A now deleted 2011 tweet from the poet Warsan Shire once read, “strange thirst, queer desire.” These four words have, since then, become a kind of quiet, steadying pulse I use to ground myself while negotiating the liminal, and often cathartic, experiences of being a queer brown immigrant in a white settler nation.
Being a queer person of colour in a white space can manifest as a magnified and punishing version of that feeling when you don’t quite know where to put your hands having your picture taken. My heart breaks when friends and lovers tell me they do not feel queer enough amongst white and white-passing people. This has to do with ways we can openly desire and move in space (dancing, for example) as much as the way we might present as queer in our clothes and style. In a general sense, white gays need to do better. In Sydney I have felt completely safe to be my queer brown self only twice – last year at an event at Freda’s curated by a WoC and this year, with USYD’s PoC Revue. In the past year I have come to prioritise queer platonic intimacy with my friends of colour both locally and overseas. This is how I envision my being and future in this world; I’m not alone in needing this.
We need to know that we’re not alone. We need to know where the gaps in our conversations, about and for QPoC in our communities, fall. This is why I sought out the voices and visions of other queer people of colour for this edition of ACAR Honi, an edition that is primarily thinking through decolonisation and anti-imperialism. While the four respondents are anonymous, make no mistake: these are our friends and family. They are on campus and in our community. Queer peope of colour have always been here, and we are not going anywhere.
How do you foster the most important aspects of your queer platonic friendships?
By forming and keeping community, especially with queer friends I might share other identities with.
Honesty, respect, sensitivity, support, empathy, transparency and love are all important aspects of any relationship. I try to apply these values in daily actions to maintain healthy friendships. Dialogue must be open, ongoing and accepting. If not, how will we grow?
I try and nurture my queer platonic friendships through regular check-ins, which can be via text, call or in person. I try and create spaces where each person can trust and feel comfortable disclosing experiences and feelings related to mental health, homophobic/heteronormative encounters, and the range of fluctuating emotions between loneliness and empowerment.
Making time, checking in at hard times, actively creating homely spaces to share with friends outside of queer community events or parties through low key downtime hangs and making food, sharing books, trying to work on being vulnerable with my friends so that they feel safe being vulnerable in return.
Finish this sentence. The queer community needs to talk more about…
…accommodating religious queer people who might not find community within their own religious communities.
…racism and the domination of whiteness within these so called ‘safe’ spaces for the queer community.
…trans youth, LGBTQIA+ Bla(c)k people and the need for culturally-specific services, especially for queer POC youth.
…how intersectionality doesn’t mean your queerness saves you from complicity in racism.
What do space and mobility, and safety, mean to you in white queer spaces?
Safety to be ourselves and speak up on issues that affect us, including white supremacy.
My definition of space, mobility and safety shifts massively to alert, caution, unease and extreme mindfulness when in white queer spaces because higher risks of harm based on my race and gender comes into play.
White queer spaces do not feel safe to me. I have my guard up, police my body and movement, and expect to deal with microaggressions from white cis able-bodied people who move through queer spaces with a sense of ownership.
Having another PoC present, having reflective conversations about why PoC might not show up to queer events, having majority PoC performers on stages of queer venues, not having to hear an acknowledgment of “queer elders” after Aboriginal elders at the start of an event ever again.
Do you find that your practices of decolonisation and dismantling white supremacy inform, or feel inextricably intertwined, in how you navigate queerness in a settler nation? How?
In some ways, yes […] many queer spaces are overwhelmingly white […] I seek out queer POC/Indigenous ppl as comrades. Colonisation also plays such a large part in how queerness is perceived in our home countries (and how that transfers to here). It’s all about changing those narratives as part of a decolonisation process.
Definitely, everything is interconnected! All aspects of life affect the social, cultural, political and economic. Decolonising practices and actions of anti-colonial resistance to dismantle white supremacy, have no off switch. Either you believe all beings deserve rights or you do not. It is also important to respect the land you are on and understand that we are on stolen Indigenous land and sovereignty was never ceded. I think in order to decolonise and begin to dismantle white supremacy on a structural and cultural level, one needs to unpack how heteronormativity and societal ideals (monogamous marriage, having a nuclear family) are inherently capitalist and colonial. This means that queerness and decolonisation are linked by how they actively resist the current status quo which the settler state upholds through power and violence towards the queer + BIPOC communities.
For me personally, as a queer Filipinx person I am actively trying to learn about pre-colonial Philippines and my ancestors’ relationship with queerness. My Tagalog ancestors worshipped Lakapati, the giver of food, who was a transgender goddess of fertility and agriculture. There was no pre-colonial word for ‘queer’, ‘gay’, ‘same-sex attracted’ etc, which makes me assume that queerness was not treated as any different.
Yes! They’re inseparable at every level but something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is racialised meanings of home and queer intimacies – specifically sexualised queer spaces. Discourses of queer sex positivity in Syd are often really white-centric and don’t leave much room for recognising histories of Indigenous and PoC intimate forms that are non-het. Importantly, they never consider how the meanings of home, intimacy, family, child-rearing and monogamy can be closely entwined with survival and safety under white supremacy for PoC.