The Gay Agenda For Black Queer Folks Is About Survival At All Costs
I’ve wanted to write about the notion of the “Gay Agenda” for a very long time. As rainbows continue to go up on every organization’s website, the violence facing Black Queer people continues to rise at astounding rates. The burden is often placed on the backs of Black Queer folks to be front line soldiers for many who haven’t supported us in return. The intersection of our race, sexuality, and gender identity create a multilayered oppression that many of us aren’t surviving.
There is no “Gay Agenda” against the heterosexual community or some goal to make everyone Queer. To even say that is an erasure of Black Queer folks who reside at the intersection of race and sexuality. Our Queerness doesn’t negate our Blackness, nor make us less susceptible to racism or anti-Blackness faced by our hetero brothers and sisters.
The 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots should be a celebration for us. But while the white Queer community prepares for a parade, the Black Queer community continues to mourn each loss that comes and goes so quickly from the headlines. This has been a tough year for us. The Queer antagonism on a macro level from whiteness as the White House continues to trickle down into the community, making us vulnerable to attacks and lacking protection.
There is an ask that often comes that we must be Black first— at all costs. This is a form of erasure that Black Queer people know all too well. In a piece I wrote for BET, I explained how Stonewall—the riots that started the LGBTQ rights movement—is in fact Black history. That because our Blackness is often reduced because of our Queerness, we have never fully accepted that moment as ours. Stonewall was not just a fight for LGBTQ rights, but for civil rights of people who are Black and Queer.
The second form of erasure occurs with the disregard for the roles we have played historically in shaping Black culture, thought, as well as being part of the movement for liberation. Bayard Rustin—a Black gay man—is now known as the architect for the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr’s right-hand man. Writers like James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, are still quoted regularly for their politics that have helped shape the minds of so many of our leaders. Even the most recent Black Lives Matter movement was started by three Queer women of color.
Despite this history, there is a narrative that exists as if WE are a new trend. Black Queer people have always existed. We just now happen to be in a place where we have more visibility and representation—often a problem for the hetero community who either refer to us as the emasculation of the male image or consider us genocide to our community, as if we don’t also procreate. Neither of those statements hold any truth, however, thoughts like that become actions—actions that often have deadly consequences or render us as disposable bodies.
There have been no fewer than 10 Black transgender women murdered this year—often times by heterosexual Black men. The bodies of 2 Black gay men named Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean have been found dead in the home of a white gay man named Ed Buck, who hasn’t been held accountable. And most recently, we lost a 15 years old Black gay boy by the name of Nigel Shelby to a death by suicide. Jonathan Hart was a 21 year old Black man killed by an armed guard at a Walgreens. Although the guard accused Hart of shoplifting, many say Hart was targeted because he was gay. There are no major marches, or headlines, or rallies. No communal healing and attempt to do better. There is just pain we carry as more names become hashtags and ignored by the community that has the power to make a change.
But it’s not just a community issue, nor is the Black community more homophobic than any other. The white community colonized our hatred for Queerness in an attempt to assimilate us—a condition we must fight daily to break. We face hatred and racism from whiteness just the same, even in our “safe spaces.” Yearly, there are reports about the racism we face in white LGBTQ establishments.
The truth is, we are tired and the only Gay Agenda is a Black Agenda—one that acknowledges us as equal owners of the culture. We are tired of leading the revolution for people who will gladly participate in our oppression. Black Queer people have ALWAYS been Black first. It is now time in our plight for you too remember to put our Blackness first. There is no Blackness without Queerness, and there is no liberation without us included.
George M. Johnson has joined BET Digital as guest editor for Pride Month. Look out for his weekly column and curation of editorials from queer Black writers this June. George is a writer, activist and columnist for Afropunk. His debut YA memoir, “All Boys Aren't Blue,” is set to be released April 28, 2020.