(That’s so) Raven-Symoné and Multiple Labels

6 Oct

“I don’t want to be labeled ‘gay,'” Raven says. “I want to be labeled ‘a human who loves humans.'”

“I’m tired of being labeled,” she says. “I’m an American. I’m not an African-American; I’m an American.”

-Raven on Oprah

I empathize with the feeling. Juggling multiple labels doesn’t make you an expert in them all, in fact, it might curse you with a deficit. Being gay as well as an ethnic group compounds the feeling of isolation and estrangement. You don’t just come into your race or your sexuality without massive road blocks. Zora Neale Hurston wrote about the strangeness of seeing yourself as black for the first time in a photograph, and similarly I know the feeling of touching your hair to try and get it to look like hair in movies (read: White) and failing.

Jamelle Bouie writes about “acting white.”

In other words, she isn’t being mocked for the English as much as she is for her refusal to code-switch and use informal language for an informal conversation.

The article is great but it lacks a queer reading. Why would someone refuse to code-switch, is it because they don’t know how or because what is being discussed informally is alienating, homophobic, or transphobic? How much of our estrangement from straight society is due to our ethnic group and what we heard people say about our sexuality who looked exactly like us?

I’ve had a rough time relating to Latinos and to being Latino, and it has taken effort on my part to “come home” in a sense, to own my ethnicity and to scrub it clean of homophobia and machismo. I can see why Raven thinks what she thinks.

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