By Samuel Murray
As more violent Black murders are being shown via the media, and as more Indigenous and brown folx go missing without any coverage it is vital that we all examine our whiteness and what it means to be accountable for how we take action and rest.
As Pride Month comes to an end, we find ourselves once again face to face with both the complexity and polarizing differences within the queer community. One of these stark differences–always present (especially rearing an ugly head during Pride Month and festivities) is the blatant and excused racism within the white gay community.
The discussion of racism within the gay community is not new. For those that do not know, contemporary and “popular” queer culture is laregly influenced by Black and Latinx queer culture that was born, in part, because of racism and exclusion from white gay people and spaces. Much of what is now considered “gay culture” in the US was birthed from the Ballroom scene, created and embodied by Black queer and trans folk. Today, new innovations within gay culture are quickly appropriated from queer BIPOC.
For years, racism within the queer community has been discussed but pushed aside by the dominance of white gays and the commodification of gay culture. The white gay desire for homonormativity has also served to center privaledged white people in queer rights and further excludes other issues of transphobia, queerphobia, body-shaming, and abilism that queer folks also endure in society and within the LGBTQIA+ community.
Recently the Black Lives Matter protests, the vigils for murdered Black people, and the calls for Black Trans Lives Matter have been gaining momentum with white liberals. However, there has been vocal opposition from white gays to these acts of solidarity, claiming that BLM is “taking over Pride.” Even despite the fact that most Pride events were canceled due to COVID-19, still, many white gay men target these protests as a way to “erase” Pride.
Many white gay men have taken to twitter to voice their concerns. Not only exposing their racist beliefs, but also their historically un-informed understandings of the creation of Pride. Chadwick Moore, a Fox News journalist tweeted:
Other notable examples of white gay men perpetuating racism include the recent documentaries like Roland Emmerich’s “Stonewall” have explicitly whitewashed the narrative and specifically erased Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Miss Major, and Stormé DeLarverie, Black and Latinx Trans, queer, and cis lesbian women, who started the riots and are important pillars to the Gay Rights Movements. Another documentary that is anti-black, is Netflix’s “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson” by David France who stole archival footage, voice, and storyline from Tourmaline, a Black Trans filmmaker.
This openness and confidence for white gay men to be racist is not a new occurance. Just in the past 5 years, the white gay community has perpetatuted racist policies and structures by:
- Excluding QPOC from clubs in dress code policies, removing hennessey from the drinks menu, and banning hip-hop and rap music
- Invoking racist sexual preferences and fetishism within the community and on social apps
- In 2017 fighting against the inclusion of Black and Brown stripes to the rainbow flag in honor of the Black and Latinx people who are foundational in queer rights.
Today, Black Trans Women are disproportionately killed at alarming rates: so far in 2020, 17 Black Trans people have been murdered by racists, cops, and homophobia. Yet, a large and vocal white gay community still does not see this as a reason to protest or a reason to fight for the “community” they say exists. These recent examples demonstrate how white gay men claim a sense of ownership over Pride, even though one of the founding Pride movements was a protest against police brutality. Today, gay white men are able to confidently be as queer as they chose to, because of the history of activism and sacrifices of queer people of color.
I have personally heard many white gays say that talking about the racism within the community only divides–and “isn’t that the opposite of Pride?” However, one of the largest obstacles that the queer community faces before it can be truly “undivded,” is not only the racism but also the sexism, transphobia internalized queerphobia, body-shaming, and ableism that is rampant within the community. These microaggressions only seeks to divide people further, perpetuate white supremacy, and continued white gay cis dominance.
However, these protests and murders have not gone unnoticed by many queer people. And there are currently calls to change the commodified, toxic, and bastardized version of what we see Pride, physically, as today. Rainbow capitalism, homonormativity, and removal of police presence in Prides and in gay spaces has been spoken about fiercly in the wake of these important times.
As a white cis gay myself, I am working towards embodying an anti-racist practice and politics. Clearly, the homophobia that white gays experience, does nothing to sway a majority to be mindful of their privilege or racist behaviors. White gays need to wake up and realize their dominant privileges, their histories, and the rights that have been fought for them by queer people of color in this country. White gays need to realize that:
- Fighting for the rights to be equal to straight people should not be our goal because queer people will never be seen as fully human
- Rainbow capitalism and marriage equality are just distractions by corporations from systemic homophobia
- Tokenizing is an effort to sway white gays into believing that cops are here to protect them
From my experience explaining these very things to the white gays, they feel like I am downplaying their experiences as queer people in America and in a hetero-dominated society. I am not, and I share the same experiences of homophobia on a daily basis. For me, it has been unprofessional to act gay, it has been unacademic to act gay, and I have been internalizing self-hatred for who I am for most of my life now. The homophobia that I and other white gay men experience is terrible and sometimes it is life threatening–I am not saying that is it not.
However the disproportionate murders of Black people and Black queer people by cops, racists, and homophobes, cannot be compared to the microaggressions recieved for being a gay white man, especially since gay white men have been using their power and privilege to oppress queer Black people and queer POC. The systemic oppression that Black people in America face, the disturbing rates of rape and murder of Black trans women, and the appropriation of Ballroom culture are reasons why white gays need to be saying “Black Lives Matter.” Not only during this Pride Month but every Pride Month after until the queer community is truly undivided and Black Americans are given justice. Gay liberation in America was led by Black queer people, white gays need to challenge their privaledge and stand in solidarity with queer Black folk.