Sunday, July 3, 2011

Is 'Gay' the New Black?

Is ‘Gay’ the New Black?
I am writing this piece of rhetorically, pertinent composition from a biased standpoint. Not biased in the normally referenced negative connotation, but from the bias that is inherent in all humans because of our individually sculpted cultures and life experiences.

For some time now, via media and social networking outlets, I have been hearing proponents of same-sex/homosexual marriage comparing Gay Rights to the African American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, yet I must beg to differ on the fact that homosexuality, unlike one’s ethnicity (unless ‘passing’), can be disguised, if not totally hidden, from public view, therefore making subordination because of homosexuality a ‘choice’ situation rather than a ‘forced’ situation as in the case of the United States’ societal discrimination and subordination of the American Negro, and even the international castigation, dehumanization, and subjugation of the Moors of the world. The treatment may be the same, yet the impetus for that treatment is as simple as ‘see’ versus ‘say’; one cannot know you are Gay unless you verbally inform and clarify the fact to them—Black, on the other hand, is understood on sight, and therein lies the conundrum that deconstructs the comparison between the Civil Rights Movement of the American Black and the Gay American.

By no means will I turn this article into a homophobically constructed composition laden with right wing sympathies, whether social or political, nor will I attempt to be the monolithic voice of the Christian/Protestant sect that the majority of Americans proclaim to reside. But, I will defend the Civil Rights struggle of the African American in 1950s and 1960s America as the most unique, heroic, and incomparable social fight for liberty and equality that the United States of America has ever seen (i.e. in comparison to, if you can compare, Lesbian/ Gay/ Bi-Sexual/Transgender(LGBT), Women, Latino, Disabled). For quite a few months now, and especially since the last week of my life (29 June-2 July 2011), I have been hearing colleagues, close friends, students, and even strangers discuss the possible ramifications of the legitimizing of Gay marriage throughout the states of America that are supposed to be united. Though it has been on the political radar since Hawaii banned Gay marriage in 1993, the 2004 Massachusetts legislation that ‘approved’ (funny how humans have to get approval from other humans to get married) same-sex unions, the recent approval by the state of New York this past week has created quite the discourse throughout our homes, churches, college campuses, golf courses—if you play, gymnasiums, and practically everywhere where individuals have the time and opportunity to discuss anything at all with other individuals whom they share any attribute of cultural identification (i.e. Race, gender, economic status, occupation, education, regionality, nationality). True, there are currently 30 states that have amendments on the books of law that ban same-sex or gay marriage, but besides the discrimination of the legal union of gay peoples, what other ways is the Gay Rights Movement remotely similar to the Black American Civil Rights Movement?

How can an employer not hire you if you are a homosexual if they do not ‘know’ you are a homosexual? Maybe I am a proponent of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’? Maybe your sexuality and sexual activity should be a personal thing, like your mate’s G-Spot or the fact that you abuse your wife or husband or children, either mentally or physically, or that you chug down a bottle of Smirnoff every evening after work to make it to the next day, or that you nasally scoff down five or six lines of Peruvian on a nightly basis to cope with your inadequacies, or that you eat a ‘family size’ platter of Popeye’s chicken while locked away in your bedroom to satisfy your pleasure principle. In my opinion, some things should be an individual’s own business.

I am concerned that when Gay individuals compare their movement to that of the African American Civil Rights Movement they are minimizing the sociopolitical and economic restrictions that exist when discriminatory actions persist because of one’s appearance. Black don’t come off, but you can hide Gay. For instance, unless one walks around adorned in the androgynous garbs of an Adam Ant or 1980s…and 1990s…hell, 2000s, you would be hard-pressed to readily identify one’s sexual preference via the natural visual aid we call appearance.

Are Gays, or is the LGBT, community piggybacking on the Civil Rights Movement? Yes, I know that Gay Rights are nothing new to the national agenda, yet I get sick of hearing the comparison between the two movements. I mean, really? How in the world is being ‘gay’ at the least similar to being Black. I can’t hide my hue or the tint of my skin or the permanent tan I’ve had from birth—Gays can. Sure, you will eventually have to bring your mate to the company picnic or the company Christmas Party or whatnot, but I can never leave my Black at home—no way no how. Sometimes, if I could, I wish I could leave my Black at home while searching for a prestigious position at an elite company that will afford me the opportunity to pay off student loans, for the two degrees and graduate certificate which I have earned, and garner me enough of an annual salary where I can properly provide for my son and his college education and first car and prom and attire he can wear to school without being ridiculed by his classmates for not having upper middle class garments and summer vacations abroad, but I cannot; I cannot hide my Blackness—you can see it in my skin and in the juicifully thick lips and kinky, black hair. And my walk and the base and rhythmic intonation of my voice and my…’cool.’ Gays can hide their sexuality. Even if they bring their mate to a company outing or out in public, who’s to say the two, or the couple, are not just close friends, or friends? People know me and my ‘Blackness’ aren’t friends—they know we are one—one in the same.

