Tag Archives: LGBTQ people of color

Be a part of the Fringe!

This week, I’m taking a little detour from my typical format to talk in more detail about this new project I’m working on – and how you can potentially be a part of it. The working title for my new book is Fringe: On the Edges of the Mainstream Gay Community, which will explore the experiences of people who exist on the edges of the LGBTQ community. These groups include people who are bisexual, polyamorous, alt-sex/BDSM/kink, disabled, non-White, poor and/or working class, older, trans or genderqueer – groups that don’t get as much attention in the mainstream LGBTQ rights agenda, and who often experience marginalization within the LGBTQ community.

When I say “marginalization,” what do I mean by that? As an example, the other day I spoke with Dr. Keely Kolmes, who works with the bi, poly, and kink communities in her psychotherapy practice. Early in her career, when she decided to focus her research and therapeutic skills in this direction, she experienced all sorts of negative reactions – and many of those reactions came from members of the LGBTQ community. “Most of us who are gay aren’t like that,” a gay male professional made a point of saying.  The assumption behind that statement, of course, is that we want to be seen as normal by heterosexuals – not like those “freaks.”

Or take Dany Atkins, who is bisexual and gender-variant, and who has been in a triadic polyamorous relationship for almost two decades. She had previously been part of a quad relationship, and when the biological mother of their son decided to leave the quad, a fierce and ugly custody battle ensued – with little support from the LGBTQ community. “You got what you deserved,” one lesbian woman told Dany, who was denied any legal rights to her son.

We could even consider Phyllis Lyon (of Phyllis Lyon/Del Martin fame, the first couple to be legally married in San Francisco and under pre-Proposition 8 California law). If anyone has been a trailblazer in the LGBTQ community, it would be her. Back in the 1950s, Lyon and Martin started the Daughters of Bilitis, the first national lesbian organization in the United States. They helped start the Council on Religion and the Homosexual. They were the first out lesbian members of the National Organization for Women. As they got older, they started the group Old Lesbians Organizing for Change. The San Francisco LGBTQ community is what it is largely because of them. And while Lyon was once front and center in the LGBTQ community, at 88 years old, she now exists on the edges of it. In an ageist culture that celebrates youth, Phyllis Lyon finds little connection in the community she helped build.

That’s what I mean by “marginalization.” It happens within the LGBTQ community – even though we all know what it feels like to be a member of an oppressed group. And that’s why I feel so motivated to write Fringe.

But in order to make this project happen, I need your help.

First, I need to raise money in order to make this project happen. I invite you to take a look at my Fringe Kickstarter campaign, and please consider contributing whatever is possible for you. Also note that with your contribution, you will receive a reward – including a signed copy of Fringe, an opportunity to guest blog here on The Active Voice, or an invite to my book launch party, where many of the people I’ve interviewed for the book (including the three individuals listed above) will be present.

Second, I’m looking for additional people to interview for Fringe. I’ve completed about a half-dozen interviews so far, with another half-dozen lined up in the next few months. If you are a member of an “edge community” within the larger LGBTQ umbrella, I’d be interested in hearing your story. Note that the opportunity to be interviewed is also a reward for contributing to my Kickstarter campaign. If you think your story would be relevant to this project, please contact me at gaylepitman@activevoicepress.com.

Thank you for continuing to read The Active Voice and to engage in conversations about my reflections – whether those comments are made on the blog itself, in person, or backchannel via e-mail. These conversations have challenged me to consider issues I hadn’t considered before – and they’ve fueled my excitement for writing and learning more about the community I’m a part of. While I will continue to blog on The Active Voice, I invite you to be a part of this new direction I’m going in.


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Filed under biphobia, bisexuality, gender nonconformity, hate crimes, HIV/AIDS, homophobia, intersex, LGBTQ, LGBTQ youth, psychological research, racism, relationships, sexism, transgender, transphobia, Uncategorized

Black History Month: Gay Edition

February is Black History Month. It’s an opportunity to recognize the people and events that have shaped the African-American experience. It’s an opportunity to honor the significant civil rights milestones that have been achieved on behalf of the African-American community. And it’s an opportunity to acknowledge that true social justice and equality haven’t yet been achieved – particularly when it comes to the intersection between racism and homophobia. Homophobia exists in the Black community, particularly in the Black religious community. Racism, both overt and subtle, continues to be perpetrated in the LGBTQ community. And as a result, many LGBTQ people of color feel as if they exist on the margins, not feeling fully accepted by either the black community or the gay community.

So how does one find a sense of acceptance when neither community fully accepts you? Eduardo Morales, a clinical psychologist at the California School of Professional Psychology-San Francisco, has developed a multi-stage model chronicling the identity development process of LGBTQ people of color. Anchored in the fact that a strong polarization exists between the gay community and many communities of color, Morales focuses the crux of his model on the issue of selecting an allegiance. Should they align with their ethnic or cultural community, or should they side with the gay community?  Some may cope with this conflict by compartmentalizing their identities – perhaps creating a circle of Black friends, and a circle of gay friends, but never allowing the two circles to intersect. Others may choose to side exclusively with one group, particularly if it proves to be too messy and challenging to keep various circles separate. According to Morales, the healthiest resolution to this dilemma involves being able to develop a more fluid and contingent identity, moving from one community to another and maintaining an intact yet flexible identity.  

That last note sounds great, right? I think all of us would like to move freely through the world, experiencing acceptance from within, while adapting to the demands of whatever environment we happen to be in. And many of us learn to do exactly that. However, for members of historically marginalized groups, acceptance doesn’t just come from within – in fact, that’s why communities develop in the first place. We seek community because we want acceptance and validation from others. We seek community in order to bind together in solidarity. But the challenge for LGBTQ people of color is that no one community will necessarily guarantee unconditional acceptance. One aspect of identity is accepted and celebrated, while another is devalued and denigrated. It’s a huge challenge to develop a sense of internal integration when our external communities are far from integrated.

All that said, I think change is in the works. Consider these comments made by Joy Freeman-Coulbary, published last week in the Washington Post in honor of Black History Month:

“I am African-American. And . . . I find it highly ironic that such a large contingent of my fellow African Americans oppose another minority—those who identify as gays and lesbians—having the right to marry and access all of the benefits and rights this institution confers. Such opposition is counter to the basic tenants [sic] of equality and human rights.”

And consider the following, excerpted from a letter printed this week in the Kansas City Star, written by Rev. Gerald M. Palmer:

“Today I call for the church to be the voice of equality for our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters. The same elements of the church that sheltered the weary from the effects of racial prejudice and discrimination are there to shelter and comfort those facing prejudice and discrimination because of their sexual orientation. They are ready to again serve as echo chambers of voices calling out for love, social justice, equality and the end of religious-based homophobia. Homophobia leads to anti-gay violence, the fueling of HIV, the high rate of suicide among LGBT teens and other social issues that make life difficult for our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender neighbors. That is why during this Black History Month, I lend my voice to the others who are calling for a new day.”

I, too, lend my voice in the calling for a new day.


Filed under homophobia, human rights, LGBTQ, racism