Keeping it Together
Two weeks ago I went to Pittsburgh, to participate in the Golden Crown Literary Society’s (GCLS) annual “con,” a celebration of lesbian literature, honoring authors, readers, editors, and reviewers. It was an exhilarating coming together of colleagues and friends.
Before I left for Pittsburgh, I participated in a number of PRIDE celebrations, each one slightly more emotionally evocative than the last as we joined together, remembering, celebrating, cheering, and crying, as Stonewall turned 50.
And then, came the US women’s soccer victory. Even more celebration.
So I suppose I could chalk up my satiated state to lots of queer partying, and that wouldn’t be wrong, but it wouldn’t be complete. For I suddenly realize, it is so very much more.
Community. The truth is, so far my summer is one of community. It’s a summer filled with events harkening back to days of when we were “family,” sisters and brothers, all dancing and unifying, not needing, for just that day, that weekend, that summer, to come out for anyone, but rather for just that moment being out for everyone.
And I realized, with all our progress, I forget just how empowering, freeing, and exhilarating, community can be; how infinite our possibilities when we look around and see ourselves reflected in so many varied ways.
But community is like anything else. Without nurture it won’t grow, it won’t thrive, and it can be gone in an instant.
The extraordinary Rebecca Solnit just wrote an article, “In Patriarchy No One Can Hear You Scream: Rebecca Solnit on Jeffrey Epstein and the Silencing Machine.”
In this article, Ms. Solnit looks beyond Jeffrey Epstein, noting, “If Jeffrey Epstein goes to jail for the new round of indictments—which only came about because one investigative journalist, Julie K. Brown of the Miami Herald, did an extraordinary job of digging up what had been buried in his case—a host of people who knew, laughed, looked the other way, allegedly helped him sexually abuse children for years will still be at large, and the circumstances that allow other Epsteins to attack other children will still exist.”
Epstein gambled on the differential between his power and voice in the world and that of the victims. For the most part he won, because the game was rigged by dozens of people around him, along with the legal system that sealed the records, kept the victims and their lawyers from knowing what his plea deal was, and gave him an obscenely inconsequential sentence. Simply put, Jeffrey Epstein has built a community, one which moves to protect him over his victims.
Ms. Solnit goes on to ask, “What was the punishment for softballing child rape? Well, Alex Acosta, who was the US attorney in charge of the softballed Florida case against Epstein, became our Secretary of Labor. US Attorney General William Barr worked for the law firm that defended Epstein.”
It shouldn’t take a case of Epstein-ism to make us realize how many times a day our own community is subjected to choices where, yes, the offender might be heinous, but no more heinous than our own people who aid and abet, excusing and deflecting, and sometimes, sadly, maintaining their silence.
And I talk to you about Epstein because our community is under siege and we cannot afford to be divided or we will have ourselves to blame.
We are having Terf (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) wars and Flag Wars (about whose symbols can be on the rainbow), and Trans Killing Sprees accelerating at an unprecedented pace while our community is not screaming loud enough. We neglect to celebrate body types; forget that embracing racial diversity is strengthening; infer “bi” is a convenient state of keeping a toe in straight waters. We fight over lesbian erasure. Queer status. And so much more.
But when we put all that aside for just a moment so we can cheer, really loud, we remember our power. We cheer, we scream, we hoot, we holler, as Megan Rapinoe stands proud and queer and out and defiant.
And we must be fearsome, because Fox News goes on the attack, shelling Megan Rapinoe and the USWNT over and over.
So now, we know. The silencing machines are still on the hunt, using our own totem pole to pick off our pieces. But we also know, there is only one way to fight back. It is with community. It is knowing the power of community, the strength we build together. The joy, the love, and the progress we can achieve when we scream as one.
Let’s not do their cherry picking for them. ▼
Stefani Deoul is a television producer and author of the award-winning YA mystery series Sid Rubin Silicon Alley Adventures, with On a LARP and Zero Sum Game.