For future queers:
For the historic record, the year is 2017 and hundreds of gay men have been abducted and tortured in concentration camps in Chechnya. Some reports say over 100 have been murdered — by the police or by their own families. The government is calling it a cleansing. An unidentified gay man told France 24 News, “They tell the parents to kill their child. They say ‘Either you do it, or we will.'”
Chechnya is a republic of Russia in Eastern Europe. The Kremlin is unlikely to do much to address these horrors since Vladimir Putin is waging his own war against LGBTQ people in Russia by outlawing all visible representations of homosexuality in the country. This is to “protect children from recruitment” — the oldest and most unfounded accusation made against queer people.
The Russian government has denied reports of these concentration camps, while the Chechen president has publicly stated that all gay men in the country will be eliminated by the end of the month, the start of Ramadan. Putin, who has orchestrated perhaps the greatest feat of international espionage in recent history by interfering in the 2016 American election, has also denied the existence of these camps, even though various European news sources have confirmed their existence after Novaya Gazeta broke this story last month.
Meanwhile, things are bleak here in the U.S. Today, on May 4, 2017, President Trump is expected to sign a sweeping “religious freedom bill,” which will open the floodgates of religious-based anti-LGBTQ discrimination across the country.
On the morning of June 26, 2015, the day Obergefell v. Hodges ruled in our favor, the day we won marriage equality, I thought we had a road of victory paved ahead of us. I was living with a man I loved. The world seemed to erupt in love, poised on an unstoppable trajectory. We had won.
A year later, Pulse happened. 49 people, most of them queer, were gunned down in a gay club in Orlando. It was the bloodiest LGBTQ hate crime in history. A few months later, the United States elected Donald Trump as President of the United States.
When all is said and done, when the decades roll on and new stories come, one name will echo through history. An oafish, cartoonish name, one that marked one of the most absurd and darkest periods of American history: Donald Trump. Donald Trump.
I feel like we’ve failed. I think of the AIDS activists who lived before me. The antagonism and fury of their generation succumbed to the apathy and bewilderment mine — bored, distracted, numb. We have to fight, but already it feels we have little muster left to fight with. We are consumed by flashy new toys and digital clutter so severely that we no longer see the great battles in front of us. Where is the clarity? What is the truth? The world is increasingly full of noise. And in that noise, despots have risen.
I take my little HIV pill every day. I go to work. I try to pay my bills. My virus, which killed off so many of my brothers — which continues to kill so many — is a manageable disease for me, something I rarely think about. In many ways, we’ve come so far. But where are we now? We are in this strange and terrifying place, realizing that our notions about the long arc of history — which presumably bends toward justice — is in fact very, very long, and within that arc are dips and swing-backs and backlashes. Steps forward followed by steps backward. Progress is never guaranteed.
Depending on who you ask, liberalism is dead. Some think the idyllic image of a global village was an unrealistic fantasy. It had its drawbacks: an increasingly monolithic culture, histories eroded by gentrification, staggering income inequality. But it would have continued the liberal trajectories of LGBTQ rights and environmentalism, and all our leaders would have duked it out over healthcare and varying degrees of feminism. Instead, we’ve run aground in what increasingly — although, tenuously — appears to be an ugly truth: populism is sweeping the world. Hate crimes are on the rise. The rights of women are being called into question. Abortion laws are being reexamined. Immigration is causing anxieties across the U. S. and Europe.
If you’re reading this from the future, I hope things have changed for the better. I hope the concept of a massacre like the one happening in Chechnya now sounds impossible. I hope that in your world, you can say, “We would never let that happen!” I hope you have the clarity to know what’s going on. I hope you’ve put down the shiny toys. I hope truth has regained a sense of truthfulness. I hope you never consider yourself a second-class citizen. I hope women are in charge and AIDS is nothing more than a distant memory. I hope, I hope, I hope.
But I must issue you a warning. If you’re queer, remember this: No matter how good things get, there will always be people scheming to destroy us. They lurk in churches across the country, praying for our extinction. They always find ways to crawl into political office, garner support, and push evil legislation through the cracks. They hate us. We must hate them back.
They will round us up into camps if given the chance. They will murder us one by one. Never let them get a foothold. Vote them out. Protest. Arm yourselves. Do what you have to do.
And never, under any circumstances, go back in the closet. Being out is the greatest power we have. Your visibility terrifies and angers them. It threatens their god, their marriages, their governments, their children. Keep threatening them. You, future queer, have had a target on your back since you first came into the world — since you first claimed yourself as one of us. You are an instrument of war.
To my family in Chechnya: I am so scared for you, so angry for you, so furious and powerless. I have no idea what you’re going through. Though my powers aren’t much, I’ll do anything to help, and my inbox stays open to everyone. I am proud to be part of your queer family. I’m proud that you’re part of mine.
Your loves and desires are good and honorable — your queerness is a great thing. Your existence is necessary in the world. You belong here.
You have people across the world who want to help you and fight for you. You’re just in a bad place. The family members who betray you are not your family. They’re disgusting. Your family is me and others like me — queers across the world who are reading these reports and feel just as angry and heartbroken, just as called to action, as I do. Find a way to reach us if you can, and do everything you can to get out. There is a better world beyond the borders of Chechnya. We are waiting for you.