Challenging sexism in the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender community

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Conference
2014 National LGBT Conference
Date
29 July 2014
Decision

Conference notes that because the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community does not exist in a vacuum, sexism looks fairly similar: white men hold power in our community; just as white (straight) men hold the power in the general population.

Conference congratulates the National Union of Students (NUS) LGBT conference 2012 for overturning the decision to create a Gay Men’s caucus. Gay men can be oppressed for being Gay, Bi, Trans* or Queer, but they do not need a caucus at an LGBT conference just because they are men. Women however face oppression from society and within our movement for being women regardless of sexual orientation.

Conference notes that there is often an assumption that because gay men have no conscious desire to be sexually intimate with women, uninvited touching and groping (physical assault) is benign. An example is when fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi grabbed actress Scarlet Johansson’s breasts on the red carpet of an awards ceremony in 2010. Johansson was angered by this act, which Mizrahi dismissed by saying he’s gay, “so it’s okay”. This unfortunately is an experience for many women and we see the issue being raised more both inside and outside our LGBT community.

Conference is concerned that we do not challenge behaviour or language in our own movement that we would challenge if we had experienced it in wider society. Conference notes that this is not a new problem. In the 1970’s women walked out of the Gay and Lesbian Foundation because as one founder member puts it “We were fed up with sexism from the very men who should know better.” Conference also notes that, when women do attempt to challenge sexism in our community, they are told not to be “divisive” or “encourage in-fighting”. Worse, concerns may be dismissed altogether with phrases such as “oh you know what men are like when they get together”.

Conference believes this response silences the people who experience sexism in our movement. This can hurt more than the sexism that we get from outside our LGBT community as we expect our own community, with its understanding and experience of oppression, not to then perpetuate this oppression.

Conference reiterates that sexism is not acceptable from any person regardless of sexual orientation.

Conference calls on the national LGBT committee to:

1. Consider holding a workshop on why sexism in all its forms should be challenged for conference next year;

2. Identify ways of highlighting the issue of sexism within the LGBT movement;

3. Work towards the elimination of sexism within the LGBT movement and within the trade union movement.