COAD News Buzz

Here’s a look at some COAD-related stories in the media:

Rev. Irene Monroe Wonders if Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Would Have Defended LGBT Equality

To honor MLK Day, African-American lesbian Reverend Irene Monroe wrote an op-ed for Bay Windows, the largest LGBT newspaper in New England. In her piece, “Would the public King have spoken out on LGBTQ  justice?” she revisits an on- going question that many civil rights and LGBT leaders have pondered over the years.

“As I comb through numerous books and essays learning more about King’s philandering, sexist attitude about women at home and in the movement, and his relationship with Bayard Rustin, I am wondering would King be a public advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer rights?"

She strongly believes so, but believes he would have paid a price for doing so.  She writes:

In the public address I gave at the Gill Foundation’s National Outgiving Conference in 2007, I said, "If Dr. Martin Luther King were standing up for LGBTQ rights today, the Black community would drop him, too."

King understood the interconnectedness of struggles. An example of that understanding is when Dr. King said, "The revolution for human rights is opening up unhealthy areas in American life and permitting a new and wholesome healing to take place. Eventually the civil rights movement will have contributed infinitely more to the nation than the eradication of racial justice."

This statement clearly includes LGBTQ justice, but would King have spoken on that subject at that time and even now? Yes, according to King’s now deceased wife.

In 1998, Coretta Scott King addressed the LGBT group Lambda Legal in Chicago. In her speech, she said queer rights and civil rights were the same. "I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King’s dream to make room at the table of brother and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people," she said.

Sadly, Bayard Rustin, the gay man who was chief organizer and strategist for the 1963 March on Washington that further catapulted Martin Luther King onto the world stage, was not the beneficiary of King’s dream.

In the Civil Rights movement, Bayard Rustin was always the man behind the scenes, and a large part of that had to due with the fact that he was gay. Because of their own homophobia, many African American ministers involved in the Civil Right movement would have nothing to do with Rustin, and they intentionally rumored throughout the movement that King was gay because of his close friendship with Rustin.

In a spring 1987 interview with Rustin in Open Hands, a resource for ministries affirming the diversity of human sexuality, Rustin recalls that difficult period quite vividly. Rustin said, "Martin Luther King, with whom I worked very closely, became very distressed when a number of the ministers working for him wanted him to dismiss me from his staff because [I was gay]. Martin set up a committee to discover what he should do. They said that, despite the fact that I had contributed tremendously to the organization ... they thought I should separate myself from Dr. King."

Read her piece in its entirety here.

14 Gay Men  Killed While HIV Clinic is Destroyed in Haiti

Fourteen men who worked for or accessed services from SEROvie, Haiti’s largest organization serving gay and transgender people with HIV, were  killed during last week’s earthquake in Haiti, according to International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

The Advocate reported:

The message of the men’s tragic death came from an e-mail SEROvie’s leader Steve La Guerre managed to send to IGLHRC asking for help.

“We were having our usual support group meeting on a quiet Tuesday afternoon when the worst happened.” La Guerre wrote. “The sound is unforgettable. I can’t even describe the horror as the ceiling and the wall of the conference room started to fall and the chaos started.

“It is now more than ever that SEROvie and ACCV (Civic Action Against HIV) are needed to provide the quality services we provide to our beneficiaries: food, clothes, and any type of help,” La Guerre continued. “Light a candle for these souls and for Haiti. Lord help us.”

IGLHRC executive director Cary Alan Johnson says that his group has sent funds directly to SEROvie to allow their services and supplies to continue to reach their clients. The group is also sending funds to Colectiva Mujer y Salud, a feminist Dominican organization that has crossed the border into Haiti to assist with direct relief to the LGBT community there. IGLHRC has provided a donation page, where Johnson said 100% of the funds collected “will go directly to our friends and colleagues in Haiti.”


Inside Higher Ed publishes article about murdered English professor Don Belton

Don Belton, openly gay novelist and University of Indiana professor was found dead in his apartment on December 29. The Chicago Tribune reported that that Michael J. Griffin confessed to killing Belton,  claiming that Belton had “sexually assaulted” him on Christmas Day.

In his piece "Love and Death in Indiana,"  for Inside Higher Ed, journalist Scott McLemee discusses the murder, the "gay panic" defense,  Belton's loved ones and his broad scope of work.

He had been friends with James Baldwin and lectured on him at the Sorbonne; the influence of the novelist and essayist on his own work was not small. One of his friends has quoted a passage from Baldwin that seems to epitomize Belton’s work: “Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within." Although I did not know the man himself, this touches the heart of his writing, which suggests a desire to go beyond, or beneath, the prescribed roles and rules governing “identity.”

This is easier said than done, of course. It is also dangerous; love can be dangerous. Belton wrote in his journal (to quote from the detective’s statement again) “that he is very happy that an individual by the name of Michael has come into his life.” It is not necessary to use pseudopsychological terms like “gay panic” to describe the response this created. Keep in mind that the killer brought his own special knife and a change of clothes. Arguably another vocabulary applies, in which it is necessary to speak of evil.

One of the remarkable things about the response to Belton's death is just how much of it there has been. Hundreds of people turned out for a vigil on New Year's Day (see video). There is a website called Justice for Don Belton. An open letter from the chair of his department has appeared on the departmental Web site. A memorial service will be held in Bloomington.

And Josh Lukin tells me that he is proposing a session called “Remembering Don Belton” for the next MLA -- a panel "engaging his scholarship, art, journalism, and pedagogy." Possible topics might include "his writing and teaching on black masculinity, Baldwin, Brecht, Mapplethorpe, Morrison, Motown, jazz, cinema, abjection," to make the list no longer than that.

"The guy's range of interests was huge," Josh says, "and he kept surprising me with his knowledge of critical texts, both recent ('Bowlby, Just Looking? Great chapters on Dreiser.') and more traditional ('Why not talk about Morrison using R.W.B. Lewis, American Adam?')."

Read his piece in its entirety here.