Can People Who Identify on the LGBTQ+ Spectrum Join the #MeToo Movement?
Written by Anubhav Nangia
In late 2017, #MeToo flooded social media platforms. Thousands of women courageously shared their experiences as victims of sexual harassment and assault. What’s more, a range of people demanded that perpetrators be made accountable for their actions and face the consequences. However, the movement has largely been confined to women from the global North. At LIDC’s recent debate on this, speakers discussed how #MeToo has expanded to include women from the global South. Particular emphasis was shed on what could be done to foster its momentum. The question remains: how does intersectionality fit within #MeToo? Can other marginalised groups, such as people with disabilities or people who identify on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, realistically join the movement? In this post, I focus on the latter.
I can foresee challenges that members of the LGBTQ+ community would face if they said #MeToo. Individuals, particularly those from regions where there are high levels of discrimination, may prefer to conceal their sexual orientation. They could divulge that they are victims of sexual harassment or assault without addressing who committed the abuse. This would definitely be a brave step in itself. The movement’s greatest strength is that it allows victims to reveal the identities of their perpetrators, and emphasises that such behaviour will not be tolerated. However, this may not be possible for those who identify on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, but do not want to disclose their sexual identity.
A similar issue could arise if a perpetrator were not open about their sexual identity. In this case, a victim who identified their perpetrator could inadvertently reveal the latter’s sexual identity. Consequently, victims might therefore choose to remain silent due to associated moral implications.
It is indeed disheartening to imagine the number of people from the LGBTQ+ community who feel unable to speak up about sexual harassment or assault. Given the global scale of the #MeToo movement, it is possible that they would silently re-live the trauma they experienced. In addition to forced silence, this could exacerbate or trigger stress and mental health issues, which they might not be able to address. Hence they could continue to suffer and feel threatened on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, for a complicated question like this, context is very important and no universal solution can be proposed. However, I welcome efforts to minimise and eventually eliminate the marginalisation of the LGBTQ+ community across the world. Furthermore, I think it is vital that conversations around intersectionality proliferate through the #MeToo movement at a global level. The movement has been fantastic although we must acknowledge that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. We need to ensure that everyone feels safe and supported if they speak out against sexual harassment or assault.
Anubhav Nangia is currently undertaking an MSc in Public Health at LSHTM.