Is the gay scene racist?

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Posted: Thu Mar 31 2011

Lesbians and gay men speak out about racism

Together with the black gay men's project Big Up, gay men's health charity GMFA has launched a campaign to tackle racism and celebrate ethnic diversity within the gay scene.

We asked five people about their experience of racism in clubs and bars, how it compared to the wider world and what can be done to tackle it. Finally we asked them the big question: is the gay scene racist?

Topher Campbell - writer, director and co-founder of rukus! Federation black LGBT arts company
'When Iwas younger, I sometimes wouldn't be allowed into gay bars or clubs because I “didn't look gay”, ie white. My experience of racism in wider society is more to do with the narrow way in which white-led institutions decide what black people are capable of. In the arts world you're expected to be edgy or different, dangerous even. The real prejudice in the gay scene is to do with club owners barring black club nights and bars worried about attracting too many black gay men with “black” music.

The current definition of “gay” is too narrow for black and brown communities. More diversity can only add to the strength of the scene.We have no venues. There are three main club promoters who cater for the black communities and two of those are white men. We should, however, support Black Gay Pride which is growing from strength to strength each year.'

Is the gay scene racist?
'Yes, as much as wider society is. You see the fetishisation of black men all the time, the same assumptions, fear and name-calling. Also there is not one black gay bar in London. My American friends are always surprised by this. On the other handyou see more black faces ingay publications than you did, say, 15 years ago.'

Simmi P - works in the philosophy department at the University of London
'I haven't knowingly experienced racism on the gay scene, but sometimes it can be quite subtle. I'd like to think that racism on the gay scene is no worse than in society as a whole. I'm aware that racism exists among some gay black men towards other gay black men, but that's a whole other topic of discussion!'

Is the gay scene racist?
'Racism exists everywhere unfortunately, the gay scene included.I don't think a few individuals in certain venues should be given the power to tarnish the entire gay scene as a whole.'

Jason C Woodson - artist
'I can't count the number of times I've seen profiles on dating sites that say “No Fats, No Fems, No Asians”. My friend says that you can't tell your cock not to be racist, but imagine what it must be like to see something like that if you are Asian. Generally, I think gay racism tends to be pretty casual. Growing up, the KKK had rallies in my local playground a block away from my house and burned crosses on our lawn. So having a guy say to me, “Oh, you must be great in bed because you are black,” isn't such a terrible thing.

My first London clubbing experience was Queer Nation. It was such a welcome surprise to me because it was such an ethnically diverse and friendly crowd.New York City prides itself on being a melting pot, but even there the white boys go to “white” clubs and the black boys to “black” clubs.London isn't perfect, but on the whole I have never lived anywhere so truly multicultural.'

Is the gay scene racist?
'We gays aren't any different to the rest of society. I'd like to think that we are self-aware enough to realise the contradiction inherent in discriminating against another when we are members of a minority ourselves, but it happens.'

Fiez Mughal - human-rights activist and blogger
'I've faced prejudice for being Muslim. At Pride events where LGBT Muslims marched in solidarity with our LGBT community, some have shouted verbal abuse like “Suicide bombers!”Understandably, LGBT people are probably more “anti-religion” because bigots have used religion to justify homophobia, which we must all fight against. However, one shouldn't be prejudiced against Muslims or Christians per se. That's just as bad as being homophobic.'

Is the gay scene racist?
'No more than society generally. What I call “sexual racism” exists though. About ten years ago I had a tryst with a white guy. Afterwards, he was going on about never fancying Asians, and I realised he assumed I wasn't. I was delighted to tell him he'd just been with “a Paki”!'

Lady Phyll Opoku, UK Black Pride.
'When I was first coming out and went to a club, there was no one who looked like me. And when I went on the dancefloor , I accidently bumped into someone. I said sorry very quickly but the first thing that came out of her mouth was: “You fucking stupid black bitch”. I felt so awkward and didn't want to be in that all-white space.There is so much more diversity now. However there's still a long way to go. We have to stand and fight together.

UK Black Pride is an annual event that takes place in August every year. It is an event to celebrate the achievements and successes of black LGBT people. Everyone is welcome, regardless of ethnicity, gender, age, colour or sexuality.'

Is the gay scene racist?
'Yes. There are racist people on the scene. There is racism on the online gay scene too, especially with dating sites where people say “not into blacks” or “don't do black men”.'

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