Feminism and the LGBT+ community.
By Sara Șchiopu
Two queer girls. One of them is still in the closet (I), while the other one is out to the world (O). I sat down with them in order to discuss the experiences and feelings they have encountered along the way, including fear, anxiety, joy, and relief.
Coming out to those around you is not easy. Coming to terms with the person you truly are is even harder, with several ups and downs, but, as hard as it is, the final destination is worth it. So, in order to better understand what LGBT+ folks go through on the daily, I interviewed two members of the community.
Question 1: When did you realize you were part of the LGBT community? How?
O: I realized when I was around 12 years old. That was the time when people who were LGBT were appearing in the news more, a lot of YouTubers were coming out, and I started thinking about queerness. It’s kind of when I realized that this is a thing that people could be and I found myself thinking ‘OK, maybe I am this thing.’. There was no sudden realization for me, no big event, just a gradual understanding.
I: I think I’ve partially always known. But a really important moment was when a family member of mine which I’m very close to, came out to me as gay. And I realized, ‘Oh, so that’s a thing that exists.’. And then I started doing the typical ‘teen who’s confused about their sexuality’ thing where I googled ‘How do I know if I’m gay?’.
Question 2: What determined you to come out? / What is stopping you from coming out?
O: I guess it’s like any other feeling that you suppress all the time. For example, if you’re really in love with someone and you don’t tell anybody, it just sits there and, you know, it ferments in your mind. Telling people is an important part of you becoming who you are and not hiding. Because you’re hiding, in reality. It’s cathartic.
I: At some point, I realized it’s very unsafe in my school because some people there are really, really homophobic. I’m happy with keeping myself and this part of my life safe, and my friends and the people I consider close to me know about it. It’s not like I don’t want to be myself or something of the sort, it’s just strictly fearing the backlash I’d face in my school, and I really can’t afford to put up with that right now.
Question 3: Have you ever felt scared or targeted in any sort of way because you are part of this community?
O: There was that time last year when there was that referendum on whether or not the Constitution should be changed in favor of straight marriage. And that was a scary time because just the thought put it into perspective: how much the people in power hated and wanted to quiet the LGBT+ community. For example, my friends and I were going around the city, taking down the posters anti-gay groups had put up, and people were yelling at us because of it. A bunch of people that I interact with are very homophobic. I first came out as bi, and my family told me that “there’s no such thing, you’re just lying for attention”. There are certain people in my school that, whenever they overhear me talking about my relationships, just like they do about their straight relationships, get aggressive about the fact that they “hate gays because all they talk about is being gay” or “you guys always show off about how gay you are, that’s your whole personality.”
I: I was also very scared of [the referendum]. I organized a group of 10-12 people and we printed out some stickers. We got yelled at, I was personally told that I will “rot in Hell”, because, even though I’m not queer (they didn’t know), I’m supporting this. We were asked why we care and then they started screaming. My parents accept me, but I feel like they are kind of ashamed of me for it, and they would never, ever mention it. I am also not allowed to go to Pride or show my sexuality in any way. In the beginning, my parents didn’t fully process it and I think that, in the back of their minds, they still think I’m going to marry a man.
Question 4: Have you felt more confident after coming out? / Do you think coming out would make you feel more confident?
O: Definitely. It’s also that you are now part of a community. It also makes me feel more responsible, or like a mother-figure to people that aren’t out yet that ask me questions. It’s helped me grow a lot.
I: For me, it’s very hard being in the closet. Just the constant anxiety and worry and overthinking that comes with it is exhausting. I sometimes ask myself “Why can’t I be straight, why do I have to go through this?”. It’s more of a burden than being queer itself is: having to constantly worry about keeping it hidden.
Question 5: How do you feel about stereotypes regarding LGBT persons?
O: I have to say, I think it’s very different for queer women and queer men. Relationships between girls are always super-sexualized, they’re very fetishized.
I: That’s also what I was about to say. If I could, I’d scream at the top of my lungs that my sexuality is not an exotic opportunity for you.
O: It took me a lot of time to realize that stereotypes aren’t true, like, for example, both girls in a relationship can be very feminine, and that’s fine. Because stereotypes were all I was exposed to. They obviously affect the community, because we all grow up with the same [stereotypes]. One thing that I’ve noticed is how people associate being queer with being more dramatic or flamboyant, and how they think that you’re showing off whenever you say that you’re part of the LGBT+ community. They perceive it as an attention-grabbing thing.
I: Also, I know a lot of people that think it’s disgusting to see two men kissing; an acquaintance once said that and somebody else added: “Well, then it’s just as disgusting to see two girls kiss.” Then the first one went “Oh, no, that’s hot.”. Or, I feel like nowadays, queer men are often viewed as an accessory, “the gay best friend”.
O: A lot of people also talk about how gay people talk because they have a more feminine tone. Or about how they act or dress more feminine.
I: Speaking of that, people immediately assume that, if you’re a queer girl, you need to be more masculine.
O: If you know Brooklyn nine-nine, I think it’s a really good show when it comes to portraying queer people. For example, Captain Holt is very masculine and he’s an out, gay man. He has a happy marriage. I’m really glad that there’s representation like that because it just breaks so many stereotypes. Also, there is a stereotype that being queer is not kid-friendly, which is also linked to over-sexualization because queer relationships are considered ‘adult’. I also feel like queer men are more often seen as ‘perverts’. Most people I know would much more comfortable with their daughters being LGBT than their sons, which is one of the weirdest concepts ever.
Question 6: How has being LGBT affected your views on feminism? What about your self-confidence?
I: To me, the two are very intertwined, because I’m both a woman and a queer person. They’re two things that are not treated very well, I could say. I have two things to fight for.
O: Yes. There’s no way to help one community without helping the other as well. When it comes to my self-image, being LGBT has helped me shape my perspective and the way I view myself for the better. That’s another important thing about being out, you can talk openly about everything.
I: You realize that you can’t do certain things unless you’re confident with yourself, as a queer person and a woman. I feel like it’s very important to be open, which is hard when you’re not out. I can be open about it through activism because I think I can say that “Yes, I want equal rights for all women, that includes QUEER WOMEN!”. So it feels like it’s some sort of escape: I can be vocal about something that’s important to me while keeping the other important thing in my life still in the picture.
O: The thing is, you have to be very careful because if you’re out you are representing the whole community to the people around you. You have to be very diplomatic when you answer “queer” questions.
Question 7: Do you feel like being a feminist member of the LGBT community makes others hate on you more?
I: I think that being part of two “minorities” makes people think that you’re this weird person who’s just obsessed about being quirky and original. There’s definitely more stigma.
O: And again, you’re representing the community to other people. So, you have to be really careful, nice and polite. You can’t be too loud or too dramatic.
Question 8: Do you think that feminism is more popular among LGBT people?
I: People tend to think that members of the LGBT community are more likely to be sensitive when it comes to people judging other people, but not necessarily. The LGBT community is filled with lots of people of different views. Although, they do tend to be more aware of the problems minorities face.
Question 9: What changed for the better after you came out?
O: I’m part of a community and you know there are people out there who understand you. You instantly become part of this whole. You’re not alone anymore.
Our conversation was full of raw emotions and personal stories, but it has taught me that no matter who you are and no matter who you like, you deserve love. You deserve to love and be loved. It’s a complicated feeling, but the happy ending is worth the pain. We are all here and we will continue to fight for people who are alone, who cannot stand up for themselves out of fear or maybe even out of shame, because we cannot expect our lives and our society to be better unless we change people’s perspective and break down barriers that block us from seeing the daylight. We are what we love, so we should love acceptance and kindness.