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.