"The normative idea of queer is a white person": understanding perceptions of white privilege among lesbian, bisexual, and queer women of color in Toronto, Canada

J Lesbian Stud. 2014;18(2):174-91. doi: 10.1080/10894160.2014.849165.


White privilege constructs whiteness as normative and central to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer (LGBQ) identities and is reproduced through social norms, media representations, and daily interactions. We aimed to enhance understanding of the processes by which white privilege was experienced among lesbian, bisexual, and queer (LBQ) women of color in Toronto, Canada. We conducted two focus groups with LBQ women of color, one with participants who self-identified as masculine of center (n = 8) and the second with participants who identified as feminine of center (n = 8). Findings indicate that LBQ women of color experience intersectional stigma (e.g., homophobia, racism, sexism) on a daily basis. Participant narratives revealed that white privilege shaped the representations of women of color in a particular way that promoted their exclusion from white LBQ spaces and broader society. By representing queerness as white, LBQ women of color were rendered invisible in both queer and racialized communities. LBQ women of color were further marginalized by constructions of "real" women as passive, feminine and white, and conversely perceptions of women of color as aggressive, emotional, and hypersexualized. These representations inform spatialized practices and social interactions through constructing racialized communities as discriminatory and "backwards" while maintaining the invisibility of white privilege and racism in LBQ spaces.

MeSH terms

  • Asian People
  • Bisexuality / psychology*
  • Black People
  • Canada
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Homosexuality, Female / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Power, Psychological*
  • Prejudice*
  • Sexual Behavior
  • White People
  • Women