Farrakhan’s Nation of Homophobia to March Again

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the historic October 1995 Million Man March that rallied on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan is now in the planning stages for the October 2005 Millions More Movement March. Unlike the 1995 march, when women were explicitly told not to attend, but to “stay at home” while remaining “by their men’s side,” Farrakhan has broadened the new rally to include women.

Not surprisingly, however, in Farrakhan’s invitation to an “all-inclusive” and broad coalition of African-American civil rights leaders and organizations, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer activists and organizations are once again excluded from the planning of the event.

“We are not welcome at this march,” said gay activist Phil Pannell after the May 2 conference when Farrakhan announced the march. Prior to the announcement Farrakhan made at the National Press Club, Pannell and Alexander Robinson, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, an LGBTQ civil rights organization, were assured that LGBTQ participation would be found in every aspect of the event.

[I]n Farrakhan’s invitation to an “all-inclusive” and broad coalition of African-American civil rights leaders and organizations, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer activists and organizations are once again excluded from the planning of the event.

Talking with the Rev. Willie Wilson, pastor of Union Temple Baptist Church and the executive director of the Millions More Movement March, after the press conference, Robinson said, “He was pretty adamant that our inclusion would not go beyond simply attending the events.”

With the organizers for Millions More Movement March failing to invite at least one gay activist at the National Press Club, this may very will serve as an early signal of the organizers’ insincerity to be inclusive of LGBTQ people.

Let us not forget Farrakhan’s core beliefs on homosexuality. In 1985 at a rally in New York City, Farrakhan said, “I happen to believe that being homosexual is submission to circumstances rather than anything genetic or innate in the human being. . . I consider it a problem. Maybe they don’t consider it a problem, but AIDS is manifesting that there is a problem somewhere in this kind of social behavior.”

And in 1996, Farrakhan said at a rally in Kansas, “God don’t like men coming to men with lust in their hearts like you should go to a female. If you think that the kingdom of God is going to be filled up with that kind of degenerate crap, you’re out of your damn mind.”

But to simply demonize Farrakhan’s stance on gays and lesbians would be unfair because it would allow other African-American religious leaders unjustly off the hook. . . What Farrakhan says is just a clear and pointed example of what basically underlies the theology and social actions of our African-American communities and churches.

But to simply demonize Farrakhan’s stance on gays and lesbians would be unfair because it would allow other African-American religious leaders unjustly off the hook. His stance on gays and lesbians is emblematic of the long-standing beliefs in the Nation of Islam, in the Black Church and, by extension, in most of our families and communities. What Farrakhan says is just a clear and pointed example of what basically underlies the theology and social actions of our African-American communities and churches.

As a matter of fact, Farrakhan’s public comments and social ministry, as that of African-American Christian ministers, are predicated on the devaluation of women and LGBTQ people at the expense of promulgating a deleterious rhetoric of the “endangered black man” that only addresses the need of one segment of the population. LGBTQ people, then, become the easy scapegoat.

For example, Farrakhan’s rhetoric of the “endangered black male” is kept in place by homophobia, which places blame on African-American LGBTQ people for not upholding their prescribed gender roles. With the shortage of African-American heterosexual men due to street violence and imprisonment, African-American gay men are perceived as “race traitors” for not upholding their racial responsibility to be “real black men,” just as lesbians are seen as “race traitors” for not upholding their responsibility to produce such men.

Also, LGBTQ identities threaten the construct of a monolithic heterosexual racial identity. Historically, African-American nationalism, like that found in the Nation of Islam and the Black Church, constructs a heterosexual and male racial identity in the African-American community, despite the fact that the community is comprised of both genders and a variety of sexual orientations. Therefore, since identity in the African-American community is predicated on who we say we are as a race of people, not what we do sexually, LGBTQ identities are viewed as an aberrant behavioral trait whose etiology is caused by and found in white society. Farrakhan states that “homosexuality threatens the perfect order laid forth by the Nation and is as such abominable, a perverse product of a sick society. When white society denies the black man the possibilities of being a real man, he runs the risk of degrading into a homosexual.”

The theme of this march is the same as the last one: the coronation of African-American male heterosexuality and masculinity.

The theme of this march is the same as the last one: the coronation of African-American male heterosexuality and masculinity.

Planners of the march will choose those civil rights groups that best exemplify the theme of the march to attend the event, as well as on their recognition and respect in the community and their ability to raise money and boost attendance. While clearly all the African-American LGBTQ organizations and churches meet the criteria to raise money and boost attendance, I have little belief our queer organizations will be invited because the real issue is that we don’t sanctify African-American male heterosexulity and masculinity.

African-American male civil rights leaders of the Millions More Movement March distancing themselves from the LGBTQ community reminds me not only of what happened before the Million Man March, but also of Bayard Rustin, the openly gay African-American man who, despite being architect of the historic March on Washington in 1963, was ostracized by many in the civil rights movement because he was queer.

What these homophobic African-American civil rights leaders have not learned in all their years of marching and shouting is that, as a people, we will never get to the Promise Land until we are all included.

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