While many have pushed against the notion that Black people are more homophobic than other groups of people, there is some resistance against homosexual and trans identities from people who consider themselves to be “revolutionaries” that must be called out. There is also a need to acknowledge how tireless our LGBT folks have been in fighting for freedom in this country, including the right to marry, though Black and White so-called activists alike have often dismissed or ignored efforts that they have readily benefited from.
Though the concept of marriage equality is a relatively new one, the struggle for same-gender loving couples to be treated fairly is not. For years, LGBTQ communities have put their bodies on the line in the name of justice, in relationships and otherwise. This recent political victory is one that has come have a lot of work and a severe lack of acknowledgement of the LGTBQ activists of color (particularly women) who propelled the issue of equality to the forefront of the American psyche.
Black people are always the guinea pigs for foul treatment and the limited disbursement of human rights in America. We are also the first group of people in this country to quickly become allies with other fractured communities. People of color fight for not only our very own rights but the rights of every mistreated citizen in this country. And despite the discrimination they sometimes face from their own people, Black LGBT persons are true frontliners for not only Black freedom but human freedom as a whole.
Our LGTBQ brothers and sisters are powerful yet often silenced or overlooked when the proper assessment of many political victories is finalized. We wonder, will the history books again forget the people who were actually on the front lines in favor of the pen pushers?
Many White liberals used the issue of marriage equality to bury the core subject of state-sanctioned violence against Blacks by the hands of the police, despite how hard that violence comes down against Black LGBT persons who are less concerned with a marriage certificate than the ability to live freely and safely. But none the less this does not negate the fact that the LGTBQ fight in America has been plowed and pushed by the persistence of the Black LGTBQ community as they receive very little credit from their White counterparts.
The statement “Black Lives Matter” was crafted with the ability to vastly cover a very diverse community of African people. Yet some of our people continue to struggle to accept our same-gender loving family. I look to the words of the the great Huey P. Newton for a revolutionary truth we should all come to understand:
“I know through reading and through my life experience and observations that homosexuals are not given freedom and liberty by anyone in society.They might be the most oppressed people in the society”
Black people are Earth’s foremost shapers of culture. We are the first responders to the need for human rights to be prioritized and as the so-called minority of this land so each, every single fight for equality in America effects us first and foremost. I refer to another statement from the same aforementioned speech from our beloved ancestor Huey P. Newton:
“The terms “faggot” and “punk” should be deleted from our vocabulary and especially we should not attach names normally designed for homosexuals to men who are enemies of the people, such as [President] Nixon and [Attorney General John] Mitchell. Homosexuals are not enemies of the people.”
The success of an oppressed party fighting it’s way through a revolutionary struggle is deeply connected to its ability to invest in its allies. In America, any oppressed group of individuals with shared revolutionary values must be deemed as a possible friend of the people as we engulf on this journey to dethrone and defeat White supremacist patriarchy. Our Black LGBT family is not a group of allies, they are US and we are them; our enemy is the same.
We are part of an ongoing struggle to defeat the White man’s undeserved reign over the planet Earth. As a heterosexual man, I must openly reject the notion that homosexual Black men are weak. All Black people are strong people, period. I acknowledge the male privilege and heterosexual privilege I have while also understanding that, in this country, the life of a German Sheppard often has more value than mine. Yet that is no excuse for me to blindly contribute to the oppression of others, especially not my own Black brothers and sisters.
My personal identity and the romantic love I have exclusively for Black women do not outweigh my desire to destroy all forms of human oppression within the society. I do not have to run from homosexuality because I understand who I am, just as I don’t need to deny or reduce the tremendous capability of Black women to lead in order to affirm my own. As Newton said, “We should be willing to discuss the insecurities that many people have with homosexuality. When I say insecurities, I mean the fear that they are some kind of threat to our manhood.” My manhood is intact and I am glad to help other straight Black men understand this as well. Gay brothers aren’t the threat, White supremacy is.
No cry for Black freedom can involve the oppression of LGBT people, period. One group of people does not have to live within shackles for the other to experience liberation. This is the delusional dichotomy of White supremacy, which posits that it is impossible for everyone to experience freedom on one accord.
As marriage equality joins the long list of empty and incomplete promises made to American citizens, we must challenge the notion that simply having the right to marry your partner will make you equal in this society and we must continue to fight for our Black LGBT family, because they have never stopped fighting for us all.
Tef Poe is a rapper and co-founder/director of Hands Up United, a St. Louis-based activist organization formed in the wake of Mike Brown’s death.