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Queer Umbrella

From what I’ve read this is a pretty common idea. Some people don’t like the use of the word “queer” because of past negative connotations, so they may use GLBT, LGBT, gay, or some permutation of those to describe the same idea.

The queer umbrella started out with just gay men, then expanded to include gay women. There is some argument about this however, because those people who participated in the events that started opening this umbrella, Stonewall being the most obvious one, were possibly trans as well; a lot of them were “cross-dressed” and that’s part of the reason the cops bust in on their scene. Bisexual people were the next to come in under the umbrella, although it probably wasn’t until after the time that the trans- people were included under the umbrella that people who identified as loving/being attracted to a wider spectrum of people than the term “bisexual” usually encompasses were included. There are, of course, many people who are queer or identify as such that don’t fit under these labels or don’t want to be labeled and arguably these people fit under the umbrella too.

The point of an umbrella is to provide coverage and protection for all people who can fit underneath it, whether from rain, snow, or sun. Any lack of inclusion means that there are people who feel queer who aren’t protected in the way that everyone else is.

There are people who have more privileged spots under the umbrella. First, I would argue that those (arguably straight) people who identify as queer, but have entirely straight relationships partake in straight privilege, but still, because of their identification, which may come from any host of reasons, belong under the umbrella. There is a thin line between these people and bisexual people who never engage in relationship-style behaviors with people of their same-sex. Sometimes people of the first group acknowledge that it may be possible for them to be attracted to someone of the same sex, but they never are. Sometimes people in the second group are the same way. I do not place myself in this category, although others who just look at my recent behaviors, would place me there.

Second, I would argues that gay men have a privileged spot under the umbrella. They were the first to be under the protection of the umbrella and for a long time they controlled who the umbrella protected. They are often still considered the voices of the queer community to the straight community. They also get to partake in male privilege.

Third, I would argue that gender-conforming LGB people have a privileged spot under the umbrella. Femme lesbians are what the media presents as representative of the lesbian population. Most of the time they dress and act like they are expected to as women in this society. Anyone who is not gender-conforming is seen as abnormal or deviating from what is accepted by “society” and are treated in accordance with that. It is also easier for people who are gender-conforming to pass as straight if they are in a society that does not look kindly upon queer people or even passes the death sentence upon them.

The discussion of a federal ENDA brought up the issue of whether trans- people are or should be included. After all, many trans- people identify as straight. Does the state of being outside the sexual orientation part of the queer bubble mean that these trans- people should not be included under the queer umbrella? There are ramifications for not having a trans-inclusive ENDA for LGB people. If a LGB person is not gender-conforming enough in their dress or attitudes for a certain employer they can still be fired for that reason. I have read some people argue that most GLB people are also trans- because they don’t conform to standards of gender-based behavior for “society”, and while I think that this is an intriguing idea, it is one for another post.