OPINION: Does the LGBTQ "Community" Exist?
By Meredith Jenkins
This is a valid question. No struggle comes without complications. Unfortunately, many of the complications the LGBTQ community faces stem from emerging divisions among LGBTQ leaders on how to best maintain the momentum created by the victories achieved in 2015 and who should lead the next stage of the fight for true equality. The origins of the increased infighting and creation of unnecessary subdivisions between members within our community range from legitimate philosophical differences as to how to achieve equality (including tensions between those who subscribe to assimilationist politics and those who embrace more radical methodologies) to petty, ego-driven disputes (including turf wars, personality clashes and other such quibbling quarrels). Too often, the bickering amongst LGBT activists, advocates, leaders and professionals can impede progress and cast a long shadow of doubt over the cohesiveness of our community, particularly at the local level. These internal problems call into question whether the phrase “LGBTQ community” is nothing more than an oxymoron.
More than Letters
To build upon the victories of 2015, we need to be there for one another and act as a community rather than a cluster of warring tribal nations that happen to occupy the same political space. We are not a community simply because we happen to identify with a grouping of letters that form confusing, alphabet soup-like acronyms. We are not a community because the letters “LGBT” form a politically fashionable demographic that is currently the darling of Hollywood and mainstream media. We are a community because we generally share the same goals, ideas and principles: equality, fairness, diversity, inclusion and justice.
We should not take our politics too personally, nor should we take offense too easily. We should never vilify members of our own community who are trying to bring about positive change. We should listen more than we speak and when we do speak, we should choose our words wisely. We must always bring our authentic selves to the table and speak from the mind as well as the heart. We must strive to balance subjectivity with objectivity and emotion with dispassion. When we disagree on an issue, let’s sensibly agree to disagree. Above all, it is our obligation to remain civil at all times. If we can’t create a true “community” among ourselves, the image we project to others will be one of confusion, disunity and weakness. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
2016 has the potential to be a year of great progress for the LGBTQ community. There is still a lot of work to be done, both internally and externally. The momentum of 2015 is ours to lose in 2016. While the tenor of my text may sound troubled, I am hopeful. I believe we can exist, thrive and prosper as a true “community.” Let’s work towards achieving true equality for our LGBTQ community and, indeed, for all Americans. We got this!