Monday, August 24, 2015

Guest Blog-No Pride Here

Every couple years, I decide to immerse myself into my local LGBT community. Every couple years, I find myself backing away over the rampant biphobia within. Over this past weekend I experienced my latest examples of how our LGBT communities fail to see or care about our voices.

I live in a college town of around ninety thousand people. Representative of our community is one Stonewall organization and it throws our annual Pride celebration in late August when the students are freshly returned to town for the coming school year. On the first night of Pride, Stonewall held a variety show. This show began with an announcement from the production that anyone who takes offense should just leave. That was the first red flag, because any time someone does pre-silencing tactics like that it's indicative of them knowing in advance that their program is going to be problematic. And then the emcee took to the stage with all of the "queers who aren't gay" biphobia and "parts=gender" transphobia we've all experienced time and again followed by all the "I hate people who don't have penises" misogyny they could throw in.

History has shown me, time and again, that quietly addressing Stonewall's organizers doesn't cause for change to happen or for problems to even be acknowledged. So I called out the biphobia on Facebook and was quickly told by one Stonewall board member I should have brought my concerns to them rather than to the public.

While this was going down, my co-editor at Bisexual Books, Sarah Stumpf, made the joking-but-exasperated comment "gods save us from biphobic, transphobic, lesbophobic gay men with microphones," which lead to her being attacked by another of my Stonewall's board members: a self-described gay man with a microphone. Then local transgender women began airing grievances with our board. . .

It all leads to great drama, but more importantly continues to shine a bright light on one of the largest ongoing problems in our queer communities: if you are not a white monosexual cisgender person your voice and your experience matters less in our community.

We need transparent and public dialog in our community. When a gay man says other queer identities are just confused, that strengthens biphobic culture in our community. When our community's representative says we should leave if we don't like it, that's hate. 

LGBT organizations need to start doing better. They need to understand these jokes are a form of biphobia that only reinforces our discrimination within LGBT spaces. They need to work on making people who are queer but not gay or lesbian feel as accepted and respected across the board. These issues go far beyond the event of this past weekend, and are pervasive across all of our LGBT organizations. It's time for gay and lesbian community leaders to listen, reflect, and work toward change, rather than maintain the status quo of ignoring and further marginalizing those who have issues within the community because they dare to speak out in public rather than continue being silenced.

--Evan Peterson