Babes in Queerland – Culture Vultures: A Commentary on White Theft

A commentary by Llondyn Elliot on cultural appropriation and anti-blackness in queer culture.

By Llondyn Elliot

I grew up in Portland.

Some of my first experiences with “queers” was the liberal, weed smoking, dread wearing people of Portland; liberals who vote for gay marriage, but not for affordable housing, weed smokers that perceive every Black man as a drug dealer, dread wearers who…wore dreads. I could never identify with or be in the same spaces as these “queers,” and they were part of the reason that I felt Queer was a label that was not for me.

I experienced a different sort of queer movement as I grew, one that was enriched with culture and was not an overly glorified second wave of hipster. These were the college students that went to Coachella, and would rather eat expensive hipster food than the bland locally sourced tofu of their predecessors. Walking into these queer spaces is like walking into a room of Black teenagers. You hear cries of “bae,” get told your “eyebrows are on fleek,” and get told to “work” followed by a finger snap. All of these words and phrases originating in the Black community, including the voices, and body language accompanying the stolen words. I found myself increasingly uncomfortable with these Queers. While the culture of these spaces was closer to the culture of my own, I knew it was nothing more than a stolen facade.

“The jarring anti-blackness of queer spaces is often overlooked by White Queers even when explicitly called out.”

White gay men steal from Black gay men, who in turn steal from Black women—their mothers, sisters, and friends. We see this in voguing, make-up practices and phrasing. Yet, when there is a CisHet appropriation of terms, the community cries, “this is ours, give it back,” before acknowledging they stole these cultural practices to begin with. I look to the history of erasing Black Queers, especially femmes, from queer history, a different but connected form of misogynoir mainly perpetuated by White gay men.

Those same White gay men that I know voted for Trump, because despite being from one marginalized community, they were from mostly a place of privilege. They believed, wholeheartedly, that Trump would never come for them—he was going after the bomb-making Muslims, the job-stealing Mexicans, the criminal Blacks and the whining women. Besides, they had likely rationed, Trump and Caitlyn Jenner were friends. Their queerness would not be threatened. This is nothing new.

Yet, the jarring anti-blackness of queer spaces is often overlooked by White Queers even when explicitly called out. “But Black people are so homophobic,” they cry. Or even worse, they simply refuse to acknowledge their racist actions.

We can no longer be content to deny where cultural appropriation exists, and we need to acknowledge where our words, actions, and general culture comes from. If you all fail to acknowledge the ways queer culture can harm POCs, especially Black folx, we will deepen the fractions in our community.

Anti-blackness and racism are rampant in our community. The only clear solution is making Intersectionality a priority in all of our spaces. We need to not mush all of our queer experiences into a single narrative, but compare and combine our stories. We need to be able to acknowledge and appreciate our cultural differences, or the most vulnerable will continue to suffer injustice even within our own communities.