It’s been a long time coming, but no time is better than now. As the Supreme Court gets ready to hopefully legitimize a belief that many of us in the LGBT community already consider an inalienable right — marriage equality for all — it’s high time we start preparing ourselves for the next major issue to address: intersectionality. Yes, for decades, the face of LGBT representation has been dominated by white people, predominately cisgender gay white men. And as much as we would like to continue to blame cultural stigmas within other cultures for why there has not been such a huge turnaround of faster diversity — it’s time we start looking inward. Fact: I am an openly gay black man. Another fact: as disappointing as …
It’s been a long time coming, but no time is better than now.
As the Supreme Court gets ready to hopefully legitimize a belief that many of us in the LGBT community already consider an inalienable right — marriage equality for all — it’s high time we start preparing ourselves for the next major issue to address: intersectionality.
Yes, for decades, the face of LGBT representation has been dominated by white people, predominately cisgender gay white men. And as much as we would like to continue to blame cultural stigmas within other cultures for why there has not been such a huge turnaround of faster diversity — it’s time we start looking inward.
Fact: I am an openly gay black man. Another fact: as disappointing as it may sound, experiencing racism as a “double-minority” has been felt within both communities. I can be racially profiled at a store as a black man and can then be treated as a pariah at a gay club the same night by the white men and bouncers who occupy the space.
It’s not that I have been silent about these issues. Recently, I took my grievances to my local paper in a guest column that called out many of the famed gay bars in Philadelphia. As a resident for five years, I felt that “The Gayborhood” was not the happiest place in my city if you were black and queer but more like the most excluding one at times.
The reaction was more critical than receptive. I received tons of nasty comments, social media attacks and jabs at my audacity to call out race issues within the LGBT community. Some went so far as to feel as though I was just trying to start a problem that didn’t exist.
Fun fact: the majority of the critics were white gay men.
And that is the problem.
When I look at queer programs, both local and national, there tends to be a social disconnect between the reality that is being portrayed publicly and what is happening privately. People of color are often the voyeurism that shapes white queer spaces — a feeling that has become more exploitative and problematic than embracing.
The constant pandering of black LGBT men as drag-ballroom performers or hyper-sexual eye-candy takes flight in many gay social scenes. There is almost a subservient element to it that excludes any other black gay expression that isn’t catering to the white queer gaze.
In other words, the various identities of queer individuals of color have not evolved and many of the institutions and spaces that are responsible for allowing them to have not. Take the fight for marriage equality for example, where have people of color been individually called on to take up that fight? Who sets that agenda? And where are LGBT allies when it comes to the racial injustices we face outside of queer politics?
In a community that boasts acceptance and equality, the LGBT community as a whole has been stagnant on rallying for other social issues that deeply impact a great number of its members and allies.
When other human rights groups were at Ferguson or Baltimore — many LGBT organizations said/posted nothing about the queer people of color who might have been afflicted.
As I have gotten older, it has become more difficult to ignore the intersectionality that has colored my experience as a gay black man. In one sphere, I am told that being black has nothing to do with being gay. And in the other, I am reminded that race is irrelevant to the conversation.
Both of these are lies and as much as one community wants to act as though they are more accepting than the other, it’s difficult for me to decide right now.
Sure, the black community can be labeled as having deep-seated homophobic views. But that lame trope is getting old when you take in consideration the current LGBT movement’s lack of recognizing variety and sympathy for people of color in general.
I’m sorry, but having a few famous black drag queens and transgender superstars does not make this issue go away.
The most annoying misconception that has often hurt further dialogue on this issue is the myths that talking about racism within our community will distract from other social causes we are trying to achieve.
I will no longer accept that excuse. It is 2015: if people are not allowing us to get married, it will have nothing to do with the fact that there is racism in our community just as it is in theirs.
At the end of the day, when we are finally over the constant focus on marriage equality — a cause that in my opinion reveals the privilege of our community, in regards to priorities — we should start getting real about what the faces and spaces of the next LGBT movement look like. Answer: more diverse and colorful.
Because the constant recycling of Dan Savage and many other white, cisgender men like him turns off aspiring LGBT members of color to come out and align themselves within the movement.
Overall, there needs to be a time for us to come out and get serious about the lack of diversity in LGBT leadership nation-wide. It is not enough to just have black, Latino, Asian, and Native Americans in the room but not actually invite their stories and experiences as well.
I am tired of going to queer events that are fundraising for only white queer member causes — but ignore that more than 5 black transgender individuals have been murdered so far this year.
Visibility is one thing, but access and equity is another. We need to start expanding the conversation on race in these conventions and not just for LGBT members of color but for their white counterparts.
I don’t just want specialized events and socials catered to me due to my race, but instead more intellectual space and opportunity to inform and enlighten the very members whom I share an interest in activism with.
It’s time to start addressing the racial setbacks in the current LGBT movement. If we don’t now, we are never going to obtain that pot of gold equality on the other side of the diverse rainbow.
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