Discovering the Gender and Racial Divide in the LGBTQ Community

by Femi Redwood

I’m Femi Redwood. I’m from Milton, Delaware, which is about 15 minutes outside of Rehoboth Beach. Teeny tiny little place in Delaware, with about 13 black people, so 6 of them were my family.

So after I came out, my first girlfriend was black. Two or three girlfriends later, I was dating this white woman, white girl, whatever, she was a teenager too. But yeah, I was dating her and I was working at the outlets in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. And I had a coworker, who was a white gay male, and we worked together and we would have lunch together and he was really fun to hang out with.

And so one night we’re in his car. He says that he doesn’t think that black and white people should mix. They shouldn’t be in relationships and they shouldn’t mix. And he’s telling me that he does not think, basically, that I should be with my girlfriend, or that anyone of different races should be together. And like, “You’re a gay man!” Like, this is the same ridiculousness that people put on you.

Needless to say, we did not…we didn’t talk much after that.

So then I went to my college in Mississippi. I went to a historically black college, because I wanted diversity. But the thing I noticed about Mississippi, was that…There’s an abundance of African Americans, but they’re separated–the LGBT community was separated from white people–black and white people. So, you go to the black gay club, and my best friend, who’s half Asian, half white, he would be the only person that wasn’t black inside. But it was men and women. It was fantastic. It was just so much fun, it was great.

And then you go into the white bar, and its just white people. There’s men and women, but there’s just white people. I would be the only black person.

So that was Mississippi, it was great, but that was Mississippi. And I was ready to leave. So fast forward, I end up in New York, and, I realize that it’s a division again, but a different kind of division. The gay bars up here, where they might mixed in color, it’s very separated in lesbians have their bars, gay men have their bars. And then if you walk into a lesbian bar, for the most part you only see lesbians, and there might be a couple gay men with you, but for the most part you only see lesbians. And then when I go to gay men bars, you only see men. It’s…they just don’t mix.

So I was dating this one woman, I told her, “I would like to go to some Hell’s Kitchen bars.” Her reaction was, “I don’t like going to places with gay men, I don’t like going, I don’t like hanging out with gay men. I find that they’re really shallow…”

And it was shocking, much like the Delaware story. Much like the guy in Delaware telling me that he doesn’t think races should mix. It was shocking to hear someone, in this time, saying “I don’t like gay men,” because of all of these negative perceptions. But it’s still out there. That’s still what people, even within our community, still think. And that’s shocking and sad.

So I realized how different my perspective is, because of my life and how I was raised. In Delaware, it was a predominantly white community, and it, there’s minority in a predominantly white community. But very accepting of LGBT people. And then, college in Mississippi, it was more separated than I’d ever experienced in my life, more minorities than I’d ever experienced in my life, but very separated. And then, fast forward to New York, we go to the same clubs, but its separated by gender, or sexual identity. But because I come from a place where we were, we were together, I kind of want more and I want better. I want to be able to go to a club and it not just be gay men. It’s everyone. And I want to go and have my best friend, who’s a man, come with me to a lesbian bar and not feel like he’s singled out or being picked on because he’s a flamboyant gay man.

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