Many people have experienced oppression in their lives -- which is the prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or control, as well as the state of being subject to such treatment or control. I am not sure if you have been told this before, but we are all different and come from extremely different realities. Even twins within the same household have very different realities as they live life in their own truth. I like to look at oppression as not really an action of an evil person but as a form of narrow-minded conditioning. Conditioning built off the moral beliefs and social norms of the influential leaders in our lives.
When I take a look at the current mainstream form of oppression, one thing that comes to mind is the advancement of colored people (i.e. African Americans, Blacks, Latinos, Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, West Indians and the Indigenous Native Americans) and how we have grown as a society through civil rights movements and from those who thought separate was equal. But it's not just the ability to vote or the right to equal education and health care, but the ability to form our own self mold and belief system.
I think of oppression as someone telling their child or community that their clothes must match or that boys play with trucks and girls play with dolls and that these things are not interchangeable. How about the notion that everyone is supposed to be heterosexual or that ladies wear heels, cross their legs and are homemakers while guys are rough, tough, and breadwinners? When we find views like this in our home, and our community confirms this belief, it becomes our norm and our truth. Then, when faced with someone or something that does not contribute to that belief, a person may become conflicted and will refer to what they know is true in their own lives; and the cycle continues.
I want to take a look at this society's newer oppressive target groups, which is the LGBTQ community -- considering we as a nation have just recently declared homosexuality is no longer a mental defect, while gender non-conforming still remains a mental threat to one's identity. We as a community experience oppression at home, at school, around our neighborhoods; and the government we live under confirms queerism by allowing workplace discrimination to legally continue, stating that we are not mentally ill but a "different" breed of people.
Our society has taught our elders that homosexuality is a lifestyle that a person chooses to purposely be different, like wearing a black wedding gown (which for some means faithful until death). Gay oppression under capitalism, like racism and sexism, serves to divide working-class people from one another in their battles for economic and social justice. Capitalistic conditioning creates the illusion that men and women should lead autonomous sexual lives, yet it simultaneously seeks to impose heterosexual norms on society to secure the maintenance of an economic, ideological, and sexual order.
The proof is in the truth that 1 in 4 LGBT youth who come out to their parents are forced to leave home. Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students experienced harassment at school in the past year, 44 percent of students reported being physically harassed and 22 percent reported being physically assaulted at school because of their sexual orientation. We see suicide rates for LGBT youth are estimated to be up to four times higher than their heterosexual peers due to internalized hatred and homophobia.
So as we take the month of June to celebrate our diversity and sexual pride with nudity, partying and alcohol, let's take the time to explore how we have experienced oppression and ways to free the future of our community and society from this depressive cycle of narrow-minded conditioning.
This article originally appeared in TheBody.com's Pride 2011 special section.