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continued from discussion below

i apologize for making another post... but blogger wouldn't let me post
this in the comments section for some see the full
conversation, click on the comments from the last post...

A lot of different issues going on here... I think what I'll focus on
is the relationship between the LGBT rights movement and the black
civil rights movement.

Some people seem to think
it's perfectly okay to co-opt the words and history of another group
and us them to their advantage. Some people think using the words of
past leaders is dangerous, hypocritical, and antithetical to the goals
we are trying to accomplish.

These are more or less
the two extremes of the argument (and, as you can probably guess
already, you can see which side I lean towards).
But, that
does not mean that we cannot quote people like class="blsp-spelling-error" id="SPELLING_ERROR_0">MLK
under any circumstances. If white queers only draw on a white queer
past, we participate in the erasure of a history that would illuminate
the past of (queer) people color. This history is already invisible,
and as peoples looking for a usable past, we must not collude in this

With this said, I don't think it's okay to be doing what MEQ
and other marriage activists are doing, as described by Mark above. I
think it is possible to draw on the history of other social movements
in our contemporary struggles for justice (which I don't think marriage
should be epicenter of) in a way that is not simple coclass="blsp-spelling-error" id="SPELLING_ERROR_2">optation
and exploitation. The problem, as Mark points out, is that many of
these people who draw on African-American history to advance the
position of gays and lesbians (note: they are not working for anybody
else, so the linguistic exclusion here is intentional) are detestable
hypocrite is that they are working against racial justice. By
simultaneously invoking the spirit of the (arguably) the most famous
African-American activist in U.S. history while participating in and
benefiting from id="SPELLING_ERROR_3">institutionalized racism is
not okay.

if white people (and I include myself in that category, for the record)
are going to be drawing on the historical narratives of people of
color, we must do so in a way that does not simply allow "oppression"
to collapse the differences that exist among us. Yes, there are some
similarities between the struggle to desegregate and the struggle for
marriage equality. There will always be some similarities when you're
talking about justice movements. The important thing to remember is
that there are significant differences that exist between the movements
as well, and to think otherwise is to create a false equation of
experiences that is simply harmful to all parties (except for those who
want to keep us all down).

Lastly, I want to comment on a comment Sandouri made above.

should also be noted that a great many of Boston’s African-American
clergy—a group with tremendous influence—do not want Queer activists
making the connection between our struggle and the struggle against

True. This is true. However, there are also
a hell of a lot of white id="SPELLING_ERROR_5">clergyfolk who don't want that
connection made either, which is (in part) why they insist that our
sexual orientations are a chosen, as opposed to "immutable
characteristics" like "race." Black communities should not be held
fully responsible for the id="SPELLING_ERROR_6">religious, or secular,
heterosexism that queer people face. While homophobia in all
communities should be confronted, we must remember that it is white
clergy in the U.S. (and in the Vatican, Jerusalem, etc.) who hold the
lion's share of religious power that is being used for class="blsp-spelling-error" id="SPELLING_ERROR_7">heterosexist purposes.

in the spirit of the dialogue, I'll end with a quotation from Audre
Lorde. Here, Lorde
is speaking to white women, and while not the same, I believe we must
ask white queers this question as well. class="blsp-spelling-error" id="SPELLING_ERROR_10">Lorde
is inviting (imploring? demanding?) those of us with privilege to not
only see our own oppression, but also see the ways in which were
complicit in the oppression of others, and so I feel that this is an
appropriate way to draw on the words of people of color in a queer,
anti-racist way. Hopefully this doesn't fuck up my entire argument...

woman here is so enamored of her own oppression that she cannot see her
upon another woman's face? What woman's terms of oppression have become
precious and necessary to her as a ticket into the fold of the
righteous, away from the cold winds of self-scrutiny?" -Audre class="blsp-spelling-error" id="SPELLING_ERROR_12">Lorde


Tom said...

As John Hosty suggests, if we don't unify and organize we are dead.

At first, I thought that it was just MEQ and the MGLPC that didn't see the value of each and every member of our community. That is was just MEQ and the MGLPC that didn't realize the importance of education, empowerment, unification, and strengthening of the LGBT community. But it seems many others aren't seeing this either.

Mark D. Snyder said...

Thanks for your insight Alex!

I think may of us in the queer community (certainly myself included!!) are quick to judge and snap at each other and that cuts off any chance for healthy compassionate dialogue, education, and connecting with each other. Let's try to keep that in mind. I know it's hard.

John Hosty said...

Tom is right. Let's put aside our protests over the words we use, and let's start looking at our mutual need.

Some people think gay marriage is not where we should be spending our time. I disagree, so if there is something more important happening on June 14, please step forward and tell me what that is. If not, let's all work on this together. I will be more than happy to help support another worthy cause, so don't think I am one minded.

United We Stand.

Trevor Wright said...

With that said....
I hope to see you all at the State House on May 15th to lobby in support of HB 1722.

Sandouri Dean Bey said...

Hi Alex,
Two things:

1) I would argue that race is not an “immutable characteristic,” but rather a social construct.

2) Your point that white clergy “hold the lion’s share of religious power that is being used for heterosexist purposes” is an important one. However, I disagree with the assertion that white clergy are as aggressive as black clergy have been in challenging the connection between GLBT equality (and marriage equality) and the civil rights movement and the struggle against racism.

This is simply not true. The idea that Queers have erroneously co-opted the language of the civil rights struggle and civil rights icons like MLK does not form a significant part of the rhetoric of conservative white clergy. I’m not saying that they’ve never made that argument. What I’m saying is that it doesn’t form a central part of their opposition to marriage equality, whereas conservative black clergy have been extremely critical of any attempt on the part of Queer activists to identify with the civil rights movement. I think it’s an important distinction.

alex said...

