By Julie Bolcer
Originally published on Advocate.com August 25 2009 4:05 PM ET
Details magazine offers a provocative, if at times strained, feature on the “fearsome gay gangsters of Bash Back!” the “elusive band of transgender anarchists, radical sex workers, and queer troublemakers" who explicitly reference violence as an answer to oppression. The group has gained notoriety in the past year for in-your-face protest tactics that leave some members of the LGBT establishment feeling deeply uncomfortable.
Journalist David France travels to the “end of a dead-end street” and passes “restless dogs and rusty cars on cinder blocks” to reach the railroad tracks in Lansing Mich., where he meets leaders of the “most notorious” chapter of Bash Back! The fast-growing group claims chapters in 15 cities, with actions that have included gluing shut the doors of a Mormon church in response to the church’s financial support for Proposition 8 in California.
“Founded just over a year ago,” France writes, “the group adamantly opposes what it calls the 'gender binary system' that classifies people as either male or female. Most members consider themselves neither or both. It's anti-establishment, anti-military, and anti-marriage -- or anyone. What Bash Back! supports is gender self-determination, lots of sex and pornography, and confrontation as a first resort -- a necessary response to violence.”
France focuses on the Lansing chapter, whose members staged a high-profile demonstration at their city’s Mount Hope Church shortly after Prop. 8 passed in November. They chanted “Jesus was a homo,” flung condoms, and kissed at the church altar. The action resulted in a lawsuit brought by the church, which claims that Bash Back! blocked access to a house of worship and thereby violated parishioners’ constitutional rights.
The feature positions Bash Back! in the confrontational vein of gay liberation groups from the era of Stonewall and Harvey Milk. It also discusses how their club-wielding approach and overt references to violence seem to have “struck a chord” with more mainstream LGBT rights organizations.