Guest Blogger

Why are white gay men so racist? Why are straight black men so homophobic?

Filed By Guest Blogger | July 22, 2009 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, The Movement
Tags: African-American, black gay men, Blacks and gay rights, Phil Reese, race problem

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Phil Reese began his career of LGBT advocacy in central Michigan and now resides in Champaign, IL where he teaches Middle School and attends graduate school at the University of Illinois. Phil is passionate about news, social networking, information science and mobilizing LGBT people to become more active in their communities.

Phillip_Reese.jpg

It's time to lay the cards on the table. White gay men pontificate about race as if race and sexuality were mutually exclusive--like black gay men don't exist. I'm not talking about lesbians, in fact they seem a might more inclusive. This whole post is aimed at men. Sorry dudes.

White gays constantly exclude black gay men from everything from their social networks right up to organizational leadership--and especially from the discussion of the relationship between the gay and African American communities. Yet, straight black men also often ignore the existence of black gay men--or pigeonhole them with certain stereotypes. As such, to minority communities, the fight for LGBT Equality seems like a battle being waged by whiney white middle class suburban douche-bags.

The rift seems to grow as both groups loudly laments the perceived prejudice of the other--and each takes increasingly marginalizing verbal swipes.

The best example of this are the post Prop-8 wailing spewing from queer Caucasians, putting blanket blame on this generic specter of "The Black Community."

Gay Is Not the New Black

Gay is not the new black, nor is LGBT Equality the shitty sequel of the Civil Rights struggle. That's comparing apples to tomatoes. Though there are noteworthy links between the movements, this entire correlation between Queer Equality and Black Equality is soaked in bad feelings; the square peg won't fit the round hole, so quit forcing.

Privilege often prevents white gay men from perceiving racial issues accurately, minimizing pain black men feel daily by comparing the pain of losing court battles or having bills fail. This ignorance breeds contempt in the straight black community who disassociate with such rhetoric. 'You couldn't care less about us until its convenient to compare yourselves to us; then you want to annex our struggle as if it were yours!' This frustration comes off as hatred to the white gay male writing establishment, who amp up the tension.

Merciless white gay attacks on President Obama, regardless of action or inaction, come across as subtly coded racism. President Obama has championed gays more than any previous president--and though he did overpromise and underdeliver--attacking his positive acts as 'too little too late' just proves white gay men generally really are ignorant of their privilege.

I'm not going to quit criticizing the gaffs of the White House, mind you, but I also criticized the gaffs of the Bush White House. Frankly, I expect better from this administration. At the same time, I've recognized and celebrated the positive actions, unlike many white gay bloggers and pundits.

That blind blathering gives cause to the African American community to label white gay men totally oblivious.

The Real Enemies of Equality

All of this run-around is a waste of time and energy and gives heart to the real enemies of equality. Nazi skinheads like ones now being enrolled into the armed forces are loving that queer Caucasians and African Americans can't stop getting at each other's throats.

That the news broke of the quiet enlistment of known white supremacists, and passed with little fanfare in the National media--while white gay criticism of Obama's policies popped up every ten seconds--is proof positive that our vigilance in countering our true enemies is compromised. 'Birthers' and 'teabaggers' are growing with their racist and homophobic creeds, which should ring the alarm for both our overlapping communities.

White gay men need to be called out on their prejudices, however they need most to be challenged by gay black men.

Black gays must directly confront biases in the gay community, and must be visibly vigilant to maximize impact. Black gay men stand in a unique position to accurately comment on both racism and homophobia from an authentic perspective, much more than mine. However, black gays miss hundreds of opportunities daily to educate and create positive change.

Many black gay men have more to worry about than policing homophobia in the African American community or combatting prejudices with queers. Black gay men are far more likely to be homeless or dealing with other economic pressures than their Caucasian counterparts. There are also social pressures for black gay men to avoid 'making waves' in either the LGBT or African American communities.

You must have courage, however. This rift will only widen, and we cannot bridge the gap without the help of vocal black gay men. White gay men have an obligation to shed themselves of bigotry when confronting the African American community. Stop referring to the black community as some unconnected 'other.' This alienating, belittling language makes it difficult for black gay men to feel comfortable working with the greater gay community. The black community is not responsible for Proposition 8! Point the finger inward; maybe the white men in charge made some mistakes (perhaps not engaging communities of color).

Black gay men will never feel comfortable as part of the whole community until white gay men get jolted and realize that African Americans already are part of the Community. Likewise, black gay men must prioritize clearly engaging other gay men on ignorance. When the gay community at large stops sounding so ignorant, we may finally be able to forge more powerful alliances. Its about trust, and the trust is lacking because of the words of gay white men like myself. Its time to check ourselves and work on being more inclusive, rather than exclusive


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There's a lot of truth to what you're saying here, although I don't think that the people who need to listen to it will listen to it.

Especially the parts about the more cynical comparisons to the Civil Rights Movement - obviously no one can think I'm excluding African Americans if I quote MLK and Bayard Rustin!

