An ugly blame game ensued after the passing of California’s Proposition 8, which restricted the definition of marriage to a union between a man and a woman. With exit polls reporting 70 percent of Blacks and 53 percent of Latinos/as supporting the ban on gay marriage, many white members of the LGBT community blamed people of color for the ban’s success.
The December issue of gay news magazine The Advocate stepped into the fray. The cover of the issue provocatively announced, “Gay is the New Black.” Although the cover story’s author, Michael Joseph Gross, dismissed blaming Black voters as a “false conclusion” and a “terrible mistake,” comments posted to the site took him to task for other reasons. Most comments strongly disagreed with Gross’ Black/gay comparison, but many others asked why communities of color and queer communities are still considered mutually exclusive in the mainstream LGBT rights movement.
A comment posted by “Greg J,” pointedly charged, “Gays of color, transgender, and yes, even lesbians are missing from the larger discourse of the gay rights struggle – primarily the gay marriage issue. The gay right’s movement was and remains the ‘gay, white, middle class’ movement!”
The Prop 8 fallout shows how much work remains to be done to connect the LGBT rights movement with other struggles for social justice across a spectrum of issues. Unfortunately, it may have taken the brutal murder of Ecuadoran immigrant Jose Oswaldo Sucuzhañay to highlight the invisibility of queer people of color – particularly queer immigrants – in LGBT rights discourse. His murder will hopefully provide an impetus for coalition building.
Jose Sucuzhañay and his brother Romel were attending a Sunday evening church party on December 7, 2008. They later decided to end the night with some drinks at a local bar in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn. The two brothers left the bar at 3:30 a.m. and walked home arm-in-arm to support each other. Three men drove up to the Sucuzhañay brothers, one man got out of the car and began to shout anti-gay and anti-Latino slurs at them. Continue reading