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Queer Enough: On Gatekeeping

Queer Enough: On “Gatekeeping” in the LGBTQIA+ Community

Guest Author: Kit Havoc

This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.

One of the first things I remember upon coming out as bisexual at age fourteen was a friend of mine rolling his eyes and declaring, “Bisexuality isn’t real.”

This was my first experience with what is known in the LGBTQIA+ community as “gatekeeping,” an attempt to police what identities are “allowed” in and can access LGBTQIA+ resources, such as mental health services, safe sex education/protection, space in LGBTQIA+ shelters, and many more. Often, these resources can be lifesaving, giving displaced queer youth a safe place to sleep, helping them cope with the toll harassment/discrimination can have on their mental health, and helping them prevent and be educated on STDs, just to name a few.

However, the concept of “gatekeeping” is keeping vulnerable people from these tools that can help them, claiming they don’t qualify to use them because of what basically amounts to “you’re not the right kind of queer.” I’ve heard this often since my coming out, as have many others. Our identities are seen as “too complicated” or “made up” and we are dismissed as being “fakers” trying to “sneak in” to the LGBTQIA+ movement.

Our identities are seen as “too complicated” or “made up.”

The invalidation of one’s identity by a community that was built on the concept of being a space for those discriminated against by the cisheteronormativity of our society can really take a toll on one’s mental health. For example, I’m one of the “weird ones.” After years of playing around with labels for how I experienced attraction, I eventually settled on identifying as asexual panromantic. This means I experience romantic attraction to all genders, but experience no sexual attraction whatsoever. I frequently talk on my blog about what these labels mean to my identity as a queer woman, but, as of late, I have begun to receive regular harassment under the pretence of “asexuality is not a queer identity.” The messages range in tone, from politely attempting to explain why my asexuality doesn’t have a place in the LGBTQIA+ movement, to straight up death threats – I’ve been told “I hope you die” or “please choke” more times than should generally be accepted (which is zero).

As someone who already suffers from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), you can imagine this doesn’t do wonders for my mental health. I’ve become more anxious and stressed every time I upload a post discussing my experiences, worried that more threats will come. I worriedly ask the Queer Space I frequent if I am really allowed there, despite having been for years, because these messages/comments make me fear that I am in fact not “queer enough,” so to speak, to have access to these places.

So many queer people have faced this discrimination from their own community.

My story isn’t unique. So many queer people have faced this discrimination from their own community. Talk to trans women about how they’ve been barred from female-specific queer support groups because they’re “not real women,” nonbinary people who are told they don’t have a place in the movement because “nonbinary isn’t real,” bisexual/pansexual people who are told they’re not welcome because “you’re just faking it,” or asexual/aromantic people who are told they’re “invading” because “not wanting sex doesn’t make you queer.”

Of course, none of this is true – trans women are women, simple as that; nonbinary people exist and have for a very long time; bisexuals/pansexuals are not faking their attraction to multiple genders; asexuals/aromantics are not invading, they have a place in our movement. However, this narrative of exclusion persists, based upon lies and historical revisionism.

Queer people are some of the most vulnerable out there.

One of the most influential events in modern queer history, the Stonewall riots, were started by bisexual trans women (Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera). The “Mother of Pride,” Brenda Howard, was bisexual. These parts of our history are often washed over, their contributions ignored in order to provide a narrative that is more “palatable” to straight people in hopes that they’ll accept us if we don’t make it “too obvious” that we’re not part of the cisheteronormative system. Our history needs to be taught so that attempts at “gatekeeping” are shut down by the knowledge that the people they’re trying to keep out are also the people who helped make our movement and community what it is today.

Queer people are some of the most vulnerable out there, and they should not be kept from lifesaving resources due to their own community judging them as “not queer enough.” There is only one person who can decide if they are “queer enough,” and that is the person themselves. Don’t bar people from something that can provide them desperately needed help because you don’t think they deserve it.

It’s not about you, it’s about them.

Comments

Tiger Lily
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Thank you for sharing this. Yes, not fitting in is very stressful and takes a toll on a person’s mental health. Something I’ve started to notice lately is that, although we say we value diversity, most people struggle with accepting someone who’s different from them. I’m a heterosexual female in my early 40s who’s never been married and doesn’t have kids and some people find me strange, yet I know lots of women like me. I hope you’ve found a home at SNW where you feel accepted. I really enjoyed reading what you wrote.

Katie
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THANK-YOU for contributing this! I am a queer 60-something year old woman and an active advocate for teen and young adult queer and trans people. I help provide a space and a community for a group of mostly trans and non-binary teens, some of whom engage in constant gatekeeping. A few people manage to dominate, making it feel unsafe or unwelcoming to so many. Those hurt the most are the folks the gatekeepers label as “transmeds” because those folks experience huge amounts of body and gender dysphoria and so need the support. (The dysphoria makes it a challenge for them to get there in the first place!) We also have a growing number of people who are on the autism spectrum, and struggle to deal with the negative discourse and private jokes. I am trying to address this thing head on, and also recruit and develop group leadership from within the group. It’s exhausting. Lovely to see folks starting to write about this!!

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