African-American LGBT community

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The African-American LGBT community is part of the overall LGBT culture and overall African-American culture. LGBT (also seen as LGBTQ) stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer. The LGBT community did not receive societal recognition until the historical marking of the Stonewall Riots in 1969 in New York at Stonewall Inn. The Stonewall riots brought domestic and global attention to the lesbian and gay community. Proceeding Stonewall, Romer v. Evans vastly impacted the trajectory of the LGBT community. Ruling in favor of Romer, Justice Kennedy asserted in the case commentary that Colorado's state constitutional amendment "bore no purpose other than to burden LGB persons".[1]

Advancements in public policy, social discourse, and public knowledge have assisted in the progression and coming out of many LGBT individuals. Statistics show an increase in accepting attitudes towards lesbians and gays among general society. A Gallup survey shows that acceptance rates went from 38% in 1992 to 52% in 2001.[2] However, when looking at the LGBT community through a racial lens, the Black community lacks many of these advantages.[3]

Research and studies are limited for the Black LGBT community due to resistance towards coming out, as well as a lack of responses in surveys and research studies. The coming out rate of blacks is less than those of European (white) descent. The Black LGBT community refers to the African-American (Black) population who identify as LGBT, as a community of marginalized individuals who are further marginalized within their own community. Surveys and research have shown that 80% of African Americans say gays and lesbians endure discrimination compared to the 61% of whites. Black members of the community are not only seen as "other" due to their race, but also due to their sexuality, making them targets for discrimination from whites and their own community.[3]


Pre-Stonewall riot

Trans-woman Lucy Hicks Anderson, born Tobias Lawson in 1886 in Waddy, Kentucky, lived her life serving as a domestic worker in her teen years, eventually becoming a socialite and madame in Oxnard, California during the 1920s and 1930s. In 1945, she was tried in Ventura County for perjury and fraud for receiving spousal allotments from the military, as her dressing and presenting as a woman was considered masquerading. She lost this case but avoided a lengthy jail sentence, only to be tried again by the federal government shortly thereafter. She too lost this case, but she and her husband were sentenced to jail time. After serving their sentences, Lucy and her then husband, Ruben Anderson, relocated to Los Angeles, where they lived quietly until her death in 1954.[4]

Harlem Renaissance

During the Harlem Renaissance, a subculture of LGBTQ African-American artists and entertainers emerged, including people like Alain Locke, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Wallace Thurman, Richard Bruce Nugent, Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Moms Mabley, Mabel Hampton, Alberta Hunter, and Gladys Bentley. Places like Savoy Ballroom and the Rockland Palace hosted drag-ball extravaganzas with prizes awarded for the best costumes. Langston Hughes depicted the balls as "spectacles of color". George Chauncey, author of Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940, wrote that during this period "perhaps nowhere were more men willing to venture out in public in drag than in Harlem".[5]

During the first night of the Stonewall riots, LGBTQ African Americans and Latinos likely were the largest percentage of the protestors, because those groups heavily frequented the bar. Homeless black and Latino LGBTQ youth and young adults who slept in nearby Christopher Park were likely among the protestors as well.[5]

Post Stonewall riot

In 1983, after a battle over LGB participation in the 20th anniversary March on Washington, a group of African-American leaders endorsed a national gay rights bill and put Audre Lorde from the National Coalition of Black Gays as speaker on the agenda. In 1984, Rev. Jesse Jackson included LGB people as part of his Rainbow/PUSH.[6]

In 1993, Dr. William F. Gibson, national Chairman of the Board of NAACP, endorsed the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation and repealed the ban on LGB service in the military.[7]

On May 19, 2012, the NAACP passed a resolution in support of same-sex marriage.[8]

Some first African-American LGBT holders of political offices in the United States

State legislature (partial list)

Rhode Island

  1. Gordon Fox (D)


  1. Rashad Taylor (D)


  1. Althea Garrison (R)


  1. Pat Spearman (D)

North Carolina

  1. Marcus Brandon (D)


  1. Barbara Jordan



  1. Ron Oden (D)

New Jersey

  1. Bruce Harris (R)


New York

  1. Keith St. John (D)
    • 1st gay African-American public office holder
    • 1st gay African-American member of the Albany Common Council Alderman of the 2nd ward



