“The Colors of Our Rainbow” by Bridgett Neff-Hickman
Walking through Old Town, I’m struck by the beauty of Fort Collins during winter.
Captivated by the romance of the twinkling lights, my wife slides over for a kiss, and a split second of panic engulfs me. I look around quickly, self-conscious of who might be watching. I linger shorter than I would like as I kiss her back, briefly wondering if I’m being overly cautious, or if straight people feel the same apprehension.
Fort Collins is a progressive, accepting community, I’m told. I drive down Mountain Avenue, the street where I live, and pass by signs that say, “Hate has no home here,” sandwiched by pride flags in every other window. Each time I pass the homes of my allies, the memory of hearing “fag” yelled from a car window pains me.
People are always stunned when I tell my experiences of being routinely assaulted by homophobic comments, thrown drinks, and judgmental eyes as I exist a queer woman. “In Fort Collins?!” they exclaim. It almost shocks me that they’re shocked. Almost.
This is my reality as a white, cisgender, college-educated queer woman living in Fort Collins.
While pieces of my identity have been victimized, I am more so confronted with the dominance of my privileged racial and gender identities within the community. I have not been the victim of homophobia that intersects with my race, ethnicity, ability status, or gender identity. And while the hurt and fear of homophobia confronts me often, it is nowhere near the confrontation experienced by queer individuals in our community that also claim other marginalized identities.
In a political and cultural environment where silence increasingly speaks louder than words, I call on our community to reject complacency with the battles of other marginalized identities, and to recognize that the oppression of the LGBTQ+ community is inextricably bound to the oppression of other communities. Our first step is standing in solidarity with the Fort Collins BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) community.
White queers: we must do better at protecting our black and brown neighbors. Let us not forget that it was trans women of color that propelled our cause at Stonewall. Let us not whitewash the queer movement to be colorful when we often leave black and brown out of our rainbows. And let us not feed into the siloing of LGBTQ+ issues as the issues of one community, when the experiences of so many of us are specifically dictated by the color of our queerness. It is impossible to accurately address the challenges we face without recognizing how racism impacts the queer community. Challenging the racist elements of homophobia—and prioritizing the specific plights of LGBTQ+ people of color—is the only way liberation comes to us all. Because if we leave any color of our rainbow behind, we only further encourage the pain and violence that so many of us are trying ourselves to escape.
The queer community in Fort Collins is small, but strong. We have shown the power we wield when we have organized in the face of LGBTQ+ issues—now it is time for us to do the same for our BIPOC community.
Bridgett Neff-Hickman is a master’s degree student at Colorado State University (CSU) studying political science. She graduated from CSU in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in international studies and political science. Her research has focused on critical theory, postcolonialism, and decolonizing the Middle East. She co-hosts Disrupt, a critical revolutionary podcast focusing on non-western theories of international relations.
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