This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness.
Many of you are familiar with him from Livejournal, as well
as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here.
Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from
One of the fallouts I’ve seen from the wretched Elmo scandal is people saying “this hurts gay rights.”
No, no, no, no, no, HELL NO.
Yet, again, NO.
What hurts GBLT rights is collective responsibility. This idea that when one of us does something it somehow says something about the rest of us – that hurts our rights. The idea that we should all be ashamed or guilty when someone who happens to be GBLT is an arsehole or an abuser or a criminal hurts our rights. The idea that we somehow have a duty to speak and respond when a GBLT person is a bastard hurts our rights.
I understand the reaction. Gods know I roll my eyes every time a GBLT person does anything wrong because I know it’s only a matter of time before someone opens their mouth and throws shit at the rest of us because of it. And not just the hate groups – not even close – I’ve lost count of the number of “liberal” spaces which have decided to have a “dear GBLT community…” post because of something a GBLT person has said or done. In this most recent example we’ve already seen a round of “look what sex-predators gay men are! We need to talk about those predatory gay men!” We all know that at any moment we can and will be made scapegoats for the crimes or offences of any in our community.
So I get the cringe, I get the “aaargh, this is going to hurt all of us” reaction after you know a fellow traveller has shown their scabby arse to the world. But it’s not helping or helpful for our rights, our quest for equality or our battle for justice or our battle to be seen as human beings.
If we’re waiting for us all to be perfect (or for all our imperfect people to be hidden, which is similarly awful and impossible) for equality then we’re screwed. If our quest for justice is dependent on every last one of us being “good” (an extra fraught word considering what standards of “good” they put on us), it’s never going to happen. We will never be that perfect. There will always be someone, some member of the GBLT umbrella, who will be a criminal, an abuser, a skeevy git or just a plain arsehole. It is inevitable. Not because we’re awful people, but because we are people.
And with privileged groups that’s freely admitted. No-one holds straight, cis people responsible for the sins of all straight, cis people. And, even if they did, it would never battle the societal narrative that puts straight, cis people in as both the default and the pinnacle of humanity. Straight, cis people get to be individuals in our society, get to be people, get to be responsible for their own lives; they don’t have to carry the crimes of all straight, cis people along with them.
We don’t deserve justice because we’re perfect or super wonderful human beings. We deserve justice because we’re human. End of. And we’re not going to achieve that justice if we accept the role of whipping boy for the real and imagined crimes of any member of our community. I refuse to be held responsible for crimes I didn’t do. I refuse to apologise for the crimes of people who share my sexual orientation. I reject the idea I need to speak or condemn or react every time someone under the umbrella is an arsehole. I will not, I absolutely will not.
And, if you want me to? Well maybe I’ll get right on it, once straight, cis folk have addressed their collective wrong doings. Get back to me when you finish with that – I’ll open some space in my calendar, if I can find one that lets me plan decades in advance.
So, next time you have that knee jerk response to say “oh this is going to hurt our community” or if you decide that some GBLT arsehole is the perfect prompt to launch a diatribe against all GBLT people – stop and think. Because they’re not the ones hurting GBLT rights, you are by pushing the meme that we’re all to blame for the crimes of one.