Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Black community ignores gay community at its own peril

Two pieces of recent news underscores the need to bring lgbtqs of color to the forefront of the discussion of gay equality.

One is happy news while the other is a bit troubling.

First the good news, courtesy of GLAAD:

Ebony, a monthly magazine that focuses on the African-American community, features the story of Iesha McConnell and Terry Treadwell, a couple raising three children together in North Carolina, in their October issue.

“We’re in love,” Terry, 45, told the magazine. “We work hard and worry about our children. We have the same struggles as everybody else.”

The couple met when Iesha’s sons were playing on one of Terry’s athletic teams. "About a year later, after we got to know each other, it eventually led to something," Iesha explains. The two had a commitment ceremony in September 2005, and they have watched their family expand.

The U.S. Census Bureau found that same-sex couples raising children are likely to live in the South and be African American like Iesha and Terry. According to Gary Gates, a demographer at the UCLA School of Law, black gay and lesbian parents raise children at two to three times the rate of their white counterparts. Research also shows that most black same-sex couples are economically disadvantaged (black women raising children in same-sex partnerships make an average of $26,000 a year).

Writer Rod McCullom (creator of and GLAAD National People of Color Media Institute participant) also points out that while six states and the District of Columbia have marriage equality, none in the South have marriage for all loving and committed couples. The lack of protections puts families like Iesha and Terry’s at risk. The parents, for example, cannot jointly adopt their children.

The publishing of this article is a step forward for the black community where issues of lgbtqs of color is not discussed as they should be.  There seems to be a conspiracy of silence amongst many black leaders when it comes to homosexuality. This happens on the national level, where people like Tavis Smiley don't even include the black gay community in his "State of  the Black Union" reports. And it happens on local levels, such as here in South Carolina. On a black gospel radio station, the announcer can't even make himself say the word "gay" or "homosexual" when talking about the community. He calls it "alternative lifestyles."

Because of this conspiracy of silence, it is relatively easy for organizations like the National Organization for Marriage to exploit disagreements between blacks and gays to further its agenda. Being gay IS a black issue and it needs to be treated as such. It cannot be ignored because those who choose to do such aren't ignoring principalities, but people who need their attention, such as the teens in a recent Washington Post article - which is the troubling piece of news I was talking about.

According to columnist Courtland Milloy, a bunch of gay black gay teens who have been bullied have banded together. And while I applaud this, it bothers me because they are considered to be a gang. However, they are only doing what they do out of necessity:

“I just got tired of people beating on me and calling me faggie,” Tayron Bennett, 21, told me recently. He’d helped to organize Check It while a student at Hine Junior High School. Other gay youths from his Trinidad neighborhood in Northeast soon joined, followed by gay youths from throughout the city.

D.C. police estimate that Check It has a core membership of about 20 and counts between 50 and 100 others as “associates.”

“At first, I tried fighting bullies one-on-one, but they don’t fight fair; they fight two and three on one,” Bennett said. So the youths got together and “started carrying mace, knives, brass knuckles and stun guns, and if somebody messed with one of us then all of us would gang up on them.”

Those who call themselves "black leaders" need to get it together and focus on these children as well as other lgbtqs of color. At the same time, the gay community needs to expand its reach and embrace the different cultural and social aspects which come with being gay. It's not a "white thing" so the faces we see and the voices we hear which are pushed to represent our community need not be one ethnicity or one social strata.

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frozenprince said...

Hey Alvin great informative posts as always. Now I was wondering, what do you think about the whole Leisha Hailey airline issue?

The story that USA today printed made me actually pretty pissed off. I was sure that if it was a hetero couple that this wouldn't even have come up.

the USA today article is something to the effect of "acceptable airplane behavior"

BlackTsunami said...

Hey prince,

I am waiting to hear more about it before I weigh in with what I think.