I was sat in bed yesterday afternoon looking at online news, seeing what was happening in the World!
One of the websites I looked at was pinknews.co.uk and an article on the event.. UK Black Pride, which was held in Regent’s Park, London on Saturday gone. I’m not one generally for Gay Prides (I’m getting old now!) but I was going to attend this one with Alex, as I’d heard good things about it from friends who went last year. Unfortunately, Alex and I had a friend visiting from Wales and together with the bad weather, we didn’t end up going. Which was a shame really.
Anyway, the Pink News article was highlighting UK Black Pride’s 5th annual event and was quite innocent, until I read some of the comments that readers of the online newspaper wrote about black members of the gay community. Some of these comments were disturbing and more so coming from members of a minority community, but were not surprising to me. I think I can safely say that the majority of Pink News readers are either Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Trans-Gender (LGBT).
As a mixed-race gay male who identifies as being black, as this is how I look and what I am proud of, I have always been honest and open with my friends about my own experiences of racism in my 11-years of being ‘out’. People who are visibly ethnic are not immune from racism that exists towards black and Asian people, from either the white LGBT or straight communities. It doesn’t matter how nice you are as a black or Asian person, how well you get on with white people or how good-looking and cool you are, racism in all forms is as prevalent in the gay community of which I am part of, as it is mainstream.
It would be naive to think that just because gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans-gender people themselves are seen as a minority, that they are welcoming to visible ethnic minorities gay or straight. This is not always the case. In my adult life, I have experienced my own fair share of racism and discrimination from both white LGBT and straight people, direct and indirect. I too am not one for siding, but when I read information which is not factually correct or itself is discriminatory as I saw yesterday on the comments page of the Pink News’s UK Black Pride article, I felt compelled to comment myself from the perspective of someone who is a visible ethnic gay person.
My mum and Alex, my husband (married in Canada) are white and the majority of my friends, straight and gay are white, but ‘a racist is a racist’. It doesn’t matter if you’re a minority yourself, you cannot pick and choose when you are discriminated against or discriminate against others. I fully understand the comments on Pink News are un-moderated and do not necessarily represent the views of the online newspaper, but they do reflect a fraction of the LGBT community whom are racist. Some may think members of the LGBT community would be more understanding when it comes to diversity, but often they are no better at demonstrating tolerance than mainstream society.
One commentator on Pink News stated that UK Black Pride seems a ’strange’ concept and ‘if it were White Pride, it would be called racist’. What he failed to see is that ‘White Pride’ (albeit not in name) takes place throughout the UK every other month, it’s known as ‘UK Prides’. Visible ethnic minority men and indeed women are not readily accepted into the LGBT community by all, in particular the gay male community of which I know myself. Even today, gay social networking sites have comments like..
- Sorry, no blacks or Asians
- Not really into Asian guys…no prejudice, just not my thing….
- If you’re black or Asian, please don’t message me, nothing personal
Now, clearly I fully understand that people have preferences, but many of these gay social networking sites don’t have a section or tick box where you indicate your dislike/non-interest of others. These are unsolicited comments by the individual who have felt it appropriate to declare such a statement to the world and disregard a whole race of people. There are stupid comments too like ‘I’ve never been with a black man’, ‘I’ve always wanted to go with a black man’. If you allow others to treat you like a ‘freak show’, then this is what they will do.
I know racism goes two ways, but in all my adult life and I have lived in 3 of the UK’s major cities (Liverpool, Manchester and London) I am yet to meet a black or Asian person who has been homophobic towards me or others or whom I have overheard be homophobic. To the contrary actually. It is often believed that this is more prevalent by visibly ethnic people because black people are mainly Christian and Asians Muslim. This I don’t buy.
On the other hand, I could list a fair few white members of the LGBT community who use racist language as part of their daily vocabulary and some who are meant to be LGBT leaders in public organisations! I can choose not to associate with these people, but I cannot stop them from speaking discriminatory. I ask how can one fight for equality and fairness, when you use words like ‘nigger’ yourself? It is wrong that some members of the LGBT community fight discrimination on one hand and discriminate on the other. Integrity over double-standards should be the case, every time. It’s not negotiable.
