“The gay world is full of narrow-minded, bigoted racists,” wrote American author Martin Weber in February this year.
Weber’s article took aim at gay and bisexual men who openly advertised ‘No Asians’ or other foreign ethnicities on their online dating profiles.
The piece divided readers, some defending the use of ‘sexual racism’ while many others backed the author and scolded the offending guys.
Grindr users who have advertised their sexual preferences have copped a serious backlash from websites such as Douchebags of Grindr, but while Grindr has become the latest platform for men to publicise their sexual preferences, it’s far from the first.
Two years before the popular app even existed, a group of Sydney gay men created a website addressing sexual racism on online dating websites.
SexualRacismSux.com began in 2007 and read: “This site isn’t about forcing anyone to do anything … we are interested in challenging your preconception.”
One of the website founders, Peretta Anggerek, said they were just asking for people to be decent.
“We’re not saying you’re supposed to change your preference or your way of looking at things. It’s just that common decency seems to have disappeared off the net,” Anggerek said.
OutBlack is a Victorian support group for Australian Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) gay and transgender sister girls.
OutBlack convener Bryan Andy told the Star Observer racism was an unfortunate feature of the queer community.
“I’m often appalled at the sexually racist comments on cruising sites and apps,” Andy said.
“Statements like ‘No Asians’ or ‘No GBM [Gay Black Men]’ are both pathetic and offensive.
“While it’s a problem of minority proportions, I am often flabbergasted by it as I find it quite hypocritical – given that LGBTI people are discriminated against, surely they can comprehend and empathise with feelings of discrimination?”
Andy said racism affects people in a myriad of ways, including physically, emotionally and mentally.
“Just as LGBTI people experience discrimination that can attribute to low self esteem, suicide, feelings of worthlessness, drug and substance use, mental health issues and other such problems, racism can manifest a similar suite of issues in a targeted person,” he said.
Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council (AGMC) spokesman Tony Mordini said while some LGBTI people probably were racist, he questioned the extent of it in the community.
“Sometimes it’s not the sexuality that stands out, but the colour of the skin, or the group people belong to and that may be the first thing that stands out,” he said.
“That’s what people unfortunately target first.”
Mordini, who has an Italian background, agreed sexual racism was hypocritical, but suggested there was also an element of naivety.
“Sometimes people don’t even realise they’re making those subtle things … it’s just what they’ve grown up with or what has evolved in a community’s perception which is unfortunate,” he said.
The lack of multiculturalism in LGBTI characters in films, TV programs and books has also made an impact.
Consider the range of different cultures in leading gay and lesbian TV series such as The L Word, Queer as Folk, Lip Service or even Will and Grace: mostly white leads.
There have been some strong non-white characters in recent television programs though, including Nelsan Ellis (Lafayette) in True Blood and Archie Panjabi (Kalinda) in The Good Wife.
Closer to home there’s been this year’s ABC comedy series Outland, where Christine Anu played Rae, an Indigenous, wheelchair-bound lesbian sci-fi geek.
The 2011 Teaching Diversities report into same-sex attracted young people from culturally diverse backgrounds found the one thing all participants agreed on was the need for more role models from their own cultures.
Other ideas floated included culture-based support groups and more publicly available information in the way of pamphlets or posters.
But the participants pushed for greater exposure of existing “queer persons of colour” who often didn’t get the same media attention as their white counterparts.
The National Anti-Racism Strategy begins this month, as part of the Australian Government’s 2011 multicultural policy, The People of Australia.
The strategy is focused on a zero-tolerance approach to racism while aiming to create a broader acceptance of multiculturalism in Australia.
Andy and Mordini both agreed education about multiculturalism is the best approach to tackling racism in the community.
“Education is the key. While we are a largely successful multicultural society, we often don’t have the skills to challenge or stamp out racist-speak, behaviour or conduct,” Andy said.
Mordini said progress can be made when the impacts of racism are made clear.
“Eventually people can walk away and think ‘yeah, they’re just like me, they’re no different.’”
HAVE YOUR SAY: Have you experienced racism in the community? Comment below.