Genuinely caring about the struggles of queer people, and particularly our culturally and ethnically diverse members, involves listening to our voices and experiences instead of projecting an idealised image of who we are or should be.
There are queer people of colour whose families completely accept us, there are trans Muslims, and there are light-skinned queer refugees. These may seem like niche examples, but only due to their lack of prevalence.
In countries where English speaking Anglo-Celtic culture is dominant, it’s become standard for people who self-identify as progressive or left-wing to openly express support for marginalised groups of people. We appreciate the support as it’s often well-intentioned, but at times, it’s just not. Underneath the support can lie the ulterior motive of a person cultivating a reputation for their personal benefit.
Allyship isn’t about coming across as a “nice” person; it’s about genuinely wanting to end the oppression a group experiences.
Ambient anxiety is a low-level, ever-present feeling lingering in the background. The almost omnipresent and pervasive nature of social media has encouraged this ambience to grow and take hold. This constant worrying about reputation makes some people super vigilant about boundaries and being seen as saying and doing the right things. Engaging in such behaviour, only to then belittle us for not being grateful for that support reveals true motives: making oppression about the ally instead of the people who experience oppression. We see right through hollow allyship because there’s nothing of substance to offer. So, what’s to do when your woke friend ain’t that woke?
The reality is that not everyone in Australia is given equitable treatment or opportunities. This might be more obvious to some people than others. It’s so pervasive that it can be said that none of us, no matter how oppressed, could ever fathom its true extent. There’s a way to help us all better understand each other. It’s not a fix-all solution, but intersectionality is a recognition that different experiences and circumstances all overlap. Income level, health, religion, age, access to education, ethnic background, sexuality and gender; these all affect each other in a combination unique to every individual.
But there’s a fine line between intersectionality and lateral violence (also known as oppression olympics). Throwing one group of marginalised people under the metaphorical bus in order to appear like a good ally in front of different marginalised groups is incredibly disingenuous. The recent debate about religious freedoms has exacerbated an existing type of lateral violence concerning culture, religion, and queerness. Some who proudly tout their support of queer rights, especially for those who are gender diverse, will excuse transphobia on the grounds of religious respect and cultural relativism. Here’s the tea though – silencing gender non-conforming people isn’t okay.
So then how do we balance tackling issues like transphobia, while also respecting religious and cultural beliefs? Is engaging in this behaviour white-knighting and performative allyship? Well, no, it doesn’t need to be. Just let gender diverse people exist and likewise, let religion be practised. No impositions please, we can co-exist. History proves it.
Queerness didn’t originate from the European peninsulas; it’s existed in some form in every culture and every ethnic group throughout history, each different from one another due to intersectionality within cultures.
The thing is, there’s often more diversity within cultures and groups than between them. By no means an exhaustive list, some examples from around the world from past and present are: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander brotherboys and sistergirls, M?ori takat?pui, South Asian hijra, Chinese tóngzhi, Siberian keochuch, Omani katinth, Ethiopian ashtime, two-spirit peoples of North America, and co-gendered Mapuche of South America. Those are just a few examples from each continent, but there are many hundreds more. The point is that we’re everywhere and always have been. So, it’s insulting to pretend to understand the complexity of our cultures and tell us how to perform it. False allyship like this shows a lack of understanding about diversity, and actually perpetuates stereotypes rather than ending them. Google is your best friend to find out more or flick our Club a message if you’re keen to start a conversation.
Sometimes white guilt is offloaded in a harmful way by telling people of colour and religious minorities that we can’t truly be queer because those are (apparently) uniquely western concepts; that we’re merely victims of imperialism, and we need to embrace the traditional beliefs of our cultures in order to decolonise ourselves. White guilt can be expressed in a range of ways, from simple acceptance of past and ongoing oppression such as colonialism to extreme self-hatred and advocating for people of colour to take revenge as a solution to righting historical wrongs. At best, this is misplaced empathy, at worst it’s self-pity. Queerness is dominated by people from Western European backgrounds, particularly English speakers. As queer minorities, the best way to support us is by letting us speak, instead of speaking over us. We know our stories best because we’re the ones living and writing them.
There’s diversity within the queer community as well. There are heaps of discussions about things we care about like affordable access to high-quality health care, employment discrimination, and legal recognition of who we are. But those discussions also highlight that we don’t all agree on key issues and how to address them. The word queer itself is a reclaimed slur, and some people are so comfortable with it that discussions get derailed and stuck on queer verses LGBTIQA+ and its variants. Our Club’s official stance is pro-queer, which we wrote about in our article ‘The queer agenda’ in Verse edition 20. Surprisingly, many of us also disagreed on how to achieve marriage equality, and whether we should even want it. Infighting amongst ourselves is really counterproductive and a distraction. It’s hard to achieve goals to improve our lives when there’s internal division because we get stuck on small things rather than focusing on the big picture. It doesn’t help that those outside our community perceive us to be a homogenous group, and therefore don’t understand what all the drama is about, or even worse – use it against us.
To some degree, we’re all raised to ‘other’ groups of people different to ourselves, and so we’re all culpable in enacting bigotry even if we don’t mean to. It’s our responsibility to hold ourselves and everyone around us accountable for our harmful beliefs and actions, both past and present. It’s sensible that those who uphold social structures to maintain the status quo should be brought to account and asked to step aside. As anyone who’s ever taken true accountability for their mistakes will say – owning up to mistakes is hard. Genuine respect is earnt through a process of self-reflection and sincere apology. At a fundamental level, an emphasis on accountability is respectable.
If you identify as being part of a minority group, aspire to see past your own group and consider how other groups also face similar struggles.
Being a good ally isn’t difficult. All it really takes is consensual advocacy – advocate together with marginalised groups rather than speaking on our behalf. If you identify as being part of a minority group, aspire to see past your own group and consider how other groups also face similar struggles. Regardless of our views and experiences, what’s really important to remember is that as a community, we’re weaker if divided, but stronger and better together. Let the revolution begin.
Words by The Rainbow Club
Artwork by Francesco Patrinostro