An absence of color in leadership

Posted on 30 Apr 2010 at 12:12am
By C. D. Kirven | Special Contributor

The face of the LGBT rights movement must change to reflect the diversity of the LGBT community before we can make true progress

I was recently part of the audience for the "Michelangelo Signorile LGBT Leadership Town Hall" and radio show in Washington, D.C. As I looked around, I began to wonder: Is the LGBT rights movement really "one struggle, one fight?"

Where were the LGBT leaders of color?

I was frustrated because, as usual, there were only a handful of minorities invited to discuss roadblocks within the gay rights movement and possible solutions.

I had a front row seat as my community discussed raging against the homophobic political machine and taking small civil steps toward constitutional rights held hostage by power-hungry, double-talking politicians bartering LGBT rights for capital gain.

I listened carefully as the current LGBT leadership mis-educated the public by explaining how the current administration’s inaction is really slow and deliberate progress. I began to understand why the overly-greased wheels of D.C. insiders easily neglected the interests of liberty seeking outsiders.

But how does our community hold its leadership accountable? How does the LGBT community of color get equally represented in our civil rights struggle?

I decided to stand up and ask our leaders directly how they plan to change the face of our movement to reflect the diversity that exists within it.

At this point, GetEQUAL co-founder Robin McGehee was at the mike. She stood with the wind of multiple actions at her back that challenged the current LGBT establishment and pumped new life into the equality game with direct actions that not only bucked the status quo but slapped awareness of our issues’ urgency into the face of the democratic majority that for some reason has become increasingly impatient with the equality demands of the disenfranchised LGBT minority.

"Hurry up and wait" was the attitude of President Obama as he addressed GetEQUAL activists that pushed the left-wing envelope open to stop the incremental disbursement of liberty our government is all to accustom to dishing out.

I was very proud to see Pam Spaulding at the leadership table and knew she created her seat by demanding her voice be heard through her very successful political blog, PamsHouseBlend.com.

And therein lies the problem!

Why do we have to create or force ourselves into the national LBGT conversation? I really feel we are at freedom’s gate. But if we are so close, why are the interests of people of color once again being left behind?

I will not be a "photo op" afterthought in the battle for equality.

As I stepped closer to the mike, I saw curiosity in the faces of those around me. But as I stepped up ready to ask my question, there was no more time left and I was once again silenced.

"Next time you will get your chance," I was told by others.

I began to vent my frustration to some of my fellow freedom fighters. I was once again shut down and told this is not the right time to have a race discussion.

But isn’t that the same excuse the administration is giving the LGBT community on passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act or repealing "don’t ask, don’t tell?"

There will always be a wrong time to do the right thing!

As a community leader, I refuse to only spotlight the injustice outside of our struggle, but will also shed light on the injustice inside of it.

We as a community must hold ourselves to the same standards we demand from the administration as well as current leadership. We will not progress and achieve full equality unless we are all equal.

Why would you do to your own community what someone outside of it is doing to you?

We must pass the mike so that all voices are heard and all are given an opportunity to represent our interest as we draw our equality line in the sand of democracy.

The people of color can no longer stand on the sidelines, but must be a part of the plan, because it will take the whole community as well as our allies to obtain full equality during this critically important point in the gay rights movement.

To current LGBT leaders, please leave the puppet master games for the government and please do not try to create leaders that you can control, but include community leaders that will contribute to an immediate need for a diverse collective LGBT voice.

We can no longer afford to live a separate but equal existence that has infected the LGBT community and crippled our civil rights pursuit.

On July 12, 1976, Barbara Jordan said, "We are attempting to fulfill our national purpose: to create and sustain a society which all of us are equal. First, we must believe in equality for all and privileges for none."

I refuse to continue to live a lie, whether it’s life in a closet or in the shadows of the gay rights movement: "If I cannot be heard, then I refuse to be seen!"

Instead of painting a picture of what a community should look like, we as leaders must demand the movement reflect the community it represents. Every part of our community should help create a national equality path and the required steps to take back the rights withheld by blue laws wrapped in spiritual regulations.

I plead with the LGBT community of color to get politically involved and join the equality fight. Stand up and speak out on the issues that are important to you.

A closed mouth will not get fed, but an open mind will lead to a more inclusive agenda that accurately reflects the diversity that defines us. Don’t give our oppressors the tools to dismantle the bridge that will unify our equality efforts.

I know I risk being blackballed for stating the obvious, but I know in my heart the truth sets you free from the chains that keeps you silent.

For those within earshot of my pen who wonder where the black gay voice is, hold on, let me clear my throat.

C. D. Kirven is a GetEQUAL activist and a Lambda Literary nominated author of the book "What Goes Around Comes Back Around." Along with Michael Robinson, Kirven will lead a workshop on racial inequalities within LGBT communities at the Equality Across America Conference in Austin on May 22. For more information about Kirven’s work, e-mail cdkirven@aol.com or visit http://cdkirven.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 30, 2010.

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