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Taking back the
black gay movement

Taking back the
black gay movement


Why is it all the white-led LGBT groups think they know how to reach out to African-Americans about gay rights? And do they willingly push black queer groups out of the way in the process?

Before you cry foul, if what I am about to say doesn't apply to you, keep up the good work. We need your support to get the job done for all of us. For those of you who read this and think me to be against marriage equality; I am not. Remember, I started one of the first black-led marriage equality campaigns in the nation--but enough with the disclaimers.

You may not know it, but there's a contingency made up mostly of white gay people who are conspiring on ways to organize blacks. And not only do they want to organize blacks to spread their message of marriage for everyone, but they also want to do it through black gays.

Yeah, I said it. Somebody needed to.

The relationship between black gay organizations and some of the other gay groups is strained. Publicly, those groups embrace us and applaud our efforts as blacks, but behind closed doors they're figuring out how to move us out of the picture and do the job that we are doing.

Did you know gay organizations are meeting every day to strategize on how to best mobilize black gays for the purpose of "diversity?" Those organizations have somehow gotten it into their heads that nonblack gays hold the key to breaking the cycle of homophobia in the black community.

Can you imagine that?

Let me get this straight, no pun intended. Individuals who are not from black communities--and know little to nothing about our community and for the most part aren't even remotely interested in really working with our community--know how to talk to blacks about marriage.

And if that wasn't bad enough, they've hired a few Negroes to be the black faces for their organizations so that they can get into rooms where traditionally they've been unwelcome. But don't get me wrong. These Negroes-for-hire work overtime at earning their paycheck, at times even to the detriment of their own community.

Similar to the co-opting of black pulpits to spread the white conservative agenda during the 2004 presidential election, black gay groups are being taken over by the gay agenda, and nowhere is this more prevalent than in California, where one of the more prominent gay groups is working overtime at telling black gays what they need to say to black people about marriage.

To date, this group has hired a resident Negro who has no connection whatsoever to the black community, bought and paid for one of the few black gay groups in California, and is seeking to drive a "coalition" plan to get the other groups on board with their message. All of this in the name of diversity. Yeah, right.

But it gets even worse.

This gay group has now set its aspirations on black politicians in California after hearing from other black gays that it didn't have a relationship with those officials. As with everything else, they've bypassed the black gay leadership and they are now trying to get the blacks in Sacramento on their team, using any method necessary--which usually means money and a lot of it. This is the reason black politicians and black leaders don't know anything about the black gay leadership. Gay groups with more money beat us to the punch every time and take credit for everything.

Enough is enough.

Recently, one of the resident Negroes at one of the national gay groups announced that she had single-handedly held a meeting with the editors and executive officers of Johnson Publishing Company in Chicago. What she didn't say is that she got the idea to have the meeting because a black gay group's communications director, who quite frankly was wet behind the ears, called her and asked for Johnson Publishing's contact information and leaked his idea about the meeting. Because she was faster and had more money behind her to arrange the meeting, she beat him to the punch and has now probably earned herself a raise.

It's that kind of atrocious and cutthroat behavior that is destroying the black gay community.

Which is not to say that blacks working for national gay groups can't do good work. But in its 20-plus-year history, this particular LGBT organization has never demonstrated a real interest in supporting the African-American community.

Black gays don't need nonblack gays to organize them. We've been down this road before, and it's not an effective strategy. Black gays can handle the black community on their own. You don't see us trying to proselytize outside of our community on gay marriage in an effort to organize the LGBT community as a whole. What the hell gives others the right to come into our community and try to undo all of the years of hard work that black gays have put into fighting for our civil rights?

What is the use of having black gay groups if the gay leadership is going to trample all over us and use their money to overstep us at every point?

Every time I turn around, I'm hearing about coalition building--coalition building for whose benefit? Black gays would be better off building coalitions with the larger black community, but we can't because every time we turn around the gay leadership is using their money to get in good with the black leadership and leaving us out of the picture completely.

