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Liberating Ourselves:
Gay People of Colour
Racism Section Introduction / Contents.

Reprinted with permission from Chris Hooymans, last owner and publisher of Clue! Magazine.

Clue! Magazine, September, 1993

Feature Story (pp. 22-23)

Liberating Ourselves

By Akash D'Silva [a pseudonym]

"I celebrate myself, and sing myself." Walt Whitman.

Coming out for me, as it is for many lesbian and gay people, was a difficult experience. What doubled the pain was the situations I had to face because I am a person of colour.

When I was initially coming out, I had not yet made the connection between race and (sexual) attraction. I remember I used to go to the bar with the simplistic expectation of being noticed. I saw all my white friends being approached regularly. Why was it not happening to me?

What I kept telling myself was that I was ugly and unattractive. It was only later that I consciously made the connection: what I considered attractive was white. This message is found everywhere in magazines, on television, in books - everywhere. More so than the message of heterosexuality is everywhere. To be attractive, one must be white or at least strive to appear white. The message is especially reaffirmed in Calgary's gay bar scene.

For me, as for many other people of colour, this means there is no place in society where I can be both openly-gay and a person of colour. Going to the bar meant a constant attack on my self-esteem. What was worse was that my white friends and many friends of colour had also bought into the ideology that "white is the norm and white is attractive". From them, as well as from the gay community at large, I was being fed the message that I am undesirable because I am ugly, and not because of racism (which is measured by white, racist standards).

Racism is a taboo subject for most people. Whenever racism is mentioned comments like "You are too sensitive" are spoken or it is assumed that I have a chip on my shoulder, or, much worse, that I am speaking about racism and being bitter only because I cannot get picked up.

The subtle ways that racism works in the gay community is horrific. Many people of colour refuse to identify that racism is an issue because of the fear of being further excluded from the white gay community. The risk is enormous. Also, many people of colour have internalized white supremacy and therefore refuse to associate with other people of colour. These people are in the "race closet" in the white gay community.

When I was in a relationship with a white person, I made every attempt to educate him about racism. For me, these talks were difficult and emotional. Some of my friends commented that my partner was not racist; after all he is dating a person of colour. But that was never true. Dating a person of colour does not make one anti-racist.

We live in a society where racism is so institutionalized that most white people are unaware of the many ways in which they are privileged over people of colour. Often when I spoke to my partner about racism he would preface his comments with "not to trivialize the situation, but fat people / blond people / old people experience the same oppression"; these were just some of the ways in which he would dismiss my pain and trivialize the issue. His comments absolved him of the responsibility of his racism.

Observing my relationship and the relationship of many of my friends of colour who were dating white people, I noticed the regularity in which the person of colour was always subordinate. It was not just a mere coincidence. Usually the white person will set the boundaries of the relationship and usually the person of colour will be forced to be the caretaker of the relationship.

Very much like sexism, where the woman serves consciously or unconsciously, it is understood that the white person can abandon the relationship for any other, whereas the person of colour will not have access to do so. Within a few days after I separated from my boyfriend, I saw him with a new lover. This only confirmed my realization that the gay community in Calgary is a white-only space where people of colour are always invisible, or when people of colour are noticed, it is usually in the sexual stereotypical white gaze: black men  have big dicks and oriental men are passive in bed.

Speaking with other people of colour helped me break through the feelings of despair and 'non-existence'. The experiences that we all shared are so remarkably similar. It was through these talks that I began the process of breaking down and unlearning white supremacy doctrines. I am slowly learning to love myself and other people of colour as people of proud colour.

There is an inherent risk in writing an article such as this, as I know from experience about the denial filters that people put up when racism is the issue. However, I hope my message will not be misconstrued. It is not that I am pining for white attention, by any means.

I would like this article to to be a starting point  for white people to admit to being privileged and to realize and work against the exclusion of people of colour. And, most importantly, I hope this article will encourage people of colour to recognize themselves as beautiful people and value themselves as people, and not by white standards.

Index for the Web Site
Index for Section on Racism in Predominantly White Gay and Lesbian Communities


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