Racism is a prominent issue in the LGBTQQIA+ (Q=queer and/or questioning, I=intersex, A=asexual and/or ally) community and we need to start talking about it. With respect, I preface this by clarifying that I am a queer, Latinx individual who is white passing. I am speaking as someone who demands to see a change within my white peers.
Finding comfort in your identity is not an easy endeavor for anyone. For many, it takes time. This is a fact that all of us can easily agree on, so to have some queer members behave as if the community is a whites-only club is absurd. Folks seem to feel that due to their marginalized status of queerdom, it ultimately absolves them of their racist tendencies, but it does not. This is visibly rampant among every facet of community from dating apps to clubs, and even within support groups.
What it boils down to is recognizing racism and holding ourselves and each other accountable coupled with recognizing our privilege with the same accountability. We need to raise up the voices and experiences of marginalized queer people of color.
Gay rights rallies started with two queer, transgender women of color, Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, and the Stonewall Riots.
Police raids were commonplace, with accounts of them taking all revenue from the bar and patrons. During one such raid in 1969, Johnson decided that she had had enough. In one swift move she picked up her shot glass and threw it— shattering a mirror, thus inspiring the riot.
The two women formed the group Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (S.T.A.R.) with the goal of supporting queer, homeless people of color. Yet, they were constantly pushed aside by the very people they held up. Just four years after the riots, in 1973, Rivera took to the public stage and gave her famous “Y’all Better Quiet Down” speech.
She said, “The [queer, trans people of color] are trying to do something for all of us, and not men and women that belong to a white, middle-class white club. And that’s what you all belong to!”
This is not an issue left in our past. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 16 transgender people have been murdered this year in the U.S. Fifteen of the victims were black, transgender women. In total, 128 transgender people have been murdered in the past five years in the U.S.
West Hollywood bars and clubs are unconcerned and are awash with white folks dancing to 2Pac’s “Changes.” People blatantly add, “No Blacks, no Femmes” to their Tinder bios. Why are we OK perpetuating a violent, Eurocentric standard?
In a white-dominated setting, it is the majority’s duty to make room. Here is what is especially important to those of us who are white or white passing —it is not just the job of people of color to correct a situation. Working toward a stronger, safer groupthink requires the legwork of the entire group in order to progress.
The 50th anniversary of Stonewall passed this summer. Major cities all over the U.S. saw the influx of tourism. Queers from all corners of the world showed up to commemorate the beginning of the revolution.
Many point to the 2015 Supreme Court banishment of marriage discrimination and think that they’ve won a great victory. A victory in the battle started with a public outcry for love and acceptance. Yet, we poured so much energy into gaining mainstream, heterosexual and cisgender acceptance that we sacrifice our own community. The real questions we should collectively ask ourselves are: Do we even accept each other? Are we willing to put in the work where it is still needed? What will happen when the next shot glass shatters the bar mirror?
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