Subject: [BRC-ALL] Direction of the Black LGBT Left
X-Sender: Sidney Brinkley <email@example.com>
Direction of the Black LGBT Left
A dialog on the Black Radical Congress list
Date: Sun, 19 Dec 1999 20:42:00 -0500
From: Sidney Brinkley <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Following is a news article I wrote about the meeting of the "Ad-Hoc
Committee for an Open Process." As some of you may know, the committee is
at the heart of the most contentious internal struggle the LGBT movement
has faced in years, involving issues of power, class, race and possibly
the future direction of the gay movement in the United States. For you
unfamiliar with this issue, following is a (very) general overview to put
the article in a more informed context.
In February, 1998 the Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay organization
in the country ($13 million annual budget) and the Universal Fellowship of
Metropolitan Community Churches, (MCC), the nation's largest gay religious
organization, announced plans to sponsor a "Millennium March On
Washington" (MMOW). The gay equality march is scheduled to take place in
Washington D.C. on April 30, 2000. The plan was presented to the gay
community as a done deal.
There was an immediate uproar from many grassroots activists, smaller
organizations and people of color, They objected to the "closed door"
decision making, the Christian tilt, and charged there hadn't been any
discussion about a gay march, or its goals, in the community and that the
two, predominantly white, organizations, were attempting to set the gay
agenda for a diverse population.
Representatives of the previous three gay marches (1979, 1987, 1993)
formed the "Ad-Hoc Committee for an Open Process" and called for the
cancellation of the march. The committee held its first meeting in 1998 at
the annual "Creating Change," a major LGBT conference (over 2,000
attendees) sponsored by the National gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF).
The committee has since picked up hundreds of supporters including
playwright Tony Kushner, S.F. Mayoral candidate Tom Ammiano, filmmaker
Michelle Parkerson, author Jewell Gomez and the LGBT committee of the
National Lawyers Guild and others of the gay progressive left.
"This is about the direction of our grassroots movement and what we are
fighting for," the Ad-Hoc groups states in an ad. "That these national
organizations project white Christian middle-class representations and set
the agenda accordingly is nothing less than institutional racism."
However, the MMOW board has stood firm and said the march goes on with or
without the committee's support. Author and publisher Barbara Smith, North
Carolina activist Mandy Carter and Florida activist Nadine Smith have been
in the forefront of the people of color protesting the MMOW. A people of
color statement supporting the Ad-Hoc Committee was distributed at the
"People of color have taken the leadership in raising the very first clear
and decisive objections to the process involved in planning the Millennium
March on Washington (MMOW) since the day that rally was announced," the
statement begins. "We have continued to raise substantive criticisms of
the MMOW, taking it as an opportunity to denounce the way that the
mainstream lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) movement
demands that we neglect our race, gender, class status, and other matters
of passionate concern in order to carry out their narrow agenda"
[The complete statement follows the article on the meeting.]
The 12th Annual NGLTF Creating Change conference was held in Oakland, CA.
November 10-14, 1999 at the Marriott Hotel. The Ad-Hoc meeting was held
November 12, at Local 285 Union Hall, a few blocks from the conference
hotel. Jewel Gomez was the featured speaker.
One final note, near the end of the article you will read a comment made
about forming a "Queer Radical Congress." This is an idea that White Gays
have been discussing for a while. Many progressive White Gays express a
great admiration for the BRC and the "QRC" will most likely be built on
Right now it's only in the "talking" stage but you can best believe they
will get it together in the coming months, and they will USE it, not just
to communicate but to strategize, confront and further their agenda, which
is Gay equality, something that will benefit the REST of us, if only by
default. These men and women are the progressive White Gay left, and I say
more power to them, for they are not the enemy.
However, my question is, what is the LGBT faction of the BRC supposed to
be about? I was not here from the start so I don't know what the original
goals were. But I imagine the vision had to be greater than this.
There's hardly any traffic over this network. There's no debate. No
discussion. No planning. Nothing! Do you WANT anything? It's clear that
most of us are of a mindset apart from the White Gay movement as defined
by the Human Rights Campaign and their ilk. But where are WE going as the
Black LGBT progressive left?
Can someone explain that to me?
Is anybody out there?
Activists Opposed To Millennium March Mull Next Move
D.C. gathering in 2000 seems inevitable, but activists ask
where real movement lies
By Sidney Brinkley <email@example.com>
OAKLAND, Calif. -- It was clear from the beginning that this year's
meeting of the Ad-Hoc Committee for an Open Process, a group that has
challenged organizers of the April 2000 Millennium March on Washington,
would be different from last year's. As various audience members spoke,
the passion displayed at a 1998 meeting of the committee remained, but
missing was the rage expressed when the Millennium March was a newer idea.
It was replaced, for many, by an exasperated acceptance of the inevitable.
"I'm a little tired of having to react to the Millennium March," Jim
Fouratt told the audience, which numbered more than 100 people. "The
Millennium March is going to happen. They feel this is their movement and
they are moving forward with or without us.... Let's not get stuck here
reacting to it. What we have to do is build something that is different
from that. We need to concentrate on building what a progressive queer
movement is about: principle. Stop reacting to them, and just build."
The Nov. 12 meeting, timed to coincide with the National Gay and Lesbian
Task Force's Creating Change conference, was the second time the committee
hosted a public forum on the Millennium March; the first gathering
coincided with Creating Change in Pittsburgh in 1998.
The Human Rights Campaign, one of the original sponsors of the Millennium
March and the organization that had received the brunt of the committee's
wrath in the past, received few direct attacks this time. Instead, the
focus switched to what HRC has come to represent to many committee
members: the model for D.C.'s "corporate activism," described as
"leadership from the top down" and out of touch with Gay communities
outside of the nation's capital.
Author Jewelle Gomez, one of two announced speakers for the event,
reiterated a position the committee has held since it formed: that the
direction of the Gay movement is being decided largely by well-financed
interests in Washington, D.C., and no longer by the rank-and-file.
"The more you see people coming out, the more you see people who are
wealthy setting an agenda for the queer movement," said Gomez. "These are
people who have never been on a queer march in their lives. As a
Lesbian/feminist, I don't know [that] how much [money] someone contributes
to a movement should allow that person to set our agenda for us.