  1. Darrin P. Gayles (D)

Economic disparities

The current federal law, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, prohibits employment discrimination. The federal law specifies no discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. The current federal law does not specify sexual orientation. There is legislation currently being proposed to congress known as the ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) that would include hindering discrimination based on sexual orientation, too. And most recently, the Equality Act. However, current policies do not protect sexual orientation and affect the employment rates as well as LGBT individual's incomes and overall economic status. The alone Black people in the United States of America as of the 2010 consensus is 14,129,983 people.[9] Out of that, it is estimated that 4.60 percent of the black population identify as LGBT.

Within the Black LGBT community many face economic disparities and discrimination. Statistically black LGBT individuals are more likely to be unemployed than their non-black counterparts. According to the Williams Institute, the vast difference lies in the survey responses of “not in workforce” from different populations geographically. Black LGBT individuals, nonetheless, face the dilemma of marginalization in the job market. As of 2013, same-sex couples' income is lower than those in heterosexual relationships with an average of $25,000 income. For opposite-sex couples, statistics show a $1,700 increase. Analyzing economic disparities on an intersectional level (gender and race), the black man is likely to receive a higher income than a woman. For men, statistics shows approximately a $3,000 increase from the average income for all black LGBT identified individuals, and a $6,000 increase in salary for same-sex male couples. Female same-sex couples receive $3,000 less than the average income for all black LGBT individuals and approximately $6,000 less than their male counterparts. (Look at Charts below) The income disparity amongst black LGBT families affects the lives of their dependents, contributing to poverty rates. Children growing up in low-income households are more likely to remain in the poverty cycle. Due to economic disparities in the black LGBT community, 32% of children raised by gay black men are in poverty. However, only 13% of children raised by heterosexual black parents are in poverty and only 7% for white heterosexual parents.


Comparatively looking at gender, race, and sexual orientation, black women same-sex couples are likely to face more economic disparities than black women in an opposite sex relationship. Black women in same-sex couples earn $42,000 compared to black women in opposite-sex relationships who earn $51,000, a twenty-one percent increase in income. Economically, black women same-sex couples are also less likely to be able to afford housing. Approximately fifty percent of black women same-sex couples can afford to buy housing compared to white women same-sex couples who have a seventy-two percent rate in home ownership.[11]

Black transgender people

Black transgender individuals face higher rates of discrimination than black LGBT individuals. While policies have been implemented to inhibit discrimination based on gender identity, transgender individuals of color lack legal support. Transgender individuals are still not supported by legislation and policies like the LGBT community. New reports show vast discrimination in the black transgender community. Reports show in the National Transgender Discrimination Survey that black transgender individuals, along with non-conforming individuals, have high rates of poverty. Statistics shows a 34% rate of households receiving an income less than $10,000 a year. According to the data, that is twice the rate when looking at transgender individuals of all races and four times higher than the general black population. Many face poverty due to discrimination and bias when trying to purchase a home or apartment. 38% of black trans individuals report in the Discrimination Survey being turned down property due to their gender identity. 31% of the black individuals were evicted due to their identity.[12]

Black transgender individuals also face disparities in education, employment, and health. In education, black transgender and non-conforming persons face brutish environments while attending school. Reporting rates show 49% of black transgender individuals being harassed from kindergarten to twelfth grade. Physical assault rates are at 27% percent, and sexual assault is at 15%. These drastically high rates have an effect on the mental health of black transgender individuals. As a result of high assault/harassment and discrimination, suicide rates are at the same rate (49%) as harassment to black transgender individuals. Employment discrimination rates are similarly higher. Statistics show a 26% rate of unemployed black transgender and non-conforming persons. Many black trans people have lost their jobs or have been denied jobs due to gender identity: 32% are unemployed, and 48% were denied jobs.[12]

Health disparities

Black LGBT individuals face many health risks due to discriminatory policies and behaviors in medicine. Due to lack of medical coverage and adequate medical treatment, many are faced with heath risks. There is no current legislation fully protecting LGBT individuals from discrimination in the public sphere concerning health care. President Barack Obama has recently written a memo to the Department of Health and Human Services to enact regulations on discrimination of gay and transgender individuals receiving Medicare and Medicaid, as well as to permit full hospital visitation rights to same-sex couples and their families. The United States of Housing and Urban Development proposed policies that would allow access and eligibility to core programs regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.[13] The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is currently working to be inclusive, as courts have recently passed interpretation of the ACA to prohibit discrimination against transgender individuals and gender non-conforming persons.


