The Politics of Sexy: Race, Body Politics, and Desireability

Nomonde and I had conversation about sexual currency, “attractiveness”, race, and body politics

…and we filmed it for Love Intersections! 🙂
Sexual Currency is not something you choose, you are assigned it – but I think it’s something that, I think it’s important to emphasize, that you can reject. You don’t have to accept the way people see you or view you, you don’t have to accept the way people think about whether you are attractive or beautiful. That is something you choose. And the only way I think you survive this world? Is by deciding what your own sexual currency is going to be.”

Travelling Safety and Etiquette for POC’s: The Fat Black Girl & Gay Chinese Boy Edition

The ability to access spaces – and the ability to then exist in those spaces in an entirely natural and joyful way, to fully participate in those spaces – has often been a privilege I have had to do battle for.

 David and Nomonde recently travelled to Bali, and reflected together on some experiences travelling as racialized bodies

David: Nomonde is one of my dearest friends in the world – since we met in 2010 w11899797_10153467782959462_3467395100888588362_nhile we were both studying at the University of Cape Town, we have become very close friends.  Mondes is now living in Pretoria, and I’m back home in Vancouver, but every year or so, we make an effort to meet somewhere “half way” in the world to hang out, and travel together.

We recently visited Bali, Indonesia together, and something that we’ve had to talk about seriously – though we do (nervously) joke about – is that when we pick places to travel, we literally have to consider the likelihood of one of us getting lynched or gay bashed.

The reality is, that when me and Nomonde are together – whether it be in New York, Johannesburg, or Bali – we stand out, and often makes many situations unsafe.  The negative attention that we receive ranges from awkward, judgmental stares, to literal public mockery (pointing and laughing).

I’ve also recognized that in many cases, especially when I’m with Nomonde, I have the ability to pass more than she does.  My body, my skin, my accent, breeds a reaction sometimes, and while we have shared difficult traveling situations, I also recognize the differences in the challenges that both of us face.

When we are together, for example, people usually speak directly to me only – not to her.  Servers will always hand me the bill, and not to Nomonde.

Luckily for us, we always manage to navigate these situations with humour…especially when people ask us if we are on our honeymoon! 🙂

——-

Nomonde: The ability to access spaces – and the ability to then exist in those spaces in an entirely natural and joyful way, to fully participate in those spaces – has often been a privilege I have had to do battle for. Because of racial history, my class, education, the kind of work I do – many of the spaces I move in are very white spaces and I have often had to navigate those spaces with extreme caution. My fat black body is perceived as threatening by many white people. When I laugh, or talk, I’m told I’m fighting. When I express myself passionately with gestures, wide eyes and sincerity I am perceived to be angry. Perpetually angry. Eternally threatening. A big, fat, black freak in delicate white, light spaces.

Travelling with 11903843_1006688486037601_7857794658221783731_nDavid, who I adore, and not just because he always makes me feel so safe, has only confirmed and re-emphasised how difficult it can be for non-white bodies to access spaces of leisure. From sitting in a restaurant in New York and being ignored for a solid 45 minutes until David sat down and a waiter arrived at our side seconds later, to wandering a night market in Bali (which shall henceforth be known as the Night-market of Horror) and being laughed, harassed and jeered at while just desperately clinging to some form of dignity, to the reminder that yes I am a person and I do not deserve to be treated this way. To having those spaces turn threatening and dangerous, which I have never experienced with David, not yet anyway. At home in South Africa while at concerts, restaurants and clubs with other black women I have often been physically threatened and attacked by white men ‘defending’ their girlfriends from the existence of fat black womanhood in spaces they perceive as just their own. I have been spat at, stoned, shoved and punched right in my own back yard because I am a black body ‘trespassing’ where I do not belong and so when it comes to venturing to new shores, particularly knowing and acknowledging that David and I are both highly visible as individuals and even more so as a pair, I do intense research about black and poc experiences of the places we are visiting.

