Friday, March 2, 2012

I'm better than you are!

Back when I was young, a nice fresh nineteen, I was working for a convenience store.  The assistant manager was a very nice black woman, who really tried to do little things to take care of me.  (I still have a cute sewing kit she gave me, for example.)  So, I was pretty shocked the day when some Cubans came into the store, and she made a few racists comments about them.  This was my first introduction to something I've experienced a few times since: that there is a tendency in the African American community to be racist towards Latinos.  (NOTE: This is REALLY not an absolute.  It's not even THAT common that I've experienced.)

I found this to be odd.  Wouldn't a people who have been subjugated be against doing the same to others?  Don't they understand how damaging that is?  Why would they intentionally inflict that on others?

I've experienced a similar phenomenon, or rather, several similar phenomena amongst the gay and lesbian community; biphobia and transphobia.  There are some homosexuals who are simply hostile to bisexuals (when they even acknowledge that people can be bisexual) and to transgendered people.  I've heard people say things like, "Bisexuals need to pick a side" or "I'd never date a bisexual, because they'd just cheat on me with a [someone of the opposite sex]."  And of course, the ever popular, "Bisexuals don't exist, they're either just straight people who are experimenting or gay people who aren't ready to accept a gay identity."

The transphobia thing is a little more subtle (though, I admit, only in my experience, if trans people have seen more overt bigotry, please feel free to comment).  One of the things I've seen is, if a trans woman is attracted to men, and therefore does not identify with the LGB community, she is sometimes told she *does* belong there, and she's wrong to thing otherwise.  To me, this really disrespects the idea of who she actually is, and falsely ascribes it to what genitals she may have previously had, or still has.  At the end of the day, I don't think that matters.  If she knows she is a straight woman, why would you say she belongs in a gay community?  Who are you to decide that for her?

The last has to do with the sanitizing of the community as described in this post.  I am very conflicted on this issue (as my comment to the post indicates).  BDSM is not exclusive to the gay community, and gay people are not all kinky.  So, I can very much understand the idea that people would not want to link the two, unnecessarily.  That being said, it's hurtful, when you are in the subculture of a subculture, to have the larger subculture essentially turn it's back on you.  In addition, there seems to be this tendency for people within the gay community to be dismissive of the "pervs".  "I may be a man who likes to have sex with men, but I'm *normal*, unlike those perverts over there!"  Why would anyone feel the need to even make that distinction?

(There's also some really fun distinctions in the feminist activist community.  Straight vs lesbian, white vs racial minority, etc.  But that's not quite what I'm going for, as those are all complicated by a LOT of other factors, so I'm not going to get into that in this post.)

Anyway, these are all examples of pretty much the same thing.  A subjugated group, which is starting to work it's way out of subjugation, turns on another subjugated group, and contributes to this other group's subjugation.  I think of this as the "I'm better than you are" phenomenon.  I've seen something similar on an individual level as well.  When a person is stressed, and worried about losing their job, they may "talk shit" about a fellow employee, so that they look better by comparison.  I often wonder if this is what's at work within these subjugated groups.  If some of their individual members, on some level, feel anxious about their identified group, and so therefore attempts to make their group look better by comparison.  If so, I really wish I knew some effective way of combating this.  (The last example is tricky!  Especially since fetishes are still a taboo subject.)


  1. I read a lot of STFUConservatives posts on tumblr, and am part of the sex-positivity communities there. The concept of intersectionality and not throwing people under the bus is much talked about.