The following was inspired by the GLAAD misrepresentation.
Note: GLAAD issued a press release comparing media coverage of the 1995 Million Man March with the coverage received by the 1993 March on Washington for Gay, Lesbian and Bi rights. Many Black gay men took offense at the comparison.
Were Black gay men present at the Million Man March on Washington this past October 16, 1995? Yes we were, even if the invitation was not directly extended from the lead march organizers, and despite the past homophobic rhetoric of Louis Farrakhan. Many of my friends and colleagues have repeatedly asked me why I chose to attend the Million Man March, saying it would either affirm or endorse Farrakhanís position as a leader in the African-American community. Actually my decision to attend was not at all a difficult one to make.
I agree with some goals of the march, which closely mirror my own personal goals. I strongly believe that black people need to organize and take control of our current financial and political situations. Also, the media should be responsible for projecting a more positive image of Black men. Improper media portrayals have lead many whites to think that black men are genetically predetermined to commit murders, thefts, rapes and other crimes. Nothing could be further from the truth, as these incidents have very little to do with a personís race and are more tied to their individual economic situation and personal value system.
Gay and lesbian people of color are in many instances faced with a double barrelled attack of discrimination: cultural homophobia and homosexual racism. Cultural homophobia leads many of us to be isolated from our heterosexual brothers and sisters. The majority of hate messages Iíve received that were based solely on my sexual preference have come from African-Americans. It is my personal duty to assure that my heterosexual brothers and sisters respect me without my having to mask any portion of my persona.
Homosexual racism occurs when a gay or lesbian person discriminates against others solely because of their race or ethnic origin. Again, the majority of times I have heard the N-word it has come from a gay white man. Gay and lesbian people of color, hence, reside in a constant position of unease. I consider it my personal responsibility to not allow homophobic statements by African-Americans to go unchallenged. Similarly, it is my duty to address and expose incidents and attitudes of racism vthat exists in the homosexual community.
Fact is, the majority of the one-million plus persons at the march, myself included, diminished Farrakhan's importance and reported new power as a leader. More important to me were the spirit and goals of the march, not any one individual speaker. Though his rhetoric is often filled with a perceived message of hate, Farrakhan has made some very valid points. Among them is the need to first acknowledge and admit the huge racial divide that exists in our country. It is impossible to solve any problem without first recognition of its existence. We each have a role in making sure we do our part to build bridges of communication. Too often in our society, those who have money and political power enjoy the spoils of great America; those on the opposite end of the spectrum are abandoned and left to relish in impoverished ghettos. This is true many times simply because of the color of the persons skin.
I also participated to send a message to the other black men and women present. As an openly gay man, I wanted my brothers and sisters to see me as I am. I am neither Noxzeema Jackson of To Wong Foo, nor am I Blaine and Antoinne from In Living Color, who remain the only images of black gay men displayed by the media. Though some in the community may resemble these characters, they are in no way represent the majority.
I marched with a contingent of hundreds of openly gay, proud and expressive black men and women from all walks of life, and all sectors of our country. We were loud and proud of both our existence as gay and lesbian people, and proud black men and women. Open participation of our contingent was supported, but not endorsed, by black gay and lesbian organizations, among them the National Black Gay and Lesbian Leadership Forum (NBGLLF) and the African-American Lesbian/Gay Alliance of Houston (AALGA).
Though we were relatively few in number, when compared to the million plus other persons present, we knew our individual roles were much larger. We represented the many thousands of other gay men who were present at the March, but because of the homophobia that exists in our society, remain in the closet.
I personally began dialog to include an openly gay man as a speaker at the march with Farrakhan and the Million Man March organizers back in June, when they came to Houston to promote the march. I called on Farrakhan to stop making homophobic statements, because they directly affect my existence and participation as a welcomed member of the black community.
Like many African-Americans today, I have to take issue with the continued efforts by the media to determine our ěleader.î Many times, the media attempts to coronate certain persons who are either more palatable than a Jesse Jackson or a Louis Farrakhan, or conceived to be less ěthreateningî.
Clarence Thomas has not by word or deed done anything that African-Americans can be proud of. Yet the media since his appointment to the Supreme Court attempt to build him as such. Based on his record, and more recently his vote, the deciding vote on the Affirmative Action issue, Justice Thomas has shown the contrary. Yet he remains touted by much of conservative White America as a man Black Americans can all be proud of? No way!
The spirit of those at the march was absolutely incredible. The overwhelming acceptance and welcome of our openly gay contingent as we marched into the Mall provided for and extremely emotional moment. We took consolation in the fact that the message from all speakers was not one of hate, and none included homophobic references. Long live the spirit of the march, and may it lead to a renewed sense of pride and inclusion for all persons in our society.
Last updated: 08 January 1996 by Chuck Tarver