WHILE enjoying a night out recently with my friends at a gay bar, I felt a random tap on my shoulder. When I turned around, I discovered it was a complete stranger who wanted to get my attention so he could tell me something he apparently thought was hilarious.
“Hey, you look like Aziz Ansari,” he said.
I didn’t. I might have before, but not anymore.
The past few months have proven to be a global gloom.
A nightmare of a US Presidential election result has left a lot of the world in shock and agony.
Within 24 hours of Trump’s victory, social media was flooded with horrific stories of racial hatred-inspired acts of violence that had erupted like the arrival of some form of apocalypse.
Many vilified people of colour (POC) in acts that were simply unacceptable, especially in this day and age.
POC and their allies filled their Facebook feeds and other social media accounts with the desperation and repulsion they felt at the result. They wrote of how unsafe they felt.
Reading these posts ignited a feeling of anger and dismay for a lot of people.
The only form of racism I have encountered over the past few years, as a person of Sri Lankan descent, has been in gay bars.
I’ve lost count of how many times people have said comments in the most derogatory manner, like: “I saw you in Slumdog Millionaire”, “let me guess – you work at 7/11?” and “You’re Sri Lankan? So like a Tamil terrorist?”
Another time, a drag queen called my partner and I up on stage during a performance. She turned to my partner and asked, “What’s so special about him? Go out there – you can find plenty of him driving a taxi.”
All this time, I have never done anything about it. I was told by others to ‘take it easy’ and not let it ruin my night.
Some friends have actually laughed in my face when I told them these stories. It was funny to them because they had never experienced it.
But this time, as I stood in the gay bar surrounded by friends, I could not let it go.
Reading stories about the racial hatred rolling out thousands of kilometres across the world had enraged me. I spoke out angrily – I gave him a piece of my mind.
The man actually agreed that he had absolutely no right to approach a stranger and compare them to a celebrity, primarily based on their race.
It is offensive and in terrible taste. I look nothing like Aziz Ansari, and the only thing that made him even suggest it was because we are both brown. This time I could not let it go.
Once I finished, it felt liberating. I had struck a chord in the guy’s brain as he did not even realise what he was doing was a form of racism.
While that was nothing compared to the racial hatred POC in America are facing, it was still a form of racism that we are forced to encounter on a daily basis – especially in the LGBTI community.
Over the years I have had gay friends from different racial backgrounds, and each faced different comments and discrimination.
I am not talking about the stock-standard Grindr/Scruff ‘whites only’ type racism, but more the face-to-face racial stereotyping enforced on us by strangers. And yet we have had to laugh it off like it’s a joke.
Let’s face it – there are dickheads out there who will think this is harmless fun, but it’s not.
What Trump’s election has taught me, and I think everyone, is that there’s no such thing as harmless racism.
Those people that made a joke of my race were wrong.
My friends who told me to ignore it were wrong. And I was wrong to listen to them.
If we’re to avoid electing our own Trump and becoming victims of the same terrible atrocities seen in the US over the past month, we need to be smarter, kinder and more supportive of one another.
LGBTI people have enough hurdles to jump over without giving each other more to clear.