This month’s theme is ‘gatekeeping’. Today’s piece looks at gatekeeping within the LGBTQ+ community.
“You’re home early,” Roger said. Mae sat heavily on the sofa next to him, kicking off her heels. She leaned over to kiss his cheek and then leaned back, staring at the ceiling.
Roger muted the tv. “You okay?”
“I dropped out of the planning committee.”
Mae shook her head, took a deep shuddering breath. “This party…Gays for Halloween. I wanted a different name from the start. What does that even mean? Gay people support a holiday that many people think is an American import? Pumpkins in pride colours?”
Roger shifted to look at her. “Actually I can see paper pumpkins in pride colours.”
Mae gave a wry smile. “Me too. That’s not why I quit. It was Josie mostly, her and Jane and Peter. I was filling up the urn in the kitchen before we got started and I heard Josie talking by the serving hatch. Saying they were so glad John had joined us, an actual gay. She was feeling the committee was being overrun by bihets.”
“She said that?” Roger took Mae’s hand.
“I had three serious relationships with women before we got married,” Mae said. “I’m bisexual. Marrying you doesn’t change that.”
“I know.” He squeezed her hand. “I know.”
Mae squeezed back. “Me and Tim and Desiree are all bi. Laura’s lesbian but Josie is suspicious of anyone who’s ever dated a man though she gives Dan a pass for a past girlfriend. Anyway Jane was giggling and agreeing because I think she fancies Josie – only reason she agreed to be vice chair when Rachel said she needed fewer responsibilities this year. And Peter…my God.”
Roger waited patiently. One of the cats wandered over to inspect Mae’s discarded shoes.
“I’m not that much older than most of them,” Mae said. “But they don’t seem to know anything about the history of the gay rights movement. Queer history, except Josie says queer is a slur despite it being reclaimed and used to push for greater awareness. And so they’re trying to force out anyone who isn’t a gay man or a good enough lesbian. Peter had a lot of opinions on the right kind of trans people who should be allowed to participate. The group has become increasingly exclusionary.”
“So you quit?”
“Yes. I will not gatekeep,” Mae said. “I will not tolerate bihet being thrown around to try and exclude bisexuals, or cishets to exclude asexuals, or get involved in the dysphoria debate to try and debate the rights of trans people. Josie doesn’t want LGBT let alone Q, I, and A. Josie and Peter want L and G and screw everyone else.”
Roger sighed. “Maybe there’s another group you can join. A more inclusive one.”
“Maybe.” Mae let go of Roger’s hand and got to her feet. “I’m making coffee, want one?”
Roger knew Mae had found kinship, friendship, and purpose over the last six years she’d worked with the LGBT+ community group. She’d miss it. But he also knew she was principled and wouldn’t regret quitting rather than supporting exclusionism.
“Did you talk to Maggie about this?” he asked when Mae returned with their drinks.
“I told her I quit, apologised that she’d probably have to pick up my role in organising the Halloween party.”
“What about Peter? Is Maggie the right kind of trans woman according to him?”
Mae shrugged. “Maggie can take care of herself,” she said. “My only regret is that if Peter talks out of turn like I heard him doing with Josie is I won’t get to watch Maggie rip him a new one.”
Notes and further reading
A lot of this gatekeeping takes place online; people say they’ve only experienced being excluded from online spaces and not groups in real life. However there are some people reporting being harassed at Pride for being seemingly straight while being bisexual, trans, or nb in a heterosexual relationship. The people who say the A in the LGBTQA is for ally not asexual to gatekeep are probably the same ones trying to gatekeep anyone who doesn’t look ‘gay’ enough from participating in Pride.
“With the advent of queer theory and the launch of Queer as Folk, “queer” became used online as a more concise umbrella term than the full LGBT+ acronym (which, depending on who you ask, is LGBTQQIP2SAA).
Today, interpretations of “queer” go a step further, and its acceptance generally splits along generational lines. Many young people — myself included — view “queer” as a term defining all nonstraight, nonbinary identities. “Queer” addresses the fluidity of gender and sexual orientation” – https://www.advocate.com/arts-entertainment/2017/8/02/21-words-queer-community-has-reclaimed-and-some-we-havent#media-gallery-media-2
3 Differences Between the Terms ‘Gay’ and ‘Queer’ — and Why It Matters – https://everydayfeminism.com/2016/03/difference-between-gay-queer/
“The word “queer” has only recently been identified as a slur because of TERFs and exclusionists. Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERF) and radical gender/sexuality bianarists are flooding social media and blogging sites with propaganda smearing the word queer in the hopes of silencing all of us who don’t identify with their hate politics. Queer is the one word that doesn’t worship exclusion.” – https://aminoapps.com/c/lgbt-1/page/blog/history-of-the-word-queer/BQ4p_GxRHwu5Xz35RWB31oKMLp8XJ8r7Ybo
Tumblr repsonse to “What does bihet mean” – https://bisexual-community.tumblr.com/post/93798259302/this-probably-sounds-stupid-but-what-does-bihet
On ace discourse and exclusionism on the internet vs in real life – https://medium.com/@meganhoins/the-rhetoric-of-digital-ace-discourse-4a690792f0bc
“According to 2013 Pew Research Center data, about 84 percent of bisexual adults who are in “committed relationships” are with “opposite-sex partners.” Within a broader LGBT community that too often guesses someone’s sexual orientation based on who they happen to be with at the moment, that statistic means many bisexual people get read as “straight”—or, at least, something less than fully queer.” https://www.thedailybeast.com/why-bisexuals-feel-ignored-and-insulted-at-lgbt-pride
“Transmedicalism is a term for a wide range of beliefs in the transgender community that are critical of transgender people who haven’t medically transitioned and/or don’t experience major dysphoria. Many transmedicalists (or “transmeds” for short) focus on gatekeeping….Although the debate has been going since the ’60s, it has gained more notoriety in the Internet age, particularly on Tumblr. Transmedicalists may be called “transmeds” or “truscum,” while anti-transmedicalists may be called “tucutes” or (often erroneously) “transtrenders.” ” – https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Transmedicalism