As a Negro writer who also happens to be a practicing homosexual, I feel compelled to use my voice to help hold other Black people accountable for whatever prejudices they harbor towards members of the LGBTQSWV community.
Unfortunately, those urges are often complicated by my need to also combat the media-led trope that Black folks are monstrously more homophobic and transphobic than other groups — specifically white people. The most recent example of this can be found in the New York Times piece “Transgender African-Americans’ Open Wound: ‘We’re Considered a Joke.’”
In it, John Eligon made the dubious claim: “With few exceptions, black transgender women and men say that they get more hatred from black people than anyone else, even though they have been on the front lines protesting issues that affect all African-Americans.”
It should be noted that Eligon is Black, but bear in mind he is the same Black man who described Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager shot and killed by a white police officer, as “no angel” and wrote a flattering piece about Detroit, a film that has been slammed resoundly by Black critics and even got one prominent white film critic to condemn it for its “immoral artistry.” Eligon’s piece mirrored Lee Daniels’ previous rants about Black homophobia upon the launch of Empire. In fact, it sounds identical to every other one that I’ve ever come across.
The recipe is as follows: pretend Black people are magically more bigoted than white people based on the personal stories of a few or whatever has been pulled out of one’s ass. After that, argue the purported supervillain-like prejudices of Blacks on religion and hypermasculinity. Make sure you fail to denote that Black people didn’t come over here on cruise ships clutching their Bibles and/or dicks; no, no, it’s all on us, beloveds.
Once you’re done, sit back and watch the masses spread your pathologized version of Black homophobia and transphobia all across Al Gore’s internet. Why? Well, although there are plenty of white journalists who work to perpetuate this false narrative about Black homophobia and transphobia, nothing quite pushes the folklore forward like a Black co-sign.
I understand how painful it is to be mistreated by those who look like you. I’m all too aware of the sad irony in watching some Black men and women mistreat you the same way racist white people have belittled them. I am just as angry that not all Black people have my back the way I try to have theirs. Nevertheless, while no one can discount our personal experiences and the personal experiences of others, when assessing an entire community, one needs more than just anecdotes and tropes.
Funny enough, a month before that regrettable read as was published, Quartz published “The Americans who sympathize most with the LGBT community aren’t white.” According to a study by the Public Religion Research Institute, nearly three-quarters of Black Americans believe gay and transgender people in the US face a lot of discrimination. This should not be surprising. Who better understands oppression than the most oppressed people in the history of the United States of America?
By comparison, only 54 percent of whites felt that way — which put them at odds with every other ethnic group sans Asians or Pacific Islanders, who polled at 49 percent. Now, the poll did find that white people support same sex marriage more than Blacks, which speaks to the Black community’s religiosity and us collectively being conditioned to believe marriage is a religious matter rather than a legal contract dictated by the state.
Still, Black people self-identify as LGBTQ more than whites do and have so for several years. Likewise, with respect to gay parents, while we are often presented with the image of two upper-middle class white men, in reality, most gay parents live in the south and are poorer Black and Latina women. Of course, none of that was mentioned in the piece. None of these stats ever are. When speaking on intra-community discrimination, context matters.
Do Black LGBTQ people face more discrimination from other Black people than other groups? Probably, but that has much more to do with proximity than anything.
We live in a highly segregated society, and that is very much by design. So many of us live amongst our harshest critics and greatest supporters. How convenient of Eligon to gloss over that it was mostly Black writers of every gender and sexual identity rallying behind Janet Mock, whom Lil’ Duval insulted in that despicable interview, and holding everyone – hosts included– responsible for the transphobia we all heard.
Meanwhile, it’s the racist president white voters primarily supported that has initiated a trans military ban, which piggybacks off of other despicable measures led by anti-trans, anti-gay conservatives across the country in recent years.
In sum, with respect to homophobia and transphobia in the Black community, it’s complicated, but it’s a complication shared by every ethnic group. Sadly, Black folks are never afforded the nuance and complexities we deserve. Instead, we continue to be beset by these clueless, anecdotal observations that are about as useful as a peso at Mar-A-Lago.
I want to make my community more inclusive and tolerant, but I will not stand for false narratives about us. If you help spread this fable about the big, bad Black homophobic and transphobic community, you do not care about the lives of Black LGBTQ people.
You’re a co-conspirator and you have a standing invitation to fuck off.
“Thots & Thoughts” is a column in which musings on dating, sex, race, religion, and politics all come togetherfrom a bird’s-eye view.