LGBTQI+ activists and creatives come together for Queer Protest At Home
BY PRISHITA MAHESHWARI-APLIN. ILLUSTRATION FREDDE LANKA
“We demand honour, identity and liberation,” said Stuart Feather, an original member of the Gay Liberation Front, as he read out the GLF Demands written by John Chesterman in the 70s. His words, just as relevant now as they were 50 years ago, crackled through a fuzzy Zoom call as part of the Queer Protest At Home.
On 24 April 2020, Voices4, a peaceful direct-action group advocating for global LGBTQI+ equality, called for the community to stand in solidarity with one another virtually. This protest involved members and allies of the LGBTQI+ community sharing personal “digital placards” across social media platforms, addressing issues faced by LGBTQI+ people, or spreading positive messages.
The Voices4 Instagram accounts also broadcast “speeches” from queer and trans activists, such as Jamie Windust, a London-based writer and public speaker, and Estelle Fogang, a member of Lesbians And Gays Support The Migrants.
With branches in New York, London and Berlin, Voices4’s central ethos is that, “Queers Anywhere Are Responsible For Queers Everywhere.” In the spirit of this, Queer Protest At Home was organised to hold governments around the world accountable for their mistreatment of LGBTQI+ people.
We still have a voice
“Our community continues to face violent, social and legislative discrimination and many of these issues have been silenced or forgotten since the COVID-19 outbreak,” Voices4 London organiser, Daniel Norman said.
“Numerous governments have even intentionally used the crisis as a smokescreen to pass anti-LGBTIQA+ laws. We organised the digital protest to show those who are affected that they still have a voice – even under lockdown.”
In the past few months, a third of Poland has been declared an “LGBT-free” zone; the Hungarian government has drafted a law to end legal gender recognition for transgender people; Ugandan police raided a shelter and falsely arrested LGBTQI+ people for allegedly breaching COVID-19 distancing rules, the Trump administration has moved to allow doctors to refuse trans patients and a Moroccan influencer has been urging her followers to out queer people on dating apps to their families.
“We know that in Morocco there are a lot of homosexuals living in secret because of our society. After this, a lot of gay people were rejected by their parents, their brothers,” explained Eddine, a make up artist and singer from Morocco.
Such recent developments come against a backdrop where intersex youth around the world continue to face non-consensual surgeries and the British government has further delayed the release of the GRA consultation amid a rise of anti-trans groups and continued transphobia in the mainstream British media. Only last week, Conservative MP Liz Truss suggested intentions to restrict young trans people’s access to life-saving healthcare.
A global community
COVID-19 has also placed increasing pressure on frontline services supporting queer people experiencing hidden homelessness. While governments have stepped in to support people who are street homeless by moving them into hotel accommodation, for example, this sort of aid often overlooks the specific needs of the LGBTQI+ community.
“Because of traumatic experiences, our community will only step forward and talk about their homelessness with someone they feel safe around – somebody who recognises their sexuality or gender identity.” said Carla Ecola, Director of London-based LGBTQI+ homeless shelter, The Outside Project: “This is why identity-responsive services are so important.”
Ecola, alongside many of the other activists, urged the wider community and allies to take action. Monika Pacyfka Tichy, the President of Polish LGBTQI+ organisation, Lambda Szczecin Society, suggested that individuals who live in a city or a region with a twin partnership with a Polish city declared LGBT-free urge local authorities to cancel or suspend the partnership.
The response from the global community has been inspiring, with hundreds of people making and sharing placards on Friday – including a number of queer creatives, who spoke to us about why they took part and what their placard meant to them.
Why I took part…
Wednesday Holmes (they/them), artist (@hellomynameiswednesday)
“I took part to raise awareness of the current proposed anti-trans legislation in the US and UK. Trans human rights are under immense threat at the moment. I wanted to also use this to be visible as a fat, non-binary lesbian in the hopes that others might feel less alone”
Gabriella Grimes (they/them), artist (@ggggrimes)
“Taking part in the protest provided me with a space that I don’t normally feel I have to express my emotions. Even in a community of leftist queers, I see anti-blackness daily, so it was freeing to say something about how it affects me personally while connecting to other genderqueer Black people”
Ashton Attz (they/them), artist and designer (@attzs_)
“As soon as I saw the call about Voices4 online queer protest, I knew that I’d take part and began creating right away. It’s so important for spaces to still exist for us queers to share our voices on issues affecting the community. We might all be physically apart from one another but our spirit, drive to speak up and acts of solidarity hasn’t changed”
Maria McKee, singer-songwriter (@thisismariamckee)
“I came out as queer late in life. With my big gooey heart, I should have been a mother, but never had children of my own. A few years after coming out, I look around to find that those closest to me are very young trans and gender non-conforming people. Our hearts have been drawn to one another in the most magickal way. I learn so much every day from loving and being loved by them”
Things you can do
Below are some ways in which you can take action to help address some of the issues highlighted through this protest and in this article.
Check if your city has a twin partnership with a Polish city declared LGBT-free and urge your local authority to cancel or suspend the partnership
To find out more, visit instagram.com/voices4_
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