Provincetown’s Not Safe for Black Lesbians

At the tip of Cape Cod is the LGBTQ-friendly haven Provincetown, fondly called P-town, and known as the best LGBTQ summer resort on the East Coast.

Of late, more lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people of color (POC) have not only begun vacationing in P-town, but we have also begun holding POC events.

For the past several years now, the “Women of Color Weekend” brings hundreds of us LBT sisters of color to P-town from all across the country.

And it is the one time of the year many of us make the journey to P-town, anticipating that we will feel safe enough, for a few days, to let down our guard.

But the sexual and homophobic harassment many of us LBT sisters endure from many of our heterosexual brothers of African descent back home in our communities, or imported from one of the Caribbean Islands has, too, become an inescapably reality at P-town.

“A few years back I sent a letter about this very subject…and I received an email from the Provincetown Chamber of Commerce, instructing me to get in touch with them and the police if this happens again…well, it has happened again and again,” Ife Franklin of Roxbury, Massachusetts, wrote me.

Franklin and her wife were at “Women of Color Weekend 2011,” and she and several sisters of color were continually harassed.

“Now I will take ownership…I have not called the police or contacted the town Chamber.Why? Well, here is where this gets a little sticky for me…So, if I call and say ’there are some Black men harassing me’ will they round up ALL of the Black men? Even the ones that have done nothing wrong?”

Issues of race, gender identity, and sexual orientation trigger a particular type of violence against people of color that cannot afford to go unreported. Not reporting what is going on with LGBTQ people of color not only subjects us to constant violence that goes unchecked, but it also puts the larger queer culture at risk.

In the now defunct Boston LGBTQ newspaper In Newsweekly Will Coons in 2007 expressed in his “Letter to the Editor” his distress with the harassment.

“I’m well aware of the white man’s burden and the need to be open and sensitive to historical injustices, but the flip side works as well: are these Jamaican men sensitive to, aware of, and respectful of the gay men who vacation here? My impression over the past ten years is that most of them are not and I distinctly feel uncomfortable in their presence.”

The lack of reporting about these types of harassment and assaults from LGBTQ people of color is for two reasons — both dealing with race.

The first reason is the “politics of silence” in LGBTQ communities of color to openly report these kinds of attacks unless it results in death. With being openly queer and often estranged if not alienated from our communities of color, reporting attacks against us by other people of color can make victims viewed as “race traitors.” And because of the “politics of silence” that run rampantly in our LGBTQ communities of color, we end up colluding in the violence against us.

The second reason has a lot to do with law enforcers, newspaper reporters, and doctors who view the topic of violence and people of color as synonymous.

Franklin wrote,

“As my friends were waking back to the car Saturday night a car of 4 men slowed down and started hissing and asked my friend to come over to the car. She replied in a strong voice ‘I’m GAY,’ let it rest!!!I feel that this harassment is a time bomb about to explode. At some point some man is going to take it to the next phase…my fear is that the ’cat calling’ will turn into groping…grabbing…rape, and/or death…Why? Because in their hearts we are just some ’batty gurls’ [Jamaican slang for homosexual].”

While Franklin’s fears are not unfounded, Jamaicans, however, are not the only ones harassing us.

Case in point is the murder of Shakia Gun of Newark, New Jersey.

On the morning of May 11, 2003, Shakia Gun, 15, was stabbed to death when she and her girlfriends rebuffed the sexual overtures of two African-American men by disclosing to them that their disinterest was simply because they were all lesbians.

Incensed that they had been rebuffed — and by lesbians no less — the two assailants reportedly jumped out of their car and got into a scuffle with the girls.

Stabbed by one of the men, Gun dropped to the ground and died shortly after arriving at University Hospital in Newark.

A groundbreaking study released in July 2010 titled “Black Lesbians Matter” examined the unique experiences, perspectives, and priorities of the Black LBT community.

This report reveals that LBT women of African descent are among the most vulnerable in our society and need advocacy in the areas of financial security, healthcare, access to education, marriage equality, and physical safety.

“Has there been ANY training or introduction for these ’workers’ educating them that they are in a mostly Gay culture? That the women…Black women or otherwise…are off limits,” Franklin asked.

In using cheap and oftentimes exploited laborers, the shops that line P-town’s main drag, Commercial Street, care little, if at all, about their workers’ cultural competency or our safety.

I have to agree with Coons when he wrote on 2007, “I can’t tell any local businesses how to run their operations. I can express Rev. Irene Monroemy concerns, and I haven’t seen or heard of any overwhelming efforts to mitigate Jamaican male distain, distrust and disgust towards gays and lesbians.”

Sadly, it’s now 2011, and nothing has changed. The issue here is our safety — physically and mentally — and that of ALL LGBTQ tourists.

Provincetown’s Chamber of Commerce has a year before “Women of Color Weekend 2012.”

And the problem can be easily remedied: Either by educating these men or not hiring them at all. Or, we can take our gay dollars and go elsewhere.

