Stigma in the Queer Community
We came up with an (unfortunately) long list of stigmas that affect the queer community during our first workshop. From that list we chose to focus on the following in our discussions:
Most gay men have been shamed for their feminine traits at some point in their lives – it’s particularly cruel when we criticize each other for our femininity. “MASC4MASC” or “NO FEMS” blazoned across dating profiles can make the feminine guys among us feel unwanted and invisible. Gender-policing ourselves or our friends for appearing “too gay” can also wound us.
Tops vs. Bottoms and Slut-Shaming
Tops tend to be perceived as more powerful and desirable than bottoms – and claiming a versatile identity can be seen as trying to deny your true “bottom-ness.” These sexist ideas extend to slut-shaming, where – much like women who get called sluts, while men are seen as studs when they’re both having lots of sex – bottoms tend to be seen as “sluttier” than tops.
Similar to inherited sexism from heterosexual society, racism comes from centuries of oppression that have created major institutions and mainstream media that largely exclude people of colour. This sets the stage for online dating profiles to proclaim “WHITES ONLY” or “NO BLACKS, NO ASIANS, SORRY JUST A PREFERENCE.” Yet, can we really call these preferences when they are shaped by living in a racist society?
Going in the other direction, when racialized bodies aren’t excluded they tend to be exoticized and fetishized – stereotypes about “big-dicked Black tops” and “submissive Asian bottoms” persist in the queer community, and can influence whom we choose to date or have sex with.
What can we do about stigma?
It helps to remember that many of these stigmas can be traced back to the larger heteronormative, sexist, and racist society in which we live – and that when we ourselves feel insecure, we can feel the desire (sometimes subconsciously) to put others down in order to make ourselves feel better. So it’s important to raise awareness about these issues and try to find ways to address them, so that we stop hurting each other – inadvertently or otherwise.
How do we deal with all of this? A good place to start is to recognize when we ourselves are perpetuating these stigmas and work on changing our attitudes or actions. Perhaps we stay quiet when friends or acquaintances make offensive comments – these are good opportunities to speak up and encourage positive change in our community. We can’t change everyone, but we can start with changing ourselves and encouraging the people we know to do better.
When these stigmas are affecting us, we can talk about it and search for support. Surrounding ourselves with people who value and respect us is a good way to practice self-care, and to remind us that these stigmas usually come from ignorance.
OurSpace events bring together a great mix of guys who are socially aware and want to build positive communities. Many of them tell us they enjoy connecting with other guys and talking about important issues outside of a bar or academic setting.
We hope to see you at one of our events soon!
Sunday, June 5, 11:30am at TIFF: OurSpace does Inside Out
Saturday, June 25, 12:30pm at Trinity Bellwoods Park: OurSpace Pride Picnic
Written by Liam McElheron