Washington, D.C., is not the center of the queer universe. ... There is
something about the idea that you are in Washington, you can tell people
what to do. But the answers to our issues are not going to be found in
Washington; they are going to found in the communities where we live."
The second announced speaker was San Francisco Supervisor Tom Ammiano, who
had committed to appearing at the Ad-Hoc Committee meeting before his
surprise advancement to a run-off in that city's mayoral race. Ammiano was
unable to attend the meeting due to campaign scheduling conflicts.
Committee member Leslie Cagan served as moderator and, before turning the
meeting over to the audience, she reminded everyone of the meeting's theme
and explained the Ad-Hoc Committee's mission.
"Our mission, and what we want to bring to this discussion, is
re-energizing a movement that is committed to grassroots organizing in
communities around the country and building an activist agenda that
unabashedly takes up and addresses issues of racial, social, and economic
justice," Cagan said. "We don't have a proposal for that. But that is the
direction, and we are assuming that you are also interested in that."
Much of the focus of the two-and-a-half-hour meeting was on the concept of
"multiple Gay movements." Activists spoke of wanting something more than a
new organization - they said they wanted a new movement that will reflect
their point of view, which is progressive and to the left of most national
and statewide Gay political organizations.
"I've always been involved in what I felt was the progressive movement,"
said Ad-Hoc Committee member Steve Ault. "I've always thought of the queer
movement as a progressive movement. Frankly, I can't think of myself being
in a movement with Gay Republicans. That would be complete anathema of my
thinking of what a movement would be about. Yes, we have multiple
movements and we need to forge out in our own direction."
"I'm not doing any more 'business as usual,'" said Mandy Carter, who
distributed a statement signed by people of color supporting the Ad-Hoc
Committee. "Business as usual is who has the money, who has the big
checking account, who has the resources gets to set the agenda. We have a
major opportunity. We are at the crossroads. Let's start taking some risks
and go bold."
The meeting attracted many young, budding activists, who embraced the idea
of a new movement and were eager to start on it.
"I, too, think we need to work beyond the corporate model of getting work
done in our community," said Carmen Shorter of Washington, D.C. "I'm 25
years old, and I'm trying to build something that is significant, not only
for me, but for all the ones coming out younger and younger, looking for
something to do beyond reacting to, or plugging ourselves into, something
that has already been defined for us. How do we know what we are supposed
to do when we leave here? We've got to have an idea of the direction."
The consensus was that a "next step" needed to be taken; just what that
next step is remained undefined, though several suggestions were tossed
"I'm getting the feeling, sitting here, that we are not in such a tiny
minority," said one woman, who identified herself as a publisher of the
San Francisco-based publication Ultra Violet. "People think we are, and we
think we are because we are not organized in a way that is visible
nationally. We've talked about some type of 'Queer Radical Congress' for
some time. Great. But think about more regional gatherings. Encourage the
formation of groups that would be related to each other on a national
network. Make a movement that is accessible to everybody but doesn't feel
By the end of the meeting, there was still no decision on what's next. But
the idea for a "new movement" had been planted and, for many, there was an
almost palpable sense that "something" had happened.
"What's exciting about the Ad-Hoc Committee is [that] it has that 'spark'
there that I saw 30 years ago," longtime activist John O'Brien told the
crowd. "We saw this last year. This group has that same potential, like
ACT UP when it was founded. We're at the same junction in our movement.
Many people are pissed, not just at this march, but where we are going as
a cause. We need to get some type of process going. I think a lot of
people would get involved. I think we need to take our movement back."
Sidney Brinkley is a journalist and editor of the online publication
Copyright (c) 1999 by Sidney Brinkley. All Rights Reserved.
Will People of Color Pay the Price?
A Statement by People of Color in Support of
the Ad Hoc Committee for an Open Process
Tito Ben-Ysrael Beck, Durham, NC
Mandy Carter, Ad Hoc Committee for an Open Process, Durham, NC
Chandra Ford, Chapel Hill, NC
Kara Keeling, Ad Hoc Committee for an Open Process, Chapel Hill, NC
Barbara Smith, Ad Hoc Committee for an Open Process, Albany, NY
People of color have taken the leadership in raising the very first clear
and decisive objections to the process involved in planning the Millennium
March on Washington (MMOW) since the day that rally was announced. We have
continued to raise substantive criticisms of the MMOW, taking it as an
opportunity to denounce the way that the mainstream lesbian, gay,
bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) movement demands that we neglect our
race, gender, class status, and other matters of passionate concern in
order to carry out their narrow agenda.
The events surrounding the MMOW are symptoms of problems that are
prevalent in the mainstream white-led LGBT movement. As people of color,
we suffer disproportionately from the lack of diversity among those in
positions of leadership in the mainstream movement because we have no one
at the table to represent us. At the 1998 meeting between five white
people at which the decision to "march" on Washington was made, not only
were there no people of color present, but there was no youth, bisexual,
transgendered, or union representation (to name a few of our rich, diverse
Such blatant disregard for the needs and interests of entire segments of
our community is not only indefensible, it also prohibits any possibility
of realizing the types of substantial social, economic, and political
change needed to make our lives better. When we raised concerns about this
process, these white led organizations which exert tremendous influence in
the national LGBT movement, moved ahead with planning the march anyway,
stating that the march was a done deal because, without consulting those
very LGBT people they claim to represent, they had already spent money on
In an effort to silence our criticisms, they then plugged people of color
onto the board of directors of the MMOW. (Despite the national Latina/o
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organization's, LLEGO, early
endorsement of the MMOW, it was not included with the Human Rights
Campaign and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches
as a founding organization until after the decision to "march" had been
made.) But, far from addressing our concerns, this gesture raised a new
set of problems which are also typical of the movement as a whole: Because
the majority of the forces that affect us as people of color both within
the LGBT movement and in the larger American society are structural, mere
reform will not address them.
Putting people of color on the board of directors of an organization whose
lack of democracy is itself the problem does not address the underlying
issues. It is simply putting a band-aid over an oozing, infected sore. It
does not change the content of the MMOW; the sore remains infected. People
of color in positions of leadership can only represent the interests of
people of color within a context that demands their accountability.
