Crossroads – a project by and for Queer People of Colour

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Crossroads is a localised, Cork-specific ressource for LGBTQIAP+ people of colour who are unsure about their place in the queer community and who find themselves experiencing forms of racialisation in Cork.
By Thomas Heising
Picture: Mig
Animation: Crossroads letters with Ireland and Cork.
Are you curious about racism and how it manifests? Then do explore this page!
So first of all, let us get one thing straight: Racism happens in Ireland and in the queer community, denying it makes you part of the problem.
Talking about racism is not about imposing guilt on to ‘white’ people. ‘Guilt’ and ‘shaming’ are useless, and that is something that is so evident in social media’s cancel culture.
Instead it is about demanding respect, having the same opportunities as everyone else, and being able to navigate any space without having one’s identity undermined.
ANIMATION: White man: “What… what if accidentally call you the N word?”. Me: “What do you want to?”
It is also about questioning and improving the society we have – for everyone involved, also ‘white’ people.
ANIMATION: Can we talk about racism without talking about race? Hudfarvede bobler der svæver omkring ordet ‘racism’.
“Racism” is a hard term to grasp. It is further a problematic term as it assumes ‘race’ is a tangible concept. Truth is that there is no ‘black’ nor ‘white’ race.
So, when discussing ‘black’ and ‘white’ as social groups, we base these distinctions on similarities in cultural affinities and our skin complexion.
But people are incredibly more diverse than this…
ANIMATION: Form fields with ethnicities. “I am aware that these forms can be used for research that can in sometimes help shed light on issues related to racism. But as an ‘Afroeuropean’, I will still just choose “Other”.”
People of colour are all different and it is important to remember that. Our lived experiences are different, and we can not describe all our levels of tolerance, backgrounds or perspectives with a single webpage. Some people of colour don’t experience racial abuse or discrimination often, while it is a regular reality for others.
That being said, there are some tropes that people of colour often experience:
Animation: Woman: “I have dated black girls before, so don’t worry…” Woman: “Don’t worry, and I won’t be one of them. Sorry, I am off to the bathroom to scream.”
Trope: “I don’t know what to call you guys!”
You don’t have to find a term to describe us all.
“People of colour” works to a large extent here in Europe where people of colour are a minority, but in some contexts in central Africa it can override a lot of differences. And despite the perceived neutrality of the term, some people don’t like being referred to as “people of colour”, while others use it all the time.
Trope: “People of colour seem to take offense to a lot of things”
This often comes from people who have not been subjected to lifelong discrimination, who have had their identity being undermined publicly or have felt alienated because of their cultural heritage.
People of colour have an incredible amount of resilience. But we are also allowed to be emotional, to request respect and to fight intolerance.
Trope: “Is it like when white blonde/red-haired/brown-haired people get discriminated?’
Discrimination manifests in corners of society. It would be hard and likely impossible to get rid of all our biases. But we can control our actions. We all have visual and auditory characteristics which people judge us for. What is different with racial discrimination is how systematised and engrained it is into Western culture and society. Therefore, it is hard to find an equivalence to racialisation.
ANIMATION: White person: “I am sure, he would looooove to hear my tanning bed joke.”
Why should you care as a white person?
This is my favourite part!
Europe is seeing a strong surge in right-wing politics. We are constantly describing our times as progressive (“how can this happen in 2021?” or “Are people still like this?!”), but in reality racial abuse and violence is still a daily occurrence in many parts of Western society. In Ireland, things are better than in many countries, and there is interest in discussing racism (so thank you if you are reading this!).
However, we talk so little about how destructive and costly a culture of discrimination, intolerance and right-wing politics are to everyone. A culture of discrimination undermines productivity and solidarity in our society. It creates trends of political scepticism, anti-establishment discourse and facist tendencies. As we have seen with Brexit and Trumpism, racial discrimination and xenophobia (fear of people coming from outside countries) are part of these movements, but people of colour and migrants are not the only ones affected negatively by right-wing politics and legislation.
When right-wing politics manifest in the Middle East or Africa, we criticize it, but when it is applies in European territories, we laugh it off as political disagreements. The right vs left arc is not a matter of differences, they are reactions to systems of European self-entitlement, segregation and a strong idea of whiteness.
