Sometimes it feels easy to answer the question “What is SEXx?” “It’s community events we do throughout the year on sex and sexuality,” I often reply. But that reply doesn’t fully capture our work.
Recently, gospel recording artist Kim Burrell was filmed giving a “homophobic” sermon at the Love and Liberty Fellowship Church in Houston. In this sermon, Burrell refers to “the perverted homosexual spirit.” Shirley Caesar, another well-known gospel singer and evangelist, recently defended Burrell by saying, “Kim should’ve spoken out against homosexuality four years ago, before the president made that stuff alright.”
Her bright blue eyes stared at me from across the fluorescently lit Target aisle. She had a bright pink bow wrapped around her bald head. Her little hands seemed to be reaching out to me. I ran down the aisle, carefully took her off the shelf, and ran to my mother. I cried and begged until my mother finally agreed to buy her for me. Doll in hand, I left Target feeling elated.
As a reproductive endocrinologist and fertility specialist, my day-to-day work, and indeed my passion, is to help individuals and couples alike start or grow their families through fertility treatment. As a gay physician, a particularly satisfying aspect of my job is working with LGBT patients who otherwise may not be able to have their own biological children. With the landmark Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges, which protects the fundamental right to same-sex marriage, taking effect just over a year ago, a natural progression from working to ensure the legal status of gay marriage to improving access to options for gay parenting has begun.
Early in the morning of June 12, 2016, the LGBTQ community was targeted. A deranged individual walked into Pulse nightclub in Orlando with a weapon of war and the intent to kill as many members and allies of our LGBTQ community as possible. Fifty-three people were injured; 49 others were killed, including 18-year-old Akyra Murray from Philadelphia. Akyra was out enjoying a night with her cousin and friend when her life was cut short by a hate-filled man who should never have had access to the military-style weapon he used. Akyra had just graduated from West Catholic High School. She was getting ready to start college and play basketball at Mercyhurst University in Erie. She was the youngest of the 49 killed that night.
Conversational space when it comes to issues of racial bias always seems to be co-opted by white cis-gender activists using a momentous issue to elevate their voice above the voices of black and brown community members, who they often identify as having oppositional politics or simplistic diatribes. It is a point of privilege to enter this conversation on race.
More than one year after marriage equality became the law of the land nationwide, President Obama, Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and my colleagues and I at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services continue to seize opportunities to improve the health and well-being of LGBTQ Americans.
I have been actively involved in, and at times considered a leader of, the Philadelphia LGBTQA community for many years. I have helped to form and lead numerous organizations meant to advance the interests of the LGBTQA community, including several long-existing HIV-related organizations and organizations aimed at enhancing the political influence of the community. In all of these activities, I have made the particular point that LGBTQA people come in all sorts and conditions, and that our community fails to be as strong and effective as it can be because we have allowed ourselves to be defined as white, male and middle to upper-middle class. This made me particularly unpopular, especially in the 1980s, when the media portrayed the typical person with HIV as a middle-class white gay male and I was among those pointing out that, since the beginning, LGBT people with HIV in Philadelphia have been predominately poor people of color.