Flesh-Colored Rainbows | Is The Gay Community Racist?
Before we start, I think you should know more about me. I am a 20 y/o aromantic asexual demigirl (not that it matters or that I should HAVE to share all this to qualify my viewpoints, but whatever). I’m black, mostly, as least visibly, and I’m on the autism spectrum. I am also a communist who fights tooth and nail to maintain an inclusive intersectional worldview that goes beyond class struggle. Just… keep all this in mind for later.
So it’s Pride Month. Time for corporations to release Pride merch and for those of us who actually know what we’re talking about to remember the civil rights struggles from days of old. But we’re not here to time travel back to the sixties, let’s go a little more recent. Remember the 2017 Pride Flag unveiled in Philadelphia? It has since seen wider usage, keep this in mind for later. Remember how “news” sites like Vox pushed the idea that the flag change was viciously hated by a whole bunch of white gays, even though in the age of the Internet the pushback was probably exaggerated for a more compelling story? Keep this in mind as well.
As an LGBT+ PoC, intersectionality is second nature. I’m fully aware of all the ways bigotry can manifest, and that nobody is immune to spreading it. That said, some people’s idea of “intersectionality” is reminding cis white gay men that, since they are closest in proximity to “normalcy”, they are barely even minorities. You barely have to even try in order to dig up a think piece on “no blacks, no Asians, no femmes” in dating app profiles, think pieces usually hosted by faux-progressive outlets like Vox. Anything Vox says is neoliberal bullshit or at the very least has a neoliberal spin, let’s just establish that.
First, let’s just get this out of the way: If you’re an LGBT+ PoC who’s experienced bigotry from within the community, I am truly sorry. Probably the only reason I haven’t is that I rarely go into social spaces of any kind, because I am a reclusive shut-in. But keep in mind, for every bigot, there’s thousands of people who have your back. Yes, even cis white gay men.
Before anybody says it, no, I am not “seeking white approval” or “giving racism a free pass”. I’m also not calling for “unity” in the sense that you have to be friends with people who treat you badly. I am saying that the racism present among some LGBT people exists in patterns you can find among straight people as well, whether it’s dating preferences or race fetishism.
First of all, on the issue of dating preferences, I can’t bring myself to call them inherently discriminatory. Yes, I am aware that they are partially societally influenced, but as somebody on the autism spectrum, I can tell you firsthand that most preferences are deep-rooted feelings you can’t explain, and as long as you’re not an asshole about them, it’s fine. On top of that, I can’t simultaneously advocate for “consent is mandatory and you don’t owe it to anybody” and “‘no’ is a complete sentence” while also forcefully tearing down people’s personal boundaries.
Onto the concept of fetishization of PoC in dating circles, first of all, it happens in gay and straight dating circles equally. Second of all, from my own point of view as a woman of color, racial fetishization is kind of a mountain made of a molehill. These stereotypes exist largely as old justifications for slavery and colonization, and people who still hold these ideas probably haven’t been told different. It’s like how as kids we all thought that chewed gum would stay in our stomach for seven years if we swallowed it. We just needed to be told different. The bottom line is that on an interpersonal basis, most people are bigoted out of ignorance rather than malice, making their beliefs easier to remedy.
If you’re a person of color who fears that a potential love interest of yours may be a racist fetishizer, The most important thing for a person who fears that their partner is fetishizing them is, early on in their relationship, to pull their partner aside and say, “Look, before we go further, I just want to make it clear that I’m a person with thought and feelings, not just your (insert “lotus blossom”, “big black cock”, or whatever racial trope here). If you can accept that, we can continue”. Of course, some people get violent when you challenge them on stuff like this, so before a person calls somebody out for possibly fetishizing them they need to take steps to ensure their own safety. The thing is, laying out boundaries is part of ANY healthy relationship.
Keep in mind that accusations of bigotry can be cast by anybody for any reason. You see this all the time with right-wing groups positioning black men as inherently more misogynistic as an excuse to hate black people, despite right-wingers actually not giving a shit about misogyny. Positioning white gays as uniquely racist is the same thing. Careful not to feed each other to the wolves, you guys. The whitewashing of Stonewall is not only being exposed to more people as time goes on, it was done by the capitalists on top who wanted to turn it into a marketable story. It’s not purely racism, it’s born of corporate greed. We can regain control over such narratives by abolishing capitalism.
By the way, the PoC LGBT flag was largely a marketing ploy, and the initial opposition to it was not necessarily racism. Apparently it was also part of a campaign to raise awareness of the mistreatment of LGBT+ PoC in Philly’s gay nightclubs. Upon research, there was some event organizer caught on tape being racist, and several dress code regulations targeting people of color. Notice that this is not exclusive to the LGBT+ community; lots of schools and workplaces have (stupid) rules that, for instance, ban black women’s natural hair. Beyond the fact that in the years since the new flag’s release, the racial situation in Philly’s LGBT+ venues has actually improved, I think that instead of adding new stripes as an awareness-raising movement, they could have just… addressed the complaints with direct action. I don’t know, I just prefer hands-on approaches.
But back to the black and brown rainbow flag. Most people at the time of its release just considered the rainbow flag to encompass everybody, and were genuinely confused by the addition of the two stripes because the original meaning of the flag’s colors had nothing to do with race (remember: ignorance, not malice). Also, if white gays are in control of the “community”, that means that for the 2017 flag to have spread as widely as it did, it would have needed their support.
And don’t get me started on all the different pride flags.
A racist gay person is no more racist than a racist straight person. Minorities do tend to channel their experiences into being more accepting than other people. I think people are just more disappointed with bigotry from minorities because it feels like they should know better. But that leaves us with the uncomfortable reality that just like all groups of people, LGBT+ people are a mixed bag. Not all good, not all bad, just people.
Keep in mind that none of this unpacking of the LGBT+ community’s relationship with race is me excusing racism. It’s just that part of fighting for the autonomy of oppressed people is acknowledging it in the first place. People who share immutable characteristics will come to different conclusions, and think differently (not that they’re all correct). It is for all of the previously listed reasons that I propose that we let go of the idea of “communities” in a strict sense, because it creates expectations that real people will inevitably not meet. Not that we should stop communicating with people similar to us in various ways, I’m more referring to the idea that communities are organized groups, and that they all think the same and should be thought of in the same way. It’s not “racism in the gay community” the same way it’s not “reverse racism”: it’s just called racism.
Thanks for reading my first Medium post, leave your feedback in the comments.
For reference, here’s an article I found: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/07/07/yes-there-is-racism-in-the-lgbtq-community-but-not-as-much-as-outside-it/
And as a bonus treat, here’s some food for thought: https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/1wt6CERmmZU3KjLwtNlIMO?domain=time.com