We had a very interesting, and amusing, conversation in Bali after our surreal and ugly experience at the Night-market of Horror, about how white travellers often boast about ‘getting to know the locals’ and ‘avoiding the touristy areas.’ While for black and other poc moving in those ‘authentic’ spaces can very often spell extreme humiliation, if not actual physical danger, and those are simply not conversations that I hear when black women particularly speak of travelling and exploration.

I desperately want to end this on a positive note because travelling has been overwhelmingly positive for me. I am beyond privileged to have the money to see the world, to have had the education and access I have had when the majority of women who look like me and come from where I come from struggle daily for the bare minimum of life and I acknowledge that fact with immense gratitude and humility. I suppose I just want us all to remember that there are many ways to kill a person. Always remember the power and the joy that can come from genuinely seeing each other.

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‘Regalia: Pride in Two Spirits’

We are very excited to finally be able to release the short film “Regalia: Pride in Two Spirits”, that premiered last night at the 2015 Vancouver Queer Film Festival this year, at the Bright Eyes, Queer Hearts youth shorts program.

Last night, we premiered “Regalia: Pride in Two Spirits”, at the 2015 Vancouver Queer Film Festival this year, at the Bright Eyes, Queer Hearts youth shorts program!

Regalia: Pride on Two Spirits from David Ng on Vimeo.

Big thank you to our team member and friend, Duane Stewart, who shares his story as a First Nations queer person, who identifies as “Two Spirited”.  Duane talks about the importance of culture in his life, and his journey coming out to his family!

Today I had to refuse a gay couple from sharing a fitting room together

With the Pride parade in Vancouver, I am reminded that something as simple as this situation mirrors a continuing overcoming of heteronormativity in society. The Pride parade didn’t come from nowhere, it started as a political march in response to police raids against LGBTQ+ people at a gay bar in New York in 1969. The stonewall riot in New York happened for a reason.

A couple of days ago at work I had to refuse a couple – a gay couple – from sharing a fitting room at the retail store I work at. As I tried to explain that “our company policy” doesn’t allow two people to share a room, I felt their sense of victimization as a gay couple being singled out.

“We are married” as he showed me the ring on his finger as he and his husband walked into the same room. In this moment, I should have clarified that our policy restricts anyone, even couples regardless of orientation from sharing a fitting room.

“But you let that other (straight) couple share a room.”

“The man’s arm is broken so his wife is helping him,” I replied.

The couple didn’t look convinced, and neither did I as they both closed the door as I told them, “sorry, it’s just our policy that two people can’t use the same room.”

I told a co-worker about the situation who went to them, in a more assertive manner, telling them repeatedly to “please come out” until one man left the room dissatisfied.

I tried to be cheerful and told him, “congratulations on your marriage”. To my ignorance he replied, “we’ve been married for (insert respectable amount of time/years) that I could not hear in the heap of the noise and chaos working in retail embodies. He walked away.

In this short moment, I felt mixed. I felt their sense of othering, and I felt empathy for them as I envisioned myself in their situation, as a gay man being refused our dignity and rights. I was worried I was causing a scene and that I was embarrassing them, and I wanted to tell them not to take it personally, because, I like them, felt what they were going through.

With the Pride parade in Vancouver, I am reminded that something as simple as this situation mirrors a continuing overcoming of heteronormativity in society. The Pride parade didn’t come from nowhere, it started as a political march in response to police raids against LGBTQ+ people at a gay bar in New York in 1969. The stonewall riot in New York happened for a reason.

I am very pleased that this year’s Pride parade in Vancouver included an agreement for marchers to sign stating their recognizing and commitment to trans*/transgender rights and freedoms. The initial Pride parade was political, and the fight for equality transgender and gender variant people is a very real political issue.

When I think of that gay couple that felt denied a right to share the same fitting room, I am reminded of struggles they may have faced in the past. Just maybe, could companies, politicians, and elected officials further entrench policies that guarantee and secure a person’s legal right to not be discriminated or denied essential services?

