In high school, I remember losing the will to continue living, wishing for death, not because I knew that I liked men, but because I knew how I would be treated for liking them. Every day in the closet felt void of color. I make these personal statements about my sexuality to demonstrate, perhaps vividly, a situation that either strengthens or kills LGBT people.
Montevallo’s recent panel on the “threat” posed by the Non-Discrimination Ordinance remains on my mind mostly because it seemed as if the speakers could not see from the perspectives of LGBT people, especially from the perspectives of LGBT children contemplating suicide around the country and around the world. While the panelists seemed to view LGBT people as sex acts, not as human beings, I assert that society must recognize the humanity of LGBT people. Regardless of religious, sexual or gender identity, every human being deserves to be treated as a human being. Practicing equality means that an individual or entity provides services equally to all other individuals with no arbitrary exceptions.
The panelists’ remarks implied that the only acceptable and permissible sexuality is heterosexuality, meaning that one must be heterosexual or one must not be. As humans, however, we use sexuality to communicate and to bond with one another, expressing sexuality differently — not always in adherence to male-female relationships.
Sexuality can be beautiful, free and liberating if we remove it from the confines of male dominance and female submission. The speakers, however, seemed to be in favor of the rigid tradition of heterosexuality in which men possess women. Within such a view no beautiful, free or liberating sexuality can exist. In this way, human sexuality twists into an act a person does because of some absurd biological or religious destiny. Such a mindset accounts for the failure to fully outlaw marital rape across the United States of America until 1993. Contrary to the idea of enforced and regulated heterosexuality, I assert that sexuality and love must be free from all repression, for the only beautiful love is free love.
One of the speakers shared concerns, undoubtedly voiced by other individuals like him, that allowing people to use “privacy facilities” (e.g., locker rooms and restrooms) corresponding to the individuals’ gender identities would infringe on the rights of other presumably cisgender heterosexual individuals using those facilities. Do women not already use women’s restrooms? Do men not already use men’s restrooms? It seems sensible to allow a woman to use women’s facilities. It likewise seems sensible to allow a man to use men’s facilities. Yet, against basic reasoning, the speaker argued that transgender men (i.e., men) should use women’s facilities and that transgender women (i.e., women) should use men’s facilities.
The concepts of “male” and “female” indeed rely on biological sex differences, but chromosomes, genitalia, and hormones do not control the concepts of “man” and “woman” in human perception. The perceiver considers the representation of another person’s gendered self. A transgender man looks like a man. He goes around being a man. He is a man. A transgender woman looks like a woman. She goes around being a woman. She is a woman. While biological sex differences can impact how an individual performs gender, how one performs gender is not biologically predetermined. Rather, one’s expression of the gendered self is a constant project. Typically, people understand the concepts of “man” and “woman” only in terms of visible appearances. As such, individuals continuously perform and express gender on a spectrum.
Tradition and prejudice weigh heavily upon LGBT lives. I understand this weight since it almost crushed me. LGBT people fear conversion therapy. They fear being thrown out of their homes for their identities. They fear rejection from their families, churches and communities. They fear that “justice” will overlook crimes committed against them. I want LGBT people to know that we must fight for the right to visibly exist. Although liberating, visibility hurts, but we must not retreat. We must remain vigilant.
If the status quo considers us a threat, then I think we should accept the challenge.
We threaten existing assumptions about proper human sexuality. We threaten existing assumptions about proper gender performance. We threaten the ridiculous assumptions of heteronormativity and cisnormativity forcefully imposed upon all human bodies.
Oppressed people who reject oppression pose the ultimate threat to the powerful. Once we challenge all forms of supremacy, we will move closer to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness extended to all people. Equal treatment should mean equal treatment, regardless of one’s various identities, including race, gender, class, sexuality, religion, ability and nationality. After breaking the cage of tradition and prejudice, we will fly free if we so please, living our own truths while others choose to live their gay truths or their straight lies.