A Black SGL Call to Arms
Black SGL men I have to ask you…Where are you in the fight for your rights?
This past week, the Houston City Council passed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (#HERO) after hearing several hours of testimony from members of the Houston GLBT community. One of the most notable absences during those testimonies was the voice of Black SGL men. Less then 10 men testified as members of the Black SGL community. There was representation by transgendered, lesbian, and bisexual people of color, but our presence was notably absent. Thankfully, the measure passed, but it left a big question as to where are we in the fight for our own rights.
Throughout Facebook I see several groups devoted to conversations among Black SGL men to talk about our issues and to share our commonalities and differences. There are public groups and gatherings where Black SGL men talk about their issues and what they can do to address those issues. However, these conversations and dialogues often just remain online or behind close doors and rarely translate to action. Too often we become comfortable in letting others speak for us, or take up the torch for us. We separate ourselves from our sexuality by whittling down our sexual orientation to simply what is done in the bedroom and stating that it is nobody’s business what I do in the bedroom or who I sleep with. We often wattle down each other to just simple dicks and asses and don’t participate in our own rights struggle.
I’m here to say that we are FAR more than that. That we have to, need to, absolutely must, participate in the fight for our rights. While Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Medger Evers were the public faces of the Civil Rights Movement, they were not the only actors. It took a large portion of the African American race to participate in marches, sit-ins, and speak on behalf of our rights. Those small actions collectively created a movement and that created change. We are never going to create changes if we do not participate in the efforts to attain rights. Civil rights and change come to those who show up. By not showing up we are allowing others to dictate our lives and our rights. Even if we have victories like HERO, it is our duty to participate to make sure that our voices and concerns are addressed and not just left to the few who do participate. Those brave few can’t always be the workers because when they get tired, weary and unsupported who will then pick up the torch for them, and therefore for all of us. If Bayard Rustin had been tired and not been apart of the movement, we would not have had the March on Washington, and the world would have never heard Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Therefore, it is imperative that we take action!
I am calling my Black SGL men to pick up their arms and take action on behalf of themselves and our community. We need to take our dialogue and conversations offline and to full frontal action.
I recently attended an event that discussed Black Leadership and its relationship with the Black LGBTQ community. The event was seeking to answer the question: Are Black LGBTQ people being left behind by Black Leaders? In my opinion, we are being left behind, but that is partly due to our own fault as a Black LGBTQ community. We are not answering the Call to Arms to fight for ourselves. We are not utilizing our voices to assert our humanity and existence enough to have our issues addressed. We do have many great advocates, activists, and allies who are doing the work, but we need more. The phone is ringing but the call is going unanswered. In my opinion, this call is not being answered for three reasons: fear of rejection, fear of recognition, and fear of being labeled.
FEAR OF REJECTION
As African Americans we have a history of having our voices being rejected or not equally considered. Slaves could not speak out against their own oppression and enslavement. Early African Americans could not use the tools of the government through the ballot box and public service representation to have their voices heard. There is a history of our voices being drowned out or not considered. Couple that with the rejection experienced on a personal level when your family and community reject you for being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered, then it is easy to see why it is hard to raise your voice. However, we have to overcome this fear of rejection and utilize the tools we do have, because the SILENCE is killing our community and us.
FEAR OF RECOGNITION
Even though there is a greater visibility of GLBTQ people in the media and our society, there is still a fear of being recognized as a GLBTQ person that prevents people from participating in advocacy and activism. People are worried about if they are going to be seen at a particular event or speaking out in support of the GLBTQ community, they are now going to have their identity questions by their family and community. Often, I hear from SGL/GLBTQ people that, “its nobody’s business who I sleep with, or what goes on in my bedroom.” My problem with these statements is that it reduces who we are as SGL/GLBTQ people to sex. We are full human beings with full lives. All of those aspects of ourselves should be respected and protected. You can’t be respected or protected if people cannot see you. Therefore, we need to get over the fear of “what is this person going to say, or what will happen if they think I’m gay,” because the SILENCE is killing our community and us.
FEAR OF BEING LABELED
This may seem that it is similar to the fear of recognition, but it is different. The fear of being labeled comes from the fear of being labeled as an activist. Activists are often labeled as angry or difficult because they are always advocating on behalf of their communities. Activists are often accused of turning everything into a cause. This fear of being labeled as an activist or becoming bitter and angry because of the work causes people to not participate. My response to that: GET OVER IT. Activism can be done in a variety of ways. It can be a simple as sending an email or letter to your Council Member or Congressperson. It can be as simple as casting your vote in an election. It can be joining a protest. It can be speaking out on the news and in front of decision makers. All of these actions are needed to get our issues addressed. Therefore, we need more people to do the big and small acts of activism. Also, if you do not like what is currently being done by those who are doing the work, STEP UP and TAKE OVER. Many times activists remain in their roles in organizations and on the front lines because there is no one to take the baton and keep the fight going. If you have a new approach, or want to take the lead, come take it! We need all soldiers to advocate on behalf of our community, big and small, but we need to get over this fear of being labeled the “angry activist” because the SILENCE is killing our community and us.
ANSWERING THE CALL
GLBTQ rights and equality is going to be achieved. However in order to do is we need to show up and show out. We need to bring all of ourselves, our race, gender, sexual orientation, education, talents, etc. to the table. We need to be unafraid to raise our unapologetic voices. We need to demand the recognition of our full humanity and all of who we are. We need to advocate for our community through the ballot box, the meeting rooms, and halls of government. This movement needs to be radical, conservative, intersectional, multipronged, and inclusive. In order for that to happen, we need to answer the call. The phone is ringing, are you going to pick up?