Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bigots Attack Gay Positive Billboards in the Black Community

The We Are Part Of You Campaign originally began as a project by The New York State Black Gay Network and Boston's JRI Health to raise awareness.  The billboards are now appearing in the Schenectady-Albany corridor and are receiving a lot of negative feedback.     
The Rev. Alfred Thompkins, of Calvary Tabernacle, said the “I am gay” billboard message only encourages troubled youth to embrace homosexuality.

“A thirteen-year-old looks at these billboards and says, ‘That must be it, I must be gay,’ ” he said. “That goes directly against God’s purpose. As a resident of Schenectady, a pastor who works with young people, with families, frankly I’m really bothered by the message these send.”

Thompkins compared gay people to thieves and liars, saying he did not want anyone to join the ranks of sinners.

I'm surprised he didn't start quoting Leviticus to justify his bigotry. Statements like these are exactly why as a Christian woman, I cannot support organized Christianity in any form.  The God that I worship believes in love unequivocally. Far too often these ministers abuse their positions and harm the community, rather than acting with love as Jesus would.  Who is he to judge anyone, and furthermore; I find it hard to believe that he is completely beyond sin.  Modern life is not conducive to the conduct outlined in the bible.  A simple check on the fibers in his clothing would probably reveal that he sins everyday.  The truth is, this man is a homophobe and he is using God to justify his hatred. It is very easy to pervert the bible to support any kind of bigotry and I suggest that those that are intent on doing so, do Christianity and humanity a disservice.

 With or without a billboard, if a child is gay they are going to come to that determination on their own. When I first saw these billboards, I was extremely happy, because Black LGBT youth need to know that they are not alone.  In all of this worry about the poor children, why do these bigots never worry about the well being of LGBT kids?  With the extremely high rate of suicide in the LGBT community, it beehoves us to attempt to challenge our heterosexual privilege and offer any support that we can.  If we believe in the sanctity of life, then embracing our differences should be a priority not a cause for alarm.
Daycare provider Pamela Spicer told the City Council that the billboards were so vague they were worthless.

“These messages are a failure. I think the Department of Health needs their money back,” she said. “The intent is to instruct them not to spread HIV if they have it … That does not come across in the message.”
Instead, she said, the billboards allow “inappropriate sexual expression.”

She argued that the messages should be limited to adult business zones — mainly industrial areas at the outskirts of the city.

She told the council that her clients read the billboards as she drives them to events in the city. She offers daycare to a 2-year-old, 4-year-old and 8-year-old.

“When I’m driving them to the Schenectady Public Library and they say, ‘What does gay mean?’ how do I answer that question?” she said. “How do I expose them to such content?”
Again with the what about the children to defend homophobia.  I want to meet the 2 year old and the 4 year old that can read the billboard and ask questions about it btw.  Children are not damaged by learning that the heterosexual model of relationships that we have promoted as the norm, is not the only way that people participate in intimacy.  I know this because I started talking about two mommies and two daddies with my children about the age of three. They have learned that love is what is most important, and that they don't have the right to judge how people choose to express that love.  It is the adults who have a problem with two people of the same gender building a life together, not the children.  When we tell them that something is wrong, or that something is deviant, they internalize that message.  Homophobia, like every other ism is actively taught, it is not inherent. If anything the children would be better served to learn about LGBT people, because it will reduce bigotry and will have a positive influence on the kids that are LGBT.
City Councilman Joseph Allen agreed with both speakers, although he admitted that he hadn’t noticed the billboards.

“Now, I don’t care if you’re gay, straight or whatever, but I don’t think it’s necessary to advertise for them,” he said. “This is not kosher, as far as I’m concerned.”

He said the billboards could encourage teenagers to become gay.

“An adult, fine, you can do what you want,” he said. “But who’s going to read these? Young people, vulnerable kids. They don’t say, ‘Adult only.’ ”
He doesn't care whether people are gay or straight, but he cannot stand to see them flaunt their gayness, because it is damaging to children.  Why are gays and lesbians always accused of flaunting themselves just for existing in our world?  When straight people walk down the street holding hands and swapping spit, no one seems to be considered about flaunting then.  What about the ways in which sex is used to sell a myriad of products that children are exposed to daily?  Where is the concern about flaunting sexuality then?  You see, the issue is not about sexuality or sex being viewed by children, but them learning to oppress LGBT people like good little heterosexual bigots.  There is no reason why a gay man announcing his existence needs an 'Adult only'  label and in fact, the bigotry presented in the opposition teaches kids that oppression is a right of passage.

These billboards are a gift, because not only are they trying to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, they put a face to the LGBT members of our community.  They are gift to all who are questioning their sexuality in a hostile world and they are gift, for all of those who need to know that they are normal and not alone. They are a gift to heterosexual community in that it forces us to acknowledge that our sexuality is not the only option that is normal. With the high rate of bullying and suicide in the LGBT community, positive representation is exactly what is needed.  As with any push for human rights, those who are bigots will continue to cloak themselves in privilege and it is therefore important that those of us who are attempting to be allies to the community speak out loudly and forcefully.  Not only am I Black woman, I identify as Christian and I feel the need to say loudly and unequivocally that loving God and Black people includes loving our LGBT brother and sisters.  Community means accepting difference without demanding a price be paid.  It means ensuring that the least amongst us is safe and loved.