I am on social media quite often. When I became active 10 years ago I joined every LGBT, Women's Rights and Pro Black group. But the more I participated, the more I became discouraged. Social media made it so much easier for crazy people to say what they've been thinking. And, they do all this while hiding behind a keyboard. The Black pages were intensely religious while using the bible and koran as an excuse to hate others. Constant threats of rape and physical threats of violence. Very Christian like behavior hunh?! Jesus would be proud. The LGBT groups weren't any better. Their members were mostly white so my issues as a lesbian of color were rarely addressed. The Women's Rights groups were about the same as the LGBT groups. As a Black woman I was invisible. An outsider. Any discussion about women of color was quickly shut down. The more I protested about our inclusion, the more I was ignored or ridiculed.
One of my friends asked me if I had to choose am I Black or gay first?! I told her I couldn't since both are a part of who I am. It would be like choosing between my left and right eye. Having to choose would be denying parts of me. Yes, I am Black and yes, I am a lesbian. I am equally angered when reading about another unarmed Black person being killed by the police as I am when I hear about a lesbian being murdered in a hate crime. Both were killed simply for being themselves. There is no denying I am Black. It is the first thing you see when you look at me. After that, you will notice that I am a masculine identified woman. Fully accepting of my womanhood but acknowledging and embracing my masculine tendencies as well. Neither can be separated from my essence, nor would I want to. But, the struggle of being accepted as a lesbian in the Black community and the struggle of being accepted as a Black woman in the LGBT community is disheartening.
My first induction into activism was the Rodney King verdict. I remember joining an impromptu march in New York, in the Village when the verdict came down. There were 10 of us. Then 20. Then, hundreds marching down Sixth Ave screaming, 'No justice, no peace.' My people, my Black people, smiling at me and raising their fists. Content in knowing I was their sister in the struggle. All the while wondering, if I were beaten simply because I was gay would the support be there? Where is the Black community when we Black lesbians are being bullied, beaten, raped and murdered? I felt like a traitor thinking that while marching for this Black man I will never meet but have known all my life. I looked for solace among my LGBT people. I was disheartened as well.
I have known since second grade I liked girls but I came out in high school. I attended every Pride march. I wore my Silence=Death buttons. I lived at the clubs. I had a pink triangle for a nose ring. Even my accessories, umbrellas, jackets and hats, had the gay pride colors on it. I finally found a place I belonged. Or so I thought.
Most folks think the LGBT community is homogenous. We are not. There is racism within our community. And sexism. And ageism. And classism. As in the real world, rich, white men have the money thus the control. Read any LGBT magazine or visit any LGBT website and we people of color are an afterthought. Very rarely are we contributing editors or writers or even the subject of articles. Did you know hundreds of transwomen, disproportionately Black, have been killed this year? 48 in Brazil this year alone. There are no calls to action from the LGBT community. Only a few articles written about the tragedies. Imagine if 50 white transwomen were killed in four months?! I'm pretty sure Caitlyn Jenner would be doing public service announcements. The disparity between how Blacks and people of color are treated in the LGBT community is palpable. We stress unity but the LGBT community is clearly divided by class, race, age, sex, looks, gender, and even body type. Sound like one big, happy family to you?!
Straddling two worlds, both as a Black woman in the LGBT community and as a lesbian in the Black community, is a balancing act. I quickly recognize allies and comrades. I can easily assess a dangerous situation and respond accordingly. I keep witty comebacks in my back pocket for the folks who use the bible as a reason to hate me. I developed thicker skin for those who despise my Blackness. But, as I've gotten older, I realize if it weren't for my experiences of being Black, female and gay I wouldn't have the strength, courage and determination I have today.