Members of LGBTQ community voices hardships | The Collegian

Members of LGBTQ community voices hardshipsPosted by: Jeanine Fiser Mar 17, 2016 His conservative, Hmong mother told him it would be better that he were dead than gay the first time Fresno State student Shai Chang approached the topic of homosexuality.“I asked her what she thought of gay people, and she immediately was like, ‘are you gay?! Are you gay?!,” Chang said. “Basically, she made it seem like she had wasted her time raising me if I was gay, that it would be better if I was dead.”Chang and several other “queer students of color” shared such experiences at a panel discussion on Wednesday. Many of them touched on the complexities of being both gay and of a minority race.The discussion was hosted by the Cross Culture and Gender Center (CCGC) at Fresno State to give queer students of color a platform to voice their issues. Joury Robles, lead student coordinator of LGBTQ+ programs and services at the CCGC, moderated.Five students of varied ethnic backgrounds and sexual orientations spoke at the event. At the introduction, each student identified his or her most salient identities:Jose Leanos: Anthropology student, Mexican-American or Chicano, homosexual male.Danika Brumbeloe: Fashion merchandising student, biracial (black and white), bisexual/queer, “bi to the core.”Cecilia Knadler: Women’s studies and criminology student, from Lima, Peru, fluid lesbian/queer.Shai Chang: Sociology student, Hmong-Asian, gay.Polet Campos: Anthropology student, “queer-Catholic-Chicana.”Although all the students hold unique identities, they face many similar issues of intersectionality. That is, they face a combination of oppressive institutions such as racism, sexism and homophobia.“Our struggles are all very different, but they are all very significant,” Chang said. “We go through oppression twice – first, from our ethnicity and then from our sexuality. It’s really hard to be oppressed not just once but twice.”Bridging the language barrierOne of the biggest obstacles Chang said he faced in expressing himself and his identity to his family was finding the right words. Articulating his sexuality is uniquely difficult given the limitations of his family’s native language.“In Hmong, there isn’t a word to describe what gay is or what lesbian is,” Chang said. “The closest word is a Thai word, but it more closely describes transgender people. Many Hmong can’t understand because they are very conservative and close-minded – they see the LGBT community as a white people’s problems.”Chang was not the only panelist who discussed problems with limited vocabulary to describe a subject as complicated as human sexuality. Campos said Spanish does not encompass a word for bisexual or queer, which made her coming out conversation difficult and confusing. She said the term that kept coming up was ‘tortilla.’Usually, “tortilla” is used in a derogatory way to describe a lesbian or bisexual. The term comes from the tortilla-making process which involves patting tortilla dough back-and-forth.“I mean what kind of shit is that?,” Campos said. “It was really hard to have that sort of pushed on to me. It’s one of those things where my identity isn’t taken seriously because I’m just a ‘tortilla.’”Oppression on campusMost of the students had felt some type of oppression while on Fresno State’s campus. Some of the instances were obvious as felt by Leanos, Brumbeloe and Campos.Leanos said he first felt like an outsider in a freshman anthropology class when he presented his career goal of study sub-groups in the LGBT community.“After that, the professor never called on me, and no one would sit by me. I felt isolated,” Leanos said. “I sort of gave up after that. I don’t say much about LGBT in classes anymore. The experience shut me up.”Brumbeloe and Campos were targeted by the preachers who recently visited campus. Brumbeloe said the preachers saw a rainbow bracelet on her wrist and verbally attacked her.“To be screamed at in public was so harmful to who I am,” Brumbeloe said. “I have never been so openly hated before in my life, and to have our school say they can’t do anything about it because it’s not hate speech. I was openly hated on this campus, to the point where I avoid that area now.”Campos said she was telling a professor about the preachers being hateful and was asked if she did anything that was gay to provoke them. She said people assume she is straight based on her appearance, so if she is a target of homophobia, she must have done something “openly gay.”“Stereotypes dig deep when they are reinforced by professors and other students,” Campos said.Chang said he most often deals with disguised oppression. He said professors and students often contribute to an invisible but hostile environment.“It’s not always apparent, but you can sense it,” Chang said. “It’s the little remarks that make you uncomfortable. It makes going to class hard…sometimes I feel like I can’t succeed in classes because I can’t connect with people in class.”Navigating the w

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