IDAHoBiT PC with Pride

We have recently celebrated IDAHoBiT day on May 17th.  The date itself is significant, because it commemorates the day in 1990 when the World Health Organisation made the decision to remove homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases. It meant that officially we were not sick any more. It was the landmark decision which was meant to take away the stigma that being homosexual was somehow ‘wrong’. Whether that supposed wrongness was medical, or psychological (as Sigmund Freud and the psychoanalysts would argue) or even a manifestation of sin was not important anymore, being homosexual was finally recognised as just part of life’s natural diversity. That is something to celebrate.

International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) was born as a way to co-ordinate grass roots efforts to raise awareness and combat homophobia. Thirty years later, homophobia has not gone away. It may be less overt than it used to be and many countries have enacted legal protections, but we all know it still exists. Society may have made some progress in tackling aspects of homophobia, but unfortunately the progress in faith communities has been limited. Many faith communities have not been willing to do the detailed examination or even self-examination to identify and root out attitudes that do not welcome and embrace those who are not heterosexual.

Homophobia is not the only problem faced by LGBTQ+ people of faith. Biphobia and transphobia also need action and these were later added to the remit of IDAHO day and the name changed, becoming first IDAHOT day and then IDAHoBiT day. Working to eradicate homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are important goals and there is a lot of work to be done both at national level and at grassroots level. It is easy to criticise others for their lack of progress in these areas and to call on organisations and governments to do more, but to be honest, we need to look at ourselves as well. The LGBTQ+ community can be an unaffirming place too. If we want others to do better, we must do better too.

There is a great deal that has been written about racism in the LGBTQ+ community and the difficulties that people of colour can experience in the community. The intersectionality of multiple oppressions can make life more difficult and acceptance and affirmation harder. This intersectional oppression is something we need to acknowledge and work to improve.

In the era of Black Lives Matters campaigns and in the wake of the death of George Floyd, we need to look at how we include and affirm those of multiple different ethnic and cultural groups. The Times magazine this weekend (Saturday June 13th) had as its cover story an interview with barrister Mohsin Zaidi. He describes his experience of multiple intersectional oppression and rejection, including his experience of racism in the LGBTQ+ community. In some ways it is a familiar story but it is one that we should be much more proactive in acknowledging and addressing.

a dutiful boy

Racism is not the only problem that needs to be named and worked on. Biphobia exists in our community too. Sometimes the B in LGBTQ+ seems the least visible part.
Biphobia seems to be more of an issue for women, at least at the moment. Part of that may be because current surveys show that the percentage of women who do not identify as either exclusively heterosexual or exclusively homosexual is greater than for men in the same category. Bi invisibility and Bi erasure can happen both unconsciously and deliberately. When we meet someone, we often make assumptions about their sexual orientation based on the gender of the person they are with. If we see a woman in a romantic relationship with another woman, we usually make the unconscious assumption that she is homosexual. If we see her in a romantic relationship with a man, we often assume she is heterosexual. This leaves bi women with the problem that they seem to be invisible and they have to come out even within their own community. This creates a pressure that others do not feel, multiple coming-outs can be mentally exhausting.

The Bi erasure can be more overt. I have spoken to many bi women who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community but who feel that they can only bring part of themselves to the party. If they turn up with a same sex partner everyone assumes they are a lesbian and they are included, but if they turn up with a male partner then they feel unwelcome, even though they themselves see it as a legitimate expression of their bisexuality. In lesbian spaces the message can seem to be ‘if you are bi then you are welcome but don’t bring all of yourself’.

LGBTQ+ communities can be very intolerant of those who do not fit the latest PC orthodoxy. At an LGBT History month event at De Montfort University the writer of the book Unorthodox

unorthodox

had with him one of the people he had interviewed for his book. She identified as bisexual, but told of her time at university where that identity had been challenged by those in the university LGBTQ+ community, their challenge being ‘why was she identifying as bisexual instead of pansexual?’ The implied criticism was what had she got against people who were non-binary or queer? She felt that this expectation of using a different label was really difficult. She used a label, as explained in the book, that her grandmother could understand. Family was hugely important to her and it meant everything to have her grandmother understand her and support her in her identity. Her grandmother could understand ‘bisexual’ but would find it much harder to understand newer identities. As a community, if we want other people to accept us for who we are, then we must start that ourselves.

If we want others to have more affirming attitudes towards us then we need to educate ourselves as well as others. We need a more nuanced understanding of whether people are being genuinely antagonistic or whether they are just not expressing it in a way that is as politically correct as we would like. We can make it difficult for allies to speak out on our behalf if they are afraid of being criticised for not using the right vocabulary or not fully understanding the nuances of complex issues. This can be quite hard. Many of us in the LGBTQ+ community have been hurt and we can react out of that hurt, but we must bring allies with us on this journey.

In this most unusual Pride month, let us model what we want from others. Let’s learn from the current challenges in society to look at our own community so that we can provide a model for other people. It is as Jesus said, that we should treat others as we would want them to treat us.

 

 

Author: LGBTQFaithUK

We believe and affirm gender and sexual minorities in their chosen faith. This site is a resource for those people of faith who are gender or sexual minorities and their allies. It is a place to find information about different faiths and some of the relevant issues. There is also news of upcoming events and book reviews. This site is affirming of people of faith outside of the cis gender and heterosexual majority. All are children of God and deserve respect and affirmation.