Find below the Letter from the Editor from the 2009 Reader. Hard copies of the Reader are available for a small donation. Please contribute!

As I enter my fourth year of managing, I cannot think of myself as more than a mere guide for this complex and evolving forum. While Queeriously and I play a role in the structure and format of content, Below the Belt has grown into an informed and supportive community due in large part to the strength and creativity of its writers and readers. It is with great confidence that I can say that this forum is a leading voice in dialogue surrounding identity and its intersectionalities. In particular, I am proud of how we, as a diverse and opinionated community, have approached trans topics with grace and thoughtfulness. I am truly thankful to be part of this community.

I look at our site and our avatars and conceptualize its participants as a rag-tag group of heroes: all underdogs, all simultaneously proud of and at odds with our statuses along lines of politics and power. I will never forget the times in my life when I have felt like I had to take a stand, not only for myself but for others, as well. These are the moments that define our approach to social change; in spite of the threat of exclusion or violence, we are compelled to take a stand. The cape goes on, and we become heroes in our own right.

But I think the problem with many heroes is that eventually, after finally overcoming the odds and achieving success, they become something different. When many heroes become mainstream, blindly celebrated and woven into the fabric of our society, we lose sight of their original purpose. We have witnessed how many of the heroes of the gay rights movement have become oppressors themselves as they make political progress. In many ways, this oppressed-into-oppressor narrative is tied to our political structure; as we gain rights for a specific group, those rights are dependant on our ability to maintain a static collective.

The criteria of group membership becomes less flexible as many of the same oppressive tactics once used against them by the existing political regime are invoked against the margins of the collective. The tactics may include, but are certainly not limited to, prioritizing political progress for majority members within the group (and ignoring other members of its “umbrella”); invoking normative practices that serve to isolate minority identities within the group; and encouraging intra-group segregation across other lines of difference, such as race/ethnicity, class, nationality, ability, sexuality, gender, and everything else.

So this is why we are important. We are here because we recognize the importance of acknowledging the privileges and oppressions that we experience whether we are perceived to be marginalized or not. We recognize that heroism in its essence is a struggle against the status quo. Heroes do not leave the world as they found it. They change it. When we stop considering oppositions to the norm our capes lose their once-resilient glimmer. We recognize that a real community is formed by making the welcoming of difference a pillar of its foundation. And most importantly, we know that people from all walks of life bring meaningful contributions to our work.

Thank you for everything, 2009, and we look forward to what 2010 will bring.

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