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In a Violent Year for LGBTQ People, These Are the Ways We Coped and Fought Back

A year-end round-up of LGBTQIA+ news and cultural shifts.

Mourners gather outside of the Colorado Springs City Hall on November 23, 2022, in honor of victims of the shooting at Club Q, an LGBTQ+ club where a gunman killed five and injured 25 others just days before.

2022 was filled with anti-queer and anti-trans violence, in addition to mourning and rage. In our annual recollection of stories glossed over by corporate media, Truthout marks some of the ways LGBTQ people smacked back.

Conspiracies Kill

It’s been six years since the Pizzagate conspiracy prompted a man to take his online hate offline, intending to kill patrons and staff of a queer-friendly pizza restaurant in Washington, D.C. Pizzagate would largely fuel the subsequent QAnon theory, and the effects of the Q movement’s anti-queer and anti-trans fearmongering continue, just like its 1980s predecessor, the Satanic Panic. History repeats itself as a new iteration of gay and trans panic leads to violence against queer and trans people today.

In 2022, mainstream news outlets and social media have magnified the manufactured specter of public school teachers “grooming” students. The manufactured fear of widespread grooming has only intensified since the Club Q massacre in November in Colorado Springs. Mainstream media decontexualized the shooting, carried out by a shooter whose past aggressions were documented but ignored by the FBI. The shooter’s father (a former UFC fighter) and grandfather (a California state legislator), espoused both anti-gay and anti-feminist views.

Anti-trans/queer hate is also a potential motive for attacks on power stations in several states, which started in November. The largest disruption, in early December, resulted in a weeklong power outage for 40,000 residents, and an early end to the Southern Pines, North Carolina, Downtown Divas drag show that had been the target of hate. The event’s organizers pointed to a local church that had directed its members to try to stop the drag show.

In Ohio that same week, several dozen white nationalists with Patriot Front and White Lives Matter successfully preempted a drag queen story hour at a Unitarian Church, performing Hitler salutes and holding a “Groomers Not Welcome” banner.

Popular with the right wing, social media accounts like LibsOfTikTok doxxed queer people and events, resulting in self-proclaimed neo-Nazis showing up with guns in (at least 141) attempts to shut down drag queen story hours that have become tradition at many libraries across the country.

Public libraries themselves are under attack by people who seek to eliminate queer and trans people from existence by scrubbing any mention of them from literature. Along with the defunding of libraries for offering queer-themed media, the American Library Association’s most-banned book list continues to be topped by “titles containing LGBTQIA+ content.”

Pie Any Means Necessary

Replacing glitterbombs as the weapon of choice against anti-trans liberals: the humble pie, a throwback to the multiple pie-ings of infamous 1970s anti-gay crusader Anita Bryant.

Counterprotesters at anti-trans events in several cities (such as Oakland and Portland) used levity and dessert to make their serious point: Trans-Exclusionary “Radical Feminists” (TERFs) are following in the footsteps of the religious right, whether they know it or not, by promoting violence against trans people.

TERFs themselves prefer the descriptor “gender critical,” which serves to soften their underlying messages of hate toward trans people. As described in (coauthor of this piece) Eric A. Stanley’s Atmospheres of Violence, our society is built on fear, loathing, murder and marginalization of trans people. TERFs persist in upholding these principles.

There Is No Justice, Just Us

Politicians continued to deny the basic humanity of trans people for their own political gains. In February, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who has a decade of skirting bribery and conspiracy charges under his belt, issued a state directive declaring gender affirming health care for transgender youth as “child abuse.” Now, the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services is harassing families, who are supportive of their trans kids, via “investigations” while ordering state employees to keep a database of people who are potentially trans.

Several states such as Arkansas and Florida banned health care access for trans kids. Even crueler is the new law upheld in Alabama, under which doctors face a felony charge carrying up to 10 years in prison for disobeying the state’s law against trans youth health care.

The hate experienced both online and off by families with trans loved ones is creating another border crisis, causing those who can afford it to seek medical help and, in some cases, pick up and move out-of-state. With the overturning of Roe v. Wade, trans abortion doulas like Ash Williams are funding abortions and fighting like hell to provide access to medical services and support — across state lines when necessary — while training others to do the same. As TERFs, Proud Boys and politicians work to separate our movements, we know solidarity is our only way through.

