Most of those reading have probably heard the term "The LGBT Community." When spoken politically, as it often is, the most common associations are with a perceived threat to civil liberties or sometimes simply waxing poetic about The Community's strength and courage, but the name itself betrays a disturbing quality of its existence. While many can describe what the "LG" is—its front placement within the acronym of course being purely coincidental—misconceptions and prejudices run rampant about the latter half, along with those gender identities and sexual orientations not deemed significant enough to be included. That's really nothing new. What isn't often told, however, is that these prejudices stem from within The Community itself.
I capitalize The Community because we need not forget that this is a political organization more than it is a grouping of people. EMU recently held a convention on intersectionality, highlighting the complexity of connecting power hierarchies within society (for example, how do preconceptions of race affect how we talk about sexual orientation?) and it's a conversation that's been a long time coming. For those of us who exist on the outside of the binary, our greatest enemies are not those who are completely ignorant of our existence, but rather those who know all too well of us and use their own perceived lack of privilege to justify their prejudice.
The struggles of trans people to gain acceptance simply within The Community itself have been long-documented. The American Prospect ran an article last year, "45 Years After Stonewall, the LGBT Movement Has a Transphobia Problem," which perfectly highlights how power figures within the lesser-acknowledged sections of The Community are used to highlight a sense of unity while at the very same time ignoring or outright undermining the struggles of those sub-communities. Citing The Community's willingness to exclude trans protections within the 2007 Employment Nondiscrimination Act, a bill aimed at prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, the article puts forth the situation in a clear light: this was done in the hope of making the bill more palatable to the public, regardless of the consequence for trans people. When this came to light, in an attempt to save face, the bill was re-introduced with trans-inclusive protections and subsequently passed in the senate to raving headlines calling it "historic"—only to die quietly in The House.
While trans people have faced a very specific type of opposition, many arguing more potent than any facing those of differing sexual orientations, they have achieved a visibility in recent years that some other groups haven't. Bisexuals—the forgotten B in LGBT—face a multifaceted hatred and revulsion within The Community, usually revolving around one of three central preconceptions: 1. That all bisexuals are sluts or non-committal, 2. That they are inherently amoral or immoral, often associated with spreading of disease and 3. That they simply don't exist, being rounded into "gays that are too afraid to admit they're gay," or "straights that are confused." I propose that this dialogue has contributed to the "poverty, discrimination, and poor physical and mental health outcomes—often at rates higher than their lesbian and gay peers," experienced by bisexuals, according to a report released by the independent think tank, the Movement Advancement Project.
Moreover, this betrays a fear of non-traditional relationships, implying that those who are promiscuous (slut-shaming), participate in multi-party relationships (polyamory) or simply engage in non-normative sexual behaviors, such as those who hold no attraction to anyone (asexual) or those who only become sexually attracted to people with whom they have a close bond (demisexual) are somehow of less worth than those more socially-acceptable deviations in sexuality and identity. And this is not to say that only gays and lesbians participate in this behavior; this pattern of exclusion and self-aggrandizing is prevalent throughout The Community, whatever your orientation or identification. When including intersectional considerations (race, social class, etc.), the reality of marginalization within marginalized groups is undeniable.
All of this is to say that The LGBT Community is no community. It's a façade, predicated on the belief that if we stand together and pretend that we're all fighting for the same goal, that we'll somehow be stronger. In the end, the strong and visible win out within this microcosm as much as they do in a binary, heteronormative system. LGBT people have often stood together to great success, but they did so as people, not an amorphous, ideological mass. While it's convenient to argue that this discrimination is a consequence of oppression, there's no excuse and no ground to stand on and it highlights a terrible truth: the LGBT Community is its own worst enemy.