But I do disagree with the idea that black gays are the best people to challenge racism among gay men. I've seen those black LGBT's get dismissed so easily when they bring up racism in the community in ways that I haven't see white people who bring up racism get dismissed. If a black LGBT person brings it up, she is a reverse racist, a homobigot, playing the race card, Obama-obsessed, etc. If a white LGBT person does, then she's open-minded, perhaps white-guilty and misguided, but overall white people listen to other white more closely, and white LGBT's have a responsibility here.

Completely agree. It is white people's job to educate other whites about white privilege and racism. It is not the job of a person of color. To rely on a POC to educate you about these issues is just falling back into your race privilege. It is our responsibility as white people to understand our privilege as being white and then adamantly working to divest from it and to educate other whites.

Biracial bisexual transman | July 22, 2009 4:24 PM

White people can't understand racism without listening to people of color. It is the responsibility of white people to create an environment where people of color are encouraged to speak up and are listened to, not to say what's what when it comes to racism. (For example, do you know what unique issues I face as a Hapa?) Right now, people of color in the mainstream LGBT community (like women, poor, working class, poz, bi, and trans people) are tokenized and our issues are deemed irrelevant, or at best, secondary to the issues of rich white gay men.

Today, in an hour and 30 minutes, I will facilitate a discussion about internalized racial oppression -- which comes in two flavors: inferiority and superiority. I am going to address it through race identity formation models -- one by Cross and the other by Helms. Helms was the first to develop this model for white people. And you know what? Based on Helms work, to hold the position that white people cannot understand racism without people of color is erroneous and actually harmful to white people's development.

"White" is a race, too. People of color are not the only racialized bodies.

According to Helm, the level you speak of is called "Psuedo-Independence". At this level, whites make the intellectual connection about racism and how it is wrong, yet they stay emotionally disconnected. Relying on POCs to educate them, they never have to make the step towards internalizing anti-racism.

Becoming anti-racist for white people is not only about understanding the different cultures and styles of people of color, but learning about their history as white people. The myths they were raised with, the rhetoric they internalized about POC inferiority. If we are playing into that with them and for them, they can never get to the stage where they are not only intellectually committed to anti-racism, but emotionally connected to it, too.

coloredqueer | July 22, 2009 12:00 PM

Actually it is your white privilege that enables you to even speak out openly about racism with in the gay community without having to worry about the consequences and intimidation tactics of white gays. I say that in positive sense. White gays would not attempt to silence you. They successfully silence LGBT folks of color when they raise these issues and prefer to keep some tokens of color at hand to show diversity. And that is why you see ineffective, docile "tokens" of color in every gay org from legal services to immigrant rights.

I'd also remind you that racism in gay community is gender neutral. Based on the experience of many LGBT people of color in gay community, white lesbians are as guilty of racism as white gay men and infact sometimes white gays are more vicious in their treatment of people of color then their hetero counterparts. This comment would provoke heat but it is our life experience and white gays do not wear our color. Also, on the same note, white gays are equally racist against other communities of color (Latinos, Asians, Native Indians) and their racism is not limited to just black men.

It would take tremendous effort and a shakedown of gay organizations and only donors, gay media and bloggers can expose racism in the gay community.

Here is a concrete suggestion: expose one national gay organization at a time. Demand their racial structure of their board, staff and efforts for diversity. Make that information/responses public. Question their commitment to diversity. These white gay orgs are more likely to respond to white folks questioning them and yes that is quite racist but it takes long time to bring change whether it is ending homophobia or racism.

I whole-heartedly agree that at times gay white men can be MORE VICIOUSLY PREJUDICED than the general population at large, which is what got me riled up to write this post in the first place. I also hope I made clear that I don't want to let white gay men off of the hook on battling bigotry. We all need to.

I just don't want to see black gay men retreat from the community at large because of the racism, rather than stay visible and challenge it directly. Its a hard thing to ask of gay black men as a white man myself, but I see the rift widening rather than shrinking without the visible and vocal presence of black gay men who directly engage and challenge the bigotry in the greater gay community.

So, you're saying that rather than get vocal with the president, white gay men ought to worry about who's joining the military?

In case you haven't come out of that rock you're under, that bill to which hate crime legislation (which whiny white gays moan about) is attached already has provisions for preventing the enrollment of persons belonging to hate groups.

Yeah, we know, bills and court cases are for the privileged. Interracial marriage and affirmative action efforts through these mediums truly support this!

I propose you this: Count me the number of lynchings in the gay community as opposed to gay bashings in the black communities. Explore music subcultures popular in these communities to show which prejudice is more blatant. Hmmmm, where did the "no homo" meme come from....?

And when you talk about gay racism, do take note that these same black gay men go to their own clubs because clubs with a white gay clientele are unwelcoming; but also because should they attend mainstream black clubs, they'll get beaten to bloody pulps.

Trying to equalize the degree of racism in predominantly white gay spaces to the degree of homophobia in mainstream black spaces is poised for laughable failure.