Youth Liberation Is Queer Revolution

As teachers face the threat of losing their jobs over the mere mention of gay people’s existence, youth are not staying silent. In March, thousands of Florida students left high school classrooms chanting “We say gay,” in protest against the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, a government directive to wipe the existence of LGBTQIA+ people from curriculum, which has already led to firings of teachers for discussing queer-related topics like the history of the gay pride flag and pansexuality. In September, students at almost 100 schools in Virginia coordinated walkouts in response to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s proposed guidelines for the state Department of Education, including one that would punish trans students for using gendered bathrooms. Thousands of students at hundreds of U.S. schools across the country organized similar protests against anti-trans policies.

Doing It Together

All-volunteer mutual aid projects continue to keep us going, and old and new DIY cultural events were in-person and offline. The Providence Queer & Trans Zinefest, Madison, Wisconsin’s LGBTQ Books to Prisoners and Gay Shame San Francisco’s “Queers 4 Tents / Tents 4 Queers” tent giveaway for houseless people connected us, even as the COVID-19 pandemic raged on.

In addition to agitating for action from the federal government, which stalled for weeks before cracking open its stockpile of the monkeypox vaccine, Philadelphia’s ACT UP chapter, a queer direct action organization, worked to shield houseless people — queer or not — from brutal police sweeps of their encampments. As housing continues to be the biggest financial burden for most people living in the U.S., the group brought attention to the facts: Trans and queer youth of color end up on the street in droves; there are more vacant houses in the U.S. than there are homeless people and low-income housing is being wiped out under new regimes of urban renewal. While not exclusively queer, Save the UC Townhomes continues to organize to keep people in their homes in Philly.

Queers Pull Out of the Cop March

After the 2020 uprisings against the police killings of Black people including George Floyd, Tony McDade and Breonna Taylor, the SF Pride board, under community pressure, finally disinvited local police from marching in the 2022 parade in uniform, which means they would receive no overtime pay for participating.

Yet the victory did not last long. In May, openly heterosexual San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced she would boycott Pride unless cops were allowed to march in uniform. A meeting between the president of the partly city-funded SF Pride, Carolyn Wysinger, and a police spokesperson ended what the mayor called a “policy of exclusion” targeting police officers. SF Pride reinvited the cops.

However, everyone was not on board with the reversal. Nicki Jizz, the host of the Black drag show “Reparations,” pulled out of a Transgender Cultural District event for Juneteenth when the district announced a last-minute surprise guest: San Francisco’s mayor. The performer cited Mayor London Breed’s pet projects: increasing the police budget and homeless sweeps. As detailed on the “Sad Francisco” podcast (produced by a contributor to this piece), police department budgets and public relations are expanding, and “protecting LGBT people” is an increasingly common justification for this expansion.

The Revolution Will Not Be Union-Busted

Nationally, the success of Starbucks unions, led in major part by trans and queer service workers, was met with dirty tactics from higher-ups who threatened to cut trans health care benefits despite the corporation’s $22 billion in annual profits.

In Omaha, the staff of Black & Pink National became the first queer abolitionist nonprofit to officially unionize, with blueprints for a non-hierarchical organization. Black & Pink National is best known for its letter-writing circles — specifically supporting trans and queer incarcerated people — that meet up regularly in eight U.S. states.

Free Them All

One of the most obscured parts of the prison-industrial complex is the massive system of civil commitment, or the indefinite imprisonment of people who have already served prison sentences, many of whom are queer. As many as 20,000 people are trapped in maximum security “hospitals” in Washington, D.C., and more than 20 states. These are not places to go to get well, as evidenced in the Chicago chapter of Black & Pink’s new report, Treatment Behind Razor Wire, for which several hundred Illinois civil commitment “patients” were surveyed about the Rushville Treatment and Detention Facility, where “over 8% of the U.S.’s civilly committed population” is detained. The survey found that Rushville doles out “punishment, not treatment,” disproportionately harming people from marginalized groups, particularly LGBTQ+, Black, multiracial and Indigenous people.

New anti-homeless laws that force unsheltered people into medical jails, also known as conservatorship facilities, went into effect in California and New York City. Brutal street sweeps by police, city maintenance departments and private contractors such as Urban Alchemy mean more arrests and trauma for poor and marginalized people, who often face an indefinite sentence in an asylum-style atmosphere with next to no self-determination. Trans/queer and/or disabled youth are especially overrepresented on the street. Neighborhood residents who don’t want to see the result of their own wealth hoarding are often behind the push to lock them up.

Ashley Diamond, whose advocacy on behalf of herself and other trans prisoners while incarcerated led to cruel retribution by those in charge, was finally released from a Georgia prison in August after years of fighting abusive conditions. After Diamond won her case against the state’s Department of Corrections in 2016, she was retaliated against via temporary reimprisonment over a technicality. Supporters are now raising funds to support Ashley’s life and activism on the outside.