Queer Teen Reports Back: Attending the Grand Central Die-In

October 10, 2010

We Are the Youth participant Schwalb attended the Flash Mob: Homophobia Kills Die-In at Grand Central Friday night (see video above). Hundreds protested the homophobia that led to the recent suicides by young gay men. Here’s Schwalb’s perspective:

Grand Central. 6 PM. Friday, October 8th. The main concourse was a lot queerer and a lot stiller than usual. Hundreds of queers and our allies had gathered to “die-in” and call attention to the transphobia and homophobia that’s gripped our nation since its genesis. It seemed as though the media coverage of a phenomenon that many of us had been hearing about and even experiencing ourselves for years and years had served as a wake up call to more mainstream queers and allies. Anti-queer sentiment still kills, it does so on a large scale, and immediate, committed, direct action is crucial if we want to better the situation for queers and queer youth in particular.

Despite cops proudly displaying their heavy-duty zip-ties, when the three whistles blew at a few minutes past six, we all fell to the ground, repeating the names of queer people who had either committed suicide in response to anti-queer bullying or been killed in hate crimes. When we heard another three whistles, we all stood up chanting, “Civil rights now!” Amidst these chants, I felt the same sensation in my ears that I feel when I listen to a carefully arranged six-part harmony. I swung my left arm back and forth like I had learned to do singing “Solidarity Forever.”

After many had gotten tired of chanting, “Civil rights now!” a switch was made to, “Hey hey! Ho ho! Homophobia’s got to go!” Yes, this mantra holds much truth, but I couldn’t help but think that this population dominated by 30-or-so year-old gay, upper-middle class, white cismen wasn’t thinking about the BTQ part of our alphabet cereal acronym, or the fact that when we think about any of the “ism’s,” one or more other “ism” intersects with the original ism, and we thus need to be considering rankism in addition to heterosexism and cissexism (which, judging by the chants, wasn’t really being thought about either) if we seek to combat any sort of discrimination.

To be honest, though I fully support this die-in and believe in the potential for positive change presented by actions like these, the reading of Kate Bornstein’s Gender Outlaws at Bluestockings that I attended after the die-in meant just as much, if not more to me, a queer teen, on a lot of levels, despite the fact that it had decidedly less media coverage. The very idea of the book as a collection of queer stories implies the idea of creating a patchwork of queerdom that, when sewn together, becomes a network of support and a powerful force for positive change.

And this was reflected in the reading: a diverse array of people came together to discuss the experiences of oppression we have in common, the experiences of oppression we don’t have in common, and how all of these experiences play off of each other in our creation of a supportive and inclusive community and society. All in all, as a struggling, queer teen, what gave me the support I need last night were the stories I heard and the email address that one of the contributors wrote in my copy of Gender Outlaws.