Thursday, February 25, 2010

perpetuate the idea that "gay" or "lesbian" means "white"

This is a guest post by Josh Friedberg, a gay white male student at Earlham College. Josh is majoring in English and minoring in African & African American Studies, and he's currently researching racialized value judgments in music historiography and criticism.

When you think of a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender person, what race and class do you associate with that image?

In 2000, World War II historian Allan Bérubé published an essay examining the perception of gay men and the consequences thereof. Bérubé wrote that when asked the above question, his students invariably perceived "gay men" as "white and well-to-do."

"In the United States today," Bérubé wrote, "the dominant image of the typical gay man is a white man who is financially better off than most everyone else."

Despite progress in LGBT rights, ten years after the publication of Bérubé's essay, “How Gay Stays White, and What Kind of White it Stays,” some things haven't changed. Regardless of exceptions, the majority of people, at least in the U.S., still perceive LGBT people as white and wealthy.

This image stays ingrained not only for overt homophobes, but within LGBT culture as well.

Bérubé examined how the image of gays as monolithically privileged manifested itself, in attempts to assimilate LGBT people into mainstream society and in the curtailing of LGBT rights. He also examined what he called the “selling” of gay whiteness in order to garner favor from corporate and governmental authorities, as well as the use of “race analogies” that compare sexual marginalization to racial marginalization.

In the 1990s, politicians voted against gay rights measures, including in the battle over gays in the military, and then defended their votes by claiming that gays already have privilege -- an idea which only makes sense if you conceive of LGBT people as homogeneously white and wealthy.

And today, organizations like the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) still sell the image of assimilation to try to prove that LGBT people are “just like everybody else.” Such efforts include the HRC's Buying for Equality guide, which encourages consumers to support LGBT-friendly corporations.

To be sure, this sounds like a good idea, but the HRC has given awards to companies with documented histories of racist practices -- like Abercrombie -- thereby separating sexual oppression from racial or class-based oppression.

This example points to a larger problem: such an assimilationist ethic, which ignores the overlap between race, class, and sexuality, has resulted in the marginalization of LGBT people of color from activist discourse on LGBT rights.

To be fair, unprecedented numbers of LGBT professors of color have gained prominence in the academy over the last two decades, so that certainly is progress.

But before Proposition 8 passed in 2008, banning gay marriage in California, LGBT activists of color noted how racial discrimination within anti-prop 8 organizations silenced their ideas. As Kai Wright noted in an article for ColorLines magazine, these activists foresaw the passing of Prop 8 and tried to institute changes in the assimilationist strategies used to attempt to gain votes, but to no avail.

And yet the selling of gays as white and wealthy continues.

A few years ago Dwight A. McBride, a gay black professor who is currently a dean at University of Illinois-Chicago, published an essay on “the gay marketplace of desire.” McBride described how pornography, print media, online dating services, and other institutions largely cater to white male consumers, often by using racist stereotypes about various gay men of color.

This is undoubtedly still the case; one look through a mainstream LGBT publication or website will confirm that.

And egregious race analogies continue as well: after Prop 8, one such magazine, The Advocate, published a cover story declaring that “Gay is the New Black.” The story's author did not interview or mention a single gay black person and posed LGBT rights and black rights as comparable.

The problem is that only white people can compare any oppression to racial oppression; blacks, for example, can't say that their oppression is like racial oppression, because they already are racially oppressed.

In addition, the myth that LGBT people are homogeneously white and wealthy yields a number of other myths. One is that some people of color have called homosexuality “a white thing,” dismissing the idea that LGBT people are in their communities.

Another is the myth that LGBT people should be grateful for what they have—which could hold true if you're talking about race and class privilege among white and upper-class LGBT folks.

However, such a myth ignores the rights that LGBT people have long been denied, ones that heterosexuals can take for granted, including the rights to marry, to not face employment discrimination based around sexuality or gender identity, or to know that hate crimes against you can be treated as hate crimes.

So here's what I'm asking all of us to do -- challenge the stereotypes that are so prevalent, acknowledge race and class along with sexuality and gender identity, and help break down how gay stays white.

In his groundbreaking essay, Allan Bérubé asked, "How does the category 'gay man' become white? What are the whitening practices that perpetuate this stereotype, often without awareness or comment by gay white men?"

