In the wake of the Maryland marriage debate, our friend Alvin McEwen wrote a powerful post about homophobia at his blog, Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters. He told me it was coming and I told him we’d crosspost. It’s worth a read:
During last week’s legislative session in Maryland when lawmakers were pondering the idea of gay marriage, a few black lawmakers took the time to not only criticize gay marriage but also the notion of lgbt equality in general.
We’ve all heard the hurtful sayings before – “you can’t compare gay rights to black civil rights because you can hide being gay,” “gays and lesbians were never oppressed in the same manner in which blacks were oppressed,” etc., etc.
It would be an awful generalization to say that all in the African-American community have these beliefs. In Maryland many African-Americans, including Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, publicly supported marriage equality.
However, statements voiced by some Maryland lawmakers unfortunately stand out and not in a good way. In answer to these comments, I could go on about the many lives either crippled and lost at the hands of gay bashers like that of Matthew Shepard, or the wholesale genocide of lgbts by the Nazis in German, or the suicides of lgbt youth such as Tyler Clementi, or the present day usage of junk science by religious right groups to demonize the lgbt community.
But why bother. I’ve reached the point where I hate having to do it.
It’s sad how no one ever talks about how this tug of war between the African-American and lgbt community over equality can negatively affect us lgbts of color. For me personally, it’s an awful psychological rending, a forced dividing of myself into two halves which have no business separating in the first place.
And as a gay man, I especially hate it. I hate the idea of us lgbts having to put the history of our oppression on some sort of display. I hate the notion that lgbts are put on a witness stand where we have to list how many times we have been beaten, disrespected, or denied our basic humanity in order to somehow prove our “worthiness.”
It always leaves me wondering are the scars of the lgbt community deep enough? Is our humiliation painful enough? Have we shed enough blood to suit those who would judge on us on those things?
Don’t get me wrong. I am all for understanding the aesthetic differences between the African-American struggle and lgbt struggle for equality. But there comes a time when we must recognize the folly of this constant struggle over whether the two are similar.
And that time is now.
It distresses me to no end that on the subject of lgbt equality, some African-Americans are taking on the guise of those who oppress them.
Those who oppressed (and continue to oppress) African-Americans have the belief that somehow blacks are inferior and will never measure up. Therefore they figure that black people are not deserving of certain basic rights. What’s more awful is how they use the Bible to justify their discrimination.
Now, it seems that some African-Americans have told members of the lgbt community that their suffering is inferior and will never measure up. And therefore, the lgbt community are not deserving of certain basic rights. And guess what? They too use the Bible to justify their discrimination .
It’s a nasty, stupid game. And those who choose to play it should know better.
Being oppressed is not a status symbol. Being oppressed is not a mark of achievement. It should never be used as a pedestal to somehow judge whether or not a group of people are “worthy” of being treated like basic human beings.
Not that it will make a difference in the minds of the people who choose to play this game, but some of those same lgbt scars belong to African Americans. Some of that lgbt pain and humiliation comes from African-American hearts. And some of that lgbt blood shed at the hands of homophobic monsters come from African-American bodies.
And that is the saddest thing about the entire mess. When some African-American leaders rag against lgbt equality, they fool themselves into thinking that they are speaking against hedonistic upper class white gay men sipping fancy cocktails in a ritzy bars.
But that notion is so far from the truth.
African-American leaders who speak against lgbt equality are stabbing their own people in the back – the young black lesbian kicked out of her home for “acting like a man,” the effeminate black gay boy constantly picked on by bullies, the older African-Americans lgbts left adrift and rendered invisible by their own black community, and all of the other assorted black lgbt brothers, sisters, cousins, nephews, nieces, and close friends not given the courtesy of simple public acknowledgement.
And while these self-righteous black leaders may claim that they don’t mean treat their own people in this manner, their pathetic mea culpa don’t mean a drop of water in the bucket to those like myself who have to deal with such things on a constant basis.
Through their barrage of hurtful comments, these black leaders foster a rejection of African-American lgbts like myself, thereby telling us that we are not a genuine part of the black community.
And that hurts.
Whether folks want to admit it or not, the African-American community is linked to the lgbt community, and not just by those who us who belong to both groups. Our oppression is sometimes similar and the folks behind it are sometimes the same entities.
The majority white-led and populated religious right groups who exploit this tug of war between the African-American and lgbt communities are quick to be the so-called protectors of the civil right movement’s legacy but render themselves conveniently invisible when issues like socio-economic inequalities in minority health and education pop up.
And that’s not by accident.
However, we don’t recognize this because we forget to treat each other with dignity and respect. And because some of us become victims of inaccurate assumptions – be they religious, racial, or otherwise – which deceives us into thinking that the scars we bear due to hate are badges of honor and exclusivity instead of reminders of what we must never become.
Some African-Americans need to be forewarned. Ultimately this battle over lgbt equality will become less about gay rights and more about the soul of the black America.
At the very least, it poses a basic question – have over 400 years of oppression taught black America nothing about dehumanization, being exploited, and having to “prove” worthiness?