Count me the number of lynchings in the gay community as opposed to gay bashings in the black communities.

That's part of the issue here. How many white gay people (or bi, lesbian, trans, queer....) participated in lynchings? I'm sure there were some - we're everywhere in history, and that's both a blessing and a curse.

Us being L, G, B, T, etc., doesn't put us beyond criticism on these fronts. White LGBT people aren't so oppressed in terms of gender and sexuality that it erases their whiteness. It simply doesn't work that way.

The fact that some people in the community think that being oppressed and/or liberal/progressive means that they're beyond criticism on racial issues is the problem that Phil's trying to discuss.

I'm sure a few white gays lynched black people in the past. Maybe they had wives and were screwing around with men on the side, and they probably weren't living the out-n-proud life, but if we accept that LGBT oppression goes back further than 50 years, we're going to have to accept the fact that our population was made up mostly of closet cases who participated in everything people were doing back then, from painting the Sistine Chapel to lynching black people to being the lynched black person.

Just take a look at his comment and his post.

It's about this caricature he's painting of generalizations upon an entire sector of the LGBT population. That all white gays are middle class, pampered, and well off. Whatever happened to white gays like Bil?

The post is reeking with apologetic speech. Maybe black people would be less homophobic if a VERY, VERY tiny portion of the population they barely come across with were less racist, assuming the degree of racism in the gay community is as pervasive as he states. The post is teeming with with a "you reap what you sow" logic. Blacks are mad at white gays because they're racist. How about blacks as a community are unwelcoming because their churches hold such incredible power in their social lives, and these churches are coincidentally retrograde when it comes to gays and women, or anything that flies in the face of the rigid gender binary they adhere by.

The guy even gets off with the absurd claim that gays are even worse than straights when it comes to racism. Excuse me, but I can bet my gorgeous ass that the amount of outreach programs and people of color departments in gay community centers, organizations, and social clubs far exceed the number of LGBT branches in any black social groups, organizations, or community centers. Black gay men get utterly ignored in centers in charge of addressing black people with aids, all the time. Most of the funds go to straight black women.

Heck, even the championed NAACP can't even bring itself to take a position at the national level. The State of Black America address completely erased any mention of black gay people.

This is not to say that the gay community as a whole doesn't see -isms that even go beyond racism. I just take issue with the characterization of instigators this guy is painting.

Let's get real, if you want change that will truly make a difference for black gay people, you might want to start with social change that liberates the community from the iron grip of the reverends.

If you're so worried about caricatures, doesn't it worry you that you're painting the Black community with a pretty wide brush yourself? It seems to be that you're proving the point that the original poster made in the first place.

Seeing as I'm not a white guy, I doubt it.

Homophobia being more rampant in the black community than any other racial/ethnic groups is beyond debate.

Chitown Kev | July 22, 2009 7:35 PM

Lucrece, a lot of that rampant-ness is regional, for one.

For two, the Arab community might be worse. Talk about brothers on the DL...

I could add a few "ethnic white" communities (Polish, Russian) as well though the numbers are small and they do blend in so easily as white people.

Arab community, where? Equally regional. I also dislike the term Arab because many people misuse it when they mean something else.

I would describe homophobia as particularly dominant in low socioeconomic levels, if I were pressured to make a blanket statement.

Chitown Kev | July 22, 2009 9:42 PM

I live in Chicago but I'm from Michigan. Big Arab-American community there, mostly from Iraq and other Persian Gulf States (and Iranians are not Arabs, that's pretty much an insult to Iranians, I know). Plus my first boyfriend was Egyptian.

Although I do find that men from the ME tend to be flirts. But very on the DL.

Homophobia being more rampant in the black community than any other racial/ethnic groups is beyond debate.

Really? Because you say so, or do you actually have proof of this?

As for you not being white, I'm sorry that I assumed that you were.

I'm sure that if your google-fu isn't terrible, you'll have very little trouble finding studies on this, one including a Harvard African American studies department.

I'm not going to bother with convincing someone who denies upon factional grounds.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | July 23, 2009 7:20 PM

Lucrece, you may not be white. But you're also not African-American, are you?

I believe you're Cuban-American? That does not entitle you to speak for the experience of African-Americans.

Actually the national chair of the NAACP, Julian Bond, did speak against Prop 8 and publicly supports gay rights. But the mainstream media left and right did not report that.

It was his personal position, we know that. National positions and confronting their followers is another thing, though.

They can pay a lot of lip service to the LGBT press about their few and privileged opinions as leaders, but I doubt you'll get any of them to address the mass of their organization.

It was not his personal opinion he is the spokes person for the NAACP. Also the NAACP campaigned against the same-sex amendment banned in Florida. You are not addressing the fact that black national leaders are supporting gay rights, people like Angela Davis. Rather is seems as if you are brushing off every black person/organization that is in support of gay rights

And it seems you are not addressing places like Utah, Arizona, and Florida. All of these places passed amendments to ban same-sex rights. But in these cases the majority of people voted for these amendments were white. But you are not saying these people are homophobic.

