Friday, February 7, 2014

Gay Rights=/=Black Rights

I had to read Gayle Rubin's Thinking Sex for class, and although she was writing about sex and the stigmatization of deviant forms of sexuality thirty years ago, she still makes some salient points particularly about the fetish and leather community. How many politicians do you know who'll admit they're kinky? No one. We've come along way in terms sexual progressivism since 1984 but there's still a lot of work to be done.

But that's not what I want to talk about.

While some of Rubin's rhetoric is dated when it comes to homosexuality she does this thing that a lot of modern LGBTQ activists do that I hate: try to make it homosexuality comparable to race. In Thinking Sex it's explicit. She calls homosexual communities ' characteristic of a new ethnicity' (I'm paraphrasing).  In modern day discourse it's...still explicit. While I'm not going to cite a particular instance the amount of times I've heard, "Black people shouldn't prosecute us, because our struggle is exactly the same!" from misguided activists is staggering.

First of all, this kind of thinking completely ignores the nuances of the different movements involved, Black people in America have a tradition of displacement, slavery, and nationalism that is older than homosexuality. Yeah, I said it. Remember that homosexuality was perceived as an action (buggery or sodomy) before it was classified as a medical condition in Victorian England, and thus, spun of the individuals who practiced same sex attractions as a class of people. This is basic Foucault, and no matter how contentious it may seem to read it's widely accepted for a reason. Besides you can't look at someone's skin and go, "Yup. He's gay". Unless maybe he moisturizes smarter, and even then you're stereotyping even if you're experience with your college gays makes it seem true.

Where was I? Oh yes. "Black people shouldn't prosecute us, because our struggle is exactly the same!"

Interestingly I have noticed that this or some variant of it is always used when LGBT people generalize and call the black community hypocrites, because some fool rapper is being bigoted. Take a look at Queerty (a gay online 'news source'), check the comments, and see for yourself. The generalization is kinda implicitly racist and eventually leads to the argument about which 'minority suffers more' complete with lots of bitching and b'awwwing. As a member of both minorities, I can tell you that I'm suffering the most by listening to casual racism and homophobia by people who claim to represent the interests all of either community.

Seriously though, you can't measure suffering. You can't compare minority oppressions no matter how tempting it is to do so because of the limited funds and attentions awarded to both or either. Everyone suffers differently, and while it's important to recognize the commonalities in how each movement strives for equality, it's important to recognize the differences as well. In fact the entire discourse around what equality looks like is dictated by white, straight, males, for the most part. Choose your own end goal and fight for that, but never ever devalue someone else's by taking a reductionist view of their struggles.


  1. Have you seen the ads on the bus shelters showing MLK addressing a crowd with the slogan (and I'm paraphrasing) Gay Rights = Civil Rights? I find the ad a bit disturbing for many of the rains you cite.

  2. For me, the disappointment I feel when gay white males are racist, or blacks are homophobic, has come mainly from thinking we should logically be allies against oppression. But I've also learned that when gay white males are in charge of gay-we-mean-"LGBT" rights (even though we don't think Bs exist, and we don't know anything about Ts), we usually focus on the types of gay rights that benefit (um, wealthier) gay white males. For example, marriage equality. Because marriage equality increases the power differential for gay white males who have jobs with benefits that they can confer upon their spouses, and because marriage equality makes it easier for gay white males to choose who shares in and inherits their property. Other members of the LGBT communities may want marriage rights also, but perhaps more important rights would include equal pay for women, because two-woman households are at a big disadvantage. Or making sure EVERYBODY has health insurance, regardless of marital status or job status. Or making sure health insurance covers reproductive rights, or mental health problems, or gender-affirmation surgery. And what about employment rights for all LGBT communities?

    Nah, we're happy to settle for marriage. Check that marriage box, Democrats, and then get back to whatever it is y'all politicians do while we gay white males aren't paying attention.