Evolving Notions of Identity
There was a time when you could identify an individual by their appearance. For example, ‘the black man in the suit’, or ‘the woman with the red hair’. Gone are the days when boys wear blue and play with cars and girls wear pink while playing with dolls. How individuals express their sexuality is seen as a form of self-expression and demands respect. However, in a world where sexual labels have become more diverse and nuanced navigating this complexity can be bewildering, especially for those whose last sexual education was binary. Sexual diversity is present in every area of human existence, and the lack of understanding is an obvious form of frustration for those in the LGBTQ+ community as the inability to recognise or acknowledge an individual by their pronoun, or their social transition is often seen as offensive and discriminatory.
Discrimination within the community
Many LGBTQ+ individuals consider the community to be a place where they can find acceptance and understanding. However, it’s important to recognise that even within the LGBTQ+ community, discrimination exists. In the study conducted in 2018 by the LGBT+ charity Stonewall, over half (51%) of individuals who identified as black, Asian, or from other minority ethnic backgrounds within the LGBTQ+ they were reported experiencing discrimination or unfavourable treatment by the broader LGBTQ+ community. This finding highlights the painful truth that racism has permeated our society, affecting those who are part of socially disadvantaged groups. In the same study, Lara, a 28-year-old (Northwest) gave witness to her experience.
“Queens shout after us calling us Beyoncé or Whoopi Goldberg, which we took lightly at first but now it's really embarrassing every time it happens as it brings a lot of attention to us and the other people in the club will start to join in”.
This type of racism is nothing new but serves as a dividing line that reminds ethnic minorities of the fundamental fight for their right to exist even within a community that should provide acceptance.
To foster understanding and promote inclusivity, it is essential for individuals outside of the LGBTQ community to genuinely desire and comprehend the unique experiences within. Simultaneously it is also imperative for the LGBTQ community itself to cultivate this same desire to understand and appreciate the diverse perspectives and nuances present within their community. Regardless of your stance on LGBTQ issues, education regarding these experiences provides an informed perspective on the struggles faced by others and highlights the importance of speaking out against racism and discrimination at any level. It is worth considering whether referring to individuals who identify with LGBTQ as part of a community is fair or is more appropriate to simply refer to them as LGBTQ+ people, acknowledging their individuality and their diverse identities.