Because there are many political differences among us, even as people of
color, it is not wise to assume that by simply being a person of color,
one is automatically acting in the best interest of people of color.
No efficient channels of accountability currently exist on the national
level. Those national organizations we have created to be our faces and
voices have, by and large, made no effort to hear our concerns and act on
our behalf. On its web site (available only to those with the resources to
have Internet access), the MMOW presents its target population to
potential sponsors as the "affluent and loyal gay/lesbian market" and
makes no effort to disclose the terms of its contracts, including deals
made with sponsors and the ultimate fate of the demographic and personal
information it collects from and about participants. Evidently, the MMOW
is banking on the "affluent," predominately white male, elements of our
community. If marching on Washington is a political action, what will a
99.9% white audience on the mall in D.C. achieve for us as lesbian, gay,
bisexual, two-spirited, transgendered (LGBTST) people of color?
The white led gay organizations have failed to address issues of dire and
immediate concern to LGBTST people of color. Because we realize that these
issues cannot be separated from those the mainstream movement incorrectly
presents as specific to homosexuality, many of us simultaneously devote
our time and energy to fighting against police brutality, racist violence,
violence against women, environmental racism, and environmental
destruction, and fighting for reproductive freedom, economic justice, and
many other critically important causes.
The MMOW debacle has forced us to closely examine the current direction of
our movement. As people of color, we have always raised crucial questions
concerning the processes and assumptions that conspire to silence us and
make us invisible. Any issue concerning oppression, domination, or
exploitation, whether it is of one person over another, one group over
another, one culture over another, is an altogether "queer" issue. Our
liberation cannot be won without that simple recognition. Until the white
led mainstream LGBT movement grasps this point, we will pay the price.
We call on the LGBTST community as a whole to join us in our call for an
open process within the LGBTST community. We also invite LGBTST people of
color to continue working towards our own self-sufficient and multi-issued
LGBTST people of color movement and community.
Date: Mon, 20 Dec 1999 01:57:42 -0500
From: Arthur G Crump <firstname.lastname@example.org>
One of the things that I find fascinating is to study the history of
movements to find out what can we (Black folk) learn from other movements
successes and failures. And one of the things that has been consistent
about the gay movement from the mid-70s on, is that its a white homosexual
male nationalist movement that is purposely exclusionary of women, people
of color and even poor white men. And I think that most Black homosexual
folks, including those who call themselves gay, know this. At least folks
here in Los Angeles, where we're close to the gay meccas, know this.
The benefactors of everything that comes out of the gay movement has
always been white men. It was true with HIV/AIDS funding. It holds true
for legislation. And it holds true for mainstream media representation of
homosexuality. And even in the white gay media/magazines, all you ever see
is a glorification of the white male image. You'll never find, in any gay
magazine, two Black men in a loving embrace, or two Black women in a
loving embrace. In the rare moments that they do show people of color
they're always connected to someone, or something white. And that's not
just my opinion, that's a fact.
And as such, I find it hard to consider it being 'progressive' to continue
to beg any white nationalist entity, to represent, or be representative
of, Black people. Aside from tokenism, that is. What would be more
progressive is for Black Men Who Love Men and Black Women Who Love Women
to form entities that are representative of our needs. And that's what
we've done here in Los Angeles, and other parts of the country in forming
the Same Gender Loving (SGL) movement.
The SGL (Same Gender Loving) movement came out of the Black community in
the mid-1990s as a way for us to embrace and affirm our unique history and
culture. SGL was purposely designed for use by Black Women Who Love Women,
and Black Men Who Love Men to create possibilities that serve our needs
and the rest of our community's needs. And so far, multiple entities from
community organizations to churches, to student groups across the nation
are using the term SGL to finally define our uniqueness as Black
So to answer the question, "Direction of the Black LGBT Left", I would
suggest that we need to stop following a movement that was never designed
for us, and create our own possibilities.
(BTW - the Queer movement came about as a counter to the gay movement. It
was composed of a coalition of white men who were made poor because of
their HIV/AIDS status, and women and people of color who felt excluded by
the gay movement. So its not too surprising that the White gay left would
want to initiate a group called the Queer Radical Congress.)
Date: Tue, 21 Dec 1999 13:54:10 -0500
From: Sidney Brinkley <email@example.com>
A response to Arthur G. Crump's response to my posting:
>One of the things that I find fascinating is to study the history of
>movements to find out what can we (Black folk) learn from other movements
>successes and failures. And one of the things that has been consistent
>about the gay movement from the mid-70s on, is that its a white
>homosexual male nationalist movement that is purposely exclusionary of
>women, people of color and even poor white men. And I think that most
>Black homosexual folks, including those who call themselves gay, know
>this. At least folks here in Los Angeles, where we're close to the gay
>meccas, know this.
The history of the Gay Movement dates back at least a couple of decades
before the mid-seventies with the founding of the (White Gay male)
Mattachine Society in 1950. No one, not even White Gay men, deny that it
has been a male-led and dominated movement for much of the time. In that
regard, that's more of a "Male" thing than anything else, as White
Lesbians would be quick to point out. That the Gay movement has been
racist, we don't even need to go into that. It's no different than
anything else in America.
>The benefactors of everything that comes out of the gay movement has
>always been white men. It was true with HIV/AIDS funding. It holds true
That statement is absolutely false.
In my Preface I say the agenda of White Gays is "Gay equality" and that is
something that will benefit ALL Gay people "if only by default." Give
credit where credit is due. It is precisely because White Gays challenged
the status-quo that the rest of us no longer have to cower in closets,
that we have some measure of protections on the job and in the courts.
There is no legislation anywhere that says "You will not discriminate
against White Gay men." The laws, where they exist, say "You will not
discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation." And that applies whether
you are male, female, White, Black, Hispanic or otherwise.
As for AIDS funding, again, give credit where credit is due. On May 21,
1990 over one thousand rowdy White radicals stormed the National
Institutes of Health (NIH) with smoke bombs and guerilla theatre demanding
better drugs and more diverse research for women and people of color. It
is because those radical White boys in ACT-UP raised so much HELL during
the early days of the AIDS epidemic that now ALL people with HIV/AIDS are
a lot better off than they would have been otherwise.
