Queer tensions – I want to help, tell me how!

What happens when you take a bunch of people, selected solely on their lack of adherence to heteronormativity, to fight for a loosely defined goal like “equality”?

We wind up with disagreements over what is important.  Health reforms, Equal Rights, Justice and Police, Social Acceptance, Socialising, and Visibility to name a few.  Then we disagree over the particulars of what is most important: Even the people most concerned about health are divided on mental or physical, Disease prevention vs access to surgeries vs …  You can drill down, and the community is split a million ways till sunday.   This is normal. People are passionate about different things.  If you took any group of heterosexual people and told them to work towards some equally ill-defined goal, say… “the perfect society” you’d get similar problems.

We have this thing called the GLBTI Community, right? The only thing that binds it together is that its members do not fit a heteronormative mould, or support and affirm those who do not fit one.  We have the G and the L quarrelling over who should be first in the Alphabet Soup based on “Lesbian Invisibility”. We have ,the B, who G and L sometimes say “should make up their mind (and be G/L already)”  We have the T and I folks who are struggling with serious health issues trying to be heard, and getting frustrated with the G/L/B groups who may not even understand that they are struggling differently. Did you know there are even some horrifying G/L/B groups (such as http://www.erinyes.com.au) who are trans- and/or intersex-phobic?  This was saddening news for me to hear.

So we argue, and we bicker, and sometimes we all-out fight amongst ourselves over priorities for “The LGBTI Community”.  

Is it any wonder?  Should we be surprised that issues for people with non-straight sexual orientations are different to the issues that plague those who don’t fit the binary gender paradigm?  Should we be surprised that people are passionate  about the issues that affect them directly, yet not so much about the ones that affect the rest of the community?  Of course not!  The GLBTI community is often seen as a bloc, particularly for funding and politics, and this is simply not the case!  We are a diverse group of people from all walks of life, drawn together by a single characteristic.  Frankly, I think the GLBTI community does an amazing job of showing solidarity on its various causes.  That’s certainly been my overall experience in Tasmania, though I’ve not had so much to do with the QLD community yet.  (And yes, I know I posted that Same-sex marriage in Tas is not Marriage Equality.  I reject the notion that this is a result of ignoring T/I people, believing instead that the omission is to bolster the law against constitutional challenge.)

I think most of us try, as individual members of that community, to fight the good fight.  To support our queer neighbour.  Sometimes though, as a member of the BILTG Community, I see the infighting and the “We are more oppressed than you” statements (which may be completely true, by the way) and I wind up feeling less supportive than before I read or heard them.  I, and I suspect many others, respond better to concrete requests for assistance: “Please help us in our quest to improve access to hormone therapies by donating $10|signing this petition|contacting your MP.  You can get more information here.”  I don’t often have the time to read all the news articles I’d like relating to my passions, let alone the things that I’m not actively investigating. But if you wave it in my face, chances are I’ll go look.

The crux of my post is this: Saying “You don’t support us, even though we support you!” doesn’t help me to support you, and makes me feel defensive.  Saying “here’s a starting point, I suggest you read this site” is better – I can get acquainted with your issues as time goes by.  Best – at least for me – would be someone saying “To me, the biggest issue we’re facing right now is X and you can help by doing Y.  Please check out Z for more info.”  It gives me problem, action, and information, meaning that I and others can help you in your struggles/concerns even if I don’t necessarily understand them.  In short, help me to help you.

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