One Month after Charlottesville: A Call to LGBTQ White Folks to Step Up!

by Catherine Shugrue dos Santos, MSW
Co-Director of Client Services at AVP

One month ago today, Nazis and white supremacists inflicted pain and violence in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, and we simply can’t afford to let our feelings of disgust and outrage fade. If we, as white people, do not stand up, step up, and actively fight each and every effort by hate groups and the government to roll back the rights of people of color, we are not truly fighting for LGBTQ equality.

White supremacy reinforces and engenders all oppression—patriarchy, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, anti-immigrant bias, anti-HIV bias, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, classism, ableism, and hatred in all forms. As white queer and trans folks, we must recognize that this violent extremism does not represent anything new, and that the real danger to our nation is not only white cisgender straight men marching with torches through the streets. The real danger here is our collective white silence, and the tendency for us who sit in our power and privilege on the sidelines.

I am not proud when I catch myself still feeling shocked and surprised in moments while scrolling through my newsfeed – because I realize that moment of surprise is all about my privilege. I would love to think that the world really is getting better, that the election of President Trump is an unfortunate period in our history that will pass, even if I do nothing. At first, I was hurt when people of color whom I love and work alongside every day told me they were not surprised when Trump won, and even seemed impatient with how heartbroken I felt.  Because I wasn’t directly impacted by racism and white supremacy as a white person, I could believe we were on our way to better times.

As a social worker, and a queer anti-violence advocate, I knew we were not done. I never believed we were in a post-racial society, or that President Obama singlehandedly ended racism by being elected. I knew that the same Supreme Court who struck down DOMA also dismantled the Voting Rights Act, and that we had much more to do.  But was I ready for the return of emboldened white supremacists marching through an American town?  Even with all the work I have done, I wasn’t prepared—and that is on me.

As white people, we must challenge racism and white supremacy everywhere we see it rear its ugly head. We must stop the conversations about “all sides,” and “all lives matter,” in their tracks. We must stand up for what is right. We must denounce white supremacy in all its forms. We must fight to give up the privilege we have which we do not deserve, and did nothing to earn. We must do this because for all of us to thrive, we must create and live in a world where racism is not allowed to flourish, but is eradicated.

I believe we can work together, that we must do so, because as Ella Watkins says, our liberation really is bound together. As queer white folks who experience homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia every day, we have to realize that we are all in danger from white supremacy and racism.  We must use our white privilege to fight oppression and injustice, as aspiring allies to communities of color, and particularly to our own queer and trans communities of color.  If we do that, I believe it is possible for us to reach the America I was taught existed, where everyone is valued and free.  As Langston Hughes said:

O, yes,

I say it plain,

America never was America to me,

And yet I swear this oath—

America will be!

AVP Action Brief: Take a stand against white supremacy; hate breeds anti-LGBTQ policies

The AVP Action Brief tracks actions of the Trump administration that impact our communities’ safety and rights and offers concrete steps that we can take to stand up for safety and justice.

We are here for you and we are in this together.

 White Supremacy is connected to Homophobia and Transphobia

 This weekend, we were horrified—but not surprised—by the outbreak of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. We watched footage of the horde of white supremacists storming through the streets of Charlottesville and across the University of Virginia campus yelling anti-Semitic, anti-Black, anti-LGBTQ and other hateful chants. Three people lost their lives as a result of this violence, including two state troopers, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, left, and Trooper Berke M. M. Bates, who were killed in a helicopter crash, and Heather Heyer, a counter-protester who was killed defending justice and peace.

We condemn this violence and the hateful ideologies that have led to it. We know that we cannot end homophobia, transphobia, white supremacy, or the violence this hatred breeds by ignoring it or assuming it does not exist where we live.

In the words of our Executive Director Beverly Tillery, “Yes, white supremacy looks like a band of Nazis with torches, but it is also looks like the Muslim ban and building a wall. It looks like efforts to reverse affirmative action, gerrymandering, and restricting voting rights of people of color. And white supremacy breeds the homophobia and transphobia that undergirds the crisis of violence our LGBTQ communities are facing right now.”

See the action steps below for ways to get involved in speaking out and standing against white supremacy in your life and your community.

Hate Breeds Anti-LGBTQ Policies

Meanwhile, this is happening as the federal government continues to try to roll back protections for LGBTQ people. A proposed rule from the Department of Health and Human Services is expected to remove anti-discrimination protections within the Affordable Care Act that are intended to protect LGBTQ people and women who have had abortions, most likely enabling this discrimination under the guise of “religious exemption”. And the Department of Justice is considering reversing existing protections for transgender inmates, in light of a lawsuit filed by cisgender women inmates arguing against those protections, on the grounds of privacy and religious freedom.

Once again, we recognize these flimsy “religious freedom” arguments for what they are: bigotry. We will not stand for any diminished protections for our already vulnerable communities. We refuse to let hate take hold.

Here’s what you can do.

  • Join the protests and actions around New York City this week. Here are some tips for staying safe while out in the streets. If you’re not in NYC, find an action near you on the Indivisible database.
  • Sign the MoveOn petition – President Trump: Disavow White Supremacy and Fire Bannon and Gorka.
  • Call out white supremacy, racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and all forms of hate when you see them, and have conversations that help shift our culture around hate. Some ideas that may help can be accessed here.
  • Report violence you experience or witness to AVP and Communities Against Hate.
  • If you know someone who is an LGBTQ survivor of violence who is experiencing trauma or fear as a result of these recent actions, encourage them to contact AVP’s confidential 24-hour English/Spanish hotline at (212) 714-1141. They will be connected with a counselor who understands the ways this political climate is affecting our communities.
  • Get involved—volunteer with AVP!
  • Support AVP: Give now to ensure our voices are heard.
  • Forward this email to a friend. Ask them to sign up for the AVP Action Brief to stay informed and activated, too.


Further reading:

BuzzFeed – The Justice Department Is Evaluating Obama-Era Rules For Transgender Prisoners
The Hill – Trump expected to roll back LGBT protections in ObamaCare
Vox – How to find your local “Solidarity with Charlottesville” demonstration