Another comment on pinknews.co.uk states.. ‘Just more black separatism and antagonism. Very few black people come out and when they do all they want to talk about is imaginary racism of white gay men because they have been sexually rejected by white gay men’. I think this sums up my entire point. When black and Asian people feel like they do not belong, maybe they see no other choice than to hold a Pride for themselves, which causes no harm to anyone and where they can meet other like minded people, black, white, gay and straight. It is a sad fact that this person who hasn’t got a clue about the lives visible ethnic LGBT people lead, is arrogant enough to think that this event is being held because black and Asian people have been ‘blown out’ by white gay men. I’m assuming he means the likes of him. Get a grip. Apart from being a fool, you should be ashamed of yourself.
My blog is not to start a debate on the rights and wrongs of Gay Prides and indeed any other event for either straight or gay people, but if the visibly ethnic members of the LGBT community feel they need or indeed want to hold this type of event, then why shouldn’t they? Great men and women of all colours, races and sexuality have fought for the freedoms those of us in the UK have the privilege of and sometimes take for granted. Good men and women continue to die today.
Yes, we live in a Country that is predominantly white and straight, it is Britain after all. However, we now live in the 21st Century were not just Britain has changed, but the world. This is something we all have to get to grips with. That said, it doesn’t mean a free reign on discriminatory treatment. People of all colours have helped to put the ‘Great’ in Britain over hundreds of years from Asia to the Caribbean and this shouldn’t be forgotten.
On a final point, I note every other year that Stonewall, the UK’s leading LGB charity publishes it’s ‘Top 100 Employers’ about how they are improving the working environment for members of the LGB community, which isobviously good. However, I am yet to see (and I’m happy to be proven wrong) any black or Asian organisation (gay or straight) declare the same about these institutions, many being public bodies. I believe part of this reason as being, it is more acceptable to be white and gay, than it is black or Asian and gay. I hope one day for this to change.
Two wrongs don’t make a right, but what some members of the LGBT community forget is that to an extent you can hide your sexuality, but black and Asian people ‘cannot’ hide their colour. It is the first thing that you see. I’m not saying being black or Asian is more of a minority than being gay or lesbian, but it is different. One is to do with the race of an individual which they cannot change even if they wanted to, the other is to do with sexuality were an individual can make a choice if he or she chooses. When you are the only black face in a room of 20 people, it is not your sexuality that others see, but the colour of your skin. If there is going to be a debate on black LGBT issues, then it at least needs to be a real and intelligent one, based on facts not myths.
In April of this year, having lived in Manchester for 12 years and being born in Liverpool, I sent an email to the Chief Executive of the Lesbian and Gay Foundation (LGF) charity, which is North West England based but again a major UK LGB organisation. I asked the Chief Executive as a member of the LGBT community whether there was a reason that of all the 32 full and part-time staff employed by the LGF, non were from a BME (Black Mixed Ethnic) background? The Chief Executive replied personally with an explanation as to why there was no or perceived representation of visible ethnic minority people within the LGF. Considering Manchester is a multiracial City, I would have thought it had some representation.
That said, he was honest as to the reasons for the lack of or perceived un-representation by his organisation and together we are trying to look at ways to improve this and offer a better service for members of the LGBT community, black, Asian or otherwise. I am not one for exclusiveness, I prefer inclusiveness and as I have reiterated most of my good friends are white and many straight, so I’ve no hidden agenda.
But sadly, we do not yet live in a world yet which has total equality, fairness and justice for all and we all have a duty to ensure this. Not just for ourselves, but for our younger family members like my nieces and nephews. My nephew is mixed-race and is a much lighter colour than me, he is a good child and plays football, yet he is having problems at school because some of the other kids don’t like the colour of his skin. Surely this can’t be right, he’s 11-years old.
Many are discriminated against, the Irish, obese people, ginger-haired people, slim people, bald people and even Scousers and non of these are acceptable either. Yes, most us like a good joke and a bit of banter and if you know me, you will know I’m no exception. However, when it turns nasty and intentional with the goal of hurting someone or causing harm, you quickly stop laughing.
Racism Ruin Lives!
This has not been a politically motivated broadcast by me, but just a thought-provoking ‘View from the Bottom’, Max x
I have sent a copy of my blog to Pink News, Stonewall and the LGF for transparency.
© 2010 Kevin Maxwell Media & Performance – Published by My Mum