The Incredible Shrinking Phallus


Meditations on privilege

On things that need to be said

If you are an ally wearing purple today in support and solidarity with those who have taken their own lives because of anti-queer bullying, good for you. What else are you doing? If you are supporting the It Gets Better project, what are you doing to make it better?

Because I have spent too much of my life repressing who I am, trying to kill myself for who I am, tenuously striking a bargain with myself to be okay with who I am, to put much faith in the idea of some undefined “tomorrow.” It is not enough for me. It should not be enough for you.

People should not have to wait until later for it to get better. People should not have to wait for “better,” period, if “better” means “well, people aren’t giving you wedgies, drowning out your words with derision and exaggerated lisping, conveniently ignoring your raised hand in class, disseminating videos of you without your consent, trying to rape you straight, jumping you in the bathroom, or whispering in your ear that you should do everyone a favor and kill yourself anymore, but you can’t get married, put your partner on your health insurance, be visited by hir in the hospital, or even have your partner join you in this country if ze was born abroad, be out at your job if you want to keep it, be treated by the government or random dudes on the street with any semblance of respect or dignity, or turn on the TV without hearing some red-faced pundit blame you for the wrongs of the modern world.”

That is not better. That is a gross violation of civil rights for which people should not be reduced to begging, or lied to about it being the carrot that keeps them moving forward. It is a vision of the world in which being queer is only okay if you can still squeeze yourself into a white heterosexual ideal.

If you have been surprised by the six suicides we’ve heard about in the past few weeks, you should be driven to tears when I tell you that 34,598 killed themselves in 2007 in this nation and more than a quarter of them were queer. Queer children kill themselves (and plot to kill themselves, and attempt to kill themselves) in droves. For queer children, self-hatred and self-harm come to feel like the necessary steps to a productive adulthood. Messages that it “gets better” are tacit approvals of how horrible it feels and is now, and vague promises of a future that feels like it will never come.

Wear purple, if you want. But do not do it an then pat yourself on the back for it, feeling that the message has been delivered. Because until you have written your congress person, refused to laugh at jokes made at the expense of trans women, had a meeting with your school principal about why the GSA can’t seem to find a meeting room, spoken at your place of worship, thanked someone for coming out to you, asked your health clinic why they don’t provide sliding-scale therapy to make mental health care more accessible, gotten up from the table when your cousin wouldn’t stop describing things as gay, pushed for immigration reform, demanded that your school district provide sensitivity training for all school personnel, stopped assuming you know someone’s gender history (or future!) just by looking at them, expressed love for your friends without quickly qualifying that you’re “not like that,” served meals at soup kitchens, held actual discussions with your child about difference, read books by people who look and love differently than you, not jerked your hand away when it is accidentally brushed by someone of the same sex on the T, and rallied your peers against the climate of death with which we surround difference in this country– until we have taken steps to make queer lives with living now— there is still an impossible amount of work to be undertaken and your self-congratulation is a disservice to the millions of queers who have killed themselves or been killed by others for who they are.

I end with an address to queer people in the words of Audre Lorde, who has said anything I might ever want to say more eloquently already:

[T]hat visibility which makes us most vulnerable is that which also is the source of our greatest strength. Because the machine will try to grind you into dust anyway, whether or not we speak. We can sit in our corners mute forever while our sisters and our selves are wasted, while our children are distorted and destroyed, while our earth is poisoned; we can sit in our safe corners mute as bottles, and we will still be no less afraid. […]

The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.

–“The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action

You have the duty to know these things and the power to change them.

Please donate to a worthy organization, and ask them what more you can do to help them. If you know an organization that could use some help, please feel free to leave a comment with their contact info.

The Trevor Project (
866-4-U-TREVOR National listening line for queer youths contemplating suicide

Fenway Community Health Peer Listening Line (
800-399-PEER A national, Boston-based listening line for queer people

Hopeline (
1-800-SUICIDE A national listening line.

The Boston Area Rape Crisis Counselling Center (BARCC) (
800.841.8371 A Boston-based rape crisis center

Boston-Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, (Bisexual, Transgender) Youth (BAGLY) (
A Boston institution nurturing the next generation of queer leaders

The Home for Little Wanderers (
A Boston non-profit that helps and houses at-risk kids (including a house for queer kids who have been kicked out of home or foster placements due to their sexuality or gender)

The Audre Lorde Project (
Brooklyn-based organization for queer people of color concentrating on community organizing and radical nonviolent activism around progressive issues.

Camp Aranutiq (
A summer camp for gender-variant kids aged 8-15.

Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) (
A national organization supporting kids through schools. Especially notable for their work with GSAs and their school climate studies

Soulforce (

“Guided by the spirit of truth and empowered by the principles of relentless nonviolent resistance, works to end the religious and political oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning people.”


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