The Fashion Agenda: Queer Trauma Drama

CONTENT WARNING - DISCUSSIONS OF: TRAUMA, ABUSE, BULLYING, QUEER AND TRANSPHOBIA, MISOGYNY, SEXUALIZATION OF CHILDREN

 Banner by  Sid Champagne

Banner by Sid Champagne

Welcome, queers of the internet ball. This month we’re going on a whirlwind adventure of the most dramatic fashion accessory to ever make an appearance in queer history: trauma. The oppressor’s tool and this season’s unique trim.

It’s five months into 2018 and we are facing new traumatic experiences. All eyes are on the gays as we name our lived experiences for the trauma they’ve caused.

At the same time, we’re experiencing new forms of trauma and we’re finding ways of healing the old wounds within ourselves.

Dear Queers of the universe, if no one’s ever told you that trauma isn’t yours alone, those fears don’t exist for just no reason. This is also a season of magic. Our trancestors and queer leaders were alchemists who turned their pain into thriving. That history of loss and hopelessness is reconciled when we experience our season of magic.

In the meantime we’ve all got a traumatized friend or two. Maybe you are they. Head down this list, and see if you don’t recognize a few of these.

  Eleadah Clack

Eleadah Clack

We’re going to start with Work Trauma. In homage to sisters, mothers, and sheroes who worked their assess off in the workers’ rights movements, and in homage to the mamas, misses, misters and mxs who work for queer liberation today.

Work Trauma shows up in meetings and in the hallway. It creeps into conference calls, trainings, retreats - even your very own office. There’s no place where it’s safe to be a queer person at work, yet we earn a living and right to this world, and we work our workwear, even as people deny our very humanity.

Working under capitalism in trump’s America has brought us into a new era of workplace trauma. It is a return to the racialized terror for black and brown queer workers. Capitalism’s economic instability is exposed by the renaissance of women and white queers in the workplace. The natural course of the abuse of power is using mass manipulation to expel more low-income queers and POC from the spaces that are left.

Simultaneously, we regenerate into new forms, and come out of the closet in our late 30s. We get to see so many queers at work that we’re almost deceived of the reality that our safety is in jeopardy. The illusion is that others will center our needs above their own. In reality, our liberation threatens their hierarchy.

Yet we liberate the workplace and the world in ways that can’t be named by our straight brethren. Our creativity and character drive the ‘gig’ economy and service industries, and provide the intangibles. Every industry and career has enjoyed some revolutionization by a queer person, and the legacy continues into today’s hollywood, sports, and music!

School Trauma

Among the places that queerness is taken for granted, school is certainly up there. With every coming of age, there comes genuine high school-appropriate drama, pressure from students and education officials on all sides, and changing expectations of your body and yourself.

America’s school system is about the worst machine on this planet, as if the gendered expectations and regulations aren’t enough. For queer individuals the sexualization begins early. The young peers who have no sense of identity take to bullying those who do, and use sexuality and gender to torture them.

An American Education threatens queer identity by stifling the very root - where our knowledge lies and our personalities are shaped.

Our schools are full of bullies and insecurities, and we suffer from school killings. It is not safe to be a child in America, let alone a queer child or child of color. We have a responsibility to do more than spend our hard-earned money on leisure.

All of the flyest teachers, instructors and youth leaders I’ve ever met are queer, gay or lesbian. All teachers have the short end, and queers are certainly no different. We have to protect each other to preserve our future. And in the work to build up queer youth we can look to schools as a site of importance. As grown queer folks we can and should invest in queer spaces where younger LBGTQ folks can see themselves reflected.

Streets

Trauma is everywhere: outside, in between, walking down and around. Anxiety for travelling and not being able to function normally are just some of the side effects of street trauma. Street harassment is an ever-present reality, with no sense of slowing down or going away, only increasing. Sexual harassment and misuse of power by straight people with power and position are constant threats for queers in the public eye.  

We are vulnerable in numbers but our resilience can bury these enemies. We each have to learn in our own way and time how to bash back. This revered queer art form is one way that we are able to disrupt the lies being told on our communities. When we learn to speak up, or speak out to name the truth in our power we shake the homophobic lies to their core.

Our safety as queer individuals is always variable, and we have the right to defend ourselves from bodily harm. Recall the transcestors who rioted for safety in the streets, and recognize that the body is already on the line. Queer resilience holds space for the most vulnerable of us, and leverages the privileges and access of each individual to raise the entire LBTQ community from the rubble.

Family

More than 70% of queer youth encounter hateful or biased words from family, peers or other officials. Add queer antagonism to the reasons for runaways and homelessness rates.

We’re either kicked out of families or have them torn apart by our identities and experiences. As queer youth, we often bear the burdens of mental health strife that existed even before we did. And as the family dynamics play out we are thrown under the bus to curb the pressure.

The rates of LBGTQ families are relatively similar to where they were three years ago, however when our straight counterparts are asked, they swear that we make up more than a quarter of the population. In DC we have the largest numbers but we still only make up about 11% of the city. This large distortion can be explained by our larger than life presence in media and everyday spaces, as our lives and experiences are dissected to the bone as entertainment or trauma porn for a national audience.

The consistent murders of black trans women, school and youth abuses expose the most vulnerable of us. Frivolous portrayals of trans and queer life from straight producers and writers minimize the problems and impact of our family strife. We are the living adults who survived those homes and hallways. We address these issues as individuals, finding housing on Queer Exchanges and building community houses and chosen families.

The Chosen Family is life-saving for queers when blood relatives sever ties. It is usually friends and allies who come through when needed, serving the roles of extended family members. We can call each other fam or queer siblings, and through common experience we become connected with networks much larger than any one individual.

Religion

I hope this hasn’t been too rough this month; isn’t it like that, though? The traumas that we experience through relationships and daily interaction are just a few versions of how we become emotionally battered.

Religion and tradition have also been exercised to target queer individuals and break down LBGTQ identity. As social as we humans are by nature, we too are exclusive.

Unfortunately, human errors have led to abuse of knowledge of this power and the religions that were built to uplift humanity have been horribly flipped to mistreat and discard the world’s most vulnerable. Weaponized religion is the right-wing’s trusted sword, used to attack humanity of LBGTQ individuals on the basis of all things, morality.

Well, this battle in illogic can and will be defeated by our truth, similar to the fact and fiction of religion itself.

Let’s be clear: the reason we have to talk about our forms of trauma, even as an accessory, is because the right wing and white fundamentalists are prepared to use religious luxury to bar queer and trans liberation. We at the Fashion Agenda believe all LBGTQ folks must prepare ourselves and heal ourselves. Self-care, self-love, mental health awareness and community can win over continued religious abuses.

We know that conversion camps and anti-LBGTQ doctrines exist, be it in the corners of everyday queer life and experience, silenced in party-hookup culture, or sensationalized in the media. These tactics are used to disarm us. Our definition of justice. The same tool is used to hide murders of trans women behind misgendering and family rights.

While we work to heal our traumas, we live extraordinary lives. Talent and passion come to life through our resilience in the face of trauma. We alone sustain our community and much of American culture. Even more than this, we individually shine so awesomely that these traumas become mere accessories to our stories; references to the past in a new world that we are building, mere footnotes of the lives we live every day.

The Fashion Agenda brings you queer sustenance. Come back every month to beat the wear and tear!


Eleadah Clack is an organizer and author of The World Without Racism. Eleadah is passionate about creating effective change and being a leader in her community. Follow her on Instagram.