Monday, August 13, 2012

Lip service isn't enough

Biyuti is a bakla Filipina living on stolen Algonquin land. He works to sustain and increase the biyuti of the world through decolonization and through her explorations of the intersections of race with queerness/gender. She also blogs at The Biyuti Collective and you can find her on Twitter: @JustBiyuti 

I recently attended the Vancouver trans and genderqueer march. If you’ll note on the facebook event page they write:
WE ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THIS MARCH IS BEING HELD ON UN-CEDED COAST SALISH (Musqueam/Tsleil-Waututh/Squamish) TERRITORY.
This seems like a good thing to mention, giving recognition to the fact that the march is taking place on occupied territory. In Vancouver at least it has become an important part of many demonstrations or whatever to make mention of this crucial fact. But what purpose does this actually serve in a march where one of the chants was, “Who’s streets? Our streets!”.

How can you claim to recognize your complicity in the continued occupation of Indigenous land but think that such a chant is actually appropriate? If it is the case that this land we are on is unceded, then the claim that the streets are yours in a group largely composed of white people, sounds almost exactly like the claims that any given non-Indigenous cis person is making about most of the occupied land in Canada.


(Now, it isn’t my place to speak more than this brief callout on this readily apparent contradiction. I’ll leave further criticism to any Indigenous person who feels inclined.)

But this very telling contradiction leads to the larger observation about the serious and sincere lack of diversity at the march. And how it quickly becomes difficult to distinguish this particular white centric event from any other act of colonialism by white people and white culture.

The event was overwhelmingly white. Just white people as far as the eye can see. Even more important I saw few trans women of colour, the people who statistically require the most protection and support within the community. What went on in the planning of this march such that they utterly and entirely managed to fail to contact many of the people who need certain rights and protections the most.

In case anyone is confused why an obvious majority of white participants is important, one needs to consider the demographics of Vancouver, the city with the second largest foreign born population in Canada (just after Toronto). About 51% are what Canada calls ‘visible minorities.’ About 30% of the city identifies as Chinese. This means that at least 3/10 people at the march should have been Chinese, if we can expect a roughly equivalent proportion.

This was not the case. There were about 150 people there and you’d have only needed two hands to count the number of *Asians* much less Chinese people.

So, where were all of the Chinese trans and genderqueer people? Where? What sort of effort was made by the trans and genderqueer organization to actually get more of the large Asian community to attend the march?

My guess? This effort was likely not made at all.