In September, a new romance blossomed in my life. I am a “non-pretty,” non-delicate Korean-American lesbian who identifies strongly as a pro-transgender feminist, a womanist, a soft butch, a witch, a spinster, and a hag. I live in Baltimore Maryland and I work in the mid-Atlantic region as a freelance editor and an adjunct professor (among many other odd jobs). The woman who I began to date is a white European-American woman who lives and works outide of my city. I will call her Trisha. Trisha knows that I am writing this post. She gave me her blessing as long as I change her name and cut identifying information except a little bit about how we met and our interactions. Often my freelance editing jobs require travelling back and forth between Baltimore and other mid-Atlantic cities. I met Trisha while working as an editorial consultant on one of my freelance editing jobs. I say all this to convey the miles that I travelled to nurture the romance between us.
Things began to go sour in October when Trisha said something to me that I had heard many times before:
You know, Brenda, I've always had a thing for Asian girls.
When I heard her say this, the statement confused, enraged and saddened me–just as it has done so many times before. I was miles away from home in a situation in which I depended on Trisha for transportation. I felt instantly trapped and objectified. While I have a crazy side online, I am rarely confrontational during in-person interactions. This time I decided to confront Trisha. This is what I said (except Trisha isn't her name):
Why have you always had a thing for Asian girls, Trisha?
Trisha replied in a fashion that has become familiar to me:
It's just a preference.
I wanted to challenge her further, to ask her what fueled her preference, but she seemed to take such pride in her statement. There was, in fact, a chasm between us. She could not possibly understand what was wrong with her statement. After some TV in the hotel room she fell asleep, but not before she asked what had happened to me, and not before she criticized me for “taking things so seriously” and “trotting out politics” when this was our “downtime.” I told her that my stomach was sick. And it was. But I had started to get sick only when she made her statement to me.
In the morning I realized that I had to start writing about LGBT sexual racism from my own unique perspective.
But what was I feeling?
I define sexual racism as the limiting, targeting, specializing within, or editing out of potential or present sexual partners and lovers because of their perceived “race,” nationality, ancestry, cultural background, and/or phentotype (or their observable, racialized physical characteristics). (In other parts of this particular diaristic series I will explain where I learned this term.)
In this diaristic series (which I am thinking of being in 3 parts) I want to reflect on the following questions–questions that have no doubt been posed before, but not in the particular way that I journey through them here.
- Is my definition of sexual racism sufficient and how might it be challenged, critiqued or expanded (and is “racism” too strong a term in this concept)?
- What may be the benefits (if any) or pitfalls (if any) of sexual racism?
- Is a preference for a race of people the same in terms of erotic attraction and/or cultural politics as only preferring red heads, certain clothing styles, or other traits, for example?
- In some (though not all) LGBT sexual economies (to say nothing of str8 folks), fetish and highly demarcated style are extremely important. Is the reduction or expansion of “race” into a fetish, style, totem, or a preference socio-politically beneficial or damaging (if at all)?
As I close Part 1 in this diaristic series let me get something important out of the way. I want the following 8-point declaration to set the tone of this series of posts. This isn't about accusing anyone of being a racist. Rather, this is about investigating the ways in which racism webs into all parts of our lives. This 8-point declaration is similar to the declaration of one of my dearest friends, a professor/writer (and I must give credit where it is due…so, friend, if you are reading this, let me know what you think):
- This isn't about accusing anyone of being a racist because I am a racist. Yes, I am a racist, darnit, and here's why it is important that I say this upfront and openly…
- I cannot help but be a racist because I am affected deeply, implicitly and explicitly by the segregations, stereotypes, bigotries, and hatreds that are so much a part of national American culture and the world at large…We are just now understanding how implicit prejudice rules our perceptions.
- And sometimes the unconscious racist imprinting within me spawned from the mass media, from the communities within which I live and travel, and from my biological family makes me say and do funky, troubling things…
- I own my racist sh*t and I wish others would own theirs, and I am trying to work through/against/and beyond my sh*t…
- I am not concerned anymore with whether someone is a racist beause I think we all are racist in implicit, subtle, ever-present ways that we rarely admit; rather, I am concerned with what we DO with our racism, with our offhand remarks, and with near-secret notions.
- How are we challenging and interrogating ourselves and not just doing business as usual?
- As Carol Hanisch said, the personal truly is political, even in the bedroom.
- Simone de Beauvoir said,”One is not born a woman, one becomes one.” Similarly, I believe that our racial selves and our racism is constructed. We are not born racists; we become racists. Let's investigate this as LGBT people!
Thank you for joining me on the first leg of this diaristic journey.