Happy Pride Month, Toronto!

It’s Toronto’s first official Pride MONTH! Yes – A full month of celebrating the LGBTQ community! I cannot begin to express how excited I am for all the events that Pride Toronto has worked on planning throughout the year. It will definitely be a good time for all!

prideto

Happy Pride, Toronto! PS: Shout out to our girl Whimsy Thrift on the bottom left!

Between all the dancing and partying, the drag queens and glitter, the glow of celebrity faces on our city, it’s easy to forget the struggles of people within our community, especially the ones of those who will never be able to rid the burden of the proverbial “closet”. I am one of these people.
I grew up in a Pakistani-Muslim household. As a disclaimer, I have nothing against the religion or the culture, or my family. Islam is a peaceful religion and I know hundreds of amazing Muslim people. Some of the most accepting people I know are Muslim. I have nothing against the country either. I’ve been there twice during my childhood, and once as an adult. The most recent trip there was as a fully realized gay man. It’s a beautiful country and so rich in a culture that is inefficiently displayed in Toronto. And I love goats. Goats everywhere. Everywhere.
From an early age people I’ve been surrounded by homophobic people. I have memories of my parents seeing news regarding LGBTQ issues and saying awful things, and reciting the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. I remember a member of my family saying that God turned gay men in pigs and monkeys. It wasn’t these stories that made me upset; it was the tone in which they were said. It was full of disgust. As someone who was just discovering and coming to terms with parts of their sexuality, it was off-putting to hear. This is what festered a cycle of self-hate and confusion for the majority of my teenage years.
I knew I was gay in the fourth grade; I knew it before I even knew the word ‘gay’. At this point it was just a “Oh, he’s cute” phase. I was more preoccupied with whether or not I could beat Misty in Pokemon Blue (confession: I cried once when I couldn’t beat her). I was in religion classes for two hours every evening at this point and it played a heavy influence on the way I behaved in my every day life. I was told not to listen to music because God would pour molten lead down my ears, not to stand up for the national anthem because apparently I owe this country nothing (wtf?), limit the amount of television I watched (actually useful advice), and not to draw. The last point really made me question what this teacher was telling me; I had an incredible gift that she told me to suppress, for if I didn’t, God would ask me to bring my creations to life when I died. One of her own daughters was an incredible realism artist, so I don’t understand why I was fed fear-filled words by her.

Middle and high school were equally as homophobic for me. I went to schools with a large population of South Asian students. These kids I tell ya… brutal. I would be called a khusra or faggot at least once a day. If this wasn’t bad enough, I started to become more feminine presenting after high school and these words started being used at home. I’ve had family members call me a khusra before. Khusra is the Punjabi word for Hijra (third-gendered

hijra

Hijras/Khusras in India. Photographer Unknown.

individuals in South Asia). In South Asia this is an insult used on men who are feminine in any nature, and has a negative connotation; it’s similar to calling someone ‘gay’. I’ve screamed at family members in the past for calling me a khusra and they would laugh because it meant nothing to them. To a gay man who is unable to come out to his religious family, it is a lot more than an attempt at an insult. It was a constant reminder that if I chose to came out, I would be disowned. In the culture that my parents were raised in the family’s honor came first. To disobey the religion that was tied to this culture would tarnish the family name and the person would not be associated with any longer. I’ve seen it happen with several family members in Pakistan. My parents inherited these teachings as soon as they started a family. It was their duty to lead their children on to the ‘right path’, hence the religion classes at such a young age. I knew by my late teens that coming out to them would not be an option.

This is something that a lot of QPoC have to deal with on a regular basis. I get harassed by my parents about marriage on a weekly basis and all I can do is roll my eyes and say I’m not interested in marriage. I am out to my cousins but the relationship with some of them has changed because of this. They are more reserved with me, and when they see pictures of me and my gay friends there is a look of unease that washes over their faces. It’s painful to watch and only makes me dread that reaction that someone from my parents’ generation would have. It’s frustrating to have to live a double life, but this is a reality for a lot of kids.

Growing up, I didn’t have a gay-desi role model. I didn’t think it was going to get better, and honestly, if I wasn’t such a positive person, it wouldn’t have. This is why representation of minorities and ethnic groups is SO important within gay communities. Everyone needs someone to look up to. However, because the default representation of queerness is ingrained in whiteness, queer people of colour are severely isolated. Look around us. When was the last time you saw a queer image that wasn’t attached to a smooth, twinky white body or a muscular white jock? We’re not hating on white people, but there’s a reason why queerness is defined through images of whiteness. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: RuPaul is still one of the few racialized queer figures we have.

ru1

RuPaul at a pride event in the 1990s.

 

Almost 30 years after his big break in the 1990s. 30 YEARS. I mean, sure we have Todrick Hall, and a few others but representations of queerness are still dominated by people who look, act and embody people like Tyler Oakley, Troye Sivan, and many other white queer people. How many queer people do we have that look like me or Humza? Or an indigenous person? or a black person?

Humza’s story is really important, and especially so,  given that it’s Pride Month. While we’re both super excited for all the amazing events that are about to take place, Pride can also be a troubling time as well. I’ve (Ryan) have become increasingly more annoyed with the attitude some people carry that to be queer, you must be ‘out’. Remember everyone, the closet is a construct! AKA: it doesn’t actually exist. For many queer people of colour, coming out isn’t an option. It definitely isn’t for me or Humza. Personally, I don’t think I’m ever going to be 100% ‘out’ and I don’t think that devalues my queerness in anyway. My paternal family comes from the Caribbean where homo-, queer- and transphobia is rampant. I’m not just talking about slurs thrown towards people occasionally; in the Caribbean, people have been brutally attacked, and murdered for presenting queer. Essentially, if you look visibly queer, you’re a target of violence. This is scary. This is part of the reason why it’s so important for me to do academic research and work with queerness in Caribbean communities. Coming out is much more complicated for QPoC in general because of reasons such as this. There are many cultural limitations and boundaries to coming out and it is extremely problematic to penalize people for choosing to not be 100% open with their families.
Please, please refrain from telling queer people of colour to just ‘get over it’ and come out – it’s really not that easy. Or safe.
Keep your mind open this Pride and most importantly:
HAVE FUN! 🙂

 

Advertisements

About Two Brown Boys

The title says it all! We're a brown-queer couple from Toronto who are obsessed with Drag and travel frequently. Here's our story!
This entry was posted in Social Justice Rants and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s