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Political economy of passing

A Trans genre meditation on queerness

In recognition of Transgender Day of Remembrance and Transgender Awareness Week, Eric Maroney meditates on what it means to be Black and transgender in white-supremacist, capitalist society. In spite of carceral logics and practices alongside intimately felt gender discipline, Maroney finds reason for hope in queer and abolitionist kinship.

November 20 marked the 24th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), a day of mourning that concludes Transgender Awareness Week and honors the trans lives lost to violence. In the past year, 321 known transgender and gender nonconforming people have been killed worldwide, and at least 33 people in the United States.

A report from Transgender Europe shows that 94 percent of the 321 trans lives lost to violence globally over the past year were trans women or transfeminine and 80 percent were people of color. The most common age group is between 19 to 25 years old, and about three-fourths of the victims range between 19 to 40 years old. Victims were almost just as likely to be killed in their own homes (26 percent) as they were on the street (28 percent) and almost half the victims (48 percent) were involved in sex work.

In the United States, similar trends were present with 88 percent of the victims being people of color, and 54 percent being Black trans women. The average age was 28 years old. About half the victims (47 percent) were killed by a romantic partner, friend, or family member, and 50 percent were later misgendered or deadnamed by either the police or the press. During this same period, incidents of hate crimes against LGBTQ people increased by 32 percent. This figure includes the murder of O’Shae Sibley who was stabbed to death outside of a Brooklyn gas station in reaction to his voguing. The rise in physical violence corresponds with a rise in legislative violence. 2023 has seen the introduction of 500 anti-LGBTQ bills at statehouses across the U.S.

Last year’s observance of the TDOR was further impacted by the massacre at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, CO. From drag shows that have been criminalized, LGBTQ literature that has been banned, trans athletes like Lia Thomas, and trans celebrities like Dylan Mulvaney that have faced vicious attacks for attempting to exist. The shooting in Colorado Springs a year ago that killed five people along with the everyday violence that continues to see far too many mostly young mostly Black and Brown queer and trans lives violently cut short, and countless more lost to suicide is a result of these ongoing attacks against queer people and queer culture.

In honor of Transgender Awareness Week and of the trans lives foreclosed by physical and legislative violence, Tempest reprints this essay that originally appeared in the American Philosophy Association’s LGBTQ Philosophy Bulletin.

A range of pride flags hangs lighted at night.
Photo by Ted Eytan.

I. Furtivity

In 2012, eight years before millions of protesters were to rise in antiracist rebellion to proclaim Black Trans Lives (also) Matter, CeCe McDonald—a Black trans woman—is sentenced to three and a half years in prison. McDonald, just twenty-three at the time, pleads guilty to manslaughter for defending her own life against a white supremacist who, statistics project, would have killed her if given the chance. Writing from a men’s prison, where she would ultimately serve nineteen months, McDonald represents the asymmetry of law. Too often, weaponized judiciary statutes categorize and contain queer life, poor life, Black and Brown life. McDonald fits all three.

Like CeCe, transgender and gender-nonconforming people are often caught within a web of carceral logics. Trans people experience significantly “high rates of poverty, homelessness, and discrimination in schools and the workplace,” which, in turn, leads to “disproportionate contacts with the justice system, leading to higher levels of incarceration.”1 A 2018 report by The National Center for Trans Equality documents, “A history of bias, abuse, and profling towards LGBTQ people by law enforcement,” and notes that 47 percent of Black transgender people report having been incarcerated at some point in their lives.

A year following CeCe’s January 2014 release, I attend Haymarket Books’ annual Socialism Conference, a gathering of authors and organizers, artists, and academics who will shape my thinking for years to come. Standing in a hotel conference room located inside the downtown Chicago Loop, I fidget with a notebook that will remain empty when I walk out of the conference room doors. Inside, the room is cramped; it is humid, and at its front, CeCe McDonald recounts the moments that lead to her incarceration. At her story’s crescendo, the room surges with emotion: “As I got closer,” she tells us, “I start to hear all types of epithets, you know faggots, chicks-with-dicks. You dress like that because you want to rape men, trick men.”2 Her attackers’ virulent transmisogyny is laced with anti-Blackness. “African baby,” she is told, “go back to Africa”–just moments before her attackers slice into her face with broken glass. The conference hall is standing room only; we lean shoulder against shoulder, separated only by the thin cotton of T-shirts, listening as CeCe speaks. We are silent; we know what comes next.

