If you were to rely on media images, they are overtly flamboyant and dramatic male hairstylists and fashion designers. Depictions are often skewed comedic renderings of members of a community who in real life too often lead separate lives to buffer themselves--and their families--from ridicule. "Many professionals are out in their community but private in the world," says Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks, executive director and CEO of the National Black Justice Coalition, a civil rights organization that seeks to empower the African American LGBT population. "There's a healthy Black, educated professional class of the gay, lesbian, and transgender community in this country. But there's no recognition of their existence. There's no protection for their rights--for silent or overt discrimination. Black people in general treat the existence of gays and lesbians and transgender people in the African American community like 'don't ask, don't tell,'" the former U.S. policy governing homosexuality in the military.
Mag Explores Being Gay & Black in Corporate America
The content in the issue is quite extensive, and it encompasses significant information on employment non-discrimination policies - most of this information, really, applies to all LGBT people, not just black LGBT folks or members of other racial minorities. This is important data, of course, but some of the most interesting information in the Black Enterprise feature is the dissection of the identity of black, gay businesspeople as "double minorities." The writers suggest that the media - mainstream and otherwise - generally portray the gay rights movement as an almost entirely-white movement.
"African Americans overwhelmingly turn a blind eye to the existence of LGBT persons, Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks, executive director and CEO of the National Black Justice Coalition, says in the article. "Politically, black folks see gay rights as a white America issue."
Of course, since Black Enterprise is a business magazine, we get a look at the intersection of profit and diversity with regard to being gay and black. The writers examine how companies balance marketing strategies for the two populations, and how they especially look to capture the LGBT consumer market, which the magazine reports has an estimated buying power of $835 billion.
Aaron Walton is co-founder and co-CEO of Los Angeles-based Walton Isaacson (No. 8 on the BE Advertising Agencies list with $12 million in revenues), which has helped develop campaigns for Dove, Courvoisier, Harrah's, and Maytag to reach this growing segment. "Black gay consumers and employees have a different perspective on LGBT marketing because they have lived with being a minority within a minority," says Walton, who is openly gay and has been with his partner for 24 years. "We make sure brands understand that being inclusive is not going to hurt their general market efforts. It will actually bring in new consumers and help build their business."
The issue's features also hone in on the black community's unique relationship with the church, which often informs views on LGBT issues, plus a look at some of the most prominent black gay rights activists from past and present and a video with the story of a black transgender man. Check it all out at the Black Enterprise website.