Bérubé’s death in 2007 should not leave such questions unexplored. We must educate ourselves, learning about racism and classism in addition to homophobia, sexism, and other types of oppression.

We must learn that ignoring or separating any type of oppression from another is a result of privileged ignorance, and it will remain so as long as gay stays white


  1. Well done Josh! This is a great critical analysis of something I have not thought about much before!

  2. In the course of my community work I was asked by a school counsellor to run some workshops dealing with masculinity and homophobia. It was in a school in a very ethnically diverse area. Once I arrived at the school, one of the teachers expressed to me that she was unsure if we were really needed.

    "Most of our students are from ethnic backgrounds," she said, "so I don't think we have any gay kids here."


    On another note, I sometimes read various hip-hop-related websites and blogs. The level of homophobia in this predominantly African-American domain is extraordinary. I wonder if part of that is due to the stereotyping of gays as white, meaning that some see black gays as being traitors to their community.

    1. basically that's it. Considering that we got exposure to most gay people through TV, and on TV they rarely show POC with the exception of Tokens, most have grown up think gays were rich white people.

  3. I'm perfectly happy to challenge the wrong image of gay as white, but I'm not happy to see gay identity naturalized and universalized.

    What does it mean when people perceive gay men as white and well to do? Do they really believe that only white men have sex with other men? Or are they perceiving exclusion from the subculture of commodified gay identity on the basis of race and class?

  4. So Eurasian Sensation is saying this racialization of the LGBT community is a Black problem?

  5. I would have to disagree. Ru Paul, Tyler Perry,Martin Lawrence, Will Smith, The Rock, Ving Rhames,Eddie Murphy, and many more have been portrayed as homo-sexual, and/or participate is homosexual activities. And thats just counting the black males.

    Also, it might be beneficial to look at the history of European homosexuality ( and other non-traditional sexual behavior in general) and compare it to that found in pre-colonial African - which is a stark difference.

    This is not to say "gay" and "white" are synonymous, and certainly nobody's civil rights should ever be violated, but we might want to do more research on the histories of different peoples and have an open mind to what is really going on.

  6. Quite fascinating. Of course, here in Atlanta, I don't believe there is much doubt that black LGBTs are around. It being Atlanta, people are actually comparatively accepting... so this one is kind of new to me.

  7. I think I am a very positive person, but Lord deliver me from studies!!!
    In this post substitute the word black for the word gay and it is still the same discussion..
    Speaking from experience...

  8. This reminds me of a time when my parents were talking about a distant relative living back "home" (British Guyana). They were talking about a girl who just got her papers to come to America to live and my mom mentioned something about her being a lesbian, and my dad had a dismayed look on his face.
    My mom and dad both sighed and were echoing "Aww, gosh, that's so sad" and "oh man, that's too bad" "it's probably that basketball she was playing" etc etc.
    I was about 12 years old at the time, but something inside me felt weird at their reaction to this bit of news, and as I grew up I noticed more and more of this behaviour.

    Overall, (this may be a gross generalisation) but from my experiences, I feel that West Indian/ Afro-Caribbeans are the most homophobic group of blacks ever.

  9. @DWJazzLover

    "perpetuate the idea that 'black' or 'lesbian' means 'white'"?

    I'm not sure I quite understand what you're trying to say.

  10. @Eurasian Sensation: I've actually had people say to me "You can't be [bi/queer/trans]-- you're [ethnic]!".
    @IzuniBayani: I'm not black, and I can't speak for Eurasian Sensation, but from my experiences I think there are some larger issues of gender and stereotyped gender roles at play here. However, it seems risky to make a sweeping generalization about "black homophobia" (which has been a convenient scapegoat for some things, such as Prop. 8 in California). Just my two cents, though.

    To get at the reverse of the discussion about race/ethnicity and homophobia, I was lucky enough to be raised by parents whose respective cultures are welcoming or indifferent to LGBT folks (and by indifferent I mean neither actively welcoming nor actively hostile-- it's just accepted without a fuss). Oddly, I've had (white) LGBT people question my "queer cred" because I don't have the stereotypical oppression-by-parents story, and have in fact acted hostile when I tried to explain my experience in my own family/culture.