Fumbling for a pair of scissors in her handbag, CeCe will stab her attacker resulting in his death, and although she is acting in self-defense, CeCe will be handcuffed, arraigned, and ultimately found guilty: “What is considered a crime and who is considered a criminal” is determined always by social constructions.3 CeCe is attacked and incarcerated because CeCe can be seen; she can be recognized; and because her corporeality evades binary categorization, she is reconstituted as deviant, as criminal.

Years later, when I read Imani Perry for the first time, I think of CeCe and her refusal to die. This refusal, in itself, is a radical undertaking as Perry reminds readers of the “juridical foundations of modern patriarchy,” the “coercive power of legal words,” and the social identity constructions that legalese entreats. “Nonpersons,” Perry writes, are “those who lie outside the citizenship and the gender binary had [and continue to have] distinct rules applied to them, which are often mechanisms for violent domination.”4 This domination might be legislative, it might be carceral, or it might be intimate and extralegal. For many, for me, it is in this context that passing earns its appeal.

To pass is the opposite of failure.5 It is also to move or to proceed—as in CeCe passed through the prison walls and back into the world. Passing can refer to the transfer, control, or custodianship of property—as in CeCe was passed from the police to the courts, to corrections. To pass is to “go uncensured, unchallenged, seemingly unnoticed”—as in, there is a direct correlation between the violence trans people experience and the degree to which they can pass—a constant furtivity.6 In Whipping Girl: A Transexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity, Julia Serano explains, “The problem is that words like ‘pass’ or ‘passing’ are active verbs. So when we say that a transexual [sic] is passing it gives the false impression that they are the only active participant in this scenario.”7 However, from moment to moment, trans people are interpellated through relationality; we are read as real or unreal, as belonging or unbelonging. Through a mix of signs and significations that precede our arrival, our queer bodies animate, arouse, and quicken the materiality of the street corner, the bar, the courtroom, the classroom. The decision to pass is never a simple one. While at its core passing remains an assimilationist practice, at times in my life, it has also been necessary for survival.

Closets are Dangerous Places.

Pressed against the slatted bifold doors,

a person’s vision becomes distorted;

slices of light

narrow the field of expectations.

An older millennial,

my queer trans experience

taut between two anchors.

On one end, a generation

who felt furtivity was a given;

on the other, a generation

who packed gender

with c-4 demolition blocks,

and set the world on fire.

II. Discipline

The authority of the state in moderating and disciplining gender remains unparalleled. On the one hand, the state coerces trans bodies into passing as their cisgender correlative. On the other, the state erects classed and racialized legislative barriers that prevent trans people from access to physical and social transition. Violence is central to this project. As a young radical, I must have read Lenin’s State and Revolution at least a dozen times—the pages of my copy are crowded with notes and yellowed with coffee stains. Although I have since moved away from some of the text’s argument, this still rings true: In its unadorned essence, the state is violence; it “is an organ of class rule. . .  it is a creation of ‘order’ that legalizes and perpetuates oppression.”8 With its prisons and its “special bodies of armed men,” state power terrorizes; state power coerces; state power compels.9 To compel requires categorization; it requires the sorting and evaluation of bodies, so that some bodies become nobody, and other bodies become somebody.10 The recent wave of anti-trans legislation is intimately concerned with who those nobodies are, how those nobodies move; how those nobodies labor, and where and how those nobodies receive care. And when legal coercion becomes insufficient, vigilantism takes its place.

On March 12, 2023, I wake up to horrifying images of white supremacists and neo-Nazis outside a drag story hour event in Akron, Ohio. Hundreds of Proud Boys, members of Patriot Front, and “White Lives Matter” protestors descend on Wadsworth Memorial Park to disrupt a charity event for survivors of the mass shooting at Club Q, an LBGTQ bar in Colorado Springs where five people were murdered and twenty-five were injured in November of last year. Cellphone footage of the drag charity event captures right-wing protestors waving swastika fags, chanting “pedophiles get the rope,” and “Weimar conditions, Weimar solutions”—a reference to Nazi ascendency over the Weimar reform period in Germany.11 A friend who attends a counter-protest event reaches out through a Discord channel and asks, What can anti-fascist organizing look like in a period of escalating violence? This is a fitting question. The far right is more dangerously emboldened than at any other period in my lifetime; nevertheless, extralegal violence has always been central to the containment and castigation of Black bodies, brown bodies, queer bodies, nobodies. Like the masked protestors in Akron, when CeCe’s attacker lunged at her eleven years ago, he was also decorated in Nazi iconography—a four-inch swastika tattooed across his chest.

