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Catherine Oliver Headshot

Splitting Hairs: Is the LGBT Community Alienating Its Own?

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Labels play a large role in society. Some choose not to identify with a label, while others find a sense of security in a label and use it to define who they are to others. Off the top of your head, how many labels can you think of for the LGBTQ community? Do certain groups not tolerate one another well? In history, the lesbian community and the gay male community have often been at odds. Some facets of the transgender community are hostile toward one another based on personal decisions regarding medical transition or one's choice not to do so.

"Gay." "Lesbian." "Bisexual." "Transgender." "Pansexual." "Genderqueer." "Neutrois." "Non-Identified." "Queer." "Femme." "Butch." The list goes on.

Have you seen examples of these groups alienating one another based on labels? I recently encountered a stream of vitriol aimed at me for being "genderqueer" -- and for my choice not to medically transition. It was implied that I was "less of a man" and therefore somehow inferior to those who chose to take hormone replacement therapy. I asserted my views and tried for common ground. However, it fell upon deaf ears. I was firmly in the "we're all men together, regardless of how we're labeled" camp. Apparently, to this individual, that was the wrong place to be. I've also run into people labeling me or other lesbians based on our societal level of attractiveness. Lesbians, ever heard the "you're too pretty to be gay!" argument? It exists.

If you embrace your label, such as "femme," or "gay," or "pansexual," whatever it may be, how has it helped make your life better? Are you out and proud? Do you use your status to educate others, show a new side of the community, and stand with your LGBTQ brothers and sisters, despite your differences? If you don't identify under a particular label, what do you think of those who allow their identity to be shaped by theirs? How can we as a community come together under one banner and support one another instead of continuing to divide further and further apart?

I use labels in my life for ease of identification to others like me, but I don't discriminate against anyone for choosing to use or not use them. The bottom line is this: regardless of anyone's labels or lack thereof, we're all in this together.