so there’s a story from my life that i think a lot of inclusionists would benefit from hearing.
this story starts about four years ago, when fifteen year old me still thought i was bi and knew fervently as hell that I Am Trans. i had a terrible, terrible shoulder length haircut, and i decided one day i was going to go to my school’s gsa meeting.
now at this point i’m out to one person in the whole world, and i’m fucking shaking as i walk into this shitty public school classroom that hasn’t changed pretty much at all since like 1962. that first time, i sat on a desk in the back row shaking like a leaf and didn’t say a word to anyone.
but that year, our gsa’s president was aj, who was nonbinary and awesome, and they smiled at me and wore batman boxers and went to glsen meetings in the city on the weekend, and slowly i learned that not only could it be ok to be trans, it could be amazing.
but that is not the point of this story.
the point of this story is that that year, i felt safe. there were gay adults there who made sure we were all safe, and other gay kids who had fought tooth and nail and carved out this club from the highschool that didn’t want to give it to them. sure, there were one or two straight kids, but it didn’t matter, and they sure as hell were never excluded. they didn’t feel the need to take up extra space, or make sure everyone knew they were Straight. they were there because their friends were there, or they really believed in the cause, even if it was just giving a group of suburban gay kids a safe room.
and much like the exclusionist/inclusionist discourse, there was never a concentrated effort on either part to other each other- until there absolutely was.
my junior year, our gsa president was a cishet guy. in case anyone i know reads this, i’ll call him harry. harry was a great guy, and he really believed in lgbt rights. he shouldn’t have been president, though. because once we made the “face” of the lgbt movement in our school a straight guy, it suddenly became cool to come to gsa meetings if you were a straight kid. and believe me, you knew who was gay and who wasn’t when you walked in that room.
the straight kids would stumble in in packs of four or five, and always sit by the window, eating most of the food and laughing and whispering to themselves. they talked over us, and when i (one of the two vice presidents) ran the meetings, you could feel the giant question mark in the air. more than once, i had people misgender me, flounder about with their hands even though i had already told everyone my pronouns, and on one memorable occasion, had someone actually ARGUE with me when i said i used he/him. in the gsa. the one club in the entire school for lgbt kids. someone told me i was straight up wrong- that i wasn’t a guy.
and of course, it would be disingenuous to not talk about my own bully joining the gsa. joining maybe isn’t the word- he was there before me, and left before i joined- but he came back. he was pretty much the one kid who was the face of gay people in our school, and he was a terrible face to have. he leered at guys in the changing rooms, and watched rupaul like a religion. he was transphobic and thought being a drag queen made you trans. he thought being bi was fake, and was loud and open and vocal about all those things. he also made sure that if we were talking about trans news, everyone knew that he ‘didn’t blame that woman for freaking out that there was a trans woman in her gym’s changing rooms, because after all, trans women are just bad drag queens.’ or that 'lesbians really didn’t matter, because no one really cared about them.’ that made a difference in the tone of the room.(edit: i rewrote this paragraph because it originally sounded homophobic. that wasn’t my intention, and i’m very sorry about that. to be clear, i am a gay trans man, but obviously that doesn’t excuse me from having to think clearly about the way i represent other gay men in my posts.)
walking into that room became more stressful then almost anything i did. i had two eating disorders, worked 25 hours a week, organized our club fundraiser, did tech and acting, and had to deal with my abuser all weekend, and walking into that room was the one thing that made my shoulders hunch in on themselves.
because in that room, everyone knew i was trans, and nearly everyone either thought i was wrong, or thought that was a fun party trick. you can imagine how welcoming it felt for 14 or 15 year old lgbt kids.
slowly, the actual gay kids left, including one of the co-presidents. she was a lesbian of color in a school of almost all white straight kids. in what should have been the one place in school where she could talk about that, she instead had to bottle it up and trade it in for leaving and never talking about it.
the next year, it was even worse. the president was cishet; the vice president was cishet. the cool gay adults who had cared about us and tried so hard to make us safe had hung up the towel, and instead two cishet teachers sat in with us. one of them refused to allow any gay interpretations of her curriculum, and actually gave one of my friends a bad grade on a paper because she argued there were gay undertones in a seperate peace. the other thought that my bully’s jokes about mexican people clamoring to marry americans at the airports (a joke that left my friend in tears when they heard it) was hilarious. the room was full of straight people. occasionally, a few of my friends would come with me, but mostly we would leave early. the cishet freshmen got into fights with the lgbt freshmen, and the lgbt freshmen stopped coming.
it took less than three years for a safe space to become an almost all straight club, all of them piling into a room to laugh at the racist gay kid’s jokes, or to gawk at the rest of us.
some of you might say “that was a small highschool club,” and you’re right!
but this isn’t a small problem.
when you let cishet people into the lgbt community as anything other than staunch, serious allies, you start taking away lgbt people’s voices. and we’ve seen this already. cishet aces got representation at pride this year, while lgbt poc couldn’t talk about how they’re being abused, assaulted and murdered at higher rates than any other part of our community. online, tumblr posted pictures of the ace flag, but excluded the lesbian flag.
i understand that you think you really do belong in our community, but you don’t. you deserve your own community, where you feel safe. where you don’t have to argue with us, where you can talk about the issues you face. but that isn’t with us, clearly.
and taking away our voices isn’t going to make yours any louder.