Homophobia in ethnic minority communities

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Homophobia in ethnic minority communities refers to any negative prejudice or form of discrimination within the ethnic minority communities worldwide towards people who are identify as – or perceived as being – lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT),[1][2][3] known as homophobia. This may be expressed as antipathy, contempt, prejudice, aversion, hatred, irrational fear, and is sometimes related to religious beliefs.[4] While religion can have a positive function in many LGB Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities, it can also play a role in supporting homophobia.[5]

Many LGBT ethnic minority persons rely on members of their ethnic group for support in terms of racial matters. However, within these communities, homophobia and transphobia often exists within the context of ethnocultural norms on gender and sexual orientation, with one American researcher claiming that "a common fallacy within communities of color is that gay men or lesbians are perceived as 'defective' men or women who want to be a member of the opposite gender."[6] There is a lot of difficulty regarding how to categorise homosexuality throughout different cultures,[7] In recent times, scholars have argued that Western notions of a gay and/or heterosexual identity only began to emerge in Europe in the mid to late 19th century.[8][9] Behaviors that today would be widely regarded as homosexual, at least in the West, enjoyed a degree of acceptance in around three quarters of the cultures surveyed in Patterns of Sexual Behavior (1951).[10]

United States

Attitudes towards a person's sexual orientation vary throughout the United States, and the social and cultural mores surrounding sexuality have a large sociological impact on how individuals behave, especially with regards to the family unit. Many ethnic minority families in the United States do not feel comfortable discussing matters of sexuality, and disclosure of one's sexual orientation or identity often presents challenges, and many feel that their coming out process may force them to be loyal to one community over another.[11]

In the United States, 44% of LGBT students of colour have reported experiencing bullying based on their sexual orientation and/or race; 13% reported physical harassment and 7% reported physical assault due to the same reasons.[12]

Homophobia in the African American community

Openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) African Americans have contributed extensively to many cultural and political events and institutions in the process of the ethnicity's enfranchisement and participation in the melting pot of the country while also becoming increasingly visible participants in the movement for LGBT civil rights in the United States. While LGBT African Americans often face homophobic bigotry from heterosexual African Americans, they also have come into conflict with LGBT European Americans due to matters of race and color in United States LGBT culture.[13]

Various celebrations of U.S. African-American LGBT identity include various black gay prides in heavily-black urban areas of the United States. In addition, various endeavors to increase African-American representation in LGBT media have been undertaken in the 21st century, such as the short-lived television series Noah's Arc.[citation needed] Despite this, homophobia is considered to be quite prevalent within the African American community.[14][15] Numerous reasons are given for this, including: the image young black males are supposed to convey in the public sphere;[16] the fact that homosexuality is often seen as antithetical to being black in the African American community;[17][18][19][20] and the association of the African American community with the church in the United States.[21][22][23][24][25][26] Barack Obama has acknowledged homophobia within the African American community, and made a statement to the community saying that: "If we are honest with ourselves, we'll acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to [Martin Luther] King's vision of a beloved community [...] We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them."[27]

The disproportionately high incidence of HIV/AIDS amongst African Americans has been attributed to homophobic attitudes; many African Americans associate the disease almost exclusively with gay (white) men and not their own community.[28]

Many black advocacy groups have disputed the notion that homophobia is more prevalent in the African American community than other groups, and claim that surveys have shown that their attitude towards homosexuality are similar to the rest of the population.[29][30][31][32][33]

In a 2012 survey of 120,000 adults, African Americans were more likely to self-identify as LGBT than other racial or ethnic groups in the United States. According to the data, 4.6% of African Americans identify as LGBT, significantly higher than 3.4% of the population overall.[34]

In recent years many African American celebrities have come out of the closet to become role models for LGBT African American youth, such as Jason Collins, Michael Sam, and Robin Roberts.[35]

Many in the African American community still view HIV/AIDS as a gay disease and homophobia is one of the main barriers preventing better treatment for people in AIDS in the black community. Irene Monroe writes in the Huffington Post that: "[...] the truth is this: while nearly 600,000 African Americans are living with HIV, and as many 30,000 newly infected each year, there is still within the black community one in five living with HIV and unaware of their infection; and, they are disproportionately heterosexuals. As long as we continue to think of HIV/AIDS as a gay disease, we'll not protect ourselves from this epidemic."[36]

The perceived bias against homosexuality in the African American community has led to the subcultural phenomenon known as "on the down-low", in which black men who publicly and even self-consciously identify as heterosexual will secretly have sex with men.[37][38][39][40] The term is also used to refer to a related sexual identity.[40][41]

Homophobia in the Latino community

Homophobia in the Latino community is also prevalent within the United States.[42][43] Many Latinos feel like a double minority for being both an ethnic minority and a sexual minority.[44][45] As a result, queer Latin@s must straddle multiple cultures at once and take on somewhat contradictory identities in order to maintain ties within each group - a concept Gloria Anzaldúa calls the "mestiza consciousness". While at the same time, they often have to create a "borderland" space for themselves that will allow them to freely express their sexuality without consequences.[46] Because queer Latin@s are often marginalized in both LGBT communities (because of race) and Latin@ communities (because of sexuality), the borderland spaces that exist are often composed strictly of queer Latin@s.[46][47] An example of such a space would be the community that the magazine Esto no tiene nombre created among Latina lesbians around the world.[48]

