This year, I mustered up the bravery to attend my first Pride event as an openly bisexual woman. Bravery because 1.) Bisexuals and Pansexuals are often treated by the queer community like teenagers “going through a phase” and 2.) I’m a woman. For those of you who aren’t a part of this community and may be looking in with glimmering eyes, you’ll likely see a lot at a Pride event that’ll dazzle you. Rainbows, glitter, drag shows, unicorns, and sometimes even assless chaps. It’s what you don’t see, the things that often go under the radar, that leave women, and often people of color, longing for more representation and advocating for change. And no, it’s not more assless chaps.
Boy’s club culture is a highly toxic and misogynistic dynamic that happens when men overrun a work or social space that’s meant for everyone.
The truth is, as our letters and numbers grow, representation for pride and queer spaces, as a whole, consistently remains the same. Our community, in all its diverse glory, continues to only feel like a safe and free place for white cisgender gay men. Why is this a problem? Because at the end of the day, it means that even within what’s considered one of the most radical and progressive counter-culture groups, white men remain at the head of power and are, frequently, still unwilling to see their transgressions against the lesser privileged. Queer spaces that are only safe for white cisgender men aren’t safe spaces at all. They are like every other male-dominated space but painted in rainbow. I am not negating the importance of safe spaces for cis gay men. I’m making the point that even a gay boy’s club, is still a boy’s club. Boy’s club culture is a highly toxic and misogynistic dynamic that happens when men overrun a work or social space that’s meant for everyone. Let us not forget that pride was led by a black bisexual trans woman, Marsha P. Johnson. By the current accepted standards, it’s likely she wouldn’t feel welcome in many designated queer spaces either.
Explaining white male patriarchal privilege and misogyny to a group of historically persecuted and marginalized individuals feels like walking on very thin ice. I value my white gay brothers and the way they’ve used their privilege to further the voice and mission of all members of the LBGTQIA+. I honor and acknowledge their long term suffering, just as I want them to honor mine. When I think of the importance of our cis male leaders, I envision Harvey Milk, who took queer rights to center stage by being the first openly gay elected official. Milk lived, breathed, and died for the rights and visibility of the queer community. Though Harvey Milk, as a Jewish man, did not benefit from white privilege the same way that others do, he did benefit from male privilege. Male privilege, at its core, relies on the submission and marginalization of women.
If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.Harvey Milk
When it comes to discussing privilege, it’s not a matter of opinion. It simply is what it is, based on racist and sexist systemic levels of power. It’s what you choose to do with that privilege that defines you, not the privilege itself, which you often have little control over receiving. Harvey Milk used his cis male privilege to raise the voices of the queer community and opened the door for representation in politics. Now, I’m not implying that every white gay man must use their privilege to rise to the levels of Mr. Harvey Milk, but if a cis gay man chooses to use their privilege primarily to their own advantage, actively silences other marginalized groups within their community, and denies them access or comfortable acceptance into a supposed shared space – they’re likely no better than the straight white men who do the same to women and people of color.
Before I’m anything else, I am a woman. My allegiances are prioritized and they are, first and foremost, with women of all ethnicities, religions, and sexualities. All over the world, at any given moment, women are being murdered by both strangers and their spouses, raped, sexually harassed, genitally mutilated, beaten, married off as children, forced into domestic slavery, forced into sexual slavery, forced into pregnancy and birth, denied proper medical treatment, aren’t entitled to an education, aren’t properly paid for their labor, and are, overall, victims of gendercide. Gendercide is the genocide of a specific gender group. A genocide that’s been happening right under our noses everywhere, at all times, and is generally accepted because it has always been. While the term Genocide wasn’t created until 1944 in response to the Holocaust by Raphael Lemkin, he is quoted saying, “Generally speaking, genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation. It is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. The objectives of such a plan would be the disintegration of the political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups, and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such groups.” This gendercide is, without a doubt, rooted in toxic and deadly misogyny. Misogyny is the dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women. Being a white woman in the U.S., I’m among those at the top of the privilege pyramid within our gender. In my own experience of misogyny and marginalization, which has included rape, sexual manipulation, physical violence, sexual assault, silencing, belittlement, and objectification – I’m luckier than most.
80% said that you’ve felt personally objectified and experienced sexism from white cisgender gay men.
Despite the sisterhood that can sometimes exist among cis gay men and women of all sexualities, internalized sexism and misogyny lives on; often making that sisterhood seem superficial. Even within a community built on love and acceptance, women are sexually assaulted, harassed, and objectified by those in the highest seat of power within the queer community – cisgender gay white men. We conducted an anonymous online poll that revealed, of those who participated, 80% said that you’ve felt personally objectified and experienced sexism from white cisgender gay men. This can be exemplified through unsolicited comments about your body, weight, personal style, hobbies, and, sometimes, their own representation of women through drag. While I am a supporter of drag, there’s inherent sexism within the community that needs to be addressed. For instance, the use of the word “fishy” to describe a drag queen who looks extremely feminine or one who convincingly resembles a cis woman. This incredibly sexist term is a reference to likening the scent of a vagina to the offensive smell of fish. It’s, no doubt, reminiscent of the comments made by straight male misogynists, that many people with a vagina have heard our entire lives, as a means to make us feel embarrassed and ashamed by our anatomy. Because of this comparison and others of the like, women all over the world subject themselves to unnecessary genital treatments, surgeries, and procedures to fit the male gaze.
Sadly, even within the queer community, this objectification and sexism extend into sexual assault. An assault that many women keep quiet about in the same vain as they would when being assaulted by a straight man; as a means to avoid backlash, to gain acceptance, or because they’re confused by happened to them. In our poll, over 50% of the women who participated said they’ve been sexually assaulted by a cisgender gay man. This includes fondling our breasts, buttocks, and vagina without our consent and also lifting our tops, dresses, and skirts. When these assaults occur and the women do speak up, their feelings are often written off with “No, it’s okay. I’m gay.” Read this carefully. No matter who you are and no matter what your sexual preference, it is never okay to touch, grab, or fondle a woman’s private parts without her consent. Using your sexual identity as a means to violate a woman’s body autonomy is akin to saying, “I am a man, but I’m not attracted to you. So, I am not held to the same standard as other men and can touch you as I wish. Your body autonomy only protects you from men who wish to have sex with you.”
We have fought to be seen and now we must open our own eyes to fully see each other.
I’m making a call to action for intersectional feminism within the queer community. We all deserve to feel safe, respected, represented, and fought for. The only way to do this is for us all to work together in dismantling the white patriarchy and misogyny that exists within our celebrations, safe spaces, and daily interactions. This is the next step, folks. We have fought to be seen and now we must open our own eyes to fully see each other. The rights of women and people of color should be a concern of the LGBTQIA+, as our fight for freedom is not only limited to our sexuality. We are not free and safe to be who we are, until we are all free and safe – even from each other.
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