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Friday, January 8, 2010

The Gay Community Vs. The Same Gender Loving Commuity

The Gay Community Vs. The Same Gender Loving Community, A Conflict in More Than Just Terms….


I think that The Black Community has a tendency to lump Black Same Gender Loving people together in the same boat with White Gay people. This is a mistake. It is also unfair and it has a tendency to create a skewed vision and idea of what being ``in the life’’ is really like for Black SGL people in the Philadelphia area. It is like saying Black straight people and White straight people live in one big happy family in North America (or Philadelphia specifically) and we all know that is not true.

Black people who are Same Gender Loving tend to have closer family ties, closer ties with the Black church, and be more moderate politically than White Gay people. Black Same Gender Loving people (or SGL people) are more family oriented and exist as a sleeping political Tiger in our midst. While there is a tendency for Black SGL people to want to relate to and interact with White gays and lesbians, the racial divide is still very real in America and shows up in the SGL community as it does in every other part of life in North America.

To start off this discussion, I will give you a definition of what the SGL lifestyle is and how it differs from just being gay:

* En explanation of SGL (Or the Same Gender Loving Lifestyle). White, North American and or European Gay people have a separate economic base in many communities that consist of an exclusionary grouping of White homosexuals that sustains itself in housing, employment and social settings. These groupings are often headed by White homosexual males—and some White lesbians-- who benefit economically from such groups. Very few Black people who are SGL are allowed to enter this privileged private club and private economic existence. Black SGL people are often welcomed into their own Black families more and allowed to thrive inside and outside of their Back families in separate Black SGL groupings such as social groups, church groups, Civic Organizations, support groups and such. These Black SGL groupings have very little—but sometimes growing—economic power among themselves. Black SGL people are very often much better off organizing among themselves and within the Black community than among White gays who do NOT have their best interest at heart. The term Same Gender Loving is a more folksy, community oriented and generally accepted term (from the West Coast of the United States) that helps stimulate conversation and develop bridges and relationships that will be harder to organize around and relate to and with by using the term GAY. SGL is getting to be a more accepted term among us as Black people. Plus, the down low syndrome has caused men who have sex with men and who are Black to NOT want the term GAY applied to them. Such men are often bi-sexual and or just adverse to White Gay culture which they find obtuse to their innate spiritual African existence. They and other SGL Blacks often find the term GAY and Queer to be excessive, exclusive, dividing, odd, racist, discriminatory, derogatory & closed socially & economically. They are terms that don’t build bridges in our community and we need bridges. Many everyday SGL Black men and women have this same view of Gay North American & European culture that is held by the dominate Black community—yet they (We SGL Brothers and Sisters) still exist among and within our Black community. It is important to differentiate these views from basic, blanket charges of homophobia because some of these views against GAY White culture are legitimate and well grounded. For example, many White GAYS live in an exclusive, wealthy, racist world and have little use for reaching out and creating ``diversity’’ by bridging with other groups such as Black people.

* * * * * * * *


Let’s take Philadelphia as a case study since I have lived there for over 30 years and have intermingled with both the Black Same Gender Loving community and the White Gay community on many occasions.

In Philadelphia there is a section called the ``Gayborhood.’’ It roughly stretches from front street in the East to about 23rd Street in the West and from about South Street in the south to about Arch Street in the north. This is where a great preponderance of White Gay people live. Many of them also work there. It is the heart and soul of Philadelphia’s Center City and is full of businesses and establishments such as City Hall, the Police Headquarters Building and many municipal buildings as well as many stores such as Macy’s (In the old John Wanamaker’s Building), and the Gallery shopping mall. While this area has it’s problems, many people from all of Philadelphia work there because so many businesses are located there.

Within the ``Gayborhood’’ you will find many independent cases of discrimination against Black Same Gender Loving people. In fact, there are so many cases of discrimination; you can definitely say there is a pattern of discrimination and that that pattern has a real and devastating impact of Black SGL people… These people, (my Black Same Gender Loving Brothers and Sisters) find themselves with less education, less economic opportunities and less land ownership than their White counterparts. The Black SGL people come to the ``Gayborhood’’ to visit and spend their money—rarely to stay. If they do live there they are renters. Very, very few Black people own land, rent an apartment or own a condo or business property in Center City Philadelphia.

While White Gays are also not the dominate class of property owners, they do have many, many apartments and some home ownership and business ownership in the area. What businesses they do own rarely hire Black people as employees. They prefer instead to hire other White Gay people. Blacks are basically looked upon as a necessary ``problem’’ from which to extract a percentage of their bottom line and or profit from.

Most of the Gay restaurants in the area are owned by older White Gay males. They have, in a general sense, worked hard for their money at high-paying jobs or inherited the money it took for them to get the business. Some may have Bank loans, but I have to admit that even they have faced discrimination from the banking system and the financial institutions—but that’s another story.

