CAVEAT/DISCLAIMER: The following are simple examples from my interpretation of some of my experiences and I don't mean to infer that these are universal. This is simply meant to be an illustrative post and there are great many of all sexualities with differing viewpoints on the issues I discuss.
Even still, I think I might be wading into something messy with this post, but here goes...
A few years ago I was sitting around in a neutral space having drinks with about half a dozen women, median age maybe near 32. I was the only male. The women were a mix of lesbian, bisexual and straight. Somewhere over the course of a few hours they all decided they were going to to go the lesbian bar. I was informed in no uncertain terms that even though I was really nice for a male, I was not welcome to join them, and that they would hope I would understand. 'Heh,' I thought, 'now isn't this an awkward bit of interesting.'
A bit of a focus group followed because, being curious and relatively unfamiliar with the nuances of the politics of orientation sexuality, I wanted to know how my exclusion was rationalised. It transpired that some of the women felt there were degrees of welcome at the bar based on sexual orientation and anatomy. I, as a straight male, was most unwelcome and it would not go over well were I to tag along. Gay males were permitted, but not wholly welcome and shouldn't make a habit of it. Straight women were more welcome, although some of the gay women felt uncomfortable with the idea that straight women should go to lesbian bars and that they shouldn't make a habit of it either. Bisexual women were more welcome, but also not entirely as welcome as lesbians.
The rationale for these degrees of discrimination seemed to revolve around two related themes. First, in broader terms the women and especially the lesbians felt their bar was a safe space and men were something of a violation of that space. Second, the discrimination based on sexual preference seemed to come from a desire by the lesbians to feel it was safe to approach other women in the bar. I recall the word 'safe' emerging quite a bit in the discussion. Ah.
I more recently had a conversation with a friend who considers herself queer and doesn't like sexual identity labels, but usually ends up dating women and her closer circle of friends are lesbian. She informed me that she finds it troublesome to openly have male friends or partners because of the gossip and judgement that she feels from her peer group. "Ouch" me thinks.
Now while I'm sympathetic to the rationales around safe spaces for oppressed and marginalised groups, I ultimately don't really have a lot of time for anyone who uses discrimination to fight discrimination. Although aspects of power might shift favourably for the oppressed group now asserting itself, ultimately it emphasises and perpetuates lines of difference. This appears counter to the broader goal of equality. I understand why typologies like LGBTQQI matter now as society progresses and starts to set aside its rigid constructions of sexuality. will we reach a point where those labels no longer matter, or the typology expands to the point where it becomes unwieldy?
All things being equal (yes, with climate change and the like, this is a huge caveat), I like to think the world of 2050 might look back on sexual and gender politics of 2010 as uh, just a little complicated compared to the future where variation is simply accepted...without the politics of today's boundaries.
So a few questions for readers - some of you are perhaps much more versed in the nuances of this than I am - arise:
- Is it OK to discriminate based on gender and sexual orientation in some circumstances? Was I right to be excluded?
- If so, why? How is this different from discrimination based on say ethnicity or religion?
- Have I got it all wrong? Did I miss something key in the politics here?
- In broader terms, how useful are labels for non-straight sexuality in the long term? Do they help perpetuate lines of division and/or discrimination between the straight and the non-straight cohorts?
- Should there be/is there a need for division between LGBTQQI and straight communities?