There’s a running joke in the LGBT community. One person will ask, “What does GBLT stand for?” The other person will think about it before saying, with hesitation, “Gay…bacon, lettuce, tomato. Right?”
There are many variations on the joke, but the message is the same. The Western world is becoming more accepting of gay individuals, but often the acceptance begins and ends with white, cisgender (meaning a person who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth) gay men.
With the majority of attention — both within the community and out — focused on the gay side of the LGBT community, others can fall by the wayside.
“If there’s a choice to talk to or to hear from a…white, cisgender gay guy or anyone else in the gay community, you’re generally going to hear from (the white, gay guy),” said physics junior Leah Longhufer.
“Being gay is their only deviation from the norm. They still feel entitled to the American dream, in that it’s been denied to them based on (being gay).”
There’s a lot of people in that wayside. Lesbians get a fair amount of attention — if Showtimes’s television drama “The L Word” and a handful of “out” celebrities can be considered a “fair amount” — whereas bisexual and transgender individuals feel more or less ignored.
Then there’s everyone else — those that are queer, questioning, asexual, pansexual, intersex…the list is long. Those individuals who do receive attention are usually white and cisgender; in other words, they are not transgender.
There’s a fundamental problem in the way that people look at the LGBT community. People focus on white, gay men, as they focus on white, straight men in every other community. But the LGBT community does itself no favors, as it continues to display racist, transphobic and misogynistic behaviors, as well as push white gay men into the forefront because it is safe to do so.
When stereotypical gay male culture — certainly not an accurate picture of all gay men, but a popular image nonetheless — becomes the forefront of LGBT culture as a whole, it results in gay pride parades that revolve around gay men and lesbians and bar culture that is heavily catered towards adult gay men. Gay pride parades have become increasingly unpopular among the bisexual and transgender community, as they do not feel safe or accepted in an atmosphere that mostly contains gay men and allies.
Young LGBT people and teens, who are the most at risk for violence and suicide, are left without a safe place to gather and socialize when LGBT culture becomes centered on alcohol and bars.
The debate quickly becomes about privilege, as it so often does when discussing race and gender. People with privilege rarely like to talk about it, least of all admit to it. The gay community is only beginning its crawl toward general acceptance, but it often forgets that those without benefit of white or male privilege still suffer heavily.
“Getting more people out there and talking about their experiences…(is important),” said history junior Shaan Duehwani.
Progress is being made slowly. The success of Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” has made Laverne Cox, a black transgender woman who plays transgender character Sophia Burset on the show, a household name.
“Orange is the New Black,” however, remains one of the few shows that displays its diverse range of LGBT characters.
Currently, there’s no “perfect” portrayal of the LGBT community, perhaps because a perfect portrayal would be impossible. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are people, and people are incredibly diverse. And the sheer diversity of the LGBT community is something that needs to be flaunted and celebrated. LGBT people portray a wide range of body types, can suffer from disabilities and represent every nation under the sun.
It’s an injustice to the community to continue to pretend that the vast majority of it does not exist. Kurt Hummel from “Glee” and two attractive, white men in a Tiffany & Co. advertisement are not an all-encompassing depiction of the LGBT community. The community deserves more than that.
“I understand that it’s America; white people are the majority,” said entrepreneurship and accounting senior Huy Truong.
“It’s going to take time, but it’ll get there. It’s 2015.”