"Hi there.. I was at a gsa meeting recently and one of the other attendees said that it must be so hard for me to be out as queer "because black people are more homophobic than white people….. right?" I don’t think her intentions were bad but that statement was confusing and upsetting to me. Why do people think that’s true??"
- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by J Mase III as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions
J Mase III Says:
I remember when Barack Obama was voted into office the first time. My favorite columnist at the moment was Dan Savage and every Tuesday, I would faithfully download his podcast before my work day and listen to it while I hammered away at my computer. Then 2008 happened. The same night that Barack Obama was elected into office to become our first Black President, Proposition 8, a ban against same sex marriage in the state of California also passed- and there was Dan to give us all his real world analysis on why these things happened. You see, it was black people. At least that was what Dan said. In his podcast he described an America in which the homophobia of black people prevented LGB folks from getting their right to marriage. It didn’t matter that more white folks had voted in that election. It didn’t matter that the Mormon church poured a small King’s fortune on ensuring the ban would pass. None of this mattered. We as black Americans had simply not done our part to promote justice and equality for all. I lost an idol that day.
This sentiment is something that many people articulate every day, be they white or people of color, unfortunately. Black people are seen as being inherently more trans/homo/biphobic than their white counterparts. Where does this idea come from and what purpose does it serve that this very old idea gets paraded around? One of the biggest deceptions I think we are taught is that we are individuals with free will and access to any dream we push ourselves towards. The reality is that we are of course part of a larger system of power and privilege.
The fact that we exist as LGBTQ people does not separate us from the global history of white supremacy and colonization. When we look at mainstream LGBTQ organizations, they are primarily run by middle to upper class white cisgender folks. The narrative in this country about LGBTQ people is often by folks very segregated from black and brown people. What ends up happening then is black & brown folks are seen as the mysterious and dangerous other when we speak our minds for or against LGBTQ people. Rarely do folks who speak about black people in particular being more homophobic consider that the anti-LGBTQ laws we have had (and continue to have) on the books comes from a legal and judicial system that is primarily white. We ignore systems. We are taught to. If we look at systems and pay attention to the inherent racism in a statement like that and we pay attention to the lack of representation of people of color in leadership positions, change would be required.
Of course your classmate did not think about the larger implications of what they were saying. They merely stated something they perceived to be a fact. Unfortunately, the dismissal, degrading of black and brown people is a fact that rarely goes unchallenged regardless of how dangerous the implications can be.
As you navigate spaces in which the whole of your identity as a queer black person is not valued, I hope you are paying attention to spaces around you made for and by queer folks of color. If there are no physical spaces in which you feel this is happening where you are, I hope you look at online spaces like the Trans Women of Color Collective, Black Trans Media, Black Girl Dangerous, Son of Baldwin, Elixher and others. There is also a slew of qpoc specific conferences popping up all over the country that your school may even have some funds to support you with in going. If you need someone to help you facilitate conversations, on what it would look like to address structural racism where you are, feel free to check out an organization I run called awQward. The point being in all of this, is there are so many places where you can have your black and queer identity validated. It is important that white supremacy in our concepts of queerness be addressed. We as people of color are more likely to not only identify as LGBTQ than our white counterparts, but also, more likely to face discrimination in the larger community because of it. The queer community has a responsibility to talk about the ways we perpetuate violence through these limited ideas of queerness, and you as a young black person have a responsibility to take care of yourself and find spaces you feel safe.
PS: If you’re interested in some further reading that addresses your question, check out this article!
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"Hello! I am a white lady and I recently started dating a really wonderful, intelligent, and kind mixed-race lady. I like her SO much but I've noticed that I have no idea how to talk about race/feel a little guarded around her because I'm so worried I'll say something offensive without realizing it. How can I be the best possible ally to her and learn to just fully be myself in this new relationship?"
- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Kai Davis as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions.
Firstly, your primary goal is on point. You definitely want to be yourself in any interracial relationship, platonic or not. I can’t even begin to tell you how irksome it is when a white person tries too hard to relate. The human experience is enough to create connections and there’s never any need to erase identities, even your own.
Also, as a white person, the best thing you can do in conversations about race is to listen more than you talk. People of color are silenced too much in their every day lives. Avoid talking over your partner at all cost. That’s not to say that you should never speak on anything racial ever. You have to open yourself up to the possibility of being wrong. Let your partner know that she can check you if you ever say anything offensive. That’s the only way you’ll be able to learn and grow from it. I have several white friends who have said subtly racist comments and I’ve checked them on it. And the reason we are still friends is because they took a second, reflected, let me explain why what they said was wrong, apologized, and never made the same mistake again.