  11. the reason as i've seen it for this tendency of people -- of ALL backgrounds -- to equate gay with white is because, honestly, only whites have the luxury and privilege, only whites have the cultural independency to do so.

    other groups have to face the collective condemnation of their communities, whereas "yuppie queers" like we have here in SF can isolate themselves in upper-middle class neighborhood, free from the complications of dealing with possibly/probably intolerant people.

    in the US, all issues end up coming down to class differences, because capitalism is what drives the political-economy, which is what drives the country.

  12. definitely. after prop 8 there was rhetoric of "it was black people!" Which means there is us and them. We are gay, THEY are black.

    nevermind all the black gay men I canvassed with on the issue.

  13. Oh god yes. I'm an out bi woman who lives in a reasonably homo-friendly city (Toronto) and I attend a good number of LGBT events. What I still see at gay (male) events is a crowd that's overwhelmingly white, and the same is true for our Pride Parade (even though it's the third-largest PP in the world). The one exception is certain clubs where gay Asians tend to hang out.

    Obviously there's plenty of LGBT people of color, and Toronto is one of the most 'multicultural'* cities in the world. So why don't we have more of a PoC presence? Well, it's likely for the same reason there's low PoC presence in a lot of groups - it's not a welcoming environment. Whiteness is overvalued, and when gay MoC are sought out by other gay males, it tends to be in the context of fetishization (rice queens, for example; not that all rice queens are fetishizers, but plenty are).

    Definitely the perception of LGBT is that it's a white thing, and from what I've seen in my city, that's a perception that contributes to the continuing marginalization of LGBT PoC. Which then results in less PoC presence (why go to a social event where you'll feel excluded or fetishized? that's no fun), which helps to perpetuate the belief that it's primarily white... it's a vicious cycle.

    On the upside, I've started seeing a *lot* more WoC at lesbian dances, so I wonder if there's something more inclusive about the lesbian subculture here as versus the gay subculture. (Although if it is indeed more inclusive, note that that is a relatively recent development. I don't recall seeing nearly as many WoC at lesbian events a decade ago.)

    @Eurasian Sensation: The last time I went to a party featuring jungle and hip-hop, I ended up leaving early, in tears, because the MCs were being so openly homophobic and making rhymes about "stringing up fags". I still love hip-hop, but I don't go to live shows anymore unless it's at an event that I know will be inclusive. :/

    * People here seem to say "multicultural" as some sort of code word for "we have lots of different races and ethnicities". I guess they prefer it because it avoids having to use words relating to race. OMG MUST NOT BRING UP RACE, IZ NOT POLITE.

  14. @ Izumi Bayani:

    Hang on. The first example I gave in my initial comment was a white teacher perpetuating the racialisation of LGBT people. The other example was an observation that perhaps parts of the African American community have also bought into this notion.

    The nature of some of the comments I've come across on hip-hop sites - "real niggaz ain't gay" type stuff - makes we wonder if there exists a perception by some that black gays are "letting the side down", or that gayness is some kind of condition acquired from the white community.

    I'm not part of the black community, so can only say so much about it. Someone else on this thread might be better placed to comment.

  15. And egregious race analogies continue as well: after Prop 8, one such magazine, The Advocate, published a cover story declaring that “Gay is the New Black.”

    You missed the question mark at the end of the title.

  16. I wonder if both the assumptions of 1) most LGBT people being white and 2) POCs being more homophobic are how a lot people (especially WP) falsely explain to themselves that they personally know of many more white LGBT people. 1) Being of course: I know more white LGBT people ergo there aren't many POC who are LGBT. 2) Being: I know more white LGBT people ergo POC who are LBGT must be more reluctant to come out because "their" own are oppressing them more.

    A more reasonable explanation to me would be: white, affluent LGBT people are out to more people because their privilege affords them more protection from the social, physical, and material consequences of being out {could afford to quit a job if facing harassment, have more favourable belief in police protection from bashing (than a POC would), can still get sponsorship deals ...}

    Or maybe white people only notice the LGBT people in their lives who are white and also aren't aware of famous LGBT people who are POC because the mainstream media systematically silence POC.

