The LGBTQ High School Lunch Room

A very wise brilliant black trans woman (we’ll call her Helena) once told me, “Just because you’re oppressed, don’t mean you’re not responsible.”  She was referring to one of her trans sisters mistreating her based on her race.  The message: No free passes for bigotry just because you’ve had it hard.  I think this is a lesson we ALL need to learn.

Many, if not most, in the LGBTQ community have had it hard.  Some harder than others, but hard, nonetheless.  Sometimes when I’m in a group of queer people and the conversation turns to matters of life challenges, I witness a “who’s had it harder”-off that absolutely infuriates me.  Don’t get me wrong, I have compassion for these folks, too.  But just the fact that queer people want to compete for who’s had it hardest?  This confounds me.

Isn’t it enough that we’ve all had it hard on some level?  What will it take for us to realize that being LGBTQ isn’t easy for anyone?  Even the people who say it’s easy can only say that because they’ve MADE it so that their life is easy.  They’ve made hard choices.  They’ve cut people out.  They’ve moved, changed jobs.  Everyone of us knows that being queer is not a cake walk.  Is it possible for us to just acknowledge that and give each other the love and respect we deserve?

Why don’t white queer and trans people make space for black trans women?  Because we are segregated.  The LGBTQ “community” is as segregated as the lunch rooms in most public high schools.  There’s the “this kind of people” table and the “that kind of people table”. You see it, don’t you?  I know I do.  Me, I’ve always been at the “others” table.  I’m mixed race (Japanese, Russian, Polish) and I’m not your “typical” anything, so while I get along with most everyone, I sit at no one’s table.  And from my vantage point, I see how segregated we all are.

And we’re segregated by gender, too.  Non-binary, trans, men, women…birds of a feather, flock together. And even within these groups, we have segregation: trans women with trans women, twinks with twinks, biker dykes with biker dykes, you get the picture.  And sure…what’s the problem?  People who have similar interests, similar identities like to be around people like them.  Sure.  I have no problem with that.  But then these small flocks of L.G.B.T.Q. people don’t come out to support the other flocks.  We’re in silos.  

Me, I’m itching to open the doors of all the silos and let everyone pour out and mix and mingle.  But I’m afraid that even if I got the doors open, everyone would stay inside.

We are a small community to begin with.  We have hardships: employment and housing discrimination, mental health challenges, income disparities, access to health care, homelessness - just to name a few.  Do we really need to ADD to these hardships by rejecting each other the way we do?

And before you write me and say that you are not rejecting anyone in the LGBTQ community yourself, I ask you to take a moment and really think about what you see around you.  Do you really see heterogenous groups of queer people hanging out at the Centers you go to and the Pride and Queer events you attend?  Do you see black trans women with white trans men with Indian lesbians with Latin gay men?  No.  You probably don’t.  Not usually, at least.  I just went to a big ole “Pride” event and it couldn’t have been more segregated.  The only thing that brought distinct flocks into the same room was the rope tying demo, but that was still just mostly white lesbians and gay men.  And they weren’t interacting, but watching the demo.  Otherwise, most everywhere I turned, it was mostly people in their comfort zones.  So from where I’m sitting in the corner of the LGBTQ lunch room, it just looks like a whole lotta cliques based on race and gender.  And honestly, it feels like that too from where I sit. And I’m sick of it.

So, heeding Helena’s wisdom: just ‘cause you’re oppressed, don’t mean you’re not responsible, people.  You’ve been gay bashed?  Doesn’t mean you get a free pass for being racist.  You’ve been discriminated against because you’re trans? Doesn’t mean you get to be sexist. Nobody should be mistreating anybody for any reason.  And now more than ever when the rabid straight racists and straight sexists are hacking away at race relations and gender equality in this country, we have to band together.

I’m an non-white, Amerasian, dyke, heavyset, single mother, rape survivor with multiple mental disorders who was abused as a child.  There are my “how hard I’ve had it” cards.  I pledge to never use them to put me above or below anyone else in our community - or anyone else, for that matter.  Will you pledge with me?

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