I DO NOT NEED WHITE VALIDATION!
Whose responsibility is it to validate your existence? Whose job is it to pay attention to you? These two questions were on my mind as I thought about the role, if any; the White media should play in the lives of Black gay people. I also want explore the Gay Rights Movement, and the various groups that make up this collective movement.
I have noticed that some people, often Black, but not always, expect the White media, and White gays, to tell the stories of Black gay people. However, this is not a sentiment that I share. I do not need the White media, or the White gay community, to validate my existence as a Black gay person. I do not need the White media, or the White gay community, to pay attention to my life as a Black gay person. I believe that it is the responsibility of the Black community to pay attention to our community, and to validate the existence of our community. These are not jobs that can be performed by the White media or White gay community.
I do not want to suggest that the White media and White gay community can’t provide opportunities for the lives of Black gay people to be validated and paid attention, they can, and have many times. I’m thinking particularly of Patrick Ian Polk’s relationship with Logo. Here was an instance where a Black gay person paid attention to the lives of Black gay people, validated the lives of Black gay people, and worked with the White media, and White gay community, to utilize the platform they offered. There will, and has always, been these kind of working relationships.
My issue is with those who think that it is the responsibility of the White media, and White gay community, to create the Noah’s Arcs, to create the Rod 2.0′s, to be the Robert Jones Jr’s, to be the Staceyann Chin’s, that is not their responsibility, it is ours.
Many have argued that the Gay Rights Movement doesn’t focus on the issues and lives of Black gay people, but I think they are doing themselves and their community a disservice. We tend to think that a movement is a specific, tangible location that can be pinpointed to a certain location, but this is not true, or at least not in my mind. I believe that movements are anywhere we are, and that the first place we should look for a movement is among our own people. To suggest that the Gay Rights Movement is only a movement of White people, specifically White men, is to believe that the movement is only about them. Sure, they may have more access to the media, but since when did media attention become the defining marker of any movement? The issues that a movement seeks to address go on even when the cameras stop rolling, and when the websites aren’t receiving traffic.
I never felt like the Gay Rights Movement was only a movement of White people because I never looked to them to validate my existence or pay attention to it. I spend my time reading the writing of Black gay activists; I spend my time talking with passionate and critical Black gay activists. I could never come to the conclusion that the work these people are doing isn’t important simply because TIME Magazine, The Advocate, and Perez Hilton isn’t paying attention to them. I know The Feminist Wire is paying attention to these people, I know Rod McCollum is paying attention to these people, I know numerous publications geared towards the lives of Black gay people are paying attention to those people, to my people.
There needs to be a shift in the way that we look at things. I don’t believe in this White Supremacist notion that without the White gaze things are not taking place. Audre Lorde has as much to do with the development of the Gay Rights Movement as Harvey Milk. It is not up to White gay people to make that statement; it is up to Black gay people to make this statement. As I mentioned in the beginning, we have to validate our existence, we have to pay attention to us.
Black gay people are here, and we have always existed in the Gay Rights Movement. The crucial question now, as it always has been, is whether or not we are willing to see ourselves as being here. I see it, many other Black gay people see it, and I encourage you to see it as well.