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I Need a Black, Lesbian Role Model
While I hate those trashy news magazines, I also must admit that I get a little excited every time they report that Gayle King and Oprah Winfrey are lovers. It's almost like the moment I realized the possibility of having a black president was greater than the chances of a cold day in hell. And if these two women should ever come out of the closet, well for the first few moments all will be right in the world. You see, as a black lesbian, I have been searching for someone to look up to, and I am constantly coming up empty.
We like to think we are too old, mature; strong to need someone else to validate us, but the need for role models never dies. Our need is manifested in our constant search for representatives, advocates, and allies. Don't we get so excited whenever there is a lesbian role on daytime or prime time television? Whether we like to admit it or not, part if not all of the reason we watch shows like Greys Anatomy, Pretty Little Liars, and The L Word is to see relatable characters. We loved watching Snoop (Felicia Pearson) on The Wire. We anxiously anticipate the day that Queen Latifah admits that she is a lesbian. We even look for any hints of masculinity in black female celebrities to claim them as our own. Do you remember when everyone was buzzing that Alicia Keys was a lesbian simply because of her cornrows? The truth of the matter is that when President Obama came out in support of gay marriage, the lgbt community cheered a victory for obtaining an ally. We understood that his stamp of approval was needed to pass legislation and improve the image of the lgbt community. In the same way that we needed this ally, we need activist and spokespersons. We need open black lesbians to represent us on the national stage and subconsciously give us assurance in our everyday lives.
When I look around the black lesbian community, we are definitely lacking in this area. Sure we have those national figures that have greatly influenced writing but whose cultural influence is long gone such as Lorraine Hansberry; A Raisin in the Sun, Alice Walker; The Color Purple, and Octavia Butler; Kindred who are all black lesbians. No one should forget the political career of Barbara Jordan, who was the first African American female from a southern state (TX) to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and in whose obituary revealed she had a long term partner. But for the purpose of representing the black lesbian community, these figures are unappealing; and, to many contemporary black lesbians, the "out" black lesbians of today are just as unappealing role models. Wanda Sykes, Tracy Chapman, and Sheryl Swoop, who later recanted her affirmation of being a lesbian, simply will not work. Sure in pockets of America there are women like Simone Bell; the first African-American lesbian to serve in a U.S. state legislature from GA, and . Denise Simmons; the first openly lesbian black mayor of a U.S. city, Cambridge, MA. But truly there is no national figure who speaks on behalf of the black lesbian. We have no Ellen DeGeneres or Rosie O'Donnell. We have no Rachel Maddow or Melissa Etheridge. As a black lipstick lesbian I need a Portia de Rossi, Ellen's wife and a gorgeous woman.
I need a national figure to create a national dialogue. I know that Queen Latifah coming out won't change the world as we know it. There will still be some pastor in the pulpit spewing his venomous hate, and some mother disowning her daughter, and some idiot boss firing his lesbian employee, but I believe with a national spokesperson it will raise a national conscious and perhaps one less pastor, mother, boss will do what he or she would have done yesterday that day.
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