Reflecting on these scenes, I am reminded that extralegal violence has been foundational to American settler colonialism—that pioneer vigilantes sought to impose order on newly settled frontier lands; that post-civil war vigilantes sought to reestablish de facto property rights over newly emancipated slaves, and that animated by anxieties over neoliberal decline, twenty-first-century vigilantes seek to rehabilitate the supremacy of the white and white-adjacent American family. In “The History of Vigilantism in America,” Richard Maxwell Brown notes that vigilantes are concerned with policing both geographic and behavioral boundaries, often using extralegal violence to do so.12 Queer bodies know this all too well. According to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, “LGBT people are nearly four times more likely . . . to experience violent victimization, including rape, sexual assault, and aggravated or simple assault.”13 Queer people are also more likely to experience both intimate violence and stranger violence.14 As these statistics make clear, when CeCe is attacked, it is because her Blackness and her queerness transgress the boundaries of post-colonial acceptability, or as CeCe puts it, “I guess [my] presence kind of offended them.”15

Archives of Discipline

No one can interpellate like the state.

No other institution or entity

can manufacture identity,

can codify one’s

seemingly immutable being;

birth certificates,

marriage licenses,

tax returns,

all make legible

the corporeal misdemeanors

of those who don’t belong

or who sometimes belong.

III. Intimate discipline

The euphemism “intimate violence” lends a tenderness to the brutality of gender discipline that occurs between those known to one another. And yet, like vigilantism, it seeks to reimpose boundaries around acceptable gender-based behaviors resulting in both epistemic and physical violence. Here is a story I cannot stop telling: Just months before Ricky dies, he is caught. Noticed by the swish of his hips, the flick of his wrist; shadows follow his wake. On a warm evening, he emerges from behind the yellowed windows of a night class, and he is attacked for the first time. His ribs buckle, his eyes swell, and in the days that follow, protest sweeps the campus. It is a May afternoon when students gather on the grassy lawn outside of Buley Library. Some hold signs that read hate is not welcome here; others gather in small groups to hold hands. Across the quad, a collection of police officers looks on. Long wooden batons dangle from their utility belts, and Ricky slips decisively through the tension, a bruise spreading beneath one eye. He takes the megaphone in his palms. No Justice, he calls. No Peace, we answer.

Later that summer, Ricky is attacked a second time. Driving home from the nursing home where I work as a prep cook, a past professor calls me. I pick up the phone as I drive, sticky, hot, and covered in the sour smell of old food. She tells me, between sobs, that Ricky has gone. At the time, I am nineteen years old and just at the beginning of a gender transition. Same-sex marriage is illegal in forty-nine states, and Obergefell v. Hodges will not appear before the Supreme Court for another nine years. Time magazine’s “Transgender Tipping Point” is almost a decade in the future, and it is only six years since Mathew Shepard was tied to a barbed wire fence, beaten, and left to die in the cool Wyoming air.

The night that Ricky dies, he wears a halter top and miniskirt; local papers describe his assailant bashing his head against the steering wheel before throwing his body from the car. Witnesses tell of a dark green Honda pulling into Christ Temple Church before returning to the scene, where gunshots flash into the dawn.[footnote]Noelle Frampton, “Homophobia Possible Motive in Alleged Murder,” The Hour (Norwalk), May 2, 2007. It is 2004 and still possible to use fear of gay and trans people as a legal defense against murder in all fifty states.16 Ricky’s assailant, who has a documented “hatred for gay people” and who is later celebrated as “a faggot killer,” is ultimately set free.17 In life, I didn’t know Ricky well. We shared a single class together and, had he survived, he likely would have graduated the following year. But decades have passed and telling his story still ties me in knots. Bearing witness to the speed at which a queer life, a Black queer life, could be undone alters my worldview, sending me to search for new kinds of justice.

