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Black History Month ignores gays

Every single February is black history month and I roll my eyes and I want to vomit into a bucket. Black history month is really black straight month. I feel apathetic about black history month due to the bigotry and hypocrisy against black LGBT people. The only history about black people which is discussed in the public sphere is about the heterosexuals. Black history month is not only heterosexist; it also ostracizes and makes black queer people invisible. 

There are the usual platitudes about black heterosexual historical figues such as Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Harriet Tubman or Frederick Douglas. Yet there is an eerie silence about the LGBT public figures in black history. Black gay and lesbian public figures from the past have been champions of civil rights yet their homosexuality is silenced by the homophobic black heterosexuals.

{mosads}How many people know that many of the black writers and artists during the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s were gay? Singers Gladys Bentley, Bessie Smith, and Ma Rainey sang passionately about desiring other women. The writers Angelina Weld Grimke, Alice Dunbar Nelson, Countee Cullen, Bruce Nugent, Claude McKay, Wallace Thurman, we’re gay.                                                                            

It should also be public knowledge that Lorraine Hansberry, the playwright who wrote A Raisin In The Sun in 1959. lived a double life and was a lesbian. Hansberry married a white Jewish man, Robert Nemiroff, yet had lesbian affairs in private.                                                    

In fact, Hansberry wrote for the 1950s lesbian publication The Ladder using her initials LH. Hansberry wrote about her emerging feminism and her struggle being a lesbian. However, in mainstream biographies or articles written about Hansberry her lesbianism is ignored. Hansberry’s lesbianism is treated like some dirty shameful secret. Meanwhile, Langston Hughes the famous poet and a literary giant in the early to mid-twentieth century was gay. Hughes wrote about homosexuality in poems such as Cafe 3am and Desire. Hughes’s homosexuality has been disputed for decades but he lived a closeted life due to black homophobia. 

Now, in the twenty-first century there is a new civil rights movement taking place in relation to gay marriage in America which could benefit if more black public figures came out of the closet.

The pop culture websites Gawker and Jezebel openly questioned why rumoured lesbian actress and talk show host Queen Latifah has not come out of the closet. Recently, Queen Latifah officiated at a ceremony at the Grammy awards. However, Queen Latifah has not come out nor does she discuss her private life in the public sphere. If Queen Latifah finally acknowledged she is a lesbian it could help black gay rights and advance black history. 

Recently, ABC’s Good Morning America host Robin Roberts came out of the closet on Facebook acknowledging she’s been in a committed lesbian relationship for over ten years. 

Yet, the question remains why are so many black LGBT celebrities still in the closet? 

In the homophobic black community, there is a unwritten rule of don’t ask, don’t tell about being gay.

For instance, the late Luther Vandross was a multi-platinum R&B singer who died in 2005, it is well-known Vandross was a closeted homosexual.  Vandross chose to remain silent about his homosexuality because he knew if he did come out he would lose his core audience which are homophobic African-American women.

Two years ago,  R&B singer Frank Ocean came out of the closet on his Tumblr blog declaring his first love in life was a man.  Frank Ocean did not help the LGBT movement in the black community because he refused to be identified as gay or bisexual. 

The stigma still associated with being black and gay is like the Scarlet Letter which no mainstream black entertainer wants.

Being an openly gay black entertainer appears to be the worst taboo a black man can ever have. Even though there are celebrated black male entertainers such as boxer Floyd Mayweather, who beat a woman and rapper Jay Z used to be a drug dealer. Jay Z recently boasted to Vanity Fair magazine that he learned to be a good business man because he used to sell drugs.

The convicted rapist Mike Tyson is celebrated as  a hero among blacks.

It is about time a black celebrity boldly declare he or she is gay. By coming out of the closet black LGBT people can really make a difference in reaching black queer youth and adults who are closeted and need role models.

Douglas is the author of You Don’t Know Me. He blogs at GayBlackCanadianman



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