By: Anonymous (15-Years-Old)
As a young kid, romantic love always seemed like something ephemeral and unreal - a game teenagers pursued after getting too old for childhood games - or some unruly substitute for the parental love I grew to cherish and adore so much. I could have never understood the sheer depths that such love, in all its complexity and messiness, could take you.
Now you, as an adult reading this, may be relatively surprised to find out that my perspective was a rarity amongst children my age. The most common response to anything to do with romance from a child is likely to be, “Ewww!” While this is true from a certain perspective, particularly with respect to how children understand the actual intricacies of adult relationships, it certainly isn’t true that they dislike romance as a whole. As a young child I remember many of my peers dreaming about getting married to one another and living happily ever after - whatever that might entail.
This always struck me as being odd, if not downright outrageous. I couldn’t ever fathom loving someone else as much as I love my family. I didn’t see the appeal at all of having a romantic relationship. It took years for me to understand why.
I couldn’t tell you the exact moment when I realised I was gay. It was more of a slow transition akin to adolescence itself. It occurred in tandem with realising that homosexuality itself existed. That really stuck with me. I realised that what I had been missing this entire time wasn’t just an interest in the silly game of love, it was a framework in which I could express my own feelings and desires in coherent form. Instead, I had struggled in vain to match my feelings to those I saw expressed by my peers.
I underwent this personal realisation in tandem with of the rise of so-called "queer" culture. This was supposedly a culture which gave LGBT+ people a place where they could be free from the tight constraints of hetero-normative society and speak their voice unimpeded. Naturally, I immersed myself in this subculture as soon as I had the means to so.
In the beginning, it felt like a place for me to find myself, and maybe to find romantic love as well. Everybody was confident in themselves and in who they were, while I, still to this day, struggle with accepting myself. But I saw this confidence as the standard to reach; something I could achieve. If I just tried hard enough to love myself and to also understand the societal mechanisms behind the systematic oppression of LGBT+ people throughout history and even currently, I hoped I would achieve the same.
This hope didn't last long.
I soon discovered bitter in-fighting between differing factions of the community on various different matters, ones in which lesbians were touted as bigots and trans people were called predators. These people had nothing in common other than feeling oppressed because of their sexuality. And that wasn’t enough to bring them together. These tenuous “communities” seemed less like a unified front and more like disparate groups fighting with each other with no ulterior goal or unifying experience of oppression to speak of. Why was this the case? That looks a bit like an impasse to me. So why not just separate? Though in this squabbling is probably a natural expression our tribalistic nature (one in which gay and trans people can deduce that they have a lot in common with any heterosexual or cis person), I myself suspect a more immanent cause to this strife: "Queer culture" is far more about "culture" than "queer" and especially homosexuality.
Identifying as a certain letter in the LGBTQ+ continuum comes with far more baggage than one one might expect. Enter the LGBTQ+ community today and, though it isn't explicitly stated or believed, you learn that being gay means a lot more than merely being a same sex attracted person - you have to pick a side. For instance in order to validate yourself as genuine, it is an almost axiomatic requirement for one to become a member of a specific subculture in the eyes of the great LGBTQ clique, whether that be stanning Britney Spears, cutting one's hair short, wearing jeans or even cis-gender people undergoing plastic surgery to accentuate secondary sexual characteristics associated with the opposite sex to match their personality. It’s not enough just to live, you must perform.
I’m not saying any of these things are inherently bad in and of themselves, more the implicit expectation in gay culture that you must be one of these things. If you’re not being yourself to fit into both heterosexual OR gay culture, the harmful effects on self esteem, remain.
This shallow phenomenon, that equates sexuality with certain subcultures that those of certain sexual proclivities participate in, is the driving force behind the formation of negative stereotypes that the LGBTQ+ “community” formed to quash.
Another consequence is the fact that being LGBTQ+ is implicitly considered to be an aesthetic - that people who actually show interest in those subcultures are automatically assumed to be gay, whether they are or not. This leads to more strife between different segments of the “community”. The common experience of all genuine LGBTQ+ people is marginalisation to some degree. It’s really not good when a silly, performative subculture pushes itself to the forefront of the movement, accentuating differences and creating harmful stereotypes.
Even worse, many people, including certain celebrities like Nicki Minaj and Jessie J, have claimed to be bisexual in order to gain social clout and adulation, only for them to announce that they are straight again. “Playing gay” also reinforces the harmful notion that being LGBTQ is "just a phase". This is the effect identifying sexuality with subculture has. Can we do better?
The LGBTQ+ community should be one that lifts its members above oppressive labels/stereotypes, not demanding that they become a stereotype in one in order to give the LGBTQ+ subculture credibility. This is no better exemplified than on Tumblr, where an ever proliferating number of micro labels, designed to account for every possible experience that someone could feel, have confused and misguided an entire generation of LGBTQ+ people with needless complexities that weren't required in the first place.
The LGBTQ+ community needs to reevaluate what its ultimate purpose is, and realise that its current iteration does nothing but hinder the goal of acceptance and acknowledgement. We need to reclaim our identity as LGBTQ folk - who have all faced various types of difficulties and some genuine oppression and seek to help one another not place more obstacles in our own path.