Aren Z. Aizura writes, trans citizenship requires “fading into the population . . . but also the imperative to be ‘proper’ in the eyes of the state: to reproduce, to find proper employment; to reorient one’s different body into the flow of nationalized aspirations.”18 Similarly, comparing trans bodies to disabled bodies, Jasbir Puar writes, “Neoliberal mandates regarding productive, capacitated bodies entrain the trans body to recreate an abled body not only in terms of gender and sexuality but also in terms of economic productivity and economic development of national economy.”19 This kind of assimilation asks the trans body to bend into its cisgender correlative in exchange for a limited and precarious promise of safety—a safety Ricky was ultimately denied. For seventeen years, I have pushed syringes full of testosterone into my thighs, the skin welting beneath. In 2010, I had my breasts removed during a summer spent drinking whiskey sodas from plastic straws to dull the pain. Six months ago, as the governor of Texas began defning gender-afrming care as a form of child abuse, a surgeon cut open my gums to ft masculinizing prosthetics against my chin and my cheeks. But I have been lucky; I have been passing.

IV. A world on fire

Ricky’s story reminds me that the promise of neoliberal freedom runs only as far as the body can bend. Thus, while trans peoples’ desire to pass must be respected and facilitated through access to robust gender-affirming care, the very logics of passing must also be decentered and destabilized, for to leave them intact allows the origins of harm to remain unabated. Writing about the medical technologies and resulting surveillance that make passing possible, Toby Beauchamp notes, “Concealing gender deviance is about much more than simply erasing transgender status . . . the primary purpose of medical transition is to rid oneself of any vestiges of non-normative gender: to withstand and evade any surveillance (whether visual, auditory, social, or legal) that would reveal one’s trans status.”20 The current wave of anti-trans legislation and escalation of vigilante violence present a context in which evading surveillance gains an urgent appeal, and yet a closeted life cannot guarantee refuge from such violence.

In celebration of the queer poet Susy Shock’s affirmation: “I claim: my right to be a monster/ let other be normal,” Joseph Peirce insists on an alternative trajectory—one that acknowledges the limitations of multicultural inclusion and posits that an aesthetic and corporeal refusal “to adhere to normative parameters of multicultural inclusion and neoliberal sexual citizenship” become central to a queer resistance.21 Likewise, Susan Stryker’s gender manifesto, “My Words to Victor Frankenstein” leans into the grotesque insisting, “I assert my worth as a monster in spite of the conditions my monstrosity requires me to face and redefine a life worth living.”22 In both invocations, monstering refuses authorization through medical violence and medical surveillance; however, to resist the limitations afforded through neoliberal inclusion requires more than an aesthetic noncompliance. In other words, neither passing nor the refusal to pass offer a sufficient means of resisting the constellations of violence that discipline both Ricky and CeCe as they attempt to move through public space. In “Passing as Privileged,” Daniel Silvermint offers, “The moral status of passing as privileged is complex . . . since passing allows victims to escape certain oppressive burdens.”23 Likewise, Jasbir Puar establishes the limitations of aesthetic refusal, offering that resistance to passing often takes the form of “piecing,” which in effect establishes an alternative and exaggerated trans aesthetic, one that might be considered equally commodified and neoliberalized. Importantly, Puar reminds readers that “The transnormative body of futurity that reflects neoliberal celebrations of flexibility and piecing remains an elusive reality for many.”24 Taken as a whole, these observations highlight the complexities that accompany the construction of the trans self, which further complicates the act of coming out.

Popular representation of the transgender narrative often centers on the moment of self-disclosure, but this reductive trope rests on the notion that there is a before and now an after. In a linguistic formulation that concedes ground to biological essentialists, trans subjects are “born into the wrong body” and as a corrective, they transition in an act that supplants the cisgender self with the transgender self. The self is reborn or made anew, severing the “deadnamed” former self from its present embodiment. And yet, this simplification erases the dialectical unfolding of being. There is no before just as there is no after. The self composes in present perfect: I have not come out, but I have been coming out. I have not transitioned, but I have been transitioning. Passing is not passive. The choice to move against it must continually be renewed. In transitioning, I learn to speak in a language that was kept from me at birth, to conjugate new forms of myself, and to code as male. The right constellation of signs enables me to move about undetected, and yet this constellation shines too dimly to reveal my trans multiplicity.

