As a black gay man who is “woke” far too often I see the gay rights movement co-opting tactics from the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s and even saying that the discrimination black people faced was exactly the same as what gay people face/d. I even used to say that until I dug a little deeper.
Gays, you’re not being lynched just for being gay. You’re NOT! Some regretfully get bashed, hospitalized, and even killed, but nowhere near on the same level of black people from 1865-1968 (and even pretty recently with Brandon McClelland, whose killers have not been brought to justice). Are there parallels to oppression from the Civil Rights Movement? Some. They aren’t as strong as some gay people make them, though. Fire Departments aren’t turning on water hoses while you protest for rights or whupping your butts crossing a bridge on national television. The military was hostile to gays for a very long time. This is a fact. You got ridiculed for being gay even though you couldn’t be out and proud. That was hard when you wanted to just be yourself. I get it. However, your blues ain’t like my parents’ and grandparents’.
This claim isn’t meant to be the Oppression Olympics where people compete for the worst treatment histories. (I feel that some gays love mentioning they’re gay like it’s a badge of honor to be a minority in the U.S. Like that automatically gives you a “story” of overcoming something. Some of y’all ain’t overcome jack. You’re just gay and you’re privileged enough to run in circles where it doesn’t really matter. You’re the kind who doesn’t really need gay marriage because you can easily afford the lawyer and legal documents to basically grant the same rights and protections that straight married couples have.) We should work to tackle and take down all forms of systemic oppression.
However, what I hear too much from gays with means who campaign with their connections for things like gay marriage, gay adoptions rights, and more (the fairness of which we certainly need in society) is that the needs of white gay men often are regarded as the needs of the entire gay community and nothing more is done to reach out to minorities within the community who may have other needs or resources and need access to politicians, health advocates, and agencies. The CDC predicts that half of all black gay men will contract HIV in the coming years. HALF OF ALL BLACK GAY MEN. This is a major issue that affects the black community and the gay community, but I don’t see anything being done about it except from the few black organizations fighting hard to combat the stigma associated with being black and gay in the black community so that someone will hopefully give a damn about them enough to stay on their backs making sure they take care of their health when they have sex.
PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis – a pill that prevents you from getting most HIV strains) can go a long way in helping the black community, but as many don’t have access to proper health care (it’s free on some plans), it’s not getting much traction in the black gay community. In fact, I only heard about it from white gay friends and have only seen it mass advertised with white guys. It seems like no one cares about minority groups enough to do something about it except minority groups. Then we get told, “You need to do something about that in your communities,” but when we say, “Um, this is also part of your community because we live in the same country” we’re told, “No, that’s not on us. That’s all you.” That’s as bad as white racists telling black people to clean up our problems with drugs and crime but claiming no responsibility when we say to white people to clean up the racism and hatred coming from white people (KKK, militias, etc.). “That’s not ALL white people!” No, it’s not. And not all black people are out here robbing and killing folks.
There just seems to be massive blindspots when it comes to those with money, connections, and power in the gay community concerning the experiences of minorities when it comes to oppression, outreach, and a real drive of togetherness and true community to make life better for all. It seems very, “We’ll get ours first” (I guess ENDA is the only thing left at this point) before anyone else has a chance of getting theirs in the end. Maybe we’ll get some leftover scraps from the table once they’ve sufficiently fed.
It would be great to see some admission in the gay community that racial and class privilege drive most of the drive for gay rights because it excludes so many minority groups and their needs. It’s why a lot of Black and Latino get fed up with white gays in the movement – they just don’t seem to care to include them in planning or if they do, they aren’t willing to adjust rules here and there for something that would work better for minority outreach. I know some (mostly white) groups try hard – I’ve talked to some working and they try to get into these communities but it’s hard when there’s a level of mistrust based on both sides, but I would like to see more groups trying. Eventually, someone will break down and extend a hand. I hope. Otherwise, this guilt over not doing enough to help everyone will turn into resentment of anyone not playing by your rules, and that helps no one.
For a movement that started with a Black and trans woman (Stonewall Riots in 1969), and the Pride celebrations starting with a bisexual woman, I just wonder how we got so far off track. They gave of themselves for the right to simply exist as themselves, not thinking of their race or anything, but now we have Dan Savage as the official voice for gay culture and others are shut out just so that Will & Grace can shine. Even Q. Allan Brocka had to do an animated series to tell a Filipino gay comical story (Rick & Steve). In DC we have Black Pride (which has its own valid history) and “White” Pride (the main one that draws major celebrities and parade watchers). They tried to do one combined Pride years ago and it was disastrous as neither side wanted to concede events and days to the other. (I talked to both organizers about it years later and both admit that both sides didn’t act admirably. Sigh.)
If only we looked out for one another the way they did the night those trans women and drag queens got fed up with being picked on by Greenwich Village cops. Those days seem gone. Gay people are plentiful, numerous, multi-faceted, and multi-cultural. You can’t really tell that if you’re looking at mainstream gay culture (which boggles my mind considering who started the movement and Pride – where are the minorities and women?). If we keep staying divided over a stupid thing like skin color and cultural differences, only the group with the power and connections survives and wipes out the other groups. Don’t let that happen, gays. We’re too fabulous for anyone to get left behind!