By James Fitzpatrick
Review by Jarad Johnson
White Gays is a poem I came across in the New Yorker. It’s a conversation about privilege within the gay community, specifically among white gay males. In some ways it’s the same problem that the rest of society is facing: that, in gay culture, the white gay man is still favored in every aspect of our culture. They are seen as the standard, and the representation of all the diversity in the community is neglected. Because it’s a poem, it moves past the defenses of the rational and hits the reader on a more emotional level.
Even though it can be difficult to acknowledge that there are many problems within the gay community, they are there and are still ongoing; furthermore, these problems very much reflect the issues facing all of society. We see a similar problem in Hollywood with diversity representation, and it’s still prevalent across all other forms of media.
The poem itself is very well-written. One of my favorite lines is, “Proximity is the problem with White Gays. I’m one of them, so I can say that.” Basically, what the author is trying to say is that the ideal of the white gay man has been so assimilated into our largely heteronormative and patriarchal based society that we are in close proximity to the white, cisgendered, straight man; but, like all of society, the rest of the community has been left behind. In fact, GMFA, who recently did a survey regarding racism in the gay community, found that seven in ten gay black men have experienced racism in the dating scene. Also, according to the website United Humanists, “All of the Arab men surveyed had experienced racism and believe it is a problem. Among other ethnicities, 86% of South Asian gay men, 81% of South East and East Asian gay men and 78% of gay men of mixed ethnicity said they had experienced racism. However less than half (49%) of white gay men thought racism was a problem.” Obviously, that is a huge problem, one that this poem is trying to highlight.
To me, this just illustrates how much more work has to be done in the LGBTQ+ community. We have come such a long way in regard to social equality, but there seems to be a lack of internal equality that must be addressed. I think the poem sums it up best with the lines, “Privilege is a tease, we forget, what we learned in grade school. Even spread in his lap, everything for the taking taken from someone.” Privilege is something that must be acknowledged and overcome everywhere, and it is only through that acknowledgement and the representation of all the diversity in that community, and indeed society as a whole, that we will move forward.
Jarad attends Middle Tennessee State University, loves tea, and tries to spend every spare second reading. Jarad is majoring in English. Bless his heart! Let's all light a candle for him and send him happy thoughts!