>And it holds true for mainstream media representation of
>homosexuality. And even in the white gay media/magazines, all you ever
>see is a glorification of the white male image. You'll never find, in any
>gay magazine, two Black men in a loving embrace, or two Black women in a
>loving embrace. In the rare moments that they do show people of color
>they're always connected to someone, or something white. And that's not
>just my opinion, that's a fact.
It's their publication.
They can put anything they want on the cover.
All magazines play to their target audience.
You want to see Black people on the cover in an embrace, then start your
own publication. That what Johnson did when he started "Ebony." That's
what I did when I started "Blacklight" in 1979.
>And as such, I find it hard to consider it being 'progressive' to continue
>to beg any white nationalist entity, to represent, or be representative
>of, Black people. Aside from tokenism, that is. What would be more
>progressive is for Black Men Who Love Men and Black Women Who Love Women
>to form entities that are representative of our needs. And that's what
>we've done here in Los Angeles, and other parts of the country in forming
>the Same Gender Loving (SGL) movement.
I know of no Blacks who are "begging" the White groups to represent, or be
representative of, Black people. There are Blacks, and other people of
color, who are "demanding" that White groups that purport to be national
organizations consider the points of view of those other than their White
>The SGL (Same Gender Loving) movement came out of the Black community in
>the mid-1990s as a way for us to embrace and affirm our unique history
>and culture. SGL was purposely designed for use by Black Women Who Love
>Women, and Black Men Who Love Men to create possibilities that serve our
>needs and the rest of our community's needs. And so far, multiple
>entities from community organizations to churches, to student groups
>across the nation are using the term SGL to finally define our uniqueness
>as Black homosexuals.
This was not a point addressed in my Preface but, while I'm aware that
some people are choosing to identify as "SGL," I self-identify as a Black
>So to answer the question, "Direction of the Black LGBT Left", I would
>suggest that we need to stop following a movement that was never designed
>for us, and create our own possibilities.
Again, whether the Gay movement was designed for us or not, we have still
benefited from it. As for creating our own possibilities, that's been
attempted numerous times. The first time in the late-seventies with the
National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays. It died from lack of
>(BTW - the Queer movement came about as a counter to the gay movement. It
>was composed of a coalition of white men who were made poor because of
>their HIV/AIDS status, and women and people of color who felt excluded by
>the gay movement. So its not too surprising that the White gay left would
>want to initiate a group called the Queer Radical Congress.)
This last statement has no basis in fact.
The Queer Movement has nothing to do with AIDS and was in place long
before AIDS was known. The term "Queer" had long been a slur hurled at Gay
people. In the early seventies a few White Gay radicals decided to
"reclaim" the word and turn it into a positive, in much the same way we
took the term "Black," also a slur at one time, and turned it into a
As far as the possibility of a Queer Radical Congress. I would support it
and probably join. I can be both a member of the BRC AND the QRC. I won't
paint all White people with a broad brush as racists. Does that mean that
the White Queer radical doesn't have issues of racism to deal with? Of
course not! We are ALL products of the same racist society. But some of us
TRY to rise above it. There are fundamental philosophical differences
between a progressive White Queer radical and a conservative White Gay
Complete separatism is no longer a viable option for Black people, Gay or
straight, in today's world. It's about working in coalition with others on
issues that matter to each of us and working separately on issues that we
feel are ours alone.
Look at all the mega-mergers that took place this year and it's obvious
that, increasingly, its a case of "us" against "them." "Them" are the
people with all the money and the power. "Us" is everyone else. And none
of "us" can go up against "them" on our own and expect to win.
Date: Tue, 21 Dec 1999 17:23:53 -0500
From: Arthur G Crump <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The goal of my initial letter, brother Sidney, was not to make you, and
other Black Gays feel challenged. But to answer your initial question as
to why Black homosexuals on the left aren't joining the Black LGBT
"movement". I think that Black folks that want to call themselves 'gay'
should. I'm not trying to stop that. But history, and not rhetoric, has
shown that the gay movement is racist, sexist and has created NO benefits
for us. You, yourself, have said some of the same in your posts. So its
interesting that you would come out in strong defense of the gay (white)
movement in response to my answer to your own question.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but one of the reasons you and some other black
gay folks are at odds with the HRC (a gay entity) is that they did
something very racist. A group of white community activist sat down at a
table (or whatever) and constructed the idea for a millennium march on
Washington. Deciding who would get to speak at the different events, what
issues would be talked about, etc., putting together a whole program. And
after the decision making had been done, they asked black gays to come and
be at the event. Is that not correct?
While its true that the words gay and queer have been in the english
language for quite some time, the political use of these terms were not
used until the 70s. I have friends, both white and black that were at the
table when the early initiators of the 'gay' movement sat down and said
let's create a movement. And these initiators were 95% white men. And they
decided (voted on) the use of the term 'gay' to describe themselves and
their movement going forward.
During the mid-70s a split of the, then, gay/homosexual movement occurred
over the inclusivity of the movement. Those who felt the move- ment should
only deal with issues of concern to white middle-class men split off and
formed what is now the modern gay movement. I can give you resources if
you want to research this for yourself.
Likewise, even though the term queer, has been around for a long time, as
a political movement it debatably started in this country with Queer
Nation in the mid-80s. And you can ask anyone who's ever been in Queer
Nation and they'll tell you that they started as a counter-movement to the
gay movement. Because the gay movement was NOT being responsive to their
And its true that white gays did fight very hard to get HIV/AIDS funding
and other rights. Whites have traditionally fought hard for the privileges
that they become accustomed to in this county. No big news. And It was a
great benefit for white gay men to do this, because their HIV infection
rates have gone down dramatically, almost to nonexistence levels. But,
but, the numbers for Black homosexuals, Black women, Black babies, and
other Black men continues to go up, unabated. You can verify this with any
Black based HIV/AIDS entity in the country. So you tell me who's really
benefiting form HIV/AIDS funding. Especially, when throughout the
epidemic, the funding for people of color HIV/AIDS organizations has been
less than 1 percent of the funding for white gay organizations.
As far as legislation is concerned, yes the (white) gay movement is trying
to get the term 'sexual orientation' attached to every non-discriminatory
legislation they can. I would suggest however, that its
debate-able how much benefit that it is to Black homosexuals. If, for
instance, you have a Black man up for a job and a White gay man up for a
job, both with equal qualifications and skills, the question is still,
based on nondiscriminatory policies, who will get the job?
