The Dillema of Difference

Posted: November 2, 2010 in Latest Rants

To be or not to be – that is the question. Part of mainstream culture that is.

When it comes to the identity of a minority group going head-on against the broader, dominant majority group – who wins? Should a marginalized sub-group or sub-culture, in other words, aim towards retaining and affirming the characteristics that make it distinct from broader society – or should full integration (and thereby, a more uniform social status for all) be the ultimate goal?

This question is more important today than it has ever been. Marginalized groups and their social movements for acknowledgement and acceptance stand at a point where the lack of universal consensus on this question is creating a divide between members of the groups. Take the gay rights movement for instance: should queer culture aim at adapting to the “norm” culture or should it retain characteristics that helps distinguish itself as a clearly alternative sub-culture?

In the gay community, there is a lively debate on incorporation. Gay rights organizations such as the prominent Human Rights Campaign (HRC) have forged a profitable existence for themselves using words such as “equality” and “tolerance.” Yet, if you ask a significant portion of the very community these groups represent, you realize that being “tolerated” and waiting around to be “equal” is the very last priority on their list. They don’t want to be like everyone else – they want to be able to live in a society where they can be themselves – without a pressure of changing to fit-in. (The survival and funding politics of these organizations and the corporate influence on the gay-identity movement -including national Pride celebrations – is a topic for another day.)

Equality, according to me, is a tricky term altogether. Gay rights activists must ask themselves: When did we start fighting to be just like everyone else – and stop celebrating the one predominant feature of our movement that set us apart to begin with: that of difference? When will we stop waiting around for the dominant group to validate our existence? When will we stop wagging our tails and quit waiting for them to throw us that bone?

To be fair, gay rights activists have, indeed, come up with intelligent and just-as-effective alternatives to the “equality” route of rights-acquisition. One such example that impresses me immensely is this:

When it comes to the dilemma of being different, maybe it isn’t such a dilemma after all. Maybe it is a privilege.


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