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Lessons From San Francisco’s Race Problems

Because we still don’t get it

by j. brotherlove

via Washington Blade / SoVo

Lessons From San Francisco's Race Problems

Recent stories about black flight and racial tensions in Castro are casting new shadows on San Francisco’s image as a gay mecca. A video of Focus On Diversity: Gay Black Politicians in San Francisco highlights yet another issue. Despite the amount of political power San Francisco’s gay community has wielded in the past 30 years, black LGBT politicians still have trouble getting elected. The panel was shocked to learn this; but black LGBTs know better.

I applaud shows like Focus On Diversity for addressing LGBT issues. But it’s amazing to me how clueless people are about sexual orientation. This particular episode has noble intentions. But I was offended several times by this conversation between (presumably) heterosexual men.

Businessman Christopher Carter talks about racism in the gay community as if it’s a recently discovered “dirty little secret” while Eric Von (1290 WMCS) was “blown away by the story”. Host Troy Shaw was the most disturbing:

I have a problem with the gay lifestyle being categorized as a minority. Because for the most part I don’t believe that it is […] What it is, it’s a behavior. With all due respect with what you do […] It’s what you do in the context of the privacy of your own home in your room.

Gotta love the “with due respect” Troy Shaw throws in there (and that nagging "gay lifeystyle" phrase). Of course, he’s completely off base. This resistance to accepting homosexuality as an inborn/innate orientation and not a behavior choice is a serious obstacle. It’s also the cructh used to declare a homosexuality as a "lifestyle" — something whimsical we "choose" to upset the balance — and therefore, not worthy of the equality we demand.

This is 2007 right? Anybody can have sex with the same gender; that alone doesn’t make you gay. Homosexuality is more complex than a sex act. I refuse to sit quietly while non-homosexuals focus on what LGBT people do sexually instead of on our intrinsic feelings and rights as human beings.

Thankfully, Robert Miranda (editor, Milwaukee Spanish Journal) brought some damn sense to the conversation including, this nugget:

“Once again… you have a situation where even though the gay community says they are experiencing the kinds of discrimination that the black community experiences what we have is another example that shows that even in the gay community there is a problem with black men and women advancing in that community.”

Miranda hit the nail on the head because San Francisco is not alone. Racism is a problem gay organizations all over the country have struggled (or not) to address. How are LGBT of color expected to take up the "official" gay cause when we worry about being carded several times when visiting a white gay bar?

With an upcoming presidential election, the entire LGBT community needs better outreach if we’re to present a more unified political front. For the record, the black LGBT community has needs that are more pressing than gay marriage. To quote the blog At Thirty-three (35):

[…] What about the economy, jobs, the real estate bust, interest rates, education inequality, the prison industrial system, health care, poverty, homelessness, Katrina, homeland security, immigration, hate crimes, global warming?

Without specific acknowledgment from the larger gay community, black LGBTs will always be disenchanted. Because at the end of a long day dealing with homophobia from the larger black community, we don’t want to endure racial escapades when we’re trying to advance personally, professionally, politically or socially.

pub: 09/09/2007 | previous entry | next entry | feedback x 5 | subscribe

As a blatino male, it was an extremely enervating and enlightening piece about which you blogged. I found, particularly resonant, your closing:

“Without specific acknowledgment from the larger gay community, black LGBTs will always be disenchanted…”

Disenchanted and disenfranchised would be the case for me.

I’m an old man and remember dealing with the disregard for me as a gay man of color. Quiet as it’s kept the, “he’s not BAD, for ‘colored’” mentality in the GLBTI “community” is still worn on quite a few “inside-out” t-shirts.

As regards the carding… perhaps it’s an homage to the adage: “Black don’t Crack! (NOT)”.

In my experience, there will always be a visceral and uncontrollable lust for a “less than” in society (to make our self feel better or superior).

IMHO, the gay “community” not too terribly far off the median in that regard. Just ask any gay gimp, super-chub, albino, visually or hearing impaired person what the bar is like for them.

Thanks for shining a light! Of to subscribe to your blog.

Thank you for your essay in the Blade (“Lessons from San Francisco’s race problems”).

My words are a lament.

My words are a lament because gay racial politics is still the most under-investigated subject within political, theoretical, and cultural investigations of sexual minorties. All the work of gay liberation and queer theory has still not begun to examine within any lasting currency or systematic evidence the racial divisions within gay men, lesbians and transgenders. Just speaking openly about these matters as you have, J., is still controversial and unsettling, especially to white gay men who have not begun to examine their systemic privilege as whites despite their frequent marginalization as gays.

I speak as someone who has never, ever sought out or excluded friends, sexual partners, or colleagues based on race. I am in the minority here. Most people seek out, exclude, or even limit allies, friends, erotic partners, colleagues based consciously or subconsciously on race.

The days of black LGBTs surveillance and exclusion are not over within gay white owned and operated worlds.

While every once in awhile, gay racism or sexual racism is discussed (or gossiped about) the problem is that few non-white LGBT people write or talk openly and systematically about racial bias in gay worlds with specific evidence. Even until this day, white gay owned political organizations, social groups, and sex-media often refuse to address their racism—as if their audience does not include gay people of color or white men who are anti-racist. Some gay white owned and operated groups are inclusive and every once and awhile we see images and stories within these white run venues that depict or address black, Asian or darker skinned Latino/a lives; but this is still rare, very rare.

Rarely at the top of organizations that claim to be for all gay people are the actual editors, directors, boards, or gatekeepers people of color. Those groups that have titular black or Asian heads (for example) are still hamfisted about enacting true anti-racist change because their boards are probably afraid of offending white gay sensibilities or, as I’ve heard repeatedly over the years, losing white gay audiences. Citing evidence—with specifics—of homosexual racism is very challenging.

