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Gay immigrants rejected by gays and straights

'People felt rejected by the mainstream community and the mainstream Anglo white gay community'

Racist reactions from the “mainstream” gay community in the wake of recent gaybashings may be forcing immigrant gays and lesbians deeper into the closet, says a University of BC professor.

“I think the mainstream gay community at large has a tendency to blame the South Asian community [for gaybashings] and say ‘send them back,'” Dr Brian O’Neill of the UBC School of Social Work told the Diversity Within Diversity session at the 2011 National Metropolis Conference on immigration March 25.

“It’s easy to fall into that trap and I think people do,” he says, adding such stereotyping can have a negative effect on gay people who have just arrived in Canada and are struggling to adjust and fit in.

“People felt rejected by the mainstream community and the mainstream Anglo white gay community,” O’Neill says of some findings from a recent study on immigrant gays in smaller BC communities. “You face double discrimination.”

Some observers posted racist comments on Xtra‘s website after assault charges were laid against Parminder Singh Peter Bassi and Ravinder Robbie Bassi in connection with last year’s alleged attack on David Holtzman and Peter Regier after a nearby Ultimate Fighting Championship event.

“Fucking ugly fat-faced brown immigrants in their stupid glitter shirts. Hope these two animals get gang raped by HIV positive cell mates then DEPORTED,” one wrote.

Similar comments appeared when charges were upgraded against Michael Kandola, who would later be convicted for attacking Jordan Smith, his actions designated a hate crime.

“I call for a total boycott of Indo Candian (sic) men from bathhouses, parks, bathrooms and such. If they going to use the gay community its (sic) not okay to bash us after you get your rocks off,” someone posted in 2008. “I call for a all out boycott of Indo Candian (sic) men at all gay sex places, they know who they are lets (sic) not be fooled they use the services of gay men I have seen many at a few bathhouses and down a few trails, they know who they are, but not anymore.”

This rejection may lead some immigrant queers to feel isolated and behave recklessly. “Homophobia and this closeted lifestyle and the discrimination in the community is leading to health issues,” O’Neill says.

Social services agencies can help, he suggests. “There really needs to be an orientation to rights for gay and lesbian newcomers.”

However, he adds, social services providers need to be culturally respectful and provide such information discreetly where needed. And there needs to be more education in ethnic communities on sexuality issues, he adds.

“Local gay and lesbian organizations need to do systemic outreach,” he says.

While Canada may have made great strides in rights for gay people on a legal or philosophical level, it is still filtering down to the level of social services. “Certainly, the real issue we’re at in the social services is actually implementing some of these ideas,” O’Neill says.