My Facebook news feed never ceases to amaze me. Yet again, I happened upon a video shared by one of my associates, which features Dr. Umar Johnson allegedly “schooling *1*” an LGBT Feminist of color about the black struggle.
Now, I have been stressing over this post since the evening I saw the video because I didn’t know from which angle to analyze. Although I wanted this post to be perfect and scholarly, this post will not be perfect, but it will be as honest and in depth as possible.
Before I go completely in, I want to make it clear that even though I identify as part of the black and gay struggle, I acknowledge and understand that Diane, the name of the black Feminist in the video, has more struggles to fight as a gay queer black woman, than I have as a gay black male. All I can do is place myself in the situation as if I were there debating Umar Johnson.
If you wish, you can check out the following video. In no particular order, I may reference certain portions of the video; however, I can’t guarantee I’ll spend much time continually going back over that video, so watch it, take notes, then continue reading afterwards.
Don’t want to watch? I don’t blame you. Here’s a very quick summary:
In what seems to be an open forum during the Xseed in Life program – a Kansas City nonprofit, Dr. Umar Johnson takes questions from the audience. A young black woman by the name of Diane introduces herself to the group and Johnson. Identifying as a feminist and as part of the LGBTQ community, both of which Umar Johnson doesn’t support, she attempts to call Johnson out on his alleged anti-gay and anti-woman hate speech in relation to how white people spew similar hate speech against African Americans.
What follows is a debate between Diane and Umar, or rather, Umar doing everything he can to tone police, dismiss, and invalidate Diane’s facts and allegations, while also explaining how the LGBTQ struggle is unrelated to the Black struggle.
Now, here’s why Dr. Umar Johnson pisses me off in this video:
1. He claims that black civil rights and LGBT civil rights do not relate.
It bothers me that there are people like Umar Johnson within the black community who feel that my homosexuality serves as a detriment to the overall struggle of African American civil rights, instead of including my black gay rights within that same struggle. While I deal with the oppression that comes with being part of the African American community, I ALSO have to battle the added struggle of existing as a homosexual within an already oppressed community of which doesn’t fully accept me or doesn’t attempt to understand me.
Instead, in the video above, we have a straight black male tell a gay queer black woman about how the two struggles don’t relate; however, I’m here to tell you, because of our identity, the black struggle and LGBTQ struggle both relate to me and Diane. Because of my sexuality and race, my civil rights from the black perspective and gay perspective intersect. I’ll cover more of this later. Of course, that’s not enough for this doctor.
2. Dr. Umar Johnson knows what he’s talking about because of his experience as a therapist and psychologist. Sexual confusion is due to Childhood Sexual Victimization.
Per Umar Johnson, “in 95% of the cases of gay and lesbians I [personally] know and met, and work with, most of them were victims of sexual abuse as children. I’m speaking not what some white person wrote in some research study. I’m telling you what I [know],” (Johnson from 5:53 to 6:20).
Johnson goes on to claim that the childhood sexual victimization of African Americans is what triggered their sexual confusion. According to Johnson’s perspective, one cannot simply be “born gay.” Instead, the childhood abuse births denial, which apparently is the root of all mental illnesses. Catch that?
I interpret Umar’s entire spiel as his own confirmation that homosexuality is indeed a mental illness, even though the diagnostic status of homosexuality was completely removed from the DSM in 1986 *2*, not in 1973 or 1974. In 1973, Homosexuality was parenthetical in relation to ego-dystonic sexual orientation *3*. This change supposedly was to appease both sides that debated human sexuality. At the end of the day it was removed; however, where in the DSM does it purport sexual confusion due to childhood sexual victimization only, while you’re inquiring about Homophobia’s inclusion of the DSM?
What about those who identify as heterosexual, living heterosexual lives, with no interest whatsoever in the same sex, who were victims of those same crimes? Also, in those cases you mention, were these victims victimized by those of the same sex or opposite sex? Answer, please.
It’s easy to bring up a percentage of people you’ve personally dealt with; however, Dr. Umar Johnson doesn’t give me any concrete proof that the majority of homosexuals are mentally ill, because that’s the point he tried to slyly make to Diane. I honestly do not feel he has researched cases of homosexuality that do not involve the variable of childhood sexual victimization.
3. Johnson has never said Homosexuals were pedophiles and molesters, but they do exist!
But for the sake of Umar’s defense, he brought up African American childhood sexual victimization to further deny allegations that he’s called all homosexuals molesters and pedophiles . . . by claiming that those who were victimized as children may have been molested by homosexuals. Johnson defends his allegations by pointing out that there’s a strong case of pedophilia and molestation among homosexuals in the Roman Catholic Church.
Now, if Umar was sticking to his original train of thought about African American childhood sexual victimization in relation to homosexuality, and homosexuals who prey on children in the Roman Catholic Church, he’d know that African American adults only make up 3% of the Roman Catholic Church as found in the 2014 Cultural Diveristy Cara Report *4*. And out of that 3% of African Americans, how would Johnson or I know that they were sexually victimized as children while brought up in that systemic revolving door of rape and molestation culture, which many Catholics are aware of, yet still go down to the church for confession?
