Opinion

Diversity Has To Be More Than Skin Deep

Stephen Rainbow
Written by Stephen Rainbow

A Commentary by Stephen Rainbow. Gay tolerance he suggests should run much further than the colour of your skin.


Three Pakehas, a Brazilian, a Malaysian Chinese and a Chinese. Last Thursday’s dinner gathering, not untypical among gay people in Auckland in terms of cultural diversity. Combined with our passion for travel and the global connections this leads to, there’s an impression that the gay world is a bastion of multicultural diversity  and tolerance.

Yet only very recently in Auckland the controversy involving a leader of the gay community was all about race. And express recently published a scathing personal attack on U.S. entrepreneur and sometimes NZ resident, Peter Thiel, suggesting that the gay world’s tolerance and acceptance should not be extended to anyone is rich, white and right-wing. Further afield in Chicago recently a Dykes’ March -out of some misplaced anti-Israeli sentiment- said Jewish people were not welcome on their pride march. 

The veil of tolerance and diversity is very thin. At a recent readers and writers event in Sydney the gay session was so obsessed with adding to the alphabet soup of LGBTI that one of the panelists spoke of boycotting “middle class white mens’ events” like the Vancouver Pride Parade. The fact that only a few days earlier two gay men just across the water in the sharia-law state of Aceh had received inhumane lashings precisely because they were gay wasn’t even mentioned. 

Sometimes it seems that our view of diversity is very limited and that we assume that even the new people who arrive in our gay world will automatically share our views, values and assumptions. But when you come from a country like Brazil where allegedly 3,000 gays have been killed in recent years in what’s been called a “homocaust”, or you’ve arrived from a totalitarian Communist state or the Islamic world, chances are it won’t just be the colour of your skin that will be different. You will also have different views and values as well, and why do we cherish these any less than the colour of your skin?

It’s no accident that two of the main defenders of western civilisation against religious extremism (well Islamism actually) in the world today, Milo Yiannopoulos and my hero, Douglas Murray, are both gay. They’re fulfilling the historical role of gay men as the defenders of civilisation but their views are far from those of the dominant views of the gay commentariat. Are they, like Peter Thiel, then, not gay because they don’t share an assumed set of political views?

One of the most liberating things that I’ve learnt in life is that we can draw on all human cultures and all human history as we attempt to answer the personal and social challenges we face today. To be stuck in a box with “gay” on the lid that assumes a set of views and values is the opposite of the diversity and tolerance we can be rightly proud of in the multicultural gay world. Diversity and tolerance needs to extend beneath the skin, to the range of views, values and beliefs that gay people hold and to which the multicultural nature of the gay world has given us unprecedented access if only we choose to listen.

 

 

About the author

Stephen Rainbow

Stephen Rainbow

Stephen Rainbow Ph.D. In his 50 brief years he has gained a doctorate; been elected to public office; lived with a woman and had three children; lived in two long-term gay relationships and experienced the loss of both partners. He is committed to telling the unique stories of gay men, from a more theoretical perspective.

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