Power Dynamics Within the Gay Community

“[The police] didn’t seem to bother the girls’ clubs much” (Hooker 7).

Lisa Ben, one of the lesbian participants in Dr. Evelyn Hooker’s story, mentions her first experience at a gay bar. In doing so, she describes a constant fear she had of being caught by the police. However, Ben also mentions that even though she was scared, she mostly felt bad for the gay men who were beaten and disrespected by the police officers. She outwardly states that the encounters involving the police and gay men were more frequent than those of the police and lesbians. This brought me back to the idea of power dynamics that Blackburn mentioned in her study about the LOFT.

In Blackburn’s article, she acknowledges that power differences exist amongst a minority group, in her case the LOFT. Even though one group of individuals were marginalized, it did not mean that they were all equally under the same social stigma. Just like differences in education and salary marked the tension between the Speaker’s Bureau and the other members of the LOFT, differences in gender visibly created a differing attitude of police men in the case of lesbians and gays.

In the case of the Speaker’s Bureau, power dynamics created a hierarchal system between the members of the LOFT, even though it might have been involuntary. In contrast, Ben’s account shows sympathy for the other side. Maybe it was because Ben was speaking from the group less marginalized that made her less hostile than the people of the LOFT, but she actually describes the experience for these gay men as horrifying. While she luckily missed police raids, she sympathized with those who were caught in them, especially gay men.

What I found questionable, however, was whether it was literally a difference of sex that caused police to treat lesbians and gays differently, or whether it was a question of how the people in this gay community expressed themselves. As Ben mentioned, she defied the stereotype of lesbian women being butch. She was as she says “a girl” and she had always been “a girl.” The only difference was she liked “girls” (6). Therefore, when Ben went to these gay bars, she dressed up in feminine attire, perhaps not visibly demonstrating her sexual orientation. This might have been the reason as to why Ben ran into fewer encounters with the police, not just because she was a lesbian. From what I have read so far from Stone Butch Blues, I am forced to think that lesbian women, or other butches, had just an equal fight with the police. The reason why Ben might have not noticed this was probably because she always presented herself as a female.

Even though I do believe that gay men were probably attacked more than lesbian women, I also believe that it might have been a difference in what type of lesbian Ben was that allowed her to flee the police raids. However, Ben’s statement still brings about the issue of how there can be an existence of a marginalized group within a marginalized group.

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One Response to Power Dynamics Within the Gay Community

  1. cdadas says:

    Great job making connections between the Blackburn article and SBB. I think you have hit on an important point: that within certain identity distinctions, there are various levels of marginalization. For example, within the lesbian “community,” there is a big difference between being a femme and being a butch. Femmes can “pass” easily and often don’t draw attention to themselves unless they are with their partners. Butches, however, call a lot of attention to themselves and are often seen as being somewhere in between genders (as the term he-she implies). They have a rougher time of it, and as we can see from SBB, they are not immune to physical violence by any stretch.

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