As much as gay rights have been achieved in a majority of Western states, the absence of legal protection, condemnation, and execution of homosexuals is a reality for many people globally. When 76 countries worldwide have laws against homosexuality, I know I cannot say that our rights as a community have been met if only my immediate surroundings have made progress to some extent.

And I say only to some extent because when a gay couple wants to use a change room, they shouldn’t have to feel that they are being discriminated. When discrimination has become a norm, when trans* people, racialized minorities, and women succumb to this daily reality of being treated as second-class citizens not because they are weak, but because social forces are too entrenched in our every day lives, social change is needed.

On Being Chinese, Culture, and Identity

This past Monday, I was walking through the streets of Chinatown, and someone yelled at me “You’re going to starve in World War Three, you yellow piglet!!”

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

This past Monday, I was walking through the streets of Chinatown, and someone yelled at me “You’re going to starve in World War Three, you yellow piglet!!”

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

It was a painful reminder that no matter where I am, even in “Chinatown”, as a person of colour I don’t belong.

I don’t need to list the reasons why reclaiming culture for a person of colour isn’t popular.  It’s much easier – and safer – to “be more white”.

Which is why for me, reclaiming my culture was more than just a journey to embrace my Chinese heritage – it’s an act of resistance:

This video is for every time I was called a “chinky faggot” (by white gay men),

For every time someone laughed at the food I brought to school,

For every date with a rice queen that I’ve ever subjected myself to,

For every time someone is “shocked” that I’m Chinese and I suck at math,

…This video is for a safer future for everyone – including yellow piglets.

Silent Pain: Rape Culture in the Gay World

If patriarchy has taught men that women are property; subordinate, unequal – that sex is for men’s pleasure, not women’s…and if heteronormativity has taught society that queer folks are inferior and deviant, and if being truly free means relinquishing our communities from these systems that use power to subjugate and hurt us…why are we allowing this sort of pro-rape culture to exist within our communities?

Grindr Guy: “Hey, you’re cute”
Me: “Thanks, you too :)”

Grindr Guy: “What are you looking for”

Me: “Friends, Fun, whatever goes”

Grindr Guy: “Can you host?”

Me: “No, sorry”

Grindr Guy: “You can come over?”

Me: “Can we meet first somewhere for a drink?”

Grindr Guy: “Why don’t you just come over, and we can fuck”

Me: “I would prefer to meet somewhere first”

Grindr Guy: “Why don’t you want to come over?”

Me: “Because I’ve never met you, and I don’t feel comfortable with that. That’s kind of where I set my boundaries.”

Grindr Guy: “Boundaries? Why? Are you scared I’m going to rape you?”

——

Adjusting to dating life after a (tumultuous) long term relationship has had it’s added stresses with the advent of these dating apps; which did not exist the last time I was single.

Time and time again, I come across (gay, cis) guys who outright refuse to respect boundaries, and to be blunt – it’s really fucked up.

By all means, be upfront about what you are looking for – I’d much rather have all of this (honest) information laid out in front of me before we meet/hook up, but when someone puts down a boundary of where they feel safe, why is it that some gay guys think it’s okay to push around it?

Guys – we have some serious work to do.

We know, as gay guys, that the hurt that homophobia and heteronormativity has in society is rooted in the power that it has.  Decades of gay, queer, trans*, black, women and feminist organizing has fought to challenge the way that power is exercised in it’s various forms to hurt, oppress, and subjugate “The Other”.  Challenging the way that power is accessed, and used to hurt people is at the heart of how we can truly be free.

If patriarchy has taught men that women are property; subordinate, unequal – that sex is for men’s pleasure, not women’s…and if heteronormativity has taught society that queer folks are inferior and deviant, and if being truly free means relinquishing our communities from these systems that use power to subjugate and hurt us…why are we allowing this sort of pro-rape culture to exist within our communities?
As a survivor of rape – twice – I recognize being pushed on my boundaries is obviously a huge trigger.

