The stereotype inside the stereotype: the white (gay) man’s privilege
Stonewall is a movie by Roland Emmerlich that narrates the birth of the emancipation movement of LGBTQ+ people. The film highlights (starting from the title) the night of 27 June 1969, when the violent clashes between the New Yorker LGBTQ+ community and the police began, after a sting at the Stonewall Inn. Culturally (and not only) a fundamental episode, with male and female protagonists of various ethnicities, but Emmerlich represents them wrongly.
Instead of focusing on the variety of individuals at the riots that night, the director creates the character of Danny, a white and cisgender gay man who throws the first brick in the movie, thus starting the revolt. Actually, while there were white people involved for sure, it was the drag queen Marsha P. Johnson and the transgender Sylvia Rivera who led the protests, and it was the latter who threw the very first bottle at the police.
Even though it is “only” a movie, choosing a white cisgender man as the main character represents the umpteenth attempt – quite striking, in this particular case – to flatten the LGBTQ+ community’s cultural variety, transforming its diverse facets into a single one: white, young, and neat.
Such revisionism does not belong to Hollywood alone, and, to become aware of this situation, one has only to look at the way in which brands and governments identify the LGBTQ+ community. Those realities that choose to pursue the right path towards inclusivity often fall into the representation of a stereotype, that is the male homosexual, with no children and a creative job that can guarantee economic stability. In fact, the LGBTQ+ community is extremely diversified. Homosexual couples with children, lesbians, bisexuals, poor, immigrant, or refugee homosexuals, and, most of all, transgender and individuals of a non-Caucasian ethnicity are excluded on a daily basis. The technical term to name this process is “whitewashing”, that is the general tendency to “whiten” some characters in the media and advertising. To provide every character with a default Caucasian appearance – to make it more attractive to the (Caucasian) audience – is all the more serious within the LGBTQ+ domain, because it further excludes minorities within a minority group. The most mainstream gay culture and community privileges and gives prominence to white queer and trans identities rather than to non-white LGBTQ+, thus enhancing the discriminations and differences among its own members.
White privilege – all the advantages granted to white people, thus leaving out the black community and all the other different ethnicities that are not Western and white – works the same way in queer spaces and elsewhere. Consequently, institutions and marketing use individuals, ideologies, policies mostly or exclusively addressed to the desires of white individuals, without considering the needs and interests of LGBTQ+ people in their colourful totality. Media give the impression that “gay culture” is monolithic and defined by a homogenous population, something which is not accidental but dangerous, especially for those who do not fit the identikit of the white gay cisgender man. The excluded, such as black homosexuals and transgender, are the most oppressed, even though many of the battles for gay rights have been won by them – see the Stonewall riots. To deny representation of this part of the LGBTQ+ community means to silence, marginalise, and expose it to the worst attacks.
All the advantages granted to white people, thus leaving out the black community and all the other different ethnicities that are not Western and white
Black LGBTQ+ people, for instance, have different perspectives, often overshadowed by the predominance of their white counterpart: they often fight for survival, rather than for marriage equality. It does not mean that equal rights in marriage are not important, but for sure they are not the only fight in which the LGBTQ+ community deserves support. Yet, the white framework prevails even in politics, where the voices of LGBTQ+ minorities are not usually included.
In the last few months, one of the most powerful global mass movements in history has raised its voice against systemic racism, a mobilization that can and must be declined also in a LGBTQ+ perspective, to reset the most mainstream gay culture.
Whoever decides to propose a narrative of the LGBTQ+ community must take notice of these novelties and differences, by including non-Caucasian individuals, amplifying diverse voices in the name of inclusivity – the actual one, though. Practically, brands and governments will have to be committed to inclusivity, helping with their products and services the underprivileged members of their communities to better their condition; joining forces (also financially) with associations that support the cause to draw attention to the most important battles. In short, showing that LGBTQ+ is not a mere rainbow acronym, but a community that must be promoted and given value in all its colours.