Originally Heard on the John Selig Outspoken Podcast
Lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people are in a fairly unique position in that most of us are quite different from our immediate families. That is one major reason why the coming out process is so difficult for us. Every minority faces prejudice in one form or another. However, a child who confronts prejudice based on their race, religious preference or nationality can turn to their parents for support and guidance. But those of us who are LGBT are often fearful for good reason. If our own families knew the truth about our sexual orientation or gender identity we might have to contend with any of the prejudices held by members of our own family. So we typically suffer in silence without the support structure that is readily available to other minorities.
Although we share a commonality of sexual orientation or gender identity with others in the LGBT community we, in fact, are a microcosm of society as a whole. We are comprised of people from every race, nationality, age, gender, occupation, level of education and religious prefernce. In spite of the fact, that we are the one group that still is okay to hate in many corners of society, it always astounds me that so many of us bring the prejudices from society to bare against each other. One would think that with all the hate that we endure that we would go out of our way to prevent ourselves from being perpetrators of prejudicial behavior towards other LGBT people.
I have asked myself where prejudice comes from and I believe I have a good theory. Certainly there is hate that goes back through history that is the result of groups that have been at war for many generations. It is no surprise that there is no love lost between the Greeks and the Turks, or between the Roman Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. Had George W. Bush been a student of history he would have known prior to his overthrowing of Saddam Hussein that the pandemonium that would be unleashed after such an undertaking would take place between Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.
People are not born with prejudice. It is something that they learn. They learn it from members of their family, from classmates, from friends, from propaganda from their government and media and unfortunately from the pulpit as well. I am amazed that prejudice and the hate that comes from it are so easy for people to grasp onto.
I believe that most of us suffer from insecurity at different times in our lives that results in low self–esteem. One way to artificially boost our sense of self worth is find another group to marginalize so that we can feel better than them. In that way we aren’t “less than.” Rather than embracing differences we learn to become fearful of them. Although prejudice is no substitute for accomplishment or for happiness it’s an artificial quick fix to feelings of worthlessness. It is sad that one is able to feel better about themselves by degrading another group of people.
With all of pain and suffering that each of us in the LGBT community has faced one would think that we would be less likely to pass on additional suffering to each other by adopting prejudice. Unfortunately, far too many of us pass on prejudice all to readily. Within our community I have witnessed, racism, sexism, ageism and anti–Semitism. I have met LGBT folks that hate women, men, Latinos, Jews, old people, young people, African Americans, Moslems, drag queens, effeminate men, butch lesbians; the list goes on. I find this to be extremely sad. I don’t like everybody that I meet. But if I don’t like somebody it isn’t because they’re from a different background than my own.
Personally I rejoice in the differences between people. I believe that diversity makes our culture richer. I have been fortunate in that I have had friends throughout my life from different countries, different faiths, different races and different sexual orientations and gender identities. How boring my life would be if it were filled with only people just like me.
The fact that Rodolfo and I are from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds adds so much richness to our relationship. I continue to learn so much from him and cherish the different viewpoints he has based upon his journey through life. Certainly, all relationships, be they between spouses, coworkers, or friends require understanding plus give and take. But growing to understand the differences between us makes us each wiser and stronger.
It has been a pleasure to explore the Latino LGBT community through Fernie Sanchez, Sergio Chapa and Jesus Chairez. I look forward to exploring the many different sub–cultures that make up the rich tapestry of the LGBT community during future episodes of “John Selig Outspoken.” The more bridges we build the faster and further we will grow and gain the rights we all deserve.
© 2007 John R. Selig. All rights reserved.