By Marina Braga
"Patriarchy, we are not passing by or for just here for a quick stay. We will resist, day after day, your looks of repulsion and your desire to exclude all lesbian and bisexual women...."
--Jéssica Ipólito, "01 desejo: o jazido patriarcal"
In our society, lesbians and bisexual women are rarely taken seriously by the mainstream -- and the same thing happens in the LGBT community. "They just need some good dick." "They are only confused -- after all, they're women." We live in a phallocentric world that doesn't accept women's choices and desires. It's very easy to get called a "slut" nowadays; all it takes is for a woman to say that she doesn't need a man to be happy.
The homophobia that lesbians and bisexual women endure is especially intense: Machismo and misogyny frequently accompany it. Cases of "corrective rape" and a lack of protective public policies make the lives of these women miserable. And neither the LGBT community nor feminist groups offer much support.
Of all the kinds of violence against women that exist, perhaps the most severe is being pressed into silence and invisibility.
Mankind has created a political plan that requires us to live in a deep desolation, in a huge and profound abyss. The plan is called heteronormativity. The old name for this was "compulsory heterosexuality," during a time when homosexuality was considered a disease. Not long ago, non-heterosexual people were considered anomalies, or curiosities at best. And many people still believe that sexuality is inextricably attached to gender. Lesbian or bisexual identity is unintelligible because it resists that old correspondence. For example, a man can be homosexual, but he can't identify himself with the feminine. The same thing happens to women: A lesbian woman can't identify herself with the masculine.
The app Grindr, which has replaced online chat rooms, offers great examples of how deeply heteronormativity and patriarchal ideals permeate our society. In many profiles you can read, "Not into fems."
In the gay universe, being effeminate is a flaw, and if you identify yourself as "fem," you can be quickly rejected. The guy you are trying to reach will say, "I'm masc, and I don't like fems." Many times, in order not to miss out on opportunities, feminine gay men pretend they are deeply masculine, assuming a gender expression that doesn't fit them. That happens because they want to feel accepted and respected in the gay community.
The feminine, and everything related to it, seems to be a big taboo for many gay people. That's where the sexist, misogynist and transphobic view that says that a trans woman is no more than a man dressed as a woman comes from.
The hidden sexism in jokes and conversation might acknowledge that an individual can be gay, while asking, "Why must they be effeminate?" For some, those who embrace a feminine identity are damaging the reputation of the gay community.
I was on Facebook the other day when I read something that exemplifies my thoughts: "Homophobia is sexist." And it's true. Both homophobia and sexism are part of the structure of the patriarchy. They are the most enduring building blocks in the construction of prejudice. And when those ideas come from within the gay community, we have a paradoxical situation. In an attempt to become free of bigotry, some gay people end up practicing other kinds of bigotry. In an attempt to fight exclusion, they end up excluding part of their own group.
Paulo Freire, in Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1968), says that the oppressed, when given the chance, can become the oppressor, as a means of transcending their own history of oppression. That's why it is so common to see homophobic gays and sexist women.
An example of this can be found in the way some gay people criticize congressman Marco Feliciano, an evangelical pastor from the Brazilian Christian Social Party (PSC), accused many times of homophobia and racism. Some criticism of Feliciano from the gay community is itself homophobic. In an attempt to condemn his speeches, they call him a "gay bottom" and ask him to "come out of the closet."
In cases like that, when you pay attention to the use of Brazilian Portuguese, where nouns and adjectives are either masculine or feminine, you notice the use of feminine-gendered words to diminish the target.
In our society, which makes assumptions about gender based on genitalia alone, the vagina is used to delegitimize women and transgender people.
It doesn't matter if a woman is a lesbian, transgender, bisexual or heterosexual; she can still be called a "racha," a slur meaning "hatchet wound," referring to what all women supposedly have between their legs. A common defense is that these comments are only joking, that those who take offense lack a sense of humor, that we should accept it and avoid being those politically correct, boring people. Yet with this very humor we obscure the bias within our groups.
When we take a look at the true nature of the patriarchal system, it's easier to understand the question of how people who suffer from bias on a daily basis are able to become oppressors: They are simply enacting the modus operandi of the society around them. We need to understand and fight against the system. When we absorb bias, we end up repeating the oppressor's discourse over and over again, even unconsciously. And with that we only keep the status quo intact.
This post originally appeared on HuffPost Brazil and was translated into English.