It’s Texas, not America; It’s Scots, not the English; It’s a Black girl, not us Whites; It’s the Arab world, not our civilization.
Beaten and burned, a gay man was found dead in Cumnock, Scotland, possibly for being gay, although the attacker’s motive has yet to be investigated. I have seen some online responses to this incident describing how it was shocking. This reminds me of the now-almost-vanishing stereotype of Scots being brutal, savage monsters.
Earlier this year, a transgender woman was attacked and had seizure, with bystanders just watching her hit and dragged on the floor. It was a very brutal attack and it was painful to watch the video footage. It also made me go, “oh shit,” when I discovered that the suspects were Black female teenagers and that the first person to offer the victim any help was a middle-aged White woman. I wrote a short response here.
“IMMIGRANTS ≠ YOUR HOMOPHOBIC OTHER” — that was my sign at the Pride Parade this year. I am not an immigrant, nor are my parents. I was born in Japan. But I think I share some of the experiences that Asian queers face in the U.S. like, being frequently asked whether my parents know my sexuality/identity. I say yes, and they go on and ask, “are they cool with it?” Another version is this: “it must be so hard to be queer in Japan.” There you go. Bang. Slap in the face. I get hurt. Anyways.
I am constantly appalled at how White, self-identified liberals can ignorantly assume that everyone else is lagging behind them in accepting freedom.
In Germany, as Butler says here, there has been some sort of collaborative effort between White-centric queer organizations and the government to harshen the immigration policy to narrow the path for immigrants to live in the country. The idea behind the campaign is that immigrants are homophobic and transphobic, incapable of accepting the values of the West.
I, too, first-handedly have heard people say that Black people are homophobic, that some people are too poor to think of others, or that I won’t like it in Texas if I move there. They fail to see that I myself come from a small town in Japan, grew up surrounded by poor people, and am racial minority in the U.S. I feel more comfortable around people like that than White “liberals” like them.
Nevertheless, until recently I held the view that the Middle Eastern culture was monolithically homophobic and transphobic. I have come to know the simple fact that the Middle East is just too big to make any generalizing statement about. Laws vary. People vary. Values vary. Knowing virtually nothing about the region, I have decided that I should be the listener, not the speaker, trying to learn, rather than tell, how things are in the Middle East. All I know, and thus all I can say about the Middle East, is that things are more complicated than many people in the Western world like to think, and that the Middle East is diverse. Some people still struggle with grasping that simple fact.
Hate crime is not the only indicator of homophobia and transphobia, but queers get killed everywhere. Not just the guy in Cumnock and the trans woman in Baltimore and gays in the Middle East (“except Israel!” say morons). It’s high time that we acknowledged that fact. Queers are killed just everywhere. Through physical violence. Through suicide-provoking bullying. Through governmental neglect.1
It’s time we stopped outsourcing homophobia and transphobia to Middle Eastern people, to Blacks, to immigrants, to working-class people. “Outsourcing” because all cisgendered, heterosexual individuals ultimately benefit from transphobia and homophobia through the privileges that they produce.
This outsourcing is harmful in many ways. It divides up racial minority communities because it places queers of color in an odd place between White “liberals” and “anti-queer” people of color. It puts working-class queers against their own cultures, families, and friends. It encourages White “liberal” queer activists to play the missionary role in helping the more oppressed out. It discourages people of color from joining queer activism. It allows Whites — — or more precisely, those who are politically, socially, and culturally privileged (which consist mostly of Whites anyway) — — to feel innocent, despite the fact that they are accomplices when they keep silent about injustice, get “shocked” at injustice, and feel sorry for the oppressed who are oppressed by someone else other than themselves.
If anything bad happens in the Middle East, the privileged say it’s because the Middle East is lagging behind the West. If anything bad happens in the West, they say it’s not their problem but someone else’s, outsourcing to Blacks, immigrants, etc. the dirty work necessary to keep their society heteronormative and cis-centered and thus advantageous to all privileged people like themselves.
We must stop this. We must acknowledge that not only the violent attackers but we ourselves are all responsible for what happens to queers and those otherwise oppressed and harmed.
I am not addressing this to just the highly privileged. I am also addressing this to, say, gay men chuckling about how straight men are misogynous, lesbian women laughing about how gay men identify against drag queens and other effeminate types, leftists criticizing the “social structure” that oppresses queers without reflecting on their own homophobia and transphobia, and queer elites looking down on LGBT activists to whom identity politics is still relevant.