this country says it's okay
to criminalize me because of how I make love. I hate that
so many straight people are so concerned about my goddamned
sex life. I hate that so many twisted straight people
become parents, while I have to fight like hell to be
allowed to be a father. I hate straights.
WHERE ARE YOU SISTERS?
I wear my pink triangle everywhere. I do not lower my
voice in public when talking about lesbian love or sex. I
always tell people I'm a lesbian. I don't wait to be asked
about my "boyfriend." I don't say it's "no one's
I don't do this for straight people. Most of them don't
know what the pink triangle even means. Most of them
couldn't care less that my girlfriend and I are totally in
love or having a fight on the street. Most of them don't
notice us no matter what we do. I do what I do to reach
other lesbians. I do what I do because I don't want
lesbians to assume I'm a straight girl. I am out all the
time, everywhere, because I WANT TO REACH YOU. Maybe
you'll notice me, maybe we'll start talking, maybe we'll
exchange numbers, maybe we'll become friends. Maybe we
won't say a word but our eyes will meet and I will imagine
you naked, sweating, openmouthed, your back arched as I am
fucking you. And we'll be happy to know we aren't the only
ones in the world. We'll be happy because we found each
other, without saying a word, maybe just for a moment. But
You won't wear a pink triangle on that linen lapel. You
won't meet my eyes if I flirt with you on the street. You
avoid me on the job because I'm "too" out. You chastise me
in bars because I'm "too political." You ignore me in
public because I bring "too much" attention to "my"
lesbianism. But then you want me to be your lover, you
want me to be your friend, you want me to love you,
support, you, fight for "OUR" right to exist.
WHERE ARE YOU?
You talk, talk, talk about invisibility and then retreat
to your homes to nest with your lovers or carouse in a bar
with pals and stumble home in a cab or sit silently and
politely by while your family, your boss, your neighbors,
your public servants distort and disfigure us, deride us
and punish us. Then home again and you feel like
screaming. Then you pad your anger with a relationship or
a career or a party with other dykes like you and still you
wonder why we can't find each other, why you feel lonely,
GET UP, WAKE UP SISTERS!!
Your life is in your hands.
When I risk it all to be out, I risk it for both of us.
When I risk it all and it works (which it often does if you
would try it), I benefit and so do you. When it doesn't
work, I suffer and you do not.
But girl you can't wait for other dykes to make the world
safe for you. STOP waiting for a better more lesbian
future! The revolution could be here if we started it.
Where are you sisters? I'm trying to find you, I'm trying
to find you. How come I only see you on Gay Pride Day?
We're OUT, Where the fuck are YOU?
WHEN ANYONE ASSAULTS YOU FOR BEING QUEER, IT IS QUEER BASHING. RIGHT?
A crowd of 50 people exit a gay bar as it closes.
Across the street, some straight boys are shouting "Faggots"
and throwing beer bottles at the gathering, which outnumbers
them by 10 to 1. Three queers make a move to respond,
getting no support from the group. Why did a group this
size allow themselves to be sitting ducks?
Tompkins Square Park, Labor Day. At an annual outdoor
concert/drag show, a group of gay men were harassed by teens
carrying sticks. In the midst of thousands of gay men and
lesbians, these straight boys beat two gay men to the
ground, then stood around triumphantly laughing amongst
themselves. The emcee was alerted and warned the crowd from
the stage, "You girls be careful. When you dress up it
drives the boys crazy," as if it were a practical joke
inspired by what the victims were wearing rather than a
pointed attack on anyone and everyone at that event.