Some gay groups cry foul when they are asked to address issues of racism or poverty. To these groups I say this: But aren’t many of the people who you represent people of color and poor people? These are not sideline issues but core concerns for many people of color and low income folks who are gay. How can you claim to be a gay organization (instead of just a de facto “white gay organization”) when you still think that racism is not your province, as if people of color aren’t a part of your group?

To this problem I add the fact that many black homosexuals are themselves deeply insular, and sometimes even as racist as white gay men (and in my experience, this insularity is frequently a reaction against the walls that white gay men and groups place around themselves), choosing to align themselves politically, socially, and sexually mostly with other blacks.

Every time Black Pride comes around in a particular city, I hear some white gay man complain that blacks are segregating themselves. But, as God is my witness, I have never, ever heard a white gay man complain about the legions of white gay men who always, always, always segregate themselves by whiteness, choosing only to align with themselves. Two years ago a white gay man said something like this to me: “Well what can we expect when so many things in gay worlds, erotic or otherwise, are based on superficial judgements about appearence.?!” Well, I expect more out of life from myself and others!

I’ve also heard a lot of black gay men say something like this: “Why complain about what white gay men do? I don’t care if some white gays are bigots! I don’t want to be with them! I don’t want their approval or their affection or their inclusiveness. I’m gonna do it for myself and my brothers. I’m gonna build my own world, even if it means that I reject the word ‘gay’ in favor of ‘same-gender-loving’!”

Yes indeed: we need these black-focused worlds. But, beyond some still active interracial gay groups , when are gays of different races truly going to begin to come together not only to occupy the same political or cultural space but to speak openly about our racial bigotries and class biases so that we can work substantively to change them?

By and large, white and non-white gays still overwhelmingly choose to politicize, socialize, and eroticize in deeply segregated groups without any interrogtion of the racist assumptions and generalizations that inform our sexuality. And having “a thing”—or a fetish—for someone based on their race doesn’t help matters either, be it a “black thing,” “a white thing,” or an “Asian thing.”

The people who are in a true minority within the nightmare of LGBT racial politics are those who would never, ever make skin color, class orientation, or racial creed a determining factor in our sexual, social, or political alliances.

I would never think of judging someone—even erotically—based solely on his or her race. But most men know exactly what their racial exclusions are without ever questioning and searching why they have these exclusions.

So thank you so much for your article. It helps so much.

3. Jeff

As a black gay man who actually lives in SF, I can tell you for a fact that its not a people of color city on any level. The Castro is one of the most racist places you can find, and the gay men here are as bigoted as they come all the while scecching they are oppressed, maybe its because most of them come from some place else. The City has just about chased out every black perosn they can starting in the 1960s when they wipied out a whole balck neighboorhood for “redevelopment”, and since then, the popluation continues to shrink, both straight and gay.

I pass the Castro twice a day on my way home on the train, and can count the times I have stopped and got off, not worth the hassle or the stares.

When the movement “castroforall” got going and showed just what its like to be treated at bars, stores and restaurants,as a gay of color, I was screaming hallelujah, its all out in the open, in the words of Cece Penniston, “Finally!”

The whole idea that the Bay Area is so tolerant it just a myth and the gays more inclusive a bigger myth.

As a (white) Gay Canadian who lived in the SF Bay Area for 10 years, I was always amazed at the amount of racism in the Bay Area.

Time after time, I would meet new Gay people, and they would turn out to be racist jerks. They would just assume since I was white, I would be fine with their racism. Well, I wasn’t fine with it, and I would always end up in arguments with these idiots.

I don’t know if it was because I was an outsider that the racism in American (and Gay) society seemed crystal clear to me, but I was always amazed when people in the Bay Area would say it doesn’t exist.

All that just to say glad to read your blog… Keep up the fight!

5. Mr.Bottomtopp

San Francisco besides, somewhat liberal basically. Conservative city the “icon” image of above superficial. Havery Milk this beinginng of the movement in SF not. America okay and you notice, whom was the supporters. Besides majority White bottoms middle class. Whites whom were rejected by the majority for men. Of myself whom immigrated later to Bay Area you see. The cultural difference now, regarding the White gay. Population they still have not taken the city. Or politically, nor financially most still live. With either rental or alternate means, see Gay movement. Should actually say for Whites only and the image.

If your not professional class I mean. Making abundant compensation your overlooked. Yes the elite depise everyone, but they look like. Hell all around the renown neighborhoods. You see exclusion not this rationalizing why? There are so many petty fights in the Gay community? But since SF is the so called example for Gays. These are never put in the media. Why everything you read in America is distorted! If do not find it yourself.

Another problem with SF community the disunity and political correct. Attitude yeah most of non profit groups are for themselves. For men of color wake up! And face the bottom in his face! Your not accepted do you give a damn? I hope not’ because when you live abroad. Especially Europe your simply Gay not the Castro bottom image! Yes tight jeans, goatee’s, proper discourse yeah. Really pretty bottom attitude this what makes you. The accepted Gay is this reality Hell no!

While living in San Diego I never encountered this. Why SF stills says there example to Gay communities. Well when address aftermath, Mark Welch whom. Owns a fisting and leather shop what example for Gay men! My opinion… he was hurt assualt by Black bottoms! Why the race trip this is America, they never disclose the serious fights. On Folsom street or Upper market and Noe Valley.

So before those say Castro is the proper example for Gays. Keep dreaming before use bias term” Gay is the new Black? This is an insult I date men not because heritage. Emotion and for those whom have there opinion so be it. Men of Color be proud of your nature why. Humiliate yourself if your not welcome in trashy Castro. When travel to Europe it’s different as oppose. Your treated as a man not what color leather do you have own!

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