GLBTQ RACISM: A Time to Address our Secret

A Different Shade of Queer: Race, Sexuality, and Marginalizing by the Marginalized

Shared experiences of oppression rarely lead to sympathy for others who are also marginalized, traumatized, and minimized by the dominant society. Rather, all too miserably, those who should naturally join in fighting discrimination find it more comforting to join their oppressors in oppressing others.

By Chong-suk Han

Image

By now, two things are bitterly clear about our “shared” American experiences. One, a shared history of oppression rarely leads to coalition building among those who have been systematically denied their rights. More devastatingly, such shared experiences of oppression rarely lead to sympathy for others who are also marginalized, traumatized, and minimized by the dominant society. Rather, all too miserably, those who should naturally join in fighting discrimination find it more comforting to join their oppressors in oppressing others. As a gay man of color, I see this on a routine basis – whether it be racism in the gay community or homophobia in communities of color. And it pisses me off.

I’m sure, about why such things happen. But for now, I’m not interested in why it happens. Rather, I’m interested in exposing it, condemning it, shaming it, and stopping it.

Many gay activists want to believe that there aren’t issues of racism within the gay community. As members of an oppressed group, they like to think that they are above oppressing others. Yet, looking around any gayborhood, something becomes blatantly clear to those of us on the outside looking in. Within the queer spaces that have sprung up in once neglected and forgotten neighborhoods, inside the slick new storefronts and trendy restaurants, and on magazine covers, gay America has given a whole new meaning to the term “whitewash.”

Whiteness in the gay community is everywhere, from what we see, what we experience, and more importantly, what we desire. Media images now popular in television and film such as Will and Grace, My Best Friend’s Wedding, In and Out, Queer as Folks, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, The L-Word, etc. promote a monolithic image of the “gay community” as being overwhelmingly upper-middle class – if not simply rich – and white. Even the most perfunctory glance through gay publications exposes the paucity of non-white gay images. It’s almost as if no gay men or women of color exist outside of fantasy cruises to Jamaica, Puerto Rico, or the “Orient.” And even there, we apparently only exist to serve the needs of the largely gay white population seeking an “authentic” experience of some kind. To the larger gay community, our existence, as gay men and women of color, is merely a footnote, an inconvenient fact that is addressed in the most insignificant and patronizing way. Sometime between Stonewall and Will and Grace, gay leaders, along with the gay press, have decided that the best way to be accepted was to mimic upper middle-class white America.

Sometimes, racism in the gay community takes on a more explicit form aimed at excluding men and women of color from gay institutions. All over the country, gay people of color are routinely asked for multiple forms of I.D. to enter the most basic of gay premises, the gay bars. In the 1980s, the Association of Lesbian and Gay Asians found that multiple carding was widespread throughout the city of San Francisco and the “Boston Bar Study” conducted by Men of All Colors Together Boston (MACTB) cited numerous examples of discrimination at gay bars against black men. Rather than a specter of gay whitening practices from the past, the efforts to exclude gay men of color are still in full swing. In 2005, the San Francisco Human Rights Commission found that the San Francisco BadLands, a once popular bar, violated the civil rights of non-white patrons and employees by denying entrance to, and employment at, the bar. Denied access to the gay bars, gay men and women of color often lose the ability to see and socialize with others “like them” who also turn to these “safe” places for not only their social aspects but their affirming aspects. Isolated incidents might be easily forgotten, but news reports and buzz on various on-line forums expose such practices to be endemic to gay communities.

More importantly, gay men and women of color are routinely denied leadership roles in “gay” organizations that purport to speak for “all of us.” In a process that Allan Bérubé calls “mirroring,” gay organizations come to “mirror” mainstream organizations where leadership roles are routinely reserved for white men and a few white women. As such, it is the needs and concerns of a largely middle class gay white community that come to the forefront of what is thought to be a “gay” cause. Interjecting race at these community organizations is no easy task. On too many occasions, gay men and women of color have been told not to muddy the waters of the “primary” goal by bringing in concerns that might be addressed elsewhere. When mainstream “gay” organizations actually address issues of race, gay white men and women continue to set the agenda for what is and is not “appropriate” for discussion. Likewise, when “ethnic” organizations set the agenda, gay and lesbian issues are nowhere to be found.

