Speech at the Queer Pride March: “Suddenly I was gay and brown” (video)

Today some 500 people joined the strong and lively Queer Pride March in Leiden. The protest began with three speeches. Here’s the one by David, about “the struggle of being a certain race that isn’t white”.

Hi everyone, my name is David. It’s my first time speaking publicly today. I’m feeling slightly nervous but also really excited to finally be able to share my story. A story I’m sure many of you will understand in one way or another.

First of all let me start by saying, I’m Indonesian, and I’m gay. I’m gay and I’m Indonesian. Both these identities make ME. They are equally important to me. I cannot be gay without being Indonesian, and I cannot be Indonesian without being gay.

You see, when I lived in Indonesia, I struggled. I couldn’t be my gay self. Whether at school, church, or anywhere, I had no space to ever explore my sexual identity. So I was really excited to come to The Netherlands, you can imagine.

When I was 18 years old, I came to this country. I came into this country not knowing where to start, who I am. All I knew was the promise of ‘Western freedom’, ‘sexual liberation’. NONE of which were true.

When I came here, I wasn’t just gay anymore. I was suddenly gay and brown. I was suddenly gay and Indonesian. All in a shameful and negative light, internalization.

Racism. Just because you’re gay, does not mean you understand every oppression. Because gay people can be racist. And gay people, unfortunately, are racist.

Translation in Dutch

When I first came to Leiden University, I wanted to join something called the “Equality Club”. I can tell you now it was nothing but equal.

You see, when I wanted to join the board… they invited people to come. I sent them emails, I messaged them, I tried calling them. I received no response.

The next day I saw the same faces they usually appoint in the board. It was just the faces of white gay people.

I decided to give them another chance. I went to one of their events. Hopeful that if I couldn’t be part of the committee, I’d at least make some lgbt friends.

When I came there, there wasnt even a welcome. I felt excluded the entire night. And this is a queer space, mind you. Eventually I even left early. I never joined another event again. They didn’t contact me, they didn’t show me any interest. Nothing.

I wonder how many other queer black and people of colour who have struggled and juggled with their sexual and racial/ethnic identities have experienced the same type of ignorance. I can tell you now, one is too many.

Whether in the Equality Club, at gay clubs and gay bars or even online through Grindr, I was rejected, I was fetishized, I was boxed based on the color of my skin and my ethnicity.

For a long time I just wanted be my gay self. I wanted everything to be part of this gay community.

In order to make space for that I did everything i could to hide my brownness, and everything to hide my indonesianess.

I was actively chosing to forget my roots, to betray my culture, my people. Nothing was ever enough.

I felt ugly, I felt worth less. Not worthy of love from anyone. But worst of all, not worthy of love for myself.

I turned bulimic. I wanted to be the ideal gay they portray in Hollywood. I’m a Twink, I’m a bear, need to shave, need not to shave, need to grow, need to lose weight, need to be light. I did everything I could to fit in.

The gay community is toxic. Toxic because it’s overly masculine. Toxic because it’s racist. Toxic because it’s fat phobic. Toxic beyond my own personal struggles, cis normative, sexist, ablelist, colorism.

For me, and for many others. Racist. The gay community is racist.

But I’m not alone. I’m with other BIPOC’s, who are queer. Who understand the struggle of being queer. Who understand the struggle of being a certain race that isn’t white. Who understand the struggle of holding on to their roots without fear or shame. Together we understand the complexities of our mingled identities.

Intersectionality is key. Intersectionality!

In the words of Audrey Lorde, I quote: “There is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives”. End quote. I say it again: there is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.

Now I can now say: I’m happily brown. I’m happily Indonesian. And I’m happily gay. And I’m here to stay.

We are happily BIPOC, we are happily queer, and we are all here!

Thank you for listening!


Alles over de Leidse Queer Pride March / Everything about the Leiden Queer Pride March