To be Queer is an existence of resistance. Many of us hail from and remain entrenched in societies which shackle and brutalize our people, so our resistance remains aflame, defiantly evolving against institutional oppression. Because of this, when time calls for resistance and battling unjust systems, Queer comrades have always been there.
No, this is not a piece on Queer Liberation. This is one part history lesson and three parts reminder of the unbreakable strength that comes with Queerness. We Queers come from and are all people, so it’s only natural that we’d fight for all people.
So I’d like to tell you a little about Queer resistance fighters and their legacy.
When the calls for molotovs and clenched fists sound, Queer resistance fighters refuse to stand back and stand down.
Aung Myo Min was a publicly Queer college student at the forefront of the student led protest and marches during Myanmar’s 8888 uprising. After witnessing his comrades brutally arrested, beaten, and killed in the streets, he fled to the jungle—a common tactic in that region. Feeling the need to do more than protest and give speeches, Aung joined and served in the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF) and Karen National Union, going from student activist to armed insurgent.
Aung Myo Min’s legacy as an openly gay insurgent and as a Queer rights activist in Myanmar has led to a new generation of queer resistance fighters. As the military coup began their take over on February 1st, Myanmar’s Queer activists were to meet them head on. Min Khant Zin, a drag queen from Yangon, decided to protest for his country’s liberation in drag. Together, they signaled to their country that they’re here, they’re Queer, and they’re to fight for democracy.
Zin Maung Soe—a civil and Queer rights activist—and a group of roughly 100 Queer citizens and their allies from various classes, professions, and ethnic backgrounds faced down water cannons and rubber bullets in Mandalay. Fighting for democracy and against the revival of a brutal military dictatorship is also a fight for queer liberation, a fact that is not lost on Myanmar’s new generation of resistance.
But Myanmar’s Queer revolutionaries were far from the first to take to the streets against oppressive regimes.
When Nazi German invaded the Netherlands and began systematically oppressing that country’s Jewish inhabitants, Willem Arondeus refused to comply in silence & willful blindness. A Queer artist and author, his first involvement in the Dutch resistance was publishing the underground political magazine Brandarisbrief. He soon began applying his abilities as an artist and created forged identity cards—used by Dutch Jews to live as gentiles.
When the need for greater acts of resistance approached, Willem Arondeus, along with his Queer comrades Sjored Bekker, Johan Brower, and 13 other men decided to drug and cuff two Nazis in order to acquire identity cards from the Muncipal Office for Population Registration, which they in turn used to aid Jews in hiding and resistance members. They also secured fifty thousand guilders–Dutch currency at the time–and managed to burn down that government building.
Despite their initial success, all fifteen men were swiftly rounded up. Arondeus, hoping to save his comrades, took full responsibility; even after being tortured, he would not break.
When the fascists decided they were to be executed, Sjored Bekker requested to wear a pink shirt. The shirt was later used to help identify him and the bodies of his comrades after the war in a mass grave.
Willem Arondeus last words and request was for the world to know that “Homosexuals are not cowards.”
Queer resistance was not limited to the fight against open fascism, either.
The Irish Republican Army’s decades-long resistance against British occupation and imperialism has always had Queer fighters–despite being invisible among the IRA and navigating queerphobia in their own institutions. They still fought for liberation, believing that in order to have Queer liberation, national liberation but must also be achievied.
This belief of Queer liberation in national liberation inspired Fintan Warfield—a Sinn Féin Senator—to go into politics and declare the martyrs who died in the 1981 hunger strike did so not just for a free Ireland, but for Queer liberation as well.
Acts of resistance have always been committed by Queer individuals, and history shows a clear pattern of Queer camaraderie. Some of these fighters believed when fighting for one people’s liberation, you’re fighting for your own. Due to the intersectionality inherent in Queer existence, no matter where and why, Queer resistance fighters will always punch a fascist, kick back a CS gas canister, and battle the State in the name of liberation.
Queer liberation is liberation from imperialism and colonization, it’s Women’s liberation, Black liberation, and Native liberation.
And Queer liberation cannot be achieved until all calls for liberation have been answered.