Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Guest Blog: Standing Together As a Necessity #NoDAPL

Caption: Image of native people protecting water with #bipride flag colors and BiNet USA logo alongside words that say BINET USA STANDS IN SOLIDARITY WITH STANDINGROCK.ORG / NODAPL.ORG. Photo Credit: Deborah Atwater/BiNet USA

Standing Together As a Necessity
By Victor Raymond PhD
Copyright 2016

It was 1993.  The Minnesota Legislature had passed a bill providing protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation - the 8th state to do so - and on the basis of gender identity - the very first state to do so.  As the co-chair of the People of Color Caucus of It’s Time, Minnesota, I testified that my people - the Lakota Sioux - did not have the same understanding of sexuality and gender as the white community, to a packed room.  As state senators listened to my testimony and the testimony of other Native people and people of color, it was the culmination of a long, hard, bitter struggle by our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community and allies to ensure that bigotry and discrimination would be stopped.  Then Governor Arne Carlson, a moderate Republican, kept his promise to sign the legislation, and the LGBTQ communities celebrated.

But later, after the bill became law, the conservative and homophobic side of Minnesota emerged once again, as several legislators who voted for the bill lost their bids to be re-elected to office.  Before the election, a concerned legislative aide said to me and other LGBTQ leaders, 
“it’s one thing to win your issue - it’s another to support the people who helped you out when things got tough.  Those outstate legislators who voted for equality and decency?  They are going to have a tough time in the next election - and is anyone going to remember that?  I’m worried everyone thinks this is over - it’s not.  Forgetting about your allies is not a good idea.”

A quarter century later, we are confronted with the naked use of power by a multinational corporation seeking to route the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Dakota Sioux Reservation in North Dakota.  The Governor of North Dakota, Jack Dalrymple, has interfered with the peaceful protests now underway, and law enforcement and private security personnel have acted to intimidate the protesters.  Some of the protesters have been harmed by attacks by private security, and there has been a growing outcry against attempts by corporate agents and local law enforcement to provoke a confrontation.  On Friday, September 9th, a federal judge did not grant an injunction halting pipeline construction, but the Obama Administration took independent action to temporarily halt construction activity.  Native people from around North America continue to build their peaceful protest against this environmental threat.

Māori members of the Green Party were proud to hold a protest action in solidarity with our indigenous brothers and sisters from Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their fight to protect their whenua from the Dakota Access Pipeline. #NoDAPL #IndigenousSolidarity [Footage: Maori Television]
Posted by Te Rōpū Pounamu on Thursday, September 8, 2016

The question I want to answer is "how and why does our liberation as bisexuals (and the larger issue of sexual liberty) have anything to do with the pipeline situation?"  There is an obvious answer for it - we exist in a world where injustice affects us all, and it's a point of privilege - white, middle-class privilege - to assume that these things are unrelated.  For many bisexuals, the confrontation taking place on the North Dakota prairie near the Missouri River must seem far away and unrelated to their own lives.  But the reality is that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is fighting for basic human rights against a racist and uncaring foe - the right to safe water to drink, the right to peaceably assemble to seek redress of grievances, the right to protect cultural heritage from desecration - the list is not short.  It may be a geographically distant fight, but the rights being fought for are bound up with the right to be open about our bisexuality, protected from discrimination, secure in our identities. 

Precisely because bisexuals as well as Two Spirit people are found in every nation - red, white, black, and yellow, as my Lakota elders identify the corners of the Earth - it is important to recognize this linkage.  If we want our struggle to be taken seriously, we need as a practical matter to take the struggles of others seriously.

This isn't an issue of radicalism, but of importance to everyone.  As bisexual people, we have a wary relationship with institutions of power, because our lives are not secure.  When we organize and build our movement in cooperation with others, we can influence government to provide protection of our rights, but if we do not organize across lines of difference, it becomes easier for powerful conservative interests to continue discrimination and oppression - and co-opt government into assisting in our subordination and repression. 

Those same conservative interests are often hand-in-glove with corporate interests seeking dominant control over much of society.  If we are going to build a positive future for ourselves and others, we need to confront the realities of power, and support those who are acting to stop oppression in the form of economic power and governmental brute force.  If the Maori of New Zealand see this connection, if Black Lives Matter activists can once again explain the intersections of indigenous injustice and anti-Blackness, if the Indigo Girls can understand how all of this is connected to their own business, if reporters have arrest warrants issued precisely because they are reporting on abuses of power - then bisexuals can act to help the Standing Rock Sioux, because their fight is our fight.  Rather than stopping because of perceived differences, we should build connections and become stronger for in our own struggle for equal rights and a better world.

If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.

This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. -Frederick Douglass

#BlackLivesMatter at Standing Rock
Posted by Black Lives Matter on Saturday, September 10, 2016
BiNet USA Ed. Note: Patrisse Cullors, a pansexual identified #blacklivesmatter co-founder is featured in this clip exploring the reasons for BLM solidarity with #allnations. 

Victor Raymond, a co-founding national coordinator of BiNet USA, is a proud member of the #bistories project. Are you? Join us at

Coming soon...