We Are Not Your Afterthought: responding to LGBT Soup


TW for cis gay privilege that could make your eyes bleed. Don’t read this at work unless you have office walls thick enough to withstand obscenities.

There are some phrases that, when you see them in an article, you know aren’t going to lead to anywhere good. “Political correctness gone mad”, for one. “Some of my best friends are…”, for another. “I’m not a ___, but..” is definitely one. One of the phrases that takes the proverbial biscuit (and a lot of other proverbials), though, is this one:

Now, before you run off to compose a face-meltingly indignant email to the editor..

When the writer already knows that they’ve written something to get their readers face-meltingly indignant, things can only go two ways. It could be that they’ve come up with something so new and wonderful that it’ll take the rest of us years to get our heads around. Far more often, though, you’re about to read something that will have you facepalming so hard you end up with permanent dents on your forehead. If you’re unlucky, you might not be able to stop yourself from muttering obscenities at the screen in the middle of your office.

Fortunately for me, I read this at lunchtime.

LGBT Soup, eh?

Continued over at the Tea Cosy’s new home. See you there!

49 thoughts on “We Are Not Your Afterthought: responding to LGBT Soup

  1. I empathise with your situation.
    I offer no defense of the author or her opinion.

  2. It seems to me, having quite a few friends in the lgtb(and the rest of the alphabet) community, that for gays/lesbians, a big part of the battle has been fought and won, with a few skirmishes left. While years ago, everyone was welcomed to climb on the chariot, to fight for equality, as there was much to fight for. But now, it seems that with victory in sight and many battles won, the community no longer seems interested in guarding the flanks of their smaller allies, who’s struggle is far, far from over. The attitude of “we are big and safe now, lets cut off the ballast” is not unique to this particular group and can be observed with other movements through history. It is just really sad that we, as human beings, have not yet learned that adopting the attitude of exclusion is a very poor form of gratitude for battles hard fought and won. It defies the notion of equality where we insist that some are more equal to others. There also seems to be a hostility to those who were willing to jump on that chariot and were straight, but believed that the right of their fellow human, to be what they are, was worth to join the battle. Then there are people who’s sexual identity doesn’t fit in a box that easily. From my own experience, they connect better with those so-called smaller fringe groups. They understand what it is not be understood, to be excluded and they welcome anyone who will go onto the breach with them, one more time. So how will the “gay” part of the LGBT.etc community react if they see someone harassed that is bi-gender, trans or bi-sexual? “oh, yeah, that used to be my problem, but not anymore”? I hope not, lest instead of fighting indifference to intolerance, they will become part of the indifference, and that would really be sad…

    And as to those gays/lesbians who are my close friends, you know I am not talking about you, as I love you all for who you are; human beings….🙂

    • Franky, I have two responses to your comment. Firstly, the battle is not over for cis gay and lesbian people. Far from it. Secondly, you seem to think the phenomenon of some cis gay and lesbian people trying to distance themselves from trans, bisexual, and other people within the quiltbag is a new phenomenon. It isn’t. Like the author of this post says, this was happening in the immediate aftermath of the stonewall riots! It has been happening for as long as gay and lesbian people have been demanding their rights. Some have stood together with the rest of the quiltbag, but some have wanted to distance themselves. Early gay rights campaigners in the U.S. for example used to wear suits (the cis men) and dresses (the cis women) as a tactic, trying desperately to present themselves as “normal” while on silent, polite demonstrations outside civic buildings. It isn’t a sign of gay and lesbian people being on safe ground now, and drawing up the bridge to stop others joining them. It’s always been part of the struggle, since day one.

  3. This is one of those times when we an be grateful to an asshole writing in a rag that has become a tired exuse for ad space. If it were not for the deluded vitriol of Ciara McGrattan, I would never have seen THIS truly impressive piece by Aoife O’Riordan. I leave her writing feeling enlightened, warmed and so positive about the future. To know that we have just one O’Riordan makes us so stronger despite the many McGrattans out there.

    • That is possibly the loveliest thing anyone has ever said to/about me.

