On “The Impact of Multiple Marginalization”
March 25, 2012 § Leave a comment
When I think of the LGBT community, I don’t immediately conjure up images of racial exclusivity. If I were to imagine the LGBT community as exclusivistic, in all honesty, I would probably imagine it excluding straight people exclusively. Whew. Enough of the exclusion talk. What I’m trying to say is that this reading forced me to recognize my own misperception of the LGBT community, and of gay/bisexual/transgender identity in general, as some monolithic and all-encompassing identity which transcended all other aspects of identity. To a certain extent, that’s what I feel like it’s become in our shared cultural awareness. Right now, because it is one of the most contested fronts of the new civil rights movement, it has by necessity gained a lot of weight as an identifying characteristic. It is an electrifying topic, an identity both marginalized and uplifted, and it has become a focus of national obsession. And for the time being, that’s exactly what the LGBT community needs. Without a unifying presence and awareness on a national level, they may not be able to muster up the clout needed for lasting victory.
But it can’t be an uncritical unity. Paula Rust wrote her essay, “The Impact of Multiple Marginalization”, in 1996, before the term LGBT had even gained widespread acceptance in either academic or common parlance. Since then, I wonder how much, if at all, the situation has changed. Despite having come of age well after this essay was written, I am still familiar with many of the same ethnic/homosexual stereotypes and slurs mentioned in the text. Likewise, I have seen Proposition 8 fail because of negative perceptions of homosexuality within the California Black community. If the LGBT community cannot acknowledge and fight for the rights of the minorities within its own ranks, even those who do not choose to openly express their sexuality, then it exhibits the same failing as first-wave feminism, which excluded the experiences and agendas of women of color and women in poverty from its rhetoric. It fails in the same way that the African-American Civil Rights Movement failed Black women, pushing their concerns and their voices to the side to favor the advancement of Black men, predominantly.
A united front is necessary to win the fight for LGBT rights, but unity doesn’t have to mean the appearance of homogeneity. By perpetuating the illusion of a single type of queer experience, the LGBT community may in fact be fracturing itself internally, alienating its own supporters by not addressing their difficulties in their ethnic communities and working to promote understanding across different cultural perspectives.