I beg the queer people who read this that you consider preserving all the art and writing you create. That way, future generations have their own map should they face a crisis.
“In this great gay mecca, I was an invisible man still. I had no shadow, no substance. No history, no place, no reflection.” – Marlon Riggs, Tongues Untied
These words, featured in both the essential text Brother to Brother: New Writing by Gay Black Men and the equally important Tongues Untied movie, describe Marlon’s discomfort in San Francisco, the city that once was known as the gay capital of the world. In a sea of white bodies, he felt the racism and the isolation that comes with being black in a world that was white and cloned. These words were meant for a specific time, at a specific place, under specific circumstances. Yet, the idea of a queer person of color being invisible in the face of white queer people, in white queer places, in a white supremacist society – unfortunately – transcends specificity and those words are as true today as they were in 1991.
For any culture, history is an essential tool that that helps to support the continued survival of a people and this is especially true for queer people of color. Black and Latinx queer people need our history because history can help us traverse the future. However, our history has been neglected and allowed to fall by the wayside, especially in comparison to our white counterparts.
The few times that our history isn’t neglected is when white people can make a quick buck or create a legacy for themselves. Shout out to the Jennie Livingstons and David Frances of the world. Entire bodies of work by Black and Latinx writers are either lost or hidden from the reach of the people who would benefit most from them. For example, Assotto Saint’s seminal work Tales of a Voodoo Doll is $55.00 on Amazon. Another example, the work of Joseph Beam is scattered throughout university libraries, inaccessible to most people (and sometimes even students). Though some people may disagree, queer people of color having access to the literary work of our elders aids in our survival. All the queer writers, poets, and filmmakers of color created a running record of surviving in a white supremacist and heteropatriarchal world.
As an trans Afrolatina, and a creative, all I’ve ever wanted is to be able to see the work of my queer familia, yet I don’t have the access. I’m not a college student and I definitely don’t have the free income enough to buy expensive out of print books. I know that others clamor and crave the work of our queer elders, yet their work slips from their reach. Whether we’re struggling against AIDS, or a government that wants to harm us, or just the general heteropatriarchal oppression that queer people face, our elders created work and thought that helped them see us through. That’s why our history is important. We need it to light the way out of whatever crisis our community is faced with.
Although Trump is nothing new in terms of white supremacy or heteropatriarchy, with the only difference being that he’s open about it unlike other presidents, we still need to have a plan to survive. And, I propose, we already have that blueprint to survive from what has been left to us by our elders. Though our elders may not have survived every crisis that the QPOC community faced, they still left for us a legacy of resistance. They left the map which we can use to survive this tumultuous time. In turn, we owe it to future generations to preserve what we have created.
In a time where freelance writing is popular amongst queer and trans people of color, I believe we’re in the middle of a queer literary explosion. This explosion, however, is aided by the fact that it’s a little bit more comfortable for us to come out and be out 24/7. We can be openly queer and thus we can write about our experiences. That’s not to ignore that there are many who can’t be open and queer all the time, that is still an unfortunate fact of life. I assert that it’s a necessity for us to take steps to keeping all of our work preserved.
A good example is BGD Blog. Despite shutting down a few months ago, the painstaking process of preserving for posterity the work that was submitted there has started. Another good example is archive.org, where a handful of queer publications are saved there for all to see. Right now, in this historical moment, we’re creating a map for future generations the way our elders created one for us (whether they intended to do that or not).
I beg the queer people who read this that you consider preserving all the art and writing you create. That way, future generations have their own map should they face a crisis. In time, we’ll be the elders that queer children look up to and we have to prepare for that responsibility now. We should make every month LGBT History Month. Because we’re worth it. Because it’s life or death for us and everyone who comes after us.