This article was published on September 26th, 2016
It used to be that the LGBTQ community needed each other to traverse the social landscape and protect each other from the straight centric world surrounding them. A world that viewed gay as perverse and immoral. However, today it seems we have lost that sense of community. We fail to see how much we still need each other and how important it is to build a future for our brothers and sisters in arms. We still have a world of hate aimed at us, we still continue to fight for equal rights, and we still face discrimination and stigma. In numerous states in the United States it is still legal to fire someone for being LGBTQ. HIV and AIDS once decimated our community. While antiretroviral drugs have saved the lives of numerous positive individuals, HIV positive men and women still have to fight stigma, hate, ignorance, insurance companies, and a mountain of hurdles to overcome to find treatment and stick to adherence. It is most certainly puzzling to see, on a daily basis, the hate and bullying thrown out on social media by LGBTQ individuals against LGBTQ individuals. It’s a reality that does not make sense.
It is humbling to take into account that it was our LGBTQ community that nursed, looked after, and became the caretakers of our gay men who were dying of AIDS during the beginning of the epidemic in the 1980’s. A time when President Ronald Reagan and his administration failed to show empathy, support, and compassion to those dying of this new ‘gay disease.’ Millions of men were dying. Our government offered sick jokes and hate mongering to the LGBTQ community. It was lesbian, transgender, and negative gay men from the community that rallied behind their gay brothers and became their rocks when doctors, nurses, the American government, and even family members turned their backs. We owe our lesbian and transgender allies a debt of gratitude for their support and care throughout one of the darkest eras in LGBTQ history. Our past communities stood beside each other to fight the crippling and discriminatory social injustice. We were one.
The LGBTQ community still needs each other. From workplace discrimination to the tragedy of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando; which was the deadliest terrorist attack in American history since the September 11 terrorist attacks. Conservatives and religious extremists would like nothing more than to strip away all the progress we have made and the rights we have gained. With that said, it seems the LGBTQ community is the demon plaguing our continued advancement to being truly equal in the United States. The demonic force that is preventing the future LGBTQ generation to grow up into a world free of ignorance, hate, and injustice.
With the advent of social media, the gay experience seems to be reinforcing and enabling the stigmas of slut shaming, degrading one’s humanity by questioning their HIV status, equating HIV as demeaning to one’s social status, negatively commenting on people they truly do not know, and tearing each other down in order to gain power over individuals. We are guilty of spewing so much hate at each other, but for what purpose?
The CDC recently released Health Risks Among Sexual Minority Youth, the first American study on the dangers facing gay and bisexual high school students. It stated that compared to their straight peers, gay and bisexual students are more likely to have: been physically forced to have sex (18% LGB vs. 5% heterosexual), experienced sexual dating violence (23% LGB vs. 9% heterosexual), experienced physical dating violence (18% LGB vs. 8% heterosexual), been bullied at school (34% LGB vs. 19% heterosexual). This does not even include the alarming statistics on our transgender allies because their risks are insurmountably high. All of these statistics lead to high risk of rape, addiction, suicide, and mental health issues within the gay community; amongst numerous other factors. Eyes wide open.
With so much going against the LGBTQ community already, it seems not only inappropriate, but also reprehensible for our own to play into this bullying and hate. In all honesty, it is defeatist and detrimental to our future. Whether it be tweeting about someone’s personal business, name calling, using social media to take someone down a peg or two, spreading gossip, rumor, and innuendo, or negatively judging someone from behind the computer. We are adding to the mountain of obstacles that prevent LGBTQ individuals to live happy, healthy, and well-adjusted lives. We must do our part and we must do better.
Instead of going the easy route and publicly trashing another LGBTQ individual, why not take the high road? It’s time to focus on ourselves, support each other, and keep our mouths shut when it comes to feeling the need to engage in negative, hurtful, and demeaning behaviors. We do not have to understand each other’s point of view, but what a world it would be if we just tried. We do not have to be fake and pretend that we like everyone, but how powerful would it be if we refrained from ignorance and offered our hand to those in the community struggling? We do not have to build each other up, but how strong would our community actually become if we tried?
Instead of offering hate and divisive conduct, offer your hand. Take part in your community. Volunteer in LGBTQ resource centers, with elderly LGBTQ populations, or even give your time to homeless LGBTQ youth shelters. Of all the homeless youth on the streets today, 40% identify as LGBTQ. This is a startling fact when you consider that only around 4% of the population is LGBTQ. It is an unnerving and powerful percentage that should be all you need to hear in understanding how vulnerable the LGBTQ community truly is. We do not need to add to our own struggles through social media bullying of each other. As the song Demons by Macy Gray goes “all of your demons will wither away. Ecstasy comes and they cannot stay. You’ll understand when you come my way. ‘Cause all of my demons have withered away.”
Letting go of your own bullying demons will truly open one up to the power of the LGBTQ humanity. We are all deserving of being alive and happy. Our community deserves better.