I have always found the idea of having a social identity mainly based on the concept of sexuality an entirely bizarre one. For as long as I have been aware of my sexuality I have lived in rural areas, where forming a distinct group with other members of the LGBT+ community was not an option. I have had friends who were just friends, gone out to clubs that were just clubs, and socialised at events that were just events. I, by necessity, had to integrate fully, and for me that was simply normal.
Now, at university, there is a group. It’s quite a tight and homogenous group who choose to spend a great deal of time together. I went to an LGBT+ swap only weeks into term, and I assumed that all of the other people there knew each other because they were second or third years. Many of them, as it turned out, were freshers. In a very short space of time a tight knit social group had formed as a result of these people attending the same events. They form a primary part of each other’s social lives. To happen so fast, it almost has to be a product of a decision on their part to make their sexuality a core part of their social identity.
I find this absurd. I no more want my social life to be dictated by my sexual preferences than I want it to be dictated by my colour preferences. I don’t socialise more with other guys who like cock just as I don’t socialise more with other guys who like the colour yellow. There is nothing about LGBT+ people that makes me more likely to enjoy their company. They don’t necessarily share my interests and they aren’t necessarily people with whom I will become friends, except by virtue of a decision to have LGBT+ friends.
It is, for me, a form of isolationism. It is not only absurd but also dangerous. If we are going to separate ourselves from the wider social scene then we don’t need society to marginalise us; we are doing it all by ourselves. On one hand we demand equality. The campaigns on issues of equal marriage and employment rights focus, quite rightly, on the fact that our sexuality should be a personal matter and not made a big deal of. Our sexuality has only been historically defined to denote the fact that we have been discriminated against. Therefore we complain about bigots making our sexuality an issue by opposing freedom of choice. I don’t think that this is compatible with us having a huge focus on a maintaining a different and distinct LGBT+ identity.
This is not to say that I don’t see the value of specific LGBT+ events or movements. We do need to promote understanding and fight for an end to persecution. It is sometimes good to talk to others who understand the difficulties of oppression or rejection. Events are important for us to meet people we might be interested in sexually, as we have a smaller pool of potential partners. I just think that we don’t need to make our sexuality a core part of our social identity. We are all human, and for me, my self-definition is about a lot more important things than my being homosexual. How can we expect wider society to treat us with equality if we are not willing to fully integrate and be a part of that society?
Ronan Marron studies HSPS at the University of Cambridge.
One thought on “Sexuality & Gender Identity Should Not Dictate Friendship Groups”
Obviously no one should feel forced to only be friends with other people of sexual or gender minorities, and very few people would actively avoid friendship with straight or cis people (for one thing, they’re a large majority and hard to avoid!) However I think it’s a little unfair to suggest that queer people who choose to spend time with people with similar experience are actively harming the LGBT+ cause. Oppressed groups often create an identity in response to the erasure of their identities – suggesting that it is this, instead of the oppression, which separates then from the “mainstream” (read straight cis white able bodied middle class men) puts the responsibility on the oppressed instead of the oppressive structures, and further emphasises the idea that the norms of dominant groups are some sort of natural norm, which other groups ought to conform to.
Without wishing to suggest that “guys who like cock” aren’t oppressed and don’t have their existence silenced and stereotyped (they are and do), male homosexuality is one of the most acknowledged and understood of the identities that come under the LGBT+ umbrella: for people whose existence is routinely denied, like trans people, or asexual people, for example, it can be really valuable to be able to spend social time in a space with people who are less likely to routinely deny the reality of your gender or sexual identity and who might share or understand particular experiences. Not that LGBT+ communities are always understanding – they can often be criticised for focusing too much on the G element, but if people can find communities which are accepting and safe for them, these communities are likely to be the ones they enjoy most, the ones they have the most fun with – not because they feel they have to be friends with other gender or sexual minorities, but because people with similar experiences, or who are educated about LGBT+ issues, may simply be more fun to spend time with, both because of shared or similar experiences and because they are less likely to perpetuate oppressive or harmful relations, deny the reality of their identities and so on. I happen to be close friends with a disproportionate number of bisexual people, for example, not intentionally, they simply happen to be the people whose company I enjoy, but I do think that is in part related to shared experiences.