Whether straight or gay, black people are victimized on a daily basis, which includes sexual, mental, and physical abuse. Also, a good chunk of women of color make up that percentage of us who have been sexually victimized as children, and there’s no way you or I can claim that 95% of those women are lesbian, and this is outside of your own percentage of people you personally know. So, just stop it.
My mental illness is not due to denial of sexual victimization, nor am I in denial of anything that happened to me as a child. In fact out of the people I personally [know] they too have been sexually victimized as children by kids or adults of the opposite sex, and live heterosexual lives. If anything, sexual victimization activates hypersexuality among youth at an early age. My mental illness is due to Major Depressive Disorder. Again, stop it.
4. People follow his every word.
If you Google any article that references Umar Johnson, the comment section will be relentless full of men and women who support him. It seems within this video, it’s no different. If there were any people who objected to anything Umar Johnson claimed, they were not shown. Diane stood alone, and to me, she held her own considering the circumstances, but the crowd wasn’t helpful.
After Johnson drew up his personal experiences with sexually victimized LGBTQ black people, while trying to disprove Diane’s hate speech allegations, he went on to explain how his disapproval of homosexuality is different from the racist hate speech from white people (around 7:28). So, the racist and ignorant comments from white people are lies, and has been proven wrong; however, any feelings he possesses against black LGBTQ people is because it’s been proven right? No sir.
Yet, Johnson is aware that the rate of suicide for black gay men is high, to which Diane interjects that it’s because of hate speech like his. The crowd jumped to his defense trying to derail the debate by bringing up other people who unleashed hate speech hundreds of years ago before he was even born (around 7:53). The problem with that question is that it tries to divert attention away from what was originally being discussed.
The conversation is about Dr. Umar Johnson’s alleged hate speech antics against black Feminists and the black LGBTQ community. Be sure to pay attention that this back and forth conversation is about black people that identify with either or both groups who disagree with Johnson. So, if this debate were proper debate, anything outside the conversation that doesn’t focus on the things Diane wanted Umar to originally answer, then bringing up something some bigot said prior to the existence of Umar need not apply to this conversation whatsoever.
Although Diane tried to respond quickly, claiming that hate speech was inherited, or passed down from generation to generation, the crowd basically did a big ol’ “Bye, Felicia!” No matter what she came with, the majority of the crowd was not in her favor.
5. He truly believes that the LGBTQ Agenda was established to take precedence over the Black Agenda.
Hey people, did you know it is a political fact for anyone with common sense, that Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968; that the Black Panther Party was destabilized in 1972; that homosexuality became “normal” in 1974?
Seriously, did you know that it is a political fact that homosexuality was declassified as a mental illness in 1974, so it could be used to take over the black civil rights struggle? No? Well check out the vid at 8:21. MIND. BLOWN.
Get the fuck outta here with that hogwash claim!
Now, it is a political fact, for people with common sense and decent Wi-Fi, that although Dr. King was assassinated, there were still activists like Bayard Rustin – you know, the gay black guy that organized the 1963 March on Washington *5* – who continued fighting for the rights equality of African Americans, but I guess since he was gay, he may have had something to do with this conspiracy theory of Umar’s. Oh, it’s also a fact that the Black Panther Party supported the gay rights movement *6*. In fact, it was on their national agenda.
Speaking of the BPP, did you hear the ghastly things Huey P. Newton *7 had to say about women’s liberation and the gay rights movement in 1970 *8*? That’s 2 years before the BPP was destabilized. Oh, man, the Government was on a mission to fuck up our progress. Dr. Umar Johnson, your cherry picking of facts is real cute, but these are political facts too!
6. He didn’t see the LGBTQ movement during the Mike Brown murder.
Okay Dr. Johnson, by the LGBTQ movement, of which supporters and advocates of the LGBTQ community are you referring? I ask this because the conversation has been about the black community and the black LGBTQ community. If we go back through the entire video, he never mentions or acknowledges the diversity of the LGBTQ community, unless it helps him prove a point. Stay with me.
Remember when I stated that because I’m black and gay, my civil rights are two-fold? Remember how I said that it’s bothersome to be part of a community that sees my homosexuality as a detriment to the black agenda instead of being inclusive? Between 9:04 to 9:33, Johnson’s question about LGBTQ involvement in the Furgeson protests illustrates the denial and nonacceptance of black LGBTQ people’s involvement in civil matters that affect ALL black people.
It is apparent to me that Dr. Umar Johnson doesn’t understand how communities work or doesn’t understand what community means.
Diane tried to help him out by telling him that two out of the three women that started the #BlackLivesMatter *9* Movement identified as Queer women of color *10*. Even Diane said she started a movement after what happened in Ferguson. Are these women not part of a community? Umar only sees these contributions as individual acts, and that’s why Dr. Umar Johnson pisses me the fuck off.
