I am black. I am a woman. I am a lesbian. Some would say those are three strikes in a hetero-patriarchal white society. But I am proud to be ME. I love my blackness. I love being a woman. I love that I love a beautiful woman. Everybody doesn’t like that I take pride in all of my intersections. And it hurts when I am judged based off of my appearance, a masculine-identified black woman especially by the persons I defend and fight for.
For example, I was approached by a black man who was offended that I put the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on a Instagram post about marriage equality. In the comments section of the picture I posted, I stated that while we celebrate the SCOTUS decision on marriage equality, but there are many other issues we have to address which included LGBTQ job discrimination, police brutality, poverty, trans lives and ending white supremacy. This black man that #BlackLivesMatter didn’t have anything to with who I slept with.
Yes, it does because I am black, I am a woman and I am a lesbian. Most times we often talk about race, gender, sexual orientation, and other social aspects. We tend to focus on them one at a time as if they are separate from each other. Intersectionality acknowledges that race, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, education, citizenship status, and your geographic location all interact with one another.
We cannot talk and think about race, gender and sexual orientation separately because we minimize diversity and deny complexity of our lived experiences. This is what the black man on Twitter tried to minimize my voice as a black lesbian. He argued with me about how my intersectionality didn’t warrant a celebration for marriage equality. He only wanted to focus his energies and consequently, my energies on the Mother Emanuel Massacre.
This black man could not understand that I was more than black. His statement of #BlackLivesMatter does not have anything with whom I sleep with is problematic. He only sees my relationship as sexual. He voids the love and the authentic connection I have with my girlfriend. He probably would rather see us in a porn flick getting it on instead of being free to marry (if we want). But he probably doesn’t see his homophobia or patriarchy in that statement either. Maybe he doesn’t care that his statement is homophobia and patriarchal because he’s only focused on blackness and its oppression.
My life is often politicized and policed. I refuse to allow this black man, a stranger to marginalize my other identities because it doesn’t serve his purpose. He’s no different than white LGBTQ members who think I shouldn’t bring up so-called black issues. I refuse to allow anyone minimize who I am. While I can fight against white supremacy with this black man, that is not the only fight I am fighting against. I am fighting multiple battles for my right to live.
I am tired of fighting battles with folks I battle with for some issues and battle against for others. I am tired fighting with black men about humanity as a black woman. I am tired fighting with black folk about humanity as a black lesbian. I do not like how white LGBTQ folk want me to choose between LGBTQ or blackness. Like activist, poet Red Summer eloquently said on Facebook, “I am not picking a side. I am not taking up one struggle as at the detriment of the other. I stand in the intersection of (at least) two polarized communities. I am not one or the other. I am both (actually all). My life matters, too.” She illustrated this with a picture of both red, black and green for black unity and the rainbow for marriage equality.
Yes, my black lesbian life matters as well. To this black man, the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter must mean only heterosexual black lives even though two of the founders of the hashtag, Alicia Garza and Patrice Cullers are queer women of color (QWOC). Guess what? This is not the first time the black LGBTQ stood up for black freedom. And it won’t be the last. We are part of the black community. Some notables are Angela Davis, Lorraine Hansberry, Alice Walker and Bayard Rustin.
I guess this young man haven’t heard of Bayard Rustin. Who is Bayard Rustin? Rustin served as Martin Luther King, Jr’s strategic advisor during the Montgomery Bus Boycott as well as one of the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He was also the chief organizer of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Yes, he was an openly black gay man. If you haven’t heard of him, it’s probably because he’s gay.
The Harlem Renaissance is one of the major highlights of black excellence in America. As much of that excellence was black it was also gay. Langston Hughes is considered one of the prolific writers and also led a double life. Bruce Nugent wrote the first published gay short story. This list includes writer Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God), lyricist James Weldon Johnson (“Lift Every Voice and Sing), poet Countee Cullen, Wallace Thurman, Claude McKay, and Angelina Weld Grimké. These luminaries of the Harlem Renaissance ranged between openly gay to sexually ambiguous to down low. In other words, there wouldn’t be a Harlem Renaissance without the young, gifted, black and gay.
But we are marginalized not only in the black community but in the LGBT community as well. Many times black LGBTQ icons are erased from the LGBTQ history book even though they have been at the heart of the LGBTQ struggle for rights and inclusion. I suspect it is the same reason that there is the invisibility of and discriminatory practices against people of color: racism. Racial issues in the LGBTQ community only reflect what happens in the dominant society. Sometimes QPOC are only needed when the LGBTQ wants use the QPOC in their ‘growing’ number.
If you’re a part of the LGBTQ community, it behoove you to know about the Stonewall riots. On June 28, 1969 at Stonewall Inn, one of the few bars in Manhattan people the LGBTQ community could dance with each other without police harassment, New York Police Department raided. This time the patrons fought back which was fundamental in sparking the LGBTQ rights movement in the United States. But do you know the names Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and Miss Major? These black transgender women were the first Stonewall instigators. But their contributions at Stonewall were whitewashed. As the LGBTQ movement gained steam it was for a primarily white gay men while people of color, women and trans people were marginalized.
I am outsider in every identity that I am. For some in the black community I am not black enough, for gayness is some ‘white shit’. The LGBTQ community thinks I am too black. Or maybe it’s I am too masculine? Maybe that means I’m not woman enough. But all my identities make me who I am. Through my intersectionality I am able to be both empathetic and sympathetic to others, for I know it is hard to be yourself when society wants to place you in a box. I am black. I am a woman. I am lesbian. I am me. I am the diversity that America claimed it wants wrapped in blackness, womanhood and lesbianism. I will continue to fight to freedom. The question is ‘Who will allow me to be me as we fight side-by-side?”