Dear Gay White Guys,
Y’all are just as oppressive as Straight White Guys.
Before I start, let's be clear: I am very aware that not all gay white guys are the same; some do not perform acts of oppression and are very woke when it comes to the difference between the racial struggle and the LGBTQ struggle, but there are too many who are willingly blind to it and refuse to admit their own white privilege.
I understand and completely agree that there needs to be some camaraderie for those discriminated against, BUT just cause you're gay does not mean you're automatically an ally and/or have free reign to claim any piece of POC culture that we have reclaimed to bring visibility to our lives. So, if you'll bear with me, here is an open letter to Gay White Men who are knowingly/ignorantly oppressive. It's time to do better.
WARNING: Get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable
1. IT IS NOT OUR JOB TO TEACH YOU HOW TO NOT BE OPPRESSIVE. You might say, "Well, Domino, how am I supposed to not do things to erase you if you don't help me?," to which I say: being aware enough to not be oppressive toward POC’s is like writing a quality research paper. You’re given a topic. You have questions. You go on the magnificent world wide web or visit a library and research the questions. After you have done research, you can formulate it all into something comprehensible and understandable for yourself and others. You’ll have several drafts and make mistakes, but that’s how it goes. Unfortunately, you may never reach a “final draft,” but you'll get close, and you’ll be better prepared to educate your fellow non-POC’s and act in a more informed manner.
All this to say: read a damn book, watch a damn interview, and educate your damn self. There are plenty of beautiful (and easy to understand) works of fiction and non-fiction that clearly voice how white people take up so much room in this world, and it DEFINITELY applies to gay white men.
I say this not as an attack, but you need to understand that we spend every waking moment of our lives aware that we are in a world systematically built against us and are constantly fighting for the visibility of our lives. We are tired. We cannot do all the work for you. For most, if not all of the POC community, we have not had help and have had to claw our way to obtain the same resources our white counterparts have been practically gifted by society. White folks are helped most, if not ALL the time. In August 2017, Lady Gaga came under fire for asking that exact question:
While it was well-intended, it’s still not our job to answer it. We cannot ignore the ignorance of celebrities, even if they are active members of POC movements, just because they’re cool and open-minded. Even the most open-minded people still can accidentally be oppressive, and that’s okay. I respect, love and admire Lady Gaga, and recognize her as one of many forward-thinking and positively impactful people, and even though that tweet puts her on a level of ignorance that I’m sure was not intentional, she must be held accountable. The response she received from Amanda Seales was a genuine reaction:
Could Amanda have been a bit nicer? Maybe. But again, we are very tired. While asking “how can I do better” isn’t harmful, it’s a question we get all the time as POC’s. Anytime we are with non-POC’s, we are automatically labeled spokesperson for POC’s and that’s not okay.
2. When a POC says something about being POC, you can share your opinion, BUT you can never disregard that experience or play devil’s advocate. Why? Because there are extreme cultural differences and nuances you’ll never understand. It's disrespectful to imply that a POC is wrong for how they feel regarding race-specific issues. You’ll never experience it. Also, there's just shit we can't talk to you about BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT BLACK OR POC. Yes, it makes a difference. You can "sympathize" with us, but with the damage done to us mentally and physiologically from over 400+ years of racism, many of us only find solace with one another. No offense, but get over yourself.
3. Everything you think, is not that important. Think before you speak. POC’s, and especially black folk, have a short tolerance for extra people. We grew up where we were told that not everything we thought needed to be said, and it’s true. But, many white people grew up in an environment where anything voiced was valued (a beautiful example of cultural differences and nuances), giving y'all a false sense that y’all should speak all the time. Please, just save your breath sometimes. If this offends you, you probably say anything and everything you think because you’re self-absorbed and like to hear yourself speak or you have a need for attention and to be heard, which I suggest seeking help for.
4. Don't correct our vernacular. It throws you into the white privilege section really fast. While you're at it, be careful how and when you use it as well. “Why, Dom?” you ask. “Read this excerpt from AAVE is For Black People and Black People Only,” I say:
“In simpler terms, it [African American Vernacular English] is the language that black people speak, and/or how black people speak. AAVE has a rich culture rooting back to when black Americans were enslaved.
"Slaves invented their own separate version of English to speak with other slaves to form a sense of unity and identity and communication without white people interfering... It was a way for black people who had their African roots forcibly stripped to assimilate to European ways for slave labor usage to form a new cultural identity among our people. It is our language.
