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“Queer,” I said when people asked if I was gay because queer was being reclaimed at the time by ACT UP.Queer denotes radical and uncompromising politics opposed to all forms of racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and classism, honoring the many people who have had their heads SPLIT OPEN defending this word while making space for everyone.I learned early from other queers that the best road to liberation is to liberate everyone along with us at once.
He also believed much as Hitler did through his odious translations of Darwin that people of color were inferior and that their genes would be selected to vanish from the planet.
Even when close to the end of his life Whitman said to his biographer Horace Traubel, “The nigger, like the Injun, will be eliminated: it is the law of races, history, what-not.” I continue to question if Whitman was using his poems to hide his true self or if his poems represented the person he wanted to be?
“Song of Myself,” “Song of the Open Road,” and of course “Calamus” which comes the closest to reveling and revealing an openly gay sensuality and love, these were important if not urgent markers to me as a youngster and I believed that with his poems I could find the strength to be okay with who I was in the world when aunts and uncles told me I was going to burn in Hell for eternity.
Soon after my Whitman awakening I saw a large poster of him in the library.
The Walt Whitman who confessed his ill-conceived if not deliberate misunderstandings of science to Traubel seemed breathtakingly different from the author of “I Sing the Body Electric” where he writes, “O my body! ” was in plain view as one of the most racist documents against Native Americans ever written.
I dare not desert the likes of you in other men and women….” His fear and hatred of people of color used science to mask the genocide he accepted and endorsed. It starts with asking the pioneers to “get your weapons ready; / Have you your pistols? ” Published in 1865, a year after the Sand Creek massacre where the Colorado Territory Militia annihilated Cheyenne and Arapahoe villagers, killing mostly women and children and in many cases mutilating their bodies.
In 2015 the United States and the European Union have sanctions against Russia for invading Ukraine.
The invasion of Ukraine is terrible, inexcusable, but no one brings sanctions against the United States for invading Arab nations because unlike Ukraine, their peoples are not white enough to care about.
I was a poor, white working class gay teen in the 1980s wanting to escape rural American racism and homophobia by looking for shelter in Philadelphia’s gay and lesbian community.
The shame of being gay that people wanted me to feel back where I grew up was nothing compared to the shame I felt when discovering gay racists.