We just made it through another month of Gay Pride and how far have we truly come? While we are in the midst of a successful movement convincing the rest of the nation to support us, and a surge of rulings in favor of gay marriage and marriage equality is sweeping across America, can we honestly be prideful of the way we have been treating each other lately? While we have the public appearance that things are going well, as a community there are signs of internal division and segregation and it's time to fix it.
I have seen many headlines and blog posts with musings about Pride, Marriage Equality or the HRC not being for anyone other than white gays, while others are pointing out that in our struggle for equality the battle cries at the front lines readily tout the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement, yet the faces are hardly diverse. The latest wave of criticism, chastises white gays for the dangers of the mocking appropriation of black culture. The dizzying knee-jerk counter-arguments and comments that follow miss the point that the appropriation of another culture without acknowledgment or recognition devalues and divides us all.
The Time opinion piece from Sierra Mannie, posted on July 9th, has made waves about white gays "stealing black female culture." She points out ways that many in the gay community have stolen black music, dance and other popular aspects of some black female behavior, while leaving African Americans, including black gays behind. In some aspects it reminds us of the commonly held anecdote that states diversity is readily mentioned in certain gay circles, although not seen in the gay equality fight, and behind the comfort of the Internet, with the hateful message of "no blacks, no asians, no fems," readily part of profiles on Grindr, Tinder, Scruff and OkCupid, or even boldly espoused in your friendly neighborhood gay bar. In response to her piece, H. Alan Scott chides Mannie and her views largely because of her generalizations, but pieces similar to hers also provide perspective on the appropriation, and while there are similarities, current LGBTQ victories are not a retelling of the Civil Rights Movement with a rainbow colored playbook.
We belittle the opportunity to overcome our shared struggles by imposing a hierarchy on past atrocities. This minority one-upmanship must end. It's irrelevant and this type of comparison doesn't offer any advantage because it keeps us separated and divided in this battle for equality at-large. We replace the shackles of homophobia with our own bindings of oppression and unchecked racism by targeting each other and limiting our success in a battle that is obviously more effective if we fight it together. We are our own best allies and our different struggles of the past should be collectively channeled to overcome our shared struggles of today. We change hearts by telling our stories, all of them. By not doing so, we allow one aspect of our community to continue to be marginalized while another is celebrated for victories that are assumed we had no part in.
No struggle is greater than another, minority or otherwise, just battles of different circumstances. There reaches a breaking point where one has to realize using struggles, lives lost or various oppressions and atrocities as capital in activism is an empty practice. It's time for us to elevate the discussion. It's not a competition in some twisted olympics of the oppressed. We need to take the time to not only empathize, but to understand, to acknowledge and be true allies to each other. We can't just take examples of elements of a struggle that benefit the groundswell of change across our nation, yet in our daily lives perpetuate ignorance. I would like to see the narrative change to one about how we truly unified to overcome our differences.
There are a lot of articles and opinion pieces telling us gays what to do, but by not including or limiting African-Americans, or other gay faces of color, we also make a statement about our history going forward and who may or may not have been part of it. As I watched The Case Against 8, The Normal Heart (both incredibly powerful and important works), and pore over the Instagram posts and messaging of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), there is a lack of diversity. I'm not trying to take this opportunity to add to the chorus of people offering criticism, but instead trying to offer up one perspective for change.
Just imagine if more people of color were included in more gay stories, or there was more balance in the faces we see on television, the movie screen and crowd-funded web series. What impact could be made if we weren't so segregated in the ways we celebrate, and the ways we show our Pride? These struggles aren't interchangeable, but they teach valuable lessons and are opportunities to prevent the negative repercussions of the past from bleeding into our shared future. If we learned anything from the Civil Rights Movement, it's that racism has transformed and persists as a mutation of the evils faced before, and the same will continue to be true of homophobia unless we act together.
I don't expect my one opinion to make sweeping changes in policy, but I am going to make some changes of my own. I'm going to check my shade, check my privilege, check my victimization, check my pride and I'm going to write more, so that I may one day be the champion of the diverse stories that I want to see. I hope we all realize we can't do this alone and truly start to work together because the future strength of our community depends on it -- our gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning community of all colors.
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