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You Will Not Make Me Choose Between My Race And My Homosexuality

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Like many people looking to advance equality I too was frustrated with the events of Illinois’ leaders not having enough votes to pass a resolution allowing same sex couples to marry. I’ve expressed before how it felt that the members of the House seemed to be tiptoeing around the situation instead of making a huge commotion of it. At one point it appeared that no one was making any efforts to advance the bill. But that’s not fair because we don’t always hear what goes on behind the scenes and with the reaction of State Rep Harris when he addressed the floor, I feel that even with the outcome he put all the effort he had into making this amendment happen. I can’t fault a man with that much passion and heart for a worthy cause.

But all the same I wish the democratic leaders would have taken a more blunt, in your face approach to this bill. Seems like the more vocal people are, no matter how valid or invalid their position, are heard and given a greater platform to express their views.

As always when something goes awry we look to those that are in some part responsible for our failure. Our failure. All of us. More on that later. But back to my point, the first people that were addressed for being responsible for the bill’s failure was the Black Caucus, who are believed to have been targeted by the guilt machine known as the religious right that were no doubt telling them if gays marry it will be the downfall of society and will lead to bestiality and destruction of families. You know the usual.

I understood the frustration people felt after the announcement that the bill didn’t have enough votes but the way I witnessed people, specifically gay men go after the Black Caucus angered me as well. Because it went from talking about equal rights to name calling. Racial epithets abound in situations like this. The N-Word was used freely and was justified because the Black Caucus was seen as the blame for all the inequity we face as an LGBT community. And there’s a complete disregard, even dismissal of the people that actually created the law in the first place. It becomes about people focusing on only one facet of the complete equation.

Then I find myself in this place. A place where again, like two parents having an ill-timed inappropriate all-out fight in front of their children; I’m made to feel as though I have to pick a side between my race and sexuality. Both are a part of me that I love. Both are aspects to who I am that I had to accept not everyone else would love. That some would openly hate, ridicule, even threaten, but I still choose to love. But they’re glaring at me and wanting me to say who’s right and who’s wrong and I’m sick of it.

I can’t tell you how many times that both communities have made me feel this way and that I have to stand on only one side. Riding the fence is seen as an act of open betrayal against them both and you want to have the best of both world. Well, who doesn’t? Being on this fence means I can point out what I feel each of them is doing wrong. Because that’s what happens when an argument begins with these two groups. Respect turns into animosity and name calling.

I know I’m not the only one that feels this way that are from these two groups. Know I’m not the only one that is made to feel like one is preventing the other from being happy. Because we don’t really talk about the issues in depth other than making a sweeping generalization of a problem that we are ALL are contributing to and also responsible in rectifying. I’ve written about why and where I believe it come from but sometimes it’s hard to describe the feeling other than comparing it to two angry parents fighting with each other.

It’s an odd position to be placed in as a gay African American because I see where both sides stop listening and start accusing. Where two groups that probably share the most commonality of any other groups in our society seem to be at odds. An uneasy association between them that each fails to realize.

Some may say that I’m making this about race or playing this mythical (and completely unreal) race card. But remember this, that for some people, even to this day in 2013, just as it may almost always be about your sexuality, it also is almost always about race. There are still places in our country where you cannot be alone as an African American at night. Targeted because of your skin. It’s insulting to think that some believe that all the varying, intricate degrees of racism that still exist in this country is made up.

It’s not just race that this community seems to have a problem in communicating with. Gender issues are just as prevalent. We complain about when gay men use the terms masc or no femmes or straight acting but we don’t do a real examination this behavior is so prevalent. But how can we complain when our leaders only represent one spectrum of our rainbow. If we ourselves show how diversified this community is, then some of the ideals we don’t like can be addresses more. How are other members going to see where we’re going wrong with assimilating to heteronormative practices when our leaders are comprised of the very thing we admonish. This sameness does not speak to everyone in this community. We don’t try to see the correlation of it being about having unresolved issues and how we can change it. We just complain and then sadly, accept.