The time has come for the black same gender-loving community to tell the largely white gay leadership to back off and let us mobilize our own community. Black gay groups need to step up to the plate and turn down the guilt money that comes with strings attached from organizations that just want to use us. We don't need people who are not from our community telling us what to do in our community. We already know what needs to be done; we've always known because we've always been here. What we need is for the gay leadership stand down and let us do our thing our way.

Marriage has never been number 1 on our agenda. Any campaign to win support for marriage in black communities must start with an acknowledgment of that fact. Sure, we want the right to get married, but we also want affordable housing, employment, universal health care, more funding for HIV/AIDS programs in our communities, and Social Security reform. We want to deal with the black church and combat the homophobia that is spewed from the pulpit.

Oops! I probably shouldn't have said that part about the black church, because now the well-funded gay groups are going to try to go into black churches and do our work there too. In fact, they're already doing that.

The only difference between the work that other gay groups are trying to do in our community and the work that we are currently doing as black LGBT people is that they have no problem using their money to get what they want. That's an attitude that more of us in the black community need to have so that we can fund our own movement and not have to sell our souls just to keep the doors open and the lights on.

While I understand that there is a need to be funded, we need to set the agenda and not let others set the agenda for us. I am not oblivious to the fact that many of our black organizations accept money from questionable sources that include Wal-Mart and big tobacco companies. The issue is this: If we are going to accept money from questionable sources, then they need to give the money and step away and let us do the work that needs to be done our way.

If we as black gays are to have a movement of our own, we are going to have to be willing to play a role in our own liberation--and that starts with our checkbooks and our time. The reason other gay groups are so effective is that they've realized that if there is going to be a movement, their efforts have to be well-funded, and they've made that sacrifice.

Philanthropy issues are not relative to black gays only. This is an issue facing the entire African-American community. We need to develop a culture of giving back to our community--and not just at the club. Black gays have to accept that if they aren't willing to contribute their money and time to shaping their own movement, there are groups just waiting for the opportunity to do the work they aren't willing to do.

While I fault these groups for being so bold, at the end of the day there's no one to blame but ourselves if we allow outsiders to come in and do our jobs.

If the majority of the community is OK with allowing other groups to come and and message to our people, then we just need to say it and be through with it. At least we'll know where we stand. On the other hand, if we feel differently, we need to take responsibility for getting the work done ourselves.

In a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle, black gays were asked if they wanted to combine black gay pride celebrations with their mainstream counterparts. The overriding response was no; there needs to be a cultural celebration that is unique to black gays. Well, why don't we display that same attitude when fighting for our civil rights? Do you honestly believe that people outside of our community know our people better than we do?

If we are to sustain any viable movement for our people, we are going to have to do better--and do it quickly. We can't afford to waste any more time because, unlike other members of the LGBT community, we not only have to stand vigilant in the black community but also manage to stay 10 steps ahead of the LGBT leadership, some of whom are consciously trying to remove us from the picture.

What some of the other gay groups fail to realize is that black gays are in fact black, and because we're black we face a myriad of issues that may take precedence over marriage. Black gay men are dealing with the broader issues of being a black man in America, which include a higher incarceration rate than is the case for other population groups. As a black lesbian, I am equally concerned about the lack of jobs that pay livable wages, health care, affordable housing, police brutality, gang violence, and the continued racism towards blacks in this country. That doesn't mean that my civil rights as a lesbian take second place, but it does mean that I am just as concerned about my civil rights as a black person.

That's where many gay groups just don't get it. They want everyone who is gay to be gay first, and race is a secondary issue. Race is the reason why you will find the majority of black gays living in minority communities and not the self-created gay enclaves like West Hollywood, Dupont Circle, and Chelsea. Like other blacks, many of us are struggling to make it, and most of us can't afford to live in these oftentimes more affluent neighborhoods. Unfortunately, race is still an issue.

As for me, I will be always be, in this order, a black women who is a lesbian, and at the end of the day I believe that's how a lot of black gays feel: that they are black first.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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