Lack of intersectional representation, ‘skews public perspective’

Lucia Plaza/Contributing Writer

When asked to picture an LGBTQ person, most people don’t think of a transexual woman or a Hispanic gay man. One may instead picture someone who looks more like Neil Patrick Harris. And while Neil Patrick Harris is a good example of an LGBTQ person, he is not the only kind there is.

According to the Oxford dictionary, intersectionality is defined as “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.” In other words, you don’t just care about the issues that apply to you.

A white gay man must face homophobia. However, a black gay man must face homophobia and racism. The white man being ignorant, intentionally or unintentionally, to the struggle of the black gay man with both forms of prejudice and fighting solely for the changes that benefit him and those like him, is an example of the lack of intersectional activism in the LGBTQ+ community.

Last June, following the horrific attack at Pulse nightclub, Muslim members of the LGBT+ community were isolated. In times as terrifying and devastating as those, it can be easy to scapegoat a particular group. In this case, Muslims were pushed aside from the community due to the fact that Omar Mateen, the shooter, also identified as Muslim.

The fact that Muslims and terrorists are two different groups of people seem to be ignored by many members of our community as they searched for solace in groups of people they felt kinship with and excluding others despite their mutual pain over the unspeakable attack.

Moreover, the lack of intersectional representation of LGBTQ+ individuals in the media and pop culture skews public perspective and acceptance of our community.

In 2015, the highly anticipated film Stonewall, which intended to tell the story of the 1969 Stonewall Inn riots, received backlash for its omission of POC and trans individuals from the story — individuals who were actually at the forefront of the battle for equality at Stonewall Inn and all over the city.

Instead, the film featured mostly white gay men, the kind of LGBTQ person most people picture when they think of our community.

If you’re wondering why this is a big deal, other than the fact that it erases actual historical figures from the Stonewall story, is because society is primed to accept those members of the community and react more coldly to underrepresented ones, because they are less familiar.

Because of unequal representation in the media, it is more likely that a white gay man will be more easily accepted by society than a Hispanic trans woman. It is the reason people know Harvey Milk but not Marsha P. Johnson.

In 1973, transgender activist Sylvia Rivera once said that the LGBTQ movement should not become a movement for white middle-class people.

You may be wondering why intersectionality is important. Ultimately, prejudice is everywhere, even in our community. By understanding the intersection of LGBTQ identities with race, religious faith, ability and other parts of ourselves, we create a safer environment in which minorities can feel comfortable and included.

Fragmentation, prejudice, and exclusion within the LGBTQ+ community serves only to stifle our united fight towards equality in the eyes of our peers, society and the law.

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