  17. Thanks for this posting, it's great.

    As a queer POC, it's definitely an issue to struggle with. In discussions, online, and all over the place, I always see queers expressing their "preferences" according to race, and it's constantly being "explained" to me that it's just a preference, something they can't control. And always, on these occasions, after soft investigation, it is impossible for these people to ignore the fact that society influences their preferences.

    I constantly encounter gay men that feel that they can be openly oppressive (read: racist) because they are also an oppressed group. It's mind-boggling and just damn downright maddening. And then I get lectured about how I'm too sensitive or emotional (read: I'm being derailed).

    What's more disheartening is to experience other queer people playing into this system/game.

    (Btw, for me gay means W-homos-male, and queer means POC-non-hetero-non-w. The reason being that gay does essentially mean white and class-privileged. I've seen very very very little evidence to say otherwise, and even less movement to correct this image, except in gay movies where they have to throw in the token minority to show that not all gays are white. Oh yeah? Then why is there only one minority queer that is in some side role?)

  18. @Ben
    I get your point thanks man..I wanted to say the Gay world is just as exclusive as the main stream.
    The other is I have a problem with studies, from experience.

    Thanks for the headup.

  19. As long as being gay is not considered respectable (not just tolerable) by the majority of the white community, it seems foolish to expect communities of color to accept their own LGBT members.

    Who benefits from portrayal of BLTG community as consisting of white men with disposable income? Publishers of GBLT-directed media and marketing specialists claiming access to TLBG audiences, wanting to get advertising accounts for mainstream products. Movement political players who think that they can woo elected officials by promises of campaign contributions from wealthy "straight looking, straight acting" non-celebrity gays. Black activists and ordinary people trying to combat the "hypersexual" racist slur by claiming racial ultra-respectability and sweeping BTGLs and unapologetic sexually active unmarried straight people under the carpet. White conservative pastors and politicians trying to get political alliances with popular black pastors.

  20. Great essay Macon. Here's my take on the issue.

    I agree that homophobia is prominent in the black community. Here, gay black men, for example, are mostly seen as threats to the community particularly after the "Down-Low" label started going around in the media and in books. Some have made the assumptions that some black men, who act as "masculine" as perceived by society (hard, thuggish, has a swagger)are having (unprotected) sex with other black men which, in turn transmits STDS to their black women.

    The media instantly jumped on this phenomenon and helped to paint another demonizing image of black men. Have you ever noticed that white men are never labeled down-low men?

    I think white male homosexuals are treated with more respect in the media. In the case of Matthew Shepard it was seen as a "call for action" to build better relationships between LGQTs and heterosexuals. A documentary-based movie was made about his murder. The same was done with Bobby Griffith's suicide (Prayers for Bobby).

    Both events were tragic, but at the same time, there were other events that happened to gays of color that don't get the same treatment.

  21. Thanks for posting this. I recall the many people who tell me, "Oh I didn't get that you were gay", when they find out I'm homo. As if I was trying to conceal it. The reality is that they just don't see how someone with my ethnic background could identify as gay. They just see the ethicity part. I remember one time I went to a skating rink because they were having "gay skate night", and the guy at the ticket booth said, "oh, we're closed for a private party." He just assumed that I couldn't possibly be there for gay night! But just then my white gay friends came by, and I went in with them. Sometimes I wonder why I even bother? I think the thing that bugs me the most is the assumption some people make when they find out a person of color is gay. It's so shocking to them, that they assume that the person was closeted. They attach their misperception of you as somehow that you, a person of color, were closeted, must've been hiding your sexuality, on the down low, etc. When in fact you are just as open as any gay white male, but your ethnicity got in the way of their perception of you.

  22. @Eurasian Sensation
    "The level of homophobia in this predominantly African-American domain [hip-hop] is extraordinary."

    "I feel that West Indian/ Afro-Caribbeans are the most homophobic group of blacks ever."

    I'm confused about these comments. A friend of mine from Trinidad told me that attitudes in that country to sex/marriage/sexuality are very traditional, but she attributed it to strong Catholic upbringing.

    It seems to me that homophobia in white people is often explained by "well, it's their strong religious dogma", but in POC, it's taken to be indicative of something inherently homophobic about their color. The fact that they may also follow a conservative religion is not seen as relevant. Is that correct? If so, why?

