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Author Topic: Race and GLBT/Queer Identity
vshanti
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Acquaintances are always asking me where I come from. They seem disappointed when I say "British Columbia." But where are you really from? I mean, originally?

I was born in BC. My mother is Quebecois, and my father is Sri Lankan. I'm not sure how I identify, racially; whenever I have to fill out one of those "ethnicity" census forms, with all the little boxes, I feel anxious.

I identify as queer, and, for me, that's an easier identity to wrap my head around. I identify as queer because I am attracted to women, trans folks, genderqueer, androgynous and gender-varient people, and (possibly, I'm not ruling anything out!) cissexual men. (I like the term "queer" instead of a word like "lesbian" because it's more of an ambiguous, umbrella term, whereas a word like 'lesbian' seems to imply that I am only attracted to women). Even though I feel quite comfortable with my queer identity, however, I haven't really reconciled my mixed-race Quebecois/Sri Lankan/Canadian identity and ancestry within that.

I've found that, in many of the queer circles here in Montreal, it tends to be very white-dominated. The "beauty ideal" is young, androgynous, white, and able-bodied. I don't see all of me reflected, accepted, or encouraged. I feel that I constantly have to hide or downplay certain parts of my identity, depending on what group I'm in.

What do you think? Do you feel that race gets talked about enough in GLBT/queer circles? How does your race intersect with your sexual orientation(s)?

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Vanessa

I believe in the radical possibilities of pleasure, babe...
I do, I do, I do.


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eryn_smiles
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Nice topic, Vanessa [Smile]
This is something I think about alot, maybe too much! My parents are also from SL and at the moment, I live in New Zealand.

I'd agree that queer circles where I live are predominantly white, without much understanding of ethnic and racial issues. Except for the groups which are specifically for people of a certain race, such as for gay asian men.

I think its also interesting to turn your question around and ask-
Do you feel that GLBT/queer issues get talked about enough in multi-racial circles, and among people of colour?
Of course it would vary for different ethnic groups, but in my community at least, it remains a very taboo topic.

I've had a few painful experiences to do with the conflict between my race and culture versus my sexual orientation. There is one positive experience I can share though. I had just applied to volunteer with a group working with women of Asian, African and Middle-Eastern descent in situations of domestic violence. All of their staff also belonged to those ethnic groups. I guess I was feeling brave when I asked the interviewer whether they offered any particular support to women who were lesbians. When she realised I was talking about myself as well, she smiled and told me they had lesbians both in their staff and as clients, and that I was very welcome there. It was so wonderful (and rare!) to hear that from another South Asian woman. When I'm working there, I feel that all parts of my identity are accepted, which is a really big thing.

[ 11-07-2009, 06:53 AM: Message edited by: eryn_smiles ]

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

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moonlight bouncing off water
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Wow, ya great topic. I am not out (except to one friend) and my town isn't that culturally diverse anyway, but I have never had any issues (although I am, I guess white) Yay Quebécoise! I live right across the river from Québec and so much native and French blood runs through my veins, I love it.

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~moonlight

I am ME and that is the only label I need.

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PenguinBoy
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Heya vanessa,

I'm someone who doesn't really think too much (honestly) about my own sexuality, or gender identity or racial identity, when I'm in my own space, or talking to people I'm close to... it's like I forget all about it until with a crash I find myself in a social situation which questions those things, or reflecting on such a situation, that I end up thinking about it.

I kinda find myself defining myself in relation to those situations rather than making overall decisions about myself, so it's not really a surprise when actually, the places where I feel most uncomfortable regarding my race were also the places I felt most uncomfortable regarding my sexuality.

Most of that wasn't even actually about what I "was" but more about what I "could be".

For example, instead of thinking "Oh no what if they find out I am queer, gay, bi or straight",
I think "I could be(as always) queer, gay, bi or straight, but feel restricted and threatened",

I just felt suppressed as any type of human being. And it was the same sort of restrictive groups of people who had fixed thoughts about everything. Not to say they couldn't be challenged and could grow and learn. But essentially, they weren't empathising, so to feel either unfairly privalaged or unappreciated for race, presumed gender or sexuality felt like an insult either way because for all they knew, I could have been "another thing", and i felt bad that I wasn't allowed to be.