But how many of us gay, guys are navigating this toxic dating community, and aren’t saying anything?

How can we allow this to continue?

In love and solidarity,

David Ng

Salute to the Sun: Illuminating Pain

Nomonde SelfieYoga was a killer this morning.

I was a trembling, sweating wreck – you know that feeling when you’re pushed to the limit and everything is straining but you’re also all weirdly open and raw like you get with yoga.

And there was this moment with the sun on my back, just getting to that point of too hot and sweat dripping off of my nose and onto the mat and I realised, to my horror, that the knot of pain in my chest wasn’t physical – it was cos I was ashamed of having to breathe heavily, of having to sweat and pant. I was ashamed of the exertion of my body and how very obviously difficult the poses and the moves were for my fat body. And that was just like some kind of cold shock to my insides cos I am body confident and I love my fat round self.

There are hard days and hurting days when people are shit to me and the world just feels like granite, but like 90% of the time when it comes to my physical being and how I move through the world – I’m awesome. So realising that – and waking to the fact that I avoid working out with others because I am not ok with sweating and trembling and appearing unable in non-private spaces – that wasn’t fun.

The ugly, ouchie shit that still crawls out of my psyche sometimes is always a revelation. What I did, when I’d worked through that, was I deliberately unclenched. I gave up that knot of pain and shame. I unraveled it and by the end of that session I ached but only in my muscles – not in my soul.

Small victories y’all – even in battles I had no idea I was fighting.

Nomonde Mxhalisa

Solidarity Building with Laverne Cox: A Meta Response to Jen Sung, David Ng, and Meghan Murphy

How do we form solidarity with fellow feminist perspectives that share similar oppression in this heap of stress? Do we completely locate oppression and critique it, or are there subtle differences? Is there perhaps a different lens of feminism that can be taken where contradictions, but ultimately, compassion and solidarity take place? Is there even a place where femininity is reclaimed and shown as self-empowering? Do we find understanding and compassion for the anger that some feminists share?

laverne-cox-nude

Just because I am part of a collective of bodies doesn’t mean I get to speak for, reason, argue – on behalf of that collective. Complexities make interesting narratives that shape our world. We are enriched by the stories of others whose differences teach us to be more open. I will always have limitations to what I know because I trust in the fundamental truth that I only know what I know, and don’t know what I don’t know. Until then, I learn to listen – and listen to learn.

-Jen Sung

I can’t help but recall a moment I saw on The Tyra Banks show. She did a show on how racial perceptions effected attraction.  There was one moment when she asked all the men on stage to stand beside the woman they fantasized about sexually. There were women of multiple races onstage. No one stood beside the black woman.  She then asked who would you want to marry and take home to your family. Only another black man chose the black woman.  Though I’ve experienced a lot of men who fantasize about me sexually there was something about this moment that felt real to me that I somehow identified with. I was kind of shocked that no one chose the black woman on one level but on another I wasn’t. Even as men have sexually objectified me they have simultaneously devalued me. We know these two things can co-exist.

-Laverne Cox

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The Beautiful thing I find about building solidarity is that I can become one without becoming the other. That is to say, I can embody the experiences that Laverne Cox faces, but I will never be Laverne Cox. I will never know what it feels like to face oppression for being trans*, for being black in midst of contemporary racism rooted in slavery, lynching, and dehumanization, and I will never know what it feels like to experience misogyny. For these reasons, I acknowledge the privilege I have in commenting about the issues of oppression Cox faces in Meghan Murphy’s article without having to face the repercussions transgender black women face.

