There has been a lot of talk with enthusiasm and optimism concerning the upcoming historic televised HRC-Logo Forum on issues important to America’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer voters. With a star-studded cast of 2008 Democratic presidential hopefuls like frontrunning senators Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama to the low-polling but queer-friendly former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel bringing up the rear, the excitement is palpable in many queer communities across the country.
There is, however, at least one LGBTQ community nationwide that knows very little about the HRC-Logo debate - the LGBTQ community of African descent.
“Why would I know about this debate?,” LaShaun Williams of New Orleans told me. “Before Katrina the black and white gay communities was separated. Now after Katrina even moreso because only those who have money either stayed during the city’s renovation or had money to return back. Our community is smaller and more invisible than ever and the gay paper down here doesn't now and never have circulated where black folks live.”
But the complaints that the news about the HRC-Logo debate not reaching black queer communities via newspapers is not only endemic to New Orleans’ queer community where many can understand its present-day fragmentation, but the news did not circulate well in big bustling cities with large and active LGBTQ communities like my hometown of Boston.
“I have yet to see Baywindows or even your paper Rev. [In Newsweekly] make an appearance here in Mattapan, [a predominately black enclave of Boston].” Rhonda MacLean stated.
While circulation of queer papers to black enclaves is a problem, so too is turning onto to the LOGO channel for many LGBTQ people of African descent to seek out entertainment or to find out what’s happening in their communities. Logo is the nation’s leading television and broadband network for LGBTQ people with more than 1,000 hours of content and approximately 27 million viewers across the country, yet many LGBTQ people of color feel excluded by its programming. Logo describes itself as providing “LGBT audiences with a place where they can see themselves and be themselves through a mix of original and acquired entertainment programming that is authentic, smart and inclusive.”
“Girl, it wasn’t until Noah’s Arc that I had a reason to watch anything on that channel,” Anthony Reed of D.C. stated. “I see ourselves in too many coon acts and clown performances to really see a commitment by the channel.”
But those in this community who do know of the debate have told me they were "underwhelmed" about the entire brouhaha.
“How is this debate going to speak to the specific interests of same gender loving people when HRC doesn’t, the Logo channel doesn’t, and the papers never have,” Joanne Strayhorn of Newark, New Jersey commented.
And much of the overwhelming disinterest in LGBTQ communities of African descent about this upcoming historic debate is the belief that issues pertinent to them will once again be left out of not only the public discourse but also left out of the overall interest of politicians wooing this community as an important and vital voter bloc to have. The queer community is a decisive electoral force that politicians have learned over the years, for their own campaign survival, that they must at least wink at.
But their winks have never cast eyes on this nation’s black same gender loving communities. And the issues concerning white queer communities are indeed vastly different from the black community.
“We got an entire community dying of AIDS and I know the first question that’s going to come out of somebody's mouth will be that of gay marriage” Rita Johnson of Detroit told me.
Social research shows that African-American same-gender households have everything to gain in the struggle for marriage equality and more to lose when states pass amendments banning marriage equality and other forms of partner recognition. For example, in November 2005, Equality Maryland and the National Black Justice Coalition published "Jumping the Broom: a Black Perspective on Same-Gender Marriage." And the statistics revealed the following: Forty-five percent of black same-sex couples reported stable relationships of five years or longer. And 20 percent of black men and 24 percent of black women in same-sex households are denied health care benefits for their partners by the government.
While there is still overwhelming evidence that suggests marriage would be beneficial for same gender loving couples, many in the black queer community still argue that the community is not tied in a knot about same-sex marriage, as queer media present, many are just simply not kissing up to the issue, since the issue appears and presents itself as a white queer moral imperative and not the AIDS crisis in the black community.
There is another crisis in the black gay community - homelessness among its lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer youth. When 42 percent of the country's homeless youth identifies as LGBTQ, and approximately 90 percent within this group comprise of African American and Latino youth from urban enclaves like New York City, Boston, and Los Angeles, many black LGBTQ voters argue that this issue is neither simply a black issue that the African American community should address nor a queer issue the LGBTQ community should address, but rather a problem this nation should address since it has reached epidemic proportions.
With many LGBTQ voters of African descent experiencing the downside of diversity by not being fully included in the both African American and gay communities the HRC-Logo debate is viewed as a white queer public soliloquy giving the illusion of inclusion.