Racially, the main time I've been questioned is when filling out forms (which I'm sure says something about institutions and categorisation!)... I usually go for "Mixed - other"... I remember the local kids gathered round our new house, who were as young as like 8,9 or 10 where we had just moved to when i was about 13, shouting racial slurs at me, which had never happened when we lived in the nearby town which was supposedly the center of racial tensions... and where actually, I looked nothing like a minority. I loved relating to people older and younger than me so to get that from these previously fun-looking kids was really upsetting, and incredibly shocking for someone not use to verbal attacks or being hounded by groups like that.

It's the same place where I was the subject of some pretty difficult bullying, and though sexuality wasn't something I had on display... I know that fabricating, or performing the "macho" behaviours that seemed expected was something I didn't do because it made me feel so uncomfortable and that this made some people really confused and angry. Sexuality and race were ways in which people could be different in a place where everyone was chastising eachother for not being normal (whatever that was and whyever it was so supposedly "right"!)

I think there are so many different types of actual queer circles that this is interesting... I feel like there are a lot of GLBT people in groups which are new, and changing and for whom change is a big deal and do lots of campaigning which pushes for open mindedness. But I also think that there are places where we are better at accepting queer people who are a certain "type"... I think of the whole "gay-best-friend" thing, gay men who are comfortable to be seen as someone to go shopping with, are far more accepted than more ambiguously gay men who are friends with other men... I've been in so many male friendship groups where paranoia about eachother's potential homosexuality has been a major issue which is full of a lot of denial... but then been in groups of queer people who have a very clear idea of an identity which is very visible in the media they have access to, which is comfy for them but represents something very narrow and restrictive.

I've found that sort of group somewhere that the more ambiguous, more bisexual, more queer, more different in terms of race, type of person, is something I've been more scared to be.

By the same token, there have been groups of people where I've sensed a sort of backlash, where we've all sort of suffered the difficulties of being restricted to more social acceptable identities, and I've been weary of a kind of anti-mainstream sentiment rather than just a "pro-everything-else-too" push, and we've had to kind of remind ourselves that we still are capable of being non-inclusive and have to make a conscious effort to be aware of that and remind oursleves to be both accepting and welcoming.

Looking at intersections of discrimination is interesting because it becomes clear that, really what people are discriminated against for is kind of arbitrary, obviously because we are actually of equal worth, it's all the same... and I think it's more of a change in everything that's needed...

I'm thinking; as long as there is racism there will there also be sexism and sexuality-ism?

[ 11-08-2009, 07:43 PM: Message edited by: PenguinBoy ]

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moonlight bouncing off water
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Whoa, you said a lot in quality I mean not quantity. I think you have brought up, or rather brought to light a huge thing and I feel the weight of what you are trying to express. (Although it doesn't feel heavy) But hey that makes a lot of sense. Did it help you vshanti?

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~moonlight

I am ME and that is the only label I need.

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vshanti
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Thank you all for replying. [Smile] I'm glad this post managed to generate some interesting discussion, and I hope it can continue.

I can't reply in depth right now, but I'll come back to this thread tomorrow and reply properly to the points that you've brought up. [Big Grin]

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Vanessa

I believe in the radical possibilities of pleasure, babe...
I do, I do, I do.


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vshanti
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Hi again! I'm back after a day of procrastinating homework and watching old episodes of Degrassi. [Big Grin] Now, time for a proper reply.

eryn_smiles:
quote:
Do you feel that GLBT/queer issues get talked about enough in multi-racial circles, and among people of colour?
This is a great question. To be honest, I'm not really part of any multi-racial circles, so I can't answer. That's the main reason why I started this thread; I don't belong to any "community of colour," so there aren't that many people in my immediate circle who want to talk about the intersections of race and sexuality with me. Although I do have a few non-white close friends, the majority of my friend circle is white. I never really noticed or felt this as a tension until recently, as I've been studying feminism and critiquing the "white middle class"-centricity of the mainstream movement. It's made me want to look at other aspects of my life/my identity also, the parts that I've taken for granted or suppressed.

quote:
When I'm working there, I feel that all parts of my identity are accepted, which is a really big thing.
That organization sounds amazing, and so accepting! I'm really happy for you. [Cool] I would love to find that place. I'll keep looking!

