“Well it’s like cranes in the sky / Sometimes I don’t wanna feel those metal clouds” – Solange
In Solange’s song “Cranes in the Sky,” she names the dual heartbreaks of gentrification and losing a lover. She sings of the various ways she tries to cope, ranging from writing to dancing to finding new lovers. This heartbreak feels so relatable, as we live the consequences of Seattle having the most cranes in the sky of any U.S. city. Yet every day as a bus driver I drive through construction zones that do far more to block traffic than any Black Lives Matter protest and no one blinks an eye because this is just normal. Anti-blackness, racism, the exploitative and displacing effects of developers, landlords, tech industries and government being in bed with each other — it’s all just normal.
I’ve been thinking about the specific kinds of heartbreaks and hardships LGBTQ+ people experience. Over a year ago, I left a job due to the mental health toll that queerphobia and transphobia were having on me. I tried addressing it but ultimately came up empty-handed with a body riddled with anxiety, anger, stress and distrust. Thankfully, my rent at the time was fairly affordable for this city, and because of many of the privileges I carry despite being trans, I was able to make the choice to leave before finding another job. This gave me time to recover and is a privilege many of my queer and trans community members do not have.
This is just one story. I have connections with far too many people who’ve felt they have no choice but to stay in abusive situations (ranging from slumlords to toxic relationships) because of a lack of affordable housing. I’ve seen people searching for housing for months with no results. I’ve seen peoples’ spirits break because of combined stress due to discrimination, the daily grind of White supremacy, living under Trump’s administration, and the isolating effects of capitalism. I know multiple people who’ve experienced hate crimes in neighborhoods that used to be seen as gayborhoods. I’ve seen friends move farther away from their jobs and established network of chosen (and if lucky, biological) family. Historically rooted communities of color are unrecognizable and whitening, Capitol Hill is lost to the tech bros, LGBTQ-serving organizations can’t afford rents here anymore, and old haunts of our queer and trans people of color elders are whitewashed and bourgiefied.
So what, as queer and trans people, are we doing about this? How are we showing up for each other to deal with the heartbreak and hardship of cranes in the sky? How are we holding each other when the basic struggles of life are compounded by not knowing where you’re going to sleep tomorrow?
Some of the ways I’ve seen LGBTQ+ community showing up include allowing friends to couch surf, subdividing rooms, retrofitting garages, helping people find jobs and housing, or signing a lease for a friend who can’t get on a lease due to bad credit and racism. Organizations are also showing up: The Tenants Union helps renters facing unjust housing situations; Queer the Land focuses on acquiring land and building a cooperative network to meet the needs of low-income queer and trans people of color; and LGBTQ Allyship develops LGBTQ+ leaders so diverse voices from our communities are at decision-making tables. And, there’s a House of Queer Intergenerational Housing Justice Conference on Nov. 4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., which aims to bring many of these efforts together so queer and trans people can find each other and organize.
Marginalized queer and trans people have had to be creative forever to figure out how to survive in a world that wants our magic but doesn’t want our vitality. Join us in building toward survival and thriving. Join us so we can resource each other, foster community ownership and create the conditions necessary for self-sovereignty. Register here.
Kelsen Caldwell is a King County Metro bus driver, a Housing Justice Organizer with LGBTQ Allyship, and a trainer with Rise Up, Skill Up Collective.
Wait, there's more. Check out articles in the full October 18 issue.