The Intersection of Sexual Orientation & Race

The Intersection of Sexual Orientation & Race

Considering the Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered People of Colour & Two-Spirited People (“GLBT People of Colour & two-spirited People”)1

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Executive Summary

Project Goals

  • Provide insight into the nature of the oppression/discrimination, the experiences, perspectives and needs of GLBT people of colour & Two-Spirited people in Canada.
  • Develop stronger coalitions between EGALE and individuals/organizations which primarily serve the needs of GLBT people of colour & Two-Spirited people
  • Facilitate links being made between participants of WCAR and Canadian individuals & organizations that primarily serve GLBT people of colour & Two-Spirited people.


  • Interviews conducted by the researcher with GLBT people of colour & Two-Spirited people in Canada from various ethnic and racial backgrounds.
  • Interviews conducted by the researcher with organizations that serve the needs of GLBT people of colour & Two-Spirited people (Please see the Report for contact details for these organizations.)
  • Completed surveys responding to questions related to: Personal Identity, Personal Experiences and General Reflections about Oppression & Discrimination, and Community and Familial Relationships.
  • A review of pre-existing published and unpublished materials on these subjects.

Key Finding

Although all GLBT & Two-Spirited people experience homophobia and heterosexism, they do not share one common identity. A person’s or group’s identity and his/her/their relative privilege or disadvantage vary depending upon the intersection or combination of a complex set of factors, such as race, sex, economic class, place/country of residence, physical/mental ability, family status, ethnicity, religion etc. Even within groups that share a common identity marker (such as race) the experiences of GLBT & Two-Spirited people vary. Here is some of what research participants had to say about their complex and varied lives:
I found it hard to embrace my gayness because so much of my energy was spent trying, in turn, to deny, erase, accept and defend my ethnic identity, which, after all, was the visible one, whereas gayness could be hidden. The double stress of having to deal with external and internalized racism, as well as external and internalized heterosexism, was a major factor in my development as a self-accepting, openly gay man.
Your friend is beaten up on the streetyou don’t know if it’s because the attacker didn’t like Indians or fags.
Regarding same-sex marriage and spousal rightsa large segment of the gay black population are not there yet. They cannot access these benefits. There is a need to deal with systemic issues first.
People go through hell trying to find reflections of themselves in the gay community.
[My father] experienced a tremendous amount of racism when he came to Canada in the late 1960’sand I remember him saying that, “you have one strike against you, you don’t need two.”
Being a person of colour makes me an outsider in mainstream queer communities. I haven’t been able to find a queer community that is understanding of my experience as a person of colour. I can feel as much alienated at a gay club as at a straight club.
I also believe that my ethnic background makes me less attractive to others of all races in a culture that prizes Whiteness. I sometimes believe it myself.
Self-esteem is definitely the biggest hurdle. I have had a sense of not fitting in my entire life, which, compounded by family rejection on racial and sexual orientation levels, does not provide a great basis for a healthy self-esteem.
At a lesbian bar, a woman leered at me and called me “shiva” years ago
People of colour in Canada often have to make a choice between participating in their ethnic/racial community or the gay White community. This is a painful choice.
There is no safe place.


Substantial efforts must be made to challenge the oppression of GLBT people of colour & Two-Spirited people, as people, not a collection of separated issues. This, of course, necessitates that all aspects of their identity and all sources of the oppression they face be considered and challenged. Until this happens, GLBT people of colour & Two-Spirited people will only have partial access to justice, dignity and equality, they will gain nothing more than the status of equality, without being equal.


EGALE Canada affirms the position adopted by the Sexual Orientation, Multiple Discrimination and Related Intolerance Caucus at the Second WCAR PrepCom that “human identity cannot be compartmentalized, and those who experience discrimination based upon multiple oppressions are not fully protected from racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance until all aspects of their personhood are explicitly protected from discrimination.” For the reasons outlined in the research report, EGALE Canada strongly supports the explicit recognition in the WCAR Declaration and Program of Action that experiences of racism are exacerbated by, and cannot be separated from, discrimination experienced on other grounds, including sexual orientation.
1 EGALE Canada (advancing the dignity & equality of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people). Researched & written by Wayne van der Meide, LL.B., LL.M. (Barrister & Solicitor). EGALE Canada gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Multiculturalism Program of the Department of Canadian Heritage.
2 To receive the full report, in English, French or Spanish, please contact EGALE at 1-613-230-1043, 1-888-204-7777, or visit our Website at
3 “Crimes of Hate: Conspiracy of silence, torture and ill-treatment based on sexual identity”, Amnesty International, 2001, the full text of which can be found at