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News > U.S.

Black LGBT Activists Celebrate Stonewall Riots

  • Marchers dance as they take part in the 2019 World Pride NYC and Stonewall 50th LGBTQ Pride Parade in New York, U.S., June 30, 2019.

    Marchers dance as they take part in the 2019 World Pride NYC and Stonewall 50th LGBTQ Pride Parade in New York, U.S., June 30, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 1 July 2019

Black LGBTQ people face particularly serious problems in their dealings outside the gay community, said activist David Johns.

Black LGBTQI+ activists are celebrating advances since the historic Stonewall riots in New York - while continuing to face serious discrimination and ill-treatment.

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Some 15,000 people took part in Saturday's Harlem Pride parade, an offshoot of New York's larger Pride March on Sunday. The setting was a neighborhood long synonymous with African American culture.

On Saturday, at New York City’s Stonewall Inn, multiple witnesses reported on social media long-simmering tensions between transgender women of color and white gay men during the celebrations, when an unidentified transgender Black woman wanted to address the crowd inside the Greenwich Village gay bar where patrons fought back against police harassment 50 years ago, birthing the LGBTQ movement.

She arrived unannounced during a drag show, drawing an unfriendly response at first. The crowd eventually warmed and she was given the microphone and spoke for 12 minutes.

"It's important that we have a community for gay people, especially African American gay people, because you don't really hear too much about them," Leon McCutcheon, who is Black, gay and 60, told AFP.

Raising the group's visibility is an important part of the work of the National Black Justice Coalition, of which David Johns is executive director.

"Many of the gains that have been made associated with the gay liberation movement... exclude people like me who are equally proud of being both black and queer," he said.

"It is ironic," Johns added, that some people "somewhat take for granted being able to wear rainbows and march in a parade and take up space and draw strength from being queer, when Black LGBTQ people are still erased."

In 2017, of 52 killings in the U.S. of non-heterosexuals, 71 percent targeted people of color, according to the Anti-Violence Project (AVP).

Just since the beginning of this year, 11 black transgender women have been murdered, the Human Rights Campaign has reported.

Violence also embodies itself as discrimination. A 2009 study by the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity found that 32 percent of the children of gay Black couples lived below the poverty line, compared to 13 percent for black heterosexual couples.

Johns said black LGBTQ people face special challenges because of their double identity.

"And in too many communities and spaces throughout America, people are ill-equipped to have conversations about identity," he said.

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