  23. JL and others, is there a way to discuss manifestations of homophobia among black people that's directly related to white supremacy/hegemony? Discussions of that topic that don't make that connection are unwelcome on a blog that's devoted to the exposure and counteracting of white supremacy/hegemony, egregious common white ways, and so on.

    Please let me know if I'm misreading some of the discussion here of connections between black people and sexuality.

  24. @Macon
    I can't speak from a black perspective, but I feel there's definitely a large gap in the white male homosexual community in regards to understanding of other forms of oppression such as racism, sexism, and classism. If nothing, this post makes me leery of what Josh is trying to accomplish, though I am also sympathetic of the cause.

    I would like to think that this post is about reaching out to the white male homosexual community to learn about other forms of oppression, but I also have this overriding sense that it's also dragging out the POC queers to buttress a gay white male (emphasis on the the white male) agenda. There's no doubt that there's "diversity" within the queer community, but as I mentioned above (as does this posting), it's always a white male at the forefront. Bérubé also recounts an episode where he asks other white males to face their whiteness, a request that falls on deaf ears.

    What the conundrum becomes for the gay community is how does one balance the oppressions? Does one put aside racial injustice for the gay cause? This seems to be the majority sentiment in the gay community, and that is why queer clubs seem to be so segregated. I don't want to hate on anyone, so I'll also admit that there are alot of allies in the white homosexual male community.

    It must be said though, that a white homosexual male is still a white male, and until that issue is dealt with, they should not expect me to stand with them as an ally.

  25. As others have said, I think part of it is the fact that it's easier to be 'out' when you have existing privilege to smooth the road for you. And talking about homophobia in the Black community isn't all that helpful if you're still letting the lingering racism in the White gay community fester. (And trust me, it's out there--sometimes overt, other times in that kind of white liberal cluelessness that readers of this fine blog should be familiar with.)

  26. Hi again,

    Sorry if I sounded like I was asking the question "why are black people homophobic?". I don't think that's a good question or helpful or appropriate, and it has racist undertones to boot. Just to clarify, I agree with the posters who have said that this is not about whether or not black people are somehow homophobic, I think this is about how white people view sexuality through a racial filter.

  27. As a person who's both straight and white (and male) I always feel a bit nervous about raising my voice in these discussions, but I've got to give a shout-out to Josh as a fellow Earlhamite.

    From where I stand, it's definitely a recurring problem that one long-oppressed group tries to assert itself by adding to the oppression of other groups, and I've been aware of this particular issue for some time now. However, I'd also like to mention some good news; at Seattle's Pride last summer we had a ton of color, far more than white-boy me would have expected. Plus my very favorite float in the parade was from "Monsoon Pride," i.e. a group of LGBTQ South Asians. I think they even had Pakistanis and Indians on the same truck, so sometimes old hatreds can indeed be overcome!

  28. Thank you so much for this, Josh. I 100% cosign your excellent critical analysis. I am now patiently awaiting a copy of Why I Hate Abercrombie & Fitch from my local library, thanks to your reference.

    - a lesbian of color :)

  29. I agree that homophobia in white communities is associated with religious conservatives but homophobia in black communities is blamed on their blackness.

  30. I think JL made a good point (hope this makes the connection between "Black homophobia" and white hegemony for you, Macon)-- Whites (as individuals) have "noble" reasons for being homophobic: Catholicism, "traditional" values, blah, blah, blah. But Black people are just homophobic by nature, and isn't that just horrible since they should know what it's like to be discriminated against [insert gasp, sigh, and mention of Prop 8]? I think this idea is used by White people to further the "Well, Blacks are prejudiced too!" argument, though you could also argue that it contributes to the "Gay is the new Black" (meaning that civil rights for POC have been handled, and it's time to move on to the next group) meme.

  31. Yes, JL. That definitely seems to be the case. When it came to prop 8 being passed, white gay activist did not seem to be the least bit interested in understanding why POC of color voted in favor for prop 8 in such high amounts. Instead of lending a hand to the fellow gays who are POCs, many white activist attacked the POC community as a whole!

