Thursday, October 18, 2012

Waffle House beat down underscores potential problem with lgbt community

 By now, you have probably seen this controversial video of a presumed heterosexual man verbally slurring a group of gay men and getting beaten down hard. It's generated a lot of discussion.

There are some lgbts who applaud what happened because they figured the man brought it upon himself.

And another camp worries about what effect would it have if the religious right would use it to attack gays.

Lastly, there are many who say that violence under any circumstances is wrong, i.e. it was wrong to attack this man no matter what he said.

I'm kinda in the third camp . . . with a caveat.

I don't condone this type of violence, period. There was no need for it. But the caveat I have was how many who condemned this action was so caught up in denouncing the violence that they missed the bigger picture.

When one looks at the group of gays in the video, one would probably brand them as violent thugs. I don't because I know folks like them. And I know why they were so quick to gang up on the man.

These are the lgbts you hardly ever know or see. Part of it has to do with the fact that they are African-American and urban. Let's be honest about some things in our community. There are times that if you don't look a certain way, dress a certain way, fit a certain social strata, or don't run in a clique, you might as well be invisible.

Unfortunately this problem bleeds into our equality organizations

And the problem with being invisible is that a lot of times, your issues get ignored. The progress that is seen in the gay community skips over you. Yes DOMA is being defeated in the courts, but how does it help a young lgbt of color who can't seem to find a group indigenous to his or her needs? We see folks like Ellen DeGeneres, Ricky Martin, and Neil Patrick Harris daily, but again let's be honest.  How many young lgbts of color know who these folks are as opposed to white lgbts. And how many lgbts of color regard these folks as role models?

Also, another problem being invisible is that you have to adapt. You have to survive on your own with very little support systems and unfortunately young lgbts of color are put in that situation. Who is there for young gay black men in schools when they get jumped in school for "acting too feminine?"

And say they make it out of high school and into college? They have two choices - either go to a predominantly white university where they most likely won't fit in with the gay crowd because they are considered "too ghetto" or go to a predominantly African-American university where homophobic attacks against them are at times ignored by faculty members who assume that these children bring it on themselves for "acting like a punk."

But the beauty of mankind is how we survive. When someone closes a door, we open a window or knock down a wall. Young lgbts of color form loose groups of friends and organizations that are underground. They love each other, support each other, and - as I suspect what I saw in the video - stand up for each other when the time call for it.

There are solutions to this problems. All of us need to recognize that the gay community is not a bland, homogenous concept of folks.  We are multicultural and multi-ethnic. We do not like the same things. We don't admire the same heroes and we don't celebrate our sexual orientation the same way.

We need to get out of our cliques and celebrate our differences. If you are white, don't assume that black pride events preach separation. If you are a gay man, educate yourself on the transgender community.

Don't look for things that force us to come together so much that you ignore the things that make us unique as gay people.

And above all, each of us must take a stand - whether it be verbal with our friends, volunteering, or even emailing our organizations - about those in the lgbt community we don't hear about - the lesbian community, the elderly gay community, the different cultures of the gay community.

When we recognize that our differences make us strong instead of attempting to force each other to blend in, we as a community become stronger.

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Erica Cook said...

I remember once when I went out a group of women were going up to the lesbian bar as I was going home. One asked if this was the "black" lesbian bar. I answered it was the lesbian bar. When they asked if blacks were welcome, I said anyone is welcome. The thing is I think most white LGBT people take for granted the fact that all LGBT people belong. We assume its understood when we come from small communities because we can't afford to care about race. Not to say there aren't those that do, but for the most part it's not an issue to us. But the black community's known too well that white people don't know what being black is and thinks they won't be welcome.

If I ever saw a gay man or woman of color being denigrated or not given an equal place in our community anywhere I'd stand up for him. We are all apart of this no matter what makes us different. No matter what we have this one thing in common and that has to come first in acceptance.

Aside from that, we need some people of color who are gay to become role models. Children like them shouldn't have to have an underground, it should be open.

Anonymous said...

Very well put! And that's coming from a 41 year old Puerto Rican lesbian living in KY.

BJ Jackson Lincoln said...

Wow! Part of me wanted to cheer them on and I am ashamed.
Part of me is amazed because you don't see that everyday and I am ashamed.
Part of me thinks the whole thing is wrong and they should have just walked away...under the weight of shame forced on them.

Part of me sees a strong parallel with the early civil rights movement.
At first the people gathered and prayed and did not fight back even when they were dodging bricks.
Over time a few fought back because they were tired of being passive and getting nowhere.
It got worse from there and many people on both sides died.
The gay population has been passive in light of the cronic danger we face. Some feel it is time to fight back instead of turning the other cheek...again.
Not long ago we saw a disturbed soul walk into an anti-gay org. and shoot a guard. Now this.
I can't blame them for the feelings they have. I do blame them for the fighting even though I understand why.
The whole thing is one big damn shame.

mykelb said...

Frankly, I understand this reaction and I don't condemn it at all. We have been verbally abused, harassed, beaten and murdered for MUCH TOO LONG. When people start belieiving they will get a beat down instead of giving one, they may begin to leave us the hell alone.

Jim Hlavac said...

I'm with you on the third option -- still, I also point out that there are in fact three other aspects for Rights for Gays (gay rights, sounds so "special," rather than American Rights for Gays; alas such is the language of our times):

One fight is legal -- DOMA, Bowers, Lawrence, bar raids, etc etc -- over the past oh, 60 to 100 years. This is our interaction with the government, at all levels. The laws were mostly ignored, but used when wanted.

One is personal -- our family, friends, bosses, co-workers, neighbors -- it is not as affected as laws. No one who liked us needed a law to do so. Nor will anyone like us because a law says we can't be bothered anymore.

A third is the medical/religious aspect. For science, and those who misuse it (mostly religious folks,) also deals with gayness -- and the law or personal attitudes of the first two elements don't necessarily impact this third one; but this one impacts the other two more.

These three elements above have not moved in lock step with each other --
For many heteros, personal acceptance of gay folks preceded the law. Much science has swayed some religions. Some religions turn to a combo of science-morality to continue the berating.

And then you add the things of culture, race, economics, political views (i.e. left v. right,) that your brought up -- and well, it all does get confusing.

I sort of liken it to a Bingo Card -- but the best thing is that we are slowly filling up the card so that one day we can indeed yell "Bingo" and stop all this discussion over something that is sort of irrelevant to everyone and everything: whom one smooches.

Rusty McMann said...

first off, I think calling it a beatdown is an exaggeration. all they did was slap him a few times and he, the the coward that most bullies are, literally cowered on the floor so to the casual observer it might have seemed that they beat him to the floor.

I would actually call it a fair fight. why? because there were only 4 black "fags" and he has most of society at his back. and if you want to be more racially aware, he has *a lot* of the black church behind him as well.

This is EXACTLY what happened at Stonewall. The cops went to the fag bar for their nightly "abuse the fags" outing and for some reason the BLACK AND PUERTO RICAN drag queens said FUCK NO, WE'RE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANY MORE.

Fighting back is the only thing those people understand. If he was a white guy and use the N world and was that outnumbered you'd be saying he got what he asked for. and you'd be right.

Oberon said...

This is my first comment, but i love your blog. As far as the video clip goes, I confess, as someone who's been bashed I felt good seeing this. I don't believe in violence, but I know exactly what the group were feeling. It gets tiresome being on the high ground all the time.