As news broke that President Trump might actually encourage discriminatory anti-LGBTQ policies in an upcoming executive order, Gayborhood leaders have been especially proactive in mobilizing the community for immediate action.
Last week, the community and its allies threw a “Queer Rager” that brought a crowd of 1,000 out to protest Trump’s visit to Philly. This past Sunday, Philadelphia Gay News founder/publisher Mark Segal moderated a private, predominantly white meet-and-greet with Senator Cory Booker on how the community can unite surrounding LGBTQ discrimination. Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club is now putting together a “March Against Discrimination” that diverse organizations across the city have signed on to co-sponsor. This newfound sense of activism has even gotten some thinking that we should skip Philly Pride this year and head to D.C. for a national LGBT march that’s happening on the same day (June 11th).
But as I notice all of this emerging enthusiasm for social justice, I ask myself: Where were all of these white community leaders and activists during the fight against Gayborhood racial discrimination?
Short answer: not around to concern themselves, because they were a part of the problem.
There seems to be a double standard when it comes to whom the Gayborhood chooses to turn out for. The openly gay state Rep. Brian Sims, who represents the district encompassing the Gayborhood, made an appearance at the Cory Booker gathering and is slated to appear at the upcoming March Against Discrimination, but he was noticeably absent from the PCHR Gayborhood racism hearing, from community-based town halls in his district surrounding the issue, and the PCHR Gayborhood racism report press conference.
When the intersectional queer activist organization the Black and Brown Workers Collective collaborated with the Latinx LGBTQ group the Gran Varones to protest racial discrimination in the community, they weren’t backed by the community at large, nor did they have many LGBTQ leaders show solidarity for them in their public direct actions and/or demonstrations.
The lack of real concern about the issues being raised by these protestors of color became apparent when Mayor Kenney referred to them as “a small core of activists.” Kenney wasn’t lying when he described them as such — what is disappointing is that there shouldn’t have been anything small about the fight against racial discrimination from a community that should already know better.
But now we have Trump, and the entire population of the Gayborhood fears the same discrimination it has been dishing out to LGBTQ people of color for decades, even after gay liberation movements and protests that were supposed to be “for all.” But it seems as though “for all” only involves white people, and now there’s this notion that the community must finally come together to ensure that LGBTQ rights will be protected “for all.”
What does it feel like to be in a Gayborhood divided along on racial lines that long predate you? What does it mean to be free in one respect, but targeted in another? For LGBTQ people of color, being free to express their sexual orientation in the Gayborhood means nothing if they can’t be accepted because of their racial identity. At this point, if we don’t collectively make it a point to center intersectionality within the movement, we’ll be stuck with with the same half-ass forms of inclusion. In other words, we can no longer address anti-discriminatory practices based on sexual orientation while ignoring other forms of it within our own back yard.
At this point, we can’t undo the past, but we must acknowledge it: Our city’s LGBTQ community discriminates against people based on other identities outside of sexual orientation and gender expression. It’s a proven fact. With that in consideration, if we are to “march against discrimination,” we can no longer advocate and operate in silos that erase LGBTQ people of color ever again. Racial discrimination against an LGBTQ person of color is an affront to the LGBTQ community in general. Anytime one of us are attacked or targeted, that weakens the community overall.
If we are to defeat Trump, we must actually be united — not just based on our sexual identity and gender expression, but the other forms of diversity within our community. From Stonewall to HIV/AIDS advocacy, people of color have been pivotal within the fight — we can’t keep avoiding their adversity any longer.