I'm not saying that the work done by Black gays or White gays on behalf of
the Gay movement won't benefit others. But I am saying that the benefits
have been historically limited for non-whites. And the primary benefactors
have been white men. And that's not rhetoric, that's an historical fact.
But the whole point of my post, remains, instead of producing for a
movement (gay) where the primary benefactors are white men, why not create
a movement about, and for Black people, where we are the primary
benefactors. What's wrong with that? Don't we deserve stuff and long
stress-free lives? Answer that?
And, again, that's the goal of the SGL (Same Gender Love) movement. And
that other groups that call themselves Black and Gay have failed, is not
the same as starting an entity by us and about us and our uniqueness.
And brother Sidney, if you truly want to know all of the things I've
created on behalf of Black SGL folk (including magazines, virtual and
otherwise) and not just because you're reacting to my words, ask me and
I'll tell you. But never assume.
Date: Tue, 21 Dec 1999 22:25:17 -0500
From: Ron Simmons <email@example.com>
Arthur G Crump wrote:
> The goal of my initial letter, brother Sidney, was not to make you, and
> other Black Gays feel challenged. But to answer your initial question as
> to why Black homosexuals on the left aren't joining the Black LGBT
> "movement". I think that Black folks that want to call themselves 'gay'
> should. I'm not trying to stop that.[snip] So its
> interesting that you would come out in strong defense of the gay (white)
> movement in response to my answer to your own question.
In all fairness, Sidney did not come out in strong defense of the gay
white movement. He simply gave credit where credit was due. The problem I
have with your post (and others in other venues) is that it implies that
black homosexuals who call themselves "gay" are some how wedded in their
idealogy and politics to the white gay community. I think that is a too
simplistic analysis. A lot of folks who call themselves African American
or Black are not necessarily wedded to a "Black Movement." Clarence
Thomas calls himself black or African American and so do I, but he is not
a part of any movement I belong to.
The development of a "Same Gender Loving" movement is fine. But
understand that the concept of a more "Black or afrocentric identified"
homosexuality has been discussed by black gay men and lesbians for years.
We have seen the need to define for ourselves what being "gay" meant and
many of us realized that we were different from white gays in that our
primary concern and involvement in Black life, culture and politics was
not reflected in the term "gay." Adding to the problem was what Dr.
Julius Johnson found years ago in his study of black homosexual men,
namely that one can categorized them into two main groups, those who
identified with, associated with, struggled with and lived primarily in
the Black community versus those who identified, associated, struggled and
lived primarily in the white gay community. One of the results was that
the former group consciously called themselves "Black gay men" and
referred to the latter group as "Gay black men." The struggle for
self-definition and terminology among black homosexuals is an old one.
Indeed the term "Same Gender Loving" (SGL) is not really new. A sister
named Toni Luck used the term "intra-gender affection" back in the early
1980's to accomplish the same thing - i.e., an authentic term for our
unique black lives that was not the word "gay." (incidentially, Toni is
now a conservative reverend denouncing homosexual. Which just goes to
show that what one calls oneself is not as important as the actions one
I have found that younger brothers tend to prefer the term "SGL" which is
fine. Self-definition is critical. However my concern is that too often
SGL brothers feel a need to denounce any brother who calls himself "gay"
as a self-hating lover of white people. Understand me, internalize racism
is real and there are many black homosexuals who suffer from it, but to
blanketly say that all black folks who call themselves gay are suffering
from it is wrong and divisive.
> Correct me if I'm wrong, but one of the reasons you and some other black
> gay folks are at odds with the HRC (a gay entity) is that they did
> something very racist. A group of white community activist sat down at a
> table (or whatever) and constructed the idea for a millennium march on
> Washington. Deciding who would get to speak at the different events, what
> issues would be talked about, etc., putting together a whole program. And
> after the decision making had been done, they asked black gays to come and
> be at the event. Is that not correct?
No, not quite. Leaders of the Human Rights Campaign and the Metropolitan
Community Church (a predominantly white christian gay/lesbian
denomination) and some of their friends decided to have a march, selected
the date and the theme (i.e., "Faith and Family") without input from the
larger, diverse gay community. The speakers and program had not be
developed by then. A lot of us were upset because we are not christians
and did not want to get greater acceptance by pretending we wanted to be
middle-class parents having nuclear families just like the white
mainstream. We also knew that given HRC's history and politics, our
struggle against racism would be given lip service at best.
> While its true that the words gay and queer have been in the english
> language for quite some time, the political use of these terms were not
> used until the 70s. I have friends, both white and black that were at the
> table when the early initiators of the 'gay' movement sat down and said
> let's create a movement. And these initiators were 95% white men. And they
> decided (voted on) the use of the term 'gay' to describe themselves and
> their movement going forward.
> During the mid-70s a split of the, then, gay/homosexual movement occurred
> over the inclusivity of the movement. Those who felt the move- ment should
> only deal with issues of concern to white middle-class men split off and
> formed what is now the modern gay movement. I can give you resources if
> you want to research this for yourself.
Again that's not quite how it happened. After the Stonewall rebellion in
1969, there developed the Gay Liberation Front which attempted to be
radical and in struggle in coalition with the Black movement for civil
rights, the women's movement, welfare rights, the vietnam war protests,
the black panthers, etc. Unfortunately, their good intentions could not
overcome the sexism and racism of their leadership and the movement
collapsed under its own contradictions. The new organization that
developed out of the ruins was the Gay Activist Alliance which voted to
have a gay exclusive agenda that would allow white gay liberals and gay
conservatives to support them. > > Likewise, even though the term queer,
has been around for a long time, as > a political movement it debatably
started in this country with Queer > Nation in the mid-80s. And you can
ask anyone who's ever been in Queer > Nation and they'll tell you that
they started as a counter-movement to the > gay movement. Because the gay
movement was NOT being responsive to their > needs.
Right and Queer Nation collapsed for the same reason. They could not
overcome the racism and sexism of their members and their leadership.
