Against Equality on DADT Repeal
Dont Ask, Dont Tell is supposed to be fully repealed next month. However, not everyone is excited about the repeal.
One group is Against Equality, who will be releasing a new book that highlights why its repeal should not be a main concern for queers.
We sat down with one of Against Equality’s founders, Ryan Conrad.
GayRVA: Can you please tell me a little about yourself?
Ryan Conrad: I am a radical queer boy from a post-industrial mill town in central Maine. I have been doing queer and trans community organizing/advocacy and culture production for the last decade and have most recently been involved with the Against Equality collective as a founding member.
What is Against Equality?
Against Equality is an online archive, publishing and arts collective focused on critiquing mainstream gay and lesbian politics. As queer thinkers, writers and artists, we are committed to dislodging the centrality of equality rhetoric and challenging the demand for inclusion in the institution of marriage, the U.S. military and the prison industrial complex via hate crimes legislation. It is the collective’s goal to reinvigorate the queer political imagination with fantastic possibility. Against Equality has been causing trouble for the last two years.
How did you last book tour go? How many talks did you give around the country? What were the varying responses?
Over the last year, I have done 21 different speaking engagements across the United States and Canada that also included various contributors and collective members. The response to our collective’s work was overwhelmingly positive and on many occasions younger activists and students thanked me for making space for their own critiques and experiences that don’t match the national dialogue around gay marriage where you are either for or against with no middle ground to discuss other options or ways of meeting our community’s material or emotional needs. Most validating though is the handful of people that come to our events who thank me for coming and shifting their way of thinking about marriage after disclosing that they had come angry and opposed to the collective’s work. I also think our events in smaller towns Indiana, North Carolina and Maine were the most engaging and thought provoking.
What is the new book you all are working on? When will it hopefully be released?
We are working on releasing our second archival anthology focused on critiquing gay and lesbian investments in overturning DADT which is set to expire the end of September. To celebrate our new found freedom to join the imperialist war machine we will be releasing our book in October 2011. This book will also feature an introduction written by the one and only Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore.
Have you worked or gotten feedback from any queer veterans or active duty people?
I am the one editing the book and I grew up in a military family in a navy town. With a grandfather in the U.S. Air Force that fought in WWII and a father who was both in the National Guard before I was born and then worked his entire life as a civilian for the U.S. Navy, you definitely can’t say this book is just a bunch of outsiders who have little to no context as to what military life is like.
I noticed on the website how you used both text and art. You normally dont see this in advocacy groups. What motivated this mix?
The combination of textual critique with art and visual culture is because there are lots of people who learn in different ways. For some, written work is more accessible, while for others images, video, performance, art is more accessible. For us it is about making our critique as accessible as possible by whatever medium necessary. Our culture is becoming more and more visual and to keep our critique relevant we need to counter the sleek images produce by well funded campaigns via the non-profit industrial complex that seek to position their rights-based solutions as the only way to make progress for gay and lesbian people (and sometimes trans when they aren’t pretending that trans people don’t exist).
Does the jubilee around DADT repeal upset you?
The repeal of DADT doesn’t necessarily upset me, but the U.S. Military and U.S. foreign policy make me absolutely furious. What is upsetting about the DADT issue specifically is how it became the issue, along with gay marriage and hate crimes legislation, as the primary issues we should take up as LGBT people. Sadly, addressing issues like poverty, lack of health care, access to education, the chipping away of public social safety nets, just to name a few, would likely do more good for the millions of LGBT people in this country than giving us the option of joining the U.S. Military.
Without giving away too much, what are some of the reasons queers shouldn’t be overly excited about DADT repeal?
The New York City based organization Queers for Economic Justice points out that: “Half of the US budget in 2009 was made up of military spending, including current expenditures, veterans benefits and the portion of the national debt caused by military costs, according to the War Resisters’ League. That is more than the US spent on Health & Human Services, Social Security Administration, Housing and Urban Development and the Department Education combined. Wouldn’t more social safety net spending help the millions of queers who can barely make ends meet?”
What other projects does Against Equality have cooking?
Against Equality is constantly working on updating the collective’s digital archives that track written and visual work that is created in opposition to blindly marching onwards toward some vague notion of equality. Our archives can be accessed online at www.againstequality.org.
Jon Henry comes from the small town of Washington, Virginia. He finished his degree at the University of Richmond and was named GayRVA.com's Out.Spoken. Richmonder of the Year for 2011. When not in class, he is either in the studio or rabble rousing with other queer activists. Follow him on Twitter.
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