As Kennedy’s retirement puts gay marriage on ice, don’t let the issues facing LGBTQIA+ PoC be ignored
The most marginalized and criminalized of LGBTQIA+ communities are left behind by mainstream narratives and whitewashing.
Millennials are more supportive of LGBT community members than the generations before us, but we still have a lot of work to do.
According to a recently released study by GenForward, “Millennial Attitudes on LGBT Issues: Race, Identity, and Experience,” just over half of Black Americans (53%) and 50% of Latinx Millennials believe that “the issues confronting LGBT individuals in communities of color are very different than the issues being promoted by mainstream organizations.” However, 58% of white and 54% of Asian American Millennials believe the opposite—that race and ethnicity have no impact on how members are affected by mainstream actions promoting basic rights for the community.
Furthermore, of the LGBT Millennials surveyed by GenForward, 52% recognize that people of color face different issues than those that become more visible due to being promoted by mainstream LGBT movements and organizations. Essentially, half of Millennials still fail to recognize how race and ethnicity impact LGBT experiences.
As Pride Month 2018 comes to a close, results like these are a reminder of the work that is left to be done, and a confirmation of why anti-racist work within LGBTQIA+ spaces needs to be a priority.
The whitewashing of Pride has been a great example of this. Today, white columnists like Amanda Kerri are proud to advocate for police being allowed at Pride using tired “not all cops are bad” arguments.
I have had the misfortune to encounter an absurd amount of white people arguing for the inclusion of police at Pride events during this past month, and have found myself flabbergasted at the amount of people who are ignorant of Pride’s origins as a riot started by trans women of color to specifically protest police brutality against queer folks.
This is only one of the ways the most marginalized and criminalized of LGBTQIA+ communities are left behind by mainstream narratives and whitewashing. Perhaps the most recognizable of such issues in the Gay Rights Movement™ is the inaccurately named “Marriage Equality,” something that many fear will now be under attack yet again following the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.
The Defense of Marriage Act was an achievement for the legalization of same-sex marriage, but many folks within the LGBTQIA+ community have never been in the position to benefit from this ruling. As a movement, it has and continues to center cis white gay men first and cis white lesbians second.
With the issue of non-heterosexual marriage framed as chief among those facing LGBTQIA+ communities as a whole, it leaves the racialized obstacles faced by queer and trans people of color as issues that are looked at only peripherally, if at all. It also further enables white LGBTQIA+ folks to ignore the ways they perpetuate racism, even as they consider themselves fighting for equality and justice.
When organizers in Philadelphia revealed their city’s new Pride Flag with black and brown stripes added last year, white folks lost their shit. Their vitriol spilled all over social media as they raged against the symbolic inclusion of Black and brown communities. In many cases, they said that their anger was simply about keeping tradition—a familiar argument—but the racism in their sentiment was obvious.
This reaction did not come as a surprise to many of us, unfortunately, because we are well aware of the amount of racism present in queer communities. As we do in other spaces, we experience racism in LGBTQIA+ spaces in various forms; aggression, discrimination, fetishization, and erasure, especially in the media.
LGBTQIA+ media representation, both in visibility and positivity, has steadily increased over the last 20 years, but queer people of color continue to be left behind in this arena as well. The majority of this representation on television is gay white men, as it was reported by GLAAD last year. Many are hoping that Ryan Murphy’s new FX show, Pose, will be a step towards remedying this.
Pose has made television history, featuring the largest cast of queer characters and performers ever known. It features trans women of color in leading roles, and is in part written and directed by trans activist and author Janet Mock. It is a dramatic look at 1980s New York City, with the capitalism and excess of Trump looming over the narrative about queer and trans people of color immersed in ballroom culture.
Though the show does explore some upsetting moments that will feel familiar to many QTPOC, like family rejection and micro-aggressions, these traumas are not at the center of the show, nor are they what carries it. The characters have storylines of love, hope, ambition, lust, belonging, and more, creating them as fully human in ways that QTPOC have not been conceived of on television before.
But we have so much more to go. We continually encounter stumbling blocks like the unique obstacles of queer people of color in domestic violence situations, the disproportionately high rates of HIV among Black gay and bisexual men and the criminalization of the disease, the white middle and upper class gentrification of neighborhoods that were once safe havens for queer homeless youth of color, the alarming rate at which Black trans women are murdered, the disproportionate amounts of employment and police discrimination experienced by queer people of color, and the increased rates of Hate Crime violence LGBTQIA+ undocumented immigrants experience.
Discrimination prevents LGBTQIA+ folks from properly accessing healthcare, and the same system actively contributes to the deaths of Black patients due to the racism and discrimination of healthcare providers. Discrimination in housing and property ownership continues to impact LGBTQIA+ communities, as there are no federal laws against it, and the same housing market has an ugly history of racial discrimination.
Our fight is about far more than “Marriage Equality,” and it damn sure can’t stop with a wedding cake. I hope that we can prioritize combating racism within LGBTQIA+ communities moving forward, as well as giving more visibility to issues specific to queer people of color.