Our leaders are almost carbon copies of each other. Not in personality or method. But on the level of appearing the same. Caucasian men with no differentiation. It’s sad that I feel like I have to say it and even sadder that I feel that by saying it some people reading this will make me bringing it up about exclusion or singling these leaders out rather than seeing it as me wanting to be inclusive. By pointing out what I see is problematic is in hopes that it will encourage these leaders to seek out different perspectives within this community than what they are accustomed.

Because it shouldn’t take me more than 10 seconds to think of a Lesbian LGBT leader. Or a transgendered LGBT leader. Bisexual LGBT leader. African American LGBT leader. Hispanic or Disabled or Asian LGBT leader. We need to bring a more diverse yet unified group of people into the forefront because if we are going to reach people like the Black Caucus they need to see there are people like them in this community too. So we need to be more aware that not everyone’s reality is the same as ours in this community because sometimes even we forget that.

As for some the African American community leaders that seem stagnate and unmoving to see how not standing up for LGBT rights is hypocrisy: We have literally been spit on, literally been dragged through the mud, literally beaten to death and called animals and it is time that you stop looking towards the heavens (and your pockets) from these religious zealots that have completely contorted and misconstrued God’s Word for answers that are already right here looking at you. Do you have the right to be angry when someone says “gay is the new black”? yes you do because black has not finished being black. We still face so much prejudice in this country. But we have to be willing to see some of the commonality of this between racial struggle and claiming of sexual orientation.

I have always felt that a part of some African American leaders’ hesitation on advancing the civil rights of the LGBT community is fear of association. Because with as much advancement that we have seen in relation to equality when it comes to race, those memories of blatant discrimination is still fresh. We can remember those first moments of knowing that you will always be made aware of your race and by supporting another group would only disrupt the very delicate membrane of rights it took centuries for us to establish. It’s fear. Understandably fear, but still not good enough reason to oppose the human rights of another.

Many of us have family members alive to tell us stories of our people being treated like dogs while having hoses and dogs used against them. To times where we were told we have no souls and therefore no way to get into heaven. That we aren’t even fully human, just 3/5th. If we are remembering our ancestry and the past we have to remember how prejudice in any way against another human being is not the love the messiah would show to others. We see parallels of the same in the LGBT community almost weekly of being beaten, harassed, even killed and that should incite something within all of us. That oppression falls and equality always prevails. And just like those gay leaders, remember to be aware that not every oppressed group’s reality is the same as yours.

This is not how you reach people. You don’t add validity to your argument when show prejudice and discrimination. And this isn’t the first time that this happened. With how much we know about discrimination we sometimes forget how that also applies to our own behavior as well. The problem is that each group feels like they understand each other but they truly don’t and simply talk at each other rather than to each other. My words are harsh and cold but my intent will always be love. Always, always love.  But this is how I feel.

It angers me, frustrates me, even brings me to tears when I think of how there is so much angst between these two groups that are at times unwilling to see each other’s similarities. And just like the child that eventually becomes an adult and tells their parents they can no longer place them in the middle of their argument, you will not make me choose between them. You will not make me choose a side and call the other wrong when it is BOTH of you that are at fault. You will not make me claim one side of my full, actualized identity while ignoring the other. You will not make me feel guilty for embracing and loving you both. So when both sides are truly ready to listen, that is when things will change. For the better.

And as always I promise to love you both while pointing out what you’re doing wrong because while I’m a part of you both I am my own entity that because of this blend of nature can see where you went wrong. Reconciling being of two natures should not be made harder by the very thing that created it.Sometimes the way each of these communities conduct themselves make people like me who belong to both of them feel like they have to choose and we have to be aware of when we do and stop it.  Because we are all better than that.

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Sly

Sly Merritt has a BA in psychology/sociology. MA in clinical psychology. He's a flip flop wearing hippy with a peaceloving mindset. Even pacifists like him know when it's time to do all we can for LGBTQ equality. Sly's views are all opinions not advice.

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