This post is written by Jordy Decker!
On January 29th, we held a workshop on Cross-Culture Queerness. At this workshop we discussed what it means to be a queer person of colour, whitewashing of queer history, and the universally shared experiences. This is a written reflection on the topic of cross-culture queerness.
PS: Don't miss the opportunity to attend TEDXUBCO. Jordy will be speaking at TEDXUBCO on March 18 at the Rotary Center for the Arts. Visit tedxubco.ca for more information!
Before you begin to read my post, I want to be upfront: I am not an expert on queerness. I am passionate about drag and I watch a lot of Ellen, but that is a tiny sliver of the extensive history and contemporary realities of world-wide queerness. I am not an expert on culture. My family’s traditions include watching Law & Order SVU marathons on Christmas morning and doing a moderately-Ukrainian birthday polka whenever one of us takes another trip around the sun. However, I am actively trying to learn.
Queerness is complex and culturally-informed. In many spaces, queerness is seen through a white North American lens - but there are many ways to be queer. Even in writing this, I use the term “queer” as I find comfort in its function as an umbrella term, but I understand that for many it has been used as an offensive slur, and others simply do not have a relationship with the word. Even in the LGBT+ acronym, there are letters that are not included that stand for various sexual and gender identities. To reduce those identities down to their sexual and gendered nature, I am also reducing the spirituality and various other elements associated with identities in other cultures on which I am no expert. Basically, it’s complicated. However, rather than ignoring the vastness and complexity of cross-cultural queerness for the sake of comfortability and a false sense of expertise, I believe we should break down the white-washed understanding of queerness to become more accepting and open to the extensive array of beautiful queer humans.
North America is not the gold-standard of queer acceptance. There have been queer folks long before colonization occurred, and acceptance before colonial ideals were forcibly pushed into Indigenous communities. There are so many ways to have pride, to express oneself, and to combat ignorance. It is important that we recognize and celebrate the spectrums and educate ourselves on the histories of queerness outside of the mainstream. In an attempt to create space for acceptance, we must remember to create space for the various intersections of our identities.
To help with the learning process, I have included some clips and films to kickstart your research. There are no perfect representations and this list is not exhaustive, but these are some films you can watch to learn from and critique. Most of the films come from Pride.com in a slideshow called “21 Awesome LGBT Documentaries You Need to Watch on Netflix” by Cassie Sheets.
Gayby Baby - Australia
Mala Mala - Puerto Rico
The Out List
A Sinner in Mecca (Saudi Arabia)
The New Black
Queens and Cowboys
Campaign of Hate: Russia and Gay Propaganda
The Death and Life of Marsha P Johnson
TED Talk we critiqued in the workshop: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivfJJh9y1UI
The Third Muslim: Queer and Trans Narrative of Resistance
Last Chance - Documentary on Queer Refugees in Canada
Please feel free to comment on the post and add some resources or discussion topics for further engagement.