Stephanie Farnsworth examines the latest hashtag that claims to support LGBTQ+ people.
The outpourings of support for LGBTQ+ rights, usually in the wake of countries accepting marriage equality and even as a display of support for what happened in Orlando, regularly invoke the message ‘#LoveIsLove’. So popular has it become that it automatically creates a rainbow heart in a tweet. As well placed as the intentions often are, once again the tendency to go for cute slogans manages to do more harm than good.
While the slogan seeks to claim that all love is the same and should be respected, it misses the entire point of the LGBTQ+ rights movement. It isn’t about love. It’s never been about love.
It isn’t about love. It’s never been about love.
To say that gay and bisexual people specifically should only be validated because of their love enforces a horrendous barrier which nobody should have to overcome. It means that casual sexual encounters or non romantic relationships should be entirely dismissed. Supporting love then seems to go against the entire point of what an LGBTQ+ bar such as Pulse stands for. It was a bar where people of multiple communities were able to come together and simply be. It was attacked on ‘Latin Night’ for a reason. It was supposed to be a place of safety for anyone and where people could meet others without judgement. Gay and bisexual people don’t have to fall in love to be afforded basic love and respect.
The gay and bisexual segments of the LGBTQ+ community have been quick to latch onto this slogan however. It’s a pattern that has been repeated time and again within the movement. The core goal of many is for gay people (in particular) to be assimilated into the cisgender heterosexual world of acceptance and privilege. It’s not about embracing differences but about erasing their own oppression, even if that means putting it upon someone else.
It’s not about embracing differences but about just erasing their own oppression, even if that means putting it upon someone else.
Gay cisgender people have happily flocked behind this slogan no matter who it harms because it panders to respectability politics and is earning them praise by cisgender heterosexuals. It’s a tactic that has been evoked time and again. It was used throughout the history of the fight for same sex marriage where gay people went out of their way to present their relationships as perfect and deserving of marriage. The argument wasn’t so much about deserving equal human rights because LGBTQ+ people are humans too, but about saying they met the arbitrary standard that cisgender heterosexual people forced upon them.
The problem with pandering to respectability politics is that it leaves an awful number of people behind. Presenting every same gender relationship as perfect is just not true and leaves many people feeling as though they are failures. Furthermore, it erases the very real issues that many LGBTQ+ people face, such as intimate partner violence. Often anything that is seen as a stain on the community is brushed under the carpet meaning the people who need support most are left in isolation.
The most obvious issue with #LoveisLove is that it applies to only a very small percentage of the community. Bisexual people are inevitably made invisible because suddenly if they have a partner of a different gender or are single then they’re not included in the message, despite the fact that they still are at risk of hate crimes, intimate partner violence, mental health issues and discrimination.Many transgender people are completely shut out of such a message all together. Nowhere does #LoveisLove acknowledge the issue of gender. Trans rights are still decades behind the fight for gay rights. Trans people are more likely to be targeted for hatred than any other identity within the LGBTQ+ community. It’s a slogan that might be applicable to gay homoromantic people in a relationship but all other trans people are brushed out of the community. It’s not a message that can be used in the fight for trans people just to be able to go to the bathroom.
It’s not a message that can be used in the fight for trans people just to be able to go to the bathroom.
Aromantic identities are also pushed out into the cold and this highlights how we need to stop assigning people their humanity by their capacity to love. LGBTQ+ rights isn’t a Disney story battle.
#LoveisLove also reflects the greatest struggle the LGBTQ+ community has failed to tackle and that is the fact that white, able bodied, cisgender people aren’t the only people in the community. There is so much more at the root of oppression for our community than just gender and sexuality. LGBTQ+ people of colour are far much more likely to experience oppression and discrimination: inside and outside of the community. Disabled LGBTQ+ people have commented how the community can be just as abusive and exclusive as cis straight society.
Society is stacked against those who experience multiple oppressions. If we are to truly advance the rights of others we need to acknowledge that. The community cannot exist in isolation but must work for every single one of its members. The coverage of Orlando was largely insulting to LGBTQ+ Latinx members who were regularly erased but the fact that Pulse was attacked on ‘Latin Night’ was just as significant as the fact that it was an LGBTQ+ bar attacked.
A romantic slogan can’t be a rallying cry for the community when it leaves so many people standing on the periphery. We should strive to walk in the steps of what Pulse was trying to achieve, by making a community accessible for LGBTQ+ people who also share different oppressions. Creating an exclusive slogan seems an insult to such a noble intent. The only thing it is in tune with is how LGTBTQ+ politics have been conducted for the last few decades.
Follow Stephanie on Twitter (@StephFarnsworth)