Relationships are complex. No matter what, a strong one requires a lifetime of effort, integrating your life with your partner’s. However, those in LGBTQIA+ interracial relationships deal with additional layers of prejudice, misunderstanding, and internal conflict that their peers may not.
Never fear, this basic guide is here to help you and your partner navigate the intersectional waters and celebrate your relationship every day! Because love wins, always.
Double the difficulty: being in a queer interracial relationship
Let’s start by diving into the specific struggles of each part of your identity. Belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community comes with its own struggles, as does your race and ethnic identity.
Once you’re in an LGBTQIA+ interracial relationship, some of those struggles overlap and others don’t. It’s important to identify what you’re working with and understand where those overlaps exist.
Struggling to find your space in the LGBTQIA+ community
Discovering and understanding your sexual identity is crucial to living your best, most authentic life.
But, this isn’t easy. Coming out is one of the biggest struggles LGBTQIA+ folks face in their lifetimes. While coming out should be a moment of joy, for many it means their biggest fears coming out with them.
After coming out, LGBTQIA+ folks face a multitude of struggles in the workplace and their personal lives. More than half of LGBTQ Americans report hiding a personal relationship to avoid discrimination of some kind. Additionally, 1 in 3 LBGTQIA+ folks have experienced some kind of discrimination in the last year. When discrimination arises, queer individuals often swallow their discomfort and tolerate inappropriate conversations.
Although family and the outside world can be difficult, support groups or chosen family are one of the greatest gifts within the LGBTQIA+ community. These people, often brought together by chance, become non-traditional family that should provide unconditional support.
The goal of a support group and/or chosen family is often to help ease each other’s struggles. But, there are times when no matter how supportive these people are, there are parts of you they may not understand. This can be especially relevant in your queer, interracial relationship, as 58% of the LGBTQIA+ population is white.
Struggling to find your place in your queer interracial relationship
Along with the struggles of coming out, queer interracial couples face additional hurdles due to race.
The LGBTQIA+ community owes many of their successes to the work of queer black folks, like Marsha P. Johnson and Bayard Rustin. Despite the worlk of these iconic figures, queer people of color face increased discrimination because of their double minority status.
Even though queer folks understand and face discrimination on many fronts, they lack experience with the lived struggles queer people of color face. A certain level of privilege exists for queer white folks simply because they are white. This makes the LGBTQIA+ community just as unsafe for queer people of color and their partners, if not more.
Even in the eyes of the law, interracial relationships were not recognized until 1967. The Loving v. Virginia decision, made on June 12, 1967, legalized interracial marriages in all 50 states. This groundbreaking decision is celebrated annually and appropriately titled Loving Day.
But, one day a year isn’t enough for us, and it certainly isn’t enough for you and your partner. Keep reading to find ways to make every day Loving Day!
How does the queer community receive interracial relationships?
Typically, the LGBTQIA+ community is an affirming space for people, regardless of age, gender identity, race, and ethnicity. LGBTQIA+ relationship demographics reflect this, as 20% of same-sex relationships are interracial. But, just because there are more interracial couples within the community doesn’t mean you won’t face discrimination.
So, what does discrimination look like? And how do you and your partner deal with feeling misunderstood in a space that’s supposed to be accepting?
Assumptions and microaggressions
You and your partner will experience assumptions or microaggressions regarding race, gender identity, or both. These assumptions and microaggressions can also exist within your relationship, as you both have different levels of privilege and bias.
Frankie Flores, Program Director for the LGBTQ Resouce Center at the University of New Mexico, talked to Supportiv about identifying assumptions and microaggressions intersectional couples face all too often.
Assumption #1: “Your relationship must be “spicy!’”
The first assumption Flores talked about was the inherent sexualization of interracial relationships. Phrases like “down for the brown ” and “no spice, no nice” are not only microaggressions, but they also sexualize based simply on skin color and assumed sexual behaviors.
When you add queerness to the mix, it only furthers the sexualization of BIPOC and queer people, and ultimately takes away from the culture of queerness. “Queerness isn’t about who you’re in love with or who you’re in bed with,” Flores explains. “It’s a culture that has survived and thrived, regardless of all of the outside forces that tried to stop us.”
