What started as musings from Canadian anti-consumerist group Adbusters has quickly grown into a global phenomenon. The movement sprung up first on Sept 17 as Occupy Wall St in New York City’s Zuccotti Park and has since spread around the world and into our collective consciousness.
Consisting of a multitude of ad hoc communes, events and actions, the Occupy movement has no definable leader, organization or list of demands. The binding theme of it all is growing economic disparity – the widening gap between the wealthy and the rest of us – that plagues the people of so many nations. But even given the strong humanist tones of the movement, I initially had reservations about it.
Firstly, I can’t help but notice the lack of a queer or trans presence among the protesters in Zuccotti Park. The movement’s slogan, “We are the 99 percent,” implies a diverse swath of people, but when I visited, there were no rainbow flags, no pink triangles and no other indications that LGBTQ communities are involved.
Secondly, that the cries for change from the Occupy movement seem to come without solutions leaves me deeply concerned that the very architects of the crisis – the unfairly privileged – will be left to solve it. After all, without some directed input from the people, who else will take responsibility for crafting the world for which we strive?
But after touring some of the Occupy movement sites and talking with those involved, I resolved that what we’ve seen from the movement isn’t necessarily an end game, but rather a jumping-off point. To expect that the Occupy movement in its current state is in itself a solution is unrealistic. In fact the movement seems more like an initial emotional response that continues to grow and transform every day. It’s like a constant global vigil for those who have suffered and will continue to suffer unless we tackle the class stratification that favours economic gain over basic human rights and needs. Don’t get me wrong: the Occupy movement is well positioned to make a dent, but only if it can move from this emotional-response state into one that offers solutions to the problems it identifies. Thankfully, the move from emotion to solution seems to be a natural progression.
Though the Occupiers have not yet outlined their preferred outcomes, there are signs that may change. Through discussion with some of those among the Occupy Toronto movement in Toronto’s St James Park, I’ve learned that there is talk about drafting a list of demands. Many sites around the globe are in a similar position, and this shift from emotional response to directed action couldn’t come sooner.
With a Conservative majority in Ottawa, the need to ensure a strong LGBTQ presence in the Occupy movement is paramount. In Toronto, many community organizations and institutions, including our Pride festival, are facing cuts. Occupy Toronto is resisting these cuts and championing marginalized communities, so removing ourselves from the dialogue is the opposite of what we should be doing.
In fact, no less than a week after the movement appeared in Toronto, Occupy the Rainbow Toronto, a queer and trans working group was struck to ensure not only that Occupy Toronto is a safe space for LGBTQ communities, but that our issues and perspectives are brought to the table.
We can’t depend on others to ensure our issues aren’t left behind. We have to ensure that LGBTQ perspectives are involved in the shaping of the focus of the movement. The energy is clearly there and the world is watching; now is the time to translate our collective grief and fatigue with the failing system into action.
We need solutions that can rectify our battered world.