Should this group be added to the Lgbtqplus umbrella? How about that? Isn’t the acronym long enough already?
I’m not terribly old, and I’m old enough to remember when LGBT was mostly LGB (and oh, the fights we had..). A short few years before that and it was barely an acronym in a lot of places. These days, of course, we’ve letters coming out our ears, never mind the disagreements about what half of them stand for.
And we still argue.
I think our arguments are, if not fundamentally wrong, then at least coming from a fundamentally incorrect space.
I remember an experience I had once at a demo. It was one of the few times I’ve ever been recognised by a stranger for my writing. They came up to me, asked if I was Aoife from the Tea Cosy. I said yes (secretly embarrassed and delighted in equal parts. There goes the secret), and we chatted a bit. And then they said something that has always stuck with me. They wanted to thank me for a post I’d written on queer communities a few months before, where I’d specifically mentioned other groups, including asexual people, who we should bloody we’ll be including. This person said it was the first time they ever heard a non-ace person mention ace people, and the first time they thought they might be welcome in our communities.
I think we’re creating these communities all wrong.
You see, while we officially describe our community as LGBTQ+, in practice it’s almost always the same: the gay community. The vast majority of resources and attention go to gay men (and then lesbian women). The assumption is that if you’re here, you’re gay. Those of us who aren’t gay- but aren’t cisgender heterosexuals either- end up having to defend our presence all the damn time. And the way we have to do so tends to be through establishing the answer to one question: whether their experiences are close enough to be mapped onto the lesbian or gay experience. This was what we argued with bi people- we have same-gender relationships too, you know. And trans people- aren’t homophobia and transphobia both forms of gender policing? And so on, and so forth.
But why should welcome to the LGBTQ+ communities be defined by how closely your experiences are to lesbians and gay men? Why does this one group- who, contrary to popular opinion, haven’t been around in our communities any longer than anyone else- get to define the boundaries of our spaces, to decide who belongs and who doesn’t, and to have a near-monopoly on the discourse around all of us?
This isn’t to say that I think we should open our communities to just anyone. There are good reasons why we create and develop separate and specific spaces. But let’s take a moment to think about what those reasons are, shall we?
If there’s one essential factor in the queer experience, it’s this: we have all experienced our sexual/romantic attractions (or absence of such) and/or our gender identities in non-normative ways, and we have all experienced exclusion because of that. Both of those factors manifest in vastly different ways, of course, but they’re always there.
If we define our communities by that, then we give ourselves the chance to get the hell away from privileging one kind of experience, group and voice above others. If we acknowledge that the ways that we experience noncisheteronormativity and exclusion don’t have to be the same, we create an opening for conversations on our diversities and similarities, and spaces both for all of us and for more specific needs and groups. I think that would be pretty great.
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