Bayard RustinI’ve been fond of quoting Bayard Rustin on the job of the gay community. Here’s the quote I’ve often referenced:

“[T]he job of the gay community is not to deal with extremists who would castigate us or put us on an island and drop an H-bomb on us. The fact of the matter is that there is a small percentage of people in America who understand the true nature of the homosexual community. There is another small percentage who will never understand us. Our job is not to get those people who dislike us to love us. Nor was our aim in the civil rights movement to get prejudiced white people to love us. Our aim was to try to create the kind of America, legislatively, morally, and psychologically, such that even though some whites continued to hate us, they could not openly manifest that hate. That’s our job today: to control the extent to which people can publicly manifest antigay sentiment.”

~Bayard Rustin; From Montgomery to Stonewall (1986)

But that paragraph I often quote as a bit before the “[T]” of “[T]he job of the gay community…” — the whole paragraph is as follows (emphasis added):

There are four burdens, which gays, along with every other despised group, whether it’s blacks follow slavery and reconstruction, or Jews fearful of Germany, must address. The first is recognize one must overcome fear. The second is overcoming self-hate. The third is overcoming self-denial. The fourth is more political. It is to recognize that the job of the gay community is not to deal with extremists who would castigate us or put us on an island and drop an H-bomb on us. The fact of the matter is that there is a small percentage of people in America who understand the true nature of the homosexual community. There is another small percentage who will never understand us. Our job is not to get those people who dislike us to love us. Nor was our aim in the civil rights movement to get prejudiced white people to love us. Our aim was to try to create the kind of America, legislatively, morally, and psychologically, such that even though some whites continued to hate us, they could not openly manifest that hate. That’s our job today: to control the extent to which people can publicly manifest antigay sentiment.

With Bush campaign chief and Former RNC Chair Ken Mehlman coming out as gay in this past week…well, it’s left me wondering if we, as a community, have even come close to overcoming the first three burdens that Bayard Rustin identified.

I’m not so sure. Ken Mehlman seems one of many closeted, and/or recently uncloseted, gay community members to indicate that fear and self-hate — those characteristics of internalized homophobia — is alive and well within the gay subcommunity of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community. And, that those in the leadership of our LGBT civil rights organizations still apparently satisfied to be in the back rooms discussing LGBT issues and sipping cocktails with our nation’s politicians, and not dissatisfied enough to privately and publicly demand action on LGBTQ legislation regarding freedom, equality, and justice from our nation’s politicians…well, that too seems to indicate that internalized homophobia is alive and well within the gay subcommunity of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community.

It seems to me too that those who identify as transgender, transsexual, or as both transgender and transsexual, haven’t overcome the first three burdens as yet, and are likely significantly further behind the curve that the rest of the LGBTQ community. The trans subcommunity of the LGBTQ community seems to have an awful lot of internalized transphobia within its members. As a group, we seem more than a bit bitter and angry too.

So, what are your thoughts on the four burdens? Do you believe LGBTQ community has significantly overcome the first three burdens?

~~~~~~

Further reading:

* Gay & Lesbian Times Transgressive collumn: Bayard Rustin at the intersections of minority communities