‘Everybody On Mute:’ Black Community Must Speak Out as Violence Targeting Black LGBTQs Increases
“Big wave in the room, the crowd gon’ move. Look around everybody on mute.”
It is constantly a shock to my system to know that all Black people are not created equal — that the existence of Black LGBTQ people is often viewed as a threat instead of the historical asset we have been in the quest to secure Black liberation and freedom. It is unfathomable for non-LGBTQ Black people to wrestle with the idea of violence rooted in anti-Blackness as a justifiable reason for Black death without immediate demands for justice from Black civil rights leaders. Yet, for Black LGBTQ people, it has become increasingly clear that in times of crisis, gaslighting or intentional silence from the Black community in the aftermath of anti-LGBTQ attacks reinforces what many of us already knew — Black LGBTQ people can only depend on each other.
The recent fatal stabbing of O’Shae Sibley, 28, a gay professional dancer murdered at a gas station in Brooklyn, NY, following a verbal altercation with a group of white-presenting men who were initially reported as Muslims, is the latest example of how Black lives cease to matter to the most influential voices in the Black community, and too often, the (Black) media when the victim is LGBTQ. Media outlets widely reported that Sibley was vogueing to a song from Beyonce’s “Renaissance” album, music from the biggest pop star in the world celebrating Black LGBTQ people, when his 17-year-old attacker allegedly took offense to Sibley’s visible queerness and killed him.
The slow amplification of the final hate-fueled moments of Sibley’s life, or no amplification at all in certain digital spaces frequented by Black people, illuminated the unchecked homophobia in the Black community that, contrary to popular belief, is not righteous or justifiable, but an impediment to our collective freedom. Sibley had the audacity to live without the restraints of patriarchy and toxic masculinity, embracing freedom and joy. He should still be alive to celebrate all that made him great and inspired others to live their truth.
Like countless hate crimes involving unarmed Black men and women taken from their loved ones prematurely, Sibley’s death should be a catalyst to move Black people toward dismantling white supremacist ideals. Instead, many Black folks would rather uphold the system hellbent on destroying Black lives — oppressing their Black LGBTQ brothers and sisters — weaponizing religion and aspiring toward unattainable white approval.
At the risk of denying the role of intersectionality in the experience of Black LGBTQ people while repeatedly being told that we’re “Black first,” everyday people, advocates, and public intellectuals like Dana White are pushing back on social media.
In a tweet, White said the quiet part out loud: “When a Black LGBTQ+ person is murdered in the streets for refusing to exist in the shadows, do Black civil rights groups organize? Do Black frats and sororities head to the LGBTQ+ centers to volunteer? Do Black parents sit their kids down to give them a talk about bigotry?”
The answer, more often than not, is no.
The denial of our humanity and complete disregard for the racism and homophobia Black LGBTQ people must navigate daily is a volatile mix of power and indifference by kinfolk eager to step into the role of the oppressor, even if it means contributing to the cause of another Black mother’s grief.
GLAAD has been tracking escalating violence against LGBTQ people, including at least a half dozen murders over the last weeks across the U.S. Sibley is the fifth LGBTQ person murdered in recent weeks. In April, Ashley Burton, 37, and Rasheeda Williams (aka Koko Da Doll), 35, were gunned down in Atlanta two weeks apart and are among the 15 trans and gender non-conforming people murdered in 2023. Their deaths add to an epidemic of violence against Black trans women exacerbated by more than 500 anti-trans bills proposed in state legislatures nationwide, the denial of life-saving trans healthcare supported by every major medical association, and the rapid spread of misinformation that renders Black LGBTQ people as less than human and disposable.
This cannot continue.
Anti-LGBTQ rhetoric thinly disguised as freedom of speech does not provide freedom from consequences, or the real-life implications of hate speech manifested through physical violence. Black liberation is inextricably linked to the freedom and liberation of Black LGBTQ people. We will not be free until all of us are free. If there is an LGBTQ agenda, at the top of the list is an America that creates space for the O’Shae Sibleys of the world to dance and love openly without fear. And a Black America that will rise in its defense against unrelenting bigotry should his right to live cease to exist.
This editorial was originally published by Georgia Voice on August 17, 2023.