JUNE 1. The beginning of pride month. It is the day that marks the start of a month where the LGBTQ+ community celebrates its rights, the struggles it took to come where they are. As a part of the LGBTQ+ community myself, this is truly the month I call ours. But all my time on social media, interacting with fellow queer people, and listening to their experiences made me realize one thing: pride is inclusive. The amount of appreciation a certain type of gay person isn’t the same as some other person will be showered with. It took me time to wrap my head around the obvious problem, maybe I was the recipient of acceptance online, but even at the back of my mind, I knew this wouldn’t extend to real life. And that itself roused me into identifying the inclusivity problems and present them to myself and the world.
We do celebrate pride, but our pride is selective. We idolize well-built muscular white men dressed in bright fabrics, women with short hair, and sharp suits. We see them as the poster queers, maybe because other body types are undesirable, leading to body dysmorphia, lack of self-esteem, and image issues. This also causes other members of the community to be swept under the rug. The exclusion of queer people with disabilities remains pervasive. When a population such as the LGBTQ+ community is fighting for its rights, it is easy to forget that people with disabilities are very much a part of the discussion. Great silences follow the very discussion of inclusivity of disabled LGBTQ+ people, who have to keep fighting rights even in their own community.
We celebrate gay YouTubers, queer couples who flaunt their love story journeys, we cry when they let go, and we revel in their joy through and through. While there are countless inspiring people on the internet, making people feel validated about themselves, there seems to be a stark contrast of the representation we see and the one we should. In all honestly, the lack of brown and black queer YouTubers that I’ve seen till now is telling.
Our pride is selective. Blossoming with love and understanding in big cities where, if not a lot, you have a place to find your crowd and celebrate. This is a privilege not afforded by queer community in small towns and villages, places where honor killing and conversion therapy is still a thing, where thousands of young queer people suffer mental and physical trauma with no support whatsoever. Even if NGOs and organizations are supporting the LGBTQ+ community, they’re still limited to cities.
Our pride is selective because we celebrate cis-queer people but ignore trans people and their rights. As if they aren’t the backbone our society stands on. As if the first person to throw a stone in the Stonewall uprising wasn’t a black trans woman, Marsha P. Johnson, who gave her entire life to activism and queer rights. We remain silent when they face problems to get housing, education, and jobs. Or maybe because we hold a degree of indifference towards them and are part of the problem itself. Media profits off trans people and continuously dehumanize them, leaving them to fend for themselves, a problem still rampant in the community.
Our pride is selective because we quietly abolish the very idea of nonbinary, agender, bigender, trigender, two-spirit, and genderfluid as it makes us uncomfortable. Even to this day, I find people in the community themselves questioning the legitimacy of these gender identities. This is something even I have experienced as a non-binary person. It takes a toll on one’s health because self-acceptance in itself is a tough journey, without the added scorn by people around you.
Our pride is selective because we exclude black, marginalized, latinx, and brown queer people. Queer people with ADHD, with mental illnesses, probably because they don’t fit the definition of our “normal.” Even though society as a whole suffers from racism, it doesn’t dim away in the LGBTQ+ community itself. Being aware of racism and holding racist attitudes may well be distinct but related concepts. In other words, some white LGBTQ+ people may be more likely to perceive racism while also behaving or speaking in a racist way. Therefore, they end up excluding their brown and black counterparts from the very society that should accept them openly. Although this is shushed in many places, it still poses a big problem and hence causes distinctions within the community itself.
To combat this, last year, Philadelphia added black and brown to the iconic rainbow flag to acknowledge those LGBTQ+ people of color who have felt excluded by the broader LGBTQ+ community. But the extra two colors were controversial, drawing loud criticism in particular from cis white gays, which in a way was a clear indication of the amount of racism still prevalent in the community.
Our pride is selective because we still look at trans couples with deep-rooted scorn. This is because deep down, we still struggle with the heteronormative notions of the society, and their advances continue to lag behind their cisgender gay and lesbian counterparts. To combat this, increasing accurate media representations of trans and non-binary people and to understand them better is a crucial step in more inclusivity. Even cartoon programs like Gravity falls, She-ra, etc. have taken huge strides to represent queer and non-binary characters. The very motto of the LGBTQ+ community, “love is love,” should extend to trans people dating one another or other members of the community.
Our pride is selective because we exclude queer people practicing religion. Be it Muslims who pray to Allah and Jews who study the Torah or Sikhs who read their holy scriptures. We hold on to the idea of religion being disconnected with the LGBTQ+ community probably because the very notion of religion and a queer identity does not overlap for us. It has always been atheism and queer identity. Also, religious communities look down on the idea of a queer person practicing religion because, apparently, “it doesn’t reflect the core values of the religion.” Every person has the right to practice their religion without inviting contempt from their community, be it religious or the queer community. So yes, our pride is selective, maybe even flawed in many ways, but it’s a work in progress.
We might have come a long way, and each day is a struggle, but at one point, we have to unlearn a few practices and educate ourselves. There are countless glass ceilings yet to be shattered. We as a community have so much to learn, and even though it’s going to be a long process, we will start somewhere. Interact with people. Learn about their experiences. Be bold and include marginalized communities in your fight for rights. But most importantly, learn to acknowledge your privilege and use it in a way that benefits all.