Is there hope for Dallas queer people of color in 2017?

Sammi NesbitMany of us brought in the New Year with resolutions that we hoped to maintain past January, and tried our best to forget the disasters of 2016. But Nov. 8 still haunts some of us beyond cruelty — and for a good reason.

No, Bernie Sanders didn’t make it past the primary, and people are still holding on to the notion that if he were the Democratic nominee that he would have won the general election. I hate to crush your fairy tale, but the outcome would have probably been the same.

Bernie had a hard time connecting to older, lower-income black and Latino communities that serve as a 46 percent voting bloc in the

Democratic party and a 27 percent voting bloc in the general election. In the southern states, this problem was so apparent you could put the icing on it, and reality wouldn’t taste any sweeter.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, didn’t have this problem to deal with; she had the luxury of being from a southern state, with a husband many black people adopted as “black” during his time in office. As far as the numerous scandals are concerned, black and

Latino people were not really fazed, because those were considered “white collar” problems.

We can go on and on about the “should’ve/could’ve/would’ve” of candidates that supported our community, but unfortunately,

America has chosen to buy a cruise ship ticket on a voyage into the orange abyss. The only people that will possibly enjoy this journey are those of privilege, and I’m not just referring to the white straight middle-class community.

I am talking about the people who don’t have to think twice about things in life, who can go to brunch with friends on Sunday, or take a weekend vacation just to flood everyone’s timeline with photos.

But many people over the next four years won’t come remotely close to that luxury.

If you are HIV-positive and signed up for the Affordable Care Act, you may go to bed tonight wondering if you must relive the traumatic experience of answering hours of questions at some community-based organization about your personal finances to qualify for Ryan White, just to pay for your HIV drugs.

If you’re an undocumented immigrant busting your butt in school to maintain high grades with hopes of going to graduate, law or medical school, now that dream has been put into a holding pattern mid-flight.

For some of us in the gay community, the impact won’t be as brutal. We may occasionally find ourselves outraged by some insensitive tweet or remark, or we may rally to boycott some restaurant, store or product because they insulted one of our peers in the LGBT spectrum. But the outrage will be grandiose, without any real thought as to what our movement/voice looks like to the people that have pissed us off.

Honestly, if we were to take a look from the outside looking in, our storm of resentment would look like a group of young/middle-aged white men with a few friends of color fighting for change.

A large group of LGBT people of color won’t see these struggles the same way, nor will they have the inclination to join the fight — not because we don’t care, but because only a few of us share a thread with the greater LGBT community, a thread called “privilege.”

Some black and Latino queer people may have the privilege of attending a fundraiser for an LGBT charity or a ritzy mixer in Uptown to raise awareness about an issue. Though these strides for inclusiveness are noteworthy, it’s only a small incremental success toward our dream of the ideal LGBT community.

If we were to look at the top three non-profits or organizations in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex that champion the beliefs of the LGBT community, how many of them have board members who are black or Latino queer people with experiences of not having privilege?

We must also ask ourselves, although black and Latino queer men account for majority of the new cases of HIV in Dallas County, why do we continue to come up short for a reasonable solution. Dallas remains one of the top three cities in the United States with the highest rate of HIV infections every year, but many leaders in our health community are perplexed. Many state- and federally-funded AIDS service organizations see black and Latino queer men only as a number, without any resolution to bring change.

One person can’t solve our problem overnight, and sprinkling pixie dust won’t make it any better. But the answer is simple: We don’t have a seat at the table.

If we do have a seat, it usually remains empty. And if we are present, our voice is dismissed. This new year, 2017, should be the year that queer people of color start to demand a voice and speak up about problems that we face in our community.

Queer people of color face a myriad of hurdles to access HIV preventive tools, such as PrEP. In the dark of the night, queer men of color are fetishized as a sexual accessory in several bars in the gayborhood but treated like damaged goods during the day.
But now, we have the unique opportunity to stand as one community to embrace each other’s cultural differences as unique. To be effective at change, we must reach beyond our social country clubs and embrace the discomfort of simply not knowing but still being open to understanding.

Just because we have achieved marriage equality, doesn’t mean the fight is over. Our black queer brothers who have fewer sex partners is still three times more likely to contract HIV. Some of our undocumented Latina lesbian sisters who want to live better lives by being a first-generation college students now have to worry now about DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) being revoked. And our transgender brothers and sisters are still being siloed into sex work because they don’t have the privilege of being cisgender.

As a community, we can be a mighty fist of change that knocks out every obstacle threatening equality, or we can remain divided, thinking that our fight is won when queer people of color must fight an unseen battle every day, even in our our community.                            
Sammi Nesbit is the chief science officer of the Center for Minority Community Health and is currently a doctoral candidate at University of North Texas. He currently researches adolescent black and Latino HIV seroprevelence behaviors in large urban communities.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 13, 2017