An open letter to the LGBT/same-gender-loving community
What a WEEK we have had! After the monumental Supreme Court decision on June 26 legalizing same-gender marriage in all 50 states, emotions run the gamut — from extreme elation to contemplation over what the future holds for us individually and collectively, to, in some instances, anger over those who are still hardened based on their religious indoctrination.
As for my partner Gregory and me, we finally let the world know — with a change of my relationship status on Facebook on June 26 — that we were legally married in the District of Columbia on February 12, 2015. That also happened to be National Right to Marry Day, Lincoln’s Birthday and his brother’s birthday (a trifecta in our opinion).
I alternated between crying with joy all day, posting EVERY article about the SCOTUS decision on my Facebook newsfeed, talking with my husband about what we were feeling in the moment and receiving well wishes from family members and friends who knew we were married but were sworn to secrecy. But then I found myself becoming solemn while contemplating two completely different battles to come: tolerance and acceptance from the black church, and eradication of racism within the LGBT community.
I was immediately concerned with how black members of the LGBT/SGL community were going to fare on Sunday morning with their respective churches and pastors. I could VIVIDLY imagine what I had dubbed in a 12-page diatribe I wrote on Saturday evening, “The Worst Ass Whuppin in the history of the Black Church.”
While religious intolerance and hatred is bad for any LGBT/SGL person in any ethnic group, in the black community it is especially acute.
Due to the horrific history of race relations in this country, the black church has always been a refuge in the time of our many storms. To be isolated from it is completely unfathomable to an overwhelming percentage of blacks, including those who are LGBT/SGL.
In a Gallop poll taken in 2011, blacks were identified as the most religious race in America based on church attendance, bible study participation and prayer patterns. Of the blacks polled 53 percent of blacks polled identified as being “very religious,” 33 percent “moderately religious,” and 13 percent identifying as “non-religious.”
In that same poll, only 39 percent of white Americans said they were “very religious,” 26 percent “moderately religious,” and 34 percent “non-religious.”
While the tide may be shifting relative to the intolerant stance of the black church on the issue of homosexuality — evidenced by some black ministers applauding the decision, others encouraging their flocks to love their gay neighbors, or those like Bishop T.D. Jakes of the Potter’s House in Dallas sharing with his parishioners that there is a distinct difference between secular law and biblical law and encouraging them to be better Christians in their witness — there’s still a lot of work to do. That is evident based on those ministers who didn’t address it all at with their congregations, and the ministers and their congregants who took to social media with ugliness so vile that it quickly reminded me why I left the Christian church two years ago.
This is a battle that has to be fought with the ALL strength and resources of the LGBT community. It is simply not enough for one segment of our community to have walked into “freedom land” when we have a multitude who are still enslaved for a second time.
The opinion of a significant number of LGBT/SGL blacks is, “Well, the white queens and dikes have gotten their gay marriage, that doesn’t mean anything to me.” That mental paradigm has to change.
To do that, one of the first things we must do as a collective community is to see the state of homosexuality through the eyes of its black members.
The media image of the LGBT community is one of outlandish parades, scantily clad men, outrageous drag queens and effeminate men and butch women, all with sexuality on blatant display.
For a black LGBT/SGL person trying to stay true to what it means to be a member of our community with the black church as the anchor, AND having a connection to the LGBT community, this creates a sense of unease , leaving them uncomfortable to come out and be their authentic selves.
Even the descriptives and symbols used to connect the LGBT community as a universal community are problematic because of our connection to our BLACKNESS. We are black FIRST, because that is the first thing another human is going to see — not our gayness, but our skin tone, which identifies us with a specific race of people.
So for individuals, like me, who prefer the term “same-gender-loving” over “gay,” this is how we reconcile both aspects of our state of being and how we want to be represented in the collective LGBT community.
The same holds for the rainbow flag. While many like me will proudly display it — as millions of us did following the SCOTUS decision by adding the Facebook filter to our profile pic — a lot of black LGBT/SGL individuals have no connection to that flag, nor do they want to.
A number of black gays identify strongly with the Pan African Flag. They feel the fight for equality has basically been the fight of white gay males, who only had their own best interests at heart. With racism still obviously present in the LGBT community, there are times when I can’t disagree with that assessment.
However, there is a movement growing with a group of us who see a necessary intersection of both the standard rainbow flag and the Pan African flag to demonstrate mutual interests and a need to absorb and pro-actively work on the challenges and issues of the black LGBT/SGL members. A modified flag (as shown in the photo with this column) has the Pan African flag and the rainbow flag merged into a cohesive whole.
It isn’t intended to replace the standard LGBT flag. But this symbol of LGBT/SGL pride should be proudly added to the symbols the community already uses if we are serious about full integration of blacks into a movement we were part of igniting during the Stonewall rebellion but have been less of a force in since.
Buster Spiller is a happily married, longtime activist, and award-winning playwright from Dallas.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 3, 2015.