Oppression in LGBTQ “Communities”

Since my epiphany, transition and my coming out as a woman who is also trans I have been following, and I have been involved in various levels of activism. One of the areas of activism that I find particularly poignant and important centers around oppression and the intersectionalities of oppression. I also tend to get rather irked when I see situations of injustice, which usually involve people who are oppressed in some way. With a number of Pride events taking place around the world through the month of June issues around oppression within LGBTQ ‘communities’ have occasionally been raised. The issues that get raised center around issues of poverty, race, and transmisogyny – usually, but not exclusively, directed against trans women of color – in LGBTQ communities. When these issues are raised, the responses by those in privileged positions often takes the form of gaslighting, erasure and dismissal of concerns without any real hearing.

Reflecting on these through the various lenses with which I view the world I have noticed that these systemic oppressions tend to follow that of the ‘straight’ patriarchal world. Those who are masculine, particularly cis male and masculine, are privileged over those who are female or feminine. Those who are white are privileged over people of colour, those who follow gender norms and / or are cisgender are privileged over those who are not, and those with money are privileged over those of us who are struggling to get by. As one friend posted when some of these issues were pointed out with regard to how Pride events tend to be organized the response is commonly, “please don’t talk about these things, we just want to party and never talk about the problems that many LGBTQ people still face.” Once Pride events are over many, if not most, of those in privileged positions then go back to their normative lives that fit in nicely with mainstream society and still want us to be quiet about the injustices we face. We only need to look at how many, if not the majority, of mainstream articles refer to LGBT stories, either we’re all lumped under the “Gay” umbrella (for example blogs about trans issues under the “Gay Voices” section on Huffington Post), or those who are not Gay or Lesbian are not part of what is categorized as an “LGBT” story.

In my own experience the most resistance to any discussion of issues of oppression and the needs of LGBTQ people has been from white cis gay males. As many other trans activists have pointed out over the years that we have supported wider rights for the G and L parts of the LGBTQ umbrella, usually the right to marry, the support was expected and we are told to wait and they will support us in our struggles. The problem then arose that once those rights were obtained many of those we had been in solidarity with then effectively said, “we have what we want, we’re going home now.” All of the other issues that still face LGBTQ people get lip service at best, and at worst are not only completely ignored but the roots of the concerns are completely missed, or intentionally dismissed. One of the most recent events that dismissed the lived experiences of many in broader LGBTQ communities was the prison themed event that was sanctioned by San Francesco Pride.

The event, promoted by a kink web site, was a prison themed event that was aimed, from what I saw about the event in posts and in the advertising I saw for it, at gay males who are into various forms of BDSM kink with a prison theme. I am not opposed to BDSM and various kinks when it involves consenting adults. Weeks before the event there were a number of posts in social media about the event and why it is problematic as a Pride sanctioned event. The fact is that many LGBTQ people still face harassment in North America and around the world by police. Trans women of colour in particular are often targeted by law enforcement. Trans women generally are assumed to be prostitutes. Trans women in both Canada and the United states are put in men’s prisons if they have not had vaginoplasty, or if their identification identifies them as male. When these issues were pointed out the response was, yet again, it’s only a public kink party.

The message that is being sent to those of us who do not fit into the G(LBTQ) umbrella in ways that are comfortable for gay men in positions of privilege is that we are to shut up and not call them out when they are being the oppressors. The message that we comes across is that our experiences of oppression and violence are not important because it doesn’t impact on the lives of those who have achieved a level of equality and opportunity that those in positions of privilege have. These are the experiences of many. Yes, there are people who can honestly say that they are not like that. This does not mean that our experiences of oppression are not valid just because those in positions of relative privilege have not experienced the same.

I, for one, am not good about keeping quiet about injustice. As my mum and I have discussed on more than one occasion, even as a young child I would often say, “that’s not fair” when I saw situations of injustice towards both myself and others. That part of me is still present. Does this make others uncomfortable? Yes. Does it push myself and others to look beyond our own horizons and preconceptions? Hell yes. Is it easy for others to hear? No. Is it easy to speak out knowing that one will be the target of erasure, gaslighting and other means of oppression? No. Will I continue to speak out in the various communities I am part of and involved with? Yes. Will I speak out when I see oppression and discrimination targeted at others who are oppressed and discriminated in ways that I am not? Yes.

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