Commentary

5 differences: queer woman of color vs. queer white woman

This photo of "Orange Is the New Black" actress Samira Wiley is used to illustrate Maya M's essay.

This photo of “Orange Is the New Black” actress Samira Wiley is used to illustrate Maya M’s essay.

The “queer brown lady” writing under the pseudonym Maya M. describes how her life experience differs from that of her white counterparts. She is from a country where “there doesn’t exist a word for ‘gay,’ ‘homosexual,’ or ‘lesbian,’ either officially or colloquially.” She currently lives in the United States.

These are excerpts from what Maya M. wrote in Bustle.com:

5 Ways My Experience As A Queer Woman Of Color Differs From That Of A White Queer Woman

… Though I love my own queer girl communities, I think it’s worth mentioning that not all queer women have the same experiences, and my life experiences as a queer woman of color can differ significantly from the life and experiences white, queer women have. This is especially true if they’re white and living in the United States or Canada, Western Europe, or other areas of the world where queerness and homosexuality are generally accepted by society.

This conversation can be a loaded one, so I want to clarify that I never want to diminish, belittle, or undermine anyone’s hardships or experiences; nor would I ever want to alienate myself from a community of people I’ve come to understand as my own family. Rather, my intention with this conversation and others like it is to highlight the fact that there isn’t just one “queer woman” experience — that even within a group of people, individuals can have their own unique narratives. Mine happens to pertain to race; someone else’s might have to do with the intersection of queerness and disability; a third may have to do with something entirely different.

With that in mind, here are some ways my experience as a QWOC can be totally different from the experiences many white, queer women may have in their lives.

1. I Have To Deal With Language Barriers In Unexpected Ways

In my language and many other languages, there doesn’t exist a word for “gay,” “homosexual,” or “lesbian,” either officially or colloquially. This can make it really hard to come out to friends and family members without saying awkward things like, “I have sex with other girls,” or ,”I love girls like girls are usually supposed to love boys.” This elementary level of communication is not often something white people from North America or Europe — particularly English speakers — have to experience, because there exists enough language to come out and substantially talk about sexuality without having to beat around the proverbial bush.

An animated version of this photo is used to illustrate Maya M's essay

An animated version of this photo is used to illustrate Maya M’s essay

2. I’m Often Asked To Represent My Sexuality And My Race

A lot of out, queer women are asked to talk about “the queer perspective” or represent “their community” during class or work discussions, and therefore are forced to compress the complexities of an entire community down to a couple of broad generalizations. In my case, I am asked to represent three or four communities: The queer community, the South Asian community, the queer South Asian community, and sometimes even the queer Muslim South Asian community (but that’s another article). That’s a lot of communities to have to reduce down and explain to people at once, and it’s something queer, white women don’t typically have to deal with.

3. People Fetishize My Race And Sexuality At The Same Time — Even Other Queer Women

Queer, white women are often fetishized for their sexuality — there’s no denying it. Look at the countless examples of lesbian porn featuring white women, made almost exclusively for the consumption of straight men. My experience differs a little from this, however, because I get sexualized for the intersection of my race and my queerness. People have said things to me like, “I’ve never seen a brown lesbian before, I’d like to watch that” …. Many people — regardless as to their sexuality or gender — say offensive or problematic things about the intersection of my race and queerness without considering the impact it could have.

4. Coming Out Can Be A Mess

Let me start by saying that coming out is hard for everyone, no matter your skin color or racial background. Parents can reject their children for being gay whether they come from a black family, white family, brown family, interracial family, or any other kind of family, and being a queer person in this world is challenging no matter what. However, I will also add that people of color often come from countries and communities where homosexuality is significantly less accepted than it is in the Western world. When a white woman in the United States comes out and gets rejected by her family, for the most part she has a larger community she can turn to and pockets she can find where she can feel safe; most importantly, she won’t be killed by her government or religious community for who she loves. In the part of the world I’m from, homosexuality is punishable by death, and even if your parents are accepting of you (which is very rare), the hostility of the community at large could stop you from coming out for safety reasons.

5. I Have To Live Several Separate Lives, And It Can Be Exhausting

When I’m at school, I can be my queer, brown self, but sometimes I have to withhold my queerness if I’m somewhere like a frat party or event where I don’t know if the space is queer-friendly or not. When I’m at home, I can only be brown, since coming out as queer would be unacceptable. … White queer women may live a few separate lives, but they rarely have to worry about situations that arise from the intersection or race and sexuality.

For more information, read the full article in Bustle.com.

Related articles by Maya M.:

2 thoughts on “5 differences: queer woman of color vs. queer white woman

  1. I love 76crimes because you talk about the serious LGBT issues in the world. But it’s sad to see identity politics jargon from the cultural marxist movement on here.

    I get what she’s saying. She faces many issues that are unheard of in the west and it would be great for us westerns to be aware of the situation for LGBT people in other countries. Agreed.

    But what’s up with the white people thing? And i’m not getting offended by this because i’m white myself, it’s just inaccurate. Latinos in Mexico and Argentina have a much different LGBT situation than the white people in Russia.

    The way she goes about talking about this is implying that white people have privilege. Which is then argued to scapegoat white people as the problem of issues faced by other ethnicities, because the culture marxist way of thinking is that everything is the privileged vs the oppressed. It ignores the real issues and creates a distraction. It’s also responsible for this weird vibe in leftists circles where being white is seen as something shameful. I don’t get it. Why does she feel the need to showcase white people’s supposed lack of experience problems when she talks about the issues in her own country?

    My experience in social justice circles has shown to me that these people really don’t care about global LGBT issues. They care about political correctness and what’s on TV. They spend so much time talking about imaginary problems. Their ideas of oppression are being misgendered, hearing slurs, and not having enough LGBT representation or too much tokenization on television. But when I told them that India recriminalized homosexuality, they ignored me. When I asked them if they knew what IRQR was, they showed no interest. One person acknowledged the thing going on in Chechnya, but he wasn’t interested in a discussion about what the solution to that should be.

    The SJWs I’ve come across have all been white and latino. So maybe the ones who are actually from these countries actually care. I find it odd that she would feel the social justice community will help with these sorts of things.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s