By Miranda Weindling
‘All of mankind’… nope. ‘All of man and womankind’… still no. ‘humankind’. Better.
Ideas about sexism need updating. Make no mistake, discrimination against women still exists, but we live in a time where our understanding of gender and sexuality is evolving necessarily. Just as the world is rigged against women, it is even more so against the LGBTQ+ community.
Sexism is part of the battle for equality. Although we might believe in that same cause, we are not all fighting on the same battlefield. As 2020 rolls in it’s high time we made intersectional thinking mainstream, and consider what areas of our lives leave us open to opportunity, and where we are more likely to face discrimination. Just as feminist men are important allies when it comes to undoing societal sexism, everyone should be supporting the LGBTQ+ community in their fight against systemic discrimination.
In writing this, I acknowledge that I am a cis-gendered, straight person (with several other privileges in my court). I encourage you to look to the people in the LGBTQ+ community as your mentors and primary sources of wisdom. I’m grateful to Ilya at Decolonizing Fitness, Simran Uppal, and Kat Blaque, amongst others, for teaching and challenging me.
Update Your Dictionary
Just as gender and sexuality are fluid, so is language. Languages continuously adapt and evolve, so make sure your lexicon is up to date and inclusive. Respect how people choose to define their identity, gender or sexuality.
Don’t just have a vague idea of terms, but learn what being intersex means, or identifying as asexual, understand why some people might actively endorse the word queer and others don’t like it. Take note of the difference between sex and gender and the difference between gender expression and identity.
Ask people their pronouns, even preface it with your own first, ‘I use her/she, what are your preferred pronouns?’. When writing, speaking in general or to a large group, start defaulting to ‘they’, and refer to people’s significant others as their ‘partner’.
Look At The World Around You
One of the most talked-about issues in sexism is the gender pay gap. What is less acknowledged is how the pay gap affects the LGBTQ+ community, even though it has been surveyed for over eight years.
Straight men earn more than gay men, who earn more than straight women, who earn more than lesbian women. On top of that, although after transitioning trans men can expect a slightly bigger paycheck, transwomen on average take a hefty pay cut.
Pay gaps also exist along the lines of race and ethnicity, and the more areas you identify in your life for potential discrimination means the more significant cut you can expect. At work, make sure you advocate not just for yourself or female colleagues, but push for your co-workers who might face other, or even more, forms of discrimination to also get a fair wage.
Countless areas fall into the trap of cissexism in society, from bathroom policies to sex-ed curriculums. If you think your workplace, school or local restaurant is falling short, then call them out, and put pressure on them to make changes.
The best feminist men are those who act on their beliefs, as opposed to just talking about them. In the same way, to actually be an LGBTQ+ ally, we need to put pressure on the areas of society that are failing, through our words and actions.
The Changing Face Of Success
It’s important to see yourself—the people who look and sound like you—represented on screen, whether that be on TV or social media. This is becoming more of a reality for the LGBTQ+ community in the entertainment industries. 2019 saw progress, with shows such as the Tales of the City reboot on Netflix. Not only did it cover the history and evolving landscape of LGBTQ+ culture, but its cast also showcased the talents of several rising LGBTQ+ stars.
Those in the sporting world face greater challenges, as opposition to trans and intersex athletes runs deep because they are considered to have unfair biological advantages. The evidence for this is inconsistent at best, and the changing policies by sports organisations increasingly recognise this. Those who are caught up in this debate, such as cyclist Rachel McKinnon and runner Caster Semenya, are bringing the realities of gender and biological spectrums, to the public’s attention.
Although professional athletes and actors might feel a world away from your reality, check that any sports or drama organisations you are involved in don’t discriminate.
Get Uncomfortable: Be An Ally
Examine your own prejudices and biases. Respect boundaries: know when to listen, not talk, or leave a space altogether. Use any platform you have, particularly if your access is due to your own privilege, to help others. Apologise when you mess up.
Allyship can be uncomfortable, but it is essential if you are serious about dismantling sexism. In 2020, the face of sexism may be changing, but our obligation to challenge it does not.