BY KELLY COGSWELL | Last week, I bought seeds and potting soil, rigged a couple of egg cartons, and planted tomatoes and herbs. Before I went to bed yesterday, I saw the first pale sprouts of basil emerging. I check back every half hour now, to see what else has poked out.
At least that hasn’t changed. Stick some seeds in some dirt, add water. Something will grow despite the violence in the air. So much rage that I no longer know how to talk about it, much less confront it.
It seems like a decade since 49 people, mostly queer and Latino, were slaughtered in a gay club in Orlando, Florida, by a guy with a lot of guns, even more rage, and a history of domestic violence. Since then, the US saw fit to install a monstrously angry maniac in the extremely White House, egging on the most fragile men among us to do their worst with four a.m. tweets.
Each day seems like month.
Every day, we are attacked and harassed, sometimes killed. A couple of weeks ago, I was just standing on the subway and this guy walked through the car, caught sight of my apparently inappropriately masculine hairdo, and started loudly saying, “Fucking lesbians, fucking gay men. I don’t want them in my country.”
It sounded bizarre coming from a short, brown, Latino man with a thick, Spanish accent. But so what? He’d swallowed whole the anti-gay, white nationalist rhetoric, and not even the faggot an arms-length away met my eyes as the guy continued to repeat, “Fucking lesbians, fucking gay men. I don’t want you in my country.”
I monitored him until he got off, wondering if anybody would help if he came over and smashed my face in, or tried to, like the guy who shattered the eye socket of that dyke on the Q train recently.
Last week, as if in answer to the critics that lefties don’t care enough to get violent, James T. Hodgkinson, a Sanders supporter, shot up Republican congressmen practicing baseball. While his politics may have been somewhat different than the usual attacker, he was still the usual male with a history of violence — a profile so common every case of intimate partner violence should be treated as a sign of incipient terrorism. Who needs Syria when you can practice on the woman in the kitchen?
Good times in New York, 2017. Good times in the US.
Meanwhile, in France, the sane centrist Emmanuel Macron won the presidential election, and his party just gained a parliamentary majority, so he should be able to pass the modest reforms France has needed for decades, and push for social and economic equality for poor minorities.
Just as important, his pro-EU stance has given new life to a foundering European Union. Instead of ending the EU, Brexit and the American fiasco have made the need for European self-sufficiency increasingly clear in all matters from defense to the regional economy and the environment.
That’s good news for European queers who benefit every day from the EU, whether they realize it or not. Not only is the EU an important funder of LGBTQ projects on the regional and local level, almost every local lawsuit on queer issues like marriage, adoption, basic civil rights cites EU agreements because they are often more progressive than those of member states. If Italian queers ever get to tie the knot, if French dykes gain access to insemination, if queers from countries experiencing a populist, rightward trajectory are able to protect themselves, they will likely owe at least a little to the EU.
I don’t know what we’re going to do here in the States where the buck stops with a federal government actively hostile to its citizens, especially social minorities. Even before Trump, before the Minnesota jury that acquitted Jeronimo Yanez, in the 2016 shooting death of Philando Castile, there was no justice for Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Rekia Boyd, Sean Bell, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Ramarley Graham, Amadou Diallo, Trayvon Martin...
Now, every civil right imaginable is under attack, along with the very premise of democracy. If we can’t reach up for help, we’re gonna have to reach out, go horizontal. Our lives may depend on it.
Kelly Cogswell is the author of “Eating Fire: My Life as a Lesbian Avenger,” from the University of Minnesota Press.