The Feminist Closet
There was a time when referring to the BGLTQ community as “the gay and lesbian community” was considered by many to be inclusive because it included women (as opposed to simply “the gay community”). But I think many people today would, rightfully so, point out that it’s exclusive of people who are transgender, non-binary, gender non-conforming, bisexual, asexual, pansexual, and countless other identities. And I’m sure that in 10 years, our current names for the community (such as BGLTQ, LGBTQ+, LGBTQIAP+, etc.) will seem outdated and exclusive to most people.
We’re often told that home is meant to be a safe, warm, comforting place that we can always return to for unconditional love. Quotes like “There’s no place like home” or “Home is where the heart is” reinforce this notion. Mix in the idea of holiday joy and you get the popular conception of going home for the holidays being an accepting, cheerful experience filled with unconditional love from family and others close to your heart.
I remember the first time I ever heard the word “gay” used in a classroom setting. It was early on in my first year, and I was shopping a class on the history of sexuality. Even though I was well aware of the subject matter of the course, hearing a professor even utter the word “gay” still shocked me; queerness felt like a personal topic to grapple with outside of school, not something an academic would concern themselves with. I had long since resigned myself to the fact that most parts of my identity, such as my race, gender, and sexuality, were not worthy of discussion in the classroom. In my mind, people like me did not exist in history. Or if they did, they were not worth remembering.
Last week, I was watching Pose, a TV show about transgender women of color and the ballroom scene in the 1980s, during the AIDS crisis. Produced by trans activist Janet Mock, Pose is making history by having the most trans series regulars on any TV show ever.
In one episode, there’s a scene where Blanca, a trans woman of color, stages a protest at a bar that caters to cisgender gay white men after the bartender and manager refuse to serve her. Here, we see a trans woman who already faces discrimination from cis straight people trying to find solidarity with other queer people at the bar, but she is shunned. The cis gay white men are more interested in upholding their own privilege than building community with trans women of color. This in itself is a strong message, but the show’s creators took it one step further.