      I’m just going to be here pretending not to be overwhelmed. Stoic face. Stoic face..

    • Also: connecting with people like you is one of the main reasons why I write. When we read things like McGrattan’s article it’s easy to feel attacked and isolated. By communicating in places like here that we do not think these kinds of things are okay, we don’t just make our community stronger. We make ourselves feel a hell of a lot less alone as well.

  4. I’ve always felt that a large number of the political L’s and G’s have been very happy to have the B’s and T’s on board simply because when it comes down to negotiations they have two groups that they can throw under a bus. Because politics is the art of concession…or as I said throwing people you don’t give a crap about under a bus.

    Most of the non-political L’s and G’s I’ve known are perfectly wonderful people. Happy to share the QUILTBAG umbrella, and the occasional bed of a B or T. And there are more than a few of the political ones who feel the same.

    But the problem I see is that it’s those bi/trans/IS/Ace/queerphobic pricks who seem to be the quick ones on their feet. They nab the loudspeaker, hijack the message, and woops squished bi’s and trannies, again.

    “So sorry lovies, sacrifices have to be made for the greater *mutters the real people here” good. But hey have a place in our parades, they’d be so much smaller without you and gather us less of that nice moolah we need to fund our campaigns.”

    I can, and long ago, did get over the fact that many lesbians don’t see me as in any way female. My response was to rebel and decide “I’m not a girl huh? Fine, fuck you then, I’m a futagirl, and bigirls shall fall at my feet.!”

    I got over the fact that many gay men seem to enjoy getting their rocks off making snide comments about me, how I look, and how my having a girlcock makes me some sort of gender traitor. (man it was hard to find a word that wasn’t outlaw right there.) “You know what lads, you’re just jealous because I look amazing in this mini-skirt, and not only is my cock is bigger than yours, but my boobs are smaller, and not created by copious application of beer.!”

    The ones who do see me as me, who do find themselves accepting that I am a girl with an outtie and that I have a place in their community…well a fair few of them are very special friends. Because they are the ones who make me feel like I belong in womens spaces, in lgBT spaces, that it’s okay to be me when I’m out, that I’m safe. And to a woman/man they’re also the ones who think bifolk are pretty damned nifty.

    (Ummm wow that sort of exploded just there…slinks out the backdoor.)

    • “My cock is bigger than yours”??
      It’s not really surprising that some lesbians don’t accept you as female when you use loutish male language like this.

      • Snark is ‘male’, now?

        Also, as per the comments policy, transphobia is not acceptable at the Tea Cosy. Referring to the anger of a trans woman as ‘male’ is the kind of tired silencing language that really did go out of fashion in the 80s. It is unacceptable here and if you do it again you will be banned.

      • I am not post-op. I am honest about my body. And in response to people who use that language in an attempt to harm me I feel it is perfectly justifiable, and neither male nor loutish. Besides I have heard some of those same lesbians use precisely that language about their strap-ons etc so…

    • Explode away, lovely! That’s some righteous anger you’ve got there.

      And y’know, you’re right about the fact that many, many Ls and Gs are wonderful allies to the other side of the acronym.

  5. When you said that it was likely that I would need to worry about obscenities randomly flying out of my mouth, I thought you were using a phrase of art. Then I found out that I don’t get to be part of the Gay Club unless I happen to be dating a guy, and the curse words started.

    I mean, I am dating a girl, but slept with a guy last night, so does that count? Or, as a bisexual, am I only part of the club when I am actively with another man? Is hand holding ok, or must my roll call response be muffled by a full mouth?

    The article then kept getting worse and the involuntary obscenities continued.

    I get that some people are frustrated that their exclusive little club is getting bigger, but maybe it’s time to grow up and realize, as you pointed out, that the discrimination faced by all of these people is the same. I like to say that I am not gay, but I am gay enough that homophobes don’t see the difference.

