THE HETEROSEXIST CONSTRUCTION OF BLACK RACIAL VICTIMHOOD
By and large, Black gay and lesbian experiences are marginalized in or excluded from antiracist discourse. The marginalization is achieved—wittingly or unwittingly—through the heterosexualized nature of some, though certainly not all, Black political engagements. Consider the Black civil rights intervention into the military’s "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy. The intervention was not to support gay and lesbians, many of whom are Black, but to critique the (white) Gay Movement’s "appropriation" of Black civil rights symbols, heroes, and rhetoric. The intervention opposed the analogizing of (Black) civil rights efforts to (white) gay rights efforts, and racism to homophobia.28
Of course, analogizing identity experiences is potentially problematic, not simply because the experiences being compared might not in fact be comparable, which is what many antiracist proponents were arguing with respect to racism and homophobia and which argument certainly has some force. Such analogizing is also problematic because the experiences being compared are not mutually exclusive or oppositional. Homophobia is racialized and racism, to employ Kendall Thomas’s term, is "sexuated"—that is, our racial experiences are shaped by, among other things, our genders and sexualities. Analogizing race and sexual orientation, racism and homophobia, obscures this rather obvious point. Lost in the analogy is the fact that one can be Black and gay at the same time. What does the antiracist assertion "Being Black and being gay are not the same thing" mean when the gay person imagined in the statement is Black? The antiracist challenges to race/sexual orientation analogies legitimized the disaggregation of Black identity from gay identity, rendering the existence of Black gay and lesbian life invisible.
The political exclusion of Black lesbian and gay experiences from antiracist discourse has at least three disturbing social meanings: (1) Black people are not gay, therefore, they are unaffected by homophobia; (2) Black gay and lesbian lives are not materially different from the lives of heterosexual Blacks; and (3) even if Black gay and lesbian lives are materially different from the lives of heterosexual Blacks, we should focus not on homophobia, which may or may not provide the explanation for the experiential difference, but instead on the moral and psychological basis for their sexual orientation—we should focus on "fixing the faggots." In short, antiracist discourse both denies and pathologizes Black gay life. Left unarticulated are the complex ways in which race, sexual orientation, and gender function as compounding categories of subordination.