Interview: Queer People of Colour, Racism and Dating

A Black man hugs a White man from the back with another man hugging them from the side

I was interviewed on Triple J ‘s ‘The Hook Up‘ program (listen from 1:12:49) about sexual racism in queer communities.

Nat Tencic: We’re talking about racism and the experiences of queer people of colour in dating. And to answer some of those more big picture questions, like why are we seeing this internal minority struggle, we’re joined right now by sociologist, Dr Zuleyka Zevallos. She specialises in issues of gender and sexuality, culture, discrimination and diversity. Dr Zevallos, welcome and thank you for joining us.

Zuleyka: Hi. Thanks for having me.

Nat: I think that first big picture question is something that really interests me: why do we see this happening in the queer community? Why when you’re already discriminated against do you see that next level of discrimination come through so loudly?

Zuleyka: I think for some people it seems counterintuitive because, obviously, queer communitites are facing discrimination along sexual lines. But at the same time, all of us live in the same society that is dominated by whiteness. We have a long history of discrimation against Indigenous communities and against migrant people, especially migrant people of colour. When we look at it in a social context, LGBTQIA communities are surrounded by the same social influences when it comes to race, [same] as straight people.

Nat: And that’s pretty much there, it is, just what it is. What else might make dating more difficult for people of colour in Australia?

Zuleyka: It comes down to the fact that Australia is a very diverse nation. Around half of all Australians are either a first or second-generation migrant – a second generation migrant is someone who was born in Australia with at least one parent born overseas. So that’s about half of our nation who have a migrant heritage, but they come from over 190 different countries. Similarly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, while they make up 3% of the national population, they have their origins in over 200 different cultural and language groups. So there’s this really rich diversity that makes our country very special, but it also means that the majority of these small groups are very small.

There’s a lot of diversity, but there’s really not a lot of people within those, and then the numbers obviously go down even further for LGBTQIA people of colour. So meeting someone from the same cultural or racial background is really tough.

And we also know from research looking at patterns of how people date and also marriage patterns and general partnerships, that the majority of migrants and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people tend to partner up with people outside their own ethnic and racial background. So there’s a lot of diversity, at the same time, racism is a part of everyday life for Indigenous people and for other people of colour.

A lot of our national surveys show this. There’s a really important study that was done by Western Sydney University, which found that around 35% of Australian minorities have experienced racism, particularly on public spaces, like on public transport or when they’re walking down the street. And then for Aboriginal people, they actuallly face 2.5 times the rate of recurring racism compared to non-Indigenous people.
And when it comes to online spaces, up to 90% of Aboriginal people have experienced racism or witnessed racism online.

This actually shows that racism is a recurring part of everyday life for minorities. The patterns are just being replicated in online spaces for LGBTQIA people of colour. Perhaps it’s also a bit more overt for people to notice on dating apps because people are putting those prejudices on their profile. But the patterns are the same.

We’ve got a study that was published in Australia, of over 2,000 gay and bisexual men – that study found that queer men see sexual racism as being just a normal part of their personal preferences. It’s something that they’re really open about.

There was a really amazing study that was recently published by Stonewall, that found that around half of all LGBT people of colour have experienced racism within their local LGBT community groups. But for Black LGBT people, arond 61% have been discriminated against in queer spaces.

We’re just seeing the same sorts of patterns that happen in straight spaces also in queer communities because racism is such a deeply embedded aspect of our society that we’re still grappling with and that we still need to work really hard at, not just at the interpersonal level, but also at the societal level, to batlle.

Nat: So it’s kind of that the pool is so small that it sort of has this amplifying effect, I suppose.

Zuleyka: Yeah, I think so. The numbers are, as you’re saying, very small. And then it’s a multiplying effect for queer people of colour, where they’re facing racism in broader society, when they’re walking down the street or at work or when they’re at uni [university]. And then they’re going into dating apps or they’re going in other queer spaces and they’re facing that [racism] on top of other forms of racial discrimination that they face.

[Interview ends 1:19:23]