> And its true that white gays did fight very hard to get HIV/AIDS funding
> and other rights. Whites have traditionally fought hard for the privileges
> that they become accustomed to in this county. No big news. And It was a
> great benefit for white gay men to do this, because their HIV infection
> rates have gone down dramatically, almost to nonexistence levels. But,
> but, the numbers for Black homosexuals, Black women, Black babies, and
> other Black men continues to go up, unabated. You can verify this with any
> Black based HIV/AIDS entity in the country. So you tell me who's really
> benefiting form HIV/AIDS funding. Especially, when throughout the
> epidemic, the funding for people of color HIV/AIDS organizations has been
> less than 1 percent of the funding for white gay organizations.
Where you got the 1% fiqure from is beyond me, but many black folks
benefited and still benefit from the money that was appropriated for
treatment services. Treatment funding will not reduce the infection rate.
Treatment funding (and free new drugs) have reduced the death rate for
blacks and whites (yes, the white death rate dropped more). The question
of reducing infections is not as easy to answer because 1) you don't know
if the person testing positive was a recent or long time infection thus
money for prevention would not have been effective, and 2) you don't know
if the black rate is increasing because blacks are often forced to use
public health faciities that report HIV/AIDS infections more than the
private doctors who whites have the resouces to visit.
> As far as legislation is concerned, yes the (white) gay movement is trying
> to get the term 'sexual orientation' attached to every non-discri-
> minatory legislation they can. I would suggest however, that its
> debate-able how much benefit that it is to Black homosexuals. If, for
> instance, you have a Black man up for a job and a White gay man up for a
> job, both with equal qualifications and skills, the question is still,
> based on nondiscriminatory policies, who will get the job?
Tell me, how do you deal with the fact that most of the gender
discrimination black gay/sgl/lesbian/bisexual/transgender folk face comes
from the black community itself? In Baltimore a black transgender woman
was shot six times by the boys in the hood because they didn't like
> I'm not saying that the work done by Black gays or White gays on behalf of
> the Gay movement won't benefit others. But I am saying that the benefits
> have been historically limited for non-whites. And the primary benefactors
> have been white men. And that's not rhetoric, that's an historical fact.
> But the whole point of my post, remains, instead of producing for a
> movement (gay) where the primary benefactors are white men, why not create
> a movement about, and for Black people, where we are the primary
> benefactors. What's wrong with that? Don't we deserve stuff and long
> stress-free lives? Answer that?
Again, don't be a-historical. There have been attempts in the past to
develop a "gay" movement for and about black people. The SGL is only the
latest attempt. That's fine, but don't assume that you are the first to
create the wheel or that you have not benefited from the work that was
done by other black gay men before you. There are black gay organizations
attempting to do some of the same work that is being done by SGL folks in
Los Angeles. There are increasing discussions between black gay men and
lesbians, and black heterosexual men and women, about sexism, homophobia
and common issues of community building.
> And brother Sidney, if you truly want to know all of the things I've
> created on behalf of Black SGL folk (including magazines, virtual and
> otherwise) and not just because you're reacting to my words, ask me and
> I'll tell you. But never assume.
Exactly brother Arthur, never assume that you understand the commitment to
the black struggle of black men who call themselves "gay".
Date: Wed, 29 Dec 1999 07:03:10 -0500
From: Arthur G Crump <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Its obvious from your response that a post can be
interpreted in many 'interesting' ways. Nowhere in my posts
here (or other venues) did I say, or imply that Black
homosexuals that identify as 'gay' were wedded to the white
gay movement. What I did say, very clearly, and what you
chose to purposely snip out of my original post in your
response, is that the gay community is exclusionary of
people of color and women to the point of being both racist
and sexist in its formation.
I too, agree that the implication that Black 'gays' being
wedded to the ideology of the white gay movement is a
simplistic analysis. But keep in mind that since I never
said this, this was your analysis, not mine. I don't believe
that most Black 'gay' identified folk have ever really
analyzed what it means to call themselves 'gay'. Just as I
don't believe that most Black-Americans have ever really
analyzed what it means to call themselves 'Americans' in the
face of the social-economic devastation that America has
visited on Black and Brown communities worldwide.
The main thrust of my posts, which has not been contested or
disproved yet, is that the primary benefactors of the gay
movement are and have traditionally been, white men, so why
not start a movement where Black women and Black men are the
primary benefactors. This is something you, and other Black
'gay' identified folk so far have chosen to ignore, or have
attempted to make a mockery of, in your responses. You even
went as far as saying that the SGL movement won't work
because Black 'gay' organizations in the past failed. You
said this even though you admitted that a whole new
generation of Black homosexual youth are beginning to call
themselves SGL. That don't sound like no failure to me, just
Again though, its not my intention to make Black 'gay'
identified folk feel challenged, or threatened or eclipsed
by the construct of a Same Gender Loving (SGL) movement to
serve Black folk. But if we're going to build on something,
let's build on something that benefits us first, instead of
I will say, in closing, that my energy on this particular
subject has been exhausted. I'm starting to feel like some
kind of gay-ologist. And it feels creepy to try to convince
Black folk to love themselves in an all-black forum, so I
probably won't be writing anymore on this subject.
- Arthur Crump
Date: Wed, 29 Dec 1999 17:18:28 -0500
From: James Lord <email@example.com>
Ron Simmons Wrote:
"In all fairness, Sidney did not come out in strong defense
of the gay white movement. He simply gave credit where
credit was due".
Did he? You and brother Sidney state that most if not all of
the advances in G/L/B/T rights have been instigated by white
men. Is this giving credit where credit is due? Were African
Americans, People of Color, and women welcome to participate
in the movements you have briefly described? Have POC not
participated in the struggle for liberation wherever
possible? Were there not brothers, sisters, and poc's who
were willing to storm the NIH allied in struggle? Yes, there
were. We were barred from participating in an equal role in
ACT-UP. Thus most decided not to participate at all in what
was by white gay male choice a white gay struggle. While the
NIH was being stormed, women and activists of color were
suing the AIDS hospice "Shanti" and the city of San
Francisco for the right to receive treatment, medicine, and
services. We were also suing for the right to volunteer!
