Although I have crossed the 40-year mark of adulthood, the territory that accompanies being black, female, and lesbian poses a continuous struggle 37 years after “Stonewall.” Still, as the gay marriage debate escalates, I’m not convinced the civil rights claims at the forefront of the gay and lesbian political platform echo those of the African American civil rights movement, as so many claim.

Historically, the gulf between the heterosexual and homosexual populations have been wide; however, members of both groups will likely agree that sexual preference outside the norm can be a liability. Since the loss of a major media market career and intentional exclusion from gay and lesbian social circles have peppered my perspective, I might inflame the men and women to whom I am connected by sexual preference. In fact, my take on the matter may land a little too close to the majority’s opinion for their comfort.

Earlier this year when the California Supreme Court announced that withholding same-sex marriage licenses was unconstitutional, throngs of gays, lesbians, and their supporters in every corner of America basked in the momentary victory. Countering this positive development, the gay community in Houston (where I live) sustained a slight slowdown in political momentum when the “good ‘ol boys” in the Texas House sent a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage to the State Senate for consideration. Subsequently, the Senate has decided that passage of the same sex marriage ban will be a voter-driven issue.

Additionally, the reaction from civil rights organizations has divided many African Americans. In a shift from the bastion of homophobia long associated with the black community, the California chapter of the NAACP made public its support for a bill that will legalize same-sex marriage statewide following this significant ruling. Undeniably, the wheels of justice are in motion but in reality’s bigger picture, securing full-fledged marital equality for gays and lesbians remains an uphill battle.

The marriage ban is a glaring inequity but more opponents might soften their stance if given clear-cut evidence of the severe threat it poses to the gay and lesbian concept of family. Consider today’s locked doors of legality for gays and lesbians who lose partners to death. In some instances, surviving partners lack legal protection to ensure equitable distribution of property and financial assets. Even then, next-of-kin who are void of compassion may retaliate with judgmental weapons blazing in an all-out lifestyle objection slugfest.

Under similar circumstances where children extend the gay or lesbian family, it is not uncommon for partners to suffer the humiliation of having to relinquish parental privileges. Though the legally binding partnership has its inherent advantages and disadvantages, most gay and lesbian couples in marriage-ready relationships are still eager to sip the bitter with the sweet. Unfortunately, a large segment of heterosexual America sees us as mere sexual beings, nothing more.

Still, since one’s choice of battle must be weighed carefully, my glass is not raised in celebration of victory without sizeable reservations.

It troubles me that the gay marriage movement is flimsily packaged by white gays and lesbians in the civil rights rhetoric written by African Americans. Banning same-sex marriage is not equivalent to Jim Crow laws, which made blacks second-class citizens.

Admittedly, I was remarkably naïve when I started unraveling the fabric of gay and lesbian culture. If racism was absent anywhere in America, I was certain it did not exist in the gay and lesbian community. After all, I had firmly latched onto the “We are Family’’ bandwagon as an unofficial gay and lesbian anthem during the heyday of disco.

Then, reality set in. On numerous occasions, I was asked to present multiple pieces of identification to enter predominantly white gay establishments. Then, I overheard the friend of a white associate whisper “you didn’t tell me she was a nigger” immediately after a chilly introduction in a local lesbian bar.

While gender and color are tangible, sexual orientation is not always so easily classifiable. The African American gay and lesbian community is extremely diverse; many don’t fit the stereotypical mold of “limp-wristed queens and diesel dykes.” In fact, some have gone to great lengths to remain in the closet for fear of career collapse and/or social retribution. Having experienced the former, I now never give my professional colleagues confirmation of my lesbian membership.

Some years ago, my career at an NBC affiliate was destroyed from the fallout of an unfounded and disparaging accusation directly related to my sexual orientation. I made what I considered to be a harmless remark that women in sports are often mistaken for lesbians to a female subordinate. Several weeks passed and I had no idea that news executives were conveniently churning my comment to seal a sexual harassment charge behind the scenes. Their action was even more suspicious since my termination came on the heels of a threat to legally resolve a clear case of gender discrimination with respect to compensation.

Perhaps some will conclude that I guided the career-slicing dagger when I insisted on more insightful media coverage as opposed to the endless footage of frolicking gays and lesbians to commemorate a celebration of Gay Pride. In the conservative minds of my peers, I assume the assignment editor directive I issued flung the closet door wide open.

I tried to revive my career several times but bad news travels fast in network-affiliate TV circles. Matters worsened when a highly regarded African American media coalition I had hoped to enlist dismissed my case as a “domestic issue.” Rising above the “trumped up” charges that ousted me from my newsroom perch was a slow and painful process.

Unlike some white gays and lesbians who push others to come out, I do not feel compelled, as a black lesbian, to follow an agenda that may feed microscopic inspection or voracious speculation in and out of the workplace. As the societal and political tones indicate, the waters of racial and sexual discrimination are still deep.

In fact, subtle or overt racism is never far from my daily experience. More often than not, race and gender prevail as magnets of discrimination long before sexual orientation. The burden of having to prove one’s worth when outfitted in black skin remains unchanged. Unfortunately, this burden is not alleviated in the gay community.

A paved road for white gays and lesbians does not necessarily smooth the bumpy road gays and lesbians of color are forced to travel. Systematic separation by class and color within the diverse gay and lesbian community is a well-kept secret that thwarts unity for all under the rainbow umbrella.

Some white gay and lesbian powerbrokers who head prominent organizations designed to protect our collective interests rarely deem it important to reference or rectify the social and political division that has long been in play. One would think that an examination of the weeds within our own yard would merit a discussion agenda entry at least.

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