We live in a world that wants to divide us. We have a government that tells us who we love and fuck, our faith, our race, our masculinity or femininity, our gender, are all wrong. They tell us everything about us is wrong.
Recently, I was out with some friends, and this guy Robert was trying to explain why not being “attracted to black guys” didn’t make him a racist.
“You can’t make yourself be attracted to something you aren’t attracted to. That’s not how it works.” He insisted.
I’m not a doctor or a scientist or a psychologist so I have no idea if what Robert is saying is factually true, but in my experience our tastes and preferences can change and grow through being open and by exposure. And I’m pretty sure that includes sexual attraction.
Maybe Robert isn’t a racist. But maybe his parents were. Or the society that raised him was. And those factors influenced what he finds attractive.
“What if you met that perfect guy,” I asked Robert. “He has everything you’ve ever wanted in a guy. This guy is the guy you could love for ever. Only one thing: he’s black?”
“Then we’d make great friends,” Robert laughed. “I just can’t see myself with a black guy. And to be honest, as terrible as this sounds, I don’t think I could bring a black boyfriend home to meet my family.”
“Why can’t we have one night to ourselves? A night for masculine men without all these twinks and drag queens and fem-boys walking around here with their purses and perfume ruining the vibe for guys like us. Whatever happened to men acting and smelling like men?” I heard another guy saying recently. It was at a leather bar in New York City.
His friends all began complaining about the “assault on masculinity” in the gay community.
Another recent story I heard is about a trans guy being denied entry to a popular monthly party in LA that celebrates masculinity and “Daddies” because their ID still said “Female”.
We’ve all heard stories like these, or joined in these kinds of conversations, and we all have opinions: opinions that are valid. I think having these conversations is essential. The more we talk about race and gender, the more we discuss our faith and our ideas about masculinity and femininity, the more open we are with each other than the more tolerant we will become.
But first, we have to start getting honest about the fact that there is a discrepancy in how we are treated in our community. That I, as a white cis-man am treated very differently than those who don’t share my privilege. And maybe that means that I have an obligation to allow those who have spent years being discriminated against, beaten down, and denied the same opportunities that I take for granted, a voice that is a little louder than mine. That maybe I need to start listening to their experience instead of denying it or fighting against it, or justifying my own.
Maybe it’s time for those of us who have benefited from racism and intolerance to be allies to who have not shared our privilege, instead of trying to maintain some kind of hold on the status-quo.
A friend of mine was recently trying to explain why he felt racism isn’t such a big issue anymore.
“I just don’t see it. I think if we work hard we all have the same opportunities. I don’t see racism the way it used to be. I think it’s more about class. Specially in the gay community. I mean, all of us are minorities, right? Okay, sure, Trump is a racist, and that’s embarrassing, but Obama was also president. We’ve made some really amazing progress.”
My friend, like me, is a white cis-male. Of course he doesn’t see racism, or transphobia, or intolerance toward Muslims or Latinos, because it isn’t happening to him.
But it is happening all around us. And we are all participating in it. Sometimes by just being silent, or by making jokes that minimalize it, or by lamenting the “old days” which, in all honesty, were only glorious for some of us.
As queer people we’ve never had to play by hetero-normative rules. We’ve gotten to define who we are and what we believe, often in reaction to intolerance, and in many ways this has made us stronger, more tolerant, and more willing to change and grow.
We, as a community, are confronting an incredibly hostile and fascist regime, not just in the States, but around the world. A right-wing movement has been growing, and the only true way for us to fight back is to become unified, to stand together, and to stand tallest for those of us on the fringes of our community, for those of us who do not have the numbers or the privilege to be heard.
None of this means we can’t party the way we want to or fuck the way we want to, or even define the limits of our attraction, but it’s the way we talk about these things, the way we express them. If we begin to categorize each other based on race or our body type or our gender, then we begin to lose sight of who we really are.
And I think the Queer Community, in all its shapes and sizes and genders and manifestations is amazing. We survived the AIDS crisis, we have survived discrimination and violence and intolerance, and instead of allowing those things to destroy us they have just made us stronger.
So maybe it’s time we started to challenge ourselves. To look closely at the words we use, at how we express ourselves, at our privilege, and at the things we take for granted. At how race and gender and sexual preference should no longer be tools used to limit ourselves or each other but instead empowering aspects of who each of us are, things to be celebrated and explored.
I think it’s time the Queer Community, my Community, started using our differences: our diversity, as our strengths, and not our weakness.
Because that is how we will overcome those who wish to hold us down and tell us who we are and how we love is somehow less than, not deserving, or wrong.
Our survival will depend on our unity, and in celebrating all the diverse ways we shine: our survival will depend on all of us standing as one against anyone who will try to deny Us.