Fitting In, Standing Out: Bigotry in the LGBT Community

multicultural lesbian coupleIf someone asked you to define who you are in just a few words, what would you say? What words would you include, and what would you choose to leave out? Would “gay” always be a part of that list? What about ethnicity, religion, or occupation?

Each of us is a combination of many things. We have multiple roles in life, an infinite range of characteristics and unique experiences, a temperament. Yet as a society, we judge people by a few visible qualities—the color of their skin, the clothes they wear, and so on. Certainly, first impressions are important, but often we don’t bother going beyond those. The problem is, sometimes those first impressions are wrong. We are all complex individuals who can’t be understood by a single label.

There is a common bond in the gay community, as there is in any minority, based on shared experience. Uniting as a group is good; it is essential to having a political voice. Coming together with others who are like us also fills the human need to be part of a greater whole. However, as strong as the need to belong is, we also have a yearning to be recognized as unique, to be appreciated for who we are as individuals.

Although the gay community shares a common thread, it is important to remember that there is a great deal of diversity within that community, which needs to be respected. Gay people come in many colors, cultures, and styles, just like any other group. Yet in the united battle for political reform and acceptance, the differences can get lost. Worse yet, internal bigotry can develop. It is important to remember that the experiences of people of color who also happen to be gay are not the same as those who are white and gay. We could say the same of people from different economic brackets, religious backgrounds, and so on. Many minorities within a minority feel they don’t belong anywhere, as they are often rejected by one group for belonging to the other group. Even bisexual and transgender people have expressed feelings of disrespect within the gay community to which they look for support.

It would stand to reason that anyone who has been oppressed would be careful not to imitate the behaviors of their oppressors. It would stand to reason—but it wouldn’t be human. Instead, it seems that those who have been on the bottom are so eager to rise that we try to put others beneath us. We see it in schoolchildren and we see it in adults.

It is also human nature to want to see ourselves in a positive light. So here are some questions to ask yourself in order to gauge how you treat people who are different from yourself:

  • Do I make jokes about other groups? Do I laugh when others do so?
  • Do I find myself thinking negative things about someone based on a stereotype?
  • Do I attempt to be inclusive of people who are different in some way?
  • Do I judge people for themselves, or for the group(s) they belong to?
  • Do I sometimes feel guilty for a remark I made or thought I had about another person or group?
  • Do I assume I know everything about someone’s experiences because they are gay? (Regardless of their other identities?)

I am not saying you are a terrible bigot if you answer positively to any of those questions. What I am saying is that we all have to be aware of the negative impact small gestures can have. Awareness is the first step in improving the quality of life for everyone.

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  • Billie

    August 25th, 2014 at 10:28 AM

    There are so many stereotypes that we all have for one another- it is almost impossible to seperate what is true from what is not and what is just a generally held belief anmore. I do hate that a group which has been so persecuted as a whole throughout the years now finds itself in a fiht one against another because that does nothing but further the separation even more. What we need is unity, not infighting.

  • brooks

    August 25th, 2014 at 3:37 PM

    I think that the most important sentence that I read within, and this can be applicable to any group no matter who you are, is that there is a lot of diversity and that is something that has to be respected no matter who you are.

  • Mick

    August 26th, 2014 at 3:52 AM

    Why not use some of that for good instead of continuing to demean those who don’t fit your own personal ideal or standard?
    Think about the numerous ways that you have been treated that have made you feel terrible… do you really want to inflict that upon someone else simply because they don’t fit your own personal mold?
    I would hope that we could somehow move past that type of discrimination.

  • James

    August 26th, 2014 at 10:28 AM

    It is true that there are all walks of life but no matter who you are or what your preferences may be, you are still going to choose to hang out with and surround yourself with people who make you feel the most comfortable and welcomed. That may mean someone just like you or it could be someone titally different. It does not give you the right to single out those who don’t seem to be the ones you want to be aorund, but there is always someone else who will and it can be very hurtful when you purposely exclude another because of their differences. I have always thought it best to search for those similarities that you may have instead.

  • Jaye

    August 27th, 2014 at 3:52 AM

    you think that when you come out you will then find yourself warmly embraced by others just like you and you quickly learn that there is still going to be hate and that you are still surrounded by the same type of people, only this time they are openly gay as well

  • arden g.

    August 27th, 2014 at 1:58 PM

    This is all about being true to yourself and the person that you love.
    I don’t care if others like my choices or not, they are the choices that I am making for me in my own life and I am not really all that worried about the rest.
    I hope that one day if I have to encounter this type of behavior then I will be able to move past it and ognore it and I also know that there are times when you can’t so that and you have to take a stand against it.
    There is a place and a time for everything in life but for right now I am choosing to live life for me and to do that with the people who always will mean the most to me.
    And if there is someone who does not like that? Oh well- I probably didn’t need them in my life to begin with.

  • Seth

    August 28th, 2014 at 3:54 AM

    My partner and I have of course talked about this very thing. We are two men in a committed and loving relationship with each other but have lamented at times that we will still never be accepted because when people think of gay men they think about those who are the most flamboyant and out there; wheras we are just two “normal” guys who are in love and happen to be gay. We probably share more beliefs with you then some members of the gay community, and it is hard to not want to scream out sometimes that they are the reason that many are still so homophobic. But we try to be loving and accepting of everyone, as we would want them to be to us, and hope that one day the differences will not be the thing that we all see first.

  • Hampton

    August 29th, 2014 at 1:17 PM

    This would be a great list of questions for any class that dealt with racial as well as cultural stereotypes. It does not only have to be about the inequality in the LGBT community, but in a lot of different communities that experience discrimination among members of their own groups.

    There are a lot of things that we can learn about ourselves if we would take the time to be open and honest about many of the thoughts that we actually have about other people, things that we may not want to admit. But think about this- there is only room for some change once we all admit to the things that we really believe and have a desire to do better than that.

  • Irby

    August 31st, 2014 at 9:51 AM

    I say just be yourself and love one another- great idea for peace and harmony among us all

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