Ancestry websites like 23 and Me or Ancestry.com remove the culture and the meaning behind the concept of ancestry. Ancestry as a concept means looking back at the culture we come from and the ways of life that shaped our ancestors. With queerness, ancestry cannot be traced through bloodlines. It is a passing down of culture through word of mouth. This culture has not been preserved over time but rather erased. This piece is a social commentary on the erased culture of queerness and showing the culture and what has kept it hidden. As someone who identifies as both queer and trans, I wanted to explore my culture and provoke the question of what cultures and ancestries are not told. Minoritized groups and cultures are more susceptible to being erased from history and modern culture. This piece questions why these cultures are erased and what power comes from knowing your culture and history.
The poem starts by discussing how queer and trans people are more likely to commit or attempt suicide compared to their straight and cisgender counterparts. The likelihood of suicide increases in queer and trans youth when they are not supported by their parents and/or peers.
The poem then moves to talk about queer and trans people in history that have been erased or not acknowledged. The first person mentioned is Bayard Rustin, an openly gay, black man in the era of the Civil Rights Movement. He organized the March on Washington in 1963 and helped organize the Freedom Rides. Since Rustin was gay, other leaders of the Civil Rights Movement had him in the background and doing behind the scenes work. His sexuality was seen as too risky and damaging to the image of the movement.
The next person mentioned is Lili Elbe, a trans woman. She successfully received gender confirmation surgery. However, when she got a uterus transplant, she died from complications. The movie The Danish Girl was based on her life.
The last person mentioned is Wilmer Broadnax. He was a transman in the early 1900s. He was a gospel singer. The only person who knew he was trans was his brother. When he died, he was outed as trans. This section of the poem ends with talking about how these people were erased. History classes do not mention them. This is what makes queer and trans identities seem like a new thing. There is not a lot of documented history of queer and trans identities. Even less is taught in school.
The next section talks about being queer and/or trans in the military. Recently, there has been a
transgender military ban. The ban is a slap in the face of trans military members and veterans. They are/have risked their lives for this country. They are being told they are a liability and are not valuable. This section also mentions the earlier policy “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” This forced queer and trans military members into the closet. If they were out, they could be discharged from the military. This section ends with recognizing the brave queer and/or trans members of the military.
The next section of the poem talks about how coming out is a gamble. Queer and/or trans people have a chance of being disowned or kicked out of their families when coming out. They also have a chance of being sent to conversion therapy. One method used in conversion therapy is electroshock. This is an extreme practice and is not often used in modern day. This will show homoerotic images and shock the patient being “treated.”
The last section goes back to medieval times. During those times, queer and trans people would be burned at the foot of the stake. They were not considered worthy of burning at the stake. They laid with bundles of sticks, which is where the term “f*gg*t” became associated with queer and trans people. The poem then ends with a reminder that queer and trans history is rooted in death.
New and Dangerous Ideas: Vol. 2
, Article 6.
Available at: https://docs.rwu.edu/nadi/vol2/iss1/6
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