In the written piece, Darker Shades of Queer: Race and Sexuality, author Chong-Suk Han writes about his experiences within the LGBTQ community as it has struggled for acceptance by the rest of society. Han highlights negative aspects that have grown in the Gay community while fighting for equality. Han, as an Asian Gay man himself, finds that the Gay community has subjected itself to the prejudices that it has strived to break and to unfortunate “whitewashing” as a way of becoming more accepted.
Han notes the various ways media has portrayed members of the Gay community. Using the examples of shows like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, The L Word, and Queer as Folk, Han notes that the main casts of characters are almost usually white and upper-middle class. While the Gay characters portrayed accept themselves and those around them accept them, there is the absence of minority representation from the Gay community. This gives the notion that a truly accepted Gay person in this society is not anything that deviates from this media representation. Since what people see in the media is most likely how they will perceive something as a generality, what they see is that the ideal homosexual is fairly wealthy, has a degree of influence in society, and is also white.
As Han puts it
“They revel in their sexuality, at least on the screen. I can’t help but think, though, that their revelation comes largely from their privilege of whiteness, the privilege to ‘be like everyone else’, with only one minor difference."
Besides the lack of diverse ethnic representation of the Gay community in the media, Han claims based on his own experience that there is also racism and a sort-of ethnic hierarchy that exist within the community as well. For those that do not fit in the rigid rubric, the others are stigmatized and left feeling alienated.
For those who are Gay and African American, Han writes that they have feelings of self-hatred and increased intolerance of homosexuality. This comes from both feelings of being stigmatized for the color of their skin and also for being Gay. A perception of African Americans that exist is that they are the polar opposite of white and therefore inherently bad. They are also seen as the extreme end of masculinity and barbaric, so they are also something to be feared.
Han writes that for those who are of other ethnicities such as Asian or Latino, they are not as heavily stigmatized but seen more as sexual indulgences. They are seen as more sexual objects than Africans due to also being seen more feminine than white or black, and therefore easier to dominate and control. As Han writes,
“those on the prowl for something ‘different’ to wet their sexual appetite. In so many ways, their actions are nothing more than a cheap version of sexual tourism.”
Han’s writing reminds me of another written piece by a different author, Gary Okihiro. In Okihiro’s book, Common Ground: Reimaging American History, there is a part in his book where he documents what was seen at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. Okihiro wrote the theme of the fair was to highlight humanity’s achievements and great strides. The place where the main part of the fair occurred happened to be named White City, and just so happened to contain work and discoveries made by White men only. For any representation of people who were from other ethnicities, there was the Midway Plaisance, which itself was not considered part of the fair but a mere sideshow. The Africans depicted in the sideshow were noted to be primitive and barbaric, and the Asians in the show were depicted as sexual and mysterious. Neither of the ethnicities though was presented in the same respectable manner as those of White color. My point in bringing this up is to show that these particular negative aspects that are associated with ethnicities other than White have been present for a very long time. This is not something new at all. This is hate and ignorance that has unfortunately spread into the LGBT community. It ultimately presents the questions to many people, both homosexual and heterosexual, what does it really mean to be man/woman, and how can people truly be themselves?
For me, as Gay male Latino myself, I have also experienced some of what Han has written. Being approached by other guys with nothing more than the set expectation of engaging in sex in something that has happened to me many times. It as often made me feel that what I am seen is nothing more than a mere toy that can be disposed of once done with. Not being able to be taken seriously constantly is emotionally degrading and depreciates self-esteem.
Han does write at the end of his piece saying that this is not something set in stone. Negative attitudes like this can change over time, as soon as society can start letting go of preconceived notions and stereotypes. It is bad enough that racism and prejudice already exist in society as a whole, but it really should not in a small group of people who It is obviously a long and hard battle for such a result. Anyone that takes time to look at other civil rights battles, such as the African American’s and Women’s desire for equal footing in society can see that. But if we can one day stand on the same equal footing as everyone else, if not us but the next generation, then it is a battle worth the effort.
In closer, I provide this youtube video that further echoes Han's writings.
Andersen, Margaret L., and Collins Patricia. Hill. "Chapter 30 - Darker Shades of Queer: Race and
Sexuality at the Margins." Race, Class, and Gender: An Anthology. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1995
Okihiro, Gary Y. Common Ground: Reimagining American History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP,