There was a time when the LGBT community stuck together. The plight of many was shared by all of us because we knew that without the strength in numbers change could not be made.
In 1969, the Stonewall riots were made up of people who were tired of being treated like second-class citizens and drag queens and gay Americans alike stood side-by-side to create a united front to the powers that tried so hard to tear us down.
Times have changed. Although there is still some work to do within our community, the progression of gay liberation has made leaps and bounds in the past forty years. And we all did it together.
So it comes with some concern that our unified community is breaking up with each other. Could this be the natural progression of social harmonies whose voices are starting to go solo?
Take for instance the Sweet Cakes Bakery case. Aaron and Melissa Klein refused to bake a cake for a lesbian couple who wanted to use their services to celebrate their wedding.
At once the LGBT community seemed outraged. The tone seemed to support Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, the couple, and sent huge amounts of support to them.
But as time wore on, the opinions and attitudes seemed to change drastically from within the community. Almost as if they were tired of hearing about the case altogether.
So much so that right wing conservative organizations such as Christian Today picked up on gay baker Jesse Bartholomew of Wisconsin’s rant, calling us “bullies” and “Nazis!” Did I mention he is gay?
Naturally, most LGBT people understand why the community is mad at the Klein’s decision not to bake the cake; the lawsuit has nothing to do with religious beliefs, it was discriminatory.
Here’s a hypothetical perspective: One day you’re at Vons’ supermarket. All of your groceries are heaping from the basket and as you get up to the check-out counter, thinking about anything you missed, the clerk looks at your rainbow flag t-shirt and says, “I can’t ring up your purchases because I am Christian and you’re gay.”
At that point would you simply go somewhere else, thinking, “Well Vons doesn’t serve gay people, maybe I should try Ralphs?”
I think not. Then what if that same cashier posted your phone number and address, as the Kleins did, so that everyone could contact you? I think, that would not be the end of it for you.
Yet, the community, it seems is sick of hearing about the Kleins, the lesbian couple and the money that’s at stake for both.
And what about the Pride event in Scotland where transgender women did not want drag queens to perform because it offended them.
Clearly, the sentiment was real to that portion of the community, but here in the States the opinion was not-so-supportive. Some LGBT people seemed to forget that even though banning drag from a pride parade seemed ridiculous, the feeling of not being mentally safe was real to transgender people. But some responses to the story were less than sympathetic:
“Sorry but as a proudly open gay man I think this is ridiculous.Drag is a healthy way and outlet for self discovery and at least to my Trans Friends would never be considered offensive in any way. The "offended" organizations need to rechannel this negative energy into something more positive and beneficial that doesn't smack of bigotry or intolerance and benefits the entire LGBT community with an attitude of inclusion rather than exclusion. This article offends me!!” – Facebook member
"Who comes up with this crap? Seriously?! This should not even be an issue that our community needs to contend with. Drag kings and queens, since I can remember are an important part of this community. Shame on folks that feel threatened/offended by drags. Drags deserve and rightfully so a place in our community. There is plenty of room. Fight another fight. Not this.” – Facebook member
Some transgender people feel that drag queens, especially cis gender, mock women and they are uncomfortable with that. Transgender women, trying to make an identity for themselves were obviously not trying to alienate a portion of the community forever, but express their feelings as to why cis-drag was offensive to them on a personal level at that event.
Yet this sort of fracture in the community transcends even into the realms of personal identity.
Lea DeLaria, star of “Orange is the New Black,” is a self-proclaimed “butch lesbian.” She claims that her preferred personal identity is one that gets ridiculed by her own LGBT alliance.
“My own community ostracizes me and thinks of nelly fags and butch lesbians as sort of the pariahs of the community.” She said in a Huffington Post article.
With the victory of marriage equality in the United States, some in the LGBT community are separating themselves from the pack.
As a free society, we are able to choose words, beliefs and ways of life that others in the world can only dream of.
But if we start to break apart and begin strongly judging those within our own community--and separating them from our cause--we fall apart and become no better than those outside the LGBT community who want to limit us without empathy.
They want to tear us down, but sometimes it feels as though we are helping them along by tearing each other down.
Timothy Rawles is the Community Editor of SDGLN. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @reporter66 on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to 888-442-9639, ext. 713.