I think if anyone understands how a group of people can become poisoned with a hateful mindset, it’s people of color. We’ve watched our families and communities succumb to the racist ideas of the white worldview until the point where we see our people hate themselves. I personally, as a queer woman of color, had a lot of obstacles to overcome before I could begin to understand how power works in this world. You have obstacles too. The only difference is that you benefit from the power structure that you must learn to understand.
That brings me to my last point. You must read read read. You can’t rely on your partner to teach you because it’s very likely that any racial knowledge that she possesses wasn’t handed to her. There are plenty of resources on the internet, in libraries, and in films that can help you gain enough information to not be so nervous during discussions about race.
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Everyone Is Gay has started a new project to help parents who have LGBTQ kids: Check out The Parents Project!
"How do I deal with racist LGBT members? I feel like its not talked about enough, but there are a lot of racist undertones in gay movies, clubs/parties, and more. It becomes a little too much when you see a group of white gays try to “channel” sassy black women. I’ve even been cast out of groups because of my skin color. Marginalized groups discriminating against other people is an example of pure hypocrisy."
- Question submitted by youdefineyourownbeauty and answered by Kai Davis as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions
Firstly I feel that it is necessary to discard the idea that white gay people are that much different than white people in general. Racism is going to manifest amongst a dominant culture and being marginalized in one aspect of one’s life does not negate his or her privilege in another. The only difference with racism in the queer community is how it reveals itself, which I think you touched on in your question.
Dealing with and confronting racists is an extremely difficult task for a person of color. It is often nearly impossible to affect change because their racism is both a weapon and a shield. They will refuse to listen to you because of your color. You will automatically be seen as militant, combative, or even plain stupid. Because of this shield, there is no introspection, there is no dialogue, and there is no change. I still haven’t found a way to deal with that issue. It can become extremely frustrating to know that your feelings and the feelings of all people of color are valid and you still have that validity denied.
As people of color, we often try to make our opinions palatable for white people. I don’t think you should do that. Oppression has subdued us enough and I don’t think our liberation will come from that same silence. Almost all of the knowledge and information that is readily accessible has been filtered through the white worldview. Yes, that means that even much of the race theory we study in high school and college is watered down so that it can be easily digested. And based on what you’ve mentioned in your question, it hasn’t helped race relations much, even amongst marginalized groups.
Confrontation, aggressiveness, and assertiveness might chip away at the iceberg and it might not. The bigger fight is not allowing yourself to be silenced. People don’t like being called racists, because then they must acknowledge it, and when they acknowledge it they are expected to change their actions, thereby disrupting the status quo. The disruption of the status quo is the last thing a person in power wants to do. Backlash is inevitable when it comes to confronting bigots, but you are not here to make them comfortable. Confront them in a way that placates your soul. Confront them in a way that liberates your heart because even if they haven’t changed for the better, you have.
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“do you have any advice on how to come out? I’m a lesbian, but i come from a VERY religious family. My family is African-American, and they think it’s not okay for an African-American to go against God’s word (something like that.) I live with my mum and brother, and I want to know how to tell my mum that I am not heterosexual. Thanks!”
- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Broderick Greer as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions
I don’t know if anyone has told you before, so I will: you are a person of courage. It not only takes courage to tell the people you love the truth about who you are, but it takes courage to even have the desire to tell the people you love who you truly are. You deserve a chorus of cheers for your bravery.
There is no right way to come out. Coming out varies from person to person. Some people do it over the phone, others on YouTube. Some do it in public speeches and others do it through a letter. It depends on what feels right and works for you. Remember, it is your decision and yours alone. It may be helpful to find a close friend to practice coming with. Prepare your announcement in advance and say what comes to mind. If it doesn’t come out the way you’d like, be gentle with yourself.
Like your parents, I am African-American and very religious. I pray and attend church on a daily basis. Like you, I am a gay person with hopes of becoming an honest, integrated, whole human being. None of these desires or realities are in conflict with each other. In fact, all of these desires and realities make my life an enriching tapestry of experiences. Does this make coming out to your mother easier? I doubt it. Whatever her response to your coming out is, I want you to know one thing: you are loved. Whether or not you believe in God, God loves and believes in you; I love you; and your friends love you.
Even though coming out is deeply personal, it is still deeply public. As soon as you verbalize your sexual orientation to another person, you are opening up yourself to a set of unique challenges and joys over the course of your life. It will not be a journey filled with dandelions, butterflies, and unicorns. Your journey of self-discovery may very well be one filled with pain and difficulty. But in the midst of pain and difficulty, let yourself be surprised by moments of beauty, love, and goodness. Hold on to whatever pieces of gratitude you come across.