In 2019, fifteen years after Ricky loses his life and eight years after CeCe saves her own, I come out (again)—this time in the form of an open letter. I choose this form because written words approximate a permanence that verbal disclosure cannot. The letter, addressed to my former high school students, is posted to a social media account on the tenth annual Trans Day of Visibility. “It is my wish,” I confess, “that you see me and accept me not in spite of my transgender identity but also because of it. At the same time, I challenge myself to more fully see you. It is only through this mutual acknowledgment and affirmation that any hope for a better world is possible.”25 I sign off, “Your teacher, your friend,” and hold my breath for what may come. In the days that follow, I receive hundreds of public messages in support and thanks. However, despite this encouragement, fear takes hold. There is a long history of queer erasure from the classroom and although I no longer work in a K-12 setting, the city, where I taught twelfth-grade English for just shy of a decade and where I now teach community college, has long been my home.

A few days after my public disclosure, I find myself stretched over a weight bench in a big box gym not far from the high school where I used to work. Brightly colored fans pump overhead and the smell of sweat mingles with the air. I rack the bar loading 45 lb. plates on either end and lie across the bench squinting up at the fluorescent lights. I arch my back, tighten my grip, and lift off. Breathing in, I lower the bar to my chest. Breathing out, I press it into the air. When the set is complete, I re-rack the bar overhead, and, in my periphery, I feel the presence of a body that is not my own. From where I lie two former students tower over me crowding out the lights overhead. In comparison, my small stature is clownish. Breath catches in my throat. This is it, I think, the anticipated moment of judgment. I steel myself for the invasive questions that may follow. No doubt, the boys have seen the post as hundreds of their classmates shared comments in response. After a beat, a hand reaches for mine. I grasp it and pivot to a seated position. “Can we work out with you?” they ask, offering knuckles to bump.

On either side of me, benches remain unoccupied, but I nod in agreement and the three of us enter into a kind of masculinized communion. Often, boys love quietly; still, the meaning is felt. We talk about form and athleticism and where we feel the tension in our bodies—getting close but never invoking my recent disclosure. The whir of the motorized fans churns overhead, and when Ty places his hand between my shoulder blades to instruct my posture, the touch of his palm tells me that nothing of consequence has changed. In fact, my disclosure has opened the door for a kind of sacramental affection. In Cruising Utopia, Jose Estaban Munoz writes, “Queerness is not yet here. Queerness is an ideality. Put another way, we are not yet queer. We may never touch queerness, but we can feel it as the warm illumination of a horizon imbued with potentiality.”26 This moment, in this gym, with these boys exceeds warm illumination, and for this instant, we are better versions of ourselves. Queerness is a relationality; it is a refusal of the atomized neoliberal constructions that ask us to distrust those not immediately like ourselves. To move queerly is to unbutton capitalism’s expectations, which in itself, is a revolutionary gesture.

V. Fellowship and resistance

While wistful imaginings of queer futurity may unbutton capitalism’s expectations, these imaginings are neither enough to unravel capitalism itself nor enough to undo its prevailing harms; consequently, we must learn to move from gesture to embodiment. The stakes are enormous. Our moment is one of accumulated trauma. Even in the American context, the very center of post-colonial imperialism and Western hegemony, generalized want runs deep: Food insecurity, homelessness, drug addiction, and mental health crises abound. All of these crises have been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting years of economic instability. Yet even before the pandemic, decades of neoliberal disinvestment from public goods has placed an untenable strain on the family, and this reality combined with aging workforce demographics is forcing an impasse. Neoliberal logics, having already cut to the bone, cannot offer a solution through restructuring and privatization. At the same time, prevailing wisdom has yet to accept that sustaining working families will require greater financial investment by the state. It is at this impasse that the regimenting of gender becomes all the more necessary based on the logics of capital and its increased need for both the productive and reproductive laboring of racialized and gendered bodies.

This crisis of productive and social reproductive capacity requires that capitalist logics attempt to assert greater control over our bodies generally, and this has resulted in a reissuing or tightening of definitions around what kinds of bodies fit into what kinds of categories. Renewed attacks on access to reproductive health care have attempted to redefine the pregnant body. This is evidenced by the 2022 explosion of state restrictions to abortion access, which ultimately preceded the direct overturning of Roe. Similarly, an attempt to redefine the child’s body is underway. Efforts to shift its legal categorization from eighteen to twenty-one to twenty-five seek to prevent trans youth from accessing gender-affirming care. Historically, Black and Brown children have experienced this redefinition in relation to sentencing laws, as youth of color are often sentenced using adult criteria. In fact, according to the Campaign for Youth Justice, “In 2014, Black youth were 14 percent of the youth population nationally, but 52.5 percent of the youth transferred to adult court by juvenile court judges.”27 That the present moment insists on a renewal of boundaries to contain citizen bodies, gendered bodies, athletic bodies, becomes a process by which each of our bodies risks classification as a criminal body. In this context, what methods to reclaim the validity of our skin, our hair, our sex remain?

