Tim’m West • Michael J. Brewer
The Sweet Tea Southern Queer Men’s Collective Statement
Sweet Tea is a collective of Southern queer men dedicated to fostering supportive, sustainable and loving communities among queer men by raising our consciousness of sexism and other forms of oppression.
Consciously engaging in anti sexist work demands that we change. We strive to become different kinds of men. How will we change? Who will we become? Who will stand with us?
I. Who We Are
We are a Southern-based collective of gay, bisexual, and queer men; black, white, and men of color; in our twenties, thirties, forties, and fifties.
We are sons, fathers, grandsons, brothers, uncles, lovers, and friends.
We are educators, students, activists, artists, organizers, healers, and poets.
We are fighters: progressive, radical, conscious, pro-feminists, womanists, and allies.
We are gay, queer, fierce faggots, same gender loving, men who have sex with men, gender queer, gender fuck, gender non-conforming, masculine, feminine, butch, femme, sissies, tops, bottoms, and in-betweens.
We are privileged. We are dismantling. We are changing.
We as a collective, allies to both feminist and womanist movements, value a commitment to naming not merely what we are against, but identifying and working toward that which we are for. We seek to co-create a world where we can all be free.
Each of us has come to his own independent analysis of the symbiotic relationship between sexism and homophobia. We also have our own individual appraisals of how patriarchy perpetuates most forms of oppression; from racism to sexism, from heterosexism to transphobia, from ableism to ageism. We have come together to investigate the nature of sexism in queer male communities and develop theory and praxis in order to resist systems that keep women and other marginalized people oppressed. We advocate for a liberated humanity where diversity is the wellspring of our unity. We strive to transform weapons of mass oppression into tools for collective liberation.
We are educating and challenging male privilege within ourselves as a queer* Collective. We are doing this for the sake of building community.
*Queer is a complex term, identity, and consciousness that each of us defines differently. In this document it serves as an umbrella term for gay, bisexual, queer gendered, same gender loving, faggot, faerie, etc.
II. Defining Queer Male Privilege
Our male privilege is derived from the economic, political and cultural subjugation of women. While we derive palpable and unseen benefits from patriarchy, we pay dearly in terms of the ability to express our own humanity. Whether we act in accordance with or fail to act in opposition to this unjust system, we consent to women’s oppression and dehumanization. Our very inaction is itself an act of patriarchy.
We assert that by virtue of being men in a patriarchal society, we are all given privileges not afforded to women. This means that even when men are not committing overt acts of sexism, we are still benefiting from a system that denigrates women. In our work organizing queer men against sexism, we have noted that many queer men often believe that they are, by nature of their sexual orientation, exempt from perpetuating sexism or being privileged by their maleness. As a collective, we challenge the belief that men who are oppressed by heterosexism are not also advantaged by sexism. Queer men, regardless of their gender expression, are still men. Even though patriarchy is complicated by heterosexism, it by no means eliminates our sexist reality.
As queer men, we believe that the nature of male privilege is further complicated by varying arenas of difference known as intersectionality. We define intersectionality as the space in which multiple forms of oppression (e.g., oppression based on race, gender expression, sexual orientation, class, ability, nationality, etc) converge and coalesce, creating unique vantage points from which oppression is both experienced and understood. Understanding the concept of intersectionality helps us elucidate our assertion that male privilege amongst queer men is complex. Queer men may access privilege in certain arenas (e.g., masculinity or race) while being simultaneously disenfranchised in others (e.g., class or nationality). We assert that what is needed for men working to dismantle patriarchy is a revolving dialogue, informed by an understanding of the intersection of these and other oppressions as well as varied means of resistance.
Addressing intersectionality is an expansive project; as a collective as well as individuals, we are committed to educating ourselves about the multiplicity of identities that affect our understanding of intersectionality. We are committed to co-creating a movement of queer men that will not replicate the same exclusionary practices that have stifled other liberation movements.
B. Building Alliance and Standing as Allies
Step Back We are men who are heavily invested in being allies to women engaged in the work of liberation. We define ally as being one who is politically committed to the act of aiding others who are different. Being queer male allies to women is no small task. Queer men often have access to certain women’s spaces by virtue of being queer. By virtue of being male, however, we often dominate those spaces by asserting and taking advantage of the “outsider within” privilege that our non-hetero identity gives us. Thus, self awareness and accountability must be a part of our discourse as anti-sexist queer men.