  32. Anonymous wrote: "And egregious race analogies continue as well: after Prop 8, one such magazine, The Advocate, published a cover story declaring that “Gay is the New Black."

    You missed the question mark at the end of the title."

    The fact that the question was asked at all (and such a story was written) is the problem.

    As Josh states about this article: "The story's author did not interview or mention a single gay black person and posed LGBT rights and black rights as comparable."

    Thereby, once again, rendering people who are both Black and gay invisible. And some of us wonder why gay = white in media?

    Under SWGPD (Stuff White Gay People Do): Think they have the knowledge, authority and inalienable right to compare their station as white gay folks with that of Black people. They don't.

    And the white supremacist arrogance doesn't stop there: too many have the gall to lecture me, a Black Same Gender Loving man, about "Black homophobia" (as if they don't have their hands full with the "white homophobia" of Maggie Gallagher, Tony Perkins, the Catholic Church, and the Republican Party); claim that Black people are more homophobic (as if there is something inherently wrong with Black folks that makes them hate gays and lesbians more); and then proclaim without a hint of irony: "I can't be racist because I am queer." Yeah. Right.

    Drowned Lotuses wrote: "It must be said though, that a white homosexual male is still a white male, and until that issue is dealt with, they should not expect me to stand with them as an ally."

    A-to the-men.

    Macon asked: "JL and others, is there a way to discuss manifestations of homophobia among black people that's directly related to white supremacy/hegemony?"

    There are but this is not the thread or space to do it in.

    Daniel W wrote: "When it came to prop 8 being passed, white gay activist did not seem to be the least bit interested in understanding why POC of color voted in favor for prop 8 in such high amounts. Instead of lending a hand to the fellow gays who are POCs, many white activist attacked the POC community as a whole!"

    Actually, white gay activists weren't the least bit interested in forging true alliances with POC groups or gay/lesbian POC activists to fight Prop 8; the assumption was that: "They know what discrimination feels like; they won't vote for it." How ironic that the very group they believed would be a natural ally was then blamed for its passing.

  33. Prop 8 was defeated by people who view homosexuals through their religion.When homosexuality is defined by the church it is an "ungodly life style" and not a civil right.WP presume POC will view homosexuality as a civil right.Black churches tend to be liberal politically but are more socially conservative then WP think.I don't know if these social values are reflecting Christianity or are cultural.The white media portrays POC communities as broken homes and promiscuous but that's a stereo type and a myth.I liked the articulate but it not mentioning religion seems to me to be ignoring the primary root of homophobia...

  34. First off let's stop acting like it's ALL hip-hop's fault their is disgust for gay people in the black community! I agree with the posters who said that a truly BIG part of the problem is the racism,classism,and utter cluelessness of the white and gay community. Take Ellen for example she bemoans the 'prejudice' she goes through and has the nerve to say she won't 'sit at the back of the bus' anymore HA!! Yet she FAILS to notice that she has hosted the Oscars and Grammys has countless nominations has TWO tv hosting gigs and has the media gush like crazy everytime she and 'wife' Portia are anywhere near a camera. Name me ONE black,Asian,Arab,Pakastani,Hispanic celebrity female that can say the same I wonder how many times has SHE been pulled over driving a new fancy car?! Or followed or not allowed in someone's store or had people outright wanted her out of their neighborhood.?! It reminds me when my sister scoffed at her supporters who said she was 'brave' for coming out yet if the Klan was at her door I wonder if she would be so damn brave then. Unlike her I don't get the luxury to make that choice.

  35. I feel like I've more often heard white people harp on homophobia in communities of color than I've actually heard people of color being homophobic. I think this is part of an effort to make white people appear more progressive by comparison. I think a similar thing happens with hip hop and sexism. White people will say that white kids from the suburbs are learning sexism and homophobia from hip hop, when really white people are teaching our own kids homophobia and sexism. Then we don't have to deal with our own homophobia and sexism; we can just blame it on black people.

    I think the L word is a good example of this phenomenon. The was only one lesbian of color on the show originally, and the other person of color on the show is straight. What happened then that I think makes it even worse is I think people complained that the show was too white, and the producers' solution was to include main characters who are lesbians of color, but they were often really stereotypical. Papi was a good example of this. Her character was a seductive Latina who had slept with a ton of women. She's also more of a side character. There could be a whole post about the L word.

