Last month, the Supreme Court made history across America by finally acknowledging that members of the LGBT community deserve access to all of the rights and privileges our heterosexual counterparts have received since the birth of this nation. Each of my social media newsfeeds were inundated with rainbow profile pictures and #lovewins posts. For weeks after the monumental decision, I have watched as many people lauded the great strides being made in the realm of LGBT rights, celebrating the greatness of this event.
I’ve also watched with mild amusement the number of people – specifically Black people – who have used this achievement for the LGBT community to rail against their lesbian, gay, transgender, and other family members in an attempt to downplay the importance of this decision.
Now, before I go on, allow me to clarify that I am not a big advocate of marriage equality. As a Black, Queer woman in America today, I feel that there are many other issues that need to be focused on, and I have always felt that the push for marriage equality was a token win at best. That said, I’m not mad at any of my LGBT brethren who want to indulge in wedding cake.
I have also always found it incredibly interesting that the heterosexual/cisgender section of the Black community seems to delight in denying the personhood of those in the LGBT community… as though many of us are not one and the same.
So, when earlier today someone shared Brandon Ellington Patterson’s Mother Jones article from last month on the subject, I couldn’t help but want to share it with you all. Patterson does a great job of making the case for how ridiculous it is to think that someone can be pro-Black and yet still homophobic. Some of the best takeaways from the article are:
he simple truth is this: It’s problematic for members of any one marginalized group to challenge the progress made by members of another, especially when both groups suffer as a result of the same system—a system that favors being white, male, straight and “cisgender,” a term used by academics and advocates to describe the opposite of trans.
But it is especially problematic for black people to reject the LGBT rights struggle, especially when, over the past year, black people have been particularly vocal about their own racial oppression, via sustained, high-profile protests that have swept the nation.
And black LGBT people and their allies have made incredible contributions to the black liberation struggle, from Bayard Rustin during the civil rights movement to Audre Lorde, a poet, feminist, and LGBT advocate, as well as the three women who founded the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter and the organization that birthed the movement: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi.
Activism like this is even more inspiring than most because, in addition to state-sanctioned racism, LGBT people face state-sanctioned homophobia and transphobia in the form of unchecked employment and wage discrimination, housing discrimination, health care disparities, increased risk of brutality at the hands of police, and so much more. And then they face ridicule and violence, oftentimes from within the black communities they call home.
The biggest takeaway for me, however, was where Patterson pointed out that the identities of being Black and Queer are not mutually exclusive. In truth, these identities intersect for many people in both communities – myself included – and we face a particularly sinister form of oppression all on our own because of that… even moreso if we happen to be a transgender member of this community/movement.
For the greater Black community to deny our existence or place in this movement is not only morally reprehensible, but it just doesn’t make good strategic sense overall. By rejecting LGBT persons on the basis of sexuality, straight Black people are contributing to the continued marginalization and oppression of other Black people. Queer Black people are among the most endangered in our community, and yet we are the ones who, more often than not, are the leaders of the movement for Black liberation.
It’s time for heterosexual, Christian, Muslim, militant, and whatever else Black people to hold up their end of the bargain and show up for us, the way that we’ve been showing up for them for quite a while.
#BlackLivesMatter doesn’t just mean straight Black men and when we #SayHerName, we are missing the point if we are not saying the names of Black transwomen who are victimized as well.
My Queerness no more dilutes my Blackness than the reverse. I am unapologetically Queer, unapologetically Black, unapologetically Woman, and unapologetically Proud of the way all of these identities intersect in order to make me a unique and special individual. Queer Black people are a valuable part of the Black community and we are just as deserving of the same support and respect as any other person here.
If you can’t see/understand that, then we aren’t the problem – your ignorance is.
With revolutionary love,
Read Patterson’s full article here (please read – it was a great piece!)