Be Self-Critical An integral part of being a male ally also involves doing the work with other queer men to challenge our patriarchal and sexist practices rather than depending on women to educate us. In order to be a true ally to women we believe that queer men must be constantly engaged in a dialogue of self-analysis and compassionate critique. We must also respect women’s spaces when our absence is necessary. We must become self-critical; not only for women affected by patriarchy, but for ourselves, given that male power is so grotesquely “business as usual” that it is not even viewed as privilege. Accountability is an integral part of our work. Thus, being “called out” on our sexism presents us with an opportunity to grow and change. As allies, our job is to listen and accept guidance from women on ways we can assist their cause(s), offering support when it is requested and welcomed.
III. What We Must Do
A: Dismantle Male Privilege, Internally
"Nurturing Ourselves & Each Other"- Men are raised, trained, and rewarded to ignore or minimize our own needs to be nurtured and supported. Therefore we must be forthright in our commitment and efforts to take care of ourselves and each other. Because while many of us as queer men may not engage in sexual/romantic relationships with women, we often expect and demand our sisters, mothers, aunts, and female friends to take care of us without expecting or demanding the same from our brothers, fathers, uncles and male friends. In taking care of our own well being, we rightfully accept the responsibility we traditionally have imposed upon women to serve as our surrogate mothers, servants, and emotional caretakers.
When we dare to support each other’s struggles, hear each other’s pain, and heal both each other’s fresh wounds and old scars, we encourage each other’s growth. We demonstrate that men can and should be nurturers to each other regardless of the variables of relationship type, sexual orientation or attraction.
‘ Learn to Feel Again’- In a patriarchal society for men expressing anger is acceptable and in many ways encourage. However, it is often not acceptable for men to show fear, sadness, or depression. We believe that when we permit ourselves to experience and express feelings (especially those forbidden to us) without restraint or apology, we are fully alive. In this heightened state of emotional consciousness, we increase our capacity to connect with people in our lives. Our relationships become more meaningful and fulfilling because they have more intimacy. In order to shed the choking armor of patriarchy, we must rescue and revitalize our emotional lives.
B. Dismantle Male Privilege, Externally
"Chart Our Journey" -We recognize that there are few maps to direct our journey as progressive queer men, standing in and against male privilege. We must therefore create our own map and chart our own journey.
It is imperative that we take advantage of innovative ways to disseminate information and to build a movement of pro-feminist queer men using tools such as technology, education, study, organizing, and coalition building.
"Build Alliances"- As Pro-Feminist queer men our work is already influenced by and made possible through lesbians—particularly lesbians of color—who articulate the multi-dimensional character of oppression, the necessity of heterogeneous forms of liberation, and most importantly, the urgency of building coalitions across lines of difference. To that end, we need to be concerned with and knowledgeable of the spectrum of allies and possible partners in the struggle against sexism.
‘Resist Assimilation’- Many heterosexuals praise and reward men who are heteronormatively gendered and shun those who deviate from these norms. Queer men also often disdain, reject, or ridicule other men who they perceive as “too feminine” as well as the feminine within themselves. We believe that, in order to reach radical self-acceptance, queer men must resist assimilation into patriarchal fraternity and strive for freedom of sexual and gender expression for ourselves and for others. This work is necessary to be able to embrace ourselves as who we are.
Understand Intersectionality- We understand that in order to truly end sexist oppression we must interrogate a broader matrix of power and hierarchy inherent in all forms of oppression. Thus, we are not privileging sexism over and above other –isms; instead, we are utilizing it as a focal point through which we can uncover and address complications of gay men and male patriarchy that we feel have been vastly underdeveloped and exposed.
Build Community- We must organize, creating communities & self-sustaining institutions that educate and enlighten queer men to the realities of sexism and mobilize them for action. Building communities that allow men to connect with their emotional and spiritual selves (also known as “healing work”) in the absence of women is a part of the work of helping to liberate women.
IV. Our Proclamation
As individuals and as a collective, we pledge to commit our lives to the well-being of women by deconstructing and dismantling sexism. We also commit ourselves to the act of re-envisioning our lives, ourselves, our communities, and our intimate partnerships in ways that create the potential for freedom of expression, equality, compassion, and love without conditions. We recognize the task we set before us is not a small one and we do not assume that a state of utopia is possible. Instead we assert that a goal of absolute freedom for women and all people is the only goal worth aspiring to. We work towards this goal with compassion for ourselves and others, honor for our humanness, and accountability for our actions. We walk towards this goal with acceptance of our differences, acknowledgement of our faults, and hope for our future. We walk towards this in love, as men committed to creating and becoming change.