America’s Shameful Elephant in the Room

By: Brett Slaughenhaupt – Staff Writer

Hot take alert: America has a problem with race and gender.

I know, I know— if you need to take a quick breather and sit down, I understand. We spend so much time observing and/or ignoring it that we never sit down and analyze it critically. I’m painting with broad strokes by using the term “we,” when I should be saying “the white community.”

Too often it is left up to those marginalized communities to step forward before the issues are duly recognized. But that’s not what I am hoping to write about.

I’m hoping to contextualize our country’s race and gender problem to create a more specific observation concerning the LGBTQ+ community: it is not a community at all.

As antithetical as it may seem, people who are grouped into the overarching LGBTQ+ identity are impacted largely by an internal hierarchical system based upon identities of race, gender, and class— this article touching most specifically on race and gender.

The term “community” brings to mind a grouping of people who interact and empower one another regardless of the diversity of identities. When we consider the representation and power white, gay cis-men hold over queer POC and trans* individuals, it becomes less of a community than it does a system.

This system is no more prevalent and obvious than in the infamous app Grindr. On so many profiles are phrases like “No blacks,” “No Asians,” or “masc4masc” to showcase that this person is only looking for a certain type of partner (mainly: white, masculine, and cisgender).

This sort of denial of identities creates a hierarchical system that intentionally ignores the specific experiences and existence of people.

Now this is where the age-old argument of preferences comes to play. Preferences – people have them. It is entirely natural to be attracted to someone different than who your friend is attracted to.

How this is decided is based on biology and socialization and a bunch of other stuff that I am not an expert in. What isn’t preference is to decide that you are not going to consider any POC as fit to be your sexual or romantic partner. That’s just plain racism.

What people don’t seem to consider is how contagious and attractive the power of race and gender is for those who hold the power.

Gay, white cis-men are more willing to ignore aspects of their identity such as sexuality in order to reaffirm the power they hold due to race (but of course we are still quick to victimize ourselves when it works to our advantage).

And that is where the idea of an “LGBTQ+ community” works from a blind perspective, but is misguided in reality. It would make sense for the LGBTQ+ community to be a safe haven for all that are a part of it, but that is unfortunately not true at all.

It creates a sense of comparison between the entirety of people who fit in that space that only serves to elevate the white, gay cis-man’s experience ignore that of the queer, latinx trans man.

Just three months into 2017, the U.S. has witnessed the murders of seven transgender women of color. To give further context to this matter, look no further than the homicide rate in America.

For the average person, the murder rate is one out of every 19,000; for black transgender women, that number is one in every 2,600. Each year there is an increase in the number of trans* people who are being impacted by these hate crimes. The white, gay man is complicit to the acts of terror enacted on queer POC and trans* populations through our explicit reaffirmation of race and gender norms. These issues need to be brought to light and challenged or else we are going to see the continued rise in homicide rates.

When you are fighting for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, make sure that you take into account the lives and experiences that are not on the television screen every night. Make sure to remember Ciara McElveen, Chyna Gibson, Mesha Caldwell, Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, JoJo Stryker, Jaquarrius Holland, KeKe Collier, and every other victim of hate.

Fight for them.

Photo Courtesy lgbtq.smcgov.org