Gay Community Solidarity: Do we really know how to look after one another?
It is indeed a very touchy subject because it may sow the seeds of division within an already beleaguered community. You speak about it and you risk uncomfortable questions. As the LGBTIQ community did not have enough problems; we also have to contend with the petty things that Balkanize us into largely ineffective small groups. If the straight alliance movement has shown us anything; it is the fact that you need others in order to advance your cause as a community.
Internal divisions not only make you ineffective but they can be used as persuasive arguments to deny you even more of your rights. After all; what is the point of liberating people who are unable to handle the responsibilities of freedom? The squabbling over territorial disputes shows us to be irresponsible and even irrational; two of the most damaging stereotypes that a member of a sexual can encounter in life. A divided LGBTIQ community feels the bigots with glee because it proves their long held prejudices against the community.
Meanwhile our oppressors twist the knife, seemingly willing to help but always taking away with one hand what they have given with the other. The truth remains inescapable that almost all the rights and gains that have been achieved by the LGBTIQ community today in terms of their human rights are entirely based on a “tolerance” model. Essentially what that means is that bigotry is the starting point for extending some piecemeal freedoms to this community. We are never an embedded and acceptable part of the wider community.
Breaking the Paradigm of Tolerance
People who consider themselves liberal on LGBTIQ positions are found out when you ask them whether they would be happy if their child was gay. It is then that the fear of the unknown begins to surface. Some of this reticence is justified: after all, nobody wants to bring their child to a world that is going to judge and oppress them for the rest of their lives. At other times the person does not really understand the question and consider it to be an attack on their integrity as a seemingly tolerant person.
Unfortunately, we seem to have adopted some of these paradigms in our own lifestyle. On one hand we are talking about diversity and the beauty of difference but on the other we are unable to accept the diversity and different of others. It was quite an unedifying spectacle when some members of the LGBTIQ community were silent during the initial harassment of intersex and transsexual people. Somehow we made them feel as if their difference was a step too far in this tolerant paradigm of ours. We wanted gay people that resembled our own personal conceptualizations about what it means to be gay and be part of the gay community.
For a very long (and sometimes painful) time; bisexual people found it nearly impossible to convince the LGBTIQ community that they were part of it. We were sometimes being recruited to label these brothers and sisters as being somehow “greedy” for sex in any way that they could get it (straight or gay). They faced the double whammy that mixed raced people travel throughout their lives. Not being quite admitted into one community whilst being simultaneously being rejected by the rest of the society is a very uncomfortable journey to travel.
Trouble for those Who Are Born Different
It is remarkable to consider how far the LGBTIQ community will go in order to fit in. Anyone that seems to deviate from what we consider to be the acceptable face of being gay is severely punished. That punishment comes in the form of being ostracized or alternatively being called less than pleasant names. I have been witness to a very uncomfortable situation in which a gay man was referring to another gay man as essentially an “Uncle Tom” to the LGBIT family, all because he dared to have a long term relationship with a woman.
For those who are uninitiated, “Uncle Tom” refers to the worst form of cowards to a minority. Uncle Toms side with the majority to oppress their own. To think that someone would want to issue transferred and reinterpreted insults to a fellow member of the LGBTIQ community is distressing enough without considering the possibility that those insults are lifted from the playbook of the society that has oppressed gay people (and people of color) for centuries.
The subliminal message is that gay people must conform to certain stands. You can be either too gay or not gay enough. Both those extremes are then considered to be taboo and might open you up to ridicule or being ostracized. It is ironic that in our struggle to find a place for ourselves in our communities, we may have inadvertently boxed ourselves into a corner. We are required to behave in a certain way and restrict our gayness to acceptable standards.
Gay Community Solidarity and The Perils of Conditional Love
For allegedly straight people, the standards could not be any more different. They are routinely accepted as they are; quirks and all. Nobody raises an eyebrow when they breed and dump kids like it’s going out of fashion. They do not have to beg before they are allowed to marry or divorce for that matter. They are the standard on which everything good is measured. They can express their sexuality in public without risking a serious assault from some crazies. Above all, they know that they are the norm and are to be treated with respect at all costs.
Where does that leave LGBTIQ members? We remain a beleaguered minority. Some of the gains that we have achieved have come as a result of blood and sweat. That blood and sweat includes the participation of all members of the LGBTIQ family as a whole. When in the aftermath of little victories, we continue to denigrate those who are different; we are sowing the seeds that will eventually disunite and disempower the community. We have been there before so we already know that our best shot is working through unified coalitions.
Is Unconditional Love even Possible?
That is a serious question that requires serious consideration. Some might argue that the difference and diversity of the LGBTIQ community means that it is a pipe dream to think that we could ever get along together without any friction. Yet still; the argument can be made that part of being truly free is the freedom to dislike other people even if those people belong to a beleaguered community to which you too belong. I might be criticized for painting gay people into a corner where it is mandatory to like other members of the LGBTIQ community.
Moreover, it could be said that not every member of the LGBTIQ family is easy to get along with. There are some real nasties out there. When we go out to clubs, we can see the cliques which broadly reflect our own internal divisions. Some people are not good looking enough to attract any attention. Others are just not cool enough to be worthy of conversation. Then we have the class divide where the poorer gays have to be constrained to their own ghettos. I once even heard someone referring to a white gay man as being too ghetto to talk to. Those are the little and big frictions that exist in any functioning community of diverse people.
I will respond to all those concerns with this proposal: you do not have to be in love with every single member of the gay community. Of course it is appropriate and possible to dislike some of them. However, as a community we ought to have a default position of accepting one another. We should be thinking of ways of supporting those who are in one way or another held back. This may involve making our voices heard when a member of the community is attacked. The recent debate surrounding toilets for intersex and transsexual people is just the kind of thing where the LGBTIQ community might have a big role.
Negotiating Intra-Group Relationships
I for one admit limitations when it comes to understanding the diversity of people within the LGBTIQ family. As far as I can tell, most of the world is woefully ignorant about human sexuality. A lot of what we know is through supposition and tradition. The science researching human sexuality was sometimes steeped within the constructs of a prejudiced majority. It is only now that people are beginning to understand some of the complexities of human beings with regards to their sexualities.
When you think about people who change orientation several times during their lifetime; it is easy to understand why the rest of the gay community would be somewhat uncomfortable with them. The last thing you need when in the midst of a struggle is a fifth columnist. What I am calling for is better understanding of the people that may not live up to the standard stereotypical gay person. They are part of an oppressed minority and we should not only welcome them, but also try to protect them when they are being attacked for their sexual orientation or identity.