Those of us who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) are often viewed as marginalized because we are not part of the dominant sexual orientation culture, which is heterosexuality.
Though in recent years, with an ever growing presence of lesbian and gay pop culture celebrities (ex: Ellen DeGeneres), characters on TV (ex: Modern Family), as well as growing public and government support for same sex marriage, it seems the margins are getting smaller–at least for some. Still, there are challenges certain sub-populations of LGB communities face when it comes to experiencing oppression inside of a marginalized community.
I will explore the issues faced by three specific sub-populations within the LGB spectrum: bisexuals, women, and people of color. I will also discuss some of the consequences oppression can have on a person’s emotional wellness. But I will not address gender identity (transgender persons) intentionally, to avoid the trap of lumping sexual orientation and gender identity into the same category, since they are very different things.
Bisexuals often receive a lack of acceptance regarding their sexual orientation from lesbians and gays as well as heterosexuals. Often, these groups don’t see bisexuality as a valid sexual orientation and that the bisexual person needs to “choose a side” in order to be accepted. This creates a level of marginalization for bisexual individuals that can make it difficult to feel validated for who they truly are and how they feel.
This can cause stress, anxiety, depression and low self worth, due to the lack of validation in their day-to-day lives. The individual may feel that he or she does, indeed, need to “choose a side” in order to alleviate the tension. In addition, while public discourse has advanced quite a bit regarding gays and lesbians, with TV programs featuring same sex couples and others showing various aspects of the gay and lesbian experience, one is hard pressed to find a similar level of discourse about bisexual persons.
Seeing examples of people like themselves in popular media is what often helps minority groups (of any kind) feel a greater sense of self worth. The dearth of examples further contributes to the marginalization many bisexual persons experience.
At times, women are also marginalized in mainstream gay and lesbian culture. I know this may sound counter-intuitive, as the dominant sub-populations that exist in sexual minority communities are gay men and lesbian women. However, if you look at the social scene in most cities across the United States, you’ll find that there are very few lesbian bars, clubs, and social spaces in general as compared to those for gay men. Additionally, there are quite a few websites and apps dedicated specifically for gay and bisexual men to meet each other, whereas there are not as many for lesbians.
The lack of social spaces and modes of meeting other women, especially if there are no bars or clubs in a particular locality, can leave many lesbian women feeling isolated, making it difficult to date and find a partner. Furthermore, in some gay male dominated spaces, there is an anti-lesbian sentiment that exists, which leads to further marginalization of lesbians in some communities. All of this can lead to lesbians feeling that there are very few social spaces welcoming of them and dedicated to them for enjoying each other, as well as for finding refuge from oppressive forces many experience in their day-to-day lives.
Of course this marginalization can also lead to feelings of isolation, depression, anxiety and low self worth among other issues that place a burden on their emotional wellness.
The third sub-population among LGB communities that may find themselves oppressed are people of color. Unfortunately racism exists within LGB communities. Sometimes this oppression comes in the form of dress codes in clubs that will not allow someone to enter in hoodies or wearing baseball caps, etc. Sometimes it is the more subtle exclusion of activities that might be of more interest to people of color or explicit inclusionary practices within social groups.
While many cities around the country have Black gay prides, very few have prides for other racial or ethnic groups. Additionally, these celebrations are one-time-a-year events. There are few social spaces for LGB people of color to attend throughout the year that openly affirms who they are. This can lead to the same effects previously discussed for other sub-populations such as low self worth, anxiety, isolation and depression.
What is important here is that as individuals we realize when our spirit may have been diminished or broken as a result of distressing experiences we have throughout our lives. We cannot place a cost on our emotional wellness, yet for many of us, it is not prioritized the same as our physical health. Here, at Talkspace, we are working to remove the stigma related to engaging in therapy, and provide a space for people to access therapy in a professional and supportive environment. What is also amazing here is that the issue of geographical location between you and the therapist is not an issue. As long as you have a device that can connect to the Internet, you can receive therapy.
And, if you feel afraid of seeking therapy in your town because of homophobia or because you don’t want others to know about your sexuality — Talkspace is ideal service for you. You can access safe, non-heterosexist, and supportive counseling, which can help you deal with your life challenges, whether they are rooted in your sexuality or not. There are few feelings better than living in a space of emotional wellness. So, take the plunge and engage in therapy!
As an LGB person, if you feel you are living life on the margins–that you are experiencing oppression that is damaging your spirit, let us help you revitalize yourself.
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