    1. Exactly it. It's irritating as a lesbian of color.

  36. Shout out to EC! Maybe it's just me, but I do feel like the portrayal of lesbians is more diverse than that of gay men.

    In media, it's definitely annoying to see LGBT characters whitewashed to make them that much more acceptable. Yes, the L Word only had one gay PoC, but Queer as Folk had none. It seems like white culture at large is far less threatened by gay women, and thus, it's ok for them to be PoC, as long as they can still be fetishized.

  37. This is actually a VERY good topic. Considering that usually when people think or say "gay" or "lesbian" without an ethnic descripter, they think white. This topic even further interests me being that a very good friend and a mentor is an older lesbian woman. And we often discuss various social subjects, and this is one in which we've had lengthy discussions.

    I think it's part of the media, most homosexuals are portrayed as uppermiddle class whites ( a related class issue in which this blog has so far utterly ignored in almost every post ) and that they're always priveledged, which homosexuals aren't.

  38. flapper,

    Don't you know? We don't need any sort of social or economic reform because we're all so well-off!

    Homelessness? Unemployment? Lack of health care? Really?

    I thought that the only thing that's holding us back is that we can't get married.

  39. @Will Capers

    I believe that "closeted" would be the mainstream or white equivalent to "Down-Low". Although it clearly doesn't have the same negative connotations, such as spreading STDs to their female partners, that being on the DL has been given by the media.

  40. It's because when you can afford to buy your freedom you don't have to be as concerned with what ignorant, homophobes think about you.

    Unless it's totally obvious, it's easier to come out when you can buy your way out. Who has the means to do this? Certainly not the poor, black gays.

    When being gay stops coming at such a high price, then the gay community will appear more ethnically diverse.

  41. I suspect part of the problem, besides the obvious tendency to portray gays as whites in the media, is the "hat" phenomenon.

    Being white, heterosexual, and middle-class is, unfortunately, considered the "default" template for a human being. Under this system of thought, anything that deviates from that becomes the individual's "hat", which defines their particular difference from the accepted norm...and nobody needs more than one hat.

    This, I think, is at least part of why people desperately try to classify those who are biracial or bisexual. What's your hat? I need to know so I'll know what /kind/ of non-white/het/middleclasser you are! Do you wear the "black" hat? The "Asian" hat? The "gay" hat? The "impoverished" hat?

    ...what do you mean, you wear the "black" hat /and/ the "gay" hat? How do you fit both on your head? Which one is your primary hat? Which one means more to you? Which one should I use to categorize you in my social hat index? How bewildering! Why, it's so much easier when one's friends wear no hats at all...

    (In some cases, even being female or redheaded or deviating from the physical norm counts as a hat, which is part of why children's shows aiming for diversity tend to have one supporting character each to wear the Black Hat, the Asian Hat, the Other Minority Hat, the Unusual White Phenotype Hat (redheaded, freckled, bespectacled) the Big/Fat/Disabled Hat, and the Girl Hat...and a hero character with no "hat" at all, ergo, a blonde or brunette white boy. I'm sure there would be a white kid in a Gay Hat, too, if being gay wasn't considered such a touchy-at-best, evil-at-worst subject in kids' programming.)

  42. @ Toby

    I love your analysis's use of the concept of "Hats" its really descriptive. Especially teh whole "not wearing one hat at a time" "and how do you fit both on your head."

    Because that is exactly the way many white people feel about such things.

    Also, just so it can be mentioned, There is a surprising lack of race related ordeal going on in the lesbian community (in comparison to the gay male community). Regardless what is going on with the L word, there is an extremely high rate of interracial lesbian couples.

    Just wanted to put that out there.

  43. glad you posted this, i'm also glad this calls attention to the rampant white privilege in the queer community and how it continues to keep us divided and also how terrible assimilationit tactics are. How can more privileged queers expect anyone to take "their" (what they believe to be their) struggle for rights seriously if they use racist ways of doing it. Assimilationist, white, middle-class queers continue to treat PoC as a liability to "their" movement not realizing that they are playing right into divide and conquer, this is a great reminder of how one cannot challenge only one oppression, one must challenge them all.


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