Rev Irene Monroe

The media’s problem with black lesbians

Filed By Rev Irene Monroe | July 31, 2007 3:13 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: Bill O'Reilly, Dykes Taking Over, Fox News, hate crimes against LGBT people, homophobic behavior, lesbian gangs, Linda Jernigan, media, racism, Rod Wheeler, Shakia Gunn

Issues of race, gender identity, and sexual orientation trigger a particular type of news broadcasting on the major networks. With their objective to provide viewers with “infotainment,” rather than fair and balanced reporting, discerning television viewers - straight and gay alike - are most often insulted by the news than informed by it.

Case in point: “The O’Reilly Factor” with Bill O’Reilly on the Fox News Channel, which recently tipped the scales of purportedly delivering fair and balanced reporting. O’Reilly carelessly brought defamatory news to his viewers about an alleged national epidemic of black lesbian gang violence terrorizing neighborhoods and schools in large urban enclaves.

According to Rod Wheeler, a Fox News crime analyst, these black lesbian gangs recruit and force kids into homosexuality. “There is this national underground network, if you will, Bill, of women that’s lesbian and also some men groups that’s actually recruiting kids as young as 10 years old in a lot of the schools in communities across the country,” Wheeler told host O’Reilly on the show.

And the notorious black lesbian gang, Dykes Taking Over, is supposedly a pedophiliac gang carrying weapons and violently attacking and raping the girl victims they recruit. “As a matter of fact, some of the kids have actually reported that they were actually forced into, you know, performing sex acts and doing sex acts with some of these people,” Wheeler continued.

And corroborating Wheeler’s crime-busting story is former lesbian gang-banger and evangelist Linda D. Jernigan, who was asked to speak at a Chicago area public school on the topic, but was turned down because the school wanted her to “de-Christianize” her conversion testimony.

Jernigan nonetheless gives her testimony to all and any who will listen. She told Peter LaBarbera of the right-wing organization Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, “Lesbian girl gangs would drag a targeted female into the school restroom, hold her down, and perform oral sex on her to ‘turn her out” by forcibly seducing the poor girl through lesbian rape.”

Although O’Reilly had to apologize for the egregious errors and lies reported on his show, the story has nonetheless achieved the desired goal of “infotaining ” its audience by perpetuating both frighteningly racist and homophobic stereotypes.

“We overstated the extent of gay gangs in the Washington area. .... Detective Wheeler has apologized,” O’Reilly stated on his show.

And the report about “Dykes Take Over” offered no evidence to support the allegations.

The story about this purported trend of black lesbian gangs actually derives from a story about several black lesbians coming home late from a night out in Greenwich Village in New York City in August 2006. They defended themselves against an anti-gay attack.

Because of poor legal representation, three of the women pleaded guilty to attempted assault, and were sentenced to six months in jail and five years probation. However, these women were depicted in the media as “a posse of lesbians,” “a pack of marauding lesbians” and a “gang of lesbian women,” all created in the imaginative and entertaining world of news broadcasting.

But the real story not told is how little is ever accurately reported about hate crimes against black lesbians - and other gay, bisexual and transgender people of color - and how issues of race, gender identity, and sexual orientation trigger the type of violence against them. Nor are the reasons for the silence around such violence often explored.

For example, on the morning of May 11, 2003, Shakia Gunn, 15, was stabbed to death when she and her girlfriends rebuffed the sexual overtures of two African-American men by disclosing to them that their disinterest was simply because they were all lesbians.

Around 3:30 a.m. that morning, Gunn and a group of her girlfriends, ages 15-17, going home from Manhattan to Newark, N.J. While waiting for the bus, two African-American men in a white station wagon harassed the girls. "At some point during their interaction, they made their sexual orientation known. They made it clear that they weren't interested," Lt. Derek Glenn, a spokesman for the Newark Police Department, told the Associated Press. Incensed that the girls rebuffed them - and by lesbians, no less - the two assailants reportedly jumped out of their car and got into a scuffle with the girls.

Stabbed by one of the men, Gunn dropped to the ground and died shortly after arriving at University Hospital in Newark.

The lack of reporting on this type of hate crime is for three reasons - all dealing with race.

The first reason is the "politics of silence" in LGBTQ communities of color to openly report these kinds of attacks unless it results in death. With being openly queer and often estranged if not alienated from our communities of color, reporting attacks against us by other people of color can make victims viewed as race traitors. So we end up colluding in the violence against us.

The second reason has to do with the dearth of LGBTQ reporters of color writing for both straight and queer white media. Those papers and television networks sensitive to race issues, but that don't have LGBTQ people of color working for them, often engage in the "politics of avoidance" and won't broach the topic for fear that the news organization won't bring the right angle or sensitivity to the topic. With the objective of newspapers and networks to report the news, those media engaging in the "politics of avoidance" when it comes to people of color do a disservice not only to the profession, but also to the entire LGBTQ community.

The third reason has a lot to do with how the media view the topic of violence and people of color as synonymous. From such a skewed perspective, there is no news to report. And if so, it’s both defamatory and sensationalized.

The end result is a kind of institutional racism and homophobia that not only revictimizes those targeted by such crimes, but also falters in serving the community these news organizations purport to serve.

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