Let's Kiki: Beginnings
Welcome Human, to my new series of blog entries, 'Let's Kiki'.
I want to start with saying, this is NOT hate. In this house, we do not hate anyone who is open, accepting and loving. That is really the point of what I want to write here, to perpetuate love and happiness. There's enough shit going on in the world without adding to it.
I write this in early June, 2020. Considering the circumstances, i.e. Pride Month, BLM Protests and Coronavirus, I thought now was as good a time as any to begin this love letter to my community and help sheet to the rest of the world. A lot of what I want to discuss is directly comparable and/or applicable with the Black Community and other minorities. Please consider this, and also for those that do, how belonging to more than one of these minorities can amount to a considerable amount of challenges.
Without further ado, lock the doors, lower the blinds, fire up the smoke machine and put on your heels. Let's have a kiki.
A lot of what troubles the Queer Community troubles other minority AND majority groups across the globe. We have our politics, our prejudices toward one another and to those outwith our community, we have mental health problems, we have eating disorders, we have poverty. The notability of it all becomes evident when you compare our issues to the Straight Community.
As a quick overview, here are some stats taken from Stonewall UK and The Proud Trust:
Homelessness: LGBT Youth are more likely to experience homelessness than their Straight counterparts. LGBT Youth comprise 24% of Youth homelessness in the UK. Consider that the current accepted statistics are that the UK population is 92% Straight People. 8% of the general population, yet a quarter of Youth homelessness.
Domestic Abuse: While 7.9% of Straight women and 4.2% of Straight men experienced domestic abuse in 2018, an average of 11% of LGB People and 19% of Trans and Non-Binary People experienced domestic abuse n the same period. According to Stonewall UK, 'One in six LGBT people aged 18-24 (17 per cent) have faced domestic abuse from a partner in the last year. Black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBT people are more likely than white LGBT people to experience domestic abuse from a partner, 17 per cent compared to 11 per cent. One in seven LGBT disabled people (15 per cent) have experienced domestic abuse in the last year.'
Mental Health: One in eight LGBT people aged 18-24 (13%) said they’ve attempted to take their own life in 2018. Firstly, that is only those who did not manage to do so. Secondly, consider the amount of Queer People you personally know. One in eight. ONE IN EIGHT. Let it sink in how many people in your life that is. (More on this another time.)
'Half of LGBT people (52 per cent) said they’ve experienced depression in the last year, with another ten per cent saying they think they might have experienced depression. Two thirds of trans people (67 per cent) have experienced depression in the last year. Seven in ten non-binary people (70 per cent), more than half of LGBT women (55 per cent) and more than two in five GBT men (46 per cent) have had the same experience.' - Stonewall UK, 2019
Please look at these numbers. When the lowest number surrounding mental health is 46%, you cannot deny there is an issue. Mind UK says that 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience mental health problems each year.
You might be reading this wondering what it has to do with you, or how you can help. Firstly, this affects everyone. These figures may be specific to the Queer Community, but the issues themselves are widespread in EVERY community. (All figures taken from Stonewall UK, The Proud Trust, NHS and ONS)
Often when I write, I am hard pressed to make my point or follow a particular predisposed plan. I guess, what I really want to do with these entries is bring awareness to what my community has actually gone through. Every Instagram post, every Pride flag, every documentary brings a tear to my eye (I have cried multiple times at a documentary I watched whilst doing research for this = 'Circus of Books'). So many people have died fighting for my rights. Yet there are so many countries where my mere existence is punishable by death. I have Black friends who research which countries they can go on holiday to in case it is dangerous for them. I can legally be murdered in 9 countries, with 73 countries worldwide where being gay is criminalised. I have been to two of these countries, Namibia and Zambia. I didn't know until now that I could have been arrested.
This number doesn't include countries where, while legal, being gay is very difficult. Russia for example, where spreading 'gay propaganda' is illegal, or Poland which has so called 'LGBT Free Zones'. Imagine being in a country where you are not only not wanted, but can be killed for who you are.
This isn't a pity party. I'm not asking for someone to pat us on the back and say it's a shame. I am also not asking for someone to fight for us and hand us our rights, as lovely as that would be. We have fought long enough. We know what we're doing. What I am asking for though, is compassion and understanding. There is a trend of people finding the Queer Community 'annoying' or 'attention-seeking'. I have heard the excuse of 'they already have equal rights' or 'they can get married, what else do they want?' To be able to live. Not just survive, but live. Our siblings in every minority community can relate to this.
Again, this is not about forcing Straight people to fight for Queer Rights. I just want you to understand us better.
Next, I want to discuss a little about the culture. While I can personally speak mainly for the Gay Community, there is a lot of shared culture, and I will also be speaking to my Queer siblings (not related siblings, this is used as a unifying term of endearment) for their input.
Gay men are well known for being camp, catty and bitchy. There's a reason. I could sit here and make jokes or excuses, but there are reasons for how we speak to one another. If you have ever watched 'Paris Is Burning', you will have learned a little about the art of Reading - pronounced like the action, not the place. If you haven't seen it, go watch it. It documents Queer culture in NYC in the mid-to-late 80s. It is equally excellent and tragic.
To quote Enter the Queendom, 'Reading (v.): To wittily and incisively expose a person’s flaws (e.g., “read them like a book”), often exaggerating or elaborating on them; an advanced form of the insult. Another usage is to read someone to filth, which just means that you are being extra nasty with your insults.'
Reading is essentially the art of insult. It developed as a way for Queer people to verbally defend themselves from Straight people by insulting them in a comedic way. Within the community, it allows for the thickening of skins, as well as entertainment. A good read makes people laugh. A bad read makes people shake their heads. Reading is about insulting, and 'Shade' is about insulting someone without being so direct.
To again quote Enter the Queendom, 'Shade (n.): The casting of aspersions. A form of insult. Subtly pointing out a person’s aws or faults. Derived from the term “reading”—e.g., “I don’t tell you you’re ugly, but I don’t have to tell you because you know you’re ugly,” a quote from the movie Paris Is Burning.'
From the outside, reading and shade can seem rude, insulting and bitchy. Which it is, but with good reason. As I said, it thickens skin. Because of my gay brothers reading me regularly - and they have plenty of material to read me on - I can deal with much worse verbal assaults than I used to. When I realised this happening, I was still in high school, and suddenly the death stares and the gay slurs didn't hurt as much.
Basically, if you hear a Queer person insulting another one, don't take it too seriously. We're just training for the homo-, bi- and transphobia we experience daily!
Quite honestly, I think this may be enough for a first post. I have plenty more to discuss, but this has hopefully given you a nice first impression of the World beneath the Rainbow.