This is an article I’ve wanted to write about for a while. I saw this analogy a while ago actually, and it’s one of the simplest yet thought provoking illustrations I’ve ever seen. For anyone who doesn’t get it, the analogy is basically showing how queer identities are represented within the mainstream as being ripped, white, cis-gendered, masculine and basically ‘straight-passing’. The remainder of the iceberg (that is below water and not seen) are the backbone of the queer community. POC’s and genderfluid expressionists are the epitome of queer culture, but society seems to only provide the latter with a platform.
Now, I’m going to say as I all know what you’re thinking, that I fall into some of the latter brackets. When I first started social media, I fell into most of them. I spent most of my time at the gym trying to achieve that toned physique, attempted to be masc4masc, and struggled with my femininity. I have since grown a lot as a person and have learned that the reason for this was. I was attempting to achieve what society had told me was desirable, and by desirable, I mean the Queer Iceberg’s idea of hierarchy. I’d spent my whole not fitting in, and this was my way of finally doing that. What I came to realise however, was that by me attempting to ‘fit in’, I was merely affecting other younger queer journeys along the way. The way we see it, is that the tip of the queer iceberg is the part of our community that appeases the mainstream, heteronormative values. These are the people that are less ‘performative’ with their sexuality.
I also recognise that I still fall into some of those brackets. I am a white, cis-gendered male. I recognise the privilege that comes with a position such as this and am using this as an opportunity to elevate other voices. I am much less confirmative that I used to be, but I still to an extent represent a privileged society. As a side note, we will be using the Happy Smiley platform to elevate the less represented voices within the queer community throughout pride month, and going forward, with our interviews. We have some amazing people from different backgrounds ready to tell their story throughout this historic month and we cannot WAIT for you to hear them.
Anyway, back to the Iceberg. Why is this an issue? Why is having a small proportion of our community representing us all a bad thing? The reason this is a bad thing, is that the Iceberg represents the cultural bare minimum of our community. The queer identity has been founded and protected by the most diverse and expressive group of people. The people we have to thank for the privileges that many of us have today, such as Martha P. Johnson, are often submerged below the water on the Iceberg of representation. Our community is so much more than muscles, tans and Caucasians - but the rest is subtly whitewashed. Additionally, this lack of representation also provides fewer role models for the underrepresented of the community. As queer people, we know how hard it is to feel completely alone and that there is no one like you. Now imagine coming to terms with who you are, to find that the people ‘leading’ and ‘representing’ our community are doing little with the platforms they’re being graced with apart from setting bad examples.
Those atop the Iceberg often contribute little, if anything at all, to the growth and sustention of Queer culture. Like anyone that experiences privilege in society, it is our responsibility to uplift those in a less fortunate position. Those with socioeconomic privilege should help uplift those in a position of financial difficulty, those with racial privilege should help to uplift the voices of BIPOC’s. Those with heterosexual privilege should support the acceptance of their Queer counterparts. To sit idly by whilst our communities suffer inequality is to be compliant in subservience.
So what can we do to ensure we’re not compliant in retaining the Queer Iceberg? There are many different things we can do, and we’ve curated some resources for you:
Support Queer businesses - rather than multinational corporations that seem the capitalise on the rainbow one month per year. Look into businesses that are actively contributing to the betterment of Queer identities. Support businesses that are promoting diversity within their campaigns rather than capitalising on the ‘tip of the iceberg’.
Learn About Queer History - Whilst coming out can be a trying time for most of us, before most of our time, coming out wasn’t even a thing. Being able to marry as a homosexual was only legalised in the UK in 2016. Partaking in homosexual sex was only legalised in 1967. Whilst we’ve come a long way, it’s still quite recent and we owe a lot of that to older queers within our community. So, the least we can do when undergoing a more privileged queer experience is to learn about those who came before us.
Notice if you’re contributing to the Queer Iceberg - Whilst some of our identity is unconscious and simply part of our DNA, a lot of it is tailored to the way we wish to be perceived by others. As an example, I wasn’t working out because it made me happy, I was working out because I felt that’s what I needed to do to be attractive, and in turn I became part of the problem. Sometimes in our effort to ease our own insecurities, we become part of the problem that caused it for us in the first place.
I hope this has provided some form of clarification on the impact and important of the Queer Iceberg and what we can do to break it down. Let’s work together to diversify the representation within the queer community.