The intersection of LGBT issues and the Black Lives Matter movement has been apparent to many since the inception of the BLM movement; however, relatively little has been said or done publicly to acknowledge the similarities (and differences) of these two minority groups and the power that could come from joining forces.
It’s a sensitive subject, addressing the connectivity of racial inequality and inequality based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Perhaps that’s why it hasn’t been talked about more. Race can’t be concealed and, therefore, the accompanying difficulties also cannot be. On the other hand, at least theoretically speaking, LGBT individuals can choose to conceal the traits that cause us to be of minority status. While such distinctive differences certainly speak to variation of experience, our goals are the same: protected civil liberties, the ability to be safe both physically and psychologically and the expectation of being accepted and respected within our communities and in society overall.
This past weekend, U.S. Women’s Soccer player Megan Rapinoe, an openly gay white woman, did what I would have if I were in her position: She knelt during the National Anthem before the start of a game on Sunday in a show of solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for the 49ers. He has been under fire since he did the same before the start of a preseason game last week. Kaepernick spoke of his actions as a statement against police brutality and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Rapinoe did so drawing on the connections between the Black Lives Matter movement and the inequalities experienced by LGBT individuals. She stated that she also plans to do the same during future games.
There’s no question about the fact that both Colin and Megan have outraged many Americans with the notion that no social or political movement is worthy of protesting one of the foundational traditions of our country; however, it is unreasonable to suggest that any successful protest can occur without upsetting some portion of the population. To create social change, we must get people’s attention, and to get people’s attention, political incorrectness is often essential. In some instances, that might include minorities perturbing other minorities with their methods and/or overall stances. For example, Toronto Pride this year was interrupted by a Black Lives Matter protest, but the smartest of us will recognize that we are stronger together.
The progress that the LGBT community has seen towards equality under the law has been among the quickest of any social-justice movement. This is largely because organizations like the Human Rights Campaign are headed up and supported by wealthy gay white people and, often, specifically white men, which makes the need for LGBT people to support to Black Lives Matter (both at organizational and grassroots levels) not only crucial but just plain logical. The hope is, in addition to helping to forward the cause, that black LGBT individuals will experience greater acceptance from the black community as a result.
As it relates to Colin Kaepernick, his actions were loud and have gotten the desired attention without saying a word, not an easy task. Even President Obama weighed in on this. He commented at a news conference during the G20 Summit that Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the National Anthem is sincere and shows that he “cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about.” He also pointed out that he is within his constitutional rights.
In following suit, Rapinoe modeled the behavior that we, as LGBT individuals of all races and ethnicities, should be doing: taking a stand to protect the rights of black Americans. As Rapinoe said, “Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties. It was something small that I could do and something that I plan to keep doing in the future and hopefully spark some meaningful conversation around it. It’s important to have white people stand in support of people of color on this. We don’t need to be the leading voice, of course, but standing in support of them is something that’s really powerful.”
When each and every American can look at our flag and feel that it waves for all of us, not just those of us who are white, or straight, or otherwise privileged, then and only then can we watch quietly from the sidelines.
Kristina Furia is a psychotherapist committed to working with LGBT individuals and couples and owner of Emerge Wellness, an LGBT health and wellness center in Center City (www.emergewellnessphilly.com).