Racial Divide in LGBTQ Communities Could Have Derailed Marriage Debate in Massachusetts
Marriage Equality in Massachusetts hit its 10 year mark on May 17th.
In February, 2005 I was reporting that tensions here in Massachusetts were growing and, once again, there was a color line. The issue was marriage equality for same-sex couples. With the state legislature about to rev up again to debate the issue, and with very little time for white queer religious and political machines to colorize what had been since its inception, a white movement, voices from African-American queer organizations and communities of color were speaking up about our absence from the conversation.
To the surprise of white LGBTQ organizations, both the African-American LGBTQ and straight community had much to say about the white queer political machine's appropriation of the language of the black civil rights movement. Done without participation by people of color.
How the marriage debate should have been framed had not been given considerable concern. Communicating in a way that spoke truth to various LGBTQ communities of color and classes was not even considered.
The same-sex marriage debate had brought much consternation and polarization between black and white LGBTQ communities. Much of the finger pointing of the genesis of the ill-framed discussion was aimed at GLAD. Viewed by some as a lily-white organization, many people of color felt that GLAD replicated much of the same race and class divisions present in our federal judicial system.
In criticizing GLAD for its approach, Boston local African-American lesbian scholar Dr. Marilyn Monteiro wrote to me in an e-mail: "I've told GLAD this as well—asking me for money to assist them in 'their' struggle; expropriating (and therefore exploiting blacks in particular) the civil rights movement rhetoric; strategies in their interests while still excluding us from leadership positions other than token appointments. Please! It certainly is this way in Beantown, for sure. GLAD asked me to evaluate their web pages. I did. Do you think there have been any changes of the kind I suggested? Hell, no!"
I have been asked by several white activists if it were too late in trying to get black LGBTQ people more ensconced in this movement. And I have been told by many African-American LGBTQ people that because of our exclusion in the struggle, they were tired of the fight and now suffering from “marriage fatigue.”
And an idea that was once thought of as an anathema to black queer identity, marriage, in our LGBTQ communities, is being celebrated and on the rise. And many of us are now proudly walking down the aisle to tie the knot.