Saturday, September 12, 2009

Big Rally Against Queer Bashing in Thunder Bay

A little more than a week ago, there was a vicious instance of gay bashing in Thunder Bay. This week there was a rally in Thunder Bay in support of the victim, Jake Raynard, with participation estimated variously at 1200, 1300, and more than 1500.

This sort of violence is awful on many levels. It is a trauma and a tragedy for the person who was bashed and those who know and love them. It can reverberate harshly through the psyches of so many other people, who are forced by it to wonder every day whether this or that manifestation of differing from an oppressive "normal" is going to be the one that gets met with hateful, violent, vigilante enforcement of that oppressive "normal." It is a sad reminder that struggles against oppressions experienced by queer people did not end with the coming of state recognition of a particular subset of queer relationships in the form of same-sex marriage.

It is important to support Raynard's decision to be vocal about his experience. In doing this, he is refusing the intended regulatory effect of this kind of violence, and that kind of refusal is an important moment in resisting more collectively the many forces that push in ways both subtle and gross, both seductive and punitive, for conformity to oppressive norms. I am also just blown away by the size of the event in support of Raynard -- I don't know Thunder Bay at all, but it is a northern Ontario city around the same size as Sudbury, and getting that many people out to an event of that sort here would be amazing. So that is quite heartening.

Here are two videos, the first about the event...

...and the second a statement released a few days before by Raynard himself.

Anyway, I don't feel like I'm very well placed in multiple ways to intervene too directly in the discussions about how to respond to this incident and others like it. However, I have to admit to being concerned with the emphasis that appears more or less explicitly in some of the linked material on increased policing as a solution. I certainly understand why many people, particularly those of us with relative class and racial privilege, have an impulse to turn towards the police as a social response to reprehensible violence like this. However, the ways in which the police are often experienced by people who have been most marginalized by racism, by poverty, by anti-trans oppression, by all sorts of intersecting nastiness, should compel us to make our discussions of the appropriate social response to violent instances of oppression more broad ranging and complex. See, for instance, this statement produced by a number of organizations predominantly composed of queer and trans people of colour in New York City. The details of the political context to which it is responding are quite different, of course, but it gives a taste of some of the issues involved, and they are certainly not irrelevant to life in northern Ontario.

(Thanks to SK for the first link, to My journey with AIDS for the links to the rest of the news articles and the videos, and to a vaguely remembered FaceBook post by AS from six months ago for the idea to search out the last link.)

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