Having voice in the
Black Community is still an arduous struggle for its lesbian,
gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQ) community. As
we cross over into 2012, one of our biggest accomplishments
in 2011 has been the various ways in which LGBTQ of African
descent have employed different public venues to be heard.
And these venues will be used as instruments of change
in our future struggle.
Bishop Eddie Long,
one of the Black Church’s prominent pastors of “prosperity
gospel” and bling-bling theology in the Southeast, is
flashing neither his gold nor silver these days. The embattled
pastor had hoped that settling a sex scandal lawsuit for
an undisclosed amount against allegations that he used
influence, trips, gifts, and jobs to coerce young males
into sexual relations would close the lid on the matter.
But the mess wouldn’t subside
and trouble kept coming: he’s now temporarily stepped
down from his bully pulpit.
Long has not created
the homophobic climate in the Black Church, but
he has certainly contributed to it. With a membership
of over 25,000, Long’s church is the largest African American
megachurch in the Southeast. And as the largest it can
begin, with his sex scandal, to effect change by embracing
a liberating, healthy, and holistic understanding of human
sexuality. And in so doing, Long would be creating a model
of pastoral care not only for heterosexuals or homosexuals,
but most importantly, for himself.
While most Harlem
churches won’t touch LGBTQ issues, various gay-friendly
arts venues in Harlem will.
April 26, 2011, the Harlem Stage premiered the new documentary
short film, “Marriage Equality: Byron Rushing and the
Fight for Fairness,” allowing the largest public dialogue
on same-sex marriage by LGBTQ people of color in the country.
New York native
and award-winning African American gay filmmaker, Thomas
Allen Harris, directed the film, sponsored by the Human
Harris tackles the
continued hot-button issue in both the African American
and LGBTQ communities. Civil rights: black vs. gay. Harris
dismantles the false dichotomy of this ongoing debate
by connecting the Black Civil Rights Movement of 1960s
with the same-sex marriage equality movement of today.
And he does it by focusing on African American Democratic
Massachusetts State Rep. Byron Rushing, a veteran of the
Civil Rights Movement who, in the past decade, took the
campaign for same-sex marriage into African-American communities
here in Massachusetts.
With over 200 LGBTQ
people of color and allies in attendance at the Harlem
Stage, renown gay African American Washington Post
editorial writer, Jonathan Capehart, moderated the forum
on same-sex marriage with a panel that included entrepreneur
and activist, Russell Simmons; Cathy Marino-Thomas, board
president of Marriage Equality New York; Human Rights
Campaign board of directors member, David Wilson; myself;
and a host of rights advocates, political activists, and
Colleges and Universities (HBCU),
as a whole, have been slow to take on the public challenge
on LGBTQ issues for a few reasons: Some schools were founded
with religious affiliation, and Black colleges are no
different from African American communities in general.
But during “Coming Out Month”, the Human Rights Campaign
Foundation’s HBCU Program hit campuses again. In an effort
to educate and organize students, faculty and administrators
in advocating for LGBTQ equality and social justice specific
to each institution’s needs, HRC annually conducts the
black LGBTQ Student Leadership Summit to help college
age students deal with strong family foundations that
emphasize heterosexuality and strong conservative religious
ties within the Black Church. “It takes a lot of courage
to stand up on an HBCU campus and be proud of who you
are,” said HRC Associate Director of Diversity, Donna
Payne. “That is why we support training this generation
to be effective leaders that will change the course of
what it means to be African American and LGBT.
CNN’s Don Lemon penned
a memoir titled Transparent
that will come out in September. In writing his book,
Lemon said “the decision to come out happened organically.”
this era of acceptance of LGBTQ people in news broadcasting
like Lemon’s colleague, Anderson Cooper, ABC’s Good Morning
America weather anchor, Sam Champion, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow
and her colleague, Thomas Roberts, to name a few, one
would wonder about the source of the media brouhaha with
Lemon’s disclosure, especially since his sexual orientation
was not secret at work.
“It’s quite different
for an African-American male,” Lemon told Joy Behar on
her HLN show. “It’s about the worst thing you can be in
black culture. You’re taught you have to be a man; you
have to be masculine. In the black community they think
you can pray the gay away.”
And Lemon is right.
With homophobia running as rampant in historically black
colleges and universities as it is in black communities,
there are no safe places for GBTQ brothers of African
descent to safely acknowledge their sexuality or to openly
engage the subject of black GBTQ sexualities.
Lemon resides in Atlanta.
It’s the new black Mecca
and the new “Black Hollywood” that it’s fondly called
“Hot-lanta.” And it’s also dubbed the “down low” capital.
The Black LGBTQ community applauded Lemon for coming out.
Tim Hardaway, a retired
NBA All-Star player, in 2011 stepped forward with a change
“It’s not right to
not let the gays and lesbians have equal rights here,”
Hardaway told the crowd at a press conference organized
by the “No Recall” group, an El Paso group opposing a
recall of El Paso Mayor John Cook and two city representatives
for their support to re-establish domestic partner benefits
for same-sex and unmarried partners of city employees.
is the last person one would expect to speak out on behalf
of a LGBTQ social justice issue.
In a 2007 interview
on Miami’s sports
radio station, “790 The Ticket,” Hardaway was asked how
he would interact with a gay teammate. The topic came
up because of fellow former NBAer John Amaechi’s announcement,
in his book Man
in the Middle, that he is gay.
“You know, I hate
gay people, so I let it be known. I don’t like gay people
and I don’t like to be around gay people,” Hardaway said.
“I’m homophobic. I don’t like it. It shouldn’t be in the
world or in the United States.”
A change of words
helps bring a change of heart.
Positive Black LGBTQs
on the silver screen is an anomaly.
This paucity of black
LGBTQ images not only maintains the lie that we don’t
exist, but it has also allowed the African American community
to retreat into a closet producing black homophobic flicks.
But the tide is turning.
A new film is soon
to come out by writer-director, Dee Rees, titled “Pariah,
’’ a semi-autobiographical drama which generated a lot
of buzz at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. It’s both
a coming-of-age and coming-out film about a 17-year-old
black lesbian in Brooklyn falling
in love and embracing one’s identity.
Editorial Board member, the Rev. Irene Monroe, is a religion
columnist, theologian, and public speaker. She is the Coordinator of
the African-American Roundtable of the Center for Lesbian and
Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry (CLGS) at the Pacific
School of Religion.
A native of Brooklyn,
Rev. Monroe is a graduate from Wellesley College and Union
Theological Seminary at Columbia University, and served
as a pastor at an African-American church before coming
to Harvard Divinity School for her doctorate as a Ford
Fellow. She was recently named to MSNBC’s list of 10 Black Women You Should Know. Reverend Monroe is the author
of Let Your Light Shine Like a Rainbow Always: Meditations on Bible Prayers for Not’So’Everyday Moments.
As an African-American feminist theologian, she speaks
for a sector of society that is frequently invisible.
Her website is
to contact the Rev. Monroe.