What would it have taken for that crowd to stand up to
After James Zappalorti, an openly gay man, was murdered
in cold blood on Staten Island this winter, a single
demonstration was held in protest. Only one hundred people
came. When Yuseuf Hawkins, a black youth, was shot to death
for being on "white turf" in Bensonhurst, African Americans
marched through that neighborhood in large numbers again and
again. A black person was killed BECAUSE HE WAS BLACK, and
people of color throughout the city recognized it and acted
on it. The bullet that hit Hawkins was meant for a black
man, ANY black man. Do most gays and lesbians think that
the knife that punctured Zappalorti's heart was meant only
The straight world has us so convinced that we are
helpless and deserving victims of the violence against us,
that queers are immobilized when faced with a threat. BE
OUTRAGED! These attacks must not be tolerated. DO
SOMETHING. Recognize that any act of aggression against any
member of our community is an attack on every member of the
community. The more we allow homophobes to inflict
violence, terror and fear on our lives, the more frequently
and ferociously we will be the object of their hatred. Your
immeasurably valuable, because unless you start believing
that, it can easily be taken from you. If you know how to
gently and efficiently immobilize your attacker, then by all
means, do it. If you lack those skills, then think about
gouging out his fucking eyes, slamming his nose back into
his brain, slashing his throat with a broken bottle --- do
whatever you can, whatever you have to, to save your life!
Ah, do we really have to use that word? It's trouble.
Every gay person has his or her own take on it. For some it
means strange and eccentric and kind of mysterious. That's
okay, we like that. But some gay girls and boys don't.
They think they're more normal than strange. And for others
"queer" conjures up those awful memories of adolescent
suffering. Queer. It's forcibly bittersweet and quaint at
best --- weakening and painful at worst. Couldn't we just
use "gay" instead? It's a much brighter word and isn't it
synonymous with "happy?" When will you militants grow up and
get over the novelty of being different?
Well, yes, "gay " is great. It has its place. But when
a lot of lesbians and gay men wake up in the morning we feel
angry and disgusted, not gay. So we've chosen to call
ourselves queer. Using "queer" is a way of reminding us how
we are perceived by the rest of the world. It's a way of
telling ourselves we don't have to be witty and charming
people who keep our lives discreet and marginalized in the
straight world. We use queer as gay men loving lesbians and
lesbians loving being queer.
Queer, unlike GAY, doesn't mean MALE.
And when spoken to other gays and lesbians it's a way of
suggesting we close ranks, and forget (temporarily) our
individual differences because we face a more insidious
common enemy. Yeah, QUEER can be a rough word but it is
also a sly and ironic weapon we can steal from the
homophobe's hands and use against him.
NO SEX POLICE
For anyone to say that coming out is not part of the
revolution is missing the point. Positive sexual images and
what they manifest saves lives because they affirm those
lives and make it possible for people to attempt to live as
self-loving instead of self-loathing. As the famous "Black
is beautiful" slogan changed many lives, so does "Read my
lips" affirm queerness in the face of hatred and
invisibility as displayed in a recent governmental study of
suicides that states at least one third of all teen suicides
are Queer kids. This is further exemplified by the rise in
HIV transmission among those under 21.
We are most hated as queers for our sexualness, that is,
our physical contact with the same sex. Our sexuality and
sexual expression are what makes us most susceptible to
physical violence. Our difference, our otherness, our
uniqueness can either paralyze us or politicize us.
Hopefully, the majority of us will not let it kill us.
Why in the world do we let heteros into queer clubs? Who
gives a fuck if they like us because we "really know how to
party?" WE HAVE TO IN ORDER TO BLOW OFF THE STEAM THEY MAKE
US FEEL ALL THE TIME! They make out wherever they please,
and take up too much room on the dance floor doing
ostentatious couples dances. They wear their heterosexuality
like a "Keep Out" sign, or like a deed of ownership.
Why the fuck do we tolerate them when they invade our
space like it's their right? Why do we let them shove
heterosexuality --- a weapon their world wields against us -
-- right in our faces in the few public spots where we can
be sexy with each other and not fear attack?
It's time to stop letting the straight people make all
the rules. Let's start by posting this sign outside every
queer club and bar:
RULES OF CONDUCT FOR STRAIGHT PEOPLE
1. Keep your display of affection (kissing, handholding,
embracing) to a minimum. Your sexuality is unwanted
and offensive to many here.
2. If you must slow dance, be as inconspicuous as possible.
3. Do not gawk or stare at lesbians or gay men, especially bull
dykes or drag queens. We are not your entertainment.
4. If you cannot comfortably deal with someone of the same
sex making a pass at you, get out.
5. Do not flaunt your heterosexuality. Be Discreet. Risk
being mistaken for a lezzie or a homo.
