“No South Asians and no Asians. I am not racist, that’s just my preference”;
“I am not into Fatties, Fems or Oldies… not my type”;
“Trans rights do not affect lesbian women or gay men”;
“I am gay but not a queen. I can pass off as straight.”
If you read these statements in disbelief, it is very likely you are not a member of the LGBTI community because if you were, you would’ve seen, read or heard some, if not all of these, before. Last month, as news about Melbourne gay club Poof Doof’s exclusionary guidelines for photographers hit the headlines, the LGBTI community came face-to-face, yet again, with the ugly monster chipping away at our progress in achieving equality and social acceptance – bilateral hate.
Defined as the hostility between sub-cultural groups in the LGBTI community, it most commonly manifests as internalised homophobia, racism and transphobia. As a gay man of colour; an Australian citizen of Indian origin, I know what I am talking about because I have, for the lack of a better phrase, been at the receiving end of (unprovoked) bilateral hate. I know, with certainty, I am not the only one.
As prejudices go, bilateral hate’s harmful impacts are intersectional. It is the reason why mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, body image and self-esteem issues are disproportionately more common in certain sections of the LGBTI community. Imagine, for a second, how a young gay person of colour, a trans-person or a young cisgender gay man labelled ‘too skinny’ feels when they face discrimination within their own community? Life has dealt them a double blow. Not only are they up against discrimination from heterosexual men and women, but, from their homosexual counterparts too.
Research proves social isolation arising from discrimination triggers a sense of imbalance and loss of identity. In my advocacy work as a mental health speaker, I have come across young men, asylum seekers, trans-people and people of colour, who have asked me about better acceptance and representation in the LGBTI community.
This is why I am participating in Mr Gay Pride Australia 2019. I want to put forward a message of greater acceptance and less hostility in the community. I am standing up because we all know change comes from within the system. So, will you join me in promoting respect for all LGBTI members and reducing bilateral hate?