The primacy of whiteness in the gay community often manifests as internalized racism. In “No blacks allowed,” Keith Boykin argues that “in a culture that devalues black males and elevates white males,” black men deal with issues of self-hatred that white men do not. Boykin argues that this racial self-hatred makes gay black men see other gay black men as unsuitable sexual partners and white males as ultimate sexual partners.

hatred. Rather, it seems to be pandemic among many gay men of color. Even the briefest visit to a gay bar betrays the dirty secret that gay men of color don’t see each other as potential life partners. Rather, we see each other as competitors for the few white men who might be willing to date someone “lower” on the racial hierarchy. We spend our energy and time contributing to the dominance of whiteness while ignoring those who would otherwise be our natural allies. When Asian men tell me that they “just don’t find Asian guys attractive,” I often wonder what they see when they look in the mirror. How does one reconcile the sexual repulsion to their race with the reflection in the mirror?

Ironically, we strive for the attention of the very same white men who view us as nothing more than an inconvenience. “No femmes, no fats, and no Asians,” is a common quote found in many gay personal ads, both in print and in cyberspace. Gay white men routinely tell us that we are lumped with the very least of desirable men within the larger gay community. To many of them, we are reduced to no more than one of many “characteristics” that are considered undesirable. Rather than confronting this racism, many of these gay Asian brothers have become apologists for this outlandish racist behavior. We damage ourselves by not only allowing it, but actively participating in it. We excuse their racist behavior because we engage in the same types of behavior. When seeking sexual partners for ourselves, we also exclude “femmes, fats, and Asians.” We hope that we are somehow the exception that proves the rule. “We’re not like other Asians,” we tell ourselves. I’m sure that similar thought go on in other minds, only, “Asian” might be replaced with black, Latino, Native American, etc. In our minds, we are always the exceptions.

The rationale we use, largely to fool ourselves, to justify the inability of seeing each other as potential partners and allies, is laughable at best. Many Asian guys have told me that dating other Asians would be like “dating [their] brother, father, uncle, etc.” Yet, we never hear white men argue that dating other white men would be like dating their brothers or fathers. This type of logic grants individuality to white men while feeding into the racist stereotype that all of “us” are indistinguishable from one another and therefore easily interchangeable.

Some of us rely on tired stereotypes. Boykin writes about the professional gay black man who degrades other black men as being of a “lower” social class while thinking nothing of dating blue-collar white men.

If we are invisible in the dominant gay community, perhaps we are doubly so in our own communities of color. If we are a footnote in the gay community, we are an endnote in communities of color – an inconvenient fact that is buried in the back and out of view. We are told, by family and friends, that “being gay,” is a white “problem.” We are told, early in life, that we must avoid such stigma at all costs. When we try to interject issues of sexuality, we are told that there is precious little time to waste on “trivial” needs while we pursue racial justice.

I’ve seen those who are marginalized use the master’s tools in numerous instances, now too legion to list. Citing Leviticus, some people of color who are also members of the clergy have vehemently attacked homosexuality as an “abomination.” This is the same Leviticus that tells us that wearing cloth woven of two fabrics and eating pork or shrimp is an “abomination” punishable by death. Yet not surprisingly, rarely do Christian fundamentalists picket outside of a Gap or a Red Lobster. If hypocrisy has a border, those yielding Leviticus as their weapon of choice must have crossed it by now. It must be convenient to practice a religion with such disdain that the word of God need only be obeyed when it reinforces one’s own hatred and bigotry and completely ignored when it is inconvenient. How else do we explain those who condemn Brokeback Mountain based on their “religious” views while, in the same breath, praise Walk the Line, a movie about two adulterous country singers? On purely religious views, doesn’t adultery rank higher on the list of “sins” than homosexuality? After all, adultery is forbidden by the Ten Commandments while homosexuality is not.

