Wednesday, November 20, 2019

As a Black Gay Man, this is what I think of Mayor Pete

I like Mayor Pete.  He speaks well.  He carries himself with the air of an educated man who has served his country with pride.  He served with the blissful ignorance of not knowing that the very country he served could have cared less about his dreams and struggles as a gay man.  I don’t know Mayor Pete personally, but I know enough of him to be proud that if elected to be President of the United States, he will be the first person of the LGBTQ community to do so.

It is this community that binds us.  We are wrapped in the same pain that every man who belongs to this community shares.  At one time or another, we shared the same triumphs and pitfalls that every man and woman who holds his or her head up and announces to the world who they are without wincing in shame.

Mayor Pete was well into his thirties by the time he realized who he was.  I don’t know what his journey to his true self entailed.  I don’t know how many tears he shed at night before coming to terms with the fact that he identifies as a homosexual.

I shed those same tears.

We are cut from the same cloth.  But while I acknowledge willfully that I am looking forward to seeing how his potential candidacy will play out, I wonder what his nomination will mean for me personally

I came out of the closet in 1979; the year that I graduated from high school.  I was in awe of a world that I had hoped would embrace me.  My world became a whirlwind of disco music, socializing and late nights at the local diner. It also included writing for Philadelphia’s local gay publication, “Philadelphia Gay News.”
 I found out very quickly that I was not welcome in all circles of the gay community.  I found out that the same group of people that welcomed me also rejected me.  I found out that some aspects of the gay community shunned Black and Latino gays by implementing questionable carding practices to keep their patronage white.  I found out that youth was not always the sign of beauty; unless that youth was white.  I became acutely aware that racism had nestled itself quietly within a community that I thought I belonged to.  Ads that ran in local gay publications for men seeking potential partners were often followed by the descriptive, “No Fats, no Blacks, no Fems.”

And yet, this is where Mayor Pete and I come from.  So, I wonder if he is capable of seeing me; a part of his community that needs to be represented just as much if not more than the white gay community.  I am curious if he can represent me as my voice (and people like me) will be raised in the hopes of his becoming our nominee for the presidency.

"We are cut from the same cloth.  But while I acknowledge willfully that I am looking forward to seeing how his potential candidacy will play out, I wonder what his nomination will mean for me personally." ~ J.L. Whitehead

And while I raise my voice for him, I silently wonder if he can represent a portion of my community that has always been pushed aside.  My mind wanders to the plight of trans women of color.  I can’t help but wonder if he can truly see the “us” that makes up the gay community of color.

I didn’t know that racism existed in the gay community.  I found out very quickly that it did.  It wasn’t just because of the carding practices at some of the white clubs.  It wasn’t that at one time, the newspapers that circulated in the gay community relegated the issues and concerns of the gay community of color to a side note; a blurb buried in the middle of its publication never to be seen or addressed at all.

We are tolerated.  But we have not been fully embraced.  I don’t know what Mayor Pete’s stance is on issues that pertain to communities of color.  I don’t know if he will properly represent me as well as people that look like me.  I’m not sure of this at all.  I also don’t know if Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders will represent me either.  After all, the African American community has grown accustomed to our issues as well as what matters to us being pushed aside.  We are used to our needs and wants being dismissed as casually as someone would swat away bothersome fly on a hot summer day.

Will he gain the support of the African American community?  Will he talk to us and address our needs and wants?  Or would his support of the very community that he comes from condemn his elect-ability? 

I’m not sure.  Only time will tell.

~ J.L. Whitehead

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