Tre Thomas joins us for issue 005 to discuss whitewashing within the community and how this can impact the BAME community's mental health and perception of self
CHECK OUT THE VIDEO HERE -
For decades now, queer people of colour have experienced whitewashing of the LGBTQ+ community. Whitewashing simultaneously denies multiculturalism and centers white culture, enabling it to remain superior. In an already marginalized community, whitewashing has been devastating for queer people of colour who wish to navigate in LGBTQ+ safe spaces both online and offline.
Every year, the community celebrates pride month in June, a month dedicated to remembering the Stonewall Riots that took place in 1969. The riots are a prime example of how whitewashing has remained ingrained in our culture throughout history. To give a summary, the Stonewall Riots assembled after New York police officers raided the gay bar, Stonewall Inn for serving LGBTQ+ people alcohol (something that was illegal at the time). This acts as a pivotal and historical moment for the LGBTQ+ community and is recognised as one of the first times that we fought against discrimination in such a forceful way. With this, it is crucial to recognise that trans women of colour were the true drivers of the uprising; fighting for our rights. It’s extremely important to honour these events, but in the right way. This has proven difficult due to a distorted representation in the media. Just five years ago, Roland Emmerich’s film ‘Stonewall’ was met with criticism for allegedly whitewashing the Stonewall riots. The film portrayed white cisgender gay men as the drivers of the riots; diminishing the efforts of coloured people. With this being said, it is hopeful to see that people are willing to challenging such representations.
As a community, we have made huge strides by campaigning for equality, raising visibility and political awareness. Today, gay marriage is legal in 35 countries and we have seen a huge rise in LGBTQ+ representation in Western media over the past couple of decades. However, with equality being a core value, why is it that racial equality is too often overlooked within the community?
"it is crucial to recognise that trans women of colour were the true drivers of the uprising; fighting for our rights. It’s extremely important to honour these events"
Whitewashing has been able to seep through the cracks freely through media, social institutions and ideology with little interrogation. The media has often only represented a narrow mould of the LGBTQ+ community, often being the typical ‘white gay’. This is problematic on many levels. At pride events, we often see a lack of black and brown headliners despite the huge talents amongst us. Though, this is easily accepted in a society where ‘whiteness’ is considered the norm. Women of colour, especially those that are trans and non-binary, have proven to persistently be fighters for queer liberation, yet struggle to reap the rewards that their cis white male counterparts receive. The violence against black trans women in particular is overwhelmingly high in comparison to the rest of the community. And even in events of tragedy, queer people of colour are erased from the narrative. In June 2016, the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida resulted in 49 deaths and 53 casualties. With 90% of those being Latinx, the media in many ways failed to highlight who the attack was directed at.
Growing up queer whilst being excluded from the LGBTQ+ movement can be rocky. The LGBTQ+ community has many hurdles to overcome regarding social class, body shaming and transphobia. But what can we do to make our ‘safe spaces’ safer for people of colour?
The importance of calling out bigotry, racism and whitewashing is key. Whether that be on a face-to-face level or much on a much larger platform, challenging the norm can go a long way. Secondly, education. We need to create and attend more educational and networking events; celebrating intersectionality within the LGBTQ+ community. Events like these can help us learn about other people’s experiences which can somewhat breakdown racial barriers within the community. Simply recognizing that LGBTQ+ people of colour exist is a step in the right direction. Lastly, we need to support our black and brown queer musicians, artists, film makers and more. This can massively help generate a quality representation of those often silenced; enabling them to elevate in society.