Arturo Jacobo is no stranger to battling injustices within a heteronormative and racist society. His viewpoint on racism within the gay community and the homophobia that is present in mainstream culture forced him to stand up for everyone in the communities that he represents. I sat down with the junior urban studies major to talk about his life growing up as a queer male of color.
Alex Myers (AM): What does it mean to be queer for you?
Arturo Jacobs (AJ): Oh that's difficult because I didn't even start identifying as queer until recently, not because I thought it had a negative connotation, but in my head I would always label myself as gay, so I identify as both. I always saw queer as a label for gender nonconforming people and those who didn't necessarily fit the binary, but when I learned what it really meant, that’s when I realized the word is also a part of my identity. So for me it just means being part of a really resilient community.
AM: What were some of the earliest memories you had when you realized that you were queer?
AJ: I went to an all-boys Catholic high school where people would use queer as an insult towards very feminine guys. When I was younger I always tried to act more masculine than I really was, because there were kids in my grade who were more feminine than me who would get bullied for being themselves. I feel like it was a subconscious act for me to never really identify as queer until I got to college. The people I met my freshman year who identified as queer changed my view of the term because they helped me realize that it's an umbrella term. Even though people use it to demean, it's a very beautiful thing that I identify with.
AM: How do you stay true to yourself and your daily life?
AJ: I'm a very outgoing person and part of that is just being very feminine and gay. There are times where I'll catch myself when I'm around a big group of men subconsciously telling myself to not act as gay. I think I have this natural instinct to adapt from my experiences in high school, but then I remind myself that I'm not there anymore and can be myself.
AM: What does it mean to be queer man of color?
AJ: It's a constant frustration because I'm dealing with being a queer person in a hetero space, while even in that queer space it's white-dominated and filled with microaggressions. Having already felt excluded for being a minority growing up and then feeling left out for being gay and not having that typical high school experience really takes a toll on you. Even though the LGBTQ community is great and a safe space, there is so much racism and prejudice in it. Even in the community that's supposed to accept me for who I am, I still feel like ostracized and pushed out a lot of times. At one point in my life, I was very bitter and it affected some relationships and friendships with my other LGBTQ friends as I felt like many of my white friends had less challenges to face in the dating scene. I also feel like in certain cities like L.A., if you're more masculine and a white gay man, then the problems you encounter are very few in comparison to other queer people of color.
AM: What has your experience been at LMU when it comes to being tokenized as a gay best friend?
AJ: I don't even realize I'm the gay best friend until someone else tells me. Last semester one of my friends before going abroad told me to protect myself, which was her way of telling me that there are certain people who are only friends with me because I'm black, latino, and gay. I was taken back when she said that, but then looking back on my past friendships, she was right. I like entertaining people because that's my natural personality, but I also feel like it is used as a puppet sometimes being the funny gay best friend. One time my friend was like "oh, can you dance for my cousin on Snapchat, because she wants to see you dance?" These things don't seem as deep, but I know they come from tokenizing. I'm not going to be 'sassy' all the time; it's just a part of my personality.
AM: How can LGBTQ+ persons go about combating racism within their own community?
AJ: So much of gay culture and slang has been pioneered by minorities in the community and transgender women of color, so credit needs to be given where credit is due. If you're going to be using slang created by queer people and trans women of color, then you need to also support them. Also, be open to dating and respecting people of color because racial preferences to me are complete BS. It makes sense why you would want to date someone who is in your race because that's more comfortable for you, but understand that your preferences are created by social conditions. If you put on your Grindr profile that you only date white guys, it's because you were socially conditioned to believe that you're better than POCs . We really need to do better as a community in educating ourselves about how we actually got the liberation flag. It's trans women who built this for all of us. As a gay man of color I experience oppression; however, I have privilege for being mixed, cisgender and having lighter skin, so understand where your privilege resides.
Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity. Tweet comments to @LALoyolan, or email comments to email@example.com.
To see this article in the context of a larger feature about the queer experience at LMU, visit laloyolan.com/special_issues/queer_lions/.