I think the best way to acknowledge what being queer is to start with what it’s not.
Many times, people from both outside and inside of the community tend to have ideas of what being queer is based on harmful stereotypes perpetuated in the media, different religious dogmas, outdated societal perceptions and so much more.
But the truth is that we’re here, we’re queer and we won’t disappear!
It is so important to have pride in your identity, no matter how you identify. Being able to celebrate who we are loudly and proudly is a privilege fought for by folks like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. They fought so hard for equity — and that included plights within the LGBTQ+ community, too.
In a clip seen in Netflix’s biographical documentary “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson," Ms. Johnson talks about her frustrations from within the queer community. She says that she and Sylvia Rivera, two trans women, would lead their marches, and not too long after, the white cisgendered gay men present would rush to the front and leave them at the very back of the crowd. These women were dismissed for being brown and black trans women.
Fast forward to 2022 and we are still facing quite a few of the same problems — and the call is coming from inside the house.
I spoke with gay men in their early twenties and asked what some of the reasons are that they might feel excluded from the LGBTQ+ community. Their names have been changed in an effort to protect their identities, but here's what a few said:
“I don’t feel like I fit in the gay community," Adam said. "My priorities are different than a lot of people in the gay community in terms of sex, identity, the beauty standard that’s set by the gay community itself. And how easy it is for me to feel boxed into a label when I walk into a space.”
I could not have said it better myself — It’s as if these are the perceived requirements of value, worth and beauty in the community.
Zion spoke with me more about the expectations of sex. There is an ugly stereotype that exists about the gay community, that says that we are more hypersexual than straight people. You might believe that we would not fall prey to that rhetoric, but it is telling of a bigger problem.
“[Sometimes] I have sought validation — or wanting to feel desired — that pushed me into sexual situations rather than having sex [for] pleasure," he said.
He talked to me about hookup culture, saying that there is an expectation if you go over to somebody’s house, even if it’s just as friends. An expectation to be under the influence, to sacrifice your boundaries in exchange for validation.
One of my favorite poems speaks about the expectations of being queer, but in this case, the poet was groomed by an older man who set the precedent — Who took advantage of the power dynamic. The following link contains material that might be difficult to watch for some viewers as it contains mentions of sexual assault and grooming. Viewer discretion is advised.
It is true that within the community, there are both power dynamics and beauty standards at play in addition to the pressure to please another person. I want to tell our readers that they are loved and valid here and that they are allowed to advocate for themselves if they feel uncomfortable or just plain “weird” about a sexual experience or whatever it may be.
Further, I’d like to remind you that "no" means "no"; "I’m not sure" means "no." Even if you feel a bit uncomfortable, I ask you to leave the situation as quickly and as safely as possible.
RAINN is the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline in partnership with more than 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, help is available.