I think some discussions are community discussions for various reasons. Mainly because I think there are some things that community members understand more clearly and more fully, and just in general, than those outside can. There are elements to being GBLT that straight, cis people quite simply cannot understand. And sometimes we want to discuss those things without having to go back and explain the 101 each time to the straight, cis folk – especially if it may be unexplainable (some things you have to live).
And sometimes – often – I don’t even think straight, cis folk have a place in the discussion. I have been in communities where we have had to break out the tiny violins to play sad, sad songs for outraged straight, cis folks who have told us what they think we should do/think/say/use. We’ve been told, sharply, that none of us care what they think. One of the natures of privilege is an unfortunate habit to take over; an unfortunate habit to assume one knows more than one does; and a distressing habit of presuming to instruct, inform or order marginalized people, despite the ignorance and sheer arrogance of doing so.
And this is before we consider damned ignorant folks stomping on our sore spots. I dislike having discussions about the “closet” in non-controlled spaces, for example, because I am sick to the back teeth of straight people telling me that [a person hiding his sexuality] is just like them hiding their political belief/religion/vegetarianism/favorite 80s cartoon/whatever other grossly inappropriate comparison they want to make. To say nothing of the constant homophobic response of “AT LEAST YOU CAN HIDE!” Ugh! I am not not not having those discussions again. I’m really not.
So, if you want to efficiently discuss (or vent/rant about) some things, you need to do it where you don’t have a heckling audience of clueless people.
OK, all of this is building up to “the othering”. I promise. As for othering…Well, yes, I think some conversations inherently other us. Some discussions we have in straight, cis spaces can be about things that straight, cis people have never experienced and, indeed, can never experience. And that, in and of itself, is othering, simply by calling out unique issues. How can we be anything but other when we’re talking about something so out of the realm of their experience?
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing – sometimes we need the privileged world to see the other. We need them to see that X Y Z isn’t an issue they understand; it’s an other issue so they have to LISTEN to us because they cannot cannot cannot understand it on their own (and some they have to just trust us on this because there is little chance of them understanding at all). In short, we need straight, cis people to look BEYOND the realm of their own experience or at least accept that there IS something beyond the realm of their own experience. And doing so pretty much requires us to invoke the other.
Somewhat tangentially related, but there is something I think we need to add in this context: that is considering WHAT space we’re writing in and why we’re being asked to write there. Being a gay commentator/writer in a non-gay space to a non-gay audience, I often question the motives of the people who have asked me to speak. Once upon a time, invitations to submit a guest post were few and far between and I used to squee rather excessively because zomg, they liked me, they really liked me (Low self-esteem, alas.). I’d write for anyone and anything. But increasingly I have become more… cynical. I’ve checked out blogs/communities/zines I’ve been asked to submit to and sometimes found that they have zero GBLT content. None at all. And I would be the one gay submission in an ocean of straightness. At which point I ask, do they even want to read what I have to say? Do they actually care what I’m talking about? Or do they just want someone they can point to so they can wave some kind of intersectionality banner? Do they want the token gay man so they can pre-emptively defend against claims of heterosexism/homophobia/erasure? Am I contributing or am I quota filling? Am I really part of this, or am I the mascot?