"Hi there.. I was at a gsa meeting recently and one of the other attendees said that it must be so hard for me to be out as queer "because black people are more homophobic than white people….. right?" I don’t think her intentions were bad but that statement was confusing and upsetting to me. Why do people think that’s true??"
- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by J Mase III as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions
J Mase III Says:
I remember when Barack Obama was voted into office the first time. My favorite columnist at the moment was Dan Savage and every Tuesday, I would faithfully download his podcast before my work day and listen to it while I hammered away at my computer. Then 2008 happened. The same night that Barack Obama was elected into office to become our first Black President, Proposition 8, a ban against same sex marriage in the state of California also passed- and there was Dan to give us all his real world analysis on why these things happened. You see, it was black people. At least that was what Dan said. In his podcast he described an America in which the homophobia of black people prevented LGB folks from getting their right to marriage. It didn’t matter that more white folks had voted in that election. It didn’t matter that the Mormon church poured a small King’s fortune on ensuring the ban would pass. None of this mattered. We as black Americans had simply not done our part to promote justice and equality for all. I lost an idol that day.
This sentiment is something that many people articulate every day, be they white or people of color, unfortunately. Black people are seen as being inherently more trans/homo/biphobic than their white counterparts. Where does this idea come from and what purpose does it serve that this very old idea gets paraded around? One of the biggest deceptions I think we are taught is that we are individuals with free will and access to any dream we push ourselves towards. The reality is that we are of course part of a larger system of power and privilege.
The fact that we exist as LGBTQ people does not separate us from the global history of white supremacy and colonization. When we look at mainstream LGBTQ organizations, they are primarily run by middle to upper class white cisgender folks. The narrative in this country about LGBTQ people is often by folks very segregated from black and brown people. What ends up happening then is black & brown folks are seen as the mysterious and dangerous other when we speak our minds for or against LGBTQ people. Rarely do folks who speak about black people in particular being more homophobic consider that the anti-LGBTQ laws we have had (and continue to have) on the books comes from a legal and judicial system that is primarily white. We ignore systems. We are taught to. If we look at systems and pay attention to the inherent racism in a statement like that and we pay attention to the lack of representation of people of color in leadership positions, change would be required.
Of course your classmate did not think about the larger implications of what they were saying. They merely stated something they perceived to be a fact. Unfortunately, the dismissal, degrading of black and brown people is a fact that rarely goes unchallenged regardless of how dangerous the implications can be.
As you navigate spaces in which the whole of your identity as a queer black person is not valued, I hope you are paying attention to spaces around you made for and by queer folks of color. If there are no physical spaces in which you feel this is happening where you are, I hope you look at online spaces like the Trans Women of Color Collective, Black Trans Media, Black Girl Dangerous, Son of Baldwin, Elixher and others. There is also a slew of qpoc specific conferences popping up all over the country that your school may even have some funds to support you with in going. If you need someone to help you facilitate conversations, on what it would look like to address structural racism where you are, feel free to check out an organization I run called awQward. The point being in all of this, is there are so many places where you can have your black and queer identity validated. It is important that white supremacy in our concepts of queerness be addressed. We as people of color are more likely to not only identify as LGBTQ than our white counterparts, but also, more likely to face discrimination in the larger community because of it. The queer community has a responsibility to talk about the ways we perpetuate violence through these limited ideas of queerness, and you as a young black person have a responsibility to take care of yourself and find spaces you feel safe.
PS: If you’re interested in some further reading that addresses your question, check out this article!