More problematic is that we chose to practice historic amnesia by ignoring the fact that Leviticus was used by slave owners to justify slavery by arguing that God allowed the owning of slaves and selling of daughters. Anti-miscegenation laws, too, were justified using the Bible. In 1965, Virginia trial court judge Leon Bazile sentenced an interethnic couple who were married in Washington, D.C. to a jail term using the Bible as his justification. In his ruling, he wrote, “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” Scores of others also used the story of Phinehas, who distinguished himself in the eyes of God by murdering an inter-racial couple, thereby preventing a “plague” to justify their own bigotry. Have we forgotten that the genocide and removal of Native Americans was also largely justified on biblical grounds?

Have we simply decided to pick and choose the parts of the Bible that reinforce our own prejudices and use it against others in the exact same way that it has been used against us? Have we really gotten this adapt at using the master’s tools that he no longer needs to use them himself to keep us all “in our place”?

Given the prevalence of negative racial attitudes in the larger gay community and the homophobia in communities of color, gay people of color have to begin building our own identities. For gay people of color to be truly accepted by both the gay community and communities of color, we must form connections with each other first and build strong and lasting coalitions with each other rather than see each other as being competitors for the attention of potential white partners. We must begin confronting whiteness where it stands while simultaneously confronting homophobia. More importantly, we must begin doing this within our own small circle of “gay people of color.” We must confront our own internalized racism that continues to put gay white people on a pedestal while devaluing other gays and lesbians of color. Certainly, this is easier said than done. The task at hand seems insurmountable. In Seattle, a group of gay, lesbian, and transgendered social activists from various communities of color have launched the Queer People of Color Liberation Project. Through a series of live performances, they plan on telling their own stories to counter the master narratives found within the larger gay community and within communities of color.

Certainly, gay people of color have allies both in the mainstream gay community and in our communities of color. Recently, Kahlil Hassam, a high school student in Seattle won a national ACLU scholarship for opposing prejudice. Hassam, the only Muslim student at University Prep High School, decided to fight for justice after a Muslim speaker made derogatory comments about homosexuals. Despite his own marginalized status as a Muslim American, Hassam confronted the homophobia found within his own community. Examples such as these are scattered throughout the country. Nonetheless, there is much more that allies, both straight and gay, can do to promote social justice. We must see “gay rights” and “civil rights” as being not exclusive but complimentary. All too often, even those on the left view supporting “other” causes as being more about the Niomoellerian fear of having no one left to speak up for us if the time should come. I propose that the motivation to join in “other” causes should come not from such fears but from the belief that there are no such “other” causes. Rather, as Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us, “an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We must remind ourselves, contrary to what Cannick may want us to believe, social justice is not a zero-sum game. Granting “rights” to others do not diminish our rights. Rather, it is the exact opposite. Ensuring that “rights” are guaranteed to others ensures that they are guaranteed to us.

Why blaming the rise of HIV on ‘gay sex parties’ is irresponsible and dangerous

#stigma

The Guyliner

Sometimes it’s wonderful to wake up gay and some days, well, not so much. My perfectly Instagrammed breakfast of eggs benedict was seriously spoiled on reading the Guardian and the Independent’s latest overwrought articles about ‘gay sex parties’ being linked to a rise in HIV diagnoses.

This story is trotted out in some form or another every few months or so, usually illustrated with a microscopic selfie of HIV itself or a blurry picture of a heaving Vauxhall club. For the uninitiated, here’s how these pieces usually roll: a ‘study’ is done on HIV rates, a journalist will trawl the sexual health clinics or ask charities for statements until something is said that will make a good headline. Usually a finger points firmly at a supposed increase in gay sex parties, a Roman orgy remixed for the Vauxhall generation.

The piece is printed, society safely compartmentalises HIV as a…

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Body Ownership

Carmen Cordis is a rad CHATpdx Sexpert, Activist and Leader in Portland, OR. 

