Although the hubbub has died down around the catchphrase that so-called GLBTQ activists coined, “Gay is the new Black”, I feel like now I can coherently address the issues around it from my perspective as a queer-identified person of colour.
The problem with this phrase, other than the obvious denigration of the Black experience, centres on choice. No, not the choice that the rabid Christian right is always squawking about…I am not talking about the choice to be GLBTQ, because as any educated person would know…it’s biological. I am talking about the choice to come out and identify oneself in the public sphere as GLBTQ. This is key.
People of colour do not choose to identify as people of colour, we don’t “come out of the closet” so to speak about being Black, Latino, Asian etc. It is easily identifiable by our skin, our hair or our speech patterns among other things. It is written upon us for all to see. This is the difference between being a person of colour and being GLBTQ. Arguably you cannot “see” GLBTQ.
Identity politics aside, being identified as person of colour is not a choice. (White) GLBTQ people have a choice and the privilege to come out and be identified as GLBTQ. Those of us who are not White, and regardless of our sexuality, do not have that privilege. Therein lies the difference and should point out the issue in claiming that “gay is the new Black.” Black is still Black and the last time I checked, the civil rights struggle for racial equality was far from over.