When referring to LGBTQ+ issues one is often confronted with this emphasis on a ‘community’. Groups of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer people co-existing with no animosity. An idea that on the surface is reflective of the ideals in which those who came before us, fought to instill within society.
Inclusivity, tolerance, acceptance and the championing of individuality. Ideals that are often considered purged of racial, economic or gender bias.
But as an openly gay man myself I can tell you for a fact, this is simply not always true. Racism, misogyny and a myriad of other divides exist within this so-called ‘community’ and have done for some time. I by no means intend to disregard or downplay the importance of building bridges with our LGBTQ+ brothers, sisters and non-binary family, but we cannot ignore the fractures in our community if we want to march on forward.
Progress requires acknowledgment and accountability, and I can only hope these words can become a small part of that progress or dialogue in some way.
Identifying as LGBTQ+ presents its own unique set of challenges, and truly tests your relationship with yourself, those you love and the world around you. Whilst I am fortunate to have grown up in a country where being gay is not only legal but (for the most part) largely accepted, I would be lying if I said I did not have enemies simply because of who I love. Some of these enemies came from within the LGBTQ+ community itself. I am a somewhat effeminate gay man, I wear quirky clothes and I’m fairly slim.
When I started going to gay clubs at nineteen, I quickly realised I was automatically categorised because of the way I looked. The ‘twink’ I was supposedly perceived to be, was unintelligent, bitchy, a massive sub, and something many felt okay to take advantage of. I was often seen as inferior or was hypersexualised which allowed me to feel out of place and marginalised in a scene I started to find increasingly vapid and disingenuous.
I adamantly rejected all of these stereotypes.
I see myself as smart, kind and I have my own interests, core values and beliefs that dictate and showcase my character. None of these things have anything to do with the way I look, or the shape of my body. In short, I was none of what people perceived me to be and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me.
I have met some wonderful people on the gay scene, many of which embraced these labels but if you were somebody who did not, it was very easy to become a target for discrimination and abuse because you did not fit the mold.
As a student myself at a very liberal and LGBTQ+ friendly university, I had in depth conversations with many students regarding representation within university culture and the broader community itself. I was horrified to learn of deep-set racism, misogyny and transphobia that transcended sexual identities and lay at the core of the community itself.
If you were not white, cisgender male or didn’t have a stereotypically nice body or a ‘pretty’ face you were often torn apart, whether it be a profile on Grindr titled “no fats, no femmes, no Asians” or in worse case scenarios, physical or sexual assaults intended to demean and intimidate those who did not fit the narrow mold of what is deemed to be socially acceptable as an LGBTQ+ person. This is not the case for everyone, but it is not uncommon either.
The worst part is, there is evidence to support this. A 2018 study conducted by Stonewall discovered that 51% of BAME LGBTQ+ people had experienced some form of discrimination or racism within the community, 61% of black men and women, and 41% of those with disabilities say they were discriminated against in some way. Ruth Hunt, Chief Executive at Stonewall UK said in response to these findings “This research gives a worrying insight into just how serious a problem prejudice is within our community, and we need to talk about it.
Users of dating apps will be familiar with phrases like ‘No blacks, no Asians’ and ‘No chocolate, no curry, no rice, no spice’ becoming the modern-day versions of ‘No blacks, no dogs, no Gypsies’”. (Stonewall, 2018) This abhorrent dehumanisation of our fellow LGBTQ+ family is horrifying and sadly indicative of a greater more systemic problem. A lack of self-worth, widespread addiction and mental health problems within the community itself which are often linked to the broader scope of gay rights and the failures of our healthcare systems to nurture LGBTQ+ specific needs.
But that’s a whole other topic I plan to address in another piece.
This obsession with labels and categorising also points to another troubling element of the LGBTQ+ community. The constant obsession and desire to fetishise and objectify the body and certain “desirable” physical characteristics. Social media influencer and founder of the ‘Happy Smiley Blog’ Max Hovey, wrote a piece about this exact subject. In his piece entitled “No Fats, No Femmes, No Asians” he writes very candidly about his own experiences of this, with one user on Instagram rather pointedly begging him to join the gym because they “missed” his abs. He writes “Imagine the feeling of having your entire existence written off by someone purely based on your heritage, body size or self-expression – it HURTS.”(Hovey, 2020) Indeed, it does hurt. I’ll link his piece at the end, he is fantastic!
Another study conducted by the Addiction Centre discovered that 20% – 30% of the LGBTQ+ community have admitted to abusing substances. This is a clear indication of the addiction problems that are decimating our community and making issues such as discrimination and marginalisation exponentially worse. Between 20% and 25% of the LGBTQ+ community have moderate to severe alcohol dependency, are 12.2 times more likely to use amphetamines and 9.5 times more likely to use heroin. (Addiction Centre, 2020) This data is only the beginning, as ageism, HIV/AIDS stigma and rife mental health problems plague the LGBTQ+ community, often as a result of mass alienation and disenfranchising from within the community itself.
All of these factors have a knock-on effect that culminate in a vicious cycle of abuse and discrimination. It is clear we all have a responsibility to make sure we are more inclusive kind and empathetic to our brothers, sisters and non-binary family.
This is only the tip of the iceberg and will likely be the first of several pieces I write about this topic. Want to know what you can do to actively combat discrimination? Education is power, educate yourself as much as you possibly can. Two brilliant books addressing much of what I’ve discussed here are ‘Straight Jacket’ by Matthew Todd, and ‘The Fire Next Time’ by James Baldwin. Another way of combating discrimination is by acknowledging it is there in the first place.
Have open conversations, do lots of research, share your story if you feel it might help. We all have a responsibility to call out injustice when we can and to lift people up who suffer at the hands of physical, sexual and emotional violence as well as discrimination. It doesn’t have to be this way and we all have a voice, now more than ever is the time to use it.
Addiction Center. 2020. LGBTQ And Addiction – Addiction In LGBTQ Community – Addiction Center. [online] Available at: <https://www.addictioncenter.com/addiction/lgbtq/> [Accessed 23 August 2020].
Hovey, M., 2020. No Fats, No Femmes, No Asians. [online] Happysmiley.co.uk. Available at: <https://www.happysmiley.co.uk/post/no-fats-no-femmes-no-asians> [Accessed 4 September 2020].
Stonewall. 2018. Racism Rife In LGBT Community Stonewall Research Reveals. [online] Available at: <https://www.stonewall.org.uk/cy/node/79551> [Accessed 23 August 2020].