I first came out as a lesbian when I started college as an undergrad. I went through all the rites of passage that the white queers had set up for me, and I abandoned the straight desi girls. I’m not necessarily sad that I abandoned them. I missed them later and tried to play catch-up, but their never-ending conversations about how their evil parents wouldn’t let them buy that coach purse, and how scary black men are were ridiculous and tiring. And somehow I always managed to subconsciously find my way back to the closet whenever I was in their company. I stopped forcing myself to be friends with desi girls, and instead just saved my friendship for those that deserved it. It meant I made friends with a lot of people who didn’t understand my family, culture or religion.
Eventually, more progressive women of color came out the woodworks and I really survived off of these friendships. These women let me be open about my sexuality and my race… at the same time. But their being straight was an ever-present barrier. I could talk to them tirelessly about racism, sexism, shopping and make-up. There was always room for it all, but as soon as I got the queer theory out, their eyes would glaze over. They undoubtedly expected others (rightfully so) to look up and understand race theory, but, following the same logic, I was put off by their lack of desire to understand queer theory and my queer self. I would love to call myself a womanist and feel welcome in that space, but I just don’t.
I am wondering how to feel about the connection between racism and queerphobia. Is it reasonable to compare the two types of oppressions and identities? Although race is something you are born with, some may argue that being queer is too. I feel that my being queer is a choice, and although I was born an Indian and a Hindu I made the choice to stay connected to my race and my religion. I view my race, sexuality and religion as very equal parts of my identity, however they are received and experienced so differently. I feel that people are often more mindful of racial oppression because race is seen as something we do not choose, however I find that problematic. Just because I choose my sexuality, I shouldn’t have to feel ashamed by it, and my experience of my race feels just as much of a choice as my experience of my sexuality is.