Yet how, do we facilitate dialogue and change about patriarchy and the objectification of women that Murphy talks about in her article? (http://feministcurrent.com/11632/laverne-coxs-objectified-body-empowers-no-one/)

How do we form solidarity with fellow feminist perspectives that share similar oppression in this heap of stress? Do we completely locate oppression and critique it, or are there subtle differences? Is there perhaps a different lens of feminism that can be taken where contradictions, but ultimately, compassion and solidarity take place? Is there even a place where femininity is reclaimed and shown as self-empowering? Do we find understanding and compassion for the anger that some feminists share?

Reiterating Jen Sung’s eloquent writing, we can only observe and listen in some instances. Because when I see Laverne Cox posing naked, I see her in a liberated space, I see not just a woman, I hear a black woman who has fought her way to have autonomy of her body in a time and place that has literally killed trans women of colour. She embodies femininity, and that is what she is rejoicing, not patriarchal structures or the male gaze.

Paradoxically, I must remember that I cannot speak for others; I can only represent myself, and my inadvertent opinion regarding Laverne Cox’s nude photo-shoot.

Because being a biracial gay man and my difficulties experienced through homophobia build bridges to the same fundamental gender-based discrimination women and trans* people face, of course, in nuanced ways, and that is why I listen in solidarity.

I want to continue to disprove myself, and continue to raise questions. Questions, with good intention I believe are essential. For as we transition in our evolving social settings, I think there is potential for misunderstanding regarding feminism. I can indeed call out social injustices, but when I read Meghan Murphy’s article, “Laverne Cox’s Objectified Body ‘Empowers’ No One”, I felt this erasure of the experiences of trans women of colour. Who is to say that it empowers “no one”?

I question because of intersectionality, I question, because when a transgender woman of colour can pose naked in front of a camera and “subvert” oppression, I believe Cox is doing so.

As I respond to Jen’s article, in response to David’s articulation of Meghan Murphy’s initial critique of Laverne Cox’s nude photo-shoot, voices are shown, and voices are heard. I see a place where discussion is happening, and although disagreement can take place, I think it is beautiful how narratives can transcend our beliefs. When ultimately, we start dialogue to keep the fire fuelling the ever-evolving need for feminism, tolerance, respect, and love that Jen Sung, David Ng, and Meghan Murphy each approach in nuanced ways.

-Andy Holmes

Why We Need Intersectionality: a Meta Response

If patriarchy teaches men that we need to take up space to “win”, then feminism gives us the opportunity to learn that if we have a voice, sometimes there is power in silence, and in allowing other people to speak

Laverne Cox

In response to the Feminist Current article by Meghan Murphy “Laverne Cox’s Objectified Body ’empowers’ No One“.

“[…]  If women or transwomen were truly allowed to love themselves, I doubt they’d be spending thousands and thousands of dollars sculpting their bodies in order to look like some cartoonish version of “woman,” as defined by the porn industry and pop culture. The fact that Cox’s body is seen as “subversive” because she is trans doesn’t change that. Her body doesn’t look subversive. It looks like any other objectified female body, sculpted by surgery and enhanced by Photoshop.” – “Laverne Cox’s objectified body ’empowers’ no one” – by Meghan Murphy

By David Ng

My first encounter with feminism was life changing.

When I was 14 I discovered feminism.  It was kind of an accident…I was looking to discover sexuality, but instead I found feminism.

When I was in grade 9, I joined a youth sexual health advocacy organization, where we learned about sexuality through a feminist, anti-oppression lens.  It was like I was given a new pair of eyes to see the world in.  I already had the knowledge – but now I had the words to articulate my experiences: being a racialized body – a yellow body, a gendered body, and as someone who is queer.  All of these things that I was experiencing, I could finally put a name to it.

Sixteen years later, as I read Murphy’s article on trans women’s bodies, I reflect on my own journey as a feminist activist, and how I relate to other people in my community, who intersect with my struggle.

One of the biggest learnings I have had as a feminist, is the power of owning my own struggles.  The value of looking at the way my activism starts with my own journey.  The only way that I can ever have solidarity with any one, or any other community that is not my own, is through truly engaging with my own struggles, my journey, and my truths.