Rev. Irene Monroe
Black Commentator

About Rev. Irene Monroe

Rev. Irene Monroe is a Ford Fellow and doctoral candidate at Harvard Divinity School. One of Monroe’s outreach ministries is the several religion columns she writes - “The Religion Thang,” for In Newsweekly, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender newspaper that circulates widely throughout New England, “Faith Matters” for The Advocate Magazine, a national gay & lesbian magazine, and “Queer Take,” for The Witness, a progressive Episcopalian journal. Her writings have also appeared in Boston Herald and in the Boston Globe. Her award-winning essay, “Louis Farrakhan’s Ministry of Misogyny and Homophobia”, was greeted with critical acclaim.

Monroe states that her “columns are an interdisciplinary approach drawing on critical race theory, African American , queer and religious studies. As an religion columnist I try to inform the public of the role religion plays in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. Because homophobia is both a hatred of the “other ” and it’s usually acted upon ‘in the name of religion,” by reporting religion in the news I aim to highlight how religious intolerance and fundamentalism not only shatters the goal of American democracy, but also aids in perpetuating other forms of oppression such as racism, sexism, classism and anti-Semitism.”

Comments

  1. hwood007 says:

    I use the judge them not so that I might not be judged theory. And who am I to throw stones, my family has a mixed race couple of the same sex, which does not go over well at extended Baptist family picnics . We would like non-religous unions, so that couples could be joined by the state in civil unions. I have heard some say there is not enough civil rights in those unions, but that is not the fault of the church, they use marriages, a word not in our constitution but in the Bible loads of times so the state/federal government is free to add as many rights to those unions as they want and I will not be offended as long as they are titled unions. The church is not the one to complain about what the state does unless it takes away from the church.

  2. Gregg Randles says:

    DBDallas – the Bible says that the sexually immoral (homos and heteros) will find their place in the lake of fire, if you actually read tyhe Bible, the Apostle John said that Jesus said and did so many things that all the books in the world at that time would not be able to hold them all……

  3. Gregg Randles says:

    Exactly what does the “Reverend” Monroe actually revere? Same sex relationships that are expressly condemned in the word of God, a book that perhaps she hardly ever reads. The Bible is plain enough, same-sex relations are an abomination in the sight of God, no matter how acceptable they are in the minds of sinful human beings.

    Perhaps the “Reverend” Monroe should actually review the following Bible passages:

    Leviticus 18:22
    Leviticus 20:13
    1 Corinthians 6:9
    Jude 1:7
    Romans 1:27

    And it is not just Jamaica where queers are rejected. Almost the entire African continent is the same, not to mention the entire Middle east (with the exception of Israel), and most of eastern Europe. Only in the West have we allowed ourselves to be conned into accepting sexual deviancy as “normal.” Political correctness, moral relativism and aggressive homosexual militancy has done its job well.

    In November 2010, the city of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, saw a gay mayoral candidate beaten by vast numbers of votes from minority communties. Why? George Smitherman, the queer in question, has hired a top public relations firm to spearheaf his campaign and made careful TV appearences with his “husband” and two year-old adopted child. Howeverm the sight of Smitherman kissing his “spouse” on the lips in public propted the local Tamil radio to run negative ad campaign against him. Likewise, Muslims startyed a poster campaign, advising other Muslims not to vote for a man who refers to another man as his spouse.

    Ultimately, the politically incorrect and ant-gay candidate, Rob Ford, won the mayoral seat in a landslide. Voters from African, Asian,east Indian, West Indian and Muslim backgrounds soundly rejected Smitherman. They made it plain that they did not want a homosexual to represent them.

    Now, imagine this happening in any big US city? With immigrants arriving in their tens of thousands in the USA and Canada every year, and from countries that are hostile towards homosexuals, you can imagine how this will all end once those hostilities are turned into votes. Indeed, imagine a gay pride march today in Deerborn, Michigan, with its large Arab-Muslim population?

    The rise of queer power will come to a very unhappy end indeed.

    • The  bible also tells the story of Elijah, who was cursed with baldness. One day he was minding his own business, making a walk to Bethel, when he was harrassed by a  band of children who teased him with names like “bald head.” But Elijah was pissed so he turns  and cursed them in the name of the Lord, and instantly two  bears came out of the woods and mauled all 42 children to death.The moral of this story? We should execute people who make fun of bald people?, or if you want a reason to hate someone you can find it just about anywhere but it doesn’t make you right.

  4. I just never grasped any of it! Yes, I’ve seen the homophobia, but don’t get it. If you know who you are, what is the issue and don’t quote Bible because I don’t have time to give lessons suffice to say that JESUS never NEVER mentioned it, EVER! Would seem like he might have mentioned if it were so important, but come to think of it, he never condemned slavery and certainly had enough time to do so. He did mention divorce and didn’t think highly of it. In fact, I recall something about adultery for those that married again.

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