Friday, February 24, 2017

Losing Our Identity

Last night I went to a Moveable Senior Center* event and the guest speaker the assistant dean of enrollment and students at UConn School of Law.
Hidden in the Shadows: Black LGBTQ Leaders in History
The intersection of race, gender, sexual orientation and the expression of these identities is at the forefront of many conversations today.  Throughout history, people with multiple identities often hid in the shadows and are missing from our narratives. This session will look at the intersection of race, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression and focus on black LGBTQ leaders in our history.
There were a couple of questions asked that showed the enigma of being identified as LGBT.

One woman asked the speaker what she thought about the National Museum of African American History and Culture having a section on black LGBT leaders and earlier I asked a question about losing our lesbian, bi and trans identity in the Stonewall Uprising when it is called the start of the “Gay Revolution”

The two questions are in a way related.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is in a way segregating us. Putting us off by ourselves seems like we are being ghettoized in to a little corner of the museum. The discussion that followed was very interesting so thought it highlighted our contribution to history. James Baldwin was used as an example; he was a gay author and activist who worked with Martin Luther King Jr. His gayness was hidden while he was alive, many people knew about him but didn’t know he was gay and because of that he wasn’t invited to go to the White House with Dr. King.

The younger people in the audience last night liked the idea of having a separate section in the museum because it made him a role model for the younger LGBT blacks, while the older people in the audience said that his “gayness” didn’t define him, he was a great man in his own right and the fact was gay was just a small part of his life.

My question was how when we are put under the “gay” umbrella we lose out identities,  it wasn’t just gay white men who stood up against the police harassment but also trans people and lesbians and many if not most of them were black and Latinos.

So if we want to be known as a person and not defined by our race, religion, sexual orientation, or our gender identity then we lose a part of ourselves and our history. And if we want to keep out history then we have to be known in part as a LGBT person and have a room of our own.

*From the LGBT Aging Advocacy webpage:
A grant to Connecticut Community Care, Inc. (CCCI), from the The John H. and Ethel G. Noble Charitable Trust administered by Deutsche Bank Trust Company, N.A. helps to support these efforts. The LGBT Moveable Senior Center is one of the funded initiatives included in the CCCI project “Getting it Right: Creating an LGBT Responsive Organization”. The goal of this project, undertaken in collaboration with LGBT Aging Advocacy, a grassroots group of providers and LGBT community members in the Greater Hartford area, is to advocate for and provide resources to help create LGBT inclusive aging services.



Funny, that we attempt to explain the intersection through dissection. Each of us is, ultimately, the sum of our own parts. Any life-achievements one may make can only be attributed to that sum. While it may be true that one or more of the parts can be an asset toward achievement, often achievement is reached in spite of other parts. When society holds someone up as a hero, those parts of the person that are considered to be flaws (by society) are often ignored - selectively. Martin Luther King Jr. and JFK are known to have been womanizers, but, because of their achievements, we may forgive them or, at least, tolerate their behaviors. Of course, being of a certain ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity are not behaviors in themselves, but they do carry with them societal perceptions and assumed behaviors - behaviors that, in the past, were considered to be totally unacceptable. As society becomes more accepting and educated about such self-identities, I believe it will eventually see them to be but mere factoids pertaining to its heroes.

Does a person of some achievement, who happens to be black and L,G,B, or T deserve to be honored in a Black History museum or an LGBT one? I'd say both, although their significance as a person (the sum of everything that they are) should not be diminished or increased by one over the other, even if a certain part may be spotlighted in one over the other. Even those of us who have achieved nothing of historical significance desire to be seen as the sum of our parts. I, as a trans woman, struggle with that every day, and I have learned to disregard the accolades for my "courage", as well as the accosting of bigots. Should I ever achieve anything deemed to be historical, it will be both because of those things and in spite of them, as well, I hope, as everything else that goes toward making me the person I am.

Richard Nelson said...

“The younger people in the audience last night liked the idea of having a separate section in the museum because it made him a role model for the younger LGBT blacks, while the older people in the audience said that his “gayness” didn’t define him, he was a great man in his own right and the fact was gay was just a small part of his life.”
I have long thought about my life in the younger days of knowing I was gay very early on. A real “Sissy” as the term was then for any of us that did not conform to straight society. Well I learn a lot and my being an outsider, being gay certainly did help to define me. My being gay was my life not only alone but was defined by it from others. A small part of his life” You make me laugh.

Being gay showed me how nasty straight folks could be not only to gay people but to my best friend a black kid and his family. (Intersection at an early age). Being gay and my experiences certainly lead me to the antiwar movement as I fully believe what my first man love Jesus said, “all men are brothers,” and I learn from the old testament prophet “Study war no more.” I learn in the early days of the movement that we are here there and everywhere. Perhaps Mr. Baldwin was a great man in his own right because he was gay? Maybe being gay had a lot to do with the way he thought, and how and what he acted on. I think perhaps that folks who take the above opinion on gayness and defining are excusing themselves, really wish they weren’t LGBT, what to let straight society know (heavens knows what), are still in pleasing mommy and daddy,and look at being gay as only a sexual thing. Its far more than that sisters and brothers.

I will never refer to our community, the LGBTQ community as being “gay.” When anyone does they are erasing years of our fighting to be inclusive. I remember when we did use the term gay for everyone and then the powerful knocking began. That knocking from within, hey boys include us, and the battle began. Going back to the term is not right and to be is lazy. We are the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Community. (if you want add as many groups as you want, answer that knocking from within, smash down all doors and help to liberate our people.)

I agree a room of our own. Most people even our own people do not know ourstories Remember many folks came on board with the one issue of marriage for the Lesbian and Gay community and know nothing of our activist past. We have come a long way in my 70 years of living on this planet but I fully know we have a long way to go. (exp. In our own community)