First it was gay and lesbian, then it was gay, lesbian and bisexual. Then someone threw transgender in the mix. Somewhere along the line, it became OK to refer to gays as queers and now, they’ve decided it’s LGBTQIA. That’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and allies. The “gay community” today includes everyone who doesn’t fit into the conventionally straight category, making for a “community” that isn’t a community at all but rather a dumping ground of people deemed deviant by society. We don’t have much in common except for the fact that our sexuality isn’t the type that’s found in the all-American vision of two kids and a white picket fence.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about why the “gay community” doesn’t seem to be able to get anything accomplished. We seem to be spinning our wheels in the mud, not moving forward. Once in a while, we seem to sink a little deeper. We don’t have gay marriage; we have Proposition 8, domestic partnerships and civil unions. We don’t have acceptance; we have an overly-sexualized reputation filled with stereotypes that all gay men talk with a lisp and are great dressers while every lesbian drives a pickup truck and hates men. We aren’t met with open arms. We’re met with furtive glances, cat calls and the occasional rude comment, at best.
I’ve come to the conclusion that a huge part of the problem is that “gay community” can’t agree on anything. It’s not really anyone’s fault. LGBTQIA is just too inclusive, I’m sorry to say. I’d really like to get rid of the “A” because, seriously, allies are not part of the “gay community.” Allies are not homophobic, but that doesn’t mean they are gay (or whatever else). Similarly, I am not racist—but that doesn’t mean I’m black. No one would ever say, “Black people and those who don’t hate them are part of the ‘black community.’”
We can’t even agree on what to call ourselves, let alone an agenda and a way to facilitate change. First, queer and dyke were insulting, but now extremely left-leaning organizations use queer more than any other word. Meanwhile, those same organizations criticize those who use homosexual, which, last I checked, was the most objective way you could refer to someone who likes the same sex. I keep getting emails about the “Dyke Parade,” formerly (and more politically correctly) known as the Gay Pride Parade. When did I become a dyke instead of a lesbian?
Maybe naming doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but it is. The super liberal organizations that live in a bubble of free-thinking people have decided to reclaim the words that were once so insulting. The problem? That whole reclamation of words thing doesn’t work. I’ve spoken to 40-year-old men who will be damned if they ever let anyone refer to them as queer because they remember when that was just about the most insulting thing you could say to a gay person. Myself, I have a huge problem with the word “dyke.” I remember it being horribly offensive and, still, it is one of the first words homophobes go for when they are trying to piss me off. Yet, gay organizations are plastering it all over fliers and emails. Not cool. Whether it comes from the LGBT Center or some jerk down the street, it’s still insulting.
This whole naming thing is indicative of a larger problem with the “gay community.” If we can’t agree what to call ourselves, how are we ever going to get anything done? We’re just swarming around, bumping into each other and trying to figure out how to identify and understand others that are supposed to be in this big happy family.
I don’t really have a solution, but I do have a few suggestions. First, can we abolish this whole LGBTQIA thing, please? LGBT makes sense, but tack on three more letters and pretty soon it looks like you’re trying to rearrange the alphabet. Second, let’s stop trying to come up with inventive names and focus on something more important. I don’t want to be called queer, a dyke, a homo or anything else that has been used as an insult in the past. Gay, lesbian or homosexual is fine. I don’t need a million different ways to refer to myself.
Third, stop using the “gay community” as a dumping ground. We are so different than people who are transgender and intersex that it’s laughable to put us in the same category. Before you go calling me a bigot, let me just say that I have no problem with those who identify as transgender or intersex. I’d date someone who was. But, this community has a very different set of challenges and stigmatizations. Do I bat an eye when I see them at a gay bar? No. But I don’t think that either party is being served when we are lumped together.
Fourth, can we please just accept that progress is progress? Gay marriage is a good thing yet the most liberal of the liberal are very critical of it. In one of my gender and sexuality classes at NYU, they referred to gay marriage as “homo-normativity” and said we should be highly critical of making ourselves fit into the straight mold. I’ve spoken to many other women who don’t care about gay marriage because they don’t want to get married or are against it because they just don’t want to fit in. I think these people need to think about someone else. We get it—you’re different, even a marriage license won’t change that. But there are many gay people who want to get married and feel it’s important so they get behind it.
Maybe someday the “gay community” will get its act together and start a cohesive movement. Until then, I don’t see how we’re going to be able to get much done.