"So why is it such a big deal if other people use AAVE?... Because black culture has been commercialized. Black language is taken and sold to the masses as 'If you talk like this you’re cool.' or 'Talking like this is trendy' and it is extremely uncomfortable for black people… You use AAVE wrong and say things like 'bae means before anyone else' when really its just a synonym for baby or babe. You tell us a white gay man invented the word 'yas' because of the 'Yas Gaga' video that went viral when black people gay or straight have been saying 'yas' since before you were born. You say 'Bye Felicia' without knowing who Felicia is, or where the term came from. You tell us 'I speak like this because im (sic) from the ghetto' When black people who have never even seen a ghetto still talk like that because that language is our language and isnt (sic) synonymous with poverty and low income areas. You tell us 'but im (sic) not white' as if not being white automatically makes you down and gives you access to a culture and history you as a non black person of color have no connection to. You tell us 'This is gay slang not black slang' as if the words being said weren’t taken from black gay men by the gay community.”
The point is that this is us, and to be corrected constantly and told it’s wrong is micro-aggressively racist. So, stop.
5. Which brings me to my next point: Nigger/Nigga is not a word you can use because you think racism is equal to gay discrimination. You also can't use it because you have black friends or a black partner. This is talked about exhaustively, yet few listen. So in case you need it, here is another reference that VERY CLEARLY breaks down linguistically why you or any other non-black POC can’t say Nigger/Nigga. Enjoy: Click me!
6. WHAT IS THE NEED/OBSESSION FOR Y’ALL GAY WHITE MEN TO BE A “STRONG INDEPENDENT BLACK WOMAN?!?"
Seriously, this one baffles me so much and I just don’t understand it. But I’ll say this: no, you are not a black woman on the inside and you’ll NEVER be. Transracial identity is complete bullshit. Being a black woman is not a fetish, commodity, or trend to take part in. There’s an article titled Dear Black Women: White Gays Are Your Allies, So Don't Push Us Away, written by none other than a… gay…white…man. The article centers on a tweet defending black women, saying “You are not a black woman, and you do not get to claim either blackness or womanhood. It is not yours. It is not for you.” The author dubbed this as “misguided” and “ill-informed," which ignores the initial intent: a black woman demanding the end of the fetish-like fascination of the black female experience. He even describes the ways in which the two are similar and how the white gay man has “helped” the black woman. I'm sure some of y'all have helped in some way, just like I’m sure other POCs have helped each other out over the course of years of discrimination, but that does not give gay white men rights to the black female identity. You are not a black woman. Stop writing in your Tinder, Grindr, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or any other form of social media profile that you are a “Proud Independent Sassy Black Woman.” All you’re doing is taking credit and identifying with aspects of the black woman persona that those same women are criticized and ostracized for in society. Since I am not a black woman, I cannot speak completely to the amount of disrespect, but I have grown up around them enough of my life to feel disgusted and annoyed with this act.
7. Again, just cause you're gay does not mean you’re an ally. Ally-ship should be performed because you genuinely feel there is an injustice occurring, NOT because it makes you feel like a good person. (SPOILER: You also don't get to label yourself as an ally, it’s bestowed upon you. And if this shatters your world, again, you're someone who needs/is seeking attention and I suggest seeking help).
8. Now for my final point (not really, cause there’s way more I could talk about, but I digress). Gay White Men need to understand, acknowledge, and own that they still have white privilege. Plain and simple. You can try to deny it and explain that because you’re gay you are discriminated against as well and you don’t have as much privilege. And you are right (about the discrimination), but as for privilege, you still have it, and there’s a very big difference between the invisible self and the visible self. The invisible self is the part of your identity that you know to be true and others find out because you actively show or exemplify it to them. The visible self is the part of your identity that you don’t have to ever exemplify: it is present for all to see whether you like it or not. To put it in layman's terms: you have to actively show you’re gay to be discriminated against and we, POC, just have to exist to be discriminated against. While I acknowledge that it definitely gets more complex than that, that’s the basis. Your privilege is there whether you like it or not. You’re always a step ahead of us just by being white, and that makes all the difference, as is exemplified by how many gay white men continuously appropriate black and POC culture.
You are no exception.
So, please stop sitting down and telling us the ways in which you’re not oppressive. Stop telling us “I was so offended when [enter name here] did [enter racist or microaggression here]. I never do things like that cause I [enter how not oppressive you are, and how much better you are because of it].” Unless asked for or welcomed, we don’t need to hear you accept your privilege. It's annoying and tiresome. The important part is that you're aware of it. Simple as that. Acknowledge it. Own it. Stop hiding from your privilege and start consciously using it for the greater good.
Some may think we live in a post-racial society, but as seen in Charlottesville, we’re not even close. So, I write this knowing that not all gay white men are the same. I know that many gay white men are very well-educated, aware, and acting as true allies for us in this struggle. But “many" does not mean “all,” and even the ones who are could probably benefit from a reminder. As a mixed person, I already have trouble fitting into my Puerto Rican and Black heritage. Not being acknowledged in the LGBTQ community, even by my closest friends, because I’m not “completely” gay is its own separate and oppressive hurdle. Queer POC already have a long list of issues and people they have to deal with on the daily, don't let your oppressive ass be one of them.