Looking Back: The Bathhouse Raids in Toronto, 1981
This essay analyzes the 1981 Toronto Bathhouse Raids from four angles. First, it examines the historical climate preceding and contextualizing the event itself. The four years leading up the raids were punctuated with events that stoked homophobia and motivated the erasure of the presence of a queer community in Toronto. Second, it explores the role of policing and the brutal strategies police employed in maintaining the social order that queerness was perceived as disrupting. Thirdly, it describes the resistance movement that the raids generated. The repression and erasure that the police intended to enact was instead channeled into vocal, visible coalition mobilization – bringing together large swaths of the queer community as well as other groups repressed by police brutality. Fourthly, it addresses the divisions that yet existed within the queer community despite the widespread rallying, in particular highlighting the role of class in differentiating the reaction to this raid, in comparison to events targeting more “fringe sexualities.”
This essay uses one event, the 1981 Toronto raids, to display the role of policing and state-sanctioned violence in repressing threats to a hetero-patriarchal social order. As the violence of the raids demonstrates, homophobia did not just manifest as disapproval towards perceived “deviance,” but was weaponized as a tool of physical repression and violence against those who did not conform to norms of sexuality and gender. In this context, non-normative ways of being are considered a threat to social order and thus fall under the purview of policing; ways of being are criminalized. This process of criminalization legitimizes and normalizes violent homophobia as enacted in the 1981 Raids as normal functions of policing.
What differentiated the 1981 Raids from previous events, however, was how they ultimately failed in their aim of erasing the queer community. They instead produced an immediate “counter-attack” against police violence in which thousands of LGBTQ* folks made themselves visible on the streets of Toronto. Not only did this demonstration show that the violence enacted upon the community would not erase them, they stepped out of the “more enclosed spaces” that the queer community usually cultivated into the public eye. Not only did the violence not suppress them, it generated a wave of visibility. This essay clearly shows not just the ways in which structural and state violence was enacted upon queer communities but how those communities pushed back despite it, refusing to be erased or silenced.
From a Native Trans Daughter: Carceral Refusal, Settler Colonialism, Re-routing the Roots of an Indigenous Abolitionist Imaginary
The title of this essay is a reference to a 1993 book by Haunani-Kay Trask entitled “From a Native Daughter,” which addresses the oppression of the Hawaiian people alongside racism and gender discrimination. In this essay, Young uses the interlocking facets of her lived experience informed by her identities to illustrate and discuss how settler colonialism shapes and underpins the prison industrial complex. She further argues that the process of dismantling such a system must necessarily take the realities of those with multiple oppressed identities and experiences into account, especially those of native peoples.
In the spirit of transparency, the argument(s) of this essay were not the easiest for me to follow. Young draws on several threads to shape her arguments; I grasped the meaning of them individually but they weren’t woven together throughout the essay in a way that my brain was able to follow! I needed to read another summary to fully grasp the central point. This is the summary that made it click for me, if it would be useful to anyone else:
From “Asian American Feminisms and Women of Color Politics” by Lynn Fujiwara and Shireen Roshanravan: “Sharing her own experience of incarceration and diaspora, Young powerfully addresses the specificities of how heteropatriarchy, transphobia, and settler colonialism intersect for transgender and/or māhū Native Hawaiians in the prison industrial complex, highlighting why prison abolition is essential to decolonization” (130).
Young describes her own experience in the criminal justice system, shaped by the cultural dynamics of her native Hawaiian family, her status as Hawaiian, her socioeconomic status, her gender identity. These identities both informed the experience she had throughout the criminal justice system and her experiences after, in conjunction with her identity as a felon, as subject to and surveilled by the “moral suspicion” of a “settler state legal system… premised on the oppression and elimination” of the marginalized (87). She argues that due to the fact that the settler colonialism relies on the marginalization and elimination of native people to “make room” for the settler state, the legal/criminal justice system is a central tool wielded by the state to do so (88), thus requiring a deeply intersectional perspective when understanding its impact that centers the voices and experiences of the most marginalized. Moreover, other systems have been used to marginalize and erase native people, including the missionary system and the economic system, furthering highlighting the need for this approach and perspective when calling for systemic abolition.
She closes with a section which echoes Guidotto above, explaining how “racialized and gendered bodies” are alienated, flagged as disruptive and threatening (93). As such, these bodies are heavily surveilled and marked by the state as “in need of control, discipline, and paternalism” (93). In response, Young calls for story sharing, truth telling, and making visible “the interconnected articulations between our struggles” in order to create space for the breadth of experience within marginalized communities.