‘Whiteness’ does not try to explain the light skin colour of some people, but is instead an idea or strong notion of social status that people with light skin colour tend to align with.
As an example: a ‘white’ lower middle class grocery store owner in Ireland named John has just watched the news and sees Boris Johnson talk of sovereignty and closing borders. John can a strong sense of relatability or whiteness from watching Boris, even if John does not self-identify as a xenophobe or a bigot. In John’s neighbourhood lives Masoud, who has Iranian heritage, has brown skin, but is also a store owner and lower middle class. John’s bias towards Boris makes him not see the similarities between himself and Masoud despite then sharing the same issues. After all, it is better to be on ‘higher ground’.
This is whiteness – a strong sense of alignment people who identify as white people have of superiority and entitlement with or without other white people. Blackness is the black equivalence, however whiteness is the concept currently in power that helps fuel the movements of European right-wing politics.
Example: People of colour can also have a sense of ‘whiteness’, however it is often demolished when someone says: “Oh, you are too dark to be Irish” or “You are my first black friend”. Therefore, people of colour are less likely to share the sense of entitlement or superiority that people who are ‘white’ do.
It is not simply about how to ‘stop being racist’. Constructively and genuinely discussing racism requires us to review the ways we see other people and society. We are all in possession of strong biases that people of colour are secondary to white people. We hold people of colour to a higher regard of how they should be, act or represent out of stereotypical ideas of what a person of colour is.
This is especially true in the LGBTQIAP+ community. During the 1969 Stonewall riot and movement in New York, a lot of those who championed alliances, movements and protests for the equal rights of LGBTQIAP+ people, were gay, lesbian, gender non-conforming and trans people of colour. However, these groups are today some of the most vulnerable in the community.
In today’s queer community, people of colour are positioned secondarily to white people in the queer community. This is evident as a person of colour but hard to see if you are ‘white’. It is mostly unconscious because this strong concept of whiteness.
As we are speaking, there are people of colour in our community who are contributing positively to their surroundings and to our society. In Cork, we can appreciate many things, including the absence of ‘ethnically’ ‘ghettoised’ areas where people are shoved into.
So while people should be able to express and focus on their cultural and religious circumstances in their own environment, we have to make them also feel welcome in wider society. There are more LGBTQAIP+ people in Cork than you think, but many don’t mix with the white majority because of strong experiences of racialisation or othering.
We don’t need you necessarily as a friend or partner, but we do require respect and a realisation that our reality is different. We can help ourselves, but at times, some allyship is appreciated. Just as we like to ask straight people of the same.
Are you a Cork person of colour who identifies within as LGTBQIAP+? Then Crossroads might also be for you!
It can be so taxing navigating a European society as a person of colour encountering discrimination and regular moments of othering. These issues manifest in particular within the white LGBT+ community in Cork where many people of colour don’t feel readily accepted by or a part of.
There is progress being made, but this still doesn’t mean that it is easy to be a BIPOC individual. Heck, being human is rarely easy.
Therefore, we offer Crossroads Meetups. Once a week, we have allocated a meetup for queer people of colour who can meet in a safe space, and share experiences and moments.
Sometimes, we need people to look up to. I have gathered some queer people of colour who have contributed positively to our community at different levels sectors! Each of these have been curated for their amazing contributions to the LGBTQIAP+ culture and history.
Lil Nas X
Marsha P. Johnson
Sylvia Rivera
Frank Ocean
RuPaul is often criticised in the community for his trend-setting TV show Drag Race and its representation of contestants of colour. This does not make RuPaul’s own history, heritage and cureent status less interesting nor less worthy of celebration. Drag Race has represented queer culture to the wider world, and launched a normalisation of gay culture that many either disagree or agree with. In any case, he deserves a spot here.
There is not a whole lot of resources for people of colour in Cork… yet! In any case, we always encourage people reaching out to other groups of colour.
Black and Irish.
ANIMATION: Form fields with ethnicities. “I am aware that these forms can be used for research that can in sometimes help shed light on issues related to racism. But as an ‘Afroeuropean’, I will still just choose “Other”.”
ANIMATION: White person: “I am sure, he would looooove to hear my tanning bed comment.”
ANIMATION: Can we talk about racism without talking about race?