home Commentary, GLBTQI, North America Dear white gay men

Dear white gay men

 

Summer is coming, which means June is right around the corner, which means Pride celebrations. Canada now seems to be right back where it started last year with talk about cops participating in pride. For a brief summary, here is what BLM asked of Pride.

Now I am not here to talk about BLM, or Pride, I am here to talk about the increase in rhetoric, or really some serious hate, from white gay men that has been surfacing A LOT MORE since then. I am not saying it wasn’t present beforehand, it just seems to be taking a lot more space in social media. Even to the point of this person named Bryn Hendricks in Toronto wanting to start a separate Pride parade.

As a white gay man myself, I am noticing more and more, other WGMs (white gay men for short) putting down other LGBTQ+ people’s experience because theirs is totally different. The amount of times I’ve heard “Oh that could not have happened. Did you get both sides of the story? Something about that just doesn’t sit right.” when they hear personal accounts of other LGBTQ+ people, specifically people of colour.

It’s time for a serious reality check WGMs. Here it is.

WE. ARE. PRIVILEGED.

I know it’s hard to wrap our head around this. “But I know what it’s like to be marginalized, I’m gay. I understand persecution.” But guess what? Your experience of discrimination is not the same as everyone else’s. That is because the LGBTQ+ community is diverse beyond sexuality. It is intersectional. That means that you can be gay and white, lesbian and black, trans and differently abled, queer and latinx etc. All these different people experience discrimination in different ways because of our intersectionality.

Now I am not trying to diminish anyones experience. Regardless of who you are, no one likes being heckled coming out of a bar. Everyone wants to be able to hold their partners hand. But there is something that is way worse than that happening.

Someone telling you that it didn’t happen.

That is what this separate Pride essentially is. Not sure what I’m talking about? Here you go. Basically, some WGM is choosing to ignore the stories of countless people, within his own community, because it doesn’t fit his own experience. He refuses to believe the intersectional stories of countless gays, lesbians, trans, queers, and two-spirited persons.

Now we come from a diverse backgrounds with all kinds of different coming out stories, some good, some bad, some terrible. But it is SO easy to forget that not everyone has it as good as us, even though they may be out and happy and there family loves them.

It’s important to know where we come from. There is a long line of historical people who fought for us and were harassed for us to obtain the rights we have today. Gay marriage being a huge example. And small baby steps in trans rights. Let’s not forget who were the people who started this fight.

Not sure about your gay history? Or who you have to thank for all this? No, not Cher (although she is awesome).

Start with this. Watch Paris is Burning. It’s a documentary about gay life in New York City. Notice that except for the one white trans woman, and the white drag queen, who is talking about this community as if he was an outsider, the people in this community are not white. The need to create space that was safe was started by people of colour. They needed somewhere safe to go. Read about the riots at Stonewall, the birthplace of Pride and the original Pride “Parade”. It was drag queen and LGBTQ+ people of colour who were at the forefront of the gay rights movement. The riots were against the police, they weren’t marching alongside the LGBTQ+ community that’s for sure.

So please, please stop pretending that your experience is the same as everyone else’s. You are white, and with that comes incredible privilege. I am not saying that there aren’t homophobic assholes out there. But, you being a white man means you benefit from pay disparity, it means you benefit from employers hiring you because you’re a man and “you won’t get pregnant”, it means you benefit from being able to keep your sexuality in your pocket during a job interview because you don’t know if your boss may be homophobic. You benefit from your white sounding name because you don’t have to hope and pray that whoever looks at your resume doesn’t have any prejudices if your name is Arabic, or Nigerian, or Indian. These intersections of discrimination are what make our community beautiful, we can’t just ignore it. Yet for some reason during Pride, we are willing to ignore it.

So please, stop pretending that your experience is the same as everyone else’s. Let’s all take a seat and realize that we are privileged. Even as white gay men.

And I get it. You didn’t ask to be white. You didn’t chose to be born male, or gay, or white. (Although I can almost guarantee you’re not mad about it…) Privilege is a thing we are born with yes. We can’t do anything ABOUT it, but we can do something WITH it.

Yes, you are gay, but how are you using your white male privilege to help people who are even more marginalized. Are we that afraid to get dirty and help our LGBTQ+ peers because it taints our vision of what Pride is “supposed” to be.

I’m basically asking you to be an ally for the LGBTQ+ community. Better yet, I am asking you to be an accomplice. An ally is someone who will support you, sure, and they’ll stand behind you, woohoo… But an accomplice is someone who will get into the trenches with you and fight alongside you. Someone who isn’t going to just stand by when the going gets tough, but someone who is going to lift their elbows and help plough down the opposition.

This is what this community needs. It needs people with privilege to stand alongside those with less privilege and fight for equality. And not your version of equality. Your version of equality is influenced by your privilege. And I can guarantee you, equality looks vastly different trough the eyes of someone with less privilege than you. How can you find out about others’ experiences?

Listen.

The LGBTQ+ community needs people who are going to listen. Listen to the experience of other people in the community. Listen to what they have to say. Listen to their stories. Don’t try to relate to it. That’s not the point. Just listen to it. Learn from it. Not everyone’s experience is the same as yours. And when they tell you something that is shocking, BELIEVE THEM.

And I get that it is a touchy subject. Cops are there to protect us right? But that isn’t the experience of everyone who is in contact with police. What if the March for Life group wanted to come and walk in our parade? What if Wesboro Baptist Church wanted to walk in our parade? Would we let them?Of course not. These are people whose values do not match with that of Pride.

Is the idea that the Police marginalize and cause violence to people in our own community so shocking? We see it in the news, don’t we? Are we really willing to ignore countless peoples’ stories because, “Hey, I know a cop, he’s a cool dude, he wouldn’t hurt anyone.” What if I told you that this same cop beat up a friend of mine because he was gay, his colleague killed a friend of mine because he was black and spit on a friend of mine for being homeless. Would you believe me?

Why would we invite this group to then participate in Pride?

Because we (gay white men) have felt so entitled, we have chosen to ignore an entire group of people in our community. We want to exclude them, create our own Pride and invite people who are not even part of the LGBTQ+ community. That’s messed up. As white gay men, we have the power, and the privilege to truly make this community, an actual community; one that is united, inclusive and seeks real equality. If we don’t, we will be the ones to find ourselves on the wrong side of history.

This originally appeared on Medium, and has been reprinted with permission.

Photo: Peter O’Connor/Creative Commons


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