Point is that we need to address homophobia and racism wherever it is.

I'd certainly like to say that the comment about Lesbians being more open minded is true, and certainly in my personal experience it has been the case, but historically we've had our own embarrassments.

Natalie Clifford Barney, the modern Sappho and she who many of us look as the matriarch of modern Sapphism, was an out and avowed fascist as was her partner, Romaine Brooks. For that matter, even Gertrude Stein was pro-fascist to a point and believed that Hitler would save Europe from Communism.

Eleanor Roosevelt was an avowed anti-Catholic(which would probably earn her points in the community currently)

Difficult situation it is that the LGBT community finds itself in.

First of all, realistically, the proclaimed leaders of both the Black and the Hispanic Communities are Evangelical ministers who use their positions to deny us rights. We, in turn take them at their word that they are the voice and heart of those whom they claim to represent and use the kind of strong invective that as a radical movement we've become accustomed to, hyperbolic and dramatic and a razor edged boomerang that will return to cut our own throats.

Secondly, our leadership is lily white, male, elitist, and priviledged. Insulated by wealth and political influence, they've beome notorious for compromise and bargaining away rights of others not quite so insulated from the rough and tumble of everyday life.
Amongst ourselves, we criticise them as "neo-mattachinists" or "conserva-quers." But there it is; our ostensible voice and image is one that even we more radical beings disapprove of.

Thirdly, as a former Trotskyite and friend of mine pointed out to me recently, bridges between various movements in the 60's and 70's were based upon common anger, common disaccomodation at the hands of the establishment and a common radicalism. Emotion bound us all.

The emotional cathexis, the common disaccomodation, the radicalism are all gone. The Racial civil rights movement lost the Black Power and Panthers, lost the overt civil disobedience and the conservative ministers filled the vacuum. In our movement, the spiritual heirs to the accomodationist and assimilationist mattachines came to the fore again after less than a decade of queer radicalism.

The arguments from both camps are both valid and invalid. Yes, the perceived voice of the African-American community is homophobic. But, do we need to take them at their word? Do we need to go after them with sledgehammer blows? Should we, instead, dispute their claim to sole representation just as we dispute HRC's claim to be our sole voice and image?

We can bypass the ministers, we can support Black LGBT's, we can reach out with a voice and a face more representative of the actual make up of our community, we can establish common ground with the more secular components of the various racial communities. Better yet, we can simply not react when a Bishop Jackson goes at us and respond with a pro-active move on behalf of LGBT's of colour.

We can give ourselves a different face, a more diverse face. We are NOT all white, spoiled elitists. Nor should we be represented as such.

Absurd.

Contrary to popular belief, not all B/black people or B/blck communities, or even B/black culture is physically homophobic. This is a lie I wish the gay white community would stop promulgating because it is absurd and ignorant and, well, racist.

B/black gays, like myself, sometimes like being around our own because we don't feel like negotiating or "ignoring" or tacitly "excusing" racism from our gay white brothers and sisters and transpeople or dealing with homophobia from our het B/black counterparts. Not because we are going to get beaten to a "bloody pulp", but because we deserve spaces where we don't have to deal with EITHER. The invisibility from BOTH communities that happens more often than not.

But my experience as a B/black person is not that B/black people are homophobic towards me ipso facto. In fact, I can count on racism from gay white people more readily than homophobia from B/black people.

This has actually been an explosive and tense issue in my home. I have a son who was hanging with a little crowd of spoiled skinny white gay boys, you know the kind they look cute and never get involved in any issues but bitch about straight people and are racist as hell.
But he has me as a father so they can't claim that his straight parents just don't get it. They were getting right up my nose and he was starting to spout some crap along those lines.
We got an end put to it around here but it took some serious confrontations between a father and a son.
But the stereotypical tables were turned. I think that one of his friends dismissed my opinions as not counting because I'm bi and so I can't really understand the issues. When my kid saw that aimed at me he seems to have realized that the other crap was crap.
But that is what we have to do. I think that white LGBT activists have to continue to be activists representing our community but also within our community.

Chitown Kev | July 22, 2009 3:21 PM

Great comments thus far, especially coloredqueer's on positive ways to utilize white privilege.

Personally, I have to admit that I get very, very leery when straight black people discuss racism in gay communities as well. For one, as Lucrece implies, it's not as if most straight black people really give a damn about the gay people in their own communities much less white gay people. IME, there's an all too frequently thinly veiled homophobia in those discussions. (My rule: When a straight black person knows something about the gay community besides Harvey Milk and anything that I can see at a gay pride parade, I'll listen. Same goes for white gay men who only seem to know isolated quotes from the Kings and Bayard Rustin.)

RAcism is bad. Homophobia is bad.

Generalizations are bad too.

"White gays constantly exclude black gay men from everything from their social networks..."

All of us? Excuse me while I email all my non-white friends and tell them that I'm obligated to exclude them from my social network. Or are you talking about your own social network?

