By Noel Halifax
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Violence Against Queer People

This article is over 6 years, 8 months old
Issue 408

This is a very American book based on American academic assumptions of the world and LGBT politics and sociology.

For example, though it is concerned with class and class bias in US society generally and the LGBT and academic world in particular, the author’s understanding of the working class is not just not Marxist but one that most people in the UK wouldn’t recognise. “Working class” is used to mean poor and low or no-incomed. The fact that most teachers in Britain consider themselves to be working class is completely beyond this framework.

It reflects what has become the academic norm for Queer Studies in both the US and the UK — a loose combination of intersectionality, privilege and queer theories. As is always the case with such studies, its concern is not to explain how oppressions come to be or can be changed but a study of how they operate.

Meyer assumes that oppressions are the expressions of bad ideas, though he does recognise that it is not something that can be changed by individuals cleansing themselves of bad ideas but by society not propagating sexist and homophobic ideas through its ideology and practices.

The book is based on just 49 interviews with victims of queer bashing in the New York area. Yet in spite of all this it still has interesting things to say and to reveal, especially as it is published against the background of a wave of violence against trans people in America (particularly Latino and black trans people).

At the same time that gay marriage is becoming accepted and some right wing leaders of the gay movement are arguing that equality has now been won, we have seen a series of dreadful attacks on trans people (or those who do not conform to gender norms). In effect there’s a split between the respectable LGB and some T’s and those whose appearance and actions are seen as unacceptable and rejecting of the normalising of gay into mainstream society.

In fact, because its database is so very small, it becomes an application of current academic theories onto a series of LGBT people who during in-depth interviews tell of their lives and experiences of discrimination and violence.

From this it is clear that the violence against them is for a variety of reasons and that racism, sexism, homophobia, and “classism” are interwoven.

It also shows that violence is greatest against trans people, people of colour, and that most violence is not from strangers but from within the family. If you are black, Latino and trans violence can be from the police and state agencies.

This is not that surprising, but Meyer does go on to show how, in contrast to the evidence, the respectable leaders of the LGBT movement normally portray homophobia as an attack on a white, respectable gay man by homophobic strangers. In short that the LGBT movement is dominated and run for the benefit of middle class LGBT.

The division that dare not speak its name, class, even in Meyer’s limited understanding, is recognised and explored.

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