You are surrounded by an expansive community of support whether you realize it or not. It is a community of queers who know what it’s like to not be appreciated for who they are. It is a community of marginalized people who have been where you are. And it is a community of people like me who are rooting for your flourishing. So my friend, flourish. Accept love. Sit in silent spaces and know that you are deeply appreciated by your Creator. Ignore your haters.
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"I think I may be racist? It’s really difficult, because I am all for equality and I certainly don’t want to think less of others based on their skin color, but I can’t seem to help it. I hate that I think this way and cannot understand why? Help! I want to love everyone!"
- Question submitted by Anonymous
Here’s the thing, It’s not necessarily your fault. We were all brought up in a world where we’re taught from a very young age that certain types of people do certain types of things. AND WHAT’S MORE…I’m sure it isn’t just about race. If you saw someone wearing a yamaka you’d make some snap judgements. OR if you saw a skinny gay boy with glitter on his face and spikey blonde highlights you’d “KNOW” EXACTLY WHAT KIND OF PERSON HE IS. OR if you saw someone in a baggy coat sleeping on the street you’d have plenty of thoughts about their daily life.
Don’t get down on yourself, just recognize that you’re having these thoughts and move on. I have plenty of days where I see a sassy black girl bobbing her head on the train and I’m like ‘man, i bet that girl CAN SING’ and then i have to tell myself ‘noooo, dannielle, just because she’s black does not mean she can sing really well’ or i’ll see two boys holding hands and i’ll think to myself ‘i bet they can tell me when the new season of Idol starts’ and then i say in my head ‘DANNIELLE YOU STOP THAT’ or I’ll see my friend, Jose, and I’ll be like ‘when was the last time j. lo was on the cover of Latina Magazine’ and he’ll be like ‘February’…
We have stereotypical thoughts because we’re raised in a world with TV and Movies and Radio and Advertising. All of these things basically shove in our face ‘THESE PEOPLE ACT THIS WAY AND DO THESE THINGS’ and since we all spend 86% of our time watching TV and Movies and can not physically escape advertisements no matter how hard we try… we believe them and we live our lives being like ‘GASP A BOY WITH SAGGY PANTS HE’S PROLLY GOING TO ROB THIS PLACE’ and then he walks up to the counter and he’s like ‘are your rice krispy treats still on sale or did that end yesterday?’ …. then you think to yourself “I am an idiot and the world is stupid”
As long as you have those ‘calm down, self’ moments, you’re doing great. We are all regular ole humans who go through dumb ole shit and none of us are exactly alike. Just remember that and you’ll be totally fine.
I’m going to tell you guys a quick story. I used to belong to the Park Slope Food Coop, which is a totally crunchy-hippie place where food is organic and local and cheap as hell, and you are also required to work there in order to shop there. So, basically, everyone in the entire supermarket is both a customer and an employee… no one is really working for anyone else, you are all working for yourselves and each other simultaneously.
One day, as I stood at the register paying for my hippie-crunchy veggies, I realized with horror that the way in which I was interacting with these cashiers was markedly different from the way I interacted with cashiers at other supermarkets. Now, I wasn’t treating the cashiers at Key Food like assholes and screaming at them to pack my eggs properly, but there was something about those interactions that informed the way I acted and felt in a very subtle way. Here in the coop line, though, I knew that the cashier was my equal, and that changed something.
Now, hopefully most of you came to a screeching halt when I just said the word equal – hopefully most of you were like SHE SAID WHAT?! THE CASHIERS AT KEY FOOD ARE JUST AS MUCH HER GODDAMN EQUAL AS ANYONE ELSE. And you’re right – they are… and I know that… but inside of me somewhere there are other factors at work that inform me, even if only for split seconds.
Those moments, those actions, exist in all of us. The true horror comes when we are unaware of those feelings or we hold them to be truthful. The best way that we can exist within this world and within those feelings is to be constantly vigilant about those moments, examine them, talk about them, and untie those knots of racism that are present within all of us.
No one is less than anyone else because of skin color, because of income, because of dialect, because of religion, because of anything. You are saying that you believe that, and you hate the parts of you that snap to other assumptions. That is a wonderful first step. Keep examining, keep reflecting, and always pull yourself back to the truth.
PS: In case you want to read a pretty awesome (from what I remember… having read it about three years ago) article that addresses some of what we are talking about, look up “An Interview with Audre Lorde: Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich.”