Should credit be given the white gay community for the
reforms their self-selecting mono-racial movement were able
to institute for their white gay male constituents alone? I
noticed neither of you addressed the fact clearly pointed
out by brother Arthur that: close to a decade after the NIH
reforms the African-American community Gay and Straight are
not receiving similar treatment and that we are one of the
few populations where ARC/AIDS related deaths are
I have similar issues with Sidney's statement "It is
precisely because White Gays challenged the status-quo that
the rest of us no longer have to cower in closets, that we
have some measure of protections on the job and in the
courts". Is this true? Weren't the Stonewall Riots started
by Black and Latino men at a bar in Greenwich Village?
Weren't the rioters overwhelmingly of color? Most white gay
activists and historians acknowledge that they were. Of
course this could be one of those politically correct lies
white liberals tell for our po black benefit.
You are right in saying that our history shows that every
attempt made by the Gay community to form radical movements
across racial and gender lines has met with failure.
Beginning with the "Mattachine society" and "Gay Liberation
Front" extending into the last attempts made by "ACT-UP" and
"Queer Nation" every progressive gay movement and
organization has been either purged of POC and/or women or
completely dissolved because of entrenched racism and
Nor should we be smug here! Unfortunately the track record
of Black Radical struggle and its relationship to Black
women and Black Same Gender Loving people has been just as
poor. There have been half-hearted attempts to include the
voices of our radical sisters and womanists through the
years. Same Gender Loving women and men have been excluded
completely until the founding "Principles" of the BRC. Kudos
to the BRC. Yet the BRC itself could go the way of previous
Gay organizations if the homophobic voices occasionally
aired here are not met with vigilant exposure and
It is true also that historically same gender loving black
folks have had to choose between struggling for our
African-American community in the closet or finding solace
in a white Gay community that, as a whole, views its members
of color the same way the broader white male community views
women of color: as exotic, expendable, silenced, objects of
desire. Is it really a surprise that our young same gender
loving brothers and sisters would want to create an identity
and community separate from the white gay "for hire" scenes
our people and people of color are relegated into in that
white Gay community? Or that they should choose to
interrogate those Black Gay folk who remain happily on the
edge of that "community". Should they be discouraged because
"this didn't worked in the 70's". Shouldn't they be
commended and given credit for making it work now?
"Again, don't be ahistorical. There have been attempts in
the past to develop a Gay movement for and about black
people. The SGL is only the latest attempt".
Odd, I don't remember anyone saying otherwise, Ron.
Certainly not in your posted quote.
The SGL movement began by my count in 1991 or earlier with a
clear Afrocentrism focused on collaborative struggle with
our straight African-American sisters, brothers, mothers,
fathers, communities, and friends. It has grown into a
nation-wide community-based movement since then. It is
gaining greater momentum recently, capturing the attention
of African activists of all orientations seeking not only to
interrogate western, christian, homophobia but also the
western white construct of "Gay" most African people find
incompatible with Africaness. It is also inspiring with its
ethos other formerly G/L/B/T identified activists of color
to interface with their own Latino, Asian, Native, and other
communities of color in more self affirming and community
affirming ways. Here again many other communities of color
find the eurocentric gay ethos incompatible with their
cultural traditions. You see, the SGL movement has never
sought only to establish a Black Gay movement with another
name. It has consistently sought to interrogate all white
constructs of "gayness" and their appropriateness outside of
the white community. This is an impressive and unprecedented
track record for a "some young people" who couldn't get a
word published in the Gay, the Black, or the Gay Black press
when they started.
This has all been achieved against a backdrop of virulent,
toxic attacks by the Gay community both white and black.
Many accuse SGL identified brothers and sisters of reverse
racism and divisiveness for everything from promoting
Afrocentrism to constructing an identity based on love as
opposed to one based on sexuality (!). However it the
rigorous interrogation of POC's who seek out white male
partners that appears to incur the most wrath. Why should
this not be interrogated? How can it not be interrogated?
"Tell me, how do you deal with the fact that most of the
gender discrimination black
gay/sgl/lesbian/bisexual/transgender folk face comes from
the black community itself"?
Here we go! This accusation has been one of the favorites of
the white gay community, particularly when attempting to
convince black men and women that our allegiance to our own
community is unfounded or dangerous. It is also an ugly lie,
Ron. Black people are no more racist than white people or
less so. The prominent role we have played in Black churches
alone betrays that lie. Of course the problem of homophobia
in the black community must be addressed effectively as must
the sexism. Find more effective ways of challenging bigotry
in our communities is an imperative. However let us not
forget that the Black transgendered woman gunned down in
Baltimore got our attention because she was killed the same
week Matthew Shepherd died from the wounds he sustained from
being pistol whipped and left out in the cold hanging from a
fence in Wyoming and because her death went comparatively
unnoticed in the national media, arguably because she was
"Treatment funding (and free new drugs) have reduced the
death rate for blacks and whites (yes, the white death rate
All the reports I and others in the non-profit field have
seen say the opposite when it comes to African-Americans.
Our community and the Native American community are the only
communities with increasing diagnostic and death rates for
straight and "gay" people. I'm sure I'm not the only one
here who would like to see your evidence.
I commend those who would found a "Queer Radical Congress".
I doubt I'll be joining it. However, this SGL brother would
say this to those who do: study the demise of "Queer
Nation". While we might make friends in the White Gay
community by being articulate apologists for that community,
giving it credit where little or no credit is due or by
condemning our African-American community it is certainly
not a way to form lasting or meaningful coalitions
struggling successfully for the genuine liberation of our
I would guess Sidney, that you are somewhat disappointed
that the dialog you had hoped to trigger on the direction of
the Black LGBT/SGL Left has become a dialog about the
differences in worldview and philosophy between various
schools on the Black LGBT/SGL left. However, perhaps these
delineated differences address a deeper question. Somehow
the BRC has managed to create meaningful dialog between a
number of schools on the larger Black left and out of this
dialog we have seen forged a united movement working toward
common goals for the benefit of our African-American
community while agreeing to disagree and continue dialog
about those theoretical differences. That deeper question is
Can the Black LGBT/SGL left now do the same?
Date: Thu, 30 Dec 1999 00:54:18 -0500
From: "Charles Hamilton" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Something you said jumped out at me.
Ron Simmons <email@example.com> wrote, among other things:
>Tell me, how do you deal with the fact that most of the gender
>discrimination black gay/sgl/lesbian/bisexual/transgender folk
>face comes from the black community itself?
