When asked about White Power presence at her events, anti-trans activist Posie Parker replied, “you’d have to ask the Nazis why they show up”. (If speaking to a Nazi isn’t really something you felt like doing this week) Craccum will dissect intersectionality, reflect on queer POC experiences and why hate against any minority group will always invite other hate groups to jump on the shitty metaphorical bandwagon.
Our high court and government may have not been willing to get their hands dirty, but the people of Tāmaki Makaurau gathered on March 25 in full support of our trans whanau, sending Poopy Parker scarpering off our shores not long after she landed. Still, a minority of those who gathered at her events were minions of defunct white supremacist groups. For queer POC in Aotearoa, existing at the fraught intersection between race, sexuality and gender is a complicated, unique and indelible experience. In honour of our Pride issue, let’s dust off those SOCIOL 100 credentials and get intersectional.
Do POC experience Pride the same way?
Between you and me, I wanted to square up with God the first time I fell in love with a girl. What kind of sick oppression triple whammy to make me a dark-skinned, a woman AND gay?? Seeing Pride movements flourish makes my heart swell. But rarely do I feel a true claim to belonging in this community. Most days my issues with race seem too big for me to even start dealing with my issues with sexuality. Kimberle Crenshaw puts it this way: “It’s not simply a race problem or a gender problem or a class problem or LGBT+ problem”. The framework we live within often erases what it’s like for people who are subject to all of these things. But race, gender and sexuality are inextricable from each other. Since whiteness in New Zealand is invisible; queer POC who deviate from this normative backdrop find themselves having very different experiences to the essentialist experience of those who are gay and white. For our trans whanau, gender imbues a new and further complicated dimension. It is important for queer POC to remember: you need not feel pressure to ‘pick a struggle’. Each of the issues you face are pressing and painful and should be viewed wholly. You are a whole person who should not be dissected into ‘defining’ fragments by the politics of your landscape. The bible says you cannot serve two masters. Some days embracing my sexuality feels a lot like betraying my culture. But the bible says a lot of whack shit, and on god!! Kissing women is a LOT of fun!
The largest study of LGBTQIA POC in Aotearoa found that 84% experienced discrimination. The kicker is most of the racism they faced came “from within the queer community itself”. It is a hard pill to swallow when the community propounds acceptance and inclusivity as its highest tenets, but being gay will not absolve white privilege. Dating comes with racism hidden under the guise of racial preference, denied access to queer spaces and fetishisation. Co-researcher Vinod Bal notes that “queer ethnic people live lives of erasure; people don’t think we exist”. The most interesting finding is the conflation of queerness as ‘whiteness’ even though POC constitute the largest queer and trans population on earth.
Representation is somewhat improving on those terribly written teen Netflix shows but less so on university Rainbow Exec Boards. On a trip down to Otago to meet exec members from other universities, the lack of diversity in leadership shocked the UoA Rainbow Law exec members. How can we expect POC input, POC voices to be amplified, when they are not placed in roles of leadership? This, of course, stems from a range of factors. Queer POC often do not feel safe being seen in public roles. Although it is a stereotype that ethnic communities are “less progressive”, it is true that family pressure is felt intensely. What pains me is that queer identity in India dates back to 200BC and was generally unbothered and thriving before colonialism criminalised queerness. The it’s-about-time attitude with which England watched India rid itself of that legislation in 2018 infuriates me. Maybe don’t set someone’s house on fire, then complain about how long it takes them to put it out? Meanwhile, the mainstream white community still receives the power to define what being gay does and does not look like, and it is rare that brown people fit into that typology of queerness.
Coming out is always a keenly personal experience; one that is unique to each person. Race can add a funky fresh dimension of fear to this joyride. South Asians in particular, often choose to value family relationships over coming out, and this is not always recognised by an essentialist white narrative. It might be tempting to comfort your queer POC friends with the “fuck your family, it’s your life!” pep talk. But family and community are an indivisible part of life for all of us, especially POC. I work part-time for a firm on Quay street and to get there every morning, I walk past the grimy dairy where my father worked for the first five years of his life in this country. The dairy is on the same street as the law firm but it’s tucked deep into the corner, like it’s ashamed of itself. Maybe it should be. My father had 2 PhD’s, 2 shitty part-time jobs he was overqualified for, and a whole lot of racist nonsense to put up with on those night shifts. I do my filing, scanning and other paper-wench activities in the nice, hate-crime free office because I stand on his sacrifices. In those moments, it rarely feels very “fuck-your-family-it’s-your-life” to me.
To my queer POC community: I cannot know or begin to understand all the facets of your own personal journey. But I know a large part of the queer experience is joy. All the different parts of your identity came together just right so you could experience the world in this unique and special way. So take up space, even if it feels like it is not there for you. Especially if it feels like it is not there for you. More and more I realise: my parents didn’t do all that hard, dirty immigrant labour for me to squander it just surviving a white world. I am here to live in it, as are you; in the most joyful, loud and open way we can.
Rights are not like a box of chocolates
Parker’s entire tirade against trans women is that allowing them to live in dignity and respect will somehow infringe on cis-gendered women’s rights. White supremacists attend her events because they too, love hating on minority groups. But rights are not like a box of chocolates. We are not going to run out if we decide everyone should have some. Hate always breeds in places where people perceive differences that have the potential to fuck with the status quo. But if the status quo means uninclusive hateful environments for queer POC, it is begging to be fucked with. Hate begets hate. That’s really all there is to it.