I cringe every time we get word of a gaybashing. I dread hearing East Indian or South Asian as descriptors of alleged gaybashers, because I know — we all know — what’s going to happen next.
The inevitable visceral, vicious reaction that “brown boys” and “immigrants” are at it again. That “they” are coming into “our” gay village to beat the crap out of “us.”
Assumption 1: The “we” and the “us” are white, queer and clearly Canadian.
Assumption 2: The “they” are not white, not queer and not really Canadian.
After the Michael Kandola attack on Jordan Smith, two white men shuffled longtime activist Fatima Jaffer — one of the lone voices confronting the double whammy of homophobia in South Asian communities and racism from white queers — off the sidewalk in the Davie Village, a space she calls home.
Did they know she, too, is queer? Did they know she speaks out in her community, despite death threats?
It’s a scenario reminiscent of the reaction of white queers to Prop 8’s passage in California. All of a sudden, the focus turned on black and brown people as the principals responsible for the revocation of gay marriage rights — even black gays carrying No on Prop 8 signs in the spontaneous street protests that sprang up after the ballot passed.
The choice greetings that regaled black gays? “The niggers better not come to West Hollywood if they know what’s best for them.”
As if the only queers affected were white. As if only white people qualify to be queer.
Here’s an inconvenient truth.
On behalf of California queers of all stripes who want to marry, two of the plaintiffs fighting Prop 8 — gay couple Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo — are not white.
Here’s another inconvenient fact.
There are white faces among those who perpetrate gaybashings, perhaps the most infamous being Ryan Cran’s. In fact, three of the four accused Aaron Webster killers were white.
On July 21, the next gaybashing trial starts, that of Shawn Woodward, accused in the Ritchie Dowrey attack at the Fountainhead last year.
“He’s a faggot. He deserved it. I’m not a fag. The faggot touched me,” Woodward allegedly spouted after the incident. Woodward is white, by the way.
Yet, on the question of the racial and immigration backgrounds of the Crans and Woodwards, there’s silence. No harm, no foul if accused gaybashers are white. If they are a darker shade of pale, they should be “sent back.”
Show of hands: Should we dig through the heritage of the Crans, Woodwards and other white gaybashers, find out which country their ancestors came from and send them back, too?
Please. Stop me whenever this points–in–the-white–column, points–in–the–non–white–column sounds like it’s yielding a cogent solution.
While we indulge in the usual vacuous, interracial/interethnic game of A-Hah! or invoke the equally useless slam about political correctness against those objecting to the tired predictability of ethnocentric rhetoric, we all diligently and willfully ignore the race–sexuality divide that festers untreated.
Is it true that South Asians gaybash more than whites?
We can’t ignore the numbers — at least the reported ones. In Vancouver, South Asians are more likely to be gaybashing suspects, disproportionate to their numbers in the population.
So, what now?
As a community, we are clearly more comfortable taking the police, Crown, government and school system to task about homophobia.
I know I am.
But we can’t ignore the mountain of anti-homophobia work that still needs to be done within the Lower Mainland’s various ethno–cultural communities, including South Asian, when it comes to queer lives.
In the realm of sexual identity politics, we’re not all created progressively equal, and to keep touting Vancouver’s multicultural fabric and ignoring the cultural dissonance among its communities, is tantamount to sticking our fingers in our ears and singing la–la–la.
So, show of hands: Is it time to stop blanketly blaming “brown boys,” even as we start openly addressing the cultural factors that keep homophobia in place?
Don’t leave me with my brown queer hand in the air all alone.