In addition to the sexualization of you and your partner, these assumptions can damage your relationship. The assumptions that BIPOC folks are sexually dominant or aggressive are harmful on a personal level, but can also cause tension if you or your partner feel like they aren’t meeting “expectations”.
Assumption #2: If you’re white, you decided your BIPOC partner was “worthy”
Flores called this assumption an “unspoken point of contention” in interracial relationships. Unfortunately, if you are in an interracial relationship where one person is white, assumptions are common. Most often, others assume that the white person gave something up by dating a BIPOC person.
This kind of thinking only reinforces white supremacy and needs to be addressed. When you see or are in an interracial relationship, it is easy to immediately question another person’s loyalty to their community. This underlying assumption can also introduce feelings about financial success and social mobility, adding yet another layer to your relationship. These are difficult assumptions to overcome, but don’t worry, we have some tips just around the corner.
Assumption #3: In your queer, interracial relationship, the white person has power over you
Last, but certainly not least, Flores talked about the role of race and cultural norms in relationships. They stated, “There is always the underlying potential that if I am a white person in an interracial relationship, I will always be in a position of authority.”
This can be a difficult assumption to unpack, but white authority has deep roots, and you need to address this topic. As the white person in your relationship, you have to be willing to interrogate yourself and navigate your own privilege to be a good partner and ally. As a BIPOC person, it’s important to remember that white privilege is not something white people ask for. However, you and your partner have to sit in discomfort as you unpack privilege in all of its forms.
Strategies for avoiding discomfort and living freely
Alright, now it’s time for all the good tips and tricks! Being in a queer, interracial relationship comes with challenges, but it doesn’t have to be hard. We’ve pulled together a few strategies to help make every day a little bit more like Loving Day!
Communication is key
This may seem like a given, but so often we avoid hard conversations about race. Race plays a significant role in your intersectional relationship, and the only way to work through privilege is through honest, clear communication.
Flores also advocates for this strategy saying, “One of the most damaging things for interracial relationships is lack of communication. There’s the issue of coming out and fear of rejection, but we also have to talk about race.”
We know these conversations can be difficult to navigate, so here are a few tips:
- Approach the conversation not with a need to be right, but with the intent to understand.
- When your partner is talking, listen! And by listen we mean, actively listen.
- Restate your partner’s thoughts and ask questions to indicate active listening
Ultimately, the best thing you can do is approach the conversation with a growth mindset and be willing to listen to understand your partner instead of talking to be heard.
Unpack your own racism and privilege
The truth is, we’re all problematic and we all have inherent bias and privilege. Being in a queer, interracial relationship doesn’t make you immune to those biases and privileges either.
This takes serious self-reflection for white folks and BIPOC. Self-reflection is ongoing, and both need to utilize this strategy to maintain a healthy relationship. Flores also pointed out that simple acts of acknowledgment help both partners.
“It can be as simple as going to the department store and looking for a bra that is flesh-toned, and only finding a ‘nude’ bra that is shades and shades of light,” they explained. “As a white ally, saying ‘that sucks and I apologize’ shows that you’re acknowledging the privilege inherent in everyday life.”
Be willing to grow and learn all the time
The only way for you and your partner to continue to thrive in your queer interracial relationship is to recognize, understand and unpack privilege. For BIPOC folks, racism looks like life to them, and as white allies and partners, the goal is to continually fight side-by-side, hand-in-hand.
Constantly growing can be exhausting, but in an interracial relationship, there is always room to dismantle your own understandings, family traditions, and cultural assumptions. As you explore your lives you are also “learning how to integrate and honor each other’s identities and values”. Ultimately, growth only helps you both find ways to support each other and work better, together.
Although being in a queer, interracial relationship comes with some extra challenges, those challenges also come with growth, change, and of course, love! We wish you and your partner all the best, and if you need extra support, Supportiv’s online chats are available 24/7. Here’s to Loving Day, every day!