The Problem with Whiteness and Wealth Within the Queer Community

“We ate at a hotel restaurant, where I spent too much money on not enough food, served by men of color who were courteous in spite of our ever-changing party and ever-changing food orders. Jo and her friends were all going to the party after dinner and were dressed accordingly, in black plastic miniskirts and diamond earrings, three-piece suits and golden cufflinks, hair carefully molded and shaved in all the right places. In my blue jeans and faded chamois shirt, I felt conspicuous and embarrassed” (41).

In this passage, Clare draws our attention to the issue of class and race within urban, queer communities. Throughout this entire chapter, Clare draws on the issue of “metronormativity” being a large part of what makes him feel like an outsider as a queer person as he grew up in a largely rural, conservative, and working-class area. Through this detailed description of the national queer writers’ conference, he further lays out the issue of exclusivity in the queer community. 

This passage is filled with a number of binary oppositions. For example, when describing the group of queer writers he is with, he describes them as being “dressed accordingly” (41). With this word “accordingly,” Clare emphasizes that there is a “right way” and “wrong way” to be a queer person in an urban, academic environment. Meanwhile, he describes himself as being “conspicuous.”  By using this word, he emphasizes how he not only fails to fit within these expectations but feels like an outsider in a community of which he is a part. 

Another area where Clare’s writing especially stands out is when he decides to include that his party was “served by men of color.” Including the race of the waiters in the description, further calls attention to the binary of “fitting in” and “not fitting in” that is seen in this passage. This contrasts well with “ever-changing party and ever-changing food order,” implying that there was a sense of entitlement or superiority that was felt by these white, upper-middle-class, queer people in expecting their food to be served even with these high demands. 

In this passage, Clare calls the readers to see how intersectionality in the queer community is often overlooked, whether through accessibility (in this case wealth), appearance, or other identities such as race. This passage relates well to what Dennis expressed about his experience in the queer community as a Chinese-American man in “My Image of Myself: An Interview with Dennis,” stating that “there are a lot of gay images that emphasize whiteness…I’m angry about that” (15-16). Both Dennis and Clare are calling attention to an issue of exclusivity in the queer community in which white and wealthy individuals are seen as the norm while those who are not either of those things struggle to find a place. Clare states that he is often left “feeling queer in the queer community” (42), implying that while attempting to be inclusive of marginalized genders and sexualities, the queer community often fails at fighting for the many overlapping identities that come with queerness. 

One thought on “The Problem with Whiteness and Wealth Within the Queer Community”

  1. I really liked how you broke down the specific language of this passage; focusing on “accordingly” helped to emphasize the way in which Clare constantly fails to fit in with the communities that he’s supposed to belong to. I thought that your connection back to Dennis was also useful at communicating the way alienation within the LGBTQ+ community can arise out of a white superiority background, and although Clare does not suffer from that specific type of alienation, he’s aware that its effects are so prevalent that they can be casually represented on a national stage.

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