Open queer people declare their pride amid rainbow flames while homophobic and transphobic masses still exist. But I’m not proud. I’m jealous.
Pride parades remind me of a Russell Peters bit. His dad momentarily tunes to one on television and sees some brown boys. He then turns to his son and skeptically asks, “Do you know any of them?” Don’t get me wrong, it’s funny. The first time I saw it, I laughed along with everyone else as we watched it on something called YouTube. While I was laughing, my stomach dropped and I ran to the bathroom. After several minutes of nausea and nothing else, I postponed my breakdown for later.
A decade later, I’m watching a recent pride parade on YouTube. Some boys yelling at the cameras got my attention and a vivid memory resurfaced. Again, nothing, but this time around I’m an SJW. It looked like Holi, but most of the colors weren’t stuck to skin.
The queer community has always been plagued with racism, but its lack of diversity isn’t solely due to discrimination against people of color. It’s also due to the catastrophe owning such an identity creates within the communities we came out to, when we literally came out. Identity formation plays a central role in queer narratives because, unlike racial, cultural or religious identities, queer people aren’t born identified as queer. We fight for it.
We acknowledge this. We don’t, however, acknowledge that all fights aren’t equal. We can be born into oppressed communities that are very capable of oppressing their own. Queer icons are often born into families in which developing their queer identity doesn’t amount to self-immolation. It’s why I feel admiration but also bitterness when I see queer people advancing the visibility of queer people. Having a queer Asian-American represent our entire undergraduate student body feels historic, but I can’t even represent myself. I’m not hateful. I’m just jealous.
For most queer people of color, these brutal restrictions obstruct our basic ability to make meaning out of our own lives. Lemons are of no use if you can’t make (and sell) lemonade. It may seem paradoxical to include in a social movement people who, because of their intersectionality, can’t be overtly included. That being said, fighting for inclusion has been the movement’s primary aim since it started. Prominent queer voices must acknowledge their privilege and raise the voices of our most invisible. Ending the deep pains of silence and repression should be at the forefront of activism. By the way, this urgent need would inform a great project for our currently nonexistent S.A. LGBTQ+ Liaison At-Large to take on.
I personally can’t do it because I’m too busy thinking about boys, boys, boys. Brown boys who turned green with envy when I got into Cornell. After that, they got thirsty for tea that would put me back in my sunken place. Fittingly, my voice betrayed me even when I strained to contain it. Ever since they caught on, I’ve repeatedly been a victim of “shade” on our GroupMe, quotation marks because using “faggot” isn’t shade. Two winners, one of whom I called “my brother” in a speech at his graduation party, “pranked” me by trying to convince our group that I requested pictures of “my brother’s” member and created a fake Snap as evidence. Quotation marks, in both instances, because we were both dead wrong. I stupidly confronted them with a question: “do you guys hate me?”
Now I only acknowledge their existence when they’re at my house, but they still prevent me from acknowledging mine on the daily. Not just in terms of activism, but in terms of everything. I want to meet more queer people, sing Beyoncé on a capella and slay on social media. I’m a person who seeks instruction in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Studies. I pray to one day be jealous of exes and side twinks. I want a real love, not some English cottage fantasy I’ll never wake up from. I don’t want to hide anymore. But here I am, in my room, Saturday night, writing while my YouTube app is open and a craving for Insomnia tempts me to open another. I’m too scared to Grindr or Tinder or LGBT Resource Center because I know they’re scrolling.
I don’t waste any hate on them. I’m just jealous. My bullies are brown but straight. They exist in ways I can only dream of. Non-queer people will always feel free to reach for life’s most beautiful gift no matter how shitty they are. They have that Notebook love while we settle with “Gay & Lesbian movies.” Intersectionality isn’t even indie. Although, from what you can surmise, I still have hope.
I would make a deal with my idol to be reincarnated as a white man born to liberals. If the catch was that I’d be gay, it would take me a second more to accept. I’m already “troubled,” but I wouldn’t be if such was the case. I know this may surprise my beloved alt-right readers, but in this savage world that oppresses the white man more than ever, I still want what you have. I understand that pride is central to one’s humanity as a marginalized person, but I’m not enlightened. For the fierce queens who are, please help expand my catalogue. Green on brown is downright criminal, especially in this horrendous lighting.
Narayan Reddy is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Reddy, Set, Go! appears alternate Mondays this semester.