Yes I may see a problematic situation over there, and over here, but I need to begin my work with my own struggle – rather than speaking about other peoples struggles – yes, they intersect with mine, but they are not my own.

I have to thank the black feminists in the second wave who brought us the notion of “intersectionality” – a concept that this entire blog and video project is predicated upon.  Black feminists (like Kimberlé Crenshaw) called out white feminists during the second wave, who were speaking for “women”, while ignoring the struggles that black women were facing.  Intersectionality implores us to contend with the multitude of ways that other facets of our journey, such as race, gender, sexuality, what sex we are assigned, affect our access to rights and privileges. Intersectionality allows me to grapple with my own positionality, in relation to my community members, so that I can begin to forge solidarity with other communities – so that we can begin to do work together.

So when I read the way Meghan Murphy writes about trans women’s bodies, I am reminded that we can have a voice without silencing and negating the voice and agency of other people and their struggles.  As a cis queer man who is a feminist, this is something that I have to remember and check in on, on a regular basis.

If patriarchy teaches men that we need to take up space to “win”, then feminism gives us the opportunity to learn that if we have a voice, sometimes there is power in silence, and in allowing other people to speak (Gayatri Spivak).

This is why I love feminism so much.  For me, it’s not about pointing fingers and making my points loud and heard – it’s not about screaming “this is oppression! this is not right!”.  Often, it’s about listening and waiting for the opportunities where we can build community and solidarity… instead of building barriers.

In love and solidarity,

David Ng

Jen & David on a bench

In response to David Ng’s response to the Feminist Current article by Meghan Murphy.

“This is why I love feminism so much.  For me, it’s not about pointing fingers and making my points loud and heard – it’s not about screaming ‘this is oppression! this is not right!’.  Often, it’s about listening and waiting for the opportunities where we can build community and solidarity… instead of building barriers.” – David Ng

By Jen Sung

Sometimes we do need to scream, “this is oppression! this is not right!” Right now Black America is screaming – in agony, in solidarity, in agony, in silence, in agony.

David so eloquently referenced the origins of “intersectionality”, from the depths of black feminist mobilizing. How can we talk about the experiences of others when we don’t occupy the same lived and very real embodiment of racialized and trans* lives?

Right now my body is reacting to the hypertension in America right now. I am not thinking about Meghan Murphy as she narrates the voices of others outside of her own. My body does not know what it is like living in Black America.

But my body knows what it is like to have others paint layers upon layers upon layers of racialized and sexualized expectations, assumptions and stereotypes onto its canvas. That canvas turns into a living carcass. I live and breathe inside the carvings of race, gender, sexuality, and time.

So I learn silence while my body screams – screams to break out of the suffocating coats of paint. It is debilitating.

I do not deny that patriarchy is systemic, and that it perpetuates violence against women. Nor do I deny that rape culture exists.

I also do not deny that I have privilege as a cis-woman who is aligned with her assigned gender. So I listen to those whose experiences are outside of my own. Rape culture affects us all.

I do not deny that I conform to societal standards of what is considered to be feminine, but gender doesn’t make up the entirety of my motivation to conform, and subvert — my race and sexual orientation do, too.

I embody race and queerness just as hard as I do with gender, some days it’s more, some days it’s less. They all live in the same body. My body. And my body is part of a collective of bodies that are living, breathing, dying, suffering, working, playing, listening, dancing, living.

But just because I am part of a collective of bodies doesn’t mean I get to speak for, reason, argue – on behalf of that collective. Complexities make interesting narratives that shape our world. We are enriched by the stories of others whose differences teach us to be more open. I will always have limitations to what I know because I trust in the fundamental truth that I only know what I know, and don’t know what I don’t know. Until then, I learn to listen – and listen to learn.

