March 31st, 2014

Commentary | February 3rd, 2014
A modest proposition
Toward the liberation of queer people of colour
Written by | Visual by Jasmine Wang

To: QPOC
Everywhere, All the time
Re: Let’s do each other, maybe?

“I know the anger lies inside of me like I know the beat of my heart and the taste of my spit. It is easier to be furious than to be yearning. Easier to crucify myself in you than to take on the threatening universe of whiteness by admitting that we are worth wanting each other.” Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches

Dear Queer People of Colour (QPOC),

This is a love letter and a call to arms. This is a love letter and a challenge. This is a love letter and a manifesto, a celebration, a remembrance, a seduction, a warning, a modest proposition toward the liberation of Queer People of Colour struggling to see ourselves and each other amid the blinding whiteness of the ‘mainstream’ gay culture: yes, I am propositioning you, all of you. I am proposing that we have sex with each other for the revolution, that we eroticize each other for the revolution.

I am speaking in solidarity with those of you who, like me, have begun to question the construction of our desires as subordinate to that glorious subject, the young white body; those of us whose bodies have rarely or never appeared in our own sexual fantasies. I am speaking with gratitude to those of you, elders and mentors, who have been engaged in revolutionary loving for many years.

I am speaking in solidarity with those of you who, like me, have begun to question the construction of our desires as subordinate to that glorious subject, the young white body.

I am reaching out because it was in the shadow of the rainbow that I discovered my race: always Chinese, I had never thought of myself as simply “Asian,” never felt myself considered part of a faceless, sexless, sub-human mass until my first night on a gay dance floor. Because the most violent racist aggressions in my life have always come from white queers, and particularly white gay men.

This letter is for my best friend and chosen brother, a fiercely beautiful and intelligent East Asian diva who once told me that white men are “scientifically” better-looking than men of colour. For you, my unstoppable brother, from whom I learn so much and for whom I have no answers when you ask me if I think that your white boyfriends are fetishizing you, save that you are worth all the love in the world.

This is for you, the gorgeous brown boy whom I nearly fucked in a bathroom in a bar one night after doing a drag performance in Ontario. You called me the most beautiful boy you’d ever touched. I had to stop – I almost cried – when you said that, because even after years of learning makeup and glamour, of trying to reclaim my femininity and my Asianness as something sexual, I still couldn’t make myself believe those words. Because, in some twisted way, I thought that you deserved something better – more masculine, whiter – than me. Because I could see in the way you touched me that you had not yet had the kind of tender, consensual sex that I have fought for over the years, that you were used to the kind of violence with which coloured queers are so intimately familiar.

I want to tell you that I think your rage is powerful, is sexy, is a thousand times more attractive than the pale hypocritical politics thrown around like so much window-dressing in white queer activist spaces.

This is for the mixed-race activist who told me how she was driven from a white feminist, lesbian collective because her anger at being co-opted and invisibilized was considered “too divisive” and “too aggressive.” I want to tell you that I think your rage is powerful, is sexy, is a thousand times more attractive than the pale hypocritical politics thrown around like so much window-dressing in white queer activist spaces. The community I want is one with you burning bright and hot in it.

This is for all you black and brown femmes and bois, gaysians, coloured queens, Two-Spirit folks, QPOC, and mixed queers who have grown up in the shadow of the rainbow. All of us who ever searched for identity, for sex, for safety, for a saviour in the white sea of the gay community; who went online and saw ourselves immediately ruled out with petty, almost gleeful cruelty as sexual partners: no femmes, no fats, no Asians or Blacks, am I right? Who watched porn and Queer as Folk and Will and Grace and Looking and thought, where am I? Who defined our worth, our realness, our viability as queer people by our ability to attract white partners – who compromised our pleasure and integrity and safety for a dangerous, anonymous fuck that we didn’t enjoy. Who agreed to polyamorous relationships, ostensibly in the name of sexual liberation, but secretly because we were afraid that our white partners would leave us if we didn’t. Who sat ashamed and alone in STI clinics after sex we weren’t sure we agreed to, surrounded by “HIV/AIDS awareness” posters and pamphlets all featuring the glamourized bodies of white men so concerned by their own marginality but who never once thought of those shadowed brown bodies quietly dying outside the spotlight.

My dear QPOC, I think we deserve to desire each other. It is not easy to see ourselves as erotic, as possessing that power that we have come to associate with whiteness. But listen: we know the shape of each others’ scars. There is an intimacy that exists between us that is deeper than the dream of subordination we were taught to exalt.

What I want to learn about is what’s possible if only we started being tender, flirtatious, silly, serious, sexual, raw, delicate, deep with each other.

Because I know about those dreams. About solitary exploration, discovery, fear, elation, rejection under the covers in the quiet hours of the night, trying not to wake siblings and parents in the tiny living space you shared. I know about bleaching creams and body hair anxiety – the hair that refused to grow and the hair that refused to stop growing. About the muscle that wouldn’t come, the fat that wouldn’t cooperate. The dieting. The vomiting. The resignation that we could only ever be, at best, beautiful in spite of our race and not because of it.

And I know about being cruel to other queer people of colour. I know about competing for attention in a white space, about jealousy of those of us who could “pass” for white or conform more closely to a white standard of beauty. I know about rejecting our cultures, our parents, our pasts, as irresolvable with the mainstream gay political project of marriage rights, military participation, and capitalist ascension. You and I? We know all about cruelty, honey.

What I want to learn about is what’s possible if only we started being tender, flirtatious, silly, serious, sexual, raw, delicate, deep with each other. I want to remember the sacredness, the sensuality of hair that refuses to stop growing, of skin that will not lighten. Because, Queer People of Colour, you are so, so sexy. There’s pleasure beyond words in your mouth, and I want to find it with my tongue. There’s a revolution in my pants, and you are definitely invited. We can go slowly, we can always stop if it doesn’t work out. But I want to choose the possibility of you. And I want you to choose the possibility of me.

From Gaysia With Love,
Kai Cheng


From Gaysia With Love is an epistolary exploration of intersectionality by Kai Cheng Thom. They can be reached at fromgaysia@mcgilldaily.com.

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