"We need to be united because Laverne Cox’s struggle may look different than mine, but the pain we feel is the same."
During her acceptance speech at the GLAAD awards, "Master of None" star Lena Waithe delivered an impassioned plea for unity.
Waithe won the award for Outstanding Individual Episode as the writer of "Master of None's" "Thanksgiving." Moments into her speech, she touched on a really sensitive subject: divisions in the LGBTQ community.
"A lot of people ask me why I say I'm queer," she said. "I say that because I think it's a big umbrella. I don't want to separate myself from my trans family, my non-binary, bisexual — sometimes we can be a little segregated. You know what I mean?"
Lena Waithe delivers a speech at the 29th Annual GLAAD Media Awards Los Angeles. Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for Ketel One Family-Made Vodka.
There are tensions within the LGBTQ community, and reluctance to discuss them only deepens the divisions.
It's hard being on the outside looking in and fighting just to have the same rights as anyone else. Throughout the history of the larger LGBTQ movement, there have been a number of attempts by some to cut out "undesirable" segments of the community for the sake of easing that fight for the rest.
Just a few years after the Stonewall uprising (one of the movement's defining moments), some of its most prominent leaders found themselves sidelined as the growing movement tried to give off a more palatable appearance to straight people — as if to say, "See, we can be normal, too!"
Trans women Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were once banned from New York's annual Gay Pride parade. They were outsiders among outsiders.
Many of those divisions remain.
People march in the 1983 Gay Pride Parade in New York City. Photo by Peter Keegan/Getty Images.
"That's how come I've been walking for gay rights all these years instead of riding in cars and celebrating and everything, 'cause you never completely have your rights, one person, until you all have your rights," Johnson said years later, explaining why she continued to work so hard for a movement that sometimes didn't appreciate people like her. "I think that as long as there's one gay person who has to walk for gay rights, then all of us should be walking for gay rights."
Waithe's speech hammered home the idea that we can't leave anyone behind and that the LGBTQ community has to take an intersectional approach to equality.
"We need to be united, because Laverne Cox's struggle may look different than mine, but the pain we feel is the same," Waithe said. "Someone who may be asexual may have a different journey than mine, but ... there's things that we have in common."
She continued, "At the end of the day, we're already 'othered,' so why should we 'other' ourselves even more than we already are? We have to support each other, we have to talk to each other, we have to educate each other about our own individual journeys, because at the end of the day, we all we got."
"So let's hold onto that, hold onto each other. We gotta be one big family, because at the end of the day, we all got people trying to come against us. So when we stand together, there's no weapon they can form that can harm us.”
Injustice for one is injustice for all, no matter what form that takes.
Homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, misogyny, racism, ableism, and classism hurt us all. The LGBTQ community is relatively small in numbers, making it that much more important that those of us within it (and our allies) have each other's backs in the fight forward.
Whether that means fighting back against businesses that want to effectively say "No Gays Allowed," demanding that trans people can't be turned away by doctors simply for being trans, or acknowledging that yes, black lives do matter, it's a group effort.
Waithe's speech was a powerful call to action. Watch it below: