The Gays Aren’t All White, The Desis Aren’t All Straight: Exploring Queer Subjectivity in the Toronto South Asian Diaspora
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The purpose of this research project is to approach a better understanding of queer South Asian diasporic identity and experience as it exists in Toronto, Canada. It attempts do so through the narratives of five individuals who self-identify with this subjectivity . A review of literature found that our current sexual subjectivities have emerged in co-production with our racial ones – demonstrating both the social contingencies of ‘sexuality’ as we understand it today, and the current utility of sexuality discourse towards racializing ends. This review also found that South Asian queer diasporic individuals – in the negotiation of their multiple Otherizations – have the potential to be both complicit in, and resistant to, the overlapping structures of race and sexuality through which human difference is organized and hierarchized. Given this theoretical context as a foundation, this project found that queer South Asian diasporic individuals encounter both racism and homophobia/transphobia, and yet lack the availability of community spaces in which to process and heal from such incidents – and as such, experience feelings of loneliness, displacement, and invisibility. Further, many subscribe to a belief in a conflict between their racial and sexual identities – a conflict that has inspired different and opposing strategies for reconciliation. All participants found both value and limitations in the frameworks and languages available for organizing their subjectivity – including in the concept of ‘queer’ that is increasingly adopted as a catch-all for non-normative sexualities worldwide - but differed in their conceptualization of the self as ‘essential’ versus context-dependent. An unanticipated finding was a common distancing from the institutionalized religions they had been socialized into. These findings elicited further analysis on the complicity of queer South Asian diasporic individuals in processes of racialization, the limitations of Western queer ‘Pride’ movements, and both the elusiveness and hope of a ‘home’ for those Otherized on multiple grounds. Finally, and importantly, this project found that the stories of queer South Asians living in Toronto are ones of savvy, resilience, creativity, resistance – and indeed, of joy.