I have noticed an interesting phenomenon amongst people.
In my observation, when one group of people begins to gain more freedom and privilege, they step on the groups they perceive as just below them.
I’ve seen migrants do it to refugees, the poor-turned-financially-secure do it to the strugglers, and even people in my own community do it to others elsewhere in the LGBTIQ alphabet.
It’s one thing to pull yourself up by the bootstraps, but quite another to cut others off at the knee.
It takes me back to the time I traveled to a continent that had much division between rich and poor, black and white, man and woman.
My wife and I – as white, middle-class citizens – were pretty high in the social food-chain in this context.
If anyone knew we were together, we would’ve been bumped a couple of rungs, but it wasn’t obvious.
On a plane ride from one place to another, we were sitting across from a white family.
Next to us was a lady who told us she was an immigrant from an Eastern culture. Behind us were three teenagers of colour.
Not long after departure, food was served, and I recall being disappointed by the offering – two dry vegetables and egg slammed between dry bread with no butter.
I accidentally dropped it beneath the seat and was unable to recover it.
Not because I lack etiquette, but because it’s near impossible in cattle class. I eventually fell asleep and forgot about it.
As the flight wore on, the discarded sandwich started to emit a smell. A stench, actually.
The lady next to us assumed someone had forgotten their manners and woke abruptly.
The family across the aisle shot her a rude look. She was very quick to say, “It wasn’t me; it was them!”
She pointed to the three teenagers behind us. What happened next was interesting. They started apologising profusely.
“Sorry. Sorry. I’m so sorry.”
It was clear that they didn’t know what they were apologising for, just that someone had been slighted and they should make it right – even if they weren’t responsible.
After the lady next to us ripped into them, the lady across the aisle chimed in and added, “And for God’s sake, wash your hair.”
I was so confronted by this pack aggression that I didn’t claim responsibility.
I quietly informed the air hostess who dug what she could of the fallen sandwich from under the seat and the flight wore on, tensions thick.
What this demonstrated to me was that when the chips are down (or even when they aren’t), people will turn on one another, quite shamelessly.
I have seen the same thing happen in the LGBTIQ+ community.
“I don’t get why we need to include the ‘I’ – those people aren’t diverse; they have a birth condition.”
Or… “Mardi Gras was good, until the lesbians joined in.”
Or… “Bisexuality? Pfft, that doesn’t exist.”
Or… Perhaps most commonly… “I don’t want to be lumped in with them.”
Usually referring to transgender, intersex, or queer individuals.
I am not sure why this is necessary. We all have battles and I think that when you weigh everything up, we are all more alike than different.
Who does it help to criticise someone else’s lived experience, and then exclude them from a sense of belonging?
The “LGBTIQ” acronym is meant to unite our communities, not exclude, and when we fight amongst ourselves over trivialities, we all look bad.
Kind of like when two parents can’t agree on parenting principles, and then form a power struggle in front of their child.
The only person who gains power in that situation is the person who shouldn’t.
Battles are only fought and won when people stand together – sometimes that means trying to understand someone else’s life.
And for God’s sake, keep your sandwich intact.
RJ Miles is a Brisbane mum, author and educator. To read more from RJ Miles, click here.