Jericho Brown, Carmen Maria Machado and Thomas Web page McBee on What Satisfaction Means Now


Later that very same yr, once I visited New York, I took a day stroll with no agenda and located myself standing in entrance of the Stonewall Inn. I bear in mind wanting up on the edifice, jaw agape. It was the early afternoon however the door was open, and once I regarded inside, I don’t know what I’d anticipated however I hadn’t anticipated that. It simply regarded like several previous dingy bar, although I used to be a licensed goody-two-shoes and hadn’t been in lots of bars, dingy or in any other case. I noticed I had to make use of the lavatory and requested the drained lady behind the bar if I may, and she or he stated positive, and I sat down on the bathroom considering, I’m peeing within the Stonewall! A lot in the identical method I’d as soon as thought, I’m peeing in Canada!, as a result of for me the second I urinate in a brand new place is the second it turns into actual.

Right here, I believed, wanting round me, is the place all of it modified, as a result of I used to be nonetheless too younger to grasp that historical past will not be merely made up of moments of triumph strung collectively like pearls. I didn’t know that enormous modifications had been made up of many small ones, and of moments of struggling and backsliding and incremental, selective progress; pointless sacrifices and the opportunistic, privileged and fortunate strolling ahead over the weak and the lifeless.

Years later, once I moved to Iowa Metropolis, I beloved the way in which its Satisfaction parade felt totally different from San Francisco’s, and but simply as beautiful — the way in which each individual may stand with arm’s size between them in the event that they selected to, the way it solely lasted for 15 minutes or so, the truth that after it was over I may simply stroll residence by means of quiet, tree-lined streets. However in these years, I additionally realized that queerness doesn’t shield you — not from home violence, not from racism or sexism or transphobia. I cowered earlier than my abusive girlfriend; I smiled thinly on the individuals who didn’t imagine me; I used to be groped by a homosexual man in a homosexual bar for no purpose besides he may; I watched as cisgender queers threw transgender people below the bus for an opportunity at state-sanctioned marriage; I noticed the machinations of racism within the queer group. I started to grasp: Not solely does queerness not shield you, it doesn’t absolve you. You aren’t made higher by your physique, however what you select to do with that physique, and your life.

A lot ink has been spilled on the subject of company endorsements throughout giant Satisfaction parades, the way in which that capitalism has sprawled itself over the day and co-opted Satisfaction from its radical queer roots. There’s a purpose that the Philly Dyke March — held the Saturday earlier than Satisfaction — is my and my associate’s occasion of alternative. Dyke marches, not like Satisfaction parades, are unsanctioned protests: no permits, simply queer people filling the streets and disrupting enterprise as common. Satisfaction was a protest. Many individuals have stated it, and they’re proper. It started as a police riot, violence in opposition to queer our bodies, the bravery of activists like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, and it has since misplaced its method. José Esteban Muñoz, a queer Latinx educational, known as queerness “that factor that lets us really feel that this world will not be sufficient, that certainly one thing is lacking.” If solely the queer group’s most privileged residents — white queers, cis queers — noticed their queerness as the decision to motion it has at all times been.

I write this piece as my metropolis, Philadelphia, and my nation burns round me. Individuals are protesting a society that doesn’t worth black lives, a authorities that lets one group of residents homicide one other group of residents with near-impunity, a nation that might quite cede its energy to a white-supremacist police drive than maintain itself accountable. It feels necessary, one way or the other, {that a} pandemic abolished the previous Satisfaction — the one boasting company floats and swag and pleasant cops, the one with a schedule and a allow — and gave us a name to motion: room to reimagine what it means to be queer, and to behave accordingly.


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