Without all the
pomp and circumstance usually involved in presidential
election events, the black same-gender-loving
community came together in Los Angeles this January
for the presidential election forum It's a Black
Thang: The Black LGBT Vote.
You may be asking
yourself, Why do we need a black LGBT forum? Previous
presidential election forums that have attempted to address
us as constituents have been either gay and
overwhelmingly white, or black with no mention of the
Carolina's Democratic debate, the term
"African-American" was used 26 times,
while the word "black" was used 13 times. The
word "race" was used 14 times, and
"women" logged 13 mentions. Sen. Barack
Obama offered the only use of the word "gay"
during the debate, and Sen. Hillary Clinton was the
only candidate to mention "sex," just once,
not counting references to sexual abuse.
So what does all
It means that no
matter how we cut it, slice it, spin it, and serve it
up, issues of race, gender, and sexual orientation will
continue to be as prevalent during the race to the
White House as they are among gays.
Believe it or
not, most black same-gender-loving people tend to
vote in concert with other African-Americans. And
African-Americans overwhelmingly support Obama for
president. That fact was made painstakingly clear
during the forum when panelist after panelist declared
support for Obama.
misconception that gays are overwhelmingly for Clinton. For
white gays, that may be true. But when you throw race into
the mix and open up the vote to include voices beyond
the white majority, it's clear there are many
of us, including myself, who support Obama or another
important that black gays are represented at some point
during this election. Especially given the debacle
last year that had Obama in South Carolina with
homophobic gospel singer Donnie McClurkin in an attempt to
sway black voters. Matters only got worse when, after
nationwide protest and advice from the Human Rights
Campaign (an organization that clearly supports
Clinton), Obama's camp extended an invitation to an
openly gay white pastor to address an audience of
Southern Christian blacks. Southern Christian blacks.
Talk about sabotage.
Prior to our
forum--which was held in a coffee shop in
L.A.'s historic African-American community of
Leimert Park--I received an e-mail from Lorri
Jean, executive director of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian
Center, inviting me to join her and "some of
our most respected and effective leaders" for a
briefing the night after the forum to discuss
California's marriage fight. Those
"respected and effective leaders" included HRC
executive director Joe Solmonese, NGLTF executive director
Matt Foreman, Log Cabin president Patrick Sammon,
Equality California executive director Geoff Kors, and
PFLAG executive director Jody Huckaby.
I quickly sent a
reply to those involved questioning what makes someone a
respected and effective leader, and more important, asking
whether any of those leaders are black, brown, or any
other color except white. To date, the only one to
answer the question was Matt Foreman: "The painfully
obvious reality is that the national [organizations'
executive directors] are overwhelmingly white. This
reality hinders our movement in so many ways and helps
perpetuate the myth that LGBT people are all white and
You got that
right. But it gets worse. I received a phone call the day of
the forum from a group that wanted to stand at the doors of
the coffeehouse and enlist people to go to precincts
in south Los Angeles on Super Tuesday to collect
signatures in support of gay marriage. Naturally I
said, "Hell, no." There's no way that I
would support any group coming to a part of town they
(a) don't frequent on a regular basis and (b) are
just using to spread the holy gospel of gay marriage into
know about you, but it seems to me we've got more
pressing issues to worry about than signing up people
to support gay marriage. I think the caller was a
little shocked and taken aback. Don't pimp my
community out for your cause when you're not
down for our cause.
The black LGBT
presidential forum made it crystal clear that the economy,
health care, education, the war in Iraq, and Social Security
are all issues that take precedence over gay marriage.
For two hours the forum gave a voice and a face to a
community that is often overlooked and undervalued.
But more important, it allowed us to define ourselves, which
is something that we aren't always able to do within
the LGBT community.
I look forward to
keeping the conversation going.