One problem with this essay is that it's full of "don'ts." What would you have us do. On one hand, you criticize "merciless white gay attacks on President Obama," but it's okay to criticize him. How do we tell the difference? And is okay when a person of color (say Pam Spaulding) says the White House is giving us too little too late?

It's easy to say "don't do that." Let me chime in: stop saying "don't do that."

Tell us what we should do.

I agree that those of us who are white (male) gays can use our privilege to speak out with a unique freedom against the racism (and misogyny) in our community, but those who are discriminated against can't leave it up to us to change things. If the disadvantaged throughout history had waited for the powerful to establish social justice, they would all still be waiting.

Chitown Kev | July 22, 2009 5:36 PM

Uh, Lucrece is your ass really that gorgeous? I wanna see. :)

By the way, I agree with you that it is equally important to be critical of the straight black community (esp. the preachers and the rank and file)and to call them on their hypocrisy as well. Most black politicians at the national level are very supportive of the gay community, for example, but do they speak about it with their constiteuents?

I'll charge for the sight; and I'm not cheap, baby~

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 23, 2009 6:03 AM

Lucrece, you have made some of the most interesting arguments, and I need to ask how business is on your corner? :)

I think there is a blind spot being missed. It is called "perceived class" or access. Either by neighborhood, affiliations, dress code, income level, vehicle driven, level of education, level of bitchiness or "desire" people identify with what they aspire. Given that premise I understand Phil's apt observations on the differences between "downtown" and suburban.

Also, all these differences are enhanced/altered by region of the country. "Arabs?" you ask...Islam is the fastest growing religion in America. Perhaps not in your locale but, like politics, all differentiation is local.

This bitch has been busier than a bee as of late! Thanks for your concerns~

With that said, I'm sure there's much to be expounded on this topic you brought up; but seeing as how these complexities are already more concisely explained in easily available texts on the web, I'm not inclined to regurgitate on a comments section. My comments can be bloated enough as is, and nothing but my ass should see bloating~

I am certain that if my comments are not deleted, I will be flamed.

But it does matter. None of the organizations have any race based criteria for entrance or participation. Accusing gay organizations of institutional racism is a pretty serious charge and not borne out by the facts or even observation.

If a desire to keep gay rights exclusively white were the issue, then you would not see other minorities participating. If you look for example at Miami, you can't help but notice that Hispanic participation dominates the social and political scene as you'd expect given the local demographics.

You only need to attend a community meeting here and it is likely to be conducted bilingually. In other cities, I have noticed that gay and feminist groups lead the way in including people with disabilities and the groups usually reflect the ethnic makeup of the region, with one glaring exception.

There is low participation of African Americans in gay organizations, but there is low participation of African Americans in just about every social justice movement. Feminists have for years suffered from the same criticism. AIDS organizations in spite of the high incidence in the African American community have startlingly low participation rates. Antiwar protests do not attract a large African American contingent. Prochoice groups are notoriously white. Disability rights groups face the same issue. The list goes on.

If the problem of low African American participation were specific to the gay movement, then that would indicate a problem. But it's not particular to the gay movement and a broad brush critique assigning the problem to "white men" is at best disingenuous and does a grave disservice to those African Americans who do participate.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 23, 2009 8:48 AM

Excellent Kevin. You cannot force anyone to be successful, but it is your duty not to stand in their way of being successful because of race.

Ignoring black homophobia won't make it go away.

Let's identify the true cause of the homophobia, it is not race. It is Evangelicalism.

Your pontificating is lopsided and although there are bits and pieces of what you say that is true, it does not to to ring from your heart. I can hear this from any professor or book. It is standard and current thought which i again reiterate is so easily compartmentalized by you. I consider nothing more than verbal masturbation. If gay men (black, white and others) want to understand one another, it takes befriending each another and actually living and socializing together. IT IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE.

Why are there people talking about black homophobia being ignored on a post with "Why are straight black men so homophobic?" in the title?

Chitown Kev | July 22, 2009 10:06 PM

Yes Maura, not all black people are religious, of course. The problem in dealing with the AA community, however, is that the power is centered in the AA church primarily because the church was the only safe haven for all African Americans gay, straight, North, South, rich, and poor.

Seek out black LGBTs because they are a part of our community as well, not to appease the AA community, because outside of the non-religious black folks, there is very little that will be heard I don't care how much racism in the gay community is "worked on"

That's one of the reasons that spiritually and physically, I could say that I am not a part of the African American community (and that makes me very, very sad).

After all, why should white LGBTs be so surprised when the race card gets thrown at them when it's been thrown at me for nearly 40 years? For a host of reasons (and that is the primary source of my own anger and bitterness at my own racial community, really).

I do disagree with you, Maura, that homophobia is based in evangelicalism, though. But I do personally find non-religious based homophobia to be easier (and more honest) to work with.

First of all, Kev, thanks for the reply. Sometimes I think that I get skimmed over routinely.

