Thoughts on the Anniversary of Sakia Gunn

Today is the ninth anniversary of the murder of Sakia Gunn. I’m both vexed and intrigued that what I wrote then, “Thoughts on the Murder of Sakia Gunn”, still seems so relevant — particularly when we consider the recent case of CeCe McDonald.

Written in a late-night fit of anger at the Indypendent office and published on the newswire under a pseudonym, the piece went on to win an Independent Press Association Award (or “Ippie”) for Best Editorial from the Independent Press Association.

Gunn, a 15-year-old butch lesbian, was murdered in an anti-gay attack in Newark. What particularly rankled me was the tiny turnout at her vigil on the Christopher Street piers, mostly young queers of color. I was concerned then that the mainstream LGBTQ community was more preoccupied with assimilation for some than survival for all – and the ensuing near-decade has only proved my prescience.

The lack of attention given to the CeCe McDonald case, for example, has felt like Gunn’s murder all over again. McDonald, like Gunn, is a black woman attacked on the street, largely for her unconventional gender presentation. McDonald, unlike Gunn, fought back and survived and is now essentially being punished for defending herself – jailed on a second-degree manslaughter charge. As many see it, McDonald “will serve time simply because she managed to survive a violent attack.”

Yet McDonald’s case has received a fraction of the hubbub over Obama’s recent “evolution” on marriage, symptomatic of the mainstream LGB movement’s continuing inability to show up for all of its members. Regardless of how you feel about marriage itself, community survival must come first. After all, you can’t buy wedding dresses if you’re dead.

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