Why Do People Think LGBT Means White?

We’re all guilty of it. Whether it’s the girl serving us in Starbucks or the guy hanging clothes in TopShop. We all have that monologue inside our heads that’s almost always commentating on every aspect of our lives, and sometimes even other people’s. You know what I’m talking about. Trying to ‘figure out’ another person’s sexuality is something society seems to be obsessed with.

It doesn’t affect our personal lives and is none of our business either way but there has been a time for most of us, at one point where our inner voice has gone “I wonder if he/she is gay?”. Hopefully if you do this, it is without judgement or defence and more just natural human curiosity. As a species we are forever asking questions when it comes to other human beings. But unfortunately when it comes to the LGBT community, stereotyping  often plays a large part in this without many even realising it. Especially the members of this community that are in the black, minority and ethnic category. It seems the ‘default’ characterisation of somebody gay, bisexual or transgender is essentially someone white. It is only very recently that mainstream media has started to diversify the portrayal of the LGBT community. TV series’, musicians, cinema and the fashion industry are all guilty of having the ‘go to’ gay person as their advocate for LGBT rights, but is that enough?

For example, can you honestly tell me that if I asked you to draw me a picture of a transgender women, a bisexual man or a gay person that your mind wouldn’t automatically go with white as the ‘default’ colour of their skin? I’m not even saying that these thoughts would only ever be had by white heterosexuals. These are the common portrayals of the LGBT community that the media has raised us with and although slowly, it is gradually starting to change. People such as Ai Haruna, Wilson Cruz, Frank Ocean and Wanda Sykes are all exceptional in their crafts, ranging from singers, rappers, television personalities, actors and LGBT rights activists. These are the everyday people of colour in the public eye who refuse to make some sort of compromise with their sexuality or gender identification, in order to make others feel comfortable.

This is something we need to address more in the media and just generally in life! You can be gay and also a person of colour and it absolutely should not be shocking or confusing to anyone else. As I sit here and wonder why this shocks some people more than others, I’ve listed a few examples of actual scenarios with my friends who happen to be gentlemen of different ethnicities who are also gay.

Firstly, they are constantly questioned before entering any clubs, especially on the gay scene in the city they live and attended university in. “Are you sure you want to come in here mate?” – Bouncers love using this one. As if to warn them about what lurks beyond. It’s like the second notification you get when downgrading your iCloud, ‘are you sure you want to accept, this will take immediate effect?’. How many white heterosexuals can say that after waiting 15 minutes in line, once they approach the front the bouncer looks them up and down and genuinely asks them if they are positive they want to set foot inside the club. Hands anyone?

Once, I remember us waiting in line to attend a foam party. True to form as soon as we got to the front of the queue, “You know it’s homo- fomo night tonight lads?”, he put so much extra emphasis on the ‘homo’, in a voice that resembled a Disney character but I’m pretty sure was supposed to be reflective of a gay mans voice, whatever that sounds like. Well we all have on shorts even though it’s mid-September so yeah, I think we got the memo hun.

“We had a couple of guys pretend to be gay and caused trouble a while back, try another time.” This one was the most shocking to hear about because it was much harder for my friends to shake off. Not only were the bouncers insinuating that they simply could not be gay because they were black and asian men, but also because of this they were somehow more inclined to start some kind of trouble and maybe even hurt someone.

Phrases such as “never judge a book by its cover” and “looks can be deceiving” are quotes we are all familiar with and have had their time and place. But when it comes to dealing with actual humans and peoples sexuality, repeating these types of affirmations can be slightly damaging. Who are you to be shocked at the thought of Pakistani woman, Black man or Hispanic female, to also possibly be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Just because they don’t meet the ideal of what and who you thought would fit that criteria. Please, If anyone out there can tell me what any LGBT person should look like by a specific set of standards and definitions, I’d be more than happy to listen but I would also think you were in desperate need of a brain transplant and/or reality check.

Just like your skin colour, you can not choose your sexuality. I do not believe it defines you but I do believe it is a strong part of your identity you should never be ashamed of. I realise that some might say that it is easy for me to sit here and write that as a straight woman. There are many other possibly complicating factors I haven’t taken into account such as religion, culture and of course just plain old self esteem.  But I believe that when it comes to being a person of colour in the LGBT community, many people perceive it to be somewhat abnormal and can’t quite grasp the very clear concept of, well…just being gay, bisexual or transgender. Your sexuality or gender identification is not in correlation with how dark your skin may be, how short your hair is or how much Lady Gaga you listen to. It’s simply just part of everything that makes you, you.

 

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