  6. Hi Aoife,
    This is a great piece of writing and really impressed me. I don’t fall into any of the LGBTQIA categories so I can only imagine how hurt and angry people who do felt at this idea they don’t belong or fit anymore. As a straight person this saddens me so much “but we are lucky have a couple of intersections going for us that keep us under people’s radar a lot of the time.” The idea of having to keep parts of yourself hidden in every day life is bad enough (and unacceptable) without being told you don’t really have a place or identity in an LGBT community either, that you’re either in the “gay” club or you’re not. Now, I know that just because this controversial article was published doesn’t mean people have to believe it or accept the argument as having any validity but I think it really is damaging to have it published by the GCN and I think you’ve done a great job in challenging it. Well done. You’ve got yourself a new reader, too.
    Margaret

    • Thank you!

      It is always, always sad that we sometimes need to hide who we are. But y’know, I’ve also seen a massive change even in the years since I came out, and a lot of that has been thanks to allies like yourself as much as LGBTQIA folks. So thank you! And looking forward to hearing more from you🙂

  7. Little known fact about me, I got the firsst B added to the a UNI l&G soc in the UK, I was petrified, I wondered how proper gay people would feel about me, a fence sitter, traitor and lesbian who didnt know her own mind (all things i was told by the political lesbians of the day) asking to have a voice, to be included, to be recognized.
    It mattered to me so much because my teenage years were hell ,I didn’t even seem able to do gay properly, liking men and women just seemed so wrong, I knew gay and lesbian people, they had a place, somewhere to belong. I faced homophobia, but didn’t have the community to turn to. I was actually told to leave the one young persons gay group I screwed up the courage to attend, because I wasn,t gay.
    I was 17 years old.

    So yeah, those letters she doesn’t want, they matter, they matter a hell of a lot, but it seems to be the way of things these days, throw out everything in order to conform to hetronormative cis values.

    • Wow. On behalf of, well, myself? Thank you. That’s gotta have taken a hell of a lot.

      • Right account this time, the attending the young persons group took every ounce of courage i had, i cried all the way home.
        I attended a couple of uni meetings and the fact it was mostly male helped, when I suggested the B there was no opposition, but there wasn’t a quorum. The next week instead of the usual 6 or 7 attenders there were about 25, and lots of people (coughs lesbians) demanding it not go through. Luckily I didnt have to speak, the chair was a lovely Irish woman (aren’t they all :-)) who spoke about solidarity and the need to widen who was offered support.
        My uni had the first gay soc in the UK, and the majority saw this as in keeping with the ideas that had been brought back from stonewall.
        I wasn’t so much brave as desperate to belong somewhere!

        • Thank you. Glad also that your effort was received well enough to pass. It is unfortunate that we cannot count on this, instead relying on chance and the kindness of whomever.

  8. bugger, logged into wrong account (blush) this is Jemima101 above🙂

  9. God I hate the “Free speech” argument. I’ve had similar annoynaces lately when “freedom of association” and “personal boundaries” are used to exclude people which is another excuse you often see from people like that author(think TERFs and transwomen). I wish people would stop taking noble concepts and turning them around into weapons used to defend those of relative privilege.

    This article reminds me a lot of my debacle with the @rcade(which has a gay editor) and the reader’s choice poll having pewdie”rape”pie as an option. When they finally decided to run a piece on feminist issues, their first thought was to get an ordinary guy to comment on it; “Is gaming still a man’s world? A man’s perspective” etc. etc. What really annoyed me about this is how all the really challenging things were shoved under the carpet. The editor himself put up an article saying how GREAT it was be to be a Gaymer. This sort of positivist mentality bothers me, it’s very Irish just to just ignore the fact that there’s a real issue, and it’s very Irish to act ignorant of the needs and struggles of those you should be regarded as being in the same boat with.

    Even though the author in question is a lesbian, there’s still the same awkward and ignorant tone to it. I find like with the above example, you get these sort of sheltered gay types who don’t understand intersectionality and the difficulties the rest of us face. The people saying this stuff are usually fairly privileged white gay cisgendered men, but it’s not unheard of for fairly privileged white gay cisgendered women to talk like this either. Not that it makes it correct or incorrect based on who’s saying it of course – it just gives you more perspective on why they’re saying it.

