Typically, when people think of the LGBTQIA+ community it is often met with a level of hesitancy. Those on the periphery, looking in, who are not active participants or self-identifying supporters are often overwhelmed with conflicting feelings. On one hand, not wanting to put a ‘foot in your mouth’ and expose a lack of education regarding the topic. On the other, believing that gendered conversations are reserved for those with lived experiences i.e., Women and those who identify as LGBTQIA+. These misconceptions can be a contributing factor to people’s indifferent attitude towards LGBTQIA+ discussions and people, rather than catalysts to these crucial conversations.
As someone who frequently prefers to observe in most contexts, I have witnessed the rapid progressiveness of the LGBTQIA+ community particularly, how the development of contemporary gender-associated concepts, attitudes, and practices have transcended and become more commonplace in our everyday lives. On a macro scale, we have seen how the community has influenced societal laws; reflected in the mention of the prioritisation of banning conversion therapy (let’s hope inclusive of all members of the LGBTQIA+ community) announced in the Queen’s 2022 speech. Similarly, on a micro-scale, I’ve observed an increase in the number of people including their personal pronouns in email signoffs and social media profile headers. On the surface, these changes may seem intangible, however, they help normalise a level of vulnerability typically reserved for our loved ones by bringing these practices to the mainstream.
Despite these acknowledgements, there are still many people who question the relevance of Queerness in their lives. Although the colours of the rainbow with the recent additions in the progress flag are highly symbolic of some of the core values of the LGBTQIA+ community, membership can often feel like a black and white affair; you are either in or out, with or against. As someone who has experienced this pressure caused by an increased wider social responsibility, I hope that reading this will help others resonate more with LGBTQIA+ friends, colleagues, and family members. As well as encourage people to be more cognizant of the positive ways in which this community, along with other underrepresented groups have contributed to transforming society.
The LGBTQIA+ community have reinforced the importance of self-awareness and being mindful in knowing that perception is not reality; the use of pronouns demonstrates this thinking. Heteronormative interactions are typically based on conventional outward appearance, features, and stereotypes, hence this perception stunts people’s comprehension of others who are different. This results in the loss of valuable opportunities to see the world through others’ eyes and the emotional development from which comes from transitioning from a sympathiser to an empathiser. The use of pronouns in traditionally conservative spaces i.e., work environments has challenged people to use these identifiers as tools to subtly increase awareness of potential daily struggles without initiating awkward or enduring intrusive conversations.
For example, take Sally working in hospitality, who may naturally be perceived as similar if not the same as their female counterparts working in that department. However, with Sally’s pronouns being He/They, this added layer of information helps to maintain individualism as well as establish boundaries as it reinforces how Sally would like to be addressed and how they would like to be perceived. Importantly, Sally’s pronouns provide some insight into some of the daily challenges that they may experience. Although this may be a very specific example, beneath is a broader familiar message – there is more than meets the eye. Mindful interactions are crucial to keeping up and staying engaged in an ever-evolving society; individuals who identify as LGBTQIA+ are a physical reminder of this.
On social platforms, LGBTQIA+ people are portrayed as having a heightened sensitivity recently exhibited by the controversy sparked by Dave Chappelle’s Netflix comedy special. This resulted in the uproar of transgender people along with their allies in response to the transphobic undertone of the comedy show. Despite, the comedic intentions, the LGBTQIA+ community still anticipated the harm such statement could have on the safety of transgender people. However, why is it that when antisemitic and racist jokes are made there is not an equal response? This raises the question, are LGBTQIA+ people sensitive, or has society been desensitised?
Social media platforms’ facilitation of global connectivity has exposed viewers to violence and injustice. Through livestreams, we’re able to exist in multiple contexts simultaneously, transcending boundaries created by time and space. The everydayism of discrimination, gendered and hate crimes have contributed to the trivialisation of these acts.
The LGBTQIA+ community’s ‘loud and proud’ and ‘unapologetic’ attitude unconsciously encourages and enables other societal groups to be more vocal and raise awareness of the challenges facing their community. In recent years we have witnessed more public demonstrations about varying social and political issues from Black Lives Matter to anti-vaccine protests. LGBTQIA+ people’s embodiment of ‘loud and proud’ is a frequent reminder of the importance of maintaining a level of sensitivity as this is crucial for preserving democracy and creating change.
In closing every group in society has something offer by way of improving society. Especially during this month of PRIDE, it is important for people to recognise and appreciate the subtle ways in which Queerness has enhanced all our lives by increasing our self-awareness, mindfulness, and sensitivity.