What does liberation look like if it doesn’t come with structural change? This is a question that many of us with election cycles coming up need to ask ourselves, especially before throwing our weight behind any politicians. We must begin to refuse nominal gestures of solidarity and demand for full centering of the issues we hold close or nothing at all.
As politicians start to roll out their manifestos, the promises will be endless. From ending corruption to facilitating all sorts of infrastructural changes, we will be riddled with promises of brighter colours and better days ahead. Noticeably missing will be strategies and ways to transform the structural imbalances that will continue to persist long after a new politician takes office.
What does any real change look like for the most marginalized in our society? Are the politicians thinking through decriminalizing the lives of sexually minoritized people, or fighting to center the concerns of womyn across the board? The answer in our context is almost always no.
Questions of agency, bodily autonomy, full reproductive justice, decriminalization, decolonization, among others will once again be ignored, or worse, left for discussion under the “womyn’s league” chapters of political organizing. The status quo has so much decided that these are not the most pressing issues and demands that we throw our weight behind anyone who barely offers breadcrumbs in the name of liberation.
The riposte peddled seems to always request for a compromise on our end. We are constantly reminded that politics is what it is, and the solution then is to pick the lesser evil. For many of us, however, that changes little about how we can navigate life.
Full liberation will not come without deliberate action that overhauls the systems that allow for our dehumanization.
No saviours are coming if you exist outside the binary of specific limited gender and sexuality tropes, and we must save ourselves. The actions that follow to resist the status quo are too many to count. Perhaps that means disruptive actions or refusing to participate, and thus legitimize actions that do not have our well-being. It could also mean different forms of participation, theorizing and teaching, or finding several other alternative ways to engage in the already established systems.
Even more, the solution we seek is in fiercely focusing on building movements that center us, and what we are fighting for. I believe deeply that “there is no liberation without community”, and yet, how can these communities be built if cis people continue to refuse to acknowledge the full humanity of trans people? – or if homophobia is so easily tolerated by the very heterosexuals who claim ally-ship, and the many other examples in which we seek to reform the fundamental meanings of feminist liberation? To believe the same tools that have been used to oppress and limit all our freedoms can be relied on as we challenge the very systems is to think of freedom in the narrowest of perimeters, and that is no freedom at all.
The work of building sustainable movements means investing in the sometimes-mundane work of learning and unlearning our own conditioning.
Movements that center the humanities of those they represent must be based on a deliberate effort not to replicate the hierarchical understandings of power that many of us are more familiar with. This means that beyond organizing across differences, there is a responsibility to draw from far past the understanding of the different experiences of our own lives.
While our own personal and political actions do create opportunities for radical organizing within the spaces we already occupy, they can also be limiting if they stagnate, and do not allow for experiences outside our own. Our future survival relies on reimagining what liberation looks like for all of us, and doing the individual and collective actions of trying to get us there