the philosophactivist

Sunday, February 6, 2011

LGBT community vs. the larger Queer community. Irreconcilable differences?

There is growing tension between those who identify as lesbian,gay, bisexual and trans and those who identify as queer. Classifying oneself or being a certified card-carrier of the letters in the acronym LGBT seems to come with a little more security as far as acceptance goes. They are a little more mainstream and the "Gay Agenda" pretty much comes out of that camp. (DADT, Marriage Equality,etc.) Being one of these letters also sort of means you buy into the gender binary. Think about it. Lesbians are women who like women. Gays are men who like men. Bisexuals like both and trans identify as the opposite gender. The queer community is largely more amorphous. It is a blanket term inclusive of all LGBT acronyms but specifically inclusive of "everyone else." Meaning- genderqueers and gender non-conforming people, and well- everyone else who identifies with queer politics. Now what this label is *not inclusive of- is people of color who do not identify with this term. Whether it's because they have no allegiance to it or have rarely heard it besides coming out of white queer activists and theorists mouths. While some find the label "queer" liberating- others find it stifling. It is after all another label designed to be all-encompassing. Who wants that? Well, probably people who are tired of being called LGBT who don't identify with that.

Here is what I wrote to my professor who is teaching a course at Yale which teaches about "gender identities and the capacity for the LBGT community to actually rally around the trans population and their distinctive health and policy needs":

"Gender fluidity is interesting. I identify as genderqueer and I find that everyone I've met who identifies as such have all these different labels (andro, bigendered, masculine/feminine of center, gender fluid, gender non-conforming,trans,etc.) and it is so disheartening that the binary is still very much present. (Which creates tension between FTM/MTF--who identify as "the other gender and sex" and people who identify as genderqueer or gender-nonconforming). I find that the very people who enjoy being on the outside of the binary unintentionally perpetuate gender roles and expectations. It leaves me wondering if one can truly live a life devoid of these influences (especially after socialization and other cues in and outside of the community).

There is also tension between the LGB and the T which I just recently began to see within the organizing efforts (I saw it before but that was on a personal level). The issues for both are very different and can be divisive. I've seen some really hateful things said about how trans people just attached themselves to the LGB and that trans people are mentally ill,etc. There is not the same push to get gender dysphoria off the DSM V as there was to get being homosexual or bisexual off the DSM IV (of course for many important reasons- nobody wants to lose the chance to get transitions covered IF they have insurance). I actually wrote my ethics paper on transgender medicine.

The solidarity is feigned at best for different reasons.I find this to be less so in community organizations of color. the queer scene (which I think is distinct from the LGB scene) there is much more solidarity. LGB's are believed to have sold out---the queer scene has a lot of people with radical politics who are pretty frustrated by conventional LGB campaigns. They don't care about gay marriage or DADT nearly as much. They'd really like housing and economic equality. I see it as all important but,just like a lot of the queer population, I've got priorities and gay marriage isn't #1. I'd like to not get fired for wearing a tie to work and using different pronouns and have the law on my side if it did, in fact, happen."


  1. Hm, this is a really interesting post. I do agree with you that these two camps seem to exist. I identify as queer in certain company, but I'm always a little worried that someone's going to call me out on my street cred: superficially, I'm a cisgender woman dating a cisgender man, so what could be queer about me? And I've had that be the response when trying to become part of queer or LGBT communities. It's like I have to prove my queerness by denying the ways in which I do conform to gender norms, but not because I feel like I have to, because that's the way I'm most comfortable. If that's a result of social conditioning and the heteronormative male dominanted society that I live in, so be it, but regardless, that's how I am.

    Anyway, you be you. I'll be me. I'll be friends with you no matter what pronouns you want me to use :D

  2. Thanks! Yes there are some haters ...a lot of misunderstanding. And I can only hope not to perpetuate it in my work. I almost did in this Trans forum/community event I'm planning...I almost played the role of a gatekeeper and tried be paternalistic ---foreseeing that the trans/genderqueers would not feel comfortable with LGBT what I see in NYC. Luckily a friend slapped me back into reality. I want to be a bridge and bring people together...not create a deeper chasm. We have to get over this...we have to come together. So you date your cis man and be queer! We appreciate your addition to our numbers :).