Kansas White Boy, Interrupted.

ImageEvery wonder why the rainbow is synonymous with gay culture? Those six colors that fly proudly on flags and are affixed affectionately on bumper stickers are actually a representation of diversity. The gay community is unique as a minority group in that it has no monolithic ethnic, racial, religious, or cultural heritage. It’s simply a collection of people whose sexual orientation is, well, queer.

Although white isn’t a color in the “gay rainbow” it’s certainly the unofficially color of the gay community.  Just as with society at-large, gay Caucasians get the lion’s share of attention, power, and respect. Meanwhile LGBT people of color, many of whom come from cultural backgrounds averse to homosexuality, are marginalized two-fold. It’s not uncommon for them to lose their family because of their sexual orientation and then subsequently have difficulties finding acceptance from their gay peers because of their ethnicity.   If you’re openly gay and not white, you probably feel like you’re running with a double edged sword pointed at your abdomen.

Recently, I got to witness this pain up-close when I met a guy named O. He was born and still lives in New Jersey, but his parents immigrated to the US from Pakistan. O is about as American as you can get, insisting on eating a Wendy’s hamburger every time  I opine about the food at ICT’s Indo-Paki Bistro, Zaytun. The first time that we talked, I felt an instant spark. His personality was an enticing blend of intellectual brilliance, geeky precociousness, and political savviness.   I wanted him. He wanted me. Unfortunately, reality got in the way.

When we start a relationship, we usually bring our baggage with us. The luggage that O was carrying was given to him by others, though. His parents moved to a foreign country and brought the values from their mother land with them; meanwhile their kid grew up with an exclusively American experience, feeling detached from the traditions his parents held dear. He made a very brave move by coming out in high school—something South Asian kids don’t do because it scorns the family’s name. Right around the time he began getting harassed in school for being gay, September 11th happened. Suddenly, he was a fag and a terrorist.

One night, O tearfully confessed to me that he felt ugly, dirty, and disgusting.  He couldn’t be with me because he could barely tolerate himself. Everywhere he turned, he was being told that he was sub-human and less-than. At the intersection of personal freedom and cultural reality, he had become a dart board for all of the world’s social phobias.

I realized then that there are some things my white entitlement just can’t grab. Kansas white boy, interrupted.

This experience has also interrupted the focus on this column. It’s time to make Homo on the Range more reflective of not just the iconic rainbow that’s supposed to represent everyone in the gay community, but also more reflective of the rich cultural diversity within our city. So, I want to hear your stories! Over the next few months, I want to profile a gay Wichitan from a different racial/ethnic background. I’m particularly interested in finding a local Middle Eastern/Indian, African American, Latino, and Asian to talk to about the conflicts between personal honesty and cultural traditions. Identities can be concealed and will be held in the strictest of confidences.

E-mail me at jasonaarondilts@gmail.com.  Gays may be a divergent group of people united by a simple trait, but we can coalesce to increase understanding and awareness within all communities right here in The ICT.

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