All of my activism is Indigenous activism. All of my activism is Queer activism. Because I belong to each of those identities, the way I view the world will always be through a Queer and Indigenous lens. I have many other lenses, too. Some that carry privilege and some more that don’t, and the sum of them explain who I am and inspire me to act.
When I leave explicitly Queer or Indigenous spaces, I often come up against two types of people that want to strip me of those identities because they think they are divisive or distracting or liberal. The first is an enemy, perhaps a member of the dreaded Alt-Right universe, whose population is allergic to social justice language. The other is an ally, a fellow activist who just happens to think that we should sort out all of this equity stuff after the working class revolution. In all honesty, it’s the second kind of assertion that cuts deeper. I think we all accept that there are people out there who deny our being, our experience, our existence. But even by the casually dismissive ally, I’m not bothered. I know that my everyday defiance of the state is an act of Indigenous self-determination. I know that acting in defense of those identities is radical and revolutionary.
But, working with that same logic, everything I do is anti-Capitalist. Capitalism isn’t the source of all oppression, but it’s pure fallacy to believe there is any space within its bounds for true liberation. My queerness is oppressed by Capitalism. My indigeneity is oppressed by Capitalism. It is a system that serves up the illusion of choice and diversity, while simultaneously demanding uniformity. It’s the ultimate dehumanizing machine, stripping every living thing down to a dollar and a cent. For its smoothest function it needs predictable reproduction – something my queerness prevents – and it needs the removal of spiritual meaning from Mother Earth – something my indigeneity prevents. The completeness of my being will never be realized under Capitalism. And so it must be destroyed.
You shouldn’t let your identities be erased by the spaces you organize in. But you also can’t let the spaces you organize in be pacified by victories under Capitalism. There are no amount of Enbridge-sponsored scholarships and rainbow-colored credit cards to liberate our peoples. There is no magic proportion of racialized folks on television shows that will bring about true freedom. Remember that the first PRIDE was a riot. Remember that police aimed snipers at the people of Elsipogtog.
Our struggles have never been easy and our identities have never been acknowledged without a fight. It is okay to organize in exclusively Queer spaces, as long as your organizing is also preparing our communities for the final charge against Capitalism and the state that upholds it. Indigenous communities continue to do just that, rebuilding, reconnecting, remembering, reviving. All under the banner of radical change. Of decolonization. In recent years, we’ve seen a push for the rekindling of the Two-Spirit tradition – the connection of Queer and Indigenous identities. Though the words for Queer and Trans people have been lost through settler colonialism, the teachings and the love for those community members remain buried in hearts. It is not good form in Indigenous communities to tell Two-Spirit youth that their genders will be recognized only after the revolution.
My point is, if you haven’t gathered it already, that all of our struggles are connected. That class-based organizing against Capitalism should include Queer and Trans liberation, and that Queer and Trans liberation should always be anti-Capitalist. And that both of those things should maintain decolonization as a central organizing principle. Because I’m Indigenous, and Queer, and a (cis)woman, and trapped in the Capitalist system, I will not be free until all of my communities are free.
And since all things are inextricably linked, that means we are too.
So I’ll fight for your liberation if you fight for mine.