Calling All GeniesOct 01, 2020 12:00AM ● By Drake Burke
Below is from a recent speech given by Drake Burke at Minnesota State University - Mankato at an event called Exercising Your First Amendment Rights: Engaging in Protest and Civil Disobedience, where they were a guest panelist.
Hello wonderful folks here in Mankato! Thank you for sharing your time with me; I really appreciate it.
My name is Drake Burke. I am non-binary and my pronouns are they/them. For my pronouns, what that means is that if I were the punch line of a joke like I have been many times in my life because of my identity, it would not be “that’s what she said” or “that’s what he said,” it would be “that’s what they said,” thank you very much.
I am also trans*, which means that if a genie were to magically pop up and grant me three wishes, after planning on how to dismantle our marvelous systems of oppression like white supremacy, capitalism, heteronormativity, patriarchy, ableism, etc., I would wish to remain relatively the way I look now except to add a penis.
And knowing a genie, I would have to be super specific about it or I would end up looking like a really weird human elephant.
Despite if I managed to finagle, at the bare minimum, a penis in the appropriate location from a genie, it does not change much about how I interact with the world. It means that in today’s world I would still have a really hard time figuring out what bathroom to go in. It means that parents may teach their kids that I am going to hurt them if I go into their bathroom.
In fact, to anyone confused about how dedicated I am to protecting children, as an educator, I already decided I would die for them because I already had to make that decision two years ago when I was substitute teaching in an art classroom. That potential school shooting was actually why I came out as trans. I could not hide anymore after being confronted with the fact that if I died, I would have been living a lie.
Having that penis and thus being trans, being non-binary, and using they/them/theirs pronouns mean that at an event like that potential school shooting or really just walking in broad daylight, cops and EMTs are more likely to kill me or, more accurately because I am white, let me die of a complication if something did go down like if I was raped for being different.
It means that at a job I may not get hired, or at least once it is utterly clear what that genie has done, that something I do will become a reason to fire me or not re-sign my contract. It means I am more likely to be murdered by a partner, a student, a stranger. It means I am someone who can be yelled at, legislated against, and denied basic human rights. Perhaps out of wisdom, the genie may trick me by moving me to a parallel universe and then giving me a penis. It would likely be easier than uprooting the systems of hatred we have and that we must change despite the difficulty.
So, as I need to pay attention to time, in this timeline, what can you do to help people like me if you truly want to? Honestly, it is a hundred little actions. I do not need a grandstanding romantic gesture; I need you to vote. I need you to get informed and honestly listen to us and our experiences and reflect on our truths. I need you to have conversations, state you disagree with bigots at Thanksgiving dinner tables, put up yard signs, and make art. I need you to join grassroots organizations, pressure legislators and sign petitions. I need you to seek out and buy from queer folks and POC folks. Honestly, WE NEED YOU TO ACT.
I need you to join us in solidarity and step in, record on your phones, stand next to us when we are confronted by others instead of watching us turn into hashtags, because we are tired of being hashtags. I need to see your support because to be silent is to unintentionally support the status quo. A status quo that sees people like me and our POC siblings murdered. I need you to be keyboard warriors challenging misleading or “alternative facts”. I need to see you marching with signs, passing out water bottles, and creating a community. I need to see this community helping its members in need with food, housing and healthcare.
I need you to show me you love me because some days I have a really hard time loving myself because this world of divisiveness tells me and others like me we should not.
In short, my name is Drake Burke. I need each and every one of you to be my genies.
Burke is a non-binary and trans social justice activist, educator and historian. They are currently earning an MS in history with an emphasis in Minnesota Civil Rights, as well as an MS in Teaching & Learning with an emphasis in implementing effective social justice curriculum in college history courses. Their work includes facilitating social justice trainings, one of which was held with four religious leaders in Minnesota and gained commitments to constructing gender-neutral bathrooms. Their current project is #NoJusticeNoPeace: A Collection of Minnesota Histories on the 2020 ProtestMovement, found at Facebook.com/njnpmnh. Burke can be reached at [email protected].