Sunday, November 16, 2008

Homophobia and the Black Community

From the Diary of an Anxious Black Woman

I do think we need to consider the intersections of race, class, gender, and sexuality to begin to dismantle attitudes, roadblocks, and barriers that have kept marginal groups divided. After all, post-emancipation, there was a reason why the first thing freed slaves wanted to do was reunite with their families, forcibly separated during slavery, and why they married in droves. There's a reason why the romance of the heterosexual family, who in turn serve as a powerful symbol as the backbone of every community, is so powerful. So powerful, in fact, that it has become imperative for LGBT communities to fight for marriage equality today. The romance of marriage and family is the romance of acceptance and respectability, and every marginal community has fought for that acceptance and respectability because of the belief that this is the key to equality. And, there must be some truth to this for why were white supremacists so opposed to black families that they worked hard to keep them broken down? There must be some truth to this, for why are heterosexists working overtime to prevent lesbians and gays from gaining full access to marriage, and all the economic, social, and cultural benefits that accompany it?

Black people's sexuality has been attacked for so long, that church, family, and community have been a refuge. It's a difficult thing, then, to give up the romance of the heterosexual nuclear family by supporting what has been preached to them as "sin." This "family" is supposed to protect our respectability and our acceptance. A significant number of black people whom I've come across, keep harping on how proud they are, not only that Obama was elected, but that he had his black wife and children with him. I am quite sure that unified heterosexual family portrait signaled something else for LGBT communities in California, Florida, and Arkansas (where they also lost the right to adopt children), who lost their right to marry the same night this First Family was embraced and celebrated.

And, yet, this same First Family has been on the receiving end of many death threats, despite this acceptance, which suggests that certain privileges and power - which are preserved for white heteropatriarchy - are now being powerfully contested. What is a powerful symbol for one group is a threat for another.

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