I’ve recently encountered a lot of people, whether they identify inside, outside, or on the fringe of the alphabet soup community (LGBTQQAAPIT-S and any I missed, in no particular order), who have given me an ultimatum, namely that I must make some kind of physical or surgical alteration (of other people’s choosing) to my body or appearance in order to “earn” their acceptance, approval, respect, charity, or support.

I am taking a stand against our culture of non-binary-gender-phobia, body-shaming, photographic alteration, unrealistic body image fixation, cissexism, transphobia, and discrimination based on gender identity, gender presentation, sexual orientation, or bodily appearance.

Carmen Graphic

I am a living, breathing, feeling human being with a heart, a brain, a plethora of dreams, a past, a future, and a story.

I am not someone else’s narrow vision of a quickly-labeled “other” identity that ceases to exist outside of those narrowly imposed boundaries.

I was born with human dignity.  My gender is my own; it does not belong to anyone else.  It cannot be ripped away from me and reshaped by someone else, because no one else owns it.

Likewise, My body is my own. No one the right to make serious, irreversible, potentially harmful or deadly decisions regarding MY BODY but me – and those I designate as my agents in the event that I desire assistance.

Because of the culture of fear, my body has been made into my worst enemy for as long as I can remember.  I also tend to avoid conflict and prefer mediation or compromise in order to diffuse conflict.

Unfortunately, at times I have lost the control of my own body because someone other than myself decided to own my body or change it to suit their desires.

Willingly, or unwillingly, I surrendered my body to someone else, sometimes to avoid external conflict, and found myself waiting for the hell to be over when I began to drown in the internal conflict I created by capitulating.

Carmen Own Post

Too many times, I have tried to destroy my body, in order to satisfy the demands of a fear-hatred culture, and to escape from the hell of conflict by giving up and throwing in the towel, saying, “Okay.  You win.  Are you happy now?”

I no longer wish to propitiate those people who would delight in my destruction.

I deserve to be happy, and one step toward my happiness is to own my own body.

Please consider my words the next time you notice someone (perhaps yourself, even) making serious entitlement claims to someone else’s body, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Please consider my words the next time you notice someone else making serious entitlement claims to your own body, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Do not surrender to anyone who would delight in the destruction or invalidation of your essential self, the self of your definition and determination, the self of your life experience.

No one is infallible, but maybe by educating each other we can make a better world, one step at a time.

Carmen Dignity Post

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What does the Asian Pacific Islander National HIV/AIDS Awareness Day mean to me?

What does the Asian Pacific Islander National HIV/AIDS Awareness Day mean to me?

I have never heard of the Banyan Tree Project nor National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, which falls next month on May 19. Each year A&PI Awareness day is sponsored by Banyan Tree Project. National Asian Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day goal is too highlight the negative stigma, lack of communication and general awareness of HIV/AIDS in the API community. The theme for 2012 is “Saving face can’t make you safe. Talk about HIV–for me, for you, for everyone.” An idea that is very important to highlight in our community.
Growing up as a Queer Chinese Asian American; I have seen the hush, hush of just talking about the queer community. It’s something you don’t acknowledge nor talk about subject. Heck, I didn’t even know that there are community groups out there dedicating themselves to informing and educating the Asian Pacific Islander Queer community. Over the years, I have to learn to embrace myself, my community and all those that are a part of it. It was recently that I became even deeper part of the queer community and making myself part of the local API group, Asian Pacific Islander Pride, which had made me aware locally of the Asian Pacific Islander community and events. This is step one of many steps in my life to make myself a more engaging part of the API community. I’m proud for simply reaching out and help to increase awareness, decrease negative stereotypes and providing information that helps keep people informed.
Just like the other National HIV/AIDS Awareness Days, it is very important to embrace awareness into the ethnic groups of all backgrounds as those are the ones who generally are looked over and forgotten. I am glad that we, the Queer Asian community, are standing up and putting a voice to bring education and awareness to help make HIV/AIDS less of an impact while ending the stigma of being Queer in API community. The motto this year is for you to make our issue, your issue. Go and simply Speak Up! Get yourself involved in an organization, like Asian Pacific Pride, that you feel strongly with. It’s all starts with YOU.
What does A&PI HIV/AIDS Awareness Day mean to you?

