Queer History: February
Special greetings to any queer siblings across The Pond, as February is the UK’s month of choice for celebrating our shared history!
And while that’s wonderful, I think we ought pay closer attention to the fact that it is also Black History Month in the United States, and make a point of honoring LGBT African Americans. While ideally their contributions and lives would never be forgotten or excluded, we know that isn’t the reality. If anyone reading this needs a reality check, consider this piece, part of an ongoing GLAAD series this month. Drawing on James Baldwin and Audre Lorde, two of our nation’s finest authors and bravest activists, we need the reminder of how folks live at different intersections of oppression, especially when so much of our movement, as skeptics and as queer folk, is dominated by white voices.
February 1999 also saw the first National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness day. Much like when people discuss the frightening statistics of murder, suicide, unemployment, or homelessness of transgender individuals, so to also when we talk about HIV/AIDS we gloss over a shameful but important part of the story behind these statistics when we don’t acknowledge how disproportionately black Americans are impacted by these things compared to white Americans.
Speaking of both invisibility and the intersection of black and trans issues, consider former JET cover girl and actress Ajita Wilson. Having obtained surgery in the 70’s, her trans status remained a secret until some time after her death in 1987. Though unknown then to us, she must be among those embraced as one of our forebears, and with her life story… she definitely showed a lot of forbearance. While you’re looking at that link, by the way, spend a good long while at the site and get yourself learned.
Folks here are among the many dedicated amateur historians looking to record our history, and for those looking for the kind of dates that involve legal turning points in the LGBT rights struggle specifically, then definitely check them out.
But it bears repeating, not just in February, but every day we must take it upon ourselves to ensure that the African American members of our family are not erased. This does not mean speaking for, nor does it mean being the gatekeepers of history and deciding who gets in.
More than anything, it means listening, and that’s an act of love, another thing we surely ought not limit to just February, true?
(featured image is a 1980 photograph of Audre Lorde, taken in Austin, Texas, and obtained from wikipedia)