Secondly, yes, homophobia is not necessarily the sole property of the evangelicals. But their homophobia is, at least for the foreseeable future, immutable. Secular homophobes can be educated or negotiated with.Religious homophobes cannot compromise without becoming the agents of sin in their own eyes...

Anthony in Nashville | July 22, 2009 10:19 PM

For me, the answer to the questions in the title comes down to lack of engagement/recognition and an attitude of "out of sight, out of mind."

GWM culture can be exclusive. You only need to look at the mainstream gay media to see that. It can be around class, age, body type, sexual appetites, politics, etc., but lots of GWM tend to socialize around variations of themselves. They may not be explicitly racist, but POC aren't really on the radar, either. So they may say things out of ignorance and lack of experience with POC. This is very clear when it comes time for "outreach," and lots of GWM don't really know where to begin. I've seen this repeatedly with LGBT organizations that mean well, but lack the "cultural competence" to make the right impression.

Not all GWM are like that. But it's enough to where people realize it is a problem.

The (straight) black community is very tied into notions of traditional gender roles, and is encouraged to act as if they don't see LGBTs, even if they are quite obvious and in their family. It's part of the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy that you see in a lot of black churches and social organizations. As a result, a lot of black men tend to be very off base in their feelings about gay people.

Not all straight black men are homophobic. But enough are to leave the black community consistently described as the most homophobic.

In both groups, black LGBTs are ignored.

What can be done to improve relations? It would be nice if we could appeal to people's innate sense of equality, but I don't think that exists; you can't intellectualize it.

People have to step out of their comfort zones and get to know each other. It's often the last thing we want to do, but I think it is necessary. Only personal experience can change one's perception of a group of people.

I don't know the best way to do this. Perhaps LGBT spiritual groups can host themed events with black churches, since a lot of politically active black people go to church. Some may already be doing this, I don't know. Or local NAACP chapters could hold social functions with their LGBT groups.

Black LGBTs also have to raise our voices and demand that people acknowledge us. Stop celebrating "privacy" and let people know we exist.

Chitown Kev | July 23, 2009 1:43 AM

Question.

Is it possible or even feasible that a repeal of Prop 209 could go on the same ballot as a Prop 8 repeal?

In that way, ethnic minority and gay communities can lend each other a hand...

Isa Kocher | July 23, 2009 2:52 AM

calling me a racist because i happen to be white. who does that help. calling black men homophobic because they are black. who does that help. trial by accusation. white gay men are NOT racists. gay racists are racists. blanket trial by accusation is bad logic, and bad science, and as Marx said, bad science makes bad politics. you cannot fix something using broken tools. stupid tools of analysis only result in really stupid conclusions. didn't any of you at bilerico ever take a class in logic or basic science or read a book about it. BTW: before any of you were born, i was active in USA civil rights. it's abusive to use racist terms to talk about race in 2009. Malcolm X was martyred because he preached against that very thing. And so was MLK. It's time to stop it.

Merciless white gay attacks on President Obama, regardless of action or inaction, come across as subtly coded racism. President Obama has championed gays more than any previous president--and though he did overpromise and underdeliver--attacking his positive acts as 'too little too late' just proves white gay men generally really are ignorant of their privilege.

I think part of the problem is that we still seem to value the voices of white spokespersons more. There are queer POCs criticizing Obama on LGBT issues (including the amazing Pam Spaulding) but for the most part the people who get the camera time are white men. The cable networks learned to finally diversify their pundit lineup a little after the 2008 election, which shamefully started out with panels of white men discussing racism and sexism, but our community needs to add diversity to its spokespersons... and, hopefully, if that does get addressed, it won't merely be a black and white issue. We need to see LGBT Asian-Americans (I'm hoping Dan Choi continues to be an advocate beyond DADT) and LGBT Latinos speaking on queer issues as well.

Phil Reese wrote "White gays constantly exclude black gay men from everything from their social networks right up to organizational leadership."

Really? If you are Black and gay try these "I'm not going to be a professional victim" tips. Ideas apply to other professional victims wishing to change as well.

1. Attempt to join any group that interests you. I'm a MTF TS and yes, I'm White, but still my success rate at joining and being accepted is 100%. But I'll be conservative. Figure you'll be at least 75% successful if you have a reasonable personality and pull your weight with the group. The HRC, for example, is mostly interested in getting money from you. If you want to be tight with them then pay 'em. Can't afford it? Your problem is financial and not due to bigotry.

For those of you prone to say your identity is what led to your poverty I feel for you. Transwomen usually will have more problems along these lines than you do. It is definitely not fair for anyone to have difficulty getting or keeping a job due to their identity.

2. If you're not accepted ask yourself why you want to get involved with the group anyway. For example, some transwomen insist on trying to join anti-trans feminist groups. Duh! Why bother. Join a pro-trans or trans-neutral feminist group instead.

3. Most likely the group was not founded to directly address your race issues. The same concept applies for anyone wishing to join various groups. Using being Black as a prototypical example suppose you wish to join a local softball team. Which happens to be all White. By all means join the team. Then focus on softball. Not on being Black. Incidentally, proximity has been shown to be the primary factor in getting people to accept each other. You are an activist simply by showing up so long as you don't act like an ass.