There was a Gay Italian club owner back in the 1970’s through the 1990’s who owned just about EVERY ``Black’’ SGL nightclub that opened in Center City. Black SGL men and, to a lesser degree, Black SGL women frequented his clubs and made him very wealthy over the years. The few clubs that opened that were owned by Blacks were opened in other parts of the city. This is because property ownership along with the upkeep of property, the taxes, the licenses for liquor and the other fees for keeping things running (both legal and sometimes under the table or illegal) can be quite high for a nightclub. The clubs that were owned by Black SGL people were in West or North Philadelphia—which is where most Black people in Philadelphia live. Many Black also live in the Germantown and Mount Airy.

The economic disparity that runs so long and deep within Main Stream life in North America also runs equally deep within the so-called Gay and or SGL community of the city.

There was a community center for Gay people in Philadelphia in the 1980’s called Penguin Place. It ended up being more of a Polar Bear Place because it was rarely frequented by Blacks who felt left out of the programs that were instituted for the center and also left out of the leadership positions and posts for the center.

Today there is the William Way Community Center, near Broad and Spruce Streets, which has faired better at being more inclusive in their programs and incorporating diversity into their leadership and mission. However, I know of at least one person who left a leadership position because they just ``wouldn’t listen’’ to the voices and cries from Black SGL people.

What I’m getting at is while we have a Black President, nothing much has changed for the average Black SGL person in Philadelphia who generally works for a White-owned for-profit company in the Center City area or in the Suburbs. This person’s income goes right from his hands, generally speaking, and right back to the White establishment… Few of us make much of an effort to advocate for a Black hotel in Philadelphia or more Black businesses let alone go out of our way to find out where the Black businesses are and support them.

Usually during Kwanzaa there is an effort to get people to shop at Black stores, but this year (2009) I didn’t even see much effort in that regard.

I’m not trying to paint a gloomy picture, I’m trying to get at the truth. There are some bright examples of hope in Philadelphia. There is a Gay Book Store in Philadelphia that seems to hire some Blacks and carry several Black SGL titles by Black authors. The Owner or Giovanni’s Room must be singled out for commendation for his valiant efforts at diversity and inclusion because it is such a rarity in Philadelphia. Most Gay and SGL people in Philadelphia are so busy trying to make it and pay increasing rents and mortgages, living costs and car upkeep that they spend little time thinking about an exotic issue such as inclusion.

Another thing that is good in Philadelphia is that it is a city of fine educational facilities such as Temple University, University of Pennsylvania (the largest employer in the City topping even the City of Philadelphia itself in the number of employees it has) and Drexel University. There are many other institutions of higher learning including Community College, which has two and four-year degrees and is quite competitive and offers lower tuitions and more readily accessible financial aid. Many Black people go to community college and Temple and do well. The cost for tuition at U of P is unheard of and out of reach for many Black people.

The education system in Philadelphia is not too good. Sorry to say, but it is true. This is why many Black people don’t excel. They are not prepared to achieve in the more demanding and technical school settings of today and tomorrow. .. That includes Black SGL people. We have a tendency slack off in school because we often find school curriculums uninteresting, boring and lackluster. Often the History Books are old and do not include many stories about us as Black people. Black people don’t have much to say about school curriculums either, which shows where the vicious cycle starts and ends. If there are not many Progressive Blacks making up and tending to the curriculums who have real & lasting decision making power, the students end up less interested in their studies and often drop out of school, get into street life, the drug and so forth. Such youngsters, and there are a number of SGL youth involved with them, also may have a weak or non existent family structure with no Dad (he might be absent or in jail) and or a Mom who is herself strung out on drugs, irresponsible or just too busy to do the right things for her children…

So many SGL youth turn to the street life, vouging (a form of Club dancing) or just hanging out. There are unheard of numbers of Black youth who are SGL and who have found nothing much to do but dance at the clubs, have sex (often unprotected) and act out in other ways that are considered by old folks like me to be irresponsible.

Enter groups like the Colours Organization and BEBASHI to enlighten, bring some clarity and keep people interested in something positive. (Both groups are located in rented building space in or near the Center City Area). BEBASHI stands for Black Educating Blacks About Sexual Health Issues. They were started in the 1980’s and have spread the good word about HIV and AIDS to many Black SGL people even as the rates have risen in the Black community. Colours has a support group for men that helps them deal with important issues like the discrimination and the feeling of being ``locked out’’ described earlier in this section. Colours also has several other programs, meetings and events that help stimulate discussion, build bridges and help build a better sense of community for Black SGL men and women (and transgendered people) in the Philadelphia area.

Recently, in fact, The Colours Organization had a meeting that was quite well attended & successful that brought together older and younger SGL men and women to discuss their differences and to give the younger people some hope and resilience in troubled times.