Turning your own question back at you, eryn_smiles: do you think GLBT/queer issues get talked about enough in the communities you've experienced? Has your work at this organization held up to your initial positive impression?

moonlight: Thanks for your reply! It's always great to "meet" a fellow Canadian on the boards. [Razz]

Jacob: Wow, amazing points.

quote:
Racially, the main time I've been questioned is when filling out forms (which I'm sure says something about institutions and categorisation!)
Same here, Jacob. I would love to study the history of the government's racial categorization system. I always check off "other." But I do feel a certain sense of pride at having an ambiguous/mixed race background; it gives me a little "nonconformist" thrill [Roll Eyes]

quote:
I know that fabricating, or performing the "macho" behaviours that seemed expected was something I didn't do because it made me feel so uncomfortable and that this made some people really confused and angry.
Would you feel comfortable elaborating on this point a little? I think you've brought up something really interesting and I would love to hear more.

quote:
I think there are so many different types of actual queer circles that this is interesting...
I definitely agree with you, and I apologize if my post was essentializing in an way. I definitely did not mean to imply that there is some static "Queer Community" out there; that would be pretty ridiculous. I've had quite limited exposure, so when I think of queer, what comes to mind is the young, predominantly white and able-bodied, generally androgynous/masculine-presenting dyke/queer scene that I've been exposed to. This is definitely one tiny, tiny smidgen of what exists in the world, and I would love to hear more about what you've experienced. [Smile]

quote:
I'm thinking; as long as there is racism there will there also be sexism and sexuality-ism?
Like your reply implied, racism and sexuality-ism seem very intertwined... society's fears have always been superimposed on the sexual sphere. Fears of the nation's boundaries being infringed upon, or "racial degeneration," lead to sexual panics. This is a huge question, but my instinct is leaning towards a "yes", since they aren't mutually exclusive categories.

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Vanessa

I believe in the radical possibilities of pleasure, babe...
I do, I do, I do.


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PenguinBoy
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[thanks for the great reply vanessa.. just so you know i started on one too, but it's saved and i'll post it some time soon, when i scavenge the time to finish it!]

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vshanti
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No problem Jacob, I completely understand!

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Vanessa

I believe in the radical possibilities of pleasure, babe...
I do, I do, I do.


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eryn_smiles
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Thanks Vanessa, I'll also post more in weekend when I'm less sleepy [Smile] .

Just wanted to clarify something that Jacob mentioned-
quote:
Originally posted by PenguinBoy:
By the same token, there have been groups of people where I've sensed a sort of backlash, where we've all sort of suffered the difficulties of being restricted to more social acceptable identities, and I've been weary of a kind of anti-mainstream sentiment rather than just a "pro-everything-else-too" push, and we've had to kind of remind ourselves that we still are capable of being non-inclusive and have to make a conscious effort to be aware of that and remind oursleves to be both accepting and welcoming.

Do you think that queer people are more likely to be "pro-everything-else-too"? Why are you weary of anti-mainstream sentiment? I've personally found that many queer people I know are quite pro-choice as well.

I've definitely found that queer groups can be non-inclusive at times, although not necessarily of people belonging to different races. For example, biphobia is not uncommon in gay/lesbian groups.

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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vshanti
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I think that there can be a tendency for movements to become "scenes." For example, the queer scene here, although very open to gender variance and sexual fluidity, attempts to be inclusive, but all the events I've been to are 99% white, university educated, able-bodied young anglophones along the androgynous or masculine end of the gender spectrum. There can be this "more progressive than thou" attitude sometimes, where people are judged depending on whether or not they use the "correct" language or the appropriate clothing. It's silly. It doesn't bother me so much when I am hanging out with people one-on-one, because no one is a bad person at all, but there can be these hierarchies that exist, even within this minority subculture, and I think it's important to recognize that.

