So I’m sure some of you have seen the video floating around the internet lately. The LGBTQAlphabet, that may be one of the more inclusive queercentric videos around in terms of ethnic minorities but still manages to somewhat shit the bed when it comes to… y’know. Queer marginalisation. It’s garnered a lot of critique for choosing ally instead of asexual (top of the video, too!) as well as including terms like heteroflexible (what even is that?), s&m and kink whose place in the queer community is… debatable. Queer people may have kinks, but you’re not queer because of your kinks. That sort of thing.
The thing that gets me with this video is the same thing that always gets me when it comes to the queer community. There’s a ridiculous focus on gender and attraction as being a sexual thing. I went to the opening ceremony of Sthlm Pride a couple of years ago and the opening speech talked about how you’re included regardless if you’re “here with your long time partner or just meeting someone for the night”. If you’re not having sex, you’re not part of this. That message continues to ring clear and not having any sort of representation of asexuality or, indeed, romantic attraction as opposed to sexual attraction, continues to feed into that idea. Queer is sex.
Media tells us much the same thing, or used to at least. I love Lip Service, because a lot of that storyline is about relationships rather than fucking, though there’s a lot of fucking as well. Same reason I couldn’t stand the L Word for more than an episode – there was a huge focus on sex, on lesbians as sexual beings, on gay men as promiscuous, on the whole queer community as a series of fabulous, glittery sweaty one night stands with feather boas and leather thongs. None of this is bad, but I still believe the focus on it is. It brings it to the physical rather than a question of identity, perpetuates the idea of what a queer person looks like, soft femme versus hard butch, a never ending question about what trans people look like when they’re naked. Sex is physical. Love isn’t, identity isn’t, the constant marginalisation and discrimination of queer people isn’t physical, even if it takes physical form.
A lot of people watched that video and were touched by it. Good for them, I wouldn’t dream of taking that away from them but I watched that video and felt tired. We’re vogue, we’re kink, we’re muscular and beautiful and yes I get that it’s a celebration but why is that the only side that gets to be celebrated? If we always look like a circus act, why would we ever be seen as something other than clowns? I’m not asking for that part to be cut off but there has to be more, diversity can’t only be skin deep. Where are my fat queers, my disabled queers, my asexual peers? Where are the rainbow families? The retirees? You know, the people I actually see marching in Pride parades alongside all the glitter and glam?
You can’t start a video advocating queer rights and start with A for Ally. You can’t make a video about the queer community and strip it of community, boil it down to a handy dandy list of things that more or less fit in with the narrative but still manages to cut out huge swaths of the people who live under the queer umbrella.
Ultimately it’s about discrimination based on identity, not sex. We don’t have sex at work, but we can still get fired for who we have sex with at home, or be kept from visiting our partners in hospital, or be told we’re abnormal freaks because we don’t want to have sex at all. Maybe it was an attempt to not politicise the queer community, but it is a political issue. It’s hard to look at that video and feel good, when so many of my friends are excluded in favour of things that read as sexier than them.