Intersections of Privilege

In this post, I will write about the intersections of privilege, mostly in the personal sense.  So as I’ve written about before, I am gay, autistic, and Filipino but the perceptions that society has on me is as a mostly-straight, neurotypical brown man (Filipino history and Latino history in both global history and American history are intertwined after all so there is some truth in the last label).  However, let’s pretend that I am seen as the identities that I actually identify with.  Even with the growing acceptance of who I am as a gay man, and an autistic person, and as a brown person, intersectionally speaking, I am still at a disadvantage.  The truth is that my reality and the intersections of my identities have created this dilemma, enigma, paradigm or whatever you would like to call it, because:

As a gay man:

  • My autistic identity is usually seen as a negative, both because of my incapability to join large groups (for the most part) in ways fostered by the gay community (e.g. Pride, gay clubs, etc.) and because accessibility to and actual acceptance of disabled people in the gay community is limited.
  • My brownness and Asian identity are seen as outside of the stereotypical white gay ideal.  I don’t mean to claim that all white gay men are racist, however, there is almost a racial hierarchy in the gay community wherein white gay men face less stereotypical archetypes than gay men of color who are often hypersexualized and seen as “lesser” in some senses.  As someone who takes on the gay and brown identities, both because of my appearance and experience, I have been hypersexualized and relegated to competing racial stereotypes by some in the gay community.

As an autistic person:

  • My gay identity is not usually considered in conversations about autistic people and faces a risk of erasure whenever I either forget or decide not to talk about the intersections.  However, the autistic community itself is accepting of queerness and many autistics are queer or at least have a decent understanding of queer culture.
  • My brownness and Asian identity also face a risk of erasure.  Again, white autistics are often the face of autism while autistics of color are often marginalized.  However, many people in the autistic community recognize this and advocate for all autistics and recognize the existence of white privilege in our community.
  • While my identities face risks of erasure, for the most part, I do not feel marginalized as an autistic people by the autistic community.

As a brown and Asian person:

  • My queer identity is problematic because expectations of people of color often revolve around masculinity and, in Filipino and other brown cultures in general: machismo or the sexist idea that men should be masculine and provide to prove their worth as human beings while women are relegated to subjugation which was likely a Spanish export from the almost 400 years of Spanish colonization of the Philippine islands.  However, Filipino culture itself is tolerant of LGB people in general while trans* people are underprivileged in terms of both acceptance and integration.
  • My autistic identity is a taboo subject in conversations revolving around Filipino culture as it is still widely seen by many, even in America, as a mental illness.  Eastern cultures, even those influenced by the West, often relegate anyone who is mentally “unfit” to a lesser status as a human being due to the importance of conformity to these cultures.  The ability to conform is likely to be the most important quality in Filipino and other East Asian cultures which, unfortunately, means that someone who is gay, autistic, and has depression, OCD, and anxiety like myself cannot obtain full acceptance according to broader societal norms.

Since officially coming out on July 6, 2013, I have so many unfortunate side-effects of the intersectionality of my identities.  However, this goes to show that the job is never over, even on the day that Texas officially must recognize gay men as workers, homeowners, and citizens without discrimination, many of us will still fall through the cracks and will not be able to enjoy the same privileges as our white or neurotypical counterparts.  You can attempt to solve the epidemic of individualized racism, but ableism and internalized homophobia will still be issues.  There are so many issues that face the gay community, the Asian and brown communities, and the queer community that you almost give up.  However, take it from me, it is worth the fight because, to me, humanitarianism should be intersectional and think about the potential consequences of every single humanitarian action on every member of a community, including the intersections.

Thank you for reading, with much love,

Chris Fornesa

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