People of color underrepresented, “othered” in gay community

Opinions Columnist | Public Relations Freshman

People of color are largely invisible within the LGBTQIA community and deserve better representation.

Like most things in the Western world, the media’s representation of the LGBTQIA community tends to be skewed in favor of whiteness. Although the gay community prides itself on being anti-discriminatory, the treatment of people of color within LGBTQIA circles says otherwise.

The narratives of people of color and the intersectionality of race and sexual orientation generally go unnoticed by the community at large. Even mainstream activist groups such as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and Human Rights Campaign seldom discuss the realities for LGBTQIA people of color.  

This intersectionality of race and sexual orientation can cause two-fold discrimination—LGBTQIA people of color often experience varying degrees of both racism and homophobia. This discrimination breeds victimization leading to marginalization until, eventually, the oppression experienced by people of color within the community blurs into an endless cycle of monotony, much like “Seinfeld” reruns on TBS. Until these things are addressed, the cycle will simply continue to spiral out of control.

For every white person murdered for his or her sexual identity, there are even more people of color who suffer the same fate. According to the 2012 annual reports released by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 73 percent of anti-LGBTQIA homicide victims were, in fact, people of color. Black LGBTQIA people in particular fared the worst, representing more than half of all anti-LGBTQIA homicides.  

Unfortunately, the realities for people of color in the LGBTQIA community are inconvenient for the overwhelmingly rich, white male gatekeepers of the movement. Black and brown victims are not of concern. Black and brown activists do not elicit national support, nor do they deserve equality. Unfortunately, these are the harsh truths in a white-dominated community.

This ignorance from higher-ups seeps into the LGBTQIA community at large in an unfortunate way. Casual racism is seemingly a beloved pastime for white people in the LGBTQIA community-at-large. Fetishizing races while stigmatizing others is commonplace on hookup apps and in gay bars. Even completely ignoring non-whites to their faces is commonplace as well.

When people of color have the audacity to demand equal treatment and respect, many go back to the same old clichés. The always-enjoyable “My friend/cat/neighbor is black. How am I racist?” is a fan-favorite topped only by “I am gay. I know discrimination. I cannot be racist.”

Enduring one form of discrimination does not give someone immunity from being discriminatory. Neither does it ensure that a person will be able to completely understand and empathize with other forms of discrimination and how they manifest.

It is ironic that the LGBTQIA community fights for equality and acceptance while practicing widespread discrimination within its own ranks. People of color in the gay community have a few things to face in order to be better understood. There should come a time when the discussions of people of color can be included in general discussions about the LGBTQIA community in general.

When media representation of gay people is largely and disproportionately white, there is a real problem. People of color become “othered” and invisible in a world that refuses to acknowledge their struggles in any meaningful way. He who controls the media controls the world, and when certain people are left out of media portrayals, there goes
the world.