Ireland is seen as one of the most progressive countries in the world, but for LGBTQI+ People of Colour and Travellers, it can be a very different place. Proud AF is a campaign by us here at the Gay Project which aims to highlights racism amongst GBTQI+ men in Ireland.
The national Proud AF campaign, which is government-funded, will platform Queer men of colour and Queer men who are Travellers, making them loud, proud and visible across the country in washrooms, digital screens, video content and a social media campaign. Gay Project encourages People of Colour, Travellers and their community allies to share their experiences and stories on social media using the hashtag #ProudAF.
Taking part in the campaign are community activist and art director Pradeep Mahadeshwar, drag queen Viola Gayvis, law student and asylum rights advocate Bulelani Mfaco, TikTok star and mental health advocate Darren Collins, and Delroy Mpofu, who has just begun his studies at UCD
Queer men of colour and Queer men who are Travellers experience both homophobia and racism in Ireland which can lead to isolation and feelings of invisibility in our generally white, settled GBTQI+ communities. We are proud that Ireland is seen as one of the most progressive countries in the world for GBTQI+ but POC and Travellers are often not accepted and included. Through storytelling and lived experience, this campaign will explore the racism, bias and exclusion that is hurting our POC and Traveller siblings, such as sexual racism, racial profiling, objectification and fetishisation, cultural differences and discrimination perpetuated by white and settled GBTQI+ people.
Find out more below about the ways in which our LGBTQI+ family are harmed by racism, bias and exclusion. #ProudAF is a call to action that asks the wider community to examine their own behaviours and to change them in order to make our community a more accepting and inclusive place for everyone.
There is an expansive list of identities that make up our beautiful, vibrant LGBTQ community, however, holding certain identities results in increased discrimination, prejudice, and oppression. Intersectionality is an analytic framework that identifies how systems of power impact those who are most marginalised in society. Although they often face the same oppressors, the life of a white, cis-gendered gay man is very different to that of a transgender asylum seeker in the same country. In order for the LGBTQI+ community to achieve collective action for inclusion, it must first acknowledge that Queer men of colour and Queer men who are Travellers experience Ireland differently from those who are white and settled.
Sexual racism is a specific form of racial prejudice that takes place in the context of sex or romance. Typically prevalent on dating and hookup apps, people use their profiles to announce their racialised attraction through language, such as “Not attracted to Asians.” Sexual racism is a highly contentious issue amongst the GBTQI+ community as some excuse it as ‘a matter of preference.’ Speaking about sexual racism, Proud AF’s Pradeep Mahadeshwar said “There is this assumption that only bad people are racist, but each person has their biases. The biases become toxic when your bias is affecting my livelihood, or my mental health or that of a group of people. Your personal preference is also a way of indirectly implementing your inner racist view on other people.”
Discrimination is the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age, sexual orientation, or disability. Queer men of colour and Queer men who are Travellers are more likely to experience racial/ethnic stigma in what are meant to be LGBTQI+ spaces. Proud AF’s Bulelani Mfaco said ‘“We used to assume for many, many years in the LGBTQ+ community that our queer-friendly spaces would be safe spaces for us, but you don’t find the same experience when you are a person of color.’ People of Colour and Travellers can for example be refused entry into an LGBTQI+ bar because incorrect assumptions about their identities. This is discrimination and it has no place within the community, or anywhere else.
To objectify or fetishise someone is to view and/or treat a person as an object, devoid of any thought or feeling. Fetishisation can be thought of as the act of making someone an object of sexual desire based on some aspect of their identity. For LGBQTI+ People of Colour, it reduces them to objects of sexual pleasure and gratification. Speaking as part of the Proud AF campaign, Viola Gayvis said ‘It’s very prevalent, especially on the apps, which is the part of the world that we live in. People will come to me and the first message is ‘I’ve never been with a Black guy’ or ‘I’ve always wanted to be with a Black guy.’ I’m not going to be your experiment – I’m not another notch on your bedpost. If you want to get with me, get with me because you like me. Don’t get with me because of the colour of my skin, or to fulfil some fetish or fantasy.”
Inclusion is the practice of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalised, such as those who have physical or mental disabilities and members of other minority groups. Interviewed for the Proud AF campaign, Delory Mpofu, said ‘I’ve had a really interesting and positive experience being here in Ireland. Sometimes I even forget that I’m all by myself in Ireland. It’s the community that’s been there. When the community comes together and stands for someone, you believe in yourself, and all the good things happen to you.” Everyone, regardless of their race or ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity, deserves equal access to opportunities and services and their safety should be protected. Only then will our LGBTQ+ family truly thrive. “The community is vibrant, and diverse – the only thing missing is inclusion.” – Pradeep Mahadeshwar