I was trying to come up with an appropriate post for Thanksgiving, and just so happened to preview the post John was writing about African Americans, Obama and the bad poll numbers about gay civil rights in the black community. I came across an article about a lesbian woman of color, Thanksgiving, and her lament her race does not support our marginalized community, and her desperate appeal that they reconsider.
“My Gay Thanksgiving” is an elegant article that describes how tough it must be to obviously expect your community to innately understand one’s fight for equality, because of their continued struggle for justice, fairness and tolerance, but to experience rigidity in many of her own people’s perception that it is somehow offensive to place our struggle in the same league as theirs. In fact, I can personally say it’s easier for me as a white gay man to look from the outside in, and maybe be less frustrated by the majority of the black community refusing to heed Martin Luther King’s widow, Coretta Scott King’s words than say, an African American lesbian, like Linda Villarosa, looking at them from within.
Still, as I looked at my mother’s face that evening, trying to read the emotion I saw flicker across her brow, I wondered, “Does my mother really accept me for who I am?”
That is the central dilemma that plagues so many of us who are black and LGBT. The closet is a dark and lonely place, and even in the gay pride decade of Wanda Sykes, Adam Lambert, Rachel Maddow, The L Word, Ellen and Portia, Brokeback Mountain and Milk, many of us remain stuck inside. Whether we call it on the down low or undercover, large numbers of us are still sitting in the darkness wondering and worrying, will I still be invited to Thanksgiving if my family, my black family, knows I’m gay?
This is the crisis many of us face, and the huge disconnect that keeps the LGBT movement from reaching its full potential. Gay marriage or any LGBT-rights initiative or agenda cannot move forward without the support and alliance of other so-called “oppressed communities.” This means other people of color. To be more precise, I’m talking about straight black folks.
We need you to be on our side. We need your support in the state-by-state fight for our right to marry, to care for each other and to raise our children. We need you to speak up when somebody makes a comment about fags, dykes, queens, homos or sinners, whether it’s some drunk fool at a party or a minister from the pulpit. We ask you—our sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers, friends and neighbors—to join us in the struggle to assure that lesbians and gay men have all the rights, protections and respect that we are owed and that we deserve.
Villarosa really takes apart the angst of being from a particular community who should most understand her fight for acceptance and equality, but doesn’t. She does allow us to hope a little by her mother’s much anticipated response.
But does she really wish I were straight? That evening over dinner, I got my answer. She reached across the table, covered my hand with hers and replied, “No, honey. I no longer want you to be straight. I’m used to you this way.” There was no muss, no fluff, no sugar coating to her answer. It was simply honest and from her heart. What I heard, though, was—“I love you just the way you are.”
Sigh…If only all of us could be loved and accepted by others just the way we are.
As far as Obama is concerned. We realize he has a choice. He can be a true leader. He can determine to forever be remembered as a visionary President, who bridged the gap between his own race and the majority progressive sentiment towards gay rights in the Democratic party. He could take so many major and minor actions to leap forward on the civil rights questions of his time. If not, he will eventually be remembered as someone who made empty promises with his, “Yes we can!” mantra, but he just didn’t want to for whatever reason. It isn’t too late to reopen the gAyTM, and reverse the Don’t Ask Don’t Give pledge with movement on his commitments, save his progressive base, and his reputation, but time and opportunity wait for no one.
John posted a ton of other pro-gay statements from Coretta Scott King on the main blog as well.