A few days ago, I was asked whether or not I thought all the gay people –understanding “gay” as any not-heterosexual man, I guess– should all be feminist. The question reminded me of sexist comments and behaviours that I had already seen on social networks, and that had been made by people for the LGTB+ activism (lesbian, gay, transsexual, transgender, bisexual, pansexual, intersexual, queer, and so forth), or even made by a member of a LGTB+ association who had told me that he couldn’t care less about anything which had to do with “dykes”. He affirmed that he abstained in the voting of any topic on lesbian empowerment. Yet the truth is that I was a bit taken aback, because this boy is in fact one of those who are concerned about the fight against homophobia and about the gay activism, but apparently it remains just that: he lacks of the rest of letters and he lacks of the sufficient comprehension to understand that his fight is the same as that one of the “dykes”. I hope he’ll someday get to understand it.
Going back to the initial question, which was about whether or not gay people should all be feminist. I believe it’s easy to answer: everyone, be it men, women or not-binary gender people (the last of whom exist, even though invisibilised as they are) must be feminist, because as far as I understand, everyone should defend justice and equality, even if this could lead to a loss of his/her gender privileges. However, I think that the question intended to ask whether or not I believe that feminism benefits not-heterosexual men, beyond the disinterested support to women for equality. Of course it does: everybody in the LGTB+ community should be a LGTB+ activist to a greater or lesser extent, and this implies being a feminist, as feminism and LGTB+ activism are two fights that go hand in hand which battle against the same issues and use the same weapons. To fully understand this, we have to go into the education we receive, not only in classrooms, but also in the media, advertising, our circle of friends, our family, etc.
If we pause to think for a minute, it’s astonishing how immensely ingrained heteronormativity, cisnormativity and patriarchy are in our society. Even a lot of people who are neither sexist, homophobic nor transphobic at all unconsciously absorb those values and that patriarchal (which elevates men to a superior type of human against women), heteronormative (which shows heterosexuality as a rule and as the only sexual orientation) and cisnormative culture (which shows cisexuality, that is, no transexuality, as a rule and as the only gender identity).
From the moment we are born, a gender is assigned to us according to our genitals (discrimination on gender identity), a gender that can only be binary: either masculine or feminine, which brings along a whole batch of masculinity and femininity roles in each case, which we have to carry out so as to be “masculine men” and “feminine women” (discrimination on gender expression) and which make these two genders as different as night and day. Obviously, the man is always superior to the woman: he’s above her and he dominates her (sexism). But this does not end here. It’s not enough for the heteropatriarchy and for the heteronormative and cisnormative culture to impose on you a gender and a way to be and act that you will have to follow unless you prefer to remain discriminated or excluded from society. They also tell you how you must love, as the only possible relationship between two people is the heterosexual one (discrimination on sexual orientation) and the only possible, valid and true family is the heteroparental one, the so-called “traditional family”, where there is nothing “traditional” as this model of family unit based on a father, a mother and children appeared as early as the 19th century –in Rome, slaves were also considered to be part of a family–. Everything that exceeds the limits of this extremely closed conception of gender, sexuality and affective relationships is marginalised, invisibilised and discriminated.
Many people may think: “I am against all those discriminations. These are the kinds of things a few sourpusses say”. I wish it were like this, yet this is a cultural construct, and it is very ingrained even in people who are neither sexist, homophobic nor transphobic, but that have unfortunately embraced that conception of sexuality and affective relationships, because that’s what they teach to all of us from the moment we are born. For the newborn girl –or at least the person in whose birth certificate says that it’s a girl because it’s got a vagina–, pink clothes. For the boy, blue clothes. Advertising, especially that of sexist toys, will teach older girl to lead her life towards household chores and towards the bringing up of her children –a five-year-old girl playing at being mother with a baby doll which is half the girl’s size seems to me a surrealistic and a bad taste view–. Boy toys focus on competition, sport, engines, etc., that is, toys that intend to show his virility in the face of other boys. When I’m watching toy advertisements I wonder if we have really evolved from the time when we used to live in caves and we wore mammoth fur coats, or if we are exactly the same as before, except that today we have more advanced, new technology.
As this boy and this girl grow up and come closer to adolescence, films, TV series and teenage love books (or even their own friends and relatives) will teach them both that only heterosexual love and the heteroparental family exist. It’s the only type of family they will get to see, thanks to the prevailing heteronormativity. At the most, if their families instil in them tolerance and respect values, they will learn that the rest of sexual orientations and gender identities are exceptions to the rule, “different” people whom they have to respect. The mere fact of learning to respect those who don’t fit in the prevailing social rule would already be a great achievement, although that does not play down that, without the need of being homophobic or transphobic, simply because of that culture that soaks our lives, some questions would arise, such as “who plays the role of a man in a lesbian relationship” or “whether or not that transsexual person is a man or a woman that ‘wants to be’ a woman”. And this is how we keep on going with our lives, submerged in a heteronormative culture (homophobic), cisnormative (transphobic) and patriarchal (sexist).
There will be people that will rebel against this way of perceiving life, sexuality and human relationships, a step that must be taken by all LGTB+ people who don’t repress themselves, and in general, by all those women who become aware of the fact that they are not inferior to men. There will even be people who will want to fight against these discriminations. To this end, they will use as fundamental weapons the visibility of their realities, and the education and awareness raising in order to make society unlearn this heteropatriarchal, heteronormative, and cisnormative vision of life.
LGTB+ activism and feminism are, therefore, two fights that go hand in hand, two fights that battle against the same core problem (although they specialise in different discriminations), and two fights that use the exact same tools to combat that problem they have in common. They are two fights that must necessarily go together, and those who only devote themselves to one of them don’t understand what they are fighting against.
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Translated by Miquel Vidal Bover, @miqmaik, from “El activismo LGTB+ y el feminismo: dos luchas hermanas“.