On queer exclusionism

As someone who, like many others, doesn’t have a lot of access to a real life queer community, I’ve had a substantial amount of interaction with fellow LGBTQ people on the internet and observed and participated in a wide range of behaviors, both healthy and harmful towards myself and the community at large.

My first exposure to LGBTQ identities was through Youtube and Tumblr. I remember being in my early teens and realizing that being queer was not just a concept but something concrete and abundant. Something I could be. Something I was. Coming to that realization flooded me with a bitter concoction of relief and dread, the latter being exacerbated by the fact that those online communities I relentlessly browsed through in search of connection were filled with toxicity and very limiting ideas of gender and sexuality. Couple that with early-to-mid-10s Youtube being an absolute garbagefest when it came to transphobia and I had the perfect formula to hate myself beyond belief.

It took me years to accept who I really am because so much fear and disgust was put into me by people who were supposed to teach me how to love myself. I navigated the world with my head down and this deep-seated feeling that if I were to embrace who I am and all the complexity and contradiction that comes with it, that I was no longer deserving of support and I can’t put into words how lonely and sad it made me.

Those spaces I visited were inhabited by very young and impressionable people who got told by a bitter and gatekeeping sector of the community that there’s a right way to express yourself, a right label to be assigned and that everything needs to be neat and tidy as to please cisheteronormative society, when in the real world so much of that obsessive categorization gets blurred together and molded into shapeshifting forms. Those gatekeepers have always been around, but the internet and the isolation queer people are faced with has only given them a louder and more powerful voice. They roam from website to website, country to country, their words reverberate and amplify and we can’t seem to escape their fucking noise.

You see, part of what makes the plurality of queerness so beautiful is that it directly clashes with the oppressive structures our societies operate upon. Our identities are meant to go against (and not embrace) the status quo. Yet it seems too many queer people have been convinced that liberation and assimilation are the same thing and that making yourself palatable to cisheteronormativity is the only path towards being afforded personhood.

It doesn’t matter how much we dilute ourselves and our realities, the people who hate us and want us dead won’t have a change of heart because we decided to cannibalize ourselves instead of taking issue with our oppressors. The rampant racism and endless focus on whiteness, the dismissal of anti-transmasculinity, framing bi and ace people as “not queer enough,” defining lesbians by the people they hate instead of the people they love, the tired policing of label usage… Absolutely none of that is gonna move us forward and break our chains. All it does is fracture and hurt an already fragile community full of people who have gone through more trauma than anyone deserves because of the mere fact that they exist.

What I’m trying to get at, is that this exclusionism needs to be purged with urgency. We need to let go of and stop reproducing all these rigid constraints that are imposed on us by people who are terrified of our joy and well-aware that liberated queer people are a threat to the powers that be, and fundamentally incompatible with oppressive systems such as capitalism itself. Once we understand that, refuse to abide by essentialist bullshit and embrace each other with compassion and understanding, only then will we be able to build the foundation of a true community.