My body is bloated and tired. I neglect it. We’re always at war for one reason or another. I had spent much of my youth trying to make it fit within the confines of talking heads and judgmental peers. But it won’t. It can’t. My skin is spotted with scars, with veins, with pimples and pustules, and other oddities and imperfections.
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
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.
Through the years the LBGT movement has adopted a variety of symbols to represent and unite our community in the struggle for equality. But is their meaning always clear?
The original eight colors were pink for sexuality, red for light, orange for healing, yellow for the sun, green for natural serenity, turquoise for art, indigo for harmony and violet for spirit.
Originating in the Victorian era, green carnation lapels were used as a way for gay men to discretely identify one another. Awards like the Green Carnation Prize celebrate gay writers and the history of the symbol.
Lavender & Pink
“Since 1977, the pink triangle has been adopted by the LGBT community as a symbol of the fight against oppression and the work for acceptance.” Says the Carleton Gender and Sexuality Center. Later, activists including ACT UP would continue to use the pink triangle and associate it with the chant “SILENCE=DEATH”
The greek Lambda has been associated with some of the first prominent LGBT Activist groups since the early 1970′s. According to the International Gay Rights Congress in Edinburgh, Scotland “the lambda signifies unity under oppression” and is still used by the gay rights group Lambda Legal and the Lambda Literary Award
Delve more into the history and communities represented by lgbt symbols: http://www.swade.net/gallery/symbols.html#labrys
By FAITH CHELTENHAM
Every September 23 is Celebrate Bisexuality Day, also known as Bi Pride Day. And every year on September 23, I do two things: First I wish my mother a happy birthday, and second I take a moment to pray for the bisexual activists, community organizers, and advocates past, present, and future. I say a blessing for all those we lost this year to suicide and disease, since there are always too many. Afterward I send some good thoughts out to the world. On Bi Pride Day, I celebrate that I am able to exist and am still happy to do so.
Last night I heard from my fellow BiNet USA board member Gary North, after he heard the news that Berkeley, Calif., was the first city in the nation to recognize the September 23 Bi Pride Day. Gary had gone and rummaged through his files and found that in 1990 the city of San Francisco had proclaimed June 23, 1990, Bisexual Pride Day in San Francisco in honor of the 1990 National Conference on Bisexuality. Gary tells me that the biggest lesson from his decades of involvement “has been reinforcement that change and acceptance are in large part generational.” I know what he means even though I am still a bit of a young one at 32 years of age.
Back in the 1990s I hadn’t even heard of the word bisexual, and coming from the small coastal California town of San Luis Obispo, my exposure to anything gay was very limited. Having been raised in the Church of God in Christ, a primarily black Pentecostal denomination, I had been placed in pastoral care by elementary school so as to stamp out my unnatural urges. My mom was doing what she then thought was right to save my soul, so I read from Ezekiel and had elders lay hands on me to pray that devil right on out. Like many queer folks, I escaped my confusion of sexuality into a clusterf*** of sexual activity because none of it made a whole lot of sense. People told me I would “come out eventually,” but I didn’t have any idea what they were talking about, as I had a preference for living indoors and really hated camping. So I carefully folded up my pictures ferreted out of a trashed Playboy, hid them under the bed, and prayed after doing such “bad things” at the end of every night. My heart still pounds to think of my fear, to remember the feeling of being caught in an undertow, as if I jumped into the biggest wave, only to find the light lacking and the deepness of the ocean void of air. It seemed I lived without breathing for years, caught between the worlds of gay and straight.
Finding the bisexual community saved me. Finding others like me online and off made me feel completely normal and finally capable of loving relationships with whomever I wanted who wanted me. No one should need a permission slip to fall in love, and no one should have anyone else’s definitions define them. This Bi Pride Day I celebrate the heroes who helped me get here, and all the people who work toward a world where none of us live without being able to love ourselves. In a stunning letter from a person who’s loved more than one gender, Frank Ocean tells me, “I was never alone, as much as I felt like it … as much as I still do sometimes. I never was. I don’t think I ever could be.” Frank’s letter shot off into space, breaking barriers and embracing the kids on the street, people between sheets, and all the other lovers who had missed a beat. For there are still too many people waiting, watching, and wondering about the line of best fit; how they intersect, and if they’ll ever connect.
There’s nothing more annoying to me than a person who scoffs at my bisexual insistence, those who tell me “sexuality’s not really a big deal” and “no one really cares.” When my orientation is dirty enough to be on a block list from Google and I have to spend time convincing them it matters, it’s a big deal. When monosexism and heterosexism mix in my Lamaze class and I’m seen as a married straight, it troubles me. Yet I am lucky to not be the first person to care, and to not be the last. Lani Ka’ahumanu, Autumn Courtney, Arlene Krantz, David Lourea, Cienna Stewart, Maggie Rubenstein, and other members ofBiPol organized that first National Conference on Bisexuality in San Francisco, and we bisexuals have always been right there, matching stride for stride. Our pride was so fierce that Brenda Howard, a bisexual woman, was even a founder of the LGBT Pride days now held all over the world. These days,bisexuals run for Congress and train contestants for NBC’s The Biggest Loser. We’re lambasted by conservatives and defended by a gay icon who only agreed bi men existed last year. Gary’s right, all this life is change; either you’re making it or you’re waiting around for it. So this time every year, I say a lil’ pagan prayer that someone else just like a younger me will know what it is to breathe safe and free.
