Lets get one thing straight… I’m not. I’m gay and I love it! This is despite facing discrimination from the state, despite it destroying my relationship with my father and despite having to face ignorance, hate and abuse. I still love being gay and not because of superficial reasons like guys being hot and not having to pay the bill every time I go out on a date.
I love being gay because it’s made me a better human being. I’d like to think that I’d be tolerant and open-minded regardless of my sexuality. But there’s a world of difference between sympathy and empathy. Knowing what it’s like to be treated differently simply because of who you are makes you able to understand the oppression faced by other people and makes you aware how far we still need to go to achieve social equality. This is not to say that being gay means I know what it’s like to be a working class, black lesbian living in rural Wales! I don’t and never truly will. But without the shared experience that being part of an oppressed minority gives you, I would have even less of an idea of what it’s like to face discrimination and almost certainly wouldn’t have half the interest in race, class and gender struggles that I do today.
I love not having to conform to a narrative of what it means to be a man. I can go from lip synching (‘for my life’) to Lady Gaga to comparing zombie survival plans all without having to worry whether any of this makes me more or less masculine. While my straight male friends worry over ordering cosmopolitans or enjoying Brittany Spears in public; I’m free to take any part of the masculine-feminine spectrum and make it my own.
Despite all this I find myself increasingly starting to hate parts of the gay community. For all the rhetoric on wanting acceptance by society – gay people are often the least accepting of others; from gay men saying “no fats, no fem’s, no Asians” in their dating profile to the complete erasure of bisexuals and trans* people. It’s as if we’ve come out of the closet only to enter a whole new world of oppression. To this day I still hear people say, “bisexuals are greedy,” or that, “bottoms who sleep around are sluts,” and even, “you’re not really transgender because you’re not on hormones.”
Enough of this bullshit.
If half of the energy we spent attacking one another was used to fight for medical access, legal equality and positive media portrayals we would already be considering a transgender woman for Home Secretary and no one would be slightly concerned about anything but her professional qualifications!
This obsession the community has with hammering other parts of itself over language, symbolism and privilege is insane when you consider the huge hurdles we still face in achieving full equality in this country let alone internationally. The accidental use of the word ‘queer’, ‘faggot’ or ‘dyke’ ignites a shit storm but barely a whimper of opposition is raised over the ban on gay men being able to donate blood, over rising HIV infection rates or over the brutal murder of gay people in Iran.
This doesn’t mean that language, symbolism or privilege isn’t important. It is and should be discussed, but it should be patently obvious that there are far more pressing issues that we should be dealing with. Not only that but some of the ways in which we currently ‘discuss’ them are at best ineffective and at worst hurtful to the wider cause of equality. Ranting on tumblr over heteronormativity and cis privilege isn’t going to stop a gay kid being bullied but may alienate straight allies who feel they have to be on guard all the time for fear of offending someone because they haven’t spent the last 5 years dissecting whether their words are confirming to “Hetero-Cis-Normative Patriarchy.”
We are all on the same team. We all want equality. We all want to love openly, live freely, and be happy with who we are.
Let’s stop the bullshit and actually start achieving it.
Jayson Probin studies Economics at Girton College at the University of Cambridge.