I found a 2011 peice I wrote in resonse to Monique Ruffin’sDecember 2011 piece “It’s official gay is the new black” over on the Huffington Post; I share it to show how my argument, for better or worse, has not changed, and also to show how I stated before, this claim is not new. (I have also wrote about this at least 3-4 years ago in St Louis’ The Vital Voice) My old piece:
“Gay is the new Black” (GITNB); it is witty, catchy, and T-shirt consumer ready but the problem is it is overly simplistic and blatantly wrong. Monique Ruffin’s well intentioned article is simply the latest entry in a campaign to equate sexuality-based oppression with race-based oppression. An awareness is needed; we must look at the phrase “gay is the new black” and recognize that it simultaneously conflates oppression with fashion and replaces one oppression with another. We must ask ourselves: what does this mean and what are the consequences of this? In order for this to be true then one of two things must occur; either race-based oppression has ended (When did this happen?) or caring about race-based oppression is passé and tired. The consequences of this sentence, this campaign are many and profound:
- While articles like Ruffin’s are quick to, rightfully, take the black church to task for its homophobia, they also treat the black culture as one monolithic being that is fully homophobic. They reduce us to flattened people; people void of nuance; people without a complicated history when it comes to queer sexuality and queer people.
- The GITNB crowd leave unexamined, unmentioned, un-confronted the ways gay culture is in many ways deeply racist and rushing after privilege; it does not question how the gay rights movement tries desperately hard to break down the walls between gay men and white male privilege not to destroy that privilege but instead to partake in it.
- GITNB thinking does not recognize that there are queer people who are gay and black, gay and latino, gay and Asian, gay and American Indian, gay and mixed-raced and that we therefore experience multiple forms of oppression from multiple places of origin; due to this, our voices are often silenced except for those few of who are trotted out to support the idea that our raced communities are more homophobic than mainstream (i.e. White) America. (Never-mind that many white gay peoples have historically fled their original mostly white neighborhood to set-up gayborhoods, or that every single piece of homophobic, anti-gay, anti-queer legislation has been passed by majority white legislatures.)
- Finally GITNB ignores the fact that we live in a world of multiple oppressions–W.E.B. Du Bois statement ““for the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line” is no longer true; the problem of the Twenty-First Century is the problem of Lines. We live in a world where many of us occupy roles of oppressor and oppressed; I am black, queer, fem, fat, dark, but I am also male, educated, and middle class; I have my privileges and to run from this is to be part of the problem.
It does no good to say “gay is the new black”; gay will never be the new black because black will always be black and gay will always be gay, and it is not that the two will never meet; it is that they already do and always have as long as these subjectivities have existed. Oppression by nature, as power’s enabler, works diffusively and creatively in multiple simultaneous ways–each feeding the other. We need articles detailing how oppressions are linked and examining the real world effects of these links (see the handling/reporting of the Lawrence King murder case).
Of course I could be flip and write what a friend of mine wrote to me on my Facebook page regarding Ruffin’s article; he wrote “when will they say ‘Big is the new Gay’?” I replied “You know never; gay people hate big people, especially [us] gay fat people, too much to let that happen.” But I can’t write that because that is like gay racism, we just can’t talk about that–hurts our mainstream campaign by showing that like others we oppress as we are currently being oppressed.