Thursday, January 3, 2008

In Memory of Alan Berube

Well, as many of you know I moved to Brooklyn before the New Year to be with my amazing partner and to find a job that more closely fit my ideals and paid my rent. The move has been amazing and I promise to post something thought-provoking on that and my potentially fantastic new job very soon. However, in the midst of moving and while listening to MPR, I heard that Allan Berube had passed on.*

I never met the man and I only ever really enjoyed one essay out of all the essays and books he published. Yet this one particular essay managed to touch me right at the point that i was coming into an awareness of my whiteness. That essay is titled "How Gay Stays White and What Kind of White It Stays" and it chronicles a short modern-day gay history ending with Berube's personal knowledge of the military cases surrounding homosexuality in the army, and the tactics of groups lobbying for the military to allow gay men and lesbian women into the military. That essay is packed up or I would be more specific in my detailing of it, regardless it was one of the first essays that pointed out what exactly is wrong with creating analogies between struggles for gay rights, civil rights, and women's rights. The essay created "white" as a tangible category and identity contrary to most writers who paint a normative whiteness out of which "brown" or "black" are forced to self-categorize.

This essay also prepared me with materials that clearly outlined how and why comparisons between race-based civil rights movements and gender/sexuality-based civil rights movements were inadmissible. This has become incredibly important as gay rights groups continue to use these analogies in order to address a wary public. Berube outlined how veteran gay rights groups failed at repelling "don't ask, don't tell" partly because of the offensive analogies drawn between treatment of gay military personnel and treatment of Black and Latin@ personnel. As I said before, I wish i could quote directly from this essay but I don't have it available. Regardless, Allan Berube's essay impressed me as a young white queer to be accountable to communities of color and to be aware of the harm words can do to memories and identities.

I wish this post could have been more timely after his passing, but the essay continues to be inspiring and his work will endure.

*There are accents on the "e"s I just don't know how to attach them.

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