6. If you feel these rules are unfair, go fight homophobia in
straight clubs, or:
7. Go Fuck Yourself.
I HATE STRAIGHTS
I have friends. Some of them are straight.
Year after year, I see my straight friends. I want to
see them, to see how they are doing, to add newness to our
long and complicated histories, to experience some
continuity. Year after year I continue to realize that the
facts of my life are irrelevant to them and that I am only
half listened to, that I am an appendage to the doings of a
greater world, a world of power and privilege, of the laws
of installation, a world of exclusion. "That's not true,"
argue my straight friends. There is the one certainty in
the politics of power: those left out of it beg for
inclusion, while the insiders claim that they already are.
Men do it to women, whites do it to blacks, and everyone
does it to queers. The main dividing line, both conscious
and unconscious, is procreation ... and that magic word ---
Family. Frequently, the ones we are born into disown us
when they find out who we really are, and to make matters
worse, we are prevented from having our own. We are
punished, insulted, cut off, and treated like seditionaries
in terms of child rearing, both damned if we try and damned
if we abstain. It's as if the propagation of the species is
such a fragile directive that without enforcing it as if it
were an agenda, humankind would melt back into the primeval
I hate having to convice straight people that lesbians
and gays live in a war zone, that we're surrounded by bomb
blasts only we seem to hear, that our bodies and souls are
heaped high, dead from fright or bashed or raped, dying of
grief or disease, stripped of our personhood.
I hate straight people who can't listen to queer anger
without saying "hey, all straight people aren't like that.
I'm straight too, you know," as if their egos don't get
enough stroking or protection in this arrogant, heterosexist
world. Why must we take care of them, in the midst of our
just anger brought on by their fucked up society?! Why add
the reassurance of "Of course, I don't mean you. You don't
act that way." Let them figure out for themselves whether
they deserve to be included in our anger.
But of course that would mean listening to our anger,
which they almost never do. They deflect it, by saying "I'm
not like that" or "Now look who's generalizing" or "You'll
catch more flies with honey ... " or "If you focus on the
negative you just give out more power" or "you're not the
only one in the world who's suffering." They say "Don't
yell at me, I'm on your side" or "I think you're
overreacting" or "BOY, YOU'RE BITTER."
They've taught us that good queers don't get mad.
They've taught us so well that we not only hide our anger
from them, we hide it from each other. WE EVEN HIDE IT FROM
OURSELVES. We hide it with substance abuse and suicide and
overarhcieving in the hope of proving our worth. They bash
us and stab us and shoot us and bomb us in ever increasing
numbers and still we freak out when angry queers carry
banners or signs that say BASH BACK. For the last decade
they let us die in droves and still we thank President Bush
for planting a fucking tree, applaud him for likening PWAs
to car accident victims who refuse to wear seatbelts. LET
YOURSELF BE ANGRY. Let yourself be angry that the price of
our visibility is the constant threat of violence, anti-
queer violence to which practically every segment of this
society contributes. Let yourself feel angry that THERE IS
NO PLACE IN THIS COUNTRY WHERE WE ARE SAFE, no place where
we are not targeted for hatred and attack, the self-hatred,
the suicide --- of the closet. The next time some straight
person comes down on you for being angry, tell them that
until things change, you don't need any more evidence that
the world turns at your expense. You don't need to see only
hetero couple grocery shopping on your TV ... You don't
want any more baby pictures shoved in your face until you
can have or keep your own. No more weddings, showers,
anniversaries, please, unless they are our own brothers and
sisters celebrating. And tell them not to dismiss you by
saying "You have rights," "You have privileges," "You're overreacting,"
or "You have a victim's mentality." Tell them "GO AWAY FROM ME,
until YOU can change." Go away and try on a world without the
brave, strong queers that are its backbone, that are its guts and
brains and souls. Go tell them go away until they have spent a
month walking hand inhand in public with someone of the same sex.
After they survive that, then you'll hear what they have to say about
Otherwise, tell them to shut up and listen.
(A leaflet distributed at pride march in NY Published anonymously by Queers, June, 1990)