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Pet Sins March 2006

Ethnic minority individuals seek special entitlement to homophobia?

People of color in gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender America have often complained that many Euro-Americans stereotype traditional non-European cultures as more homophobic than Western cultures, when in reality, many non-European cultures were more tolerant of sexual/gender minorities than their Western counterparts. White glbt's sense of Western superiority is often blamed for allegedly baseless assumptions on 'unprogressive' attitudes that communities of color supposedly take towards glbt.

While stereotyping by outsiders certainly has a role to play in the idea that communities of color are more homophobic than white America, we might have to acknowledge that individuals from communities of color also have a role in promoting this stereotype. More than once, I've heard the reasoning "You can't force us to accept gays because it's not part of black/Latino/Asian culture", as if gay people are any more part of 'white' culture. And as if glbt people have never existed in traditional African, Native American and Asian societies.

A couple of our readers share their perceptions on homophobia in their communities below:

T, an African American woman:

I am a straight female, but I believe in treating all people with respect and dignity. Therefore, I was very disturbed by the comments of a colleague of mine from a West African nation. He told me that in his country, and throughout much of the region, gay men and women are generally despised and are subject to physical attacks and even murder if their orientation is discovered.

He relayed the story of a female resturant owner who was caught in a compromising position with her lover. An angry mob surrounded the restaurant and set it on fire. The women, unable to escape, were burnt alive.

When I commented that this was horrible, the young man shurgged his shoulders, and another coworker, an African American, said "you think that way because you grew up in this country." The two men acted like there was nothing wrong with this barbaric action, and one said that the Bible condemned homosexuality. Needless to say, I was shocked and dismayed by their callous attitudes.

G, an Asian American man:

I used to work in a large company and was part of an employee social group for a certain Asian ethnic group. A row broke out between a gay activist from within that group and some other members who considered the public mention of glbt issues (in a non-sexual context solely in the interest of promoting understanding and acceptance) to be offensive.

Corporate HR had to get involved. In their defense, the anti-gay Asians said they did not want to hear any mention of gay people in their group because it was 'against their culture' and 'too hard for them to accept'. HR was caught in a hard place of not wanting to seem homophobic and not wanting to appear culturally-insensitive either. A representative from the gay employee group weighed in - she was displeased by the 'intolerance' of this 'don't-ask-don't-tell" attitude. But the people from the Asian group could not see things from her point of view, of course.

Anyway, I was amazed that the same Asians who complain about invisibility and lack of representation could turn around and deny the rights they desire to other Asians who happen to be glbt.