And I know everyone reading this article will reference the U.S. Miscegenation laws from 1913-1948 where 30 of 48 states enforced a ban on interracial marriage and the 1967 Loving vs. Virginia case where the Supreme Court ruled the Virginia Racial Integrity Act of 1924 unconstitutional and readily compare that one aspect wherein the Civil Rights and Gay Movements intertwine. But sexual preference, and the ability to display one’s sexual preference, and one’s race are incomparable like shit to fart—they both smell, but one is of substance and the other is just gas. There is a reason why old adages exist like ‘that’s like comparing apples and oranges’ or ‘that’s neither here nor there’—because arguments like this one fit that bill.

-Gee Joyner


  1. Hi Gee, kalisan here. Interesting stance on the argument of the comparison of the Gay Civil Rights Movement to the Civil Rights Movement. There was a course I took during my time at Georgia State University called African-American Gay and Lesbian Activism. In this class, we learned that both movements were simultaneous, particularly for African American Gay and Lesbian individuals. As the civil rights movement took place not through actions but cultural arts as well, so did gay civil rights movements. There is evidence of literature addressing issues of sexuality dating back to the early 1900's. There is a political activist by the name of Rusty Bayard or something to that effect who was considered to be Martin Luther King Jr.'s right hand man during his activist time period, but being that he was gay his name was booted out of the history books and replaced with Jesse Jackson. There is a magnificent book entitled "Brother to Brother" that covers issues of discrimination within black communities due to sexuality. Also, a documentary "Black is, Black ain't" discussing how racial identity is forcefully superseded over gender discrimination and sexual discrimination, basically benefiting heterosexual black males while other discrimination within black communities are pushed to the side. Basically, the movements have never been separated...especially for people of color that are not heterosexual. There is tons of literature to back this perspective. If need be, you can contact Dr. Layli Phillips of Ga State Univ, Women's Studies Dept. for more info on the interconnection of gender, racial, and sexual identity.

    1. You combine truth with falsness in you arguement. The bottomline is you can look at a person and see that they are black, you can't ignore it , avoid it, disguise it or hide it. You can not, however tell that a person is "gay"/ homosexual unless they outwardly portray an action associated with the stigma of a "gay"/homosexual person.

    2. Uh...what falsities? Reread...the premise of the article is in accordance with your post, Ms.Panther.

  2. I don’t know of any real bono fide advocates for gay equality that support the notion that the plight for equality on behalf of LGBT individuals is comparable to the African-American Civil Rights movement. As a matter of fact, the advocates for gay equality that I know of-- the established advocates, say DON’T compare-directly or indirectly-the experience of gay and transgender people with those of African Americans or the Civil Rights Movement. They believe that research is clear, the comparisons alienate Blacks and they don’t actually help people understand the concrete, specific harms that gay and transgender people face. Now do people actually make the comparison? Yes. Are they incorrect in doing so? Yes. Does that ignorance of their comparison diminish the right for equality for Americans? No.
    It is clear that the right for equality is about everyday Americans who want the same chance as everyone else to earn a living, be safe in their communities, serve their country, and take care of the ones they love. I hear you with regards to skin-color being obvious and sexual orientation not being an immediate characteristic for judgment but beyond telling anyone anything, when a gay or transgender person’s identity is discovered, they still face discrimination.
    The real issue is equality for ALL Americans not making comparisons to past inequalities. No one argues that when the Irish were oppressed by the British (both in this country and abroad) that the Irish were similar to Polish who had been oppressed by the Germans. Both the Irish and the Polish can attest that they did not get far treatment in this country by those of British lineage or German lineage. No one compares the Women’s Liberation Movement to the Civil Rights Movement; all of these acts are acts of inequality and not the type of treatment that should be condoned by any individual or country. White people didn’t know a Polish from a German—until they speak, but to deny someone a job or dismiss them from a job because of their background (seen or said) is just wrong. More than 11,000 men and women have been dismissed under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. When the government joins hands with hindering people from being themselves or being different, that gives credence to those who want to hate and harm people for their differences. It is not about making comparisons to struggles and movements but it is about equality. I want the right to sit anywhere on the bus and I don’t think that anyone who can pay should be denied that right either, even if they get on the bus with a gay-pride t-shirt on.