I’m a second and half generation, queer, Canadian Born Chinese (“CBC”). I grew up in a working class, quaint, Cantonese speaking immigrant neighbourhood on the edges of South Vancouver.
Coming out was challenging for me, mostly because there were not a lot of opportunities for me to connect with queer folks and allies that were “like me”. GSA’s (Gay Straight Alliances) were a relatively new concept in the early 2000’s…and to join one was to immediately out yourself. Something that I was not prepared to do at the age of 12-13, growing up in a relatively conservative evangelical Christian community.
Then I discovered the internet. I remember staying up waiting till my parents were asleep to sneak to the common computer, to go onto gay websites. Discovering porn (OMG), and also looking for support – of which there were (and are) very few in Vancouver. The ones that were available were very far away – as in downtown – and excruciatingly expensive. The $1.75 one way bus fare downtown was a lot, considering my $10 a month allowance. I did manage to find some support from a few youth groups in town, but I never really joined them for long. The youth workers were empathetic and caring, but I never really connected with them, because as much as they were trying to be supportive, it’s hard to be supportive if they were not from my community, and didn’t share my experiences as a queer person of colour (POC).
In the last few weeks, the Burnaby municipal elections hit the news stands, with an article about how information was being distributed in the Mandarin community about how schools were forcibly injecting “gay serums” into children, to “turn them gay/trans”. (Ignoring the fact that the English translated word for “serum” and “hormone blocker” in Chinese can often mean the same thing.)
The very public ridicule – laced with a touch of racism – really struck a chord with me. The targeting of the immigrant population for their ridiculous, backward, misogyny and homophobia – something that is not exclusive to Chinese immigrants.
It really made me reflect on my own experience as a queer person of colour, navigating the world, and the lack of resources available, and the resistance from society to embrace “us” immigrants. I wonder about how other immigrants, and families of immigrants are doing today – trying to navigate these issues, while dealing with anti-immigrant state violence? How are the queer folks managing, in a community that not only marginalizes them as queer people, but also pushes away and rejects communities of immigrants?
The fact that immigrant communities are deliberately being marginalized, speaks volumes to the experiences that queer POC have within our communities. If people of colour were actually embraced, there would be no opportunity for deliberate misinformation about “gay serums”, and the works, to be spread. Instead, we’ve pushed a group of coloured people into the margins, and ridicule them because they are less versed on “progressive” language than we westerners are.
I wonder if instead of ridiculing immigrant communities, if we could, as queer people, consider the ways that we could build community, rather than build barriers. Perhaps meeting people where they are (in both the physical and metaphoric sense) – instead of expecting “them” to understand “us”, think like “us”, and talk like “us”. Perhaps instead of ridiculing the immigrant community that “came up” with the gay serum rumour, we could see how this is a failure of our own communities – including the queer community in Vancouver – to embrace people who don’t have access to the same resources, and even the same rights as we do.
In love and solidarity,