On Thursday, April 30, the United Black Student Association hosted the third installment of Pink Elephant In The Room: Discussing Homophobia in the Black Community at the University of Cincinnati African American Cultural and Research Center. The event was led by Doug Cooper Spencer, LGBTQ Coordinator Jessica Price and John Brolly, undergraduate director of religious studies.
The room was set up with chairs forming a large circle, and the house was completely packed with people from all different kinds of backgrounds and identities. One person asked what the big issues facing the queer community are and Price named off gay marriage, adoption, acquiring a full-time staffer and larger space for the LGBTQ office (a UC specific issue), an inclusive employment non-discrimination policy and hate crimes legislation. To that, I of course countered that there should be legislation that says we can’t discriminate against anyone for any reason so as other marginalized groups don’t have to go through this same issue again, but I was met with a mediocre response.
Spencer also pointed out something interesting: As both a historically experienced black and gay man, he can remember a time when black people were in a similar situation; and while the struggle may not be the same, both situations have psychological and emotional consequences on an individual in those communities. So in essence, Spencer had become a victim of the double bind: Not only is he black, but he is also gay and has experienced oppression for both of those identities separately, but the identities also work together to oppress him.
And rather than use the word queer (Because saying LGBTQ is quite a mouthful, especially when you aren’t quite sure what you are saying. I mean, you might as well just recite the ABCs.), Spencer advised participants to use the phrase “same-gender loving.” Now, I don’t think that term is accurate. Queer is definitely the best catchall term, because someone can still identify as queer and not necessarily love someone of the same gender. “Same-gender loving” puts queers in a box, and completely leaves off transpeople all together, because at least in the term LGBTQ they get a mention, even if the community often forgets them.
Of course religion came up, but it was only discussed briefly. One person did make an extremely insightful statement though: “The only person who can judge me is God, so why should I judge you [for being queer]?” I should use that on someone the next time they bring up that Bible nonsense as an argument against queers.
And while some people were still skeptical, Brolly told a great story in relation to all of the legislation issues the queer community is having. While living in New York, Brolly, a white male, had a black girlfriend. They would ride the subway through a mostly black neighborhood and would receive threats of violence and name-calling while on the train from black people because they were an interracial couple. They would ride the train through mostly white neighborhoods and they would receive threats of violence and name-calling while on the train because they were an interracial couple. Brolly pointed out that while it may be impossible to have everyone agree that they aren’t going to hate someone or dislike someone based upon their identity, just about everyone can agree that people should be safe while riding the subway. This can be likened to the current LGBTQ movement: We may not be able to have everyone like us, but it is much more likely that we can persuade people that we should be able to be safe and have the same rights.
Probably my favorite moment, for obvious reasons, was at the end when a man stood up to tell this story: His girlfriend wanted to go to the GenderBlock GenderF*ck Drag Show and he was not having it because it was gay stuff. His girlfriend finally dragged him (lol) to the show, and it turns out it wasn’t so bad. He had interactions with queer people, enjoyed the show and actually changed his attitude all together to that of a more excepting one. He advised participants to put themselves in that uncomfortable situation to really have a change of heart. He even said, “I swear, it will change your life.”
I have heard other stories about how the GenderF*ck shows have encouraged people to come out after grappling with their identity after attending a show because it was required for their class, but I had never really heard this. The guy telling the story had no idea that I, one of the organizers of the show, was there in the room. It was quite heartwarming actually. I then advised, “If anyone else would like to have a similar life-altering experience, come see the next drag show on Friday, May 8, 9 p.m. in Catskeller in the basement of Tangemen University Center.”
Spencer also talked about the upcoming Eyes Open Festival: Celebrating the Arts in the Black LGBT Community. It will take place on July 25, 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the Aronoff. There will be music, movies (Noah’s Ark: Jumping The Broom) and even a performance by gay rapper Last Offence. For more information see the flyer below or by clicking here.