“Besides, there were always rumors of plainclothes women circulating among us, looking for gay-girls with fewer than three pieces of female attire. That was enough to get you arrested for transvestism, which was illegal. Or so the rumors went. Most of then women we knew were always careful to have on a bra, underpants, and some other feminine article. No sense playing with fire” (187).
Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, Audre Lorde
Between Audre and Jess, there are two wildly different approaches to the same inhumane treatment from police officers to gender non-conforming people. You can fight fire with fiery rebellion, standing up for what you believe in no matter the repercussions, as Jess did in Stone Butch Blues. Along with much of the butch community, Jess made the conscientious decision to express themselves however they pleased, knowing very well the abuse and torture the cops would inflict upon them. Together, they stood in solidarity, also with their drag sisters. They were brave, they were the front line in the war of queer rights. They were the initial catalysts for change, they were fed up and tired of brutality.
In contrast, it seems as if Audre is apathetic and simply ignorant of a very real and virulent problem in her own community. It seems as if she doesn’t care for other queer people pushing down this winding road called life alongside her. Instead of uniting and revolting as Jess did in Stone Butch Blues, Audre decides the topic is too volatile and she would rather not risk prison—“no sense in playing with fire” (187). And throughout not only this novel, but also “The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism”, Lorde emphasizes if one group is oppressed, all tangentially related groups are shackled down with fetters of equal weight. Why then does she ignore the genderqueer and alternative gender expression individuals? Are her ankles not held down by their oppression also? Why is she so passive on an issue so closely related to her own? If she cannot stand in solidarity with them, perhaps her queer card and her black card are invalidated by her own definition.
Is this hypocritical of Lorde? Is her ignorance of their oppression going against her statements in “The Uses of Anger”?
Where does Audre’s apathy stem from? Considering she is queer and of color, what causes the disconnect between her and people with non-traditional gender expression?