Another obstacle is that the LGBTA community is within itself quite vast and full of its own diversity. Lesbian, gay, transsexual, intersexed, bisexual, asexual, pansexuality, and queer (just to name a few) all have overlapping and unique issues and traits, and are made up of individuals who are themselves unique. It is thought that the percentage of gay and lesbian people is relatively consistent worldwide and America is becoming more globalized by the millisecond. There are millions of people with sexualities other than heterosexual, who are your actual neighbors, colleagues, and relatives. It makes little sense that ALL of the millions of people will think, dress, behave, vote, talk, walk, or view themselves the same way.
Furthermore, characteristics such as race, age, class, location, religion, nationality, profession, etc. each subtly change the lived experience of the person and what the identity might mean for them as well as how others will understand them. For example, how a 20 year old, upper socioeconomic status, masculine looking white man and a 60 year old, lower socioeconomic, feminine looking black man will experience issues related to “being gay” differently in many regards. Indeed, their personalities will influence how they interact with others, and, over a long period of time, further influence how “being gay” impacts their lives. Now image that one of them was a lesbian, and pause for a moment to ask yourself “how might that influence how they would be treated, how ‘being gay’ would be understood differently, and how they might view themselves differently?”
More than that, some LGBTA individuals embrace certain stereotypes while others detest the same stereotypes. Some individuals find the “boxes” (L, G, B, or T) too constraining while others find it liberating to have a term that works for them. Some individuals feel that “being gay” is a huge part of their identities, while others find it to be completely irrelevant most of the time.
A related but highly sensitive issue is how to decide who qualifies as a member of the community? Does one look towards their sexual history, to their reported sexual desires (object of attraction), or simply ask them (self-identification)? For example, John has been married for 10 years to a woman he loves very much, but, for the most part, is attracted to men. Should we go with his history of only having sex with only women and call him heterosexual? Should we look at the kinds of people he is attracted to and label him as gay? Should we call him bi-sexual? Or should we just ask John how he would like to self-identify and agree with whatever answer he provides (even if we disagree)?
Historically, they LGBT movement in America has gained strength by putting aside differences between themselves to achieve their goals. It is also a troubling fact that much of the “LGBT movement” within America has either ignored or even actively excluded bisexual and transgender members from political groups and expressing their concerns. This convergence strategy has had many short and long term gains, but one consequence is that the American public has not had the opportunity to understand the incredible diversity through mass media alone and has often received an overly consistent message. If you would like a modern day example, turn on the news (channel is irrelevant) and count the number of times someone says “they feel” or “they want” when referring to LGBT individuals about same-sex marriage, implying that all LGBT individuals feel or want the exact same things for the exact same reasons.
Many in the LGBTA community feel very strongly about marriage equality, while others find it to be an unimportant issue; given the fact that, in the majority of states, it is legal to fire or evict from housing for simply suspecting they are gay, how can you blame them? Indeed, some gay men are not comfortable with L, B, or T individuals, and the same can be said for the other groups. So assuming that everyone in any community feels, thinks, or acts the same way is not only problematic, damaging, and destructive, it’s also silly and defies common sense.