Imagine having two homes and not being welcomed in either one. That is undoubtedly how Black LGBT ( lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered) women feel in American society. The Black community calls them sinners. The gay community ignores Black women except when they’re funny like Wanda Sykes. Black women have always found a way to overcome racism, sexism, and homophobia to be their authentic selves.

Black lesbians have been a part of America since its founding, from Black women who fought as men in the civil war to Congresswomen like Barbara Jordan. Poets such as Audre Lorde and Nikki Giovanni have proudly written about their identities and poet Stacyann Chin continues in that tradition. Chin bravely speaks out for gay rights in America and her native Jamaica, where homosexuality is against the law. Chin speaks about the narrow definitions of gender and the traps that put Black women in throughout her poem, “ Feminist or Womanist’’ : “Girls who are only straight at night, hardcore butches be sporting dresses between 9 & 6 every day. Sometimes she is a he, trapped by the limitations of our imaginations’’. In her poetry and through her activism, Chin gives voice to ignored Black LGBT women.

Black trans women have also become more visible despite heavy criticism. Magazine editor Janet Mock came out as trans this year and detailed the pain of being different in a conservative family that disapproved. She noted that she always felt different and her outside now finally matches how she felt inside. Mock also felt the need to come out to counter the stories of gay teens who killed themselves.  Transgriot blogger Monica Roberts also speaks out for trans rights. She fights against the “ transploitation’’ of Black trans women often shown on trashy talk shows like Jerry Springer.

Audre Lorde wrote in one of her poems, “ Your silence will not protect you.’’ Silence will not protect those who judge and ignore Black LGBT women.  If marriage equality can be struck down, women’s rights will be next. If women’s rights are threatened, African-American voters can be purged from the voter rolls. The gay community must be more inclusive of Black women’s concerns, from child care to voter suppression. The Black community must re-read the Bible verse that says, “ Love your neighbor as you do yourself’’ and include LGBT issues in their agendas.  Always progressive Vice President Joe Biden called transgendered rights the “ civil rights issue of our time.’’ All civil rights are connected and African-American LGBT women prove that better than anyone else.

  • Marilyn

    I love this article and we need more articles addressing black and brown queer women!

  • SmartAleck11

    For the past four years I’ve fallen in love with Nikki Giovanni, Stacyann Chin and especially Audre Lorde. I have books dedicated to their inspirational genius and have adopted their philosophies. That’s all because I was blessed enough to attend a college where professors emphasized the work and accomplishments of people like Lorde and Chin who are often ignored in mainstream curriculum because of their race and sexual preference. Without the knowledge and pride that these women have inspired in me I would be a completely different person today. Thank you so much for posting this because it reaffirms the pride I have in being an African American woman. Gay or straight our spirits are untouchable and that’s what the world needs to know about us.

  • jenna pearle

    nikki giovanni? i was unaware of this. in which pieces does she discuss this?

    anyhow, love all of those writers/poets mentioned.

  • The Patient One

    Who is the woman with the curly hair?

  • The Patient One

    OMG, no! She is really a HE!

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  • Val

    I would love to see more posts like this!!!

  • StacyAustralia

    This was an excellent article . Thanks for writing it and sharing. I agree would like to read more like this on Clutch.

  • Cee Chambers-Sarlow

    What do you mean no?? It is a metaphor “She is really a he” means that she is a women who is masculine identified but she is trying her best to fit the description of what the “world” wants…She is really not comfortable wearing a dress and she really dont have a desire too either but she does what it takes to make others happy and survive so she can support herself..Nothing wrong about that…I say yes to survival .

  • mikey kun

    loved this

  • The Patient One

    A metaphor? Eh, no. ‘She’, biologically isn’t a woman.

  • Princess Isis Asare

    I am really inspired by the fact that this article was included in a publication for Black women regardless of sexual orientation.

    Oftentimes, Black Lesbians – and queer women of color – have to choose which identity to expose, express, and celebrate. With family, you can be Black but not understood as gay. In the gay community, you can be queer but not understood as an ethnic minority. Occasionally, you will find a space in the small intersection of Black, gay, and female to celebrate all aspects of yourself.

    But articles such as this one that try to bring to light the unique challenges of queer women of color for a broader community of Black women are a clear sign that times are changing. The definition of inclusion is expanding beyond race, gender, and class. This is evidenced by an election that supported a president that publicly announced his support for same-sex marriage. This visibility pulls the gay community of color out of the closet.

    According to Joan Brien, “Without a visual identity we have no community, no support network, no movement….” If marriage equality and transgender rights are the civil rights movement of our generation, then Janet Mock and Zanele Muholi are the Rosa Parks of the present. Blogs, Facebook events, and tweets are our boycotts, marches, and rallies.

    By being visible and highlighting the struggles of others, we can create a future where going to the bathroom is as benign for a transgender person as it is for a cisgender African American and illegalizing marriage between two women is as incongruous as illegalizing an interracial marriage.

    Be visible. Be an activist. Be the change.

  • The Patient One

    This article popped up after I said that this was a heteronormative site.

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  • WhatIThink

    The only problem I have with this is the fact that lesbian and homosexual black folks have never been hidden to my knowledge (especially in the entertainment industry). Look how many openly gay black folks were in the civil rights movement (whether you knew it or not).

    What is it with some people? Your sexuality is your personal business. How does having sex become some sort of “group achievement”? Can I sing and dance and jump up and down and claim pride just because I had straight sex?

    This is absolutely mindless nonsense meant to distract black folks with empty symbolism.

  • Love Sosa

    it’s not about them letting you know they had gay sex. it’s about them feeling comfortable enough to be out in the public eye and live their lives without the fear of having to deal with comments such as the one i’m replying to now.

    i’m not a homosexual, but i am an atheist, so i can sympathise with the feeling of being nervous to be open and fear the reticule of others.

  • Robin G. White

    It’s not just about feeling comfortable, but it is about being able to live our lives fully and equitably in the country in which we are citizens. The fact that I can’t marry my partner in 41 states is discriminatory. In some states I can still be fired without recourse because I am gay. In other cities and towns I can legally be discriminated in housing and prevented from seeing and assisting my ailing partner in the hospital. I can be denied the ability to raise the children my partner gave birth to if something happens to her even though I am the only other parent they have known their entire lives. I can be denied access to our funds, property, and if I have served my country and am killed in the line of duty, she will be denied the right to collect benefits even if we have been together 5, 10, 25, 40 years. It doesn’t matter.

    That is not fair. That is inequitable. And a lot of people are living this way in this country. It is wrong. It is the same type of discrimination we faced when it was interracial marriage was illegal in this country. I have been out for 38 years. I have supported veterans, fought against domestic violence, worked in the juvenile courts, volunteered in nursing homes, cared for children, women and the elderly and have watched my siblings get married and have kids, live their lives without a hitch. I would like to be able to do the same some day. Time is running out. I wonder if I will get to see it in my lifetime.

  • mjaliya

    It’s beyond commentary. As a gay black womyn I could give a fck less about what a homophobe says to me. I’m concerned about the safety and health of my LGBT folks that are discriminated against in this country. And about the emotional toll it takes on many of us who are drive to depression and suicide. Very disgusted by the lack of empathy I see for fellow human beings.

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