Sunday, March 16, 2014

On Lesbian Death and a Fight Worth Fighting

Photo Credit: Galveston Daily News
I wish I could cry.

I really wish I could.


I haven't been able to.

I can't.


I can't breathe.

Every time I think about, see pictures of, am asked a question about, come across a news story about the murders of Crystal Jackson and Britney Cosby, two Black women, a lesbian couple, raising a child who were found in a dumpster near Bolivar, TX over a week ago, I've been frozen. My chest freezes. Lungs frozen. And no breath comes out. Because I'm terrified. Literally terrified and heartbroken.

Even more heartbroken, frozen, and stunned to hear that Cosby's father was involved in the murders and quite possibly responsible. He didn't like that his daughter was gay and didn't want her bringing that "gay shit in the house."

So he (most likely) killed her, with blunt force to the head and then shot Jackson before throwing their bodies in a dumpster. I can't even imagine this. I try, but it taps too much into the fear that often inhabits me and freezes my body. I freeze because yes, sometimes, especially when I'm driving across country with Joan say, I fear death.

No, really.

I fear the remote gas station in Wyoming, which is the same place that I shook because I didn't expect the woman's second glance when I said (and maybe grabbed Joan's hand?) that "No, we didn't want the room with double beds, but the queen." I forgot. And then I became terrified. My body freezes when we're in my hometown and I go to grab her hand and she pulls away. I forget and I'm terrified. Sometimes I'm terrified just three hours or so away in Nevada (well, they attack Native folks there too, so there's that...) where either one of us may whisper, "Don't touch me, I don't know these people."

You may think that I don't get scared, freeze, and fear death. Or, you may think I have some internalized homophobia where, even though I write this blog with the names 'queer' and 'feminist' for all the world to see, I still get scared and fear death. Because I live where I live.

Because I live in (what once was) one of the gayest areas in the United States: the San Francisco Bay Area. Yet, increasingly, I walk around these streets with a familiar terror, frozenness and (more often) anger, that sometimes takes my breath away. It's not the same kind of terror that shoots through me when I hear that two Black lesbians--my sisters--have been murdered and carelessly thrown in the trash, but a terror nonetheless. A fear.

It's a fear of being erased. Erased in an area, on streets that I have come to call my home.  It's a feeling of loss and isolation epitomized in an experience Joan and I had when we were walking in the Mission the other day on our anniversary--something we have done less and less in the last couple of years, because of the rapid changes. We passed old haunts: the very much missed Osento Spa (women only), the on its way out but not without a fight Modern Times Bookstore, the recently closed Esta Noche. I could go on and on about the death of a city, of the space that was once gentrified by lesbian families and is now gentrified again (and again) by wealthier and wealthier folks men.Which is what I noticed as we walked around Valencia that day: both of us were struck by the number of straight, mostly white, 20-30 year old men walking up and down the streets, playing a folksy guitar with an amplifier (seriously), walking in packs to the nearest bar, and crossing the street with hands clasped around their phones. They seemed like recently transplanted or recently minted techies, yes, the kind that are now, apparently, flying women into the city to date. As we walked around unnoticed and unacknowledged as two lesbians of color, I realized that we were walking in what has slowly become a city of men. And not the kind that I love, the kind that helped make this city the one I ran away to (and sometimes felt invisible in):
But the kind that slowly, but surely represents death. A lesbian death.

It's callous and cold. Dismissive. Not in the same way as the murder of Cosby and Jackson, but one that coincides with and supports a culture in which they were no longer allowed to live. A culture where someone couldn't make sense of their relationship. Didn't acknowledge it in any way and didn't want it to exist. That's what it feels like to walk these streets sometimes. Not that we're not wanted, because we've felt that way before by our 'brothers' (and sometimes sisters) in the community. But death in the sense that our existence isn't seen or felt, not just historically, but face to face. And then I'm terrified all over again. I'm furious too, of course. But, when faced with this death rather than making me want to fight, fear takes my breath away. And, I need to fight now. I want to fight now. And so, even though it doesn't ever occur to me to ask because it feels like this space is only ours to inhabit and to fight for, I need your help. I need you, as allies, to fight the fight for Black lesbians. Not a fight for all women because all women are worth fighting for. That's true, but I need you to fight explicitly and specifically for Black lesbians like Britney and Crystal because the perceived 'threat' of being Black (Native, Chicana, Palestinian), a woman, and a lesbian still exists. And it still dangerously insinuates--and intimidates--that we shouldn't be those three things at once. That there is no place for us.

And it still allows us to die. To be killed. To be erased.

And, to update the words of Audre Lorde, who wrote about a time decades and decades ago, "Any world which did not have a place for me loving women was not a world in which I wanted to live, nor one which I could fight for."


Cheryl C said...

Well said niece...we love you and Joan

Unknown said...

Amen. --A native Texan who is also lesbian and black and shaken by this event and the relative silence that surrounds it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, your response moved me greatly. As a queer woman of color this hits home.

wrong said...

Nice article.

I too am shocked and scared by the deaths in Texas. I too fear traveling around the nation as myself. I too remember the places in the Mission. I too see the Mission becoming whiter, younger, and wealthier.

As a trans woman, I must daily fighting for an identity and safety in the Mission.

Queerblackfeminist said...

Thank you for reading and for your words. Love.

Steven Mercy said...

I am shaken to to the quick by this crime, this sin against Jah and nature.

(btw: listening to you on KALW.)

Anonymous said...

Wow... Keeping them in my prayers.

blackfeministphd said...

So i randomly came across your blog today and i am so glad i did. This is a heartbreaking story! And one i unfortunately was not aware of. I thank you for this article and your words. I found pieces of myself throughout this blog that i could not have articulated as well as you did. I am definitely looking forward to reading past and future blog postings.