The White Gay community has lessened their HIV / AIDS numbers in recent years. My theory is that many of the problems faced in the Black SGL community are because of a lack of real community. They are also light years ahead of us in economic development… Among Black SGL people, there is a lack of ownership of the means of production that any community needs to thrive; and a lack of Capital and a meaningful, workable & cohesive plan to make things better. Ownership of real estate, businesses and a real PLAN FOR THE FUTURE would go a long way in determining a better future for Black SGL men and women (and transgendered people) in the Philadelphia area. My theory is that any economic gains by the Black SGL community will be connected to political, social and economic gains for the entire Black community. This is where the divide happens because Black people want that to happen, but most Whites are still threatened by any such gain among Blacks. That points to the reasons why we have to take our economic, spiritual, social and political awakening and renewal upon ourselves—no one else will do it for us. It can start with something small like going to the corner Black grocery store (if you can find one) more often and buying more items from Black stores. (Please check out Chapter 13 about Black economic development).








4 comments:

  1. Peace & Love Tracy

    Thanks for this very informative and truthful article. One thing I feel compelled to inform you of, and that is concerning the term "BLACK" in respect to our people.

    Prophet Noble Drew Ali came in the year 1913 A.D. teaching our people the about our Nationality & Birthrights...! He taught us that our Nationality is MOORISH-AMERICAN...descendants of Moroccans of the ancient Moroccan Empire (not to be confused with the kingdom of Morocco established in 1956), and born in America!
    He taught us that we were/are not Negroes, Blacks, Colored, etc. We're not even African-American, because even the 'continent' known as Africa is composed of many Nations. Black is legally a Political status that says that you are a SLAVE...which is why Noble Drew Ali established the Moorish Science Temple of America, which is OUR Political Body, OUR Nation-State, to take us out of that Slave-Status, placing back into the Constitutional fold of government. He also taught us that we are actually a part and partial of the said government (research the BARBARY TREATIES of the 1700s...Moors/our Ancestors granting permission to the s/c European forefathers PERMISSION to come to the Americas...)!!!
    The last name on record, identifying our people, prior to the event of slavery was 'MOOR/S'!Negro, Black, Colored, etc was put on us in 1779 during the time of slavery, and lasted til 1865.

    To be recognized and respected in this government and the Nations, we must claim our Nationality as the TRUE Indigenous Peoples of the Americas (research on Olmecs)!
    Peace

    J.R.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Peace & Love Tracy

    Thanks for this very informative and truthful article. One thing I feel compelled to inform you of, and that is concerning the term "BLACK" in respect to our people.

    Prophet Noble Drew Ali came in the year 1913 A.D. teaching our people the about our Nationality & Birthrights...! He taught us that our Nationality is MOORISH-AMERICAN...descendants of Moroccans of the ancient Moroccan Empire (not to be confused with the kingdom of Morocco established in 1956), and born in America!
    He taught us that we were/are not Negroes, Blacks, Colored, etc. We're not even African-American, because even the 'continent' known as Africa is composed of many Nations. Black is legally a Political status that says that you are a SLAVE...which is why Noble Drew Ali established the Moorish Science Temple of America, which is OUR Political Body, OUR Nation-State, to take us out of that Slave-Status, placing back into the Constitutional fold of government. He also taught us that we are actually a part and partial of the said government (research the BARBARY TREATIES of the 1700s...Moors/our Ancestors granting permission to the s/c European forefathers PERMISSION to come to the Americas...)!!!
    The last name on record, identifying our people, prior to the event of slavery was 'MOOR/S'!Negro, Black, Colored, etc was put on us in 1779 during the time of slavery, and lasted til 1865.

    To be recognized and respected in this government and the Nations, we must claim our Nationality as the TRUE Indigenous Peoples of the Americas (research on Olmecs)!
    Peace

    J.R.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Greetings family
    I find this observation of the same gender loving community to be important because often times we hear of the afflictions of our people but it's base on a hetero superior perspective which overlooks the plight of same gender loving peoples who suffer a great deal of being black ,same gendered and discriminated from their own kind. I think it's progressive on the part of our sgl community that we are creating paltforms and groups that discuss our concerns as our crisis are related not separated base on sexual orientation, as we become more socially aware we are becoming conscious of the diverse black conscious groups who once ignored our issues taking a proactive role on the issues particularly the nuwaubians who doctrine and beliefs as far as same gender loving people are concern is rooted in many afrikan cultures particularly egipt not Egyptology which was created to undermine our culture and erase our greatness off the walls

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you for the informitive article. I am a social worker, work in long term care and subacute rehab. I am working hard to change the culture in the field, to develop facilities to become more openly inclusive, making a safe space. This article will help me wit that task.

    ReplyDelete