While the world has focused its attention on the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, there’s another student movement gaining steam on the other side of the world.
The unfolding protests gripping Mexico began in the small town of Iguala, in the southwest region of Guerrero state, where the disappearance of 43 student teachers on the night of Sept. 26 has sparked outrage amid allegations of collaboration between local police and organized crime.
unfortunately, because our identity is mostly invisible, so are our struggles. what people don’t realize is that literally any identity that isn’t 100% heterosexual and cisgender is going to face persecution and prejudice in some form or another. corrective rape is a threat that has been leveled against gay people, bi people, other poly people, ace people, and trans people regardless of sexuality
folks get so aggressively protective of their spaces that they end up leaving out people who need help too, just because their struggles aren’t or don’t appear to be the same. but we live in a heterosexist and cissexist society, and it’s honestly impossible to escape that undamaged if you aren’t cishet (i mean, it’s damaging to cishet people as well, but that’s another rant)
and people’s experiences vary wildly. an ace person can receive heavy persecution from their conservative faith and threats of corrective rape, while a gay kid living in a progressive household may only hear some slurs a few times at school. and this isn’t even touching on how one’s race can affect the experience of a marginalized sexuality. a black bisexual trans woman’s experience is going to be quite different from that of a white cis gay man’s which will differ from that of an asexual east asian trans man’s
but the amount of persecution we personally face in our daily lives shouldn’t affect our welcome in the lbgtqia community. none of us are cishet, none of us are unconditionally accepted by the cisnormative-heteronormative society; that’s reason enough we should be welcomed and supported
“I never met [a] gay Korean before,” Ian Jeong, a sophomore in Nursing, said. “When you grow up in an environment where there aren’t many out Asians, you feel isolated.”
The 40-50 students who are involved with Penn Q&A — Queer and Asian — are aiming to remedy this problem. The club creates a safe space specifically for them, which has not existed on campus before.
Many Asian-American students are involved in either Asian or LGBTQ communities, but hardly ever both. Jeong has observed that they are more likely to join an Asian community than a group in the Lambda alliance. Even within Queer People of Color, a student group on campus, the representation of Asian queer students was relatively low because a lot of them were reluctant to be active members, he said.
“Gender binary is very strong in [the] Asian community,” Jeong said.
In addition to creating a community on campus, the group aims to support queer asian students.
“Being Asian and LGBT, we have our own specific issues we have to deal with that other LGBT minorities don’t have to,” Kevin Lin, a sophomore in Wharton and the founding member, said.
For instance, coming out to traditional Asian parents is a huge challenge.
“A lot of East Asian countries in the older generations don’t recognize the existence of LGBT youth,” Eliot Oblander , a sophomore in College and Wharton, said. “They see it like a disease brought in by Westerners.”
Q&A is at the very early stage as a nascent organization. The members wrote their constitution Saturday, and are currently seeking recognition from Lambda Alliance — the umbrella organization for LGBTQ student groups — and Asian Pacific Student Coalition.
The group is currently encouraging a sense of community within the members with upcoming social events.
Q&A is a space for everyone. Out queer students can meet other queer people. For those who are selectively out, the group is a safe space where they can be open, Jeong said.
Even for those who haven’t come out yet, Q&A is an assurance that there is a supportive community. “We want to be very visible,” Jeong said. “Just by being visible, people will know there is a group they can go to.”
The number of LGBTQ-related student organizations on campus is growing, with many of them targeting a specific demographic. Last semester, students founded a club for International LGBTQ students. Existing niche LGBTQ groups on campus include Queer Ladies at Penn, J-Bagel and Queer Christian Fellowship.
“There are both pros and cons of many niche organizations,” Bob Schoenberg , director of the LGBT Center, said. “Pro is that students have identified a place where their specific identities and needs can be addressed.”
On the other hand, Schoenberg also suggested the possibility of collaboration between many organizations can be difficult.
“It’s both an opportunity and a challenge,” he said.
John Carlos & Tommie Smith give Black Power salute at 1968 Mexico City Olympics medal ceremony
When the medals were awarded for the men’s 200-meter sprint at the 1968 Olympic Games, Life magazine photographer John Dominis was only about 20 feet away from the podium. “I didn’t think it was a big news event,” Dominis says. “I was expecting a normal ceremony. I hardly noticed what was happening when I was shooting.”
Indeed, the ceremony that October 16 “actually passed without much general notice in the packed Olympic Stadium,” New York Times correspondent Joseph M. Sheehan reported from Mexico City. But by the time Sheehan’s observation appeared in print three days later, the event had become front-page news: for politicizing the Games, U.S. Olympic officials, under pressure from the International Olympic Committee, had suspended medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos and sent them packing.
Smith and Carlos, winners of the gold and bronze medals, respectively, in the event, had come to the ceremony dressed to protest: wearing black socks and no shoes to symbolize African-American poverty, a black glove to express African-American strength and unity. (Smith also wore a scarf, and Carlos beads, in memory of lynching victims.) As the national anthem played and an international TV audience watched, each man bowed his head and raised a fist. After the two were banished, images of their gesture entered the iconography of athletic protest.
"It was a polarizing moment because it was seen as an example of black power radicalism," says Doug Hartmann, a University of Minnesota sociologist and the author of Race, Culture, and the Revolt of the Black Athlete: The 1968 Olympic Protests and Their Aftermath. “Mainstream America hated what they did.”
The United States was already deeply divided over the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement, and the serial traumas of 1968—mounting antiwar protests, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, the beating of protesters during the Democratic National Convention by Chicago police—put those rifts into high relief. Before the Olympics, many African-American athletes had talked of joining a boycott of the Games to protest racial inequities in the United States. But the boycott, organized by sociologist Harry Edwards, never came off.
As students at San Jose State University, where Edwards was teaching, Smith and Carlos took part in that conversation. Carlos, born and raised in Harlem, was “an extreme extrovert with a challenging personality,” says Edwards, now emeritus professor of sociology at the University of California at Berkeley. Smith, the son of sharecroppers who grew up in rural Texas and California, was “a much softer, private person.” When they raised their fists on the medals stand, they were acting on their own.
Among the Games athletes, opinions were divided. Australia’s Peter Norman, the winner of the silver medal in the 200-meter sprint, mounted the podium wearing a badge supporting Edwards’ organization. Heavyweight boxer George Foreman—who would win a gold medal and wave an American flag in the ring—dismissed the protest, saying, “That’s for college kids.” The four women runners on the U.S. 400-meter relay team dedicated their victory to the exiled sprinters. A representative of the USSR was quoted as saying, perhaps inevitably, “The Soviet Union never has used the Olympic Games for propaganda purposes.”
Smith and Carlos returned home to a wave of opprobrium—they were “black-skinned storm troopers,” in the words of Brent Musburger, who would gain fame as a TV sportscaster but was then a columnist for the Chicago American newspaper—and anonymous death threats. The pressure, Carlos says, was a factor in his then-wife’s suicide in 1977. “One minute everything was sunny and happy, the next minute was chaos and crazy,” he says. Smith recalls, “I had no job and no education, and I was married with a 7-month-old son.”