I am talking now about the comfort of peacefully coexisting within (and outside) myself as a multi-box, multi-hyphenated American: lesbian, black, Christian, poor, creative class, non-traditionally educated, single and childless.
Not in that order; no, I will not be ordered or made to feel like I must prioritize my selves to suit the groupthink of any one group that can lay claims to me.
And that is what this is all about.
The touch, the feel of comfort and also of being seen and counted when the media renders you invisible.
My gay pride looks different so it’s often misconstrued for something else; what that something else is you’d have to ask the seer.
I have noticed during more than 25 years of paying attention to it that many gays and lesbians of color in this still greatly segregated city further segregate ourselves because sometimes we feel pressure from somewhere unnamed and wordless to choose between our selves of color and our same-sex-loving selves.
And this past Pride weekend was no different.
With very few exceptions, lesbians of color all flocked together — in the same place — while white lesbians all congregated in another room.
This could have been merely cultural.
At Northside Tavern on Final Fridays the Hip Hop DJ collective Selecta’s Choice holds down a dance party. The June installment coincided with Cincinnati’s Pride celebration and the front room where Hip Hop was played was a blackout; meanwhile, a steady and thick succession of white (mostly) lesbians made their way to the back room. And the regular parade of Northside hipsters, maybe confused by the whole thing, congregated on the smoking patio.
Since when is Hip Hop the domain solely of blacks?
Hip Hop is still one of the few trans-racial and cross-generational music genres.
And since when don’t black lesbians want to party with white lesbians and vice versa?
Well, for a long time, actually.
I have never been able to successfully connect those dots and while there are, of course, black and white women who love outside their respective races, the ones I know choose camps: The black-loving white women are with us and the white-loving black women are with them.
I guess in theory I am “glad” the Supreme Court has seen fit to give us their straight-based blessings and allowed us to receive federal benefits and all the left coast freaks can now marry en masse.
I wouldn’t be a card-carrying dyke if that didn’t please me.
But down here on the ground where I live, it registers barely a blip on the radar spanning my geography.
At a journalism awards reception last week an openly gay white colleague asked me my thoughts on DOMA and the Voting Rights Act, the other big-ticket item the Supreme Court ruled on along with DOMA.
Ruefully, I said, “Either way, I’m screwed.”
Color denies me the full happiness of gay rights; one side of me gets superficially satisfied, and the side everyone can see — my black side — is left swinging in the cold.
Chief Justice John Roberts justified the ruling that put the kibosh on crucial Voting Rights Act protections signed into law by President Johnson for voters of color — particularly in Southern states — by blithely saying, “things have changed.”
True, they have.
But since the two terms of our first black president and all the media verbiage around post-blackness, “things” have stayed precisely the same and other “things” have regressed to 1955 Selma.
There are layers to the kind of happiness most felt when the DOMA ruling was announced. Likewise, there are still more layers to the Voting Rights Act ruling, which brings me to that age-old “Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine” game blacks and gays have played for generations.
In Stonewall Uprising, a PBS documentary about the bloody 1969 gay-rights upheaval at Stonewall Inn, several gay eyewitnesses and survivors equated the event with key black civil rights moments.
One person even went so far as to call it their “Rosa Parks moment.”
I sat bolt upright in bed and talked back to the television, much like ghetto blacks do to movie screens at the multi-plex.
All the beatings, arrests, blacklisting, marches, lost jobs and families and the death scourge of AIDS are enough to stand alone and to comprise a serious movement that doesn’t need the help or lousy metaphors of another, completely different movement, though they share many of the same violent, repressive aspects.
And what white gays who want to glob onto the black civil rights movement fail to realize is that by doing so it lessens the effect of each movement and it makes gays look like crybaby appropriators when that may not actually be the intention.
Conversely, I have never heard a gay or straight black civil rights activist compare the black movement to the gay movement.
Bayard Rustin, the openly gay and brilliant black activist who organized the march on Washington never publicly said, “This is our Stonewall moment.”
Because in those moments his choice was black, as the black Southern preachers pressured Martin Luther King, Jr. to get rid of the queer.
At the end of it all, I am choosing to be Kathy Y. Wilson when I say that the absence of people of color in the Pride Issue of this paper last week made my pride clearer.
I am proud to be bothered.
CONTACT KATHY Y. WILSON: firstname.lastname@example.org