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Question About Real Gay Community

Lots of controversy in the community over the last several weeks.

On April 23, a Colorado jury found Allen Ray Andrade guilty of first degree murder in the death of Angie Zapata, a transgender woman whose skull was crushed with a fire extinguisher in July 2008. Andrade was also convicted of a hate crime.

Despite the horrific nature of the crime, and Andrade’s attempt to use a “trans panic” defense, most LGBT media did not provide extensive coverage of the trial. Despite the presence of transgender blogger/reporter Autumn Sandeen at the trial, most LGBT media relied on mainstream outlets for their information. Ironically, the organizations who were most often quoted in LGBT media, which included the Los Angeles Times, TruTV (formely Court TV), the Associated Press, and the New York Times, did not hesitate to use Sandeen as a resource.

Was this an honest mistake? Why did the New York Times know Sandeen was there but not the Advocate?

In other media news, Michael Musto of the Village Voice recently posted an inflammatory entry on his blog claiming that bisexual men don’t exist and that they are really gay men who haven’t come to terms with their sexuality (he had no opinion about bisexual women). The topic was picked up by articles in the San Francisco Gate and The Daily Beast and popular gay blogs like Queerty, where conversation usually disintegrated into accusations that bisexuals were harming gays and lesbians by giving antigay forces “evidence” that sexuality was a choice, and bisexuals claiming they were “legitimate people” and ostracized by heterosexuals, lesbians, and gay men.

These stories make me question the strength of the relationship of transgender people and bisexuals to the lesbian and gay community. Zapata’s case was not the first time that transgender folks have felt like they were abandoned by the gay community. Recall the furor over the Employment Non Discrimination Act, a federal law legislators have proposed since the 1970s to protect people from homophobic employment practices. In 2007, there was a great deal of controversy because prominent figures like Barney Frank and the Human Rights Campaign advocated excluding transgender people from the bill on the basis that it would make it easier to get the bill passed.

There is a belief held among some in the community that transgender men and women should not be grouped with lesbians and gays. This is despite a history of being on the front lines of the struggle for gay rights going back to Stonewall. Locally, Marissa Richmond made history as the first transgender delegate in the 2008 Democratic presidential convention. Transgender attorney Shannon Minter was the main voice arguing that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional in front of the California Supreme Court earlier this year. So don’t tell me that trans people aren’t invested in the movement for gay rights.

As the comments on internet message boards proved, many gays and lesbians would also like to see bisexuals removed from the community. Some lesbians and gay men are proud to put their bi-phobia out there for all to see, saying they’d rather be alone rather than date a bisexual person. Yet the main reason I saw for people’s discomfort with bisexuals, the fear that they are promiscuous, is the same charge leveled at gay men by conservatives. I think it’s sad that we are utilizing the same logic as our foes, even if it’s subconscious.

Debating who does or does not belong to the “community” plays itself out in various ways beyond online forums. We see it in the people the mainstream gay media decides to place in the forefront of magazines, television programs, and movies. Previously, I wrote about how the Advocate’s decision not to place Wanda Sykes on its cover was a missed opportunity to counter the idea that gay really means white. Organizations have battled perceptions that they don’t appreciate diversity for many years. Even when it comes to victims of homophobic hate crimes, you can see some people being considered “more worthy” than others. Why do we acknowledge Matthew Shepard a decade after his death, but seem to forget people like Sakia Gunn or Angie Zapata as soon as they die?

Is there a real LGBT community, or are we a bunch of letters grouped together for convenience?

From “Blackout” for 4/27/09 by Anthony Rucker


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