Dokken: Don't Swallow Your Pride

Queer issues have to matter outside of queer spaces.

by Natalie Dokken | 6/2/20 2:00am

In preparing to write this column, I considered many different topics related to the LGBTQ community: from the prejudice within the LGBTQ community, how certain identities are considered more acceptable than others, how one’s level of queerness alters one’s experience both within and outside of the community, the lack of intersectionality within most portrayals of queer characters or corporations’ profiting off of Pride. Even then, some part of me felt that all of these topics were too niche and too specific to the queer community for readers unfamiliar with these debates to find worthy of their time.  

This internal debate ultimately made me frustrated with myself for dismissing the merit of discussing queer issues outside of queer spaces and then angry that such topics would be perceived this way in the first place. The insidious inclination I have as a queer person to prioritize topics I believe will be more relatable over queer ones is representative of a larger problem — that writers representing minority groups often feel pressured to focus on topics that are more broadly popular at the expense of those pertaining to the communities that they themselves belong to. 

The positioning of queer voices that attend to queer issues as secondary to those that attend to more general ones represents a clear disregard for the complexity of the LGTBQ community. Instead of portraying the community as a diverse network of people who just so happen to be connected via the shared experience of identifying with certain sexualities and gender identities, the treatment of queer issues as peripheral to society suggests that the LGBTQ community is so alienated from the rest of society that the discussions that go on within it offer nothing to those outside of it.

Of course, this assumption is not representative of reality. Many of the issues that affect the LGBTQ community are the same ones that affect the rest of society, such as those pertaining to intersectionality and representation. However, when these concerns are dismissed simply because they are focused on these issues within the community, it denies a means of exposing the public to LGBTQ voices. 

Exposing non-queer people to work done by and about queer people is important, as it helps to normalize their existence. It’s the same logic that underlies at least part of the argument about representation — being forced to acknowledge the existence of people whose identities differ from your own reduces negative stereotypes about those groups. 

In terms of writers and artists whose work might not otherwise denote their identity, it is vital that they are permitted to express it in their work. It's an act that allows them to make the invisible visible. For example, realizing that your favorite writer is queer, black or of some other marginalized identity about whom you might have preconceived notions would certainly make you reconsider how you think of those people. 

When there is a lack of discourse surrounding issues within marginalized communities, it becomes much harder to better the culture within them. The fact that many critiques of marginalized communities often stem from places of hate rather than intellectual criticism causes many valid concerns to be dismissed. 

For instance, the transphobia that is prevalent even within the LGBTQ community is a topic that is often dismissed as an attempt to demonize the community as a hateful space. Yet, regardless of how some may twist the argument to support their own agendas, the issues that exist within the community need to be addressed to make the community a more inclusive space. Specifically, by not addressing these issues, we do ourselves a disservice as we ostracize people who might otherwise be allies or identify with the community.

Queer voices need to be given platforms in non-queer spaces so that our values and objectives are clear for the world to see. By accepting queer spaces as the only ones we should desire to speak in, we limit the visibility of our community and ultimately contribute to the negative perceptions we often struggle to dispel. Queer people exist beyond the confines of the places where we are accepted, and we must not swallow our pride to fit into them.