One of the greatest concerns in the Black LGBT community is sexually transmitted diseases, and one of the greatest STDs affecting the Black community is HIV/AIDS. Black people account for 44% of new HIV infections in both adults and adolescents. Black women account for 29% of new HIV infections. For black LGBT male-identified individuals, 70% of the population accounts for new HIV infections for both adults and adolescents. The rates of HIV for black LGBT men are drastically higher than their non-black counterparts.[14] One of the major factors that contributes to higher rates of STDs like HIV/AIDS is lack of medical access. Rather than a high prevalence of unsafe sex, it is caused by a limited supply of antiretroviral therapy in non-white communities.[15]

Depiction in popular culture

African-American LGBT culture has been depicted in films such as Patrick Ian Polk's Noah's Arc and Punks, Pariah, and Barry Jenkins' Moonlight, which not only has the main character as a gay African-American but is written by an African American and is based on a play by black gay playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney.[16]

In 2018, the critically acclaimed TV show Pose premiered, which is the first to feature a predominately people of color LGBT cast on a mainstream channel.

Atlanta Black Pride 2017

Black gay pride

Several major cities across the nation host black gay pride events focused on uplifting and celebrating the adult black gay community and culture. The two largest are Atlanta Black Pride and D.C. Black Pride.

Some notable people

See also


  1. ^ "Movement Analysis: The Pathway to Victory, A Review of Supreme Court LGBT Cases" (PDF). National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 March 2016. Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  2. ^ Newport, Frank. "American Attitudes Toward Homosexuality Continue to Become More Tolerant". Gallup. Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  3. ^ a b Gecewicz, Claire (October 7, 2014). "Blacks are Lukewarm to Gay Marriage, but Most Say Businesses Most Provide Wedding Services to Gay Couples". Pew Research Center. Retrieved December 2, 2015.
  4. ^ Riley, Snorton, C. Black on both sides : a racial history of trans identity. Minneapolis. ISBN 9781452955865. OCLC 1008757426.
  5. ^ a b Dis-membering Stonewall
  6. ^ Encyclopedia of Homosexuality, Volume 1
  7. ^ NAACP’s Long History on LGBT Equality
  8. ^ NAACP endorses same-sex marriage, says it's a civil right
  9. ^ "Households and Families: 2010" (PDF). CB. United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  10. ^ "LGBT Families of Color: Facts at a Glance" (PDF). National Black Justice Coalition. January 2012. Retrieved December 3, 2015.
  11. ^ Dang, Alain; Frazer, Somjen (December 2005). "Black Same-Sex Households in the United States" (PDF). National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute National Black Justice Coalition. Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  12. ^ a b Grant, Jaime; Mottet, Lisa; Tanis, Justin; Harrison, Jack; Herman, Jody; Keisling, Mara (2011). "Injustice at Every Turn" (PDF). National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-05-06. Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  13. ^ Burns, Crosby (July 19, 2011). "Gay and Transgender Discrimination Outside the Workplace". Center for American Progress. Retrieved November 30, 2011.
  14. ^ "HIV Among African Americans" (PDF). Centers for Disease Control. February 2013. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
  15. ^ Oster, A.; et al. (2010). "Understanding disparities in HIV infection between black and white men who have sex with men in the United States: data from the national HIV behavioral surveillance system". International Aids Society. Archived from the original on December 8, 2015. Retrieved December 6, 2015.
  16. ^ Gilbert, Sophie. "The Symbolism of Water in Barry Jenkins's 'Moonlight'". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2016-12-28.
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