Sandouri, I 100% agree that race is a social construction and not an "immutable characteristic." I put it in quotes to draw attention to that fact. Race is considered "immutable" by law, which is in part what makes it a protected category against discrimination. So, when the religious right asserts that we do choose our sexualities, it simultaneously intended to deny us access to legislative protection, and to separate us from other communities by pitting us against each other rather than building radical coalitions.

I agree that it's not mostly white clergy who explicitly argue against the connections between marriage equality and black civil rights. However, it is straight white clergy who set the framework for such a division by asserting things like the chosenness of sexuality.

Also, I don't think black clergy being defensive when it comes to making that connection is such a terrible thing. When most of the LGBT movement is in fact racist, I think it's perfectly rational and necessary for communities of color to be distrustful of the LGBT movement and making allies out of those who appropriate their past and coopt their politics. If we do want to make allies with communities of color and confront the homophobia within those communities, I think we need to start by confront the racism within the queer community.

Sandouri Dean Bey said...


You can call me Dean :)

Without challenging the assertion that internalized racism is a problem within the GLBT community, I would argue that it is a bit of a distortion to view the homophobia demonstrated by black clergy (and rampant within the African-American community) as a response to racism within the GLBT community. Many white Queers are racist. Many straight African Americans are homophobic. We don’t need to play a chicken and egg game here. They are both serious problems that need to be addressed.

I would argue that those among the African-American clergy and laity who are homophobic are so because of deep-rooted patriarchy, which developed in part as a response to racism (but not the racism of Queers, who until recently were largely invisible and did not constitute a recognized community). There are outdated and oppressive notions of gender at work, and they are the real culprit here. I don’t even think religion is to blame. Religious fundamentalism may enforce patriarchy, but part of its appeal is that it speaks to deep-rooted patriarchal strains that exist in our culture that have nothing to do with religion.

Our notions of gender—and those that exist within the African-American community—may be nurtured by religion, but their roots are elsewhere, formed in the crucible of America’s socio-economic system, its class struggle, and, more recently, the Cold War. For black Americans, so much of their own construction of gender was born out of forced migration, slavery, marginalization, and the subsequent disruption of the family.

I’m much more interested in addressing the quality of “immutability” as a criterion for defining a protected category or class. I understand that this is the way the law views race, but, as I’m sure we’re all aware, there are plenty of “mutables” that are also protected. The most important of these is religion.

Religion is clearly a choice and is viewed as such by the law, and yet it is clearly protected and inviolate (at least in theory). I myself (and I am not alone in this opinion) believe that freedom of religion is a much better model for legal protections for GLBT people. I’m also aware of the fact that our emphasis on immutability is a response to the oft heard assertion that sexuality is a choice. The whole “ex-gay” phenomenon and so-called “reparative therapy” require that sexuality be changeable.

I understand that for me to say that I think rights and protections for GLBT people are much better understood within the framework of religious freedom, rather than within the framework of race, almost sounds like I’m agreeing with our opponents that sexuality is a matter of choice. That’s not exactly what I’m saying.

What I’m saying is that sexuality, like race, is a social construct; it’s an invention. To be clear, I’m not saying that a person chooses to be gay or that same-sex desire (generally speaking) is a new phenomenon. Sexual desire in a variety of forms has been around for a long time. It’s sexuality and sexual identities that are new. I suspect that’s not news to you, Alex.

I would go so far as to say that under certain conditions, desire itself is mutable, not necessarily within an individual, but within a given society. It might sound strange (or anathema) to say that at the societal level, desire can be conditioned. Classical Greece is a perfect example of this. It would be wrong to assume that pederasty was practiced only by that 10% (or whatever we think it is today) of the male population who by nature were attracted to the same sex. Pederasty was much more widespread than that, and the reason is that the vast majority of free-born men were conditioned to see boys as sexual objects. In a very real way, their homosexual desire was learned.

Why am I saying all this? I’m saying it because I firmly believe that our rights, our protections, and our dignity as GLBT people do not depend upon our same-sex attractions (or in the case of a transgender individual, her/his gender identity) being innate and immutable. So, when the Religious Right asserts that we choose our sexualities as a means of denying us access to legislative protection, I would much prefer that we put forward the argument that whether or not sexuality is a choice is irrelevant. Plenty of choices in America are inviolate. For the Queer community to make this leap, it would require that we stop putting sexuality in the same category as race.

So to come full circle, I actually agree that we should not attempt to co-opt the experience and strategies of African Americans or any racial minority, because I don’t feel that this is the best fit for Queers, especially as we continue to think about the (constructed) nature of sexuality. We need to be willing to let go of the idea that our rights and protections require that we (or science) demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that sexuality is biological or genetic or whatever. That’s something the Queer community has been incredibly reluctant to do. We recoil at the very thought.

Science may one day be able to demonstrate a genetic predisposition to homosexuality, but such findings will always be qualified in nature. In other words, I believe that the safest conclusion is that what causes someone to be Queer varies from person to person. More importantly, we’ve ample of evidence of the Religious Right’s refusal to accept scientific findings with which they disagree. Perhaps our strategies need to stop being so reactionary. We don’t need to link sexuality to race simply because our opponents tell us it’s a choice. Perhaps we can develop a strategy that takes into account the diversity of experience within the Queer community and the complex nature of our sexualities.

John Hosty said...

Dean, You have put into words my opinions.

Trevor, you might have better luck getting people to follow you to your cause if you explain what it is. As an FYI for you, read this: