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Black, LGBT, American: A search for sanctuaries

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The Advocate
|
July 15, 2013

On May 17, Mark Carson, a 32-year-old black gay man in New York City, was murdered in gay-friendly Greenwich Village by homophobes wielding a 38-caliber revolver. I did not know Carson, but I feel I have encountered him on countless occasions. I encounter him when I speak with the young, mostly black and brown people we serve at the Hetrick-Martin Institute where I work. I encounter him when I look in the mirror. My life, like his, like that of many of the kids I work with, has been shaped by the multiple identities that mark me. I am black, but rendered invisible within most mainstream LGBT movements. I am gay and have been ostracized by the homophobia of other black people. I am male and realize that my privileges are not granted to black lesbian and trans women. Like Carson, my personal experiences are often missing from narratives of gay progress.

Hundreds attended a march on May 20 in Carson's memory. While I was moved by the solidarity, I knew that if Carson hadn't been gay, 1,500 (mostly white) LGBT-supporting people would not have been out on the street protesting a black man's murder. I don't even know if I would have been standing at a busy intersection in Greenwich Village, where a makeshift memorial now stands. I stood in front of the memorial and remembered my own experience on the same block several months ago. I remembered the fact that in most gay spaces my blackness is pronounced, in some black spaces my queerness is animated, and in both spaces I have experienced a lack of safety.