Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Out on the Streets: Queer and Homeless

There's a question to be asked, there's a reason why the question should be asked and there's a setting within which the question can/should be posed.

First, the setting:

In order to stay contemporary and rather transnational, let's put a big banner that says "same-sex marriage" as a backdrop that will stage the question. I say same-sex marriage because the latter seems to be a global phenomenon in constant expansion, with a new country hitting the headlines every week: This week, it's Great Britain attempting to lift the ban on same-sex marriages. (More details available here.) Same-sex marriage and its legalization or non-legalization is not my concern here. Rather, what I am interested in is: What allows us to make a claim for same-sex marriages? What are the factors and processes that make the "us" that are claiming "our" rights?

I am tempted to say that as a citizen of X country, I make a claim to be treated equally as any other citizen in that X country. Similarly for the Y citizen in Y country. So, I need to "belong" to a country to be able to claim a right in that country as a citizen; there's a relationship between the subject "me" and the bigger legal/geographical/economic etc. structure called "the State."

The next point to keep in mind is that I claim my right not as Ms A or Mr B, but as part of a community that suffers the same injustices as I do. Let's be real and let's face the truth as it is: I cannot claim a right, I cannot change a form of injustice, I cannot alter the constitution solely and only on my own behalf. There is nothing that makes me more special that my other millions of fellow-citizens. As a consequence, a group of people who feel oppressed in the same way, who feel they all need to be granted rights in the same way (here the right to same-sex marriage) speak out and enter what can loosely be called a "social movement" in the hope of affecting the desired change.

Thus, to go back to the setting, Ms A and Mr B ask for their rights to marry whomever they want on the grounds that they are citizens of a X country (so they can change the law in X country) and on the grounds that they belong to a community of people who are all discriminated against in the same way.

And now the question:

If we have established that "we" fight for "our" rights to marry people of the same-sex as part of a community that we call LGBT or Queer, we are demanding that our rights be granted at two levels: 1- as citizens and 2- as queer/lgbt.

So my question is the following: If we are benefiting/will benefit of certain privileges that will allow us to have a better life and fulfil our desires as part of a community, isn't it also our duty to make sure we work for the betterment of others in the same community under whose aegis we are demanding our rights? Isn't it our duty to give back what is being given to us?

The reason why the question is being asked:

I just read this article from the Wisconsin Gazette and as I went on doing more research, looking for more census figures etc., I was appalled to learn that in the major North-American cities, 20-40 % of the homeless youth declare being part of the LGBT community. Besides the article from the Wisconsin Gazette states that homeless LGBT youth experience a higher rate of sexual violence than their heterosexual peers.

And this is why I question this notion of the "community." How far, how much do the members of the "community" really support each other?...

From the article:

"As a student at Nicolet High School, Kevin never fit in. An African-American who likes to wear a little make-up, he endured constant teasing and bullying. Eventually he transferred to The Alliance School, which helps students who are not succeeding in traditional schools due to harassment.

But when Kevin’s mother discovered he’s gay, she threw him out of the house. Determined to earn a diploma, he camped out on the streets near the Alliance campus and continued attending classes until he graduated. Last fall, an older gay man gave him a place to live in
exchange for sex..."

Read more here.

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