It's interesting that you say this. I don't experience that
as "fact," and don't believe that to be the case. In my
experience, the "fact that most of the gender
discrimination...comes from the Black community itself" is
not a fact at all, but an allegation that's become true by
Black folks have learned to live with (or expect) the
indignities imposed on them by white supremacy in its
capitalist aspect, but are often less tolerant toward Black
people who engage in derivative behavior. In my
conversations with Black LBGTs, they often recite the same
mantra justifying their special disappointment/anger about
Black homophobia: "Well, I expect that from white folks,
Their disappointment is real, if selective. But saying
you're especially disappointed by Black heterosexism (a
generous interpretation) is not the same thing as saying
that most of the gender discrimination we face comes from
Black folks. To me, that's the equivalent of being
indifferent about capitalism, but staying mad at Black folks
because your Black boss barely pays you minimum wage. Are
Black people really the villain in either case? Depends on
your perspective or agenda.
Cause They Didn't Like Faggots: It's Not That Simple
Gays have a model: Battle homophobia so they can get
unobstructed access to white privilege. The fact that some
gays are not white has never stopped their carnival. (Queer
politics widens the range of impermissible isms that need
dismantling, and seems a better fit for some
African/Americans, but white privilege still permeates that
Black folk have different, more layered issues, demonstrated
even in the seemingly simple issue of a murdered transgender
>In Baltimore a black transgender woman was shot six times
>by the boys in the hood because they didn't like faggots.
For white LBGTs this might be a simple gender discrimination
issue, but Black same gender loving (SGL) activists must
have a more nuanced appreciation of what's at stake, because
fleeing Black life or issuing untrue denunciations of
the-Black-community-because-it's-homophobic are not options
for us. SGL identity cannot be lived outside of a commitment
to Black community engagement. Things to consider:
First, we must respond to the reality that a Black woman may
have been killed because (like most SGLs and transgenders)
she failed to conform to gender expectations.
Second, we must respond to the reality that Black life gets
cheaper by the day, and this Sister's murder was preceded by
so many others that Black gay groups had nothing to say
Third, we must accept the possibility that those "boys" who
killed her simply may not give a hoot about Black life and
(like so many) use the perceived differences between types
of Black people as an excuse to live out their anti-Black
rage; put another way, if it wasn't this sister, it might've
been someone else Black.
Fourth, that homosexual and transgender persons are rarely
murdered by unconflicted heterosexuals -- that our
transgender sister may have been murdered by confused young
MEN staving off their own disquieting sexuality conflicts in
a heterosexist world. Until we get serious about reshaping
what "manhood" means, we are less able to prevent these
crimes committed by confused people with manhood-anxiety.
Fifth, that our community does not dialogue enough about
what sexuality means to our oppressed selves. Because of
that lack of dialogue, a word/concept like "faggot" becomes
so loaded down with the weight of slave history, sexual
abuse-reaction, and manhood/womynhood issues that it becomes
a metaphor for all our worst fears as African people. In
other words, killing someone just because "they didn't like
faggots" ends up meaning a million things.
Clearly, none of these issues should permit us to normalize
or ignore violence in our communities, but each of those 5
points (there are surely others) helps us strategize around
how to respond EFFECTIVELY in a way that makes our Black
communities safer places for ALL of us to live in. If our
response doesn't address at least half those points, our
efforts may be 'righteous,' but are doomed to irrelevance.
What Can We Do?/How Do We Deal?
By way of analogy, environmentalists have NO success when
they wander into urban communities talking about whales &
rare butterflies -- even though those issues are important.
But when issues of urban environments and environmental
racism are addressed, urban Black folks pay closer
attention. SGL activism is about taking issues (like
sexuality) that we rarely talk about and connecting them to
Black life in ways that affirm our diversity.
In a case like the one you mentioned, where a transgender
woman was killed, here's are possible SGL activist
(1) organize a prayer vigil, service or spirit-transitional
activity, and invite the deceased woman's neighbors, family
and friends, as well as members of the SGL community, and
make sure the world knows about it;
(2) if you've been historically involved in violence
prevention organizations in that community, take this case
to those organizations, and organize activity and education
around violence issues that are specific to SGL &
(3) if you haven't historically gotten involved in violence
reduction activity, you can organize discussion, protests,
etc., but be prepared for the reaction that "you only care
when LGBTs die" -- you know, the same way gays sometimes
react when heterosexual Black folks jump on the stop-AIDS
bandwagon after all this time;
(4) humanize the Sister -- write and pitch an article to
your Black community newspapers & magazines that writes
movingly about the tragic murder of a living soul and
touches on any of the following: the trivialization of Black
life; why we devalue femininity in men; how the murder of a
transgender woman finally moved you to action about violence
in the community; etc.
(5) if you've done your homework and already have non-SGL
allies, get them to issue or co-author a statement against
violence toward SGL and Transgender people; host a community
meeting sponsored jointly by your SGL organization and your
(6) organize community dialogue(s) between heterosexual &
That's just off the top of my head.
Organizations I'm involved with work to create dialogue
within the Black community on gender, sexuality and why we
(Black folks) trip sometimes. For example, to head off
potential conflict between heterosexual women & SGL men, the
Black Mens' Xchange LA (BMX-LA) recently hosted a dialogue
called "Straight Talk with our 'Straight' Sistas", which was
a resounding success and earned us some powerful,
better-informed heterosexual women-allies. This model has
worked for us time and again, due solely to our continuous
engagement with the Black community at large and our
clear-as-a-bell commitment to Black community survival.
Whenever possible, we get ourselves on Black-oriented or
Black community radio staions/programs and talk about SGL
issues and how they connect to Black life. It CAN be done.
Unlike other issues, our Black communities really DO want to
know about us (SGL folks), even if their curiosity takes
questionable forms. I'm not just hypothesizing that it's
do-able, we're actually doing it here.
Furthermore, the "hood" has to be made safer for ALL Black
folks. When our communities aren't safe for everyone, crimes
against any one of us become easier to commit. How many
other Black folks got shot that year, in that community? All
our sisters and brothers walk those same streets, so it's
not a rhetorical question. But our duty as SGL activists is
to work to create safer, less gender-reactionary Black
communities even as we insist on safety from potential