Want to test my ideas? I'm in the Atlanta, GA area. Find the most transphobic group you can and e-mail me information on it. Bil has my e-mail and can forward your message. I'll then join the group just for the fun of it. One exception - I have no desire to join any religious fundamentalist group. See #2 above. I don't associate with idiots so why would I join such a group?

There in lies your ignorance. At one point as a white gay person u see how inherently abuisve anti gay religious organizations are but refuse to see how abusive racist gay organizations are to black gay people.
The problem does not lie with black people or their capacity to choose organizations appropriate to the causes they wish to espose or hobbies but with the overwhelming presence of closeted white supremacists in organizations and society in general. There is no way a black person could feel comfortable in a racist organization just as you would not in a religious organization inspite of being a white.

Mary Hayes | July 23, 2009 10:03 AM

I don't know how may people would regard this screed as "fair and balanced" but it's basically a tantrum directed at white gay men, who might be a bit surprised to learn that they're such a priviledged class. And the author allies himself with the GOP and their scuzzy camp followers with the snark about the marriage equality movement amounting to "whining." White male exclusivity gets pilloried; black male homophobia gets the usual dog-and-pony show of excuses and justifications.

And it would be helpful if these attempts to demonize any and all criticism of Obama as some kind of political-correctness sacriledge would cease. We now have a nonwhite President and he'll have to cope with the same challenges as any other; if African-Americans insist on Presidential training wheels and wholesale denials of unpleasant realities on the basis of Obama's racial mixture, they're doing themselves and their country no good service.

Maybe Bilerico will one day run a story on this rift with some non-racist insights, but this isn't it.

Chitown Kev | July 23, 2009 10:57 AM

Mary, the one corrective I am trying to apply here is to talk about black homophobia; I suspect that the author may not know much about it but I feel that you can't talk about one without talking about the other, at this point.

And while I haven't done so here, I have been very critical of the president and his handling of GLBT issues.

What does dismay me about this thread thus far, though, is there still seems to be a level denial and defensiveness at the mere idea of racism in the gay community in spite of the testimony of many black and some white LGBTs; as if it couldn't possibly exist at institutional levels in the community.

To be fair, I am certain that some (possibly even many) black LGBTs are uncomfortable in socializing in presumed racially integrated spaces, as well because of the segregation that still exists in society at large. Personally, I was raised and schooled in integrated settings, so I don't have that problem as far as reaching out but I know those that do.

"Homophobia being more rampant in the black community than any other racial/ethnic groups is beyond debate." Absurd!!! Fabrication of last eight years. What a few faith based dollars can do! I did not care for the article but the debate it brought is good. So the author should be proud of himself however unfair of gay men of all colors past and present.

Paige Listerud | July 23, 2009 3:48 PM

IMHO, queer people who are working class and poor must organize and shift, if they can, the agenda of the currently upper-middle to upper class bias of the LGBTQ community. That, and some genuine outreach and social inclusion of queers across racial and ethnic lines, will go a lot farther in addressing racism in the general queer community than including a few African American gay men on white-dominated LGBTQ boards.

Finally, please, please, PLEASE--DO NOT dismiss the increasing numbers of white supremacists that are entering the military in the pursuit of access to weapons and combat training, all the while hundreds of LGBTQ are thrown out of the military each month. At the very least, this creates an even more dangerous environment for queer military servicemembers--at the most, it sets up even more violent attacks on our community, and people of color, women, and immigrants by fascists. It can happen here.

twinkie1cat | July 25, 2009 1:32 AM

Why are white gay men racist? They are racist because they are a microcosm of larger society and American society still has a lot of racism. They were prejudiced before they knew they were gay. It is something to overcome as one matures and is certainly not in their best interest. Some white gay men are even Republicans which I think is an oxymoron. Many white gay men are not racist, however. Some are intentionally not racists. Others just are not naturally. America has a way to go to overcome racial prejudice on an individual level even though it is banned on an institutional one. Black men are racist too, however. Racism is from Satan and he does not see skin color, just darkness in the soul.

One of the saddest and most divisive things is that there is not one gay community. There are several and there is no one leader who seems to be able to bring all the gay communities together without a lot of egos and fighting, no Martin Luther King.

Why are straight black men homophobic? Because they are insecure in their own sexuality. If a man feels safely straight, he is not going to be bothered by a gay person. One of my play sons is very secure in his straightness and has many gay friends. ONe of his closest friends was a cousin who was transgendered and he has always had gay friends. He is extremely sexy, darkskinned, big smile, deep voice, a police officer in a major city and about the straightest man I have ever known. He currently works in a heavily gay community and is not bothered by it at all. During the marriage demonstrations, he just sat in his car and kept everyone safe. I talked with him on the phone and there was not a homophobic word out of his mouth. I was very proud that, even after 7 years on the force he was still not prejudiced.

