Monday, July 7, 2008

Which is Worse? Being Brown or Being Queer?

A co-worker asked me this today. Which is harder, more challenging, more, ya know, difficult? This person is one of those well meaning types that I love & loathe at the same time. On one hand they get it. That being a minority has challenges and that non-minorities have certain privileges that make life easier for them without their even being aware of it. On the other hand they want to know things about your life & experiences that they feel they have a right to ask based on the fact that they're "down." When questions are directed at me in a manner as presented today I find my self in a small predicament. Do I answer with love or annoyance or not at all? What additional options are there?

Here are some of the answers I thought of before I gave my answer:
  • Are you asking me to separate & then quantify each minority status within myself?
  • Well which do you think of as being harder?
  • I dunno. That's like asking if I'm sexy because of my ass or my boobs.
  • Who do you think had it harder in life, Martin Luther King Jr. or Harvey Milk?
  • That's a really unfair question. How can I say one minority has it worse or better than another.

I can't play the oppression olympics within myself (meaning I can't choose one minority status as more difficult than another). This does not mean that I agree with the argument that one minority group can understand exactly how another feels because they too have experienced marginalization. I remember I had a girlfriend in my early twenties who said, she, as a white woman knew my pain as a minority because she was female and lesbian. I explained that yes, she could probably relate to my same issues as a queer woman but she could not translate that to my specific experiences as a POC. I mentioned how I could feel in my bones my ancestors who were hung from trees and that even then, there was a sense of invisible chains around my people. She told me I was being dramatic, so I promptly dumped her.

The other night at the reggae show I went to I felt absolutely ostracized for a few moments as a queer person. The front man in the band opening for the main show sung a lyric about turning a child gay. I was not sure if I heard right but my body had that unmistakable feeling of tingling cold discomfort. Suddenly I wondered if my partner & I were even safe being there as a couple. There was a sadness that took over & could only be assuaged by knowing if I heard correctly & if so, what it meant.

So after the set was over the front man happened to be going by me & I stopped him. I told him I liked his voice & was interested in buying their records but had a question. I needed to know if there was a line about someone being gay in a song and what he was talking about. He explained the song had to do with a story about a priest molesting a young boy. Because I was a bit nervous I didn't push for more on that because, as we all know, molestation in and of itself does not determine sexuality. However I did ask if he was homophobic. He said he was not scared of gays. So I asked if there was anything on their records that had to do with hating gays because I would not buy their records if that was the case. He said there was not. And I'm sure he most likely meant-not directly. And for that moment his answer was enough to help me feel less scared for my & my partners safety.

Anyway back to the question I received today. I answered my co-worker by letting this person know that I couldn't really answer the question because I'm a woman too. And so I'd have to add to the mix which was worse: being female, of color or queer. And there is no choosing one above another. From my examples above it's clear that the situations I'm in determine which one of my multiple minority statuses are repelling or scaring or are misunderstood by someone.

Which is worse? Well it's all about attitude. I think of my life as a gift. There is a feeling of luckiness in being a multiple minority. Yes there is pain, but there are aspects to such an existence that are rich and deeply beautiful. The main one is that I get to connect. Connect with any & every one who cares about rising up, pushing out, being free & helping others to do the same. Connect to so many histories & victories. I get to connect in ways I don't think I could ever dream of if I had more societal privilege. That may be unfair, but for me it's quite true. So today I thank the trees & stars & dirt & everyone who has fought for the freedom I have & the freedom future minorities will have even more of.



letsdance said...

Hi Frank, thank you so much for your honest and painful post. As a white woman who fell in love with a lesbian at 49, I don't feel qualified to comment in any other way. You have stretched my thinking though.

Fransky said...

Thanks for your words!