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Reference - February 1, 2012

Black History Month and LGBT History Month

November 20 is the Black Consciousness Day in Brazil – an important date in the country with a history of slavery and racism as ours. Taking this opportunity, we seek to translate the week, a text that addressed both the question about black LGBT: we find an interesting protest by Peter Tatchell, The Guardian, about the Black History Month and LGBT History Month. You can read our translation or original English.

Malcolm X was bisexual. Accept it.
by Peter Tatchell

October is Black History Month in Britain – a wonderful celebration of the huge, important and valuable contribution that blacks have made to humanity and popular culture.

Malcolm X at Queens Court
Image via Wikipedia

Also worth celebrating that many of the main icons were black lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), most notably the black liberation hero in the U.S. Malcolm X. Other LGBT blacks to be highlighted include the jazz singer Billie Holiday, writer and civil rights activist James Baldwin, soul singer and songwriter Luther Vandross, the blues singer Bessie Smith, the poet and short story writer Langston Hughes, singer Johnny Mathis , novelist Alice Walker, civil rights activist and organizer of the March, 1963 in Washington, Bayard Rustin, the blues singer Ma Rainey, dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey, actress, singer and dancer Josephine Baker, Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis , singer and songwriter Little Richard, political activist and philosopher Angela Davis, singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman and singer and drag queenRuPaul.

Few of these prominent black LGBT icons are listed in the most comprehensive site on the Black History Month in the United Kingdom, which hosts the biographies of notable black men and women. In the section on personalities, only Angela Davis is mentioned and her lesbianism is not recognized. The site can not identify the most historic black public figures and who are LGBT. The Official Guide to Black History Month in the United Kingdom is also missing. Why are these omissions? Blacks are not a homogeneous mass straight. Where is the recognition of sexual diversity within the black history and their communities?

In contrast, the LGBT History Month, what happens in the UK in February, dedicates an entire section of your site to the lives of Black LGBT leaders, and displays links to the sites of Black History Month. Unfortunately, this solidarity is not reciprocal. Sites in the Black History Month, I could not find a section or a link to LGBT History Month LGBT.

It is quite possible that this is not intentional, but sometimes it seems Black History Month Black History Month Straight. Black LGBT famous are not recognized and celebrated. Or its contribution to the history and black culture is ignored, or their sexuality is swept out of their biographies.

A good example of this neglect is the negation of bisexuality one of the greatest modern heroes of black liberation: Malcolm X. The lack of recognition is perhaps not surprising, given that some of his family and many black activists have gone to great lengths to deny their relations with persons of the same sex and suppress the recognition of the completeness of their sexuality.

Why the facade? So what if Malcolm X was bisexual? Does this diminish his reputation and achievements? Of course not. If he was gay, straight or bisexual, this should not make a difference. Its importance continues, regardless of their sexual orientation. However, many of those who revere him seem reluctant to accept that their hero, and mine, was bisexual.

The bisexuality of Malcolm X is more than just a matter of historical truth and factuality. There was never any black person with similar global prominence and recognition to Malcolm who has been publicly recognized for being gay or bisexual. Young lesbian, gay and bisexual black can, like their white, often feel isolated, guilty and insecure about their sexuality. They benefited from the presence of positive role models who have succeeded in life, to give them confidence and inspiration. Who better than Malcolm X? He inspired my human rights activism and was a pioneer in the struggle for black freedom. It can also inspire other LGBT people.

Right now, there is a single black person living, whose name is known worldwide and is also openly gay. That is why the issue of sexuality Malcolm X is so important. Having a gay or bisexual black icon of international renown would help a lot in combating homophobia, especially in black communities and particularly in Africa and the Caribbean, where homosexuality and bisexuality are often dismissed as a “white man’s disease“.

So what is the evidence of bisexual orientation of Malcolm X? Most people remember him as the leading black American nationalist leader of the 1960s. Despite the disadvantages of his anti-white, his black separatism and religious superstition, he was the chief spokesman of consciousness, pride and black self-help in America. He spoke with eloquence and fierce rebellion in the name of freedom and inspiration for blacks.

Sexuality changing and complex Malcolm was never part of the narrative of his life until the publication of the acclaimed biography done by Bruce Perry, Malcolm – The Life of a Man Who Changed Black America. Perry is a great admirer and supporter of Malcolm X, but that does not stop him from making criticisms. He wrote the facts, based on interviews with more than 420 people who knew Malcolm personally at various stages of his life, from childhood to his tragic assassination in 1965. His book is not a destructive criticism as some black critics say, is exactly the opposite. Perry presents an honest history and “round” of the life and accomplishments of Malcolm, in my opinion, is much more moving and humane than the best known (but somewhat hagiographic) The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told To Alex Haley.

Based on interviews with Malcolm’s closest friends, Perry suggests that the leader of the liberation of black America was not as solid as their heterosexual colleagues of the Nation of Islam and black nationalism whenever they said. Although Perry’s sexuality does not make Malcolm a great part of his biography – in fact, this is a very minor aspect of it – he does not shy away from writing about what he heard in his various interviews.

He documents many relationships with men, Malcolm and his activities as a sex worker, which lasted at least a period of 10 years in his teens to his mid-20s, as described in more detail in a previous article for the Guardian. Although Malcolm has been married later and as far as we know, abandoned sex with men, their sexual relations with men suggest that earlier he was bisexual rather than heterosexual. Abstain from gay sex after his marriage does not change the fundamentals of their sexual orientation does not mean he was totally straight.

Near the end of his life, Malcolm’s ideas were evolving in new directions. Politically, he gravitated to the left. Guided by faith, after his trip to Mecca, he began to embrace mainstream Islam, non-racial. His mind was opening up to new ideas and values.

If it had not been assassinated in 1965, Malcolm might have eventually associated with the liberation movement gay and lesbian, as did the Black Panther Huey Newton and the Black Power leader Angela Davis, as part of the struggle for human emancipation. Instead, to serve its homophobic political agenda for more than half a century the Nation of Islam and many black nationalists have suppressed knowledge of Malcolm’s homosexual. Now is the time for Black History Month to tell the truth. Malcolm X was bisexual. Accept it.

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