In a clip from a recent reality TV show, a gay guy is arguing with a Chinese woman who had invited the Red Cross to take blood, telling her that she had invited a group which hates him. He says, “You just wouldn’t understand, because you’re not a minority.” Flabbergasted, she points out that she’s Chinese. A couple weeks ago, I saw a video of a guy on twitter saying that Lady Gaga shouldn’t be a gay icon since she doesn’t know what it’s like to face discrimination and hate every day of one’s life. Someone pointed out his mistake regarding Lady Gaga’s sexuality-- she’s bi. However, I think this correction was inane because the discrimination women in the entertainment industry face is well documented, probably more so than a white, gay lawyer living in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC.
“No pride for some of us without liberation for all of us”: Trans people and LGBTQ+ people of color have fought for recognition and equality within the LGBT movement. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.
I once pointed out to a friend the difference between the difficulties faced by women and gay men. He pushed it off as just pointless “oppression Olympics.” He said that instead of saying which minority group is more marginalized or discriminated, we need to unite to focus on the actual enemy, i.e., straight, white men. But I disagree. I think playing “oppression Olympics” is actually quite valuable, because oppression is varied and nuanced. It is misinformed and dangerous for gay men to act like the discrimination they’ve faced is the same as that which is faced by a woman, a trans person, or a person of color.
Because I don’t just think discrimination against males today is different. I don’t think it exists. My argument isn’t speculative. It’s experiential. I genuinely have never faced it. And it’s not for a lack of searching. I grew up in a very poor and religious family, ended up going to foster care where I attended a public school in the south, and then transferred my sophomore to a Catholic high school up here in Michigan after I came to live with relatives. At Michigan, I’ve never faced any discrimination through my involvement in Greek life, although it’s an environment often considered a bedrock for it. I’m clearly gay; it’s obvious to anyone coming in contact with me. And I have never been called “fag” on the street. I asked many of my gay friends if they’ve ever been called “fag” on the street, and although they said that they’ve heard it happens, they’ve never experienced it. Now there are stories of it happening. But the data doesn’t indicate that this is a large issue. In 2018, there were 1,200 hate crimes against gays according to the FBI. Now that may sound large, but since there are about 16,400,000 gays in the United States, this means that a gay person has a 0.007% of experiencing a hate crime.
Now, I am in no way suggesting that gay discrimination never existed. I know quite well the way homophobia destroyed and limited gay Americans up until the 2010’s. Nor am I suggesting that it doesn’t exist in other countries. But in America, there has been a huge shift. Between 2010 and 2018, the percentage who opposed gay rights went down by 43%, while the percentage of those who oppose gay marriage went down by almost 55%, according to News Gallup polls. Between 2009 and 2017, it’s gone up for Millenials by 28%, 32% for Boomers and 35% for the Silent Generation. Therefore, the increase of support can’t just be a generational change. The trend of support for gay marriage going up is for all generations.
Data on the financial status of the LGBT community found that gay men make an average $64,000, which is more than $20,000 more than what women make on average. Gay men now make more than straight men. The most recent study to be conducted showed no evidence that a person’s sexuality affects their ability to get a job. On the other hand, women are paid far less than men, have far less jobs of power, and see much less financial mobility. There’s a strong explanation for this besides just a modernizing society. In her on pragmatic ethics, which argues that societies can progress morally and reject previous views just like scientists do, University of Michigan Philosophy professor Dr. Elizabeth Anderson argues that when a minority tries to reason for their rights, they’re rarely successful. What is successful is when a group acts like they deserve rights. The argument is incredibly accurate for gay rights. Post Obergefell v. Hodges, gay marriage became normal, which accelerated the visibility of gay marriage and gay individuals, which itself made them more normal, and made them more acceptable. The difference between Obergefell v. Hodges and the laws mandating civil rights was segregation. It was easier for people to accept the gay couple next door because they lived next door.
Now, cases of anti-discrimination happen. The news covers it extensively when it occurs. But it’s important to realize the extent of the discrimination. I can’t give blood. And while that is upsetting and does single me out for different treatment, my life is in no way substantially affected by that. The most high-profile case of discrimination was someone not baking a wedding cake for a gay couple. And while I am sure that it was terrible to be treated that way, there was literally a bakery down the street which offered the couple a free cake, and support for them was wide. Although the Supreme Court sided with the baker, they did so on very narrow grounds due to procedural faults of the prosecution of the baker. The ruling affirmed that “gay persons and gay couples cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth.” At the end of the day, the discrimination is being denied by one bakery for a wedding cake. I am very sure that any discriminated class from US history would love to give up their difficulties in exchange for being denied by one baker to make them a wedding cake.
Gay discrimination happens. Bullying of gay boys happens. But the anger to it is always wide, followed by wider support of the victims. This is good. And this doesn’t mean that the times when it does happen isn’t a problem. It absolutely is. But, we have bigger fish to fry. I will never experience what women, racial minorities, and transgender people face each day. It is ignorant and dangerous to think that I do, like so many gays do. While yes, this is playing “oppression Olympics,” it is useful to acknowledge and understand this. If we focus on just anyone who isn’t a white, straight, cis, wealthy male, we will result in social progress in places where it’s not as needed. Discrimination is nuanced, and yes, it’s also varied. All of this doesn’t mean that what gays have faced in the past, even but ten years ago, wasn’t destructive and horrible then. But, “it’s gotten better.” We should be incredibly elated about this. Acting like it’s not the case is problematic because we limit resources available to us which we can use fighting actual and wide discrimination against classes of people who face what we faced. We should be focusing on them, since we know exactly what it’s like.