Pradeep Mahadeshwar is gay visual artist originally from India and now living in Dublin. Here he shares the reality for a queer person of colour in the LGBT+ community and how it doesn’t quite match up with recent social media posts.
George Floyd’s brutal murder has ignited social media rage about injustices to the Black population in the United States and Ireland. Social media is being flooded with posts from the queer community in a rush to make a statement about Black Lives Matter, Black Pride, and Direct Provision.
There is no doubt that these issues are real and the posts are sharing valuable information, but I think there is an opportunity to step back and look at our current situation of Racism within the queer community in Ireland.
While living in Ireland for the last eight years as a queer person of color, a few questions for the queer community came to mind:
- Do we have space for different colours, ethnicities, races, genders, and disabilities inside our queer spaces?
- Do we understand and are we ready to discuss the basic terms like racism, implicit bias, gender inequality, xenophobia, ageism and their harsh existence in our real world?
- Are we wholeheartedly open for fair critique and discussion to address the lack of inclusion and diversity at the visual and cultural landscape of queer community?
- Are we ready to learn about these issues beyond flashes of social media posts? Most importantly, do we wholeheartedly care about queer people of color living in Ireland?
There is a real world beyond outrage on social media
The local queer community, mainly the white population, need to firstly reflect on how they treat queer people of colour and transgender people around their own social spaces. One can not merely escape by posting populist posts against Direct Provision and BLM but keeping a narrow-minded implicit bias mindset in private life. What is happening in the US is disappointing, but the Irish queer community needs to clean their own house first.
Know their stories
During 2017 -2019, I have known eight queer people of colour who left Ireland. Some chose to work from a different location in the EU, where some opt to go back to their own country after finishing the education or job contract. They were from southeast Asian countries like India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Singapore. The common reason was – depression because of experiencing systematic racism within the community, lack of opportunities to build meaningful relationships, social isolation, and lack of support from the community.
Don’t scrutinize their realities
If a queer person of colour shares their racist experiences at a queer scene with you, please don’t ask them to prove themselves and their experiences. Please don’t ask the details; it is hard to narrate the incidents to make you understand the feeling. One of the hardest things is to prove your vulnerability. From the outside Black issues and Asian culture may look problematic and complex; we need to understand that the policies and politics are the root cause for making them complicated, not their culture or colour.
Black Lives Matter demo in Tullamore today. pic.twitter.com/FgRrigQYOh
— Tom O'Hanlon 📸 (@tomohanlonphoto) June 13, 2020
Learn about loneliness
For a few moments, think about what it could like to be an immigrant, queer person of colour standing alone in a pub waiting to interact with other queer folks. They have traveled 1000’s of kilometres away from their homes for study or a job. The immigrant queer person of colour studies here, work here, and contributes to the local economy and culture. Respect their life experiences and journeys. Imagine the terrifying feeling of loneliness and isolation because of their skin colour and body stereotypes related to their geographic origin. Why can’t we have friendly, healthy interactions? It costs nothing to smile or say, “hello.”
When we talk about the Direct Provision system and the money-making corruption related to it, think about non-EU students from the queer community. They pay three to five times higher fees for higher education in Ireland than the EU students. They bring prosperity to the universities, and the local economy and what they get in return is discrimination based on their colour in the queer community, depression, and forced social isolation.
Overwhelmed with support from people from all walks of life rallying behind call to #EndDirectProvision. Pathetic response from authorities telling us about training Direct Provision centre managers and how asylum seekers get free food and shelter 🙄 https://t.co/yUrjY7VATi
— MASI – Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (@masi_asylum) June 6, 2020
We can work through this together
I have witnessed many Irish LGBT+ people afraid to talk about racism and completely denying its existence in our society. I have heard these sentences often; “We don’t see colour,” or “It is only in your head” – these are painful remarks that show a lack of understanding of racism. It means – I don’t see you. I don’t hear you. I don’t understand you.
Find another phrase — one that respectfully acknowledges the perspectives and differences that come with being a person of colour, as well as the inherent beauty they provide.
The queer community needs to understand that immigration is the future and the hope for a healthy society. We have to create opportunities where the local queer community can interact with immigrants on an intellectual level and vice-versa. We need artists, writers, and performers to tell stories of their real-world. We need to encourage people from both sides who can ask critical questions to create a dialogue.
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