As I walk the streets adorned with rainbow crosswalks in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, I shake my head at the irony of a “gayborhood” where housing is too expensive for queer and trans people of color. Here in Seattle, I watch the endless cycle of gentrification and displacement in communities of color as the practices of unscrupulous tech companies and real estate developers drive up rents to some of the highest in the world. Housing conditions in Seattle are eerily similar to those in Oakland, a place shaped by Black liberation activism that’s rapidly morphing into Google’s playground. Both cities are incubators of QTPOC resistance against gentrification and displacement, a movement which I belong to as a member of a collective called Queer the Land that is working towards purchasing property in the Seattle area to house a community center and a transitional housing cooperative. Recently, I interviewed fellow QTPOC based in Seattle and Oakland who are reclaiming land while taking time to honor the Indigenous people to whom it belongs and the enslaved Black people who labored there. Our conversations led me to reflect on my own narrative of displacement and on how gentrification impacted the LGBTQ+ people of color who came before us.
I define displacement as an act of violence fueled by the spoils of capitalism and colonialism. My ancestors knew this type of violence intimately as captives shipped across the Atlantic from the West Coast of Africa to the Deep South. After cultivating land desecrated by the Trail of Tears as enslaved people and sharecroppers, they never reaped the 40 acres and a mule promised to them and other freedmen at the end of the Civil War. During the Great Migration, some of my family members joined millions of Blacks leaving the South for better economic opportunities up North, which resonates with me as someone who left Atlanta with my partner for the gentler economic climate of Seattle three years ago. Like many other people of color, my family has survived in the face of chronic displacement.