There is another issue, and any drag queen street prostitute can tell you this, there are a lot of black men who like men on the side but would never consider themselves gay. These include a number of prominent religious and political figures including some who preach homophobia. In fact a lot of black men define homosexuality differently in order to keep themselves "straight". As long as they are a top, they can go with a transwoman for 20 years and never consider themselves gay. As far as they are concerned, their "wife" can have a private part twice the size of their own and be 6'2" and shave twice a day, but she is still a woman. (I knew a couple where the girl had 13 inches and the guy had 6)

I used to love to trip out the "straight" dates of my roomate. They would get up in the morning and I would say, "So how long have you known you were gay?". Inevitiably they would sputter and insist that they weren't---after they had been picked up at a bar, not by a drag queen but by a 6' tall bunny, ridden the bus and walked down a path through the dark woods with him before a night of sex! They could have caught the next bus back into downtown Atlanta at any time by just getting off and crossing the street. There was no mistaking that Nate was a man and they were too. One guy he dated regularly for at least two years.

There is not question that Black men are extremely vulnerable and sensitive and black society has traditionally been highly matriarchal. The women run it and many feel that men are only good for sex, money and giving them a baby. As many as half of black boys grow up without a father or even a positive male role model. Strong successful black men have had to struggle hard to make themselves that way in a society that not only fears them but considers them stupid, oversexed and violent. Black boys are considered "hard to place" for adoption almost from birth. Being considered second class is hard on the self esteem and the sexuality.

Chitown Kev | July 25, 2009 3:22 AM

I'm bookmarking this. Those were good reads.

Of course (as you probably know) Baldwin consciously never drew a distinction between the n-word and the f-word. To him, both were equally painful yet he also said that both terms made him the luckiest man in the world, I believe.

I took my cue in not drawing distinctions between black and gay directly from Baldwin.

Really? Blacks are more homophobic than Arabs? East Indians? That's a pretty general statement that you use to say that blacks are more racist than any other race. Say what you mean...blacks are more homophobic than whites.

You are proving the point that you are a racist just like so many in the white gay community. Your stereotypical remarks reveal the classic racist you are!

This article was very timely, because I've experianed racism and continue to experiance it within the gay male culture. I'm a gay black male, and the gay white men I come across aren't even interested in a platonic friendship. In other words, even if we share the exact same hobbies and interests, they rather participate only with their gay white male counterparts. BUT, this hasn't only happend with gay white men, but with gay Latinos and Asians too. Why? Because most of them too rather associate themselves or hangout with gay white men only. It seems within the gay culture, the gay white male is idolized. And if you don't believe me, just look at the gay media and publications that show mostly young gay white males, but every now and then throw in a TOKEN black male. The gay culture as a whole, especially the male aspect of it is a sex driven culture filled with gay white males looking for other gay white males. Or should I say, any gay male other than a gay black male. After dealing with the harsh realities of the gay culture, I still continue to feel a sense of pride within myself. Just not within the gay community.

Black gay men are far more likely to be homeless or dealing with other economic pressures than their Caucasian counterparts.

Let's also not forget about the WILDLY DISPROPORTIONATE rates of HIV infection among white versus black men who sleep with men. There's a definite, up-front element of racism in the "AIDS is over" meme so prevalent in GWM communities.

Someone reposted this article on Facebook and I responded back to them, so I decided to follow up and respond back to the blogger.

You have a good grasp on the reason why black people do not think that the gay struggle for civil rights and unions is the same as our struggle for civil rights.

I recently had a male friend say to me that he was experiencing PMS. Now he may have felt miserable and moody, but he could not experience PMS as a woman. It is just different. Without the monthly bleeding he just cannot relate.

We all just went through the Gates situation. If you want to know why you don't have a whole bunch of black guys singing Kumbaja with you at LGBT meetings, just revisit the issues of that situation. A black man arrested at his own house. That case made the news because he was already famous, and from Harvard, but that is just indicative of what happens to black people with law enforcement every day. For average black men and women, it doesn't always turn out so wonderful and the charges are so easily dropped.

I didn't hear the gay organizations demand any justice for Gates. If the situations are supposed to be so similar and we are all supposed to be in the struggle together, where was the support for a member of the black community? The "black community" is an easy target for criticism, but not so easily the target for support.

Just as a woman can't help a man who thinks he's experiencing PMS, black gays and lesbians can't help white gays and lesbians who feel they are oppressed because they are denied civil unions and survivor benefits. Our issues are still so very different.

A very well written and educational assessment. But what he failed to notice is that for the most part, we've just chosen to separate ourselves from the rest of the community altogether. If someone wants to promulgate their own ignorance and attempt to alienate their own allies, then those allies are well within their rights to completely sever ties to them.

A very well written and educational assessment. But what he failed to notice is that for the most part, we've just chosen to separate ourselves from the rest of the community altogether. If someone wants to promulgate their own ignorance and attempt to alienate their own allies, then those allies are well within their rights to completely sever ties to them and allow them to fight their battles on their own.