If supporting those who pose naked in an “objectifying” way is letting patriarchy “win”, then I must be a bad feminist. But I know I’m not. I wrote “Ask me again why I need feminism” because feminism taught me how to listen, and extend my hand out in spite of, and especially because of — difference. That is the beautiful thing about paradox.

Will Meghan Murphy listen too?

In tenderness,
Jen Sungshine

Reconstructing Gay Biracialism

I feel being mixed-race is an opportunity to interrogate how identities can be reconstructed, and envisioned into social change that mirrors the queer rights movement. When being mixed-race and gay challenges how I navigate my own sense of privilege within the queer community that has lacked acceptance, I can only think of where race and queerness intersect.

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Being biracial and gay is an interesting mix. By being mixed-race, I challenge categorical thinking and normativity that is too often encountered in our lives:

“What’s your race?” I’m asked.

“I’m half Chinese, English and a bit Scottish,” I reply.

When my biracial identity is neither accepted culturally as White nor Asian, when I am indeed literally Asian and White by blood, I feel this sense of non-belonging:

“Oh, you don’t speak Chinese?” I’m asked.

“No, but I wish I could,” I reply.

And perhaps this sense of non-belonging is perpetuated by my failure to pick up Chinese as a kid, or maybe because non-belonging feels synonymous with being gay, sometimes. When our identity becomes our sense of security, when race is so often embodied as our sense of community, when being gay severs our relationships with others and ourselves:

“So, do you have a girlfriend?” I’m asked.

“Umhh…no…” I reply.

I remember being told that being gay was a choice that would put me on “the bottom of society,” where I would find no success.

I can only think of how culture transforms our identities beyond race. I’ve noticed this insidious trend to normalize “gay culture” into something fathomable by the mainstream: the idealized body of an attractive, middle-upper class, cisgender white man who resonates images of power, authority, and acceptance (see this article). These images and identities that command respect contrast with the insecurity that “gay culture” has had to latch itself to. And in turn, much of what I feel I’ve had to embody as a gay individual has leaned towards this normalized, white, classed, “attractive” stereotyped fantasy.

I will never forget a quote by Fred Wah, a Canadian poet, who wrote about being mixed-race and his fear that his White privilege would make him become “not the target, but the gun.” I’m writing this piece so that as a mixed-race subject, I can tackle the pervasive racism and normalization within the queer community.

Of course, I think it helps that my last name, Holmes, can create this immediate sense of whiteness on paper, but how would that be different if my last name was Wong, my mother’s patriarchal name? Would people have an immediate change in expectation? Would something as trivial as a name convey different ideas about personality and culture? I think to an extent, I have autonomy over culture, but I don’t over race. How people perceive “Hawaiian, Filipino, “White”, “Asian”, “mixed”, Spanish, or however far or close people have been in guessing my “what are you?” will always portray immediate ideas from race that govern how people perceive me.

Yet, how, as individuals can we facilitate dialogue and movement surrounding this phenomenon? How do we start talking about race, gender, class, and the continuum of privilege and disprivilege when we are expected as a social justice movement to be focused solely on a singular issue? Is it tolerance, patience, respect, and understanding that are needed to understand each other from a privileged and marginalized vantage?

I think the answer lies within our lived experiences. I think back in history when interracial marriage was banned, when fears of miscegenation in post-colonial North America became a social threat. When homosexuality was greeted by the death penalty.

If anything, I feel being mixed-race is an opportunity to interrogate how identities can be reconstructed, and envisioned into social change that mirrors the queer rights movement. When being mixed-race and gay challenges how I navigate my own sense of privilege within the queer community that has lacked acceptance, I can only think of where race and queerness intersect. I think of how we can construct this façade to normalize “gay culture” within ourselves, and how we can connect historical racism to contemporary challenges faced within and beyond the gay community. Being mixed-race is a product of social change away from racism, and in turn, I see challenges within the queer community as an opportunity to connect in solidarity.

– Andy Holmes