The Orlando attacks hit all LGBT people hard. All of us will be equally affected by fear and sadness anytime we are in any LGBT spaces, be they bars, pride parades, or other events. I have seen some articles and comments flying around the Internet about female, bi, and trans erasure in the discussions around this tragedy. I have seen people decry the term “homophobia” as too monosexist. This is fairly typical of Internet queer culture. Everyone wants acknowledgement. Gay male clubs have always been a place visited by lesbians, bisexuals, trans people, and allies.
I get along very well with men and love the men in my life but overall I have to be honest, I tend be biased about caring more about women overall as a gender than men. That’s largely why I have exclusively dated and had sex with women for the last quarter of a century and will continue to do so until I die. Seeing dead women amongst the victims absolutely killed me. And while I support visibility for all of the various LGBT identities, I think a more relevant discussion around this incidence to have is to acknowledge that gay men are not a uniquely “privileged” group in society relative to other LGBT members. The vast majority of people killed in the Orlando attack were gay men. If the shooter was specifically motivated to kill as many of a variety of LGBT as possible, he would have shot up a LGBT Pride parade. But he chose a gay male nightclub on a Latin night. Apparently he also was a racist, so perhaps he was also motivated to kill more Latinos as well. He himself also apparently was a self-hating gay man or more likely a self-hating bisexual man as he was married twice and was pursuing women on dating apps.
I think it is important to acknowledge the majority of people killed in this attack were gay men. And the reason why it is important to acknowledge that is that there is actually rising anti-gay male attitudes in the LGBT community. This sentiment is strong enough to have caused trans activist to deface a statue dedicated to the Stonewall riots, and the LGBT NUS in Britain to state gay men are a privileged class and don’t even need any representation in the NUS at all. Which causes me to remember the young gay man who led my campus LGBT org in 1995. He was the sweetest person you could know, who bent over backwards to make sure everyone felt included. There are plenty of other anti-gay male sentiments thrown around. I’m not saying gay men don’t have their issues and biases as well, they do. Human beings are pretty good at that in general. No one is innocent.
But now seems like a good time to point out some reasons gay men are not a “privileged” group in society. Here are some examples…
1) The stereotype of the affluent, rich, white gay male is a lie. Joe Clark documents that reality well. Gay men are especially discriminated against in hiring and compensation in traditionally male dominated fields. They are paid less and many experience on the job harassment and don’t feel they can be out to employers and especially to clients. Some citations for that research are here in a previous blog post of mine, Why Do Lesbians Earn More than Straight and Bisexual Women.
2) Gay men are targets, particularly ones that don’t pass. Trans women of color are at particular risk in the US, with appalling murder rates. But overall gay men and lesbians aren’t any less at risk of hate crimes than trans people. Here are some recent FBI statistics. Hate crimes for gender identity were at .5% of all hate crimes while homophobic hates crimes were at 20.8%. Keay Nigel wrote a piece called Why Passing as Gay Is a Privilege does a good job of describing the frequent fear he feels not being a gay man who can pass. It was in response to a bi-erasure article and some bisexuals were not happy he wrote this. I don’t think he was trying to discount anyone else’s experience so much as to take apart the concept of “monosexual privilege” for gay men and lesbians. All LGBT people have a bad time in Muslim countries (in Iran it’s actually more acceptable to be transgender and gays and lesbians a pressured to transition). But the bodies being thrown from buildings and strung up in the public squares by Isis are gay men and boys. I won’t link to pictures of their dead bodies.
3) Asian, Black, Muslim, and Latino men experience the closet. This Wall Street article, Orlando Shooting Leaves Gay Survivors, Mourning Families Struggling With Secrets, states that many of these people’s families were learning that their family members were gay and dead on the same day. That’s tragic. Some queer Latinos complained that they were not more represented in media interviews about the Orlando massacre. I think that is a much more reasonable concern than asking for each and every identity in the queer alphabet to be constantly acknowledged in all the interviews.
4) Gay men have had a lot of control over the LGBT rights movement but they also spear-headed it with the creation of the Mattachine Society in 1950 (then followed by the Daughter of Bilitus, lesbian organization in 1955). Men have had more visibility in the early gay and lesbian rights movement. But most of this is simply due to the fact that gay men out number lesbians by a third to 50% and are a much larger population than transgender people. This isn’t a reason to completely exclude them from leadership positions in LGBT organizations.
I’m not saying this attack isn’t about all LGBT people. It is about all of us. I merely want to take this moment to have a conversation about the fact that gay men are victims of suffering too, even outside of this particular attack and that gets forgotten sometimes by other LGBT members. So I want to take this time to express my love of drag performances, Michelangelo, bear culture, Tennessee Williams, and the LA art scene I was raised in by my hip parents in the 1980’s. My parent’s artist friends were some of the first to die of AIDs. I’m crushed over the lesbians and other women killed (however they identified) in this shooting. I’m also so sorry for the older gay men that lived through the AIDS crises, fought for marriage equality, and just when you thought things were getting better this happened. And so much grief for all the beautiful young Latino men that could have lived in a better world and who may have been victims of racial hatred as well. LGBT infighting and bickering aside. I will always support you.