The Black Futures Lab, dedicated to building political power for underrepresented groups, recently produced a report entitled “When the Rainbow is Not Enough: LGB+ Voices in the 2019 Black Census.
The report is drawn from the same survey of more than 30,000 respondents that also produced a report on what black Americans want to see in terms of political change. It purports to be the largest survey of black folks in the United States since Reconstruction more than 150 years ago.
Black Futures Lab conducted the census online after recruiting respondents in black businesses, churches, and barber shops. It partnered with PushBlack and Color of Change to ensure a broad range of respondents, including people who are homeless, incarcerated, LBGTQ, immigrants, mixed-raced folks, and yes, black Republicans and conservatives.
The second report is based on the responses of a subset of this larger group: The 5,400 black folks who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or who describe their sexual orientation as “other.” It came to about 17% of the survey’s respondents, higher than for the population as a whole.
Upwards of 80% of the LGB+ people surveyed support the right of same-sex couples to marry, including 92% of lesbian respondents. As a black lesbian who married in 2004 in San Francisco, had my marriage invalidated and then married again in 2008 (that marriage was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court but ended by divorce), I was heartened to see that.
The report found that respondents reported “high rates of disrespect and harassment, and violence.” Many reported being “treated with less courtesy than other people” as often as once a week.
And many respondents felt that black LGBTQ people “are perceived as distinct and separate from the larger black community,” even though they identify as members of both.
Often folks ask me if I identify as black or queer. While I cannot separate either from my identity, nor would I want to, if I was force to choose I would align myself with black communities rather than queer communities, as black communities are more inclusive and diverse.
According to the report, 41% of black same-sex couples are raising children. My fiancée and I have three children, one of them a minor teen.
A large number of respondents expressed high levels of concern with issues that go well beyond gay rights, including low pay, unaffordable health care and inadequate access to housing.
More than 70% identified “excessive use of force by police officers” and “police officers not being held accountable for misconduct” as major issues, with a whopping 90% reporting “police killings of black people” as a top concern.
The report concludes that public policy agendas must “consider intersections of race, class, sexual orientation, gender and gender identity, and must focus on economic justice and police accountability as well as on efforts to address racial bias and discrimination due to sexual orientation.”
Like all LGBTQ people, I am layered. I cannot just be viewed as just black or queer or a mother. My economic status, gender identity and more must be considered, along with my distrust of law enforcement. Politicians and policy makers must understand all of these complexities.
Kiki Monifa of Oakland, California, is editor-in-chief of BlackHistoryEveryday.com. This column was produced for the Progressive Media Project, which is run by The Progressive magazine, and distributed by Tribune News Service.