Herukhuti, Ph.D., M.Ed.
Professor, Goddard College
Founder and CEO, Center for Culture, Sexuality and Spirituality
“For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s the house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never allow us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master’s house as their only source of support.” – Audre Lorde, comments at “The Personal and Political” Panel of the Second Sex Conference, New York City, September 29, 1979
What is the goal of sexual justice?
Of LGBTI health equity?
Are we seeking access to the privileges and status system that oppresses us and those we love? Or are we seeking to dismantle that system–to give birth to a new world?
Over and over again yesterday these questions emerged for me in the presentations and discussions that took place at the Conference on Current Issues in LGBTI Health Research. In a society of white supremacist, capitalist heteropatriarchy has been radical to study things related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or intersex people. People have struggled to overcome professional obstacles and challenges to do that work. Many of them (some of whom were in the room) have sacrificed much.
But that work is not in and of itself the foundation for dismantling the system of oppression and the revolutionary transformation of the world. Studying the impact of our oppression (i.e., health disparities) without a direct link to the means to end that oppression (i.e., community mobilization and organizing, policy advocacy and social change) is useful for individual, personal professional mobility and advancement. It does not do the necessary work of dismantling the master’s house. Conducting and publishing research, leaving the anti-oppression work to “the community,” “activists,” or “advocates” is a convenient way to cultivate a sense of security and comfort.
For those of us who committed to dismantling the master’s house, it is a struggle to obtain resources for that work. Not only will the master’s tools not dismantle the master’s house, but also the master will not fund the dismantling of the master’s house. How do you fit revolutionary change in a grant proposal? What’s the research question for revolutionary change? If, as Gil Scott Heron declared, the revolution will not be televised, can we expect that it will at least be conducted on a grant?
Several conference attendees discussed the idea of working within the system as a subversive act. I am often curious as to how that works practically. My only reference for it in literature is Sam Greenlee’s novel The Spook Who Sat by the Door. In the novel, the protagonist used the knowledge obtained working with a government agency to teach, train, organize and mobilize members of the community in which he grew up with the same knowledge that used to oppress them. But that’s the only example of subversion that I have seen in detail. I’d love to have some of real-life subversives provide the details of their practice and how it has led to tangible, material advancement of the dismantling of the master’s house.
Dr. Herukhuti is founder and Chief Erotics Officer (CEO) of the Center for Culture, Sexuality and Spirituality and editor-in-chief of sacredsexualities.org. He is also a member of the faculty at Goddard College. Follow him on Twitter and Tumblr and like his Facebook Fan page.