A Cork-based charity has launched a new campaign to raise awareness of queer racism among men of color and travelers living within the LGBTQ + community.
The Gay Project, a Cork organization that has championed LGBTQI + rights since the 1970s, launched the #ProudAF campaign in response to “sexual racism, racial profiling, objectification and fetishization, cultural differences and discrimination perpetuated by white and sedentary LGBTQI + people ”.
Organizers say the campaign is a ‘call to action’ that asks the wider LGBTQI + community to examine their own behaviors and change them in order to make the community a more welcoming and inclusive place for everyone. .
“There is a disconnect between the experiences of gay men of color and gay travelers and that of the general population,” said campaign manager Michael O’Donnell, “we launched this campaign to highlight and fight racism in the community “.
As part of a campaign, a number of gay men of color and travelers talk about their experiences, including community activist and art director Pradeep Mahadeshwar and TikTok star and mental health advocate Darren Collins.
Pradeep Mahadeshwar, who grew up in Mumbai, came to Ireland with the perception that the Western world was “more adaptive, more open and more inclusive”.
“But my experience and reality as an immigrant and an LGBTQ + person is very different,” he said.
“The gay community in Ireland is not a place to welcome people of color.
“There is a lot of racial segregation in the LGBTQ + community,” he said, but people are too “ashamed” to face it.
As an Asian and gay immigrant, Pradeep said he faced prejudice from the Indian community because of his sexuality and prejudice from the Irish community because he was an immigrant.
“I thought the LGBTQ + community would be helpful or friendly, but they also reject me and people like me because we are not attractive, we do not match their sexual fantasies.
“If I’m brunette, if I have a different accent, I wear different clothes. This is neither acceptable nor welcome.
“After nine years in Ireland, I still have a hard time making friends, because there is an unattractive sort of thing about being friends with a gay Indian or a Pakistani or a Bangladeshi. It’s not as interesting as any other ethnicity because we see Indians, Pakistanis are IT professionals, doctors or nurses. We don’t see them as people. ”
“You don’t see Indian or Pakistani men as friends, dates, husbands, or relationships of European men.”
Repeatedly, Pradeep claims he has been denied entry to top gay bars in Dublin because he ‘doesn’t look gay’ or is not a ‘familiar face. “.
“These places passively say that only certain people are celebrated here and welcome here.”
Pradeep says there is also blatant racism disguised as “personal preferences” on dating apps such as Grindr, where men are known to report in their profiles “No Asians” or “No Blacks” etc.
There is no talk about what is happening to LGBTQ + people of color in Ireland within the gay community, he said, and the lack of support within the community itself is having a devastating effect on people’s mental and sexual health.
“I have seen Asian men become depressed, suicidal, become addicted to drugs.
“We don’t talk about these stories … we spend so much money on pride and it’s just glitter and rainbows and everything is fine – but all is not well.”
While many LGBTQ + groups talk about inclusion and diversity, Pradeep thinks it’s more of a ‘tick the box’ exercise.
“There is a huge gap between talking about inclusion and diversity and actually embracing, understanding and implementing inclusion and diversity. ”
“People who hold power [in these groups] I don’t really know what it’s like to be marginalized because of the color of your skin, because most of the decision-makers in these groups and organizations are not people of color.
“Inclusion and diversity can only be achieved by giving power and decision-making to marginalized people. ”
Darren Collins, a gay traveler from Tullamore Co Offally, came out seven years ago.
In the years that followed, he became a household name among the Traveler community, speaking publicly about his experience of going out and accepting himself as a gay Traveler.
As part of the #ProudAF campaign, Darren hopes to raise awareness about the challenges Gay Travelers face in the LGBTQ + space.
“Being a gay traveler in the sedentary community is very difficult because when you say you are a traveler, people take a step back and think, ‘I couldn’t bring a traveler home.’
“And when you say you’re a gay traveler, people also think about the obstacles you’ve encountered and think if they date you they might face it too – that they might get beaten, or their lives could be in danger. threat. ”
The homeless community has a lot of “trust issues” with other communities, he says, and they often feel they are not accepted, respected or welcomed in other groups. It’s no different with the LGBTQ + community.
“I don’t really associate with a lot of LGBTQ + groups unless they contact me. I do not contact them.
His reluctance to get involved is due to one of the main reasons: Will Travelers get the support they need from these organizations if they reach out?
For Darren, the message he wants to send to LGBTQ + organizations is to reach out to Travelers directly, rather than waiting for them to come to you.
“It’s all about trust,” he says.
“With this campaign, I was accepted and received with a lot of love, a lot of care and a lot of respect.
“They recognized me as a great activist for my community.”
Thinking back on his journey to where he is now, Darren says his coming out has been a “very difficult time” in his life, but he compares his life before and after to that of a dove stuck in a cage now. free to fly.
“Seven years ago I wanted to die, I didn’t know who I was, I couldn’t accept myself, I couldn’t see a life or a path for myself.
“Now I live in my own home in Dublin, a happy gay traveler, proud as punch. ”
For all the young travelers who might be afraid to go out, Darren says that you have a life and you have to accept who you are and live it.
“There are barriers and there are thoughts going through the minds of these young people, will their families talk to them? Will they accept them?
“Lately I’ve seen a lot of homeless families accept their children for who they are, especially with their sexuality.
“Get out, be you, be true to yourself, live the life you want to live – tomorrow is never promised – so deploy them and fly.”