“Why does everything have to be about race?” Queer people of color (POC) have heard this more times we can count, even by “liberally minded” people who advocate for LGBT rights. We can be pulled into two different minority groups until it feels as though they are mutually exclusive. It seems that we have to choose which part of our identity to own and wear proudly: race or sexual identity. The fact is, we are often marginalized even within our own community. It is sometimes difficult for queer people of color to voice our experiences without being made to feel like we’re filling in more boxes in oppression bingo. But the experiences of different ethnicities and cultures do contribute to our identities, as do the experiences of different genders and sexualities. My journey as a black woman will not look the same as that of a white man or even a white woman’s.
It may be difficult to accept, or perhaps just easy to overlook, that even within minority communities, there can be levels of privilege. I know this is a word that has become so sensationalized by the media, it makes us uncomfortable to think we have it. But recognizing the ways in which we are privileged is important, if we want to live in a way that empowers others, and to work toward a more just world.
Being a minority in one area does not erase our privilege in other areas. For example, I am black, female, and gay, and while I may be disadvantaged in these ways, I must also acknowledge the privilege that goes along with being cisgendered, able bodied, and college educated. In the same way, queer white people still benefit from white privilege. And this should not be cause for guilt, but for awareness.
This means listening to the voices of people of color in the LGBT community, fighting for their rights, and supporting their art. It means questioning why the oscar-winning film Moonlight never received the same mainstream attention as did Call Me by Your Name, despite the latter movie’s portrayal of a problematic relationship between a teenager and a grown man. It means continuing to say the names of Tonya Harvey, Celine Walker, and Phylicia Mitchell, who represent the growing number of black, trans women murdered this year alone. It means using white privilege as a platform for underserved members of our community, because that is what we are, and what we must continue to be: a community.