As an oppressed minority, are gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders (henceforth in this articlereferred to under the acronym GLBT) any more sensitive to other forms of oppression like racism?
Some say yes, the incidence of people willing to dialogue about racial prejudice is higher among GLBT folks than in the straight population. Others say we have a long way to go. In the case of GLBT folks of color, who suffer doubly from racism and homophobia, would one expect them to be more aware of fighting prejudice?
Two Chinese gay men living in the US were gossiping about men they found attractive. One man mentioned an individual who happened to be African American. The second man remarked, "BUT he's chocolate." This man expressed a preference for white Caucasian and East Asian men. When friends recommended individual black men to him, he always refused.
An Asian lesbian of Southeast Asian nationality, who recently arrived in the US, said she prefers to date whites because, unlike Asians, "they are generally more open-minded". She also said "I feel I have more in common with whites than with other Asians". When asked if she would date a non-Asian American who was not white, she said, "I am not racist but I don't think I have anything in common with black Americans. There would be nothing to talk about."
After becoming more settled in the US, this woman reportedly cut off contact with Asian friends she met in the US, except those who had white friends whom she could meet.
An East Asian gay man, recounting the previous night's gay party on the phone, referred to another party-goer as "a typical black, very very sexually aggressive." The man is a recent immigrant who moved to the US in adulthood.
An Asian lesbian relates: "I was (non-romantic) friends with another lesbian who happened to be African American. For a while, we were close, but at some point, we got into a series of arguments that had nothing to do with our respective races. I admit that at that time we were both immature about the way we handled some things, but our conflicts and differences were not race-related, to me at least. From my perspective, we fell out because of individual problems which had nothing to do with her 'race' or mine. Unfortunately, I realized that my sentiment was not returned when she said to me, 'I won't let you stop me from being friends with other Asians in the future!', meaning that my flawed conduct would not ruin her impression of Asians in general."
"That remark shocked me because why would our arguments which in my opinion had nothing to do with my Asianness and only to do with my individual character flaws be somehow connected to 'other Asians' she might meet in the future? And since our 'racial differences' or my being Asian were not the content of the quarrel that broke us up, I was surprised that she would mention my 'Asianness' out of the blue. All this while, I thought she saw me as an individual, but that eye-opening remark made me realize that I was wrong. She saw me first and foremost as an Asian, as someone different from her, and her off-topic though 'open-minded' claim that she won't let her impression of me ruin her impression of other individual Asians was self-contradictory, because if a friend being Asian was truly a non-issue to her, she would NEVER have thought to mention it. It is precisely because she must have felt (or even succumbed to) the temptation to stereotype other Asians based on her individual experience with me that caused her to make such an unexpected remark."
"Such stereotyping happens everywhere and sadly generates a vicious cycle. I met another Asian American lesbian T who used to date a black woman. She claimed that her ex often blamed any problems they had on her Asianness and was over-sensitive, saying "You look down on me because I'm black!", which T said was not true. T came away from the experience with the conclusion, "Never date another black woman." Now I disagree with T's approach too cos' she was reacting to her ex the same way her ex had treated her. Who started it first isn't the point."
The four individual incidents described above illustrate how racial attitudes in the GLBT "community" strongly parallel mainstream prejudices. Like many straight white and black Americans, some African American homosexuals assume Latinos and Asians to be aliensuntil proven otherwise.
Like many straight Asians, many GLBT Asians limit themselves to white and Asian partners. Like many straight Asians, some GLBT Asians try to distance themselves from other Asians in order to fit in with whites. Like many straight Asians, some GLBT Asians internalize white American attitudes towards black people, a process can take place outside the United States, white American culture being as widely exported as it is.
This myopia with regards to someone else's oppression is not the sole property of GLBT folks or straights. Many people complain about the prejudice directed at their class, race, or gender, then turn around and deny the bigotry perpetuated against another group, or worse, contribute to it. It seems that GLBT folks and straights are a lot more alike than they think.