Seven of every ten murdered for being gay are people of color
July 25, 2011 | 3:40 pm
(Updated: February 22, 2013 | 4:39 pm)
Do you still think hate crimes are not an issue for LGBT people?
…Or that race shouldn’t matter when discussing the personal and political perspective LGBT people of different backgrounds bring to the table?
There’s still a lot of work to do.
There is sometimes resistance in the LGBT movement to having to learn or deal with stuff that we don’t know from our upbringing – about race, disability, poverty, other parts of the world or communities within ours. Some ask why other groups aren’t more gay-friendly or say isn’t it enough to know gay issues and have gay friends?
This is a wake-up call: fully seventy percent of those murdered for their sexual orientation are people of color. There is no time to debate who’s responsible to create change; we all are.
When a person comes out, it can be as if the world shrinks; fewer places that are “safe” when it comes to social life, community, and geographical areas one can live in without fear or discrimination. Refuges may include “blue states” or metropolitan areas, but skip most of the map.
The impact varies from person to person; a gender-normative gay or lesbian person – who can “pass” as straight – has more options than someone who is transgender or genderqueer (a group that makes up over 40 percent of LGBT murder victims). The world shrinks again for gay people with HIV.
People of color start in a world that was already smaller, and are left with even fewer options if they’re gay.
If a person of color is transgender, HIV-positive, addicted, living with a disability or poor, it may be impossible to find a “safe space.” The nearest addiction treatment center may be run by a conservative religious group, or full of homophobes. The local LGBT center may have racially-tinged attitudes or be obsessed with economic class, catering to the biggest donors. The homeless shelter may be unfriendly to transgender people, dividing spaces between “boys” and “girls.” The doctors’ offices or clinics where an HIV+ person can get treatment might not be gay or trans-friendly.
What if you live in a town where most of the white gay people say they “just aren’t attracted” to people of color – a more-than-common comment in the gay bars – but there are few people of color around? Where can such a person find love?
Their urge may be to leave that scene and take chances with a world that is not gay-friendly. Or the only option may be to deal with it – live under discrimination – and with the daily fear of being kidnapped, beaten or killed.
If you aspire to be a leader in the LGBT community, all kinds of training matter. When there are so few safe places for LGBT people we need to make every one of them safe for every kind of LGBT person. You have to know how to work with people who have undocumented status; understand religious groups (yes, Muslims can be LGBT too); overcome language barriers; know transgender issues; know race issues; be aware of HIV and understand how to assist people with different kinds of disability.
It’s not about us and them – the LGBT community vs. what other communities should do. LGBT people come from every type of place and so our leaders are faced with a special challenge: we have to duplicate the whole, diverse world within ours so that every person who comes has a place to be. It’s not an “annoyance,” or “political correctness;” it’s imperative if you aspire to do good. [Colorlines]