OPINION: This is why Billy Porter is absolutely right

A few weeks ago, Tony and Emmy award-winning actor, singer and LGBTQ activist Billy Porter, (Kinky Boots, Pose) received some backlash from both the LGBTQ community and the Black community when he spoke out about racial injustice in America while also calling out rampant homophobia in the Black community. 

The Black community, in particular, took issue with his comments for various reasons. Many of them rooted in the belief that being Black is not a “choice”, and that Black people do not have to “condone” homosexuality in order to believe in the value of Black lives. 

Many of this thinking is rooted in the same thing that racism is rooted in: Colonialism. There’s a whole history regarding why Black communities around the world tend to be more religious — and thus more homophobic — than White communities. Many of the morals and standards in the Black community are rooted in Christianity, even if the ones upholding these ideas aren’t necessarily Christian themselves. 

Christianity has been bulldozed into many Black communities throughout the Americas, the Caribbean and Africa by White Christian missionaries since the beginning of European colonialism. The effects have lasted centuries. 

However, at this point, the responsibility of dismantling this homophobic system of thinking in the Black community belongs to Black people, in the same way that dismantling racism is the responsibility of White people. However, it gives a bit of historical context as to why being both Black and gay has been so difficult — And this is what Billy Porter is talking about. 

As a Black gay man, it sometimes feels as if these are two very important sides of your identity that continuously clash with one another — Black people refuse to accept, acknowledge or condone your queer identity, while White queers remain racist and do very little to dismantle White supremacy or challenge their problematic views. 

For anyone having trouble seeing this, I would like to call your attention to two posts I saw recently. The first post, in which a gay White Republican accuses Black people of trying to “colonize” Pride month, reads: I’m sorry, blacks, but you already have a month. Juneteenth isn’t a thing. Don’t colonize our month as well. Thanks. Signed, the gays. 

The post is problematic for MANY reasons. But let’s break it down, shall we? 

“I’m sorry, blacks, but you already have a month. Juneteenth isn’t a thing.” Obviously he’s referring to Black History month, which is February in the US, and October in the UK. Black History month is an annual observance in which we celebrate the accomplishments of Black leaders all over the world. 

However, Juneteeth is literally history, as it commemorates the June 19, 1867 announcement that freed the last remaining US slaves in Texas. Although the Emancipation Proclamation had formally freed slaves in America two years earlier in 1865, Texas was slow to move on the proclamation for various reasons, including a low presence of Union troops. 

Also, he seems to also forget that a Black trans woman, Marsha P. Johnson, and a biracial lesbian, Stormie DeLarverie, were among the first two people to start the 1968 Stonewall uprising, which was the catalyst for what is now LGBTQ Pride month. Juneteenth came before Pride month, and there would be no Pride month without Black people. 

“Don’t colonize our month as well.” Isn’t this just ironic? It literally speaks for itself. If anyone should know about colonization it would be a white American, right? 

“Thanks. Signed, the gays.” Which gays, exactly? What he should have said was “Signed, the WHITE gays”, because this is exactly what he means. “The gays” would include gays of every race, including Black people. Not acknowledging intersectionality is the LGBTQ community is toxic. 

The other post comes from the now deleted Twitter account of a Black woman, and reads: “How can a homosexual rep Black Lives Matter when their lifestyle doesn’t even create Black lives.”

This post is also problematic for MANY reasons. Let me explain.

Gay people can rep Black Lives Matter because many LGBTQ people are also Black, and they also matter. The statement isn’t “Black Lives Matter, except…” It’s BLACK LIVES MATTER. ALL Black lives, Period. 

The statement also seems to suggest that the only way to value Black life is to have the ability to reproduce Black life, which is illogical. This logic basically goes against what the entire Black Lives Matter movement is attempting to accomplish. With this logic, why should White people care about Black lives? Why should anyone but hetersexual Black people care about Black lives? 

It all just proves that what Billy Porter said was absolutely valid. There’s clearly a lot of racism in the gay community and a lot of homophobia in the Black community. In order for us to move forward, we have to be committed to calling it out and changing it. In order for Black lives to matter, ALL Black lives must matter.

Kyle Jackson

Kyle Jackson (He/Him) is Senior Staff Writer at Gray Jones Media, and additionally works as a writer, editor and theatre artist/actor. A native of New Orleans, Louisiana, he studied at Dillard University, received a BA in Theatre from Morgan State University, an MS in Arts Administration from Drexel University, and completed the British American Drama Academy’s Midsummer in Oxford Programme in 2017. Having lived in Baltimore, the Washington, DC area, Philadelphia and New York City, he now resides and works in London, United Kingdom.