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Vanessa

I believe in the radical possibilities of pleasure, babe...
I do, I do, I do.


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moonlight bouncing off water
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The thing is that while we would like to believe that our society is very progressive the reality is that many things are easier for anglophone, white, males. I don't know what kind of advice I can offer, but I sympathize.

(Oh et c'est fantastique de trouver quel qu'un de Montreal! Je suis une conduite de 5 heures à Montreal et quand vous pense de l'internet ça c'est proche!)

[ 11-22-2009, 04:27 PM: Message edited by: moonlight bouncing off water ]

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~moonlight

I am ME and that is the only label I need.

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eryn_smiles
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Vanessa,

Whats the difference between a movement and a "scene"? But yeah, I do agree that there can be hierarchies and minorities within minorities. It can be really tough to fight that from within and not remain invisible.

Back to your other question-
"Do you think GLBT/queer issues get talked about enough in the communities you've experienced? Has your work at this organization held up to your initial positive impression?"

No- absolutely not. I hate that there is so much denial and shame and secrecy. Its terrible when even a counsellor or psychiatrist will point blank state that "There are no gay people in *name of country*" or continue to discuss methods of curing homosexual urges. In that situation, what hope is there for the general public, you know? It will always be a dirty secret.

I've continued to feel welcome at our organization, but haven't really discussed sexuality issues with anyone yet. Possibly, I will once I gain experience and find my feet there. The orientation was pretty interesting as there were some older women there who clearly had never talked about sex and attraction openly before. Some had issues about lesbianism being abnormal and unusual. But all agreed that consenting adults should be able to love who they want without fear of discrimination and violence, which was perhaps the more important point.

I have also noticed that every client gets asked whether they are heterosexual or lesbian. Although its hardly ideal to force sexuality into this binary, its still far better than assuming every client is hetero and also gives them permission to talk about it as they need to.

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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eryn_smiles
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OK, so I'd like to share a video with all of you cool people. "Brown Like Me is a short documentary brought to you by the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP)s Queer South Asian Youth (Q-SAY) project. This short film captures the experiences of 6 queer-identified South Asian youth living in the Greater Toronto Area who speak candidly about identity labels, homophobia, coming out, pride, resiliency, and family."

If you have a spare 30 minutes, its a great watch. I can really relate to it as I'm South Asian, but I think there's alot of common issues for different cultures and communities too.
http://www.youtube.com/user/brownlikeme

(PS, If anyone belonging to other racial and ethnic groups wanted to share specific resources that helped them feel less isolated, come out, etc..feel free!)

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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Jill2000Plus
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I just wanted to thank you for posting that video Eryn, it was really worth watching. [Smile]

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Always knock before entering my room when I am in there alone, as I may be doing all sorts of wonderfully thrilling things that I'd rather you didn't see.

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Ecofem
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Thanks for sharing these links, eryn_smiles! I finished watching them yesterday and found their message really strong and made me think of various points I'll write more about later. [Smile] Would you be interested in blogging about it? (I could if you're interested but don't want to take your suggestion if you would like to talk about it... OR we could collaborate, like I could summarize the videos and then feature YOUR thoughts in a brief interview on the topic/videos. [Smile] )
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eryn_smiles
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Jill- I'm glad you enjoyed it! It's really cool that those people chose to speak out, isn't it?

Lena- Perhaps we could collaborate on a blog [Smile] ? I'd like to talk through those issues, but parts of it hit very close to home. Thanks.

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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Ecofem
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Eryn_smiles, I look forward to possibility working on the blog together at our mutual convenience, availability, and comfort levels. Thanks again for sharing! [Smile]
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Heather
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Eryn: you have probably already seen this, but someone just passed this list on to me yesterday in case you haven't: http://www.sawnet.org/khush/

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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eryn_smiles
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Thanks Heather, I hadn't seen that part of sawnet before [Smile] .

