Our curator Karen Pollock puts out a heartfelt plea for LGBTQ+ people to stop excluding those who don’t meet arbitary standards from the community.
Before we get into the meat of this piece, let me make one thing clear, pan is a valid sexual identity, one which many people hold, and which no more deserves to be mocked or belittled than any of the better known identities.
However pan people, unless they also define as bi (which is not uncommon, where bi is seen as an umbrella term) do not get to define what bi means. Bi people do, and they generally consider bisexual to mean attraction to more than one gender(s).
So, disclaimer over, I rather feel like Claudia Winkleman on Strictly reading the terms and conditions.
The idea of there being only one way to be queer, and that there is a hierarchy, where some people are better queers than others seems to permeate the LGBTQ+ community. It reminds me of the concept of “trueness” which is sometimes discussed in the Kink community (and of course no community exists as an island). True subs, or dominants, believe they have found the one and only way to do BDSM, and can often be found online telling everyone else where they are going wrong. I believe the label comes from the idea of there being “one true way”
This kind of behaviour is not limited to kink or LGBTQ+ people however. Log onto mumsnet, or even just stand at the school gates, and the same critiques of others exist. Whatever the sphere there seem to be those who boost their self-esteem, and receive validation, by criticizing and excluding others. Gold standards are created, and used to exclude those who do not meet them. Of course this process of gatekeeping most often hits those who are already marginalised on one or more intersection. Consider looking queer, or queer “enough”. Any marker of community involvement which concerns how someone looks demands time, energy, lack of disability, and income. It is also conditional on someone not having to meet certain rules to be employed/remain in school. So even something as seemingly simple as a hairstyle is actually a representation of huge amounts of often unacknowledged privilege.
The idea of there being only one way to be queer, and that there is a hierarchy, where some people are better queers than others seems to permeate the LGBTQ+ community
In a society which tells members of gender, sexual and relationship diverse communities that they are not good enough it is no surprise that people look for validation, for proof they are good enough. However the method so often seems to be to copy the methods of wider society. To say; You are not good enough to gain group acceptability. Rules and definitions are imposed on people from the outside (such as in the Glamour article) to belittle and berate. Thus asexuals are told they are not welcome, because having a sexual identity involves having sex. Or non binary people are pathologised by binary trans people, as being confused or mentally ill.
Each iteration of the one true way mode of thinking boils down to trying to maintain ones own precarious position by pushing others in the line of fire. The sad thing is that it does not even work (although it would be no excuse if it did). The only way not to be torn down ourselves is to not look for validation outside of ourselves. Looking at how others do queerness and hoping that accusations of doing it wrong protect us is based on the idea we will never be accused. However if we live our lives in eternal competition on who is the best queer, the one and only certainty is we will be accused. If we have raised the idea there is a standard, outside of our own self, then we will one day be measured against someone else’s and found lacking.
this process of gatekeeping most often hits those who are already marginalised on one or more intersection
The fact is if you define as queer, or bi, or trans, or gay, or lesbian, or asexual, or aromantic, or non binary, or any other margenlised gender or sexual identity then you are, and you are enough.
This applies “even” if;
You have never had sex
You have never had a same gender relationship
You have never had a mixed gender relationship
You have never had a relationship
You look feminine
You look masculine
You look “conventional”
You look unconventional
You are monogamous
You are celibate
You are poly
You are a parent
You are disabled
You are not white
You are young
You are old
You are thin
You are fat
You are poor
We are all a combination of the identities which make us unique. However they combine, you are queer enough if you identity as queer, and never let someone insecure in their own identity tell you otherwise.
Follow Karen on Twitter (counsellingkaz)