Bigotry Without and Within: Oppression and the LGBT Community

locked gateHuman beings are social animals and therefore have a need to belong. Throughout our evolution, living in groups enabled us to find sufficient food, ward off predators, and raise our offspring—in other words, survive. So it is only natural that we feel the need to be part of a greater whole. In our global society, however, this can have its downside.

Our past societies, and many still in the present day, were homogenous. That is, everyone wore the same type of clothes, ate the same types of food, and practiced the same religion. They comprised the social norms, the fabric that held a group together. Those who did not conform were seen as a threat to the community. The punishment was ostracization, which, as mentioned above, was a threat to survival.

Today, with international travel common, large numbers of immigrants across the country, and the media showing us activity around the globe, we are more accustomed to diversity and, in fact, enjoy the benefits. We copy clothing and hair styles, eat a variety of ethnic foods, share knowledge, travel for pleasure, and more. Nevertheless, shunning (and worse) still occurs.

The downside of identifying with a group is that it automatically creates an “us” and a “them.” The “us” is considered the right way, the superior way. Once a group is considered inferior, less than human, it makes it much easier to take away their rights and treat them poorly. It has sometimes led to slavery or death.

The LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community has always been the “them” within the heterosexual, cisgendered population, and we all know what the result has been. But bias also occurs within the LGBT community. Many gay people still see bisexuality as a myth. They feel that bisexual people are just gay but afraid to come out. (See Bisexuality: Claiming Your Identity.) And some gay and bisexual people see those who are transgendered as the “them.”

There are several reasons for this internal bigotry. One of the biggest is the safety of closing ranks, protecting the “family.” Us vs. Them. Another reason is that a minority tends to use all of its resources to fight for its own rights, which doesn’t leave much for other minorities. Also, subdividing issues tends to weaken the political stance. And let’s face it—we have this tendency to put down those with less power than we have in order to feel better about ourselves. (Remember high school?)

On a social level, the same types of issues occur within the LGBT population as anywhere else. Lack of knowledge, lack of familiarity, misunderstandings, and so forth. Gay people may be just as ignorant of transgender issues as heterosexuals. In typical human fashion, if it doesn’t concern us, we don’t pay attention. Though, to be fair, we are all overwhelmed by the things we need to do every day and, especially in this technological era, how much we have to learn on a daily basis. There isn’t a lot of time and energy for studying other cultures.

The good news? The media bring it all right to our door or, rather, our eyes and ears. Gay rights are making headlines around the world, and transgender stories are popping up everywhere. All it requires is that you pay attention. Other things you can do to make sure you do not take on the role of oppressor: avoid disparaging other groups; keep an open mind; don’t be exclusionary; when you attend a LGBT event, be welcoming to all; and don’t make assumptions. In other words, don’t be the person you always resented.

Bigotry may have some evolutionary roots, but evolution has also provided us with large brains and broader scope. No one is free while others are oppressed.

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  • Solomon

    May 21st, 2014 at 8:11 AM

    Unfortunately for all of us there is hate and bigotry no matter where you go or what group you belong to. It is up to us to try to lessens the hatered that sometimes fills our hearts and to unto others as we would wish to have done to us.

  • Liam

    May 21st, 2014 at 10:32 AM

    I have traveled all over the world and it is always the same: you hook up with one group or another and regardless of how open minded you think that you may be it always seems that you start taking sides, perpetuating the whole idea that it is you and your peers against someone else.

    Why does that happen? I think that you are right on target when you say that at the core it is a lack of understanding and acceptance of other people, their rituals, their beliefs, their lifestyle, whatever it may be. It leads you to close your mind to accepting them and instead leads to an aura of rejection and eventually hatred.

    How is that helping anyone?

  • Tilly

    May 22nd, 2014 at 3:28 AM

    I hate it that those who are often the ones seeking acceptance are so often the ones who then ostracize and exclude others.

  • Martine

    May 23rd, 2014 at 3:47 AM

    Seeing as how this community has had to fight for every inch of rights that they have gotten, it is hard for me to imagine that within their own ranks there is still judgement and bigotry. Perhaps this is a feeling that people who would not be as confident about themselves would read into it, but having been around many members of the gay community I have to say that from my views they are some of the most welcoming and non judgemental people that I have ever met. I hate it that there are those who do not get this sense because that to me is what has made this movement to gain their rights even more special, because to me they deserve this.

  • delia

    May 24th, 2014 at 6:08 AM

    I would suspect that this tendency to close ranks probably has to do with years of feeling oppressed and abandoned by others not like them so they have this thing to protect themselves they have to close ranks againstg those that they don’t know or understand.

  • Melissa

    May 26th, 2014 at 4:57 AM

    For some of us this is going to be all about playing defense, hurt someone else before they have the chance to hurt us

  • Susan Leviton, MA, LMFT

    May 27th, 2014 at 2:48 PM

    It is indeed sad that those who have been the objects of persecution cannot be more compassionate to others facing it. A lot has to do with how we are wired biologically. However, we don’t have to be slaves to our most primal aspects; we can–and have–risen above them. There are many things we can do to stop bigotry, like not telling ethnic jokes, learning about another culture, and realizing that every individual has something to offer, given the chance.

  • Drake

    May 28th, 2014 at 3:58 AM

    When you have fought for so long to achieve the equal rights that others possess then why in the world would you still wish to demean others for not being like you?
    Isn’t this doing the very same thing to other people that has beenn done to you for all of those years?
    I would like to think that those in this community would have a little more open mindedness and at least a little more acceptance of those who are different from who they are, but als, it seems like the same ugly threads that run through society as a whole have infiltrated their way into this line of thought and lifestyle as well.
    Very much a shame, because especially younger people who are gay or perceive themselves as different are looking for a place where they can fit and belong and they miay not find that here any more easily then in other segments of society.

  • Cayleigh N

    May 28th, 2014 at 5:16 PM

    For the leaders of the gay community it should make them angry and sad all at the same time that this is even an issue for them. They should be the ones that you would think that would prove to embrace all and not turn negative. Look at all that they as a group have had to fight for and overcome. You would think that by now this wouldn’t even be ab issue, that there would be far more open mindedness than there actually is.

  • Sam

    August 5th, 2014 at 6:48 AM

    It takes great courage to employ a non-violent approach from within a community that experiences so much hate. The leaders of the gay community are human and make mistakes just like everyone else. The more pain/hate a person is exposed to the more likely they will commit violence themselves on accident. Everyone wants their good side praised while be given a respectful opportunity for their bad side to become better. Unfortunately, people in the queer community have to deal with everyone else’s discomfort with queer issues even when those people will not acknowledge that it exists. Yes, we sometimes fail to deal with other people’s discomfort and hate as respectfully as we should.

    Change is a process that involves all of us. If you are critiquing the leaders of the queer community, perhaps you should look to yourself and consider why you are uncomfortable with queer issues. Maybe by addressing your issues, you can lend a hand to opening the hearts and minds of those around you.

  • Andrew

    May 28th, 2017 at 5:57 PM

    Good points about the cause of bigotry but the level of bigotry by the LGBT community is beyond mere academic discussion, it is sad to see the overt sexism that causes a demand to be identified as LGBT instead of GBT, but it is the hatred the community has towards other human rights communities that has been KILLING people; once the LGBT community has control of a human rights forum they exclude with vengeance any mention of genocide, ethnic cleansing, colonization, political prisoners, and other human rights issues and the LGBT community demands sole ownership of the public and social media voices. The community is literally responsible for the unnecessary deaths of thousands and probably hundreds of thousands during the past decade.

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