FAITH CHELTENHAM is the president of BiNet USA.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Trigger Warning: Rape, Consent, Sex
Trigger Warning: Rape, Consent, Sex
The rape joke is that you were 19 years old.
The rape joke is that he was your boyfriend.
The rape joke it wore a goatee. A goatee.
Imagine the rape joke looking in the mirror, perfectly reflecting back itself, and grooming itself to look more like a rape joke. “Ahhhh,” it thinks. “Yes. A goatee.”
The rape joke is that he was seven years older. The rape joke is that you had known him for years, since you were too young to be interesting to him. You liked that use of the word interesting, as if you were a piece of knowledge that someone could be desperate to acquire, to assimilate, and to spit back out in different form through his goateed mouth.
Then suddenly you were older, but not very old at all.
The rape joke is that you had been drinking wine coolers. Wine coolers! Who drinks wine coolers? People who get raped, according to the rape joke.
The rape joke is he was a bouncer, and kept people out for a living.
The rape joke is that he carried a knife, and would show it to you, and would turn it over and over in his hands as if it were a book.
He wasn’t threatening you, you understood. He just really liked his knife.
The rape joke is he once almost murdered a dude by throwing him through a plate-glass window. The next day he told you and he was trembling, which you took as evidence of his sensitivity.
How can a piece of knowledge be stupid? But of course you were so stupid.
The rape joke is that sometimes he would tell you you were going on a date and then take you over to his best friend Peewee’s house and make you watch wrestling while they all got high.
The rape joke is that his best friend was named Peewee.
OK, the rape joke is that he worshiped The Rock.
Like the dude was completely in love with The Rock. He thought it was so great what he could do with his eyebrow.
The rape joke is he called wrestling “a soap opera for men.” Men love drama too, he assured you.
The rape joke is that his bookshelf was just a row of paperbacks about serial killers. You mistook this for an interest in history, and laboring under this misapprehension you once gave him a copy of Günter Grass’s My Century, which he never even tried to read.
It gets funnier.
The rape joke is that he kept a diary. I wonder if he wrote about the rape in it.
The rape joke is that you read it once, and he talked about another girl. He called her Miss Geography, and said “he didn’t have those urges when he looked at her anymore,” not since he met you. Close call, Miss Geography!
The rape joke is that he was your father’s high-school student—your father taught World Religion. You helped him clean out his classroom at the end of the year, and he let you take home the most beat-up textbooks.
The rape joke is that he knew you when you were 12 years old. He once helped your family move two states over, and you drove from Cincinnati to St. Louis with him, all by yourselves, and he was kind to you, and you talked the whole way. He had chaw in his mouth the entire time, and you told him he was disgusting and he laughed, and spat the juice through his goatee into a Mountain Dew bottle.
The rape joke is that come on, you should have seen it coming. This rape joke is practically writing itself.
The rape joke is that you were facedown. The rape joke is you were wearing a pretty green necklace that your sister had made for you. Later you cut that necklace up. The mattress felt a specific way, and your mouth felt a specific way open against it, as if you were speaking, but you know you were not. As if your mouth were open ten years into the future, reciting a poem called Rape Joke.
The rape joke is that time is different, becomes more horrible and more habitable, and accommodates your need to go deeper into it.
Just like the body, which more than a concrete form is a capacity.
You know the body of time is elastic, can take almost anything you give it, and heals quickly.
The rape joke is that of course there was blood, which in human beings is so close to the surface.
The rape joke is you went home like nothing happened, and laughed about it the next day and the day after that, and when you told people you laughed, and that was the rape joke.
It was a year before you told your parents, because he was like a son to them. The rape joke is that when you told your father, he made the sign of the cross over you and said, “I absolve you of your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” which even in its total wrongheadedness, was so completely sweet.
The rape joke is that you were crazy for the next five years, and had to move cities, and had to move states, and whole days went down into the sinkhole of thinking about why it happened. Like you went to look at your backyard and suddenly it wasn’t there, and you were looking down into the center of the earth, which played the same red event perpetually.
The rape joke is that after a while you weren’t crazy anymore, but close call, Miss Geography.
The rape joke is that for the next five years all you did was write, and never about yourself, about anything else, about apples on the tree, about islands, dead poets and the worms that aerated them, and there was no warm body in what you wrote, it was elsewhere.
The rape joke is that this is finally artless. The rape joke is that you do not write artlessly.
The rape joke is if you write a poem called Rape Joke, you’re asking for it to become the only thing people remember about you.
The rape joke is that you asked why he did it. The rape joke is he said he didn’t know, like what else would a rape joke say? The rape joke said YOU were the one who was drunk, and the rape joke said you remembered it wrong, which made you laugh out loud for one long split-open second. The wine coolers weren’t Bartles & Jaymes, but it would be funnier for the rape joke if they were. It was some pussy flavor, like Passionate Mango or Destroyed Strawberry, which you drank down without question and trustingly in the heart of Cincinnati Ohio.
Can rape jokes be funny at all, is the question.
Can any part of the rape joke be funny. The part where it ends—haha, just kidding! Though you did dream of killing the rape joke for years, spilling all of its blood out, and telling it that way.
The rape joke cries out for the right to be told.
The rape joke is that this is just how it happened.
The rape joke is that the next day he gave you Pet Sounds. No really. Pet Sounds. He said he was sorry and then he gave you Pet Sounds. Come on, that’s a little bit funny.