The desexualization of bullying – A deeper look at bullying’s sexual undertones

Posted on February 16, 2012

by: Kris Gowen, originally posted on Kris Gowens Blog

 

Kids Bullying

You Can Stop Bullying

I was going to try to come up with a fancier more accessible title, but I can’t right now. But I sure better by May! I’ve been invited to speak at an bullying awareness event in Austin Texas this May. While I jumped at this opportunity to share my work (and support my friend who is organizing the event), I quickly realized that I am no bullying expert. But, for better or for worse, not being a total expert on a topic as not stopped me before…

I am an expert on adolescent sexuality and sexual development. I also have a pretty good handle on youth and technology and how that impacts their development (hence, this blog). So, how to use my strengths in the context of this upcoming event? Tie all of these issues together — sexuality, technology, and bullying. I have found my comfort zone!

What’s odd is that while so much of bullying has a sexual undertone or is blatantly about sex or sexuality or at least gender, most bullying curricula, anti-bullying campaigns, etc., do not acknowledge this important association. Bullying is seen as harassment, teasing, isolation, and assault. But under no circumstances should one put the word “sexual” in front of any of those terms and call it bullying.

Why this separation? Why not discuss sexual harassment while discussing bullying? Where is the conversation about sexual respect and self-worth in curricula that addresses the need to be nice to others? Are (anti) bullying experts afraid to talk about sex? Does it complicate things too much? Does it narrow their message?

Whatever the reason, I think it’s important to accept the fact that a lot of bullying has to do with sexuality. An obvious example is about name-calling due to sexual orientation and/or gender expression (and the “Think Before You Speak” campaign does a good job of calling this out). But what about sexting under pressure? Spreading rumors? Calling someone a ho or slut? These are unfortunately very common ways to bullying another, but where’s the conversation about the sexual components?

I hope to be able to speak more eloquently about this topic in the future. For now, I will continue to explore this rift and see if I can’t begin to bridge the gap between my interests and the important work done to decrease bullying among youth.

 

It’s your turn, what do you think we should do to change this? How has society removed Sexuality from bullying? Is this a bad thing? Comment and share your thoughts and then share this blog with someone you know.

Bully Victim Bystander

Stand Up Against Bullying

 

Being An Ally

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, being an ally is defined as “one that is associated with another as a helper”. The same goes for the New Oxford version “a person or organization that cooperates with or helps another in a particular activity:” Any way you put it, an ally is there to help another person, community and in some instances a country when they need that support. Historically, there were allies assisting to free Africans being enslaved in the United States, America served as an ally to European countries during World War II. And civil right activists were allies to the thousands of African-Americans fighting for civil rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution of the United States of America. Most recently, there has been a movement across the country of young people, educators, and parents supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth as allies.

Allies play a vital role in making schools safer for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. In fact, the first Gay-Straight Alliance was the idea of a straight ally. Although this isn’t a “new” movement, recent headlines about anti-LGBTQ bullying have brought to light the importance of allies to the LGBTQ community.

Being an ally means being there for people when the world marginalizes and discriminates against any one. Even today when we see more media representation of LGBTQ individuals, by in large, we still live in a society where to be anything other than heterosexual is not accepted. This is where allies come in! An ally for the LGBTQ community can be anyone, whether they are black, white, old, young, gay, or straight. Allies can be a support for LGBTQ people when they decide to come out to family, friends, community, church, or to anyone else. LGBTQ allies can stand up for LGBTQ youth and pledge: “I believe all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression deserve to feel safe, and supported. I will not use anti-LGBT language or slurs. I will intervene, if I safely can, in situations where students are being harassed, and support efforts to end bullying and harassment.”

Personally, as an ally I have had very rewarding experiences that made me really proud of what I stand for. Those experiences made me realize that the work I do isn’t in vain. In early October, a good friend of mine asked me, “What would you think of me if I told you I was attracted to men?” I told him, “I would think of you the same – who am I to tell you who you care about is wrong?” From then on he told me about his feelings and how he has been holding them in because he doesn’t want to be a part of the stereotype that society has created for gay men. He doesn’t want anyone to look at him differently because of his sexual orientation. We attend a university that is the most diverse in the North Carolina school system, and yet there is stigma around being a gay African-American male.

