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The Globe and Mail: The LBGTQ community has Pride, but it also has prejudice


Owen Guo

Special to The Globe and Mail


Published 1 hour ago

Owen Guo is a Toronto-based freelance writer.


As the Pride floats glided past exuberant onlookers on a sunny day in Vancouver, it wasn’t the topless guys who looked like Calvin Klein models that made my heart flutter.

It was 2017, and I had just turned 30, not yet out of the closet. A Pride newbie, I watched queer folks of different skin colours ambling down the street, dancing and chanting slogans of love and solidarity. Marching alongside them were toddlers waving Pride flags and dogs with rainbow bowties. After years of living in the closet in China, I felt like I belonged – finally.

That is, until later that week, when I opened the dating app Grindr.


After I said hi, one guy shot back, “No one is looking for Asians!” Another man, upon learning I was from China, replied, “I don’t sleep with Chinese guys because of what your government did in Tibet.” Both were white.

It’s as if the stirring chants I heard at the Pride parade curdled into a torrent of online insults, hurled from my fellow gay men, in the midst of the most joyful time of the year. All this, in a city that was every bit as Asian as it was gay.

As I mark another Pride month in Canada, I’m reminded of a hard, inconvenient truth: The gay community, which projects an image of camaraderie and solidarity, can also perpetuate discrimination within its own ranks.

It’s a problem that’s been well documented. A 2012 paper from York University, based on interviews with queer people in Toronto, where I now live, found that “intergroup and broader systemic racism infiltrates the LGBTQ community, rendering invisible the lived experiences of many LGBTQ people of colour.” In 2015, an FS Magazine survey revealed that 80 per cent of Black men and 79 per cent of Asian men have experienced racism in Britain’s gay scene. And a 2021 study of South Asian gay and bisexual men in the Greater Toronto Area painted a similar picture: Many respondents reported “feeling excluded by the white-dominated gay community,” which led to “experiences of loneliness and social isolation.” While descriptions like “No fats, no femmes, no Asians” may be less common on dating apps today, racial slurs and taunts can still happen.

Consider the anecdotes of racism depicted in Canadian media. One Toronto man told the CBC that someone once called him a “palatable Black” online. And in an interview with the Tyee, an Iranian gay man said he’s been called a terrorist and told to “go back to his country” on the apps and in gay bars.

As a relative newcomer to both Canada and the gay community, this has been jarring. After all, the LGBTQ movement, which gave us Pride month, sprang from a collective protest against hate, bigotry and injustice. The gay community fought against police raids and marched for equal rights and fair treatment. We’ve worked to eliminate discrimination of all kinds and in all places, from corporate boardrooms to bathrooms.

Gay people have come a long way. In Canada, sex between men was considered a criminal act until 1969. A little more than three decades later, in 2003, Canada moved to legalize same-sex marriage. Today, queer people in Canada benefit from strong workplace protections at a time when rainbow signs adorn many public places.

I’ve also come a long way. As a young adult in China, I went to great lengths to conceal my attraction to men. I deepened my voice and parroted the same excuse of being picky with women when my friends asked about my love life. I even contemplated marrying a lesbian just to placate my parents.


The closet that once confined me is no more. Moving here to Canada was a chance to reboot my life and connect with a community I had never truly known. I’m grateful for the freedoms Canada has afforded me – freedoms I couldn’t have dreamt of back home.

Sadly, coming out doesn’t necessarily mean coming together.


These days, I often find myself navigating multiple layers of identity, like a minority within a minority group. Being gay is celebrated in Canada – yet I can’t shake the feeling that being gay and Asian can be a world apart.

As cities across Canada throw themselves into Pride celebrations this month, we should unapologetically celebrate the progress that queer folks have made. But let’s not forget that the root of the LGBTQ movement was a united demand for equitable treatment. To truly honour the spirit of that movement, we need to learn to treat one another with respect and dignity.


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