The following is a cut and paste dialectical discussion about sexism in the LGBT community. The players are me and me, with some borrowed quotations from some fellow dudes for choice. This is part 1. Please, extend the discourse.
Q: In what ways have you seen or experienced sexism in the greater LGBT community?
A: Lots of people mistake me as being a “bear” based solely on my gender performance as masculine. However, I find that my gender is just as ambiguous as the next person. To paraphrase myself in Shira Tarrant’s latest book: Gender, being a performance with performative factors, takes more practice than we like to admit. It is, in fact, the role of a lifetime. Most of the work that goes into performing gender operates at the unconscious level begging the question: how much of gender is a choice. Thus, my bear-ness, is solely based on a viewer’s (read: ignorant gender enablers) limited perception of how one can be gay (or anything else for that matter) within the LGBT community.
To this end, I identify as queer. I am convinced, and rightfully so, that my bear-ness is assumed based on my excessive waistline and facial hair growth.
Q: Extend on this queer identity. What is the importance of a queer identity within an already letter-extended community—LGBT…
A: Hahah! Oh you. I identify as queer because it is far less limiting than that of gay—at least in my experience. Queer, for me, refrains from complacency and remains focused in the ongoing struggle to end all oppression. As a queer dude (I still find male, man, and dude problematic even for me—but I accept it because it is easier to deal with for now) I call out sexist/racist/classist/etc. acts when I see it taking place in my broader community
Also, queer allows me to accept and embrace my own ambiguous gender (performance(s)). I do not feel compelled to fit into a neat little box and am okay when I feel the desire to shift into a newly self-created gender arena.
Q: How does all of this connect to the broader political issues of reproductive choice for women?
A: My gender performance (bear or not—mostly not, today) is a choice whether conscious or not. My sexuality, too, it a choice whether conscious or not. I know that you might want to argue me on this point—and that’s cool, but first hear me out.
I reject biological deterministic/essentialist/Darwinian pigeonholing tactics that somehow establish science as a telling factor for who/what we are suppose to be and how we are supposed to act. I am a queer person with a sexual preference for male bodies (mostly anyhow). I am queer by choice to the extent that I choose to act upon my sexual desires. Giving into compulsive heterosexuality in an effort to appease my parent’s wishes or my culture’s beliefs would be a choice as well. To this end, we all choose how we act out our lives for ourselves. Often times, family is a strong determinant factor in this choice as well. I am fortunate (privileged even) to have the opportunity to be “out of the closet” as a queer person that has a mother that continues to support me unconditionally—no matter my gender of the day.
The point is that a women’s right to choose when she wants to be a mother and when she wants to be pregnant or her choice to elect an abortion are all interconnected issues that have far-reaching ramifications. The same system of oppression that limits my ability to be completely queer 100% of the time in every context (including around my father) is the same system of oppression that seeks to end a women’s right to choose how she leads and lives her life and how she chooses to use her body. Indeed, the same motivating and limiting factors that seek to box me into the bear category within the LGBT community is the same motivating factor that limits a woman’s right to choose what she does with her body because limiting assumptions are rooted in essentialist thinking. In effect, if I look one way than I am to perform and be that way. Period. In much the same way—if a woman is a woman, then she is to reproduce—she should not be allowed the option to terminate a pregnancy—that is not within her gender’s ability—it is not natural. These systems of domination and oppression are what restrict all of our abilities to choose what and how we want to be.
Q: Anything else you’d like to say?
A: Yeah. The next time a child says that they want to be a firefighter when they grow up, just know that that is a choice, too. We are all embedded within a larger system called life—how we live our life is based upon our choices as free agents.