Being there for him was the best feeling I could have ever felt. After talking to me, he has since made strides in coming out to his peers and wants to tell his mother soon. I remember he told me once “I respect, support, and appreciate straight allies because they are the ones in society that are ‘normal’ in strong support of something that society sees as ‘abnormal.’ You all take the slack for all of that.” Although I let him know that he is in no way abnormal or wrong for his sexual orientation, I appreciated his words. I felt like I had a purpose.

You, too, can be an ally. High school students can join their gay/straight alliance at their schools, or if there isn’t one make an effort to be the founding member. College students can also join an organization that advocates for the issues relevant to LGBTQ youth. Within in that organization, plan a project, pass out flyers, ask questions, and most importantly, BE AVAILABLE! Go out into your communities and tackle the issues that relevant to the people around you. Take notice of abusive language, support your friends and their events. The Gay Lesbian Education Network, Advocates for Youth, and YouthResource are all great resources on how to plan events on campuses and in communities and ways to speak to your peers to ask questions to be a better ally.

I hope that the information that I have provided to you will make you more aware of the people around you and I hope that I have influenced you to stand up for the youth in your communities. Be the change.

As an ally, there will be instances where you will have to direct your peers to resources to deal with their specific situations. To start you off on your journey here are a few resources:

Share your own stories of being an ally. What does it mean to you? How important is it?

-Amara

Introducing Darwin, the Faerie

Aren't I cute

Name: Darwin

Age: 20

Gender Identity: Faerie

Sexual Orientation: Pansexual

Hometown: Portland, Oregon

Likes: People, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Myself, Pink

Dislikes: Grits, Busses being late, The way peanut butter gets stuck in your teeth, bigotry.

Hello folks! My name is Darwin. I am a femme identified gender queer currently residing in Portland, OR. I use Faerie pronouns which are fae or faerie instead of he or she. To use that in a sentence (although my friends have tried to dissect the grammar of my pronoun usage way more than I have), “Darwin went to the store and fae bought some rice milk.” And then I used the rice milk to make delicious chocolate chip cookies for all of you!

Anyhow, I am going to be a regular contributor to our fantastic blog here. The reason I wanted to write for Chatpdx and Chatmosphere is because I am a self-identified youth who cares about youth issues, in other words the issues I encounter as a queer youth everyday navigating our society and my communities. I am particularly interested in writing about how important I feel it is to be an ally to my peers and to have them be an ally to me. I feel that learning to be an ally to yourself and others is a fundamental component of helping create safe spaces and safe people for youth to share their experiences in and with. Sharing our experiences is part of growing and learning as individuals and communities. I hope that you will all ponder with me, think about, and discuss what being an ally to yourself and others means to you and looks like within your communities.

I also will be writing a lot about gender identity and journey. My gender has played an instrumental role in shaping how I view the world and it’s been instrumental in shaping my interpersonal experiences. Some days my gender is too complicated to think about. Some days it’s as simple as what shoes I want to wear. I feel that with gender, as with all identities, we have socially acceptable constructs of what that looks like forced upon us from birth. I feel that no matter who you are or how you identify, gender can affect you. Again I would encourage you all to think with me about how gender impacts your life and the way you view things, how you interact with people and so on.

So gender and ally-ship are two issues I am currently thinking a lot about and will probably be writing a lot about. There are other identities that factor into my life as well that I may share with you all. As a youth, which for me means as someone in constant change, transition, and growth, I am constantly thinking about my identities and my perceived identities, my oppressions and my perceived oppressions, my privileges and my perceived privileges. I hope you all will venture with me over the course of my writings in considering how all of the above mentioned things are in play within your own lives and how they shape your views of the world. You are all amazing incredible people, faeries, etc. Stay safe and take care of yourselves! Happy Faerie Magick!

-Darwin