Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Oppression is the Cause of Gay Death


This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness.  Many of you are  familiar with him from Livejournal, as well as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here. Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from Sparky. 

Marginalisation comes with many costs. Many personal costs, costs to life, costs to lifestyle, and certainly costs to health. Being marginalised can hurt you in a myriad of ways and I'm sure most people can see that and understand that.

Which is why it never fails to annoy me - or cause me grey hairs - when privileged people use the symptoms of our marginalisation to further attack us. They take our scars and try to bludgeon us with them.

And rarely is this so clear than in the right wing cluckings about the "gay lifestyle." Because that's a meme isn't it? That' we're unhealthy? That we're diseased? Even that *gasp* being GBLT will lower your life expectancy! Yes, GBLT people are doomed to die young! They have to protect the kiddies from the dreaded gay because it will kill them! BEWARE THE GAYDEATH! GAYDEATH stalks us!

And it only takes a little analysis to expose not only the ridiculousness of this (aside from the fact that whether being GBLT meant a lower life expectancy than not it still wouldn't change whether people were gay or not) - but also just have revoltingly offensive it is.

Because usually the causes of all this dread GAYDEATH is actually bigotry-death.

Is there a high level of drug use and alcohol consumption among many GBLT people? Probably. There's even an elevated level of smoking. In fact, gay men are more prone to be anorexic than our straight counterparts as well. We're also prone to higher levels of depression and other conditions and, as is tragically becoming more and more apparent now the straight, cis world is (occasionally) paying attention, we have an extremely elevated suicide rate.

And yes, we probably die younger than our cis, straight counterparts.

And guess what? This is not because we GBLT. It's because we are victimised. Because if you're in a world that interminably declares "you don't belong here", if you're surrounded by people that you fear, if you have to hide and act and lie to survive and get by, if you're job, your home aren't safe and if your very family can turn against you all to the background chorus of homophobia, transphobia, heterosexism and cissexism that will not stop... well, that's not very healthy. No, no it is not.

So, to see the bigots who created the bigoted atmosphere that causes these health problems, this pain, this loss of life - and see them actually then using the wounds they cause as an extra weapon to beat us with?

Well, that vexes me a little. Yes, yes it does.

And so we come to a new study that apparently shows that gay men have a higher rate of cancer than straight men. I can already hear the right wingers wringing hands, clutching pearls and generally flapping around all ready. The GAYDEATH! THE GAYDEATH! Won't someone think about the terrible GAYDEATH?!

Do we have higher cancer rates? Probably. Yes probably.

After all, we have higher substance abuse rates. We smoke more, we drink more. We have high stress levels. Gods, for that matter, out GBLT people (and surveys like these are always among out people) are probably more likely to be urban (with elevated air pollution) than rural. And that's before we consider prejudice and lack of anti-discrimination laws, reducing employment opportunities and access to health care. 

I don't worry about GAYDEATH. But Bigotdeath concerns me and it's past time to treat the cause, and stop vilifying us for the symptoms.

And it's hardly unique to GBLT people - how many other marginalised people face the same thing? How many black people are castigated for high incarceration levels, without any acknowledge of the racist system and society that causes it? How many native people are shamed for alcoholism without the slightest acknowledgement of the cause and broken society?

We blame people for the wounds of their victimisation. Over and over - and there are few things more distasteful to see.