Ed. note: The following was received in response to Renee LaChance’s op-ed, published in the current edition of PQ Monthly.
Kathleen Saadat‘s letter is posted in its entirety.
My friend Renee LaChance wrote an article laying out her history and her heart, her love for the GLBT community and her concern about a conflict that exists in our community. She offered an idea that might bring a greater understanding of the needs of all concerned (there may be more than two sides) and perhaps bring forth some degree of conflict resolution and reconciliation. I am angry and sad to see her attacked and made the brunt of some people’s rage. Renee is neither an oppressor nor a bigot. Had she been, she would not have written the article. Nor would she have offered the solution that she did, i.e. dialogue. She did not rant nor did she call for anyone’s exclusion or death, she only tried to explain how she sees the conflict and ask for a dialogue to happen in hopes of making things better. I have not yet read anything that says anyone thinks such a dialogue is a good idea, but just in case: I THINK IT IS A GOOD IDEA if the intent is to move forward together. If you want to go it alone, not needed.
In the 1960s some of us black people were raging at all white people, calling them bigots and making them responsible for every racial incident we ever encountered in our lives. Later, some of us women (regardless of how you define women, you do know what I mean) fighting sexism adopted the phrase “male chauvinist pig” and applied it to every man who offended us in any way. I remember when gay and lesbian people seemed to make almost all of the straight people (especially straight white men) the enemy. I remember when gay rights were the only rights highlighted in the struggles around sexual orientation, lesbians worked to have ourselves added as part of our movement, and I remember when men seemed the only principals in the black movements, Frances Beal was prompted to deliver SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] a letter on the topic. As people pushed and our consciousness grew, the gay and lesbian folks came to include bisexual and transgender people. Each discreet struggle has been pushed to grow but none of the real growth occurred until the name-calling and accusations fell away.
It is 2015 and again we are in turmoil about history and language. We can’t do anything about history. Language, especially political language, is forever changing. New words and concepts will arise and we will need to teach and learn what they are. I was born colored, became negro, later Negro, then Black, now African American, soon to be American of African descent. In my life I was a “bull dagger,” later a “stud,” but came to Oregon to be a dyke then lesbian. As early as 1901, “Ms.” was posited as a title for women but for all practical purposes did not come into use until after the late 1970s. Today it seems to have always been there. It hasn’t.
Today, in a movement where I worked for almost 40 years, people who speak a different language than the one I know surround me. That is okay, but, if you do not teach me I will not learn that new language. If you won’t teach me, then castigate me for not knowing that language, I may choose to go away, unable to act as the passionate ally I am most times. I need to understand the language and the issues. There is an arrogance (and ignorance) that belongs to anyone who expects me to know something I don’t know and then wants to punish me for not knowing. (If you don’t get it, think about what you may not know about race).
If you want to make a real difference, let us talk with one another; if you want to create the same oppressive system for someone else, keep on stomping your foot and name-calling. See how much liberation comes with that.
Renee LaChance is not your enemy. Our problem is much worse than that. If we won’t recognize that reality, we become our own worst enemy.