Gay rights are civil rights, says NAACP's Julian Bond

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LOS ANGELES - The NAACP at its convention here boldly held a public forum July 25 on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender issues, specifically dealing with homophobia and transgender prejudice within the African American community.

In the last two years the NAACP, with the leadership of Chairman Emeritus Julian Bond, put together a LGBT taskforce to help the African American community fight the challenges of homophobia and transgender discrimination.

Bond spoke on the taskforce's three-part mission:

  • to strengthen NAACP's knowledge of LGBT issues and policies;
  • to build relationships among LGBT civil rights and human rights organizations;
  • to advance awareness of LGBT issues "as they relate to overarching programs and interest of the NAACP."

In his opening, Bond, a veteran civil rights leader, said, "We know sexual orientation is not a choice. We know homosexuality is not a mental illness. We know you can't 'pray the gay away.'"

The event was organized as a town hall-styled meeting with audience participation and a panel that included famous gay African Americans, like comedian and actress Wanda Sykes and CNN Anchor Don Lemon who publicly came out in his memoir, "Transparent."

Bond said gay rights are another component of civil rights.

"Sexual disposition parallels race. I was born black and had no choice. I could not and will not change it if I could. Like race, our sexuality isn't preference. It is immutable, unchangeable, and the constitution protects us all from prejudices and discrimination based on immutable differences."

Many panelists and audience members spoke about the role of the church in the Black community, and the conflicts that have arisen from that relationship on the issue of LGBT rights.

Bond said although one might be a member of a church that preaches against a religious same-sex marriage that viewpoint should not be extended to same-sex marriage in city halls, as a civil right.

Sykes said her church experience pressured her from being truthful with her sexuality because of the ingrained notion that gay and lesbian relationships were fundamentally wrong. Such sermonizing can be lethal, she said, because of bullying and violence against LGBT youth and the high level of suicides.

"You just suppress everything and become this other person. You start living that life that you think that you're supposed to do. I worked it so hard I got married! It just hit me, like, wait a minute. Why aren't my relationships going further? Why can't I really open up? And I realized oh, that's right. I forgot; I'm a lesbian! That's what it is. You don't have breasts!" Sykes said to an applauding and laughing audience.

Sykes and other panelists urged the formations of social support groups, including within churches.

Halfway through the meeting, NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous joined the panelists on stage.

Jealous has been an outspoken supporter of LGBT issues and spoke briefly on his adopted brother being gay, and instances of defending him during childhood from bullies.

The discussion turned to California's anti-same-sex marriage Prop. 8 that passed in 2008. Many people blamed it on African American voters who came out in big numbers to vote for Barack Obama.

But, according to Jealous-and audience members-the bigger issue was the lack of outreach to the African American community at an early stage.

Jealous criticized LGBT groups "who come to the black community late" because it sends a message of disrespect.

"If folks really wanted to win on Prop. 8, and thought the black community was so important, then they should have been organizing" outreach a lot sooner, he said.

Bond and other panelists vowed that the NAACP will work harder, including on less-talked about transgender issues and discrimination, and organize grassroots style to include LGBT issues in a civil rights agenda.

Photo: NAACP hosts town-hall meeting on LGBT issues in Los Angeles, July 25. (Luis Rivas/PW)

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  • As a mother of two beautiful intelligent talented and hard working daughters , I hope to see in my lifetime the day when people will live and let live without prejudice . what a shame we still cant accept the decision made by mother nature herself. There really is no choice ! I forgot to say my girls are lesbians too. Kim

    Posted by kim eynon, 08/03/2011 2:48pm (3 years ago)

  • thanks alot because i am an african american lesbian woman and i appreciate someone of power helping to stand up for the lgbt community.

    Posted by shay, 07/30/2011 4:28pm (3 years ago)

  • i really dont see why people cant choose to do what they want in their personal life,,,[expletive] yea gays are here get over real. i mean dammmmmmmmmm........

    Posted by tobias, 07/30/2011 2:01am (3 years ago)

  • Won't be supporting the NAACP any longer.

    Posted by April Dishon, 07/30/2011 1:01am (3 years ago)

  • The color your born with has nothing to do with the kind of sex you like

    Posted by Kiki, 07/29/2011 7:47pm (3 years ago)

  • How sad, what is this world coming to?

    Posted by Ruth, 07/29/2011 5:15pm (3 years ago)

  • Dealing with homophobia and transgender issues within the African American community is a huge task given it is so often silenced and hush-hush. With that being said, I praise Julian Bond and the NAACP for addressing such a taboo topic that should not be in the first place. Let's hope that they make great headway in this area so that individuals are capable of living more comfortably within their lifestyle and can aquire their appropriate resources.

    Posted by Matthew Shochat, 07/29/2011 3:58pm (3 years ago)

  • Wanda is right, our relationships, at times, can be hindered by social and public acceptance or lack of it. I've met quite a few men who I really, in the long term, wanted to be with but their paranoia and downright internalised homophobia prevented us from ever going beyond the sex stage. Damn. America, the WORLD wake up. We don't want any special rights and the right wing media has tried to peddle that line for years, 'they want to be treated as a special case' it's BS. We, Gay, Bi, Transgender humans just want to be able to live our lives without fear of attack because of who we sleep with at night.

    Posted by George M., 07/29/2011 3:37pm (3 years ago)

  • as a straight, african american member of the naacp, i am thrilled at this public statement. it's about time.

    Posted by bklynd, 07/29/2011 3:30pm (3 years ago)

  • This will not help the NAACP attract members. Most African Americans are against the Gay agenda. And "educating" us won't make it change. Most of the donors are older, and if you think that they will change...good luck with that.

    Posted by Teselas, 07/29/2011 12:29pm (3 years ago)

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