Wade's Reviews > Drifting Toward Love: Black, Brown, Gay, and Coming of Age on the Streets of New York

Drifting Toward Love by Kai Wright
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's review
Apr 17, 2009

it was amazing
Read in February, 2009

This just a great read - engaging us in the lives and stories of queer kids of color (mostly guys) from the poorer parts of New York just trying to get by. The author clearly has a lot of respect for his subjects, describing their considerable strengths and skills along with the mistakes they make. But it also takes time to show us the social history of the areas - the racist real estate practices and government policies that drove people of color and immigrants into substandard housing, for example, and the impacts of gentrification of areas like the Christopher Street piers. Wright also provides some amazing examples of community organizing that we all could look to for inspiration.
I think most importantly for me is also the strong critique served to white LGBT people. This has increasingly been on my radar screen as I get educated on racism and classism among white gay folks. In this book we get embarrassing images of white men fetishizing young guys of color, and white yuppie gays who embrace the precocious queer kid from central Brooklyn when he comes to their art parties, and the rich folks on Christopher Street who see queer kids of color as a noisy menace. Perhaps most striking is the image of walking from New York's gay pride parade down to the piers and noticing the shift in skin tone as well as policing practices.
I guess by now I've lost my starry-eyed notion that queer/LG communities might be a place for greater liberation from racism (and sexism, for that matter), but instead too often I find that white gay people use their marginalization like a badge or a shield to guard against accusations of blatant racism that occur. In this book, we see the flipside of that - kids who are tossed out of their houses or schools - or kids that are kept stuck inside their houses with few visible role models or places to embrace or explore their sexualities and their meaning. Wright provides some important analysis also on the "risk" models of sexuality and HIV education, and on the role of family and community ties for many queer folks of color. I just finished a job application last night that has me thinking about what it means to be "family," in the sense of mutually supportive, loving, multigenerational connections. As gay folks, we have a great connection to the word through the historic use of family as a euphemism for gay. Maybe we should exploit those meanings. There are many glimpses of it in this book.
Kai Wright has another great article at ColorLines.com, on same-sex marriage and race: "A Fragile Union." And another interesting article about Lorraine Hansberry from TheRoot.com.

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