From the Editor: The struggle against prejudice starts within
September 19, 2012 | 12:00 am
(Updated: February 25, 2013 | 10:17 am)
Fall can be a time of reflection. The first whiff of dying leaves and crisp notes in the morning air ushering out the summer heat stir childhood memories of the back-to-school season, the year’s final pool parties and backyard barbecues, old romances and friendships. Transitions. We’ll often notice that with cooler temperatures, our inner-workings are heating up – it’s the chance to look inside ourselves, the chilly breeze contrasting a warmth within. It’s the season to understand ourselves more fully.
During this transition, we often rediscover emotions, reactions or habits along the way that don’t necessarily make us proud.
Sometimes we think that because we as LGBT folks are a minority group, facing day-to-day factors that require us to face prejudice or “come out” all over again in every new setting, that we don’t carry our own prejudices – internalized homophobia, racism, sexism, or other unfair judgments toward ourselves and others. That we don’t have our own blind spots to social advantages we did not earn. We should know better, right?
We often think, “I know what prejudice is. I’m an expert on prejudice.”
Despite some genuine insights we can gain, we are best to always remember we’re still human.
The LGBT community is unique – for the most part, we aren’t raised seeing ourselves as “minorities” as LGBT people. Usually, our parents are straight, and the majority of the people in communities we are raised in are straight. Our families and friends assume we are, or will be, straight. We usually assume we are straight. Growing up, we try to fit in to our social spheres as much as possible, our closest relationships with people who don’t share our difference. As we get older, we begin to increase our understanding of that difference.
Sometimes it’s hard – many of us are raised to frown upon LGBT people, the community that we will join. Because our own interests are at stake, we eventually push through and shake off that prejudice against ourselves, and then face it in relationships with family and friends. That’s what “coming out” is all about.
There are many commonalities in how we move through that, yet our experiences of our sexual or gender identities are also different – because when we come of age and discover our community, we come to it from ethnically and socially diverse starting-points. We come with many other kinds of assumptions and prejudices.
This issue’s cover story delves into the complexity of our struggles; the reality that prejudice exists both inside and out, even if we are “out and proud” members of the movement. Many LGBT people of color shared an understanding that racism and disparities exist both outside and inside our community, and that the community – an invaluable refuge for many of us – is still not as welcoming to everyone as it should be.
The leaders, activists and others we talked to maintained a common goal and attitude: In order to be our best selves, we have to be willing to put our own prejudices under scrutiny. Having them doesn’t make us inherently “bad” – admitting we may have them, and then learning to open up and listen to another person’s view or experience, is the only way to not have them anymore.
When we came out, we forced our families and friends to see and respond to their prejudices against LGBT people. We understood that the relationship required introspection, reflection and change from them. It was not “judging” our families and friends to simply ask them to review how they’d misjudged us. It’s through that insight that we can overcome fear and think about where we, too, should change.
Out Front is the platform for the community to talk about issues like racism, sexism, homophobia and stereotypes. We aspire to be the connecting point for subtle realizations or a more strengthened dialogue between minority groups, in all forms.
Through the stories we share, maybe we all begin to realize that although we sometimes feel powerless with regards to how other people treat us, or the legal rights granted us by the political system, we have a choice. And we have a voice.
The only person we have the ability to really change, is ourselves. And hopefully, by lending our open ears and expanding the dialogue, we get a bit closer to unifying our individual human experience.
Rather than make excuses for our behaviors, we have the option to live with intent, and the true belief that change is possible, within ourselves first, but also in the larger community. Our voices give us power, but only if we start with an open ear, and an open mind.