When I hear or see that 'Gay is the New Black' slogan, it just irks me, especially considering what I've observed over the last decade as a African-American transgender activist.
When we hear people say that, I and other African-Americans, both GLBT and non GLBT, see a movement comprised predominately with a leadership of white moneyed gay men who wish to compare themselves to the Civil Rights Movement but consistently ignore or fail to apply the fundamental lessons of that movement.
What are those lessons? Coalition building, composing civil rights law as broadly as possible to cover the most people, and doing so and dealing with others in a morally ethical manner.
Unfortunately some of our gay white brothers and sisters do that only when it is advantageous or critical for them to do so, like when an anti gay referendum is on the ballot, then they come calling.
Any other time, except when they need melanin in a photo op, they ignore us.
When I look at those documentaries, movies and photos of the Civil Rights Movement, I see most of the signs carried by marchers have something to do with jobs, equal rights, voting and stopping lynching, not marriage issues.
To be honest, short of the obvious one involving the trans Atlantic slave trade, the transgender community has more similarities with the African-American struggle at its inception than the gay one does.
How you may ask? Before y'all start tripping like one gay person did (so far) when I made this statement in a Bilerico comment thread, let me school y'all on some of the things I've observed, and if you disagree, that's what the comment thread at the end of this post is for.
*Once we transition, there's no hiding for us. We are reviled by some members of the general public simply for being who we are.
*At the time the major push of the Civil Rights Movement started in 1954, African-Americans had no elected political representation at the major city, county, and state government or legislative levels. There were only two congressmen, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr (D-NY) and William L. Dawson (D-IL) representing us at the federal level and zero senators of African-American heritage.
Transpeople have ZERO representatives at the federal level, have only one elected statewide rep in the person of Hawaii State Board of Education member Kim Coco Iwamoto, no elected representatives in state legislatures or state governments, no elected county commissioners and no elected city council representatives in any major US city.
*We have an average of two people a month being killed simply for being transgender, and that's the ones we know about.
*Amnesty International has documented the abuse of transgender citizens at the hands of law enforcement.
*A transgender person's rights are still subject to judicial interpretation in the judicial system, are not codified yet at the federal level, and any attempts to do so at any governmental level are met with resistance by the same hostile white fundamentalist anti-civil rights coalition that dogged the Civil Rights Movement. Infuriatingly enough, sometimes that resistance as demonstrated by last year's ENDA debacle comes from our own erstwhile allies.
I agree with the assertion that all oppressions and 'isms' are linked. However, while there are some similarities and some convergence at certain points in our twin civil rights struggles as the life of Bayard Rustin and the late Coretta Scott King so eloquently pointed out, there are fundamental differences as well in how the two movements evolved.
The African-American civil rights movement at its core was a church based, church led one while the gay rights one at its core is secular in nature.
But the major reason why the 'Gay is the new Black' slogan raises African-American hackles is not because as some GLBT peeps have surmised the homophobia within our community's midst.
Many GLBT African-Americans like myself can't stand it because we see it as another example of our history being appropriated and trivialized for your own purposes while excluding or erasing the gay and straight African-Americans that helped make that history.