Listening to the words of Angela Davis, I am reminded that the present political reaction in response to transgender-affirming care is not only compelled by backlash to a human rights framework but is also concerned with creating and sustaining the conditions for criminality. As such, our resistance to the backlash must operate in a register both in and beyond that of liberal human rights. Again, trans access to social and physical transitions must not only be protected but also expanded. At the same time if we are to understand the origins of trans oppression as situated within a broader matrix of exploitative logics, then we must widen our emancipatory visions. When Davis observes that “the trans community is showing us the way” and “if it is possible to challenge the gender binary, then we can certainly, effectively, resist prisons and jails, and police” she seemingly anticipates the profound political reaction to both the George Floyd uprisings and the social and cultural advances made by queer and trans people over the past several decades.28 Indeed, if our opponents recognize this queer and abolitionist kinship, so must we.

I have come to understand that abolitionist praxis begins in the material now, seeking to undo present harms while also reserving space for the imaginative work of conjuring Black, Brown, poor, and queer futures. Ruth Wilson Gilmore reminds us that criminality is manufactured and that the presence “of vital systems of support” renders criminality obsolete. Without criminality the process of categorization loses its coercive power, allowing new forms of the self to fall within our reach. Gilmore notes that “abolitionists ask how we resolve inequalities and get people the resources they need.”29 Echoing Gilmore’s call for systems of vital support, transgender Marxist Jules Joanne Gleeson insists, “Neither a legalistic nor reform-minded approach can achieve full trans liberation” because “the intense suffering faced by trans women [and trans people generally] does not find its origins in civic disempowerment or social “illegibility alone.”30 Gleeson warns that although trans “networks of mutual support and solidarity” often provide life-saving care work, these networks “reach their [emancipatory] limit” in that they usually “serve to supplant the work done by the heterosexual family, not replace it.”31 And while care work cannot be replaced altogether, it can be supported through state-funded welfare programs and the support for public goods. Taking Gilmore and Gleeson’s lead, I want to assert that resistance to the legislative, carceral, intimate, and extralegal violences that queer and trans people experience requires a commitment to a wider liberatory trans praxis— one that not only invokes queer liberation, but also centers progressive tax reform, state-funded health care, childcare, and eldercare. These vital systems of support necessarily precede the bodily sovereignty of all people, trans and cisbodied people alike. But wresting these resources from the state, and ultimately from the wealthy class, requires a political power we do not yet hold. Building this power necessitates that we embrace a brave new solidarity. Could it be that Ricky’s invocation of call and response, CeCe’s refusal of victimization, andtwo teenage boys’ gestures of beauty suggest that in places, we are already on the way?

Let’s hope


The alternative,

is ugly

My brother is six or seven, younger maybe. Dark hair hangs evenly across his face; bangs cut square over beady eyes— narrow and comical. We are in the driveway spinning in circles. He has pressed himself into the tulle-lined ballerina costume my mother purchased for a dance recital decades before doctors helped me change my sex and I became male. The dress is teal blue. It is the blue of artificial flavoring, soft drinks, cotton candy, the shade of the sky in a child’s drawing. We are spinning, spinning, spinning. Our arms stretch overhead and we laugh at the sky. Silver sequins are sewn into the breast of the garment; they glitter in the afternoon light and illuminate my brother’s smile. How sure we are of ourselves; how noble we are in our play, but nobility lacks permanence and childhood gives way.

When the garage door groans open, a neighbor, a teenage boy, steps out into the sunlight and calls my brother faggot, we each feel a shame neither of us knew existed.

But this shame can be resisted. Indeed, discriminatory legislation can be resisted; both state violence and intimate violence can be resisted; prisons, jails, and police can be resisted. If we come to view our queer bodies through a political economic lens instead of a human rights grievance, we become better positioned to respond to the backlash and to reach for new kinds of justice.

Featured image credit: girgirlrc625; modified by Tempest.

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Eric Maroney View All

Eric W. Maroney teaches English at Gateway Community College in New Haven, Connecticut. He is a member of the Tempest Collective.