    I’ve seen so much infighting within the trans community lately that this article erasing us *entirely* was just too much to stomach. Even within the trans community, you get a degree of privilege – girls who had the advantage of passing younger and passing quite well, assign all their success to “Hard work” and look down on older transitioners as fakes and others who don’t pass as lazy. And if they’re popular enough, you’ll be the one accused of making a fuss – not too different to the division I remember on places like GCN where other LGBs were telling us not to be so concerned about the Paddy Power ads, that we were making a big deal out of nothing.

    That article in of itself is full of the same sorts of excuses and technicalities. There’s no heart to it. Maybe she feels embarrassed associating with ugly trannies like myself, but I’d feel terrible being associated with people like her.

    We should be a unified front because we need to be. If you don’t understand why, then maybe do some research before writing an article you *know* is going to offend someone. If GCN doesn’t want to become the Daily Mail of Irish Gay Mags it needs to be better than this. If it’s going to claim “free speech” here then we have the right to point out that it’s not really serving the LGBT community at all, and is only promoting division and exclusion.

  10. I don’t have much to add, other than I always thought QUILTBAG was a reasonably easy-to-use, fairly inclusive acronym.

  11. I stopped going to my school’s lgbt club because of shit like this. I was told to my face by the lesbians in the group that they don’t trust bisexuals and would never date one. yah, some support group that turned out to be…

    • Damn. I’m sorry you had to deal with that. I wish I could say it wasn’t a familiar story but.. yeah. All too goddamn common.
      Here’s to real, inclusive, affirming queer communities, eh?

  12. Ok, I am face-meltingly indignant now…

    • I’m wondering how long it’ll take before McGrattan starts calling us the Liberal Leftie Bandwagon Of Political Correctness Gone Mad Who Can’t Take A Joke or suchlike. I mean, assuming she ever deigns to bother answering for herself at all. So far there’s been a particularly stinging silence.

  13. Great, concise response to a piece of writing undeserving of being awarded the platform of publication in Gay Community News. So much for equality, tolerance, inclusivity and solidarity. Free speech is not at issue here. Ciara McGrattan has a right to voice her opinion but GCN did not have to choose to publish her article.

    Fundamentally what is at issue here is speech being used to exclude persons from community. GCN stands for “gay” “community” “news”. Sure, it’s gay. But Ciara McGrattan cannot be said to be a voice for any meaningful idea of community and the aspect of most public interest here is that an editor of GCN has used her position to voice speech which seeks to divide and exclude.

    Ciara McGrattan’s speech seeks translation into actual different, discriminatory treatment of persons who belong to gender and sexual minorities. Therefore, the extent to which it deserves any special protection under the right to free speech is debatable. GCN should be held to account for choosing to publish such speech.

