COLUMN: Being gay is fine — being an awful person is not

Being queer or gender-nonconforming does not give you an excuse from being awful to other marginalized groups.

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Abigail Ruhman is a sophomore journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about student life, politics and social issues for The Maneater.

This column is part four of Abigail Ruhman’s “Twelve Gays of Christmas: The Sequel” series. Twelve Gays of Christmas is a 12-column series about a variety of LGBTQ topics. During the holidays, members of the LGBTQ community are more likely to experience depression. By informing readers of the issues facing the LGBTQ community, these columns are meant to support the community this holiday season. This year is the second year of this series and shows that even though it can seem like things are fine, there is still a lot of discrimination and challenges facing the LGTBQ community.

Homophobia and transphobia are very real. The queer and gender-nonconforming community experiences discrimination. However, being a part of this identity group does not excuse one’s behavior toward other identity groups. Being queer doesn’t mean you get to be transphobic. Pride in the community shouldn’t ignore racist, classist, sexist or ableist behavior — it should remove it.

Discrimination isn’t unique to the queer and gender-nonconforming community. Homophobia is unique in its presentation the same way that racism is unique in its presentation. While there is a simlar fight for equality, discrimination is not better or worse for certain communities — it’s just different. Being a part of one marginalized group doesn’t mean you understand the experience of all people in marginalized groups. It isn’t a ticket to say whatever you want. The queer and gender-nonconforming community aren’t the only people being oppressed.

The queer and gender-nonconforming community is intersectional. Sexuality isn’t determined by race, class, gender or ability. In order for the movement to continue toward progress, pride has to be accessible. Owen Jones, a writer for The Guardian, explains “an astonishing 80% of black men, 79% of Asian men and 75% of south Asian men have experienced racism on the gay scene.”

Looking at equality as a separate fight for each community makes it easier for the status quo to maintain itself. One identity can’t be used to discriminate against another. At the Washington, D.C. pride parade in 2017, a group of protesters handed out flyers. They requested that Capital Pride, the group in charge of organizing the parade, cut ties with police and corporations that were funding projects linked to environmental injustice. In addition, they wanted Capital Pride to recognize the role transgender women of color had in the Stonewall Riots.

Those in the parade criticized them for “ruining a nice parade.” Not only does this demonize the protesters for taking a celebration and turning it into a political event, but this also ignores the origins of pride. The first pride was not a parade — it was a riot. The first brick was not thrown to be quiet and complicit. It was thrown by a transgender woman of color for being discriminated against. The movement is not on its own. Queer rights are not separate from woman’s rights, accessibility rights, rights linked to racial identity and transgender rights.

Pride isn’t about having a “nice parade.” It’s about promoting actual societal change. Being queer does not excuse you from learning about other communities and supporting their right to exist as well. Civil rights can’t be fought one group at a time. Doing so only weakens the movement and the possibility of positive change.

Being a part of the queer or gender-nonconforming community does not mean that one isn’t capable of other forms of discrimination. Discrimination is not unique to the queer community, and other communities need support as well. Not only does it impact people in the queer and gender-nonconforming community who are a part of a different marginalized group, but it also impacts people outside of the community. Racism, sexism, ableism and classism threaten the strength of the community in the fight for equality. If the queer and gender-nonconforming community puts queer rights above everyone else, they lose the impact they could have on the world. Intersectionality is important, but that doesn’t mean that people outside of the community don’t deserve the same support. Even if their identities don’t intersect with the queer and gender-nonconforming community, it’s still important to pay attention to their struggle and help when they need it.

Being queer doesn’t grant you access to hate and discriminate against others. People aren’t granted the right to be oppressive just because they are oppressed themselves. The queer and gender-nonconforming community is where it is today because transgender women of color were brave enough to do something. Women, differently-abled individuals, racially marginalized individuals or other marginalized groups deserve to have space in the queer and gender-nonconforming community. They deserve space outside of the community as well. The queer and gender-nonconforming community is not the only community threatened by the current status quo, and recognizing that is important to consider in the fight for equality.

Edited by Bryce Kolk | bkolk@themaneater.com

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