Normative queers who believe the police force exists to protect them from “danger” ignore intersectional oppression and power that target entire populations of queer people who then face violence from police both within and outside of prisons. The fact that non-conforming subjects fear “being harmed by the very ones who are there to protect us” (Goring and Sweet 187) indicates that the current system of “protection” is produced by, and preserves the power of, a limited group of white, cis, het, bourgeois men (and sometimes women).
This kind of neoliberal preservation of a preferred group and elimination of “human surplus” (Dillon 179) is evident in non-conforming subjects’ dealings with the police force. I personally feel extraordinarily uncomfortable whenever police are around because I have no idea how they will respond to my lack of gender conformity, especially since my license picture looks nothing like me anymore. Andrea Gibson, queer slam poet, writes about their experience in one of their poems: “Every night, I drove through Kansas with, I swear to God, a pink barrette in my fucking pocket in case I had to split second decide if woman would be safer armor than this, when his flashing blue lights give me ten seconds to pick what target he’ll be less likely to miss.”
The police force has an incredible amount of unchecked power to beat and rape queers. Goring and Sweet describe it “like nothing ever took place, like the world stopped as they hurt someone…they don’t face charges—they don’t get fired, but they are simply let back to work, bragging about what they’ve done and/or how they did it” (186). Les Feinberg also describes the brutal force of routine police violence on the streets, in prison, and when raiding gay bars in the 1950s and 60s in their novel Stone Butch Blues. The fact that Feinberg was recently arrested protesting for Cece McDonald indicates that these issues with police have not gotten better, but rather that they are still ever so prevalent today. No wonder so many queers can never feel safe whenever police are around to “protect.”
And now for a local example. Last year, Douglas Wilson came to speak at IU about how the male and female sexes were destined for one another and that nothing else is allowed in the eyes of god. His beliefs are not only homophobic, but he also believes that the pre-Civil War South represents an ideal structure of being in terms of religiously-structured roles for men, women, white people, and people of color, who so happened to be slaves. To quote, Wilson believes “there has never been a multi-racial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world” as that of the pre-Civil War South (http://www.tomandrodna.com/notonthepalouse/Documents/060175768QRAsouthern_slavery_as_it_was.pdf). No wonder protestors were so upset that he was even allowed on campus.
Members of the police force were present at the “discussion” to “keep the peace.” The fact that they were there made me extremely uncomfortable. Rather than feeling “protected” by them, I felt like they were there to take down any dissenting voice, which is exactly what they did. Watch this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nyAcmcaIITE) to see what happens to a trans-identifying person who “disrupted” Wilson’s speech. Rather than tapping the person on the shoulder and “gracefully” asking them to leave like the Dean of students said they would in this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lq5AX4lPHQ), the police force just jumped on the individual and justified their arrest because they were “struggling.” Who wouldn’t squirm and writhe around in pain when four or more police officers shove you out the door and onto the ground?
The fact that the Dean of students dared claim that those who raised their voices against Wilson were breaking their Indiana promise by disrespecting a public speaker (who happens to disrespect a large population of IU students, faculty, and staff) is ridiculous. It just goes to reaffirm the neoliberal notion that anyone outside of the structured norms for citizens (disciplinary power) is targeted for elimination via caging on the basis that they are “human surplus” (Dillon 179). In this case, anyone outside of the respectfully silent and ideal protestor is not only a target for arrest but also expulsion from Indiana University.
This local justification of unchecked police power to shove queers on the ground for yelling at a disrespectful speaker is ridiculous. It just goes to prove that not only is police power left unchecked to the point of justified corruption via the watering down of police acts with words like “gracefully tapping people on the shoulder,” but it also proves how the force that exists to so-called “protect” people only protects those who are deemed desirable to the state and leaves the rest of the “human surplus” to deal with violence by themselves. Normative queers must stop catering to a system that exists to cage those who refuse to conform to racialized, gendered, and sexualized norms.