As a gay man who grew up during the head days of the AIDS crisis, I only can bring my subjective experience and offer some essays that could further a critical discussion about the lack of intersectionality in the use of the “queer” category. At the end, the reader will find a series of links to essays amplifying the needed socio-political and cultural critique of this category, which now has become a colonial term.
"Still, today, when looking at present catalogs of queer media festivals, I perceive how institutional multiculturalism perpetuated media racism within the “queer” media community. "
During the ’90s, the debates about “multiculturalism” demonstrated that systems of funding, distribution, programming, and cultural recognition had systematically excluded Native Americans, Latinxs, women, African Americans, Asian Americans, gays and lesbians, the working class, and the disabled communities. At the same time this discussion was taking place, I traveled across the United States, Canada, and Europe showing my work and speaking on panels at major gay and lesbian exhibitions and film festivals.
Still, today, when looking at present catalogs of queer media festivals, I perceive how institutional multiculturalism perpetuated media racism within the “queer” media community. I witnessed the works of Latinx LGTBQI media artists grouped and employed at festivals to create a series of connections that are intrinsically related to racism. I experienced seeing my work, as well as the works of Marlon Riggs, Richard Fung, and Mona Smith among others, presented in such a way as to distort the intention and cultural specificity of our pieces. The categorization of these works under the “Minority” heading emphasized the racism these festivals were attacking. However, none of the works of which I speak deals specifically with the issue of racism in the gay community.
"The racism and sexism inherent in the gay community have forced us to reclaim our place within Latinx communities."
The Color Me Here panel at the 10th Annual Los Angeles International Gay and Lesbian Festival could provide the historical facts. At this last festival, LGTBQI media artists of color such as Cheryl Dunye, Dawn Sugg, Ming-Yuen Ma, Shari Frilot, Alfonso Moret, Thomas Allen Harris, and myself not only experienced one of the most racist attitudes enacted at any of these festivals, but we also learned that the festival had used our names to obtain funds from the city of Los Angeles and instead of placing us at hotels the way the festival did with the white gay media makers, we were asked to find a place to stay with friends.
In a publication, Cathy J. Cohen starts her essay by discussing stories of alleged racism at the New York-based Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) pointing to the continuing practice of racism many of us still experience in the “queer” community. The racism and sexism inherent in the gay community have forced us to reclaim our place within Latinx communities. The history of the gay movement has rendered invisible the participation of Latinxs and African Americans, not to mention that some of the people confronting the police at Stonewall were the Latinxs and African American LGTBQI. Lesbians are always relegated to a footnote.
If you are interested in finding more information regarding these topics, there is a series of links below.
Cohen, Cathy J. "Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer Politics?" GLQ 1 May 1997; 3 (4): 437–465 https://985queer.queergeektheory.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Cohen-Punks-Bulldaggers-and-Welfare-Queens.pdf Ferrera-Balanquet, Raúl and Harris, Thomas Allen, editors. Narrating Our History: Selections from a Dialogue among Queer Media Artists from the African Diaspora. With Shari Frilot, Leah Gilliam, Dawn Suggs, Jocelyn Taylor, and Yvonne Welbon. http://sistersinthelife.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Narrating-Our-Histories.docx.pdf
Harrington Mary. The tyranny of queer theory https://unherd.com/2020/10/how-queer-theory-has-eaten-the-culture/
Kiesling, Elena.The Missing Colors of the Rainbow: Black Queer Resistance https://journals.openedition.org/ejas/11830
E. Patrick Johnson (2001) "Quare" studies, or (almost) everything I know about queer studies I learned from my grandmother, Text and Performance Quarterly, 21:1, 1-25. https://www.york.ac.uk/media/english/documents/newsandevents/E.%20Patrick%20Johnson%20Quare%20(1).pdf
Dr. Raul Moarquech Ferrera-Balanquet is a Co-Executive Director at Howard University Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. He received his PhD in Romance Studies from Duke University and has an MFA in Intermedia Arts, technological, and audiovisual literacy from The University of Iowa. He is an interdisciplinary artist, writer, researcher, educator, program director, curator, and Fulbright scholar. Born In Havana, Cuba, Dr. Ferrera-Balanquet is bilingual in English and Spanish and is at an intermediate level in Yucatec Maya.