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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fistkiss
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Where I'm from race and ethnicity is getting talked about more in our queer scenes, mostly because me and my friends have been making noise about it. We've been having qpoc (queer person of colour) dinners and organised some performance events and public discussions too.

It's been really amazing to chat to other qpoc and find that there's actually a lot of qpoc media out there. One of my favourite poets is a fierce queer femme of Tamil background, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna Samarasinha. Her words really move me and talking to friends of different backgrounds but who all experience some kind of marginalisation as non-white has been so beautiful and empowering.

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fistkiss
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PS That Bikini Kill lyric in your sig is my favourite!
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eryn_smiles
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In case anyone here is interested in sending their writing/artwork about "migration, immigration, displacement, diaspora, or any other movement of (your) people" to a "fierce & gorgeous queer ‘zine about people in motion"...check out this link [Smile] :

Call for Submissions: Collection of Queer Stories & Art about Migration, Immigration, Displacement, & Diaspora
http://pawablog.wordpress.com/2011/10/22/call-for-submissions-collection-of-queer-stories-art-about-migration-immigration-displacement-diaspora/

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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eryn_smiles
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I was reading a really interesting Australian blog post about attractions and racism among gay guys...and when I was halfway down, I realised they had quoted a Scarleteen article by Heather! Wonder if anyone wants to read and share opinions??
http://www.peril.com.au/peril/2012/04/12/racism-and-attraction-yellow-fever-pity-fucks-and-hes-just-not-that-into-you/

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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Heather
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I was just reading that the other day!

I remember having a really hard time with that question (especially since only having attraction to people of one race or ethnicity is not something I've ever experienced at all myself), and explored a range of ideas, not just what was quoted, but I agree that ultimately, I was saying that we are attracted to whomever we're attracted to, and that's not really something we can control, even though I think if we're noticing we're very racially/ethnically exclusive in that, it'd probably be a good idea to look at why, since racism may well play a part.

But my nitpick about me aside -- which is obviously mostly a personal issue -- I thought it was a really interesting article and really appreciated all they brought up, including the critique of that passage from me.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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eryn_smiles
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My feeling is that even when someone has so far experienced attraction only towards a certain (probably dominant) ethnic group, they should very carefully consider how they want to communicate that and about what messages they might be sending about themeselves. Especially on public social networking sites, for example. A man I met recently (who is Chinese and gay) was also talking about that Grindrr iphone application and seeing profiles which listed "No Asians or Indians". We were talking about how hurtful it can be to read things like that. For me, it's only one step away from when I was looking for flatmates on an accomodation website and read "Sorry, but no gays or Indians".

Anyway, on the same blog, I came across a link to the documentary "Courage unfolds" which highlights some of the issues experienced by GLBT people throughout Asia and their ongoing activism. Parts of it can be triggering as it has a few "dramatic re-enactments" of acts of violence against transgendered people.
http://www.peril.com.au/peril/2012/01/01/review-courage-unfolds/
http://vimeo.com/22813403

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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Cricket
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What a great topic! I'm a white, pansexual, genderqueer boi, and it wasn't until I got into a relationship with a queer Latin@ that I ever really discussed race and queerness. I know my lover has a lot of stress around the fact that her family doesn't really comprehend her gender identity or sexuality, that her body type and skin color don't show up in classic Western models of "beauty," and also the frustrating organization of events on our college campus which sometimes literally force her to choose between Latin@-focused events and queer-focused events.

However, there are several groups on our campus that address race and sexuality - QPOC (Queer People of Color) and Q&A (Queer & Asian). I attend a lot of their events in the interest of making sure I am being a respectful and understanding partner to my lover. There are some white queer people who seem to have a "thing" for dating queer people of color as a way of enforcing their anti-racist/activist credibility, and since I am a white queer person heavily involved in my campus' activist community, I feel like I have a responsibility to educate myself on race issues and avoid falling into that unfortunate trope.

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eryn_smiles
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Interesting to hear your point of view, Cricket [Smile]
I have also seen a few QPOC groups popping up, which is great. It is unfortunate about how some white queer people may date POC for that reason, when that behaviour itself is racist!

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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