It's quite an unsettling feeling to watch my gay friends on Facebook discuss the much-lamented dismissal of Willam Belli from RuPaul's Drag Race while my black friends mourn the loss of Trayvon Martin. To be honest, I've been avoiding Trayvon's story. Growing up in Philadelphia, you constantly feel endangered as a black male. The knowledge that one mistake or dumb move can lead to jail or death is beaten into your head the moment puberty begins. Back home on the East Coast, it's not strange for there to be a news story every night about a black man going to jail for a crime. Forgive me, but I just was not eager to hear about another young death.
But it didn't go away. Trayvon didn't become another story on the news. Thanks in part to the unfortunate circumstances that led to his death, the story swept the nation, and I become inundated with the horrific account of a 17-year-old boy who was shot to death by an overzealous neighborhood watchman less than a few feet from his house, with nothing on him but a couple of snacks. The Sanford police call it self-defense, while almost everyone else calls it killing.
As I went from website to website, reading various statements, listening to commentary and gut-wrenching 911 calls, I couldn't help thinking about who had a hand in covering this story. Of course, there was the always-reliable Big Three, with ABC breaking quite a few leads; there was CNN, and fantastic MSNBC, thanks in part to Rev. Al Sharpton, Melissa Harris-Perry, and even Rachel Maddow. FOX.com, while leaving the story off its main page, and of course coming from a place of worry that freedom to bear arms was being threatened, at least covered it. What was missing were the gay media outlets.
OUT.com? Nothing. Advocate.com? Zilch. Queerty? Nada. Maybe this crossed my mind because I am black and gay, but I saw the connection so clearly. Am I the only one who sees young-minority-plagued-because-of-how-society-sees-him-tragically-loses-his-life? Trayvon's case is galvanizing the nation. In my mind, Treyvon is no different from Lawrence King or Tyler Clementi. All three died because of hatred and ignorance, and I think these sad events that have rocked the black community and reminded us how far we still need to go generate a feeling the gay community should know all too well.
It has become the go-to rhetoric for gay progressives and advocates to compare the battle for gay marriage and LGBT equality with the civil rights movement. It's a fair and easy assertion to make, but to talk about this connection and not give further voice or even action when members of both communities are affected is a missed opportunity. What happened to Trayvon Martin is gay news. I am a gay man, and it affects my life. Moreover, as LGBT people, we have to be aware that Trayvon is not one isolated case but a continuation of a death narrative that both black and gay people suffer from and should work to overcome together.
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