Our Analysis Needs More Complexity

A couple of weeks back a good friend of mine sent me this article.

The article essentially argues that LGBT folks shouldn’t be lumped together because there is nothing linking us. My friend knew the article would spark my interest, not because I agree, but because I definitely have a strong opinion about the lack in analysis our communities have around gender.

My whole point of view is this: LGBT people are lumped together for a lot of reasons. The major reason for me centers on the fact that what we do with our bodies challenges societal norms. That is to say, when folks are born we’re labeled as male or female and with those labels come a whole set of expectations and demands. Lots of these expectations are around things like what we wear, who we are affectionate with and how we present our bodies. As LGBT people we push the boundaries around how we use our bodies. Even a simple act like two men holding hands challenges societal norms about how a “man” is expected to use his body.

The article is frustrating for me to read, but not surprising. I think there are a lot of folks that fall into the LGBT spectrum that don’t understand why we’re lumped together. For a lot of my gay and lesbian friends their sexual orientation is really simply about whom they love. For me, it’s more complex; it’s about being a person whose body has been policed his entire life, it’s about for most of my adolescence trying to force myself to try to act like a regular boy, it’s about consistently being punished by teenage boys for how I carried my body, pronounced my words and showed affection.

And my LGBT identity, my desire to find queer family and my slightly left of left politics stem from a life experience that has shown me a need for LGBT folks to build collective voice, shown me a need to recognize how experiences of marginality are linked and begin to demand for collective liberation and a time when we can all begin to understand the gravity with which MLK said “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice anywhere”. My ability to be my whole and complete self rests on my recognizing that so long as women are raped, so long as genocides continue, so long as young queer boys keep killing themselves I am not fully free.

This brings me to my analysis of the recent media coverage of LGBT teen suicides.

The thread that’s tying these acts of violence (bullying) and acts of desperation (suicide) are deeply rooted in a culture that rewards and punishes folks around how they use their bodies. From day one our bodies are policed, coded as male or female, and forever forced to conform to what folks expect of a male-bodied or female-bodied person. Transgressions to these expectations are punished. As young boys we are taught to police other boys so as not to have our masculinity threatened. We are taught over time that violence, both physical and mental, is the appropriate reaction when someone is using their body in a way that threatens what it means to be male or female.

The narrative is older than any one of us can imagine. A power dynamic has been created where we have given agency to violent policing of the body. It’s engrained in us.

Until we learn new shared meanings around how folks are allowed to use our bodies, until we disrupt a deep rooted historical narrative, until we stop expecting effeminate 12 year olds to “be strong and power through”, people will continue to die.

I cannot accept the fact that bullying just happens. It’s taught. And has real and devastating implications. We need to work toward new meaning about our bodies and demand that we all have the power of self-determination around how we carry our bodies.