“When I discovered my sexuality and actually came out to people, I was very anxious and nervous. I was scared of what my parents would say, how the world would percept me. I wondered if ‘the bi-boy’ was my only identity now, if it was all there will be to me. But amidst the chaos going on in my head, there was relief. I was relieved because I was going to be a part of the most loving community in the world. But the community is not all rainbows and sunshine Sam, it wasn’t what I thought, and sometimes, I don’t feel like I truly belong here.”
What you all read right now, is the answer to the question regarding the community that I asked my friend who recently discovered his sexuality, for a research I was conducting. Out of all the people I interviewed, this particular response caught my attention. Any other member of the community I talked to, only told me about the problems they’ve faced outside of the community.
Since I’ve mentioned it, I would quickly like to bring light to internalized homophobia outside the community. For the same research, I talked to cis/straight people too. A lot of them talked about how great the community is, and how they support all their friends from the community. But there was one question which triggered 4 out 5 people. “Are you a member of the community” or if I put it in a less subtle way, what triggered them was me asking if they were gay. This question seemed like an insult to almost all the people I talked to about the community, which showed the extent of internalized homophobia. People who claim to love the community and be strong allies, could not bear the thought of them being a part of it.
Coming back to what goes on within the community, my friend was the only person who mentioned that there is homophobia and social problems within the community too. This came as a surprise to me. I always thought that the LGBTQ+ community was the safest place for people within the community as well as people outside it. For me it was an open, kind society where everybody was welcome. Don’t get me wrong, the LGBTQ+ is still my favorite community, but with all of its positive energy, it was a bit of a shock to hear that there are also people tearing down their own kind.
After further research, I started looking at the community in a whole different light. I will try to answer a few questions which might be arising in your head to the best of my abilities as a person who is a not a part of it, but a very strong ally.
Does the LGBTQ+ community have a diversity problem?
The minority members of even the LGBTQ+ community have to fight for their equality and representation. According to some sources ‘minority voices are being marginalized in conversations and activism. This is a huge issue in a community built on fighting for equality and representation, and presents a number of questions without easy answers.’ There is a lot of unconscious racism within the community. There are many stereotypes, lack of representation for minority LGBTQ+ members(this has led to formation of separate minority run LGBTQ+ groups which although are great for drawing attention to the community, lead to division and seclusion of various social groups) and there is sometimes lack of support from mainstream/majority LGBTQ+ members at protests run by and for minority social groups of the community.
Are certain groups discriminated against within the community?
Transphobia within the community- trans women and men are often neglected by those who set political priorities of the community, if not treated with outright hostility and prejudice. A woman named Major Griffin-Gracy, prominent transgender activist described the main gay rights movement as one that shuts out transgender folks and people of color. She stated in an interview with Jessica Stern that, “I feel like we’ve been pushed to the outside and then prevented from looking in. It’s the stares, the noninclusion over decision-making, exclusion from events that would build this movement. I think if they could eradicate us, they would.” It feels like the T in LGBTQ+ is silent. It’s more talk and less action.
Biphobia within the community- Some gay people feel like bisexual people don’t belong in LGBTQ+ spaces for reasons such as they aren’t gay enough, they don’t experience as much homophobia because they could be in a straight relationship, they are gay but in denial, they are more likely to cheat, and they are incapable of monogamy. An interviewee of the same research I mentioned above, claimed that certain people pretend to be bi with a preference for the opposite sex to be ‘cool’ but they don’t understand that it takes away the attention and importance which should be given to the genuine bisexual community. There were also efforts to rewrite history to erase bisexual contributions to political LGBTQ+ rights movements, and then claim that bisexuals have never done anything for the community at large.
Why is there controversy about whether or not Asexual people should be included in the community?
Some groups within the LGBTQ+ community feel that since asexual people are not as discriminated as other groups, they should not be a part of the movement. Since heteroromantic asexuals do not experience or have a long history of systematic oppression, nor homophobia or transphobia, they therefore cannot understand the struggles that lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender people go through. The argument which says asexual people have every right to be in the community is based more on emotions and how they feel rather than the history of the community.
Stereotypes within the LGBTQ community
Femmephobia- Femmephobia is defined as hatred of all people who are perceived as femme, feminine, effeminate, and/or twink regardless of their gender. Femmephobia can manifest on any level from internalized misogyny to externalized shaming, policing, and violence. Within the LGBTQ+ community, feminine men are sometimes blamed for the bad image of the gay community, whereas feminine men expect other gay men to actually act more feminine, following the stereotype.
Feminine Invisibility- For many women, being queer, questioning, lesbian or trans is seen as nothing but a phase and hence when questioning women change their preference they’re often ridiculed.
One more stereotype within the lesbian community is that they’re supposed to be masculine. This leads to a situation similar to femmephobia, where masculine lesbians expect fellow members of the community to look the same and vice versa.
With still a lot of questions which remain unanswered even for me, I would like to end this article by saying, it was already heartbreaking to see that the world hates on love, as if it doesn’t have enough topics to hate on already. But knowing that even the most loving community in the world can have such major, deep-rooted social problems, shows us that a world without discrimination and hate remains a dream which becomes more and more distant the closer we get to it. Even the calmest, most beautiful skies have their own thunderstorms and lightning. As much as we want it to be, or expect it to be, the sky truly isn’t always pink.