Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Black lgbts shouldn't be seen as weak or invisible

If you want to see why it's so hard for lgbt of color to get any type of acknowledgment, then a situation in Schnectady, New York should give an indication.

Apparently some people there are not happy with the billboard seen above:

Billboards trying to drum up community support for gay black men were criticized Monday as a pastor, a daycare provider and a City Council member called for the billboards to come down.

The Rev. Alfred Thompkins, of Calvary Tabernacle, said the “I am gay” billboard message only encourages troubled youth to embrace homosexuality.

“A thirteen-year-old looks at these billboards and says, ‘That must be it, I must be gay,’ ” he said. “That goes directly against God’s purpose. As a resident of Schenectady, a pastor who works with young people, with families, frankly I’m really bothered by the message these send.”

The billboards offer three messages, showing gay men with their families, in church and on a basketball court. Each message starts with the announcement “I am gay,” in large letters, and concludes with, “We have always been a part of this community.”

They were designed by In Our Own Voices, a gay advocacy group in Albany. The state Department of Health paid for the billboards as part of an effort to find a more effective way to reduce the HIV infection rate, which has disproportionately hit gay and bisexual black men. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control said the epidemic had reached such a level that new methods must be found to encourage men to use condoms.

Our Own Voices says that the billboard is created to garner acceptance of homosexuality, which in turn will cause gay men to lead healthier lives. Others have voiced opposition to the billboards because they supposedly allow "inappropriate sexual expression," a reason which doesn't make any sense at all because there nothing on the billboards with anything having to do with sexual intercourse.

And probably the most insulting comment from one person (the same one pushing the ridiculous idea of "inappropriate sexual expression") is the belief that the billboards should be moved to "adult business zones."

The sad thing is that this controversy reveals the ignorance of some in the black community regarding lgbts of color.

I got news for Pastor Thompkins - 13-year-old lgbts already exist. The billboards' presence is irrelevant on that point. But the billboards are a much better message to these children than seeing a weak, flamboyant, oversexed gay man or an overly sexually aggressive lesbian, or a confused transgender out to "trick" a man to have sex with her - three stereotypes that are unfortunately prevalent in the black media these days.

And the idea that being an lgbt is strictly a lifestyle about sex is a huge lie. According to a report by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force which looked at data from the 2000 Census report:

Black same-sex households are nearly twice as likely as White same-sex households to include children. Black male same-sex households are twice as likely as White male same-sex households to include at least one child under 18, 36% versus 18% respectively. Fifty-two percent of Black female same-sex households are comprised of parents living with at least one child under 18, compared with 32% of White female same-sex households.

What this is about is the deliberate inability of the African-American community to acknowledge the presence of lgbts of color.  And that inability leads to the ignorance that we are seeing here. It's really a catch-22 situation because while I am not happy with the nonsense these folks have expressed, I know what will happen when this issue is discussed by some members of the lgbt community.

It's going to be transformed into a back and forth argument on whether lgbts are racist or are African-Americans homophobic.

Meanwhile, lgbts of color - that's us folks in the middle - will be ignored or rather seen as a prize to be won by whichever group can prove that they suffered more than the other group.

Bottom  line to me is this - the billboards are an excellent idea and those who agree with this point should not allow themselves to go off on tangents. The issue is about the safety and health of lgbts of color and that's where the issue should stay.

Hat tip to Joe.My.God.

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The Red 9 said...

Nice article as usual and anyone who can see "inappropriate sexual expression" in that billboard photo has a much more active imagination than I do.

However, you state in your article:
Furthermore, the report also says New York (where this controversy is taking place) of is one of the top 10 metropolitan areas where same-sex households of color exists.

Which is confusing, as Schenectedy, New York, is not really in the same part of the state as New York City.

Now either the study refers to the metropolitan area of New York City - which means its referring to a completely different location than Schenectedy, New York
The study included all of New York State, which is not one gigantic metropolis, and therefore the bit about "metropolitan area" is misleading and confusing. (Hint, Upstate and Central New York, as well as Long Island, have a lot of rural and suburban areas)

If your wondering why I'm making a big deal out of this, it's because I happen to be from New York State.

So, to be honest, it tends to be really annoying when outsiders just sort of group us all together and don't realize that New York State is a much bigger and more diverse place then one city. In fact there are many cities, (Buffalo, Binghamton, Albany, Oneonta, etc.) that are all very different localities from New York City.

BlackTsunami said...

even if you didn't live in New York, it is a good point to make. I will correct it ;p

Mykelb said...

What I find interesting is that the Council Member is Black and the people complaining are Black. So it seems the AA community is not the only one with a lot of issues within that need to be worked out. Another interesting fact is the 2 year old who can read billboards. WTF? Just tell the kid that gay means that some boys like boys and some girls like girls and be done with it. How stupid do you have to be not to figure that out? Besides that, there are all kinds of "ex-gay" billboards up all over the country. Don't ya think that would create a question in a kids mind to ask what is an ex-gay? Then, thinking again logically, the kid will think will you have had to be gay in order to be ex-gay. Now that's confusing.

Mary O'Shaughnessy said...

New York State has 11 "Metropolitan Areas". One is Albany-Schenectady-Troy. _That's the metropolitan area under discussion. So the article as written is accurate but unclear.