Black, Queer and Invisible

After the jury acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is calling on the Department of Justice to act. “The most fundamental of civil rights — the right to life — was violated the night George Zimmerman stalked and then took the life of Trayvon Martin. We ask that the Department of Justice file civil rights charges against Mr. Zimmerman for this egregious violation.” The Department of Justice announced on Sunday that they were reopening their investigation.

Judith Drowne Dianis, co-director of the multi-racial civil rights organization the Advancement Project, called the verdict a clarion call for the nation to truly grapple with racial injustice. “Trayvon Martin is America’s son. He represents the precariousness of life as a young Black man in America today. Black men are routinely racially profiled whether by a neighborhood watchman, store security or police.”

What is the state of racial justice in the LGBTQ community?

Advocate Black Queer AmericaThe current edition of The Advocate grapples with part of this question in a series of op-eds from LGBTQ people of color. Commenting on his conversation with actor-filmmaker Doug Spearman, Matthew Breen writes in the editors letter, “gay so often means white to African-Americans, the various dimensions of privilege and passing, and…dialogues about racial identity [happen] in tiny, insular corners of our balkanized LGBT communities.” He goes on to write, “The sensation of being an outsider is a familiar one to many of us, and that outsider perspective should be the basis for common ground, even if our individual experiences vary drastically…Part of having moral imaginations must include taking that feeling and using it to imagine what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes — in this instance, someone of a different racial or ethic identity. What would it take to widen our notion of common ground?”

Darnell L. Moore serves as the Director of Educational Initiatives at the Hetrick-Martin Institute, an organization serving LGBTQ youth and their families in New York City. In his op-ed in The Advocate, he addresses the lack of space for most black gay men to exist safely, both in the LGBTQ community and beyond.

“My life…has been shaped by the multiple identities that mark me. I am black, but rendered invisible within most mainstream LGBT movements. I am gay and have been ostracized by the homophobia of other black people. I am male and realize that my privileges are not granted to black lesbian and trans women…My personal experiences are often missing from narratives of gay progress…

There was nothing remarkable about the cramped bar and grill…in the heart of mostly white and queer-friendly Greenwich Village. The red-lit lounge was, appropriately enough, named Desire Bar and Grill. And, despite its short distance from the iconic Stonewall Bar, the weekly event there was one of the few spaces that attracted black gay men in a city with few social outlets that cater to black and brown queer and trans people…

But the last time I attended Desire’s Thursday night mixer, in March, was the last time anyone attended it; that night it was shut down by a horde of New York City police officers. They were all white, an important detail in a bar full of black gay men. In such a place, a dozen white cops are bound to inspire an array of responses, including fear. Gay or straight, we’re all too well-versed in how the justice system encounters us…

Those of us gathered in Desire that Thursday night weren’t doing anything wrong, but before long, the music stopped and conversations turned to whispers. We were commanded to leave while several cops patrolled the area outside. They had followed a black trans woman from another location — watched as they apprehended and arrested her a few feet from the bar. The melee was messy enough to bring more cops and an ambulance.

Asking a gay man to leave a party at the very moment it is getting good is inviting trouble. Privileged with a clean record, my friend and I weren’t afraid to demand a reason for our expulsion. One of the officers shoved my friend by the arm in response, so we asked for badge numbers. A few of the cops quickly covered them up.

A precarious situation was in the making. We knew it and left, watching in disgust as the lounge finally cleared out. I felt anger and I felt shame, because I realized that once again, this black queer had been denied an opportunity to be present in the queerest space in all of New York City…

There is no single way to be black and gay in America, but it is clear that there are too few spaces for most black gay men to exist safely. And if that is true, there are even fewer sanctuaries for black queer youth, lesbians, and trans people to exist in their entirety as well.”

Here are the other op-eds in The Advocate:

See Also:

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s