To All Happy Pride:
Will you be celebrating the gains made this weekend? I hope so. However, in celebrating do not forget the battle is not over. There are diseases running through the LGBT community. They are, even in this climate of uncertainty, racism and sexism. Our community has suffered and yet some now are inflicting pain upon brothers and sisters. I find it unconscionable that any group who has been marginalized can now exclude others. Exclusion is not new. It has been the work of patriarchal forces forever but now we need to come together and fight any and all isms that are more prevalent now than ever.
“Historically being known as LGBTQ was a career-ending. Many have been ousted from sensitive jobs as a security risk. Well, maybe if they hadn’t been forced to hide their sexuality then the ouster wouldn’t have happened” (Cooper, LBGTQ.docx). Alan Turing comes to mind. He broke the Enigma code of the Germans but ended up being accused of “gross indecency” by the British; underwent chemical castration and supposedly committed suicide. We won’t let this happen again however, will the challenge be accepted by all in the community or just some? Will LGBTQ youth have the freedom to grow and be a dynamic force within our community and the world or will they hide, die and conceal their identity to survive?
Invisibility is death. It means one does not exist. It signifies one is not important. Is this what we want for our young people of all colors? If not then “white” people must know the value of every one of us. Black and invisible in a culture or group already marginalized is unacceptable.
Recently, I had the pleasure to be on a panel discussing isms. Of course, I spoke about the LGBTQ community. Here are some of my remarks. “The challenge of all oppressed groups in this era of repression is to keep our voices strong; become allies; and remove politicians who want to take us back to the dark ages. In this I’m not just referring to those who are anti-gay but all those who want to strip any group of their inalienable rights. We must keep the pressure on by writing, marching, protesting and being visible. Invisibility equals denial and non-existence.” Many have been denied justice because of color, sex or sexual orientation. We cannot allow a trip back to slavery. I am not talking just about the enslavement of black people but more the enslavement of mind. There is a quote attributed to Harriet Tubman that sheds a spotlight on mental enslavement. She supposedly said, “I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” Although according to Kate Clifford Larson in her book Bound For the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero there is no record of Tubman saying this, however, it still has truth. One cannot free him or herself unless he knows he’s enslaved.
July is a month that represents freedom and liberty (July 4th and Bastille Day). In the spirit of these ideals let’s make it our job to free our minds of any prejudices we have. We must become visible to the world. As the song goes, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.” Turn the light on yourself and realize if we don’t come together we’ll all hang separately (to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin). Are we going to let this administration destroy groups one by one or will we present a unified front? The attacks are scattered and yet coordinated” Planned Parenthood, the NEA, affordable housing and of course The Affordable Care Act. Each one of these has women, people of color, and LGBTQ people. And within each group has “white” males who feel they are entitled. Patriarchy and “whiteness” still reign. Tom Clayton in “Gay Will Never Be the New Black: What James Baldwin Taught Me About My White Privilege” quotes Baldwin on this. “white LGBTQ men and women feel slighted precisely because they know that had they been straight, they would have been heirs to incomparable privilege.” People of color and women feel variations of this. They are neglected in the “white” patriarchy and in our LGBTQ community invisible. Here’s what Audre Lorde said about that. “[W]hen I, a Black woman, saw no reflection in any of the faces [in the lesbian clubs of New York] week after week, I knew perfectly well that being an outsider in the Bagatelle had everything to do with being Black.” Now, this was the 70’s but it’s still a problem here in 2017. We are like Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. People without substance. This can no longer be the case with the dismantling of rights by the current administration. A coalition of justice fighters will destroy the administration’s coalition of fear. However, to do that we must be vocal. We must protest in the way that suits us best. We must never allow hate and separation to be our drug of choice. There are as many ways to protest as there are people. We can write, paint, sing, march, walk and demonstrate in all ways to eliminate the isms. However, before we can reach out and be allies to each other we must be as Michael Jackson said, The Man in the Mirror. Now it’s the man and woman in the mirror. Look at yourself and decide do I really want to change what is happening or will I bury my head in the sand?
As Audre Lorde said, “Your silence will not protect you.”