  14. Like most of the commenters to Aoife’s excellent and very erudite piece, (thanks Aoife, it really is so well written and analytical, and without ever stooping to the low levels of the article to which you’re responding) …. I too am appalled by Ciara McGrattan’s bigoted and very ‘right-wing reactionary’ screed.
    I am also quite saddened, for so many reasons.
    Was it for this that I took to the barricades in the 1980s and early 90s? For this that I gave my activist hours to the campaign to legalize homosexuality in Ireland? For this that I put myself in very real physical danger, time and time again?
    No, I did all of those things so that every single person, each and every one, who has ever felt marginalized by the rigid, narrow, limiting, and frankly quite harmful paradigms of gender and sexuality that so-called ‘modern Ireland’ forces down the throats of its citizens, so that all of us could have a voice, could foster some sort of family, could feel like we belonged to a community, could feel loved by our own.
    And now, with this very bigoted and transphobic pile of ugly and hate-inducing prose, I find that GCN themselves are subscribing to those self-same narrow and dangerous paradigms of heteronormativity, or, lets call it homonormativity.
    WTF, indeed!
    And since this story broke I’ve been thinking to myself, how could the assistant editor of GCN get this soooo wrong?
    But then one of the commenters above really put in in perspective when they said that GCN has become little else than a poor excuse for advertising space (or words to that effect) ……
    And isn’t that it in a nutshell?
    What with several clever, funny, intelligent, engaging, critically-thinking, and, most importantly, inclusive blogs and internet pieces, which are driven by a true sense of QUILTBAG solidarity, so easily accessible to us all, it really seems to me that GCN is going the way of many right-of-centre newspapers in an effort to self-publicise by garnering a bit of scandal; and thus gain ‘readership hits’ – or whatever it is they can show to potential advertisers. With this downright transphobia, it really feels like GCN are riding on the coat tails of the recent Julie Burchill debacle in the UK media. You can imagine in their offices: ‘did you see that trans fight in the Guardian! Quick, lets get a bit of that pie! Before it goes cold!’
    And I really, really, REALLY don’t need to read this sort of reactionary, bigoted clap-trap in a paper that claims to speak for counter-normative sexualities and genders in Ireland, when I can get the exact same stuff online in the Independent, the Irish Times, and the Daily Mail (and sometimes the Guardian). Those websites have, at least, prettier pictures, decent book reviews, and usually a telly guide.
    The more I look at GCN, both print and online versions, the more I think ‘oh, its all so 1990s’; and as the years go by GCN holds less and less relevance or meaning for me or for the way I think about contemporary enactments and expressions of gender and sexuality.
    I certainly don’t NEED to know anything that they’ve published for several years now, nor would I go looking for vital information pertinent to my life as a queer man in his 40s living in Dublin. In short, GCN could disappear forever, and I probably would not even notice.
    It is writers and bloggers like Aoife who keep me not only informed, but also keep me thinking critically and creatively about what it means to be a politically aware queer man in today’s world.
    GCN — go clean your house, get with the times, get a make-over, ditch the dead wood, and start becoming aware of the sheer joyousness that the QUILTBAG rainbow of diversity has to offer to all of our lives.
    For, United We Stand, but divided we fall — and GCN seems to be falling fast.

  15. This is an absolutely beautiful blog, and makes me happy to know there are still people like you under our umbrella! A really excellent reply!
    I’ve written a reply on my own blog and just wanted to check if it was okay if I linked to your blog and used some of your links?
    Thank you so much, you incredible person!

  16. Have put this in my review of the best things of the week🙂

  17. Pingback: Review of the Week 3 | It's Just A Hobby

  18. Pingback: On The B and The T: A Response To GCN’s LGBT Soup | The Lady's Sanctuary

  19. I came here from Feministe and wanted to tell you that I love this piece! Thank you so much for writing it and sharing it.

  20. Here via Feministe and I’d missed that GCN piece originally, but so so so enraged that they let that stuff into print. This is a wise and sensible and RIGHT response; thank you.🙂

  21. I was absolutely shocked that crap was published in the GCN, and outraged that the deputy editor is trans/bi-phobic. Thank you for clearly expressing those sentiments, this is a great piece! I have hope when I read blogs like yours🙂

  22. This article provided me with an unexpected education at a very early hour in the morning! I had that feeling of ‘Aha!’ that I get when something is intuitively true, but I just hadn’t thought of it before. Looking forward to reading more.

  23. Yep, GCN selling out yet again. I remember writing to them to complain about a fashion piece that glamourised anorexia, met by same refusal to take responsibility for the position of influence that they have. I also am incensed by the lgbt scene’s intolerance of diversity. When looking at homophobia (or any other intolerance) it is usually noted that it comes from people who are insecure about their own position. To have someone write from this unexalted place is hardly adding to our betterment. It’s tabloid drivel and joins the ranks of corporate media in attempting to dumb us down. Thank you for speaking out for real freedom, not the crap they are thinking it is.

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  26. How in the world did I miss this phenomenal article the first time around? Well done and hurrah!

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  28. I hate hearing about such horrible cases of homophobia as you have experienced. I can’t understand how people can be so hateful… You were beautiful in both of your pictures. As for McGrattan…For someone that has supposedly struggled as a member of the LGBT (sorry, I’m not up on all of the acronyms :/) community, you think she would be more sympathetic to those who are also struggling… It makes her somewhat of a hypocrite doesn’t it?

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