Many Latin@s experienced negative messages about their sexual orientation from their own communities: many have been told that male homosexuality was "dirty, shameful and abnormal".[49] They reported that they had faced ostracism from their friends and peers, and felt "that they were not truly 'men'", according to the standards of some in their community.[49]

Latina lesbians are also generally stereotyped as traitors who have forsaken their roots.[50] An example of this sentiment is seen in Mexican culture, where, Cherríe Moraga explains, Chicana lesbians are seen as Malinche figures – they are seen as being corrupted by foreign influences and traitors of the race because they contribute to the “genocide” of their people, regardless of whether or not they have children.[51] These stereotypes and stigmas regarding lesbians have been so historically ingrained into Latin@ cultures that most Latina lesbian women who have spoken openly to their families about their sexuality still feel silenced.[46]

A GHN news editor stated that homophobia in the Latino community is tied to a value system that finds it difficult to accept overt sexuality. It is also a part of rigid gender roles and machismo. This has influenced many people with HIV/AIDS not to get tested for the disease in the Hispanic community.[52] Covert homophobia in the use of terms such as that's so gay and no homo are also common.[53] Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escabar was banned from playing after writing the phrase tu eres maricón on his eye tape (Spanish for "you are a faggot").[54] Hector Conteras, a DJ, "prompted listeners via Twitter to denounce what they considered "gay behavior" from their peers at work, school, their neighborhood or within their own family".[55]

Homophobia in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community

The stereotypes of effeminate Asian men and hypersexual black men can be traced back to the racist legacies of colonialism. In order to "prove" to the world that colonialism was indeed a "civilizing" mission, Western theorists utilized discussions of others' aberrant sexualities to justify their interventions abroad. As white Europeans colonized large swaths of Asia, white masculinity was posited as the apex that men could potentially reach. Asian men were placed on the opposite side of the spectrum and constantly portrayed as feminine and weak in the face of European conquerors. The colonial stereotypes regarding Asian men's femininity continue to inform our current racial stereotypes.

Julia Meszaros, "Elliot Rodger and the Effeminization of Asian Men", The Huffington Post (30 May 2014)[56]

Homophobia in the Asian American community is homophobia directed from Asian people towards LGBT people, especially LGBT Asians,[57][58][59][60][61] and approximately 90% of Asian and Pacific Islanders (APIs) who self-identified as LGBT agreed that homophobia or transphobia was an issue in the larger API community.[6]

According to Amy Sueyoshi: "Voices from the queer left, though opposed to homophobia in cultural nationalism, have picked up the protest against the feminization of Asian American men in the gay community.[62] While coming from drastically different perspectives both groups find common ground in supporting a phallocentric standard of Asian American male sexuality".[63]

United Kingdom

There is a widespread assumption that being gay is a phenomenon purely of white people in Britain, amongst all racial groups.[64] This means that, in terms of healthcare, many BME people's needs are not being met. This is dangerous as LGBT BME needs may differ to that of white LGBT people.[65]

BME LGB communities are disproportionately affected by homophobic violence, abuse and harassment. In a study conducted in London, BME LGB people were more likely to experience physical abuse, more likely to experience harassment from a stranger and were equally likely to have experienced verbal abuse as their White British LGB counterparts,[66] and due to the pressures of discrimination and victimisation, are more likely to have poorer mental health.[67]

Homophobia in the Black British community

Homophobia in the Black British community is prevalent in the United Kingdom. Many gay people in the black community get married or have significant others of the opposite sex to hide their sexual orientation.[68] In 1998, Justin Fashanu, a gay black footballer, killed himself after publicly coming out to his brother.[69] There has been hate music written in the black community towards LGBT people; campaigns such as Stop Murder Music have tried to counteract this.[70][71] Some have regarded this, alongside other anti-homophobia efforts aimed at the Black British community, as racist, which makes many social critics reluctant to criticize homophobia in the Black British community.[72][73]

Some of the Black British community sees homosexuality as a "white disease".[68][74][75] Many Black British gay people face not only being socially isolated from their communities but the possibility of being assaulted.[76]

Homophobia in the British Asian community

Those who speak on behalf of BME communities sometimes reinforce conservative attitudes towards sexual orientation; this is experienced as oppressive by many British South Asian LGB people.[5] Patrick McAleenan writes in The Telegraph that "homophobia taints the British Asian community," and that the "opposition to a gay lifestyle [is] still strong amongst the British Asian community,"[77] and Balaji Ravichandran writes in The Guardian that, while "in the south Asian diaspora, being gay is often deeply taboo", he also believes that the "gay community should help south Asians", pointing to the perceived racism of White British gay men.[78]

In 2010, the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU; defined by gov.uk as "[...] a joint Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Home Office unit was which set up in January 2005 to lead on the Government's forced marriage policy, outreach and casework")[79] noted a 65% increase in forced marriages amongst primarily British Asian men. Many in the British Asian community who contacted the FMU were put into forced marriages as their families suspected that they were gay or bisexual.[80]

See also


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