Positive Space Alliance says “Silence is not an option”

0

Above: Photo via iStockphoto.com

By contributor Kathleen Reid

The Positive Space Alliance (PSA) held an impromptu drop-in meeting on Wednesday, November 9 at 6:30 pm. The focus of the gathering was to provide a space of support for LGBTQ+ individuals coming to terms with the US election of Donald Trump.

The PSA is concerned with Trump’s trans-, homo-phobic and sexist platform. Among the PSA’s concerns are Trump’s stated plans to overturn Obama’s federal trans bathroom protections and letting individual states decide, and VP-elect Mike Pence’s support to allot resources for conversion “therapy” for LGBTQ2+ people.

Two main themes emerged at the Positive Space Alliance’s post-election drop-in space. The first is that while many folks in relatively powerful social positions are stunned and fearful of the potential repression the Trump/Pence presidency represents, this fear isn’t new to trans people, and people of colour–many in these groups have faced this level of fear for their personal safety their entire lives: trans and non-binary individuals going into public washrooms, PoC passing police officers as they move through their daily lives. These fears in lived reality are nothing new. So it’s not okay to say “it’ll be okay” to people for whom it already isn’t okay.

So what might the better response be? The second theme that emerged among participants is the need to build bridges among allies and learn how to challenge instances of racism, colonialism, hetero/bi/transphobia and heterosexism, classism, sexism, ableism, and other forms of oppression. Drop-in space participants were concerned with the millions of voters who silently agreed with the President-elect’s racist and misogynistic views. To stop the spread of this ideology to Canada (more so than it already exists), participants spoke about the need for direct social engagement–reaching out to friends, neighbors, and classmates–as a means to challenge oppression.

The group looked at the examples of the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1967 or same-sex marriage legalization in 2005. Both were hugely controversial when the ideas first emerged as possibilities, but as more and more queer folk came out and straight people realized the people demanding the right to live freely and marry were their friends, co-workers, and family, it became more difficult to deny rights. The same is true now: we need people to stand up and tell those around them that the racist joke isn’t okay, that the Residential School system really was genocide, and that trans people are welcome in the bathroom of their choosing. Silence is not an option.