The very subjects Umar doesn’t support, LGBTQ black feminists *11* aided in starting a MOVEMENT that has become the hashtag tweeted around the world. These individuals that Umar does not want to acknowledge are at the forefront fighting for the injustice of our slain black brothers and sisters within the black AND LGBTQ community. You see Umar, there are communities within communities, so even though us gay black folks are part of the LGBTQ community, we’re also part of the Black LGBTQ community, as well as the Black Community.
You don’t think there were any black LGBTQ folks out in the crowd getting tear gassed? Let’s not use the term “community” at your leisure to prove a point by then lumping together a community of privileged white people within the LGBTQ community whose struggles can’t compare to LGBTQ people of color, just so you can justify your bigotry.
7. Dr. Umar Johnson and his supporters FAIL to acknowledge the intersections that cross between the fight for equality when African Americans or other POCs are oppressed in more than one group!
Around the 11 minute mark, Umar Johnson’s arguments and opinions hold no weight, and you can’t tell me any different. He does what he has done throughout the entire “debate”: he tries to meander his way out of the situation by relating the fuckery of white people to black people who identify with a label that’s used to describe a certain community.
If that still doesn’t make sense, how about this: Umar Johnson is low-key saying that because there are black people who identify as part of the white LGBTQ community, we are helping support white supremacy and the white agenda, which affects the black agenda tremendously. Bruh, it is 5:30 AM, the birds are chirping, and your rhetoric is tiring.
It is clear, Umar Johnson does not see it for people of the LGBTQ community, which includes an even more oppressed minority of black LGBTQ people who are a part of the overall black community .
This oppressed straight black man is telling an oppressed gay queer black woman that her LGBTQ rights are invalid because the LGBTQ community is taking precedence over the African American struggle. That’s an unfair and obtuse claim because of the context in which he’s applying his feelings.
8. This comment Johnson made:
“LGBT movement, is the movement for the right to practice a certain behavior“ – Dr. Umar Johnson (12:14 to 12:20)
THIS is why Umar Johnson doesn’t support the LGBTQ movement!? This statement is typical for any bigot, ignorant, and homophobic asshole. HOWEVER, around 12:25, Umar Johnson follows up his ignorant statement and digs himself into a deeper hole by saying that the Black Struggle is the struggle for black folk to be recognized as human beings. Let that sink in.
You know who also wants to be treated as human beings? Gay people, specifically those of the black LGBTQ community, even more specific, Trans black women, all of whom want to be treated like human beings! We’ve had about 7 murders *12*, of which were a majority of trans women of color, with their humanity being ridiculed and questioned. And in these cases, we rarely see the media coverage and protests being televised.
Instead of being concerned about these lives and countless other lives who are part of both the LGBTQ and black community, you’re focused on LGBTQ fighting for the right to practice a behavior? What behavior is that, anal sex? I’ve written about this before *13*, and I’ll say it again, homosexuality is not about promiscuity, and it pains me when the first stereotypical thing heterosexuals think about when it comes to homosexuality is the actual sex. Umar, your opinions, facts, and influence are flawed beyond reason. And to think, this dude wants to set up an all boys school *14*. I fear for the youth.
Even as I sit here and type up this social commentary, I can’t help but think of the many African Americans down in Ferguson, MO still protesting. As I lose sleep and worry about my financial well-being, I can’t help but wonder about the Trans women of color whose lives were ended abruptly. Marriage equality in Birmingham, AL is on hold, but that doesn’t surprise me; however, it leaves me wondering if I will ever marry, or have the right to marry. Hell, I wonder if I will even have the right to vote after it’s all said and done.
#BlackLivesMatter, and whether anyone likes it or not, black lives include those who are part of the LGBTQ community. Because we are black, we are oppressed, and depending on how you identify within the black community, our oppression varies. I don’t know if those who support Umar Johnson see that the black LGBTQ community has fought alongside the African American community every single time, even though our gay issues are seen as irrelevant to the cause.
My right to vote as a black man is in jeopardy, which in turn affects my right to vote on marriage equality as a gay male, and anti-gay laws that still exist. There’s more to gay civil rights than just marriage, or what Umar describes as a right to practice a certain behavior.
My overall right is to be recognized as a human being despite my race and sexuality. The black LGBTQ community are oppressed people because of our race. We are not caped in the showl of white privilege just because we identify as queer.
So to say that the two struggles are unrelated is untrue. There’s a caveat or a context. If all black lives matter, and all black people want to be fully recognized as human beings, those who don’t support the LGBTQ community will have to accept that black homosexuals exist within the overall black community, and EMBRACE US ALL.
Diane and I are whole black people. We can’t just rally up and only support two thirds of our being. That’s unfair and unrealistic.
It breaks my heart that everything about my existence is a cause for debate and ridicule. My identity is questioned and divided, split between communities and subcultures, each with intersecting and conflicting agendas. This leaves me with no real ground to stand on. I’m either down for the struggle of one, and not the other because for some reason I can’t choose both.
With people like Umar Johnson, that has a mass following, it’ll only make black people of the LGBTQ community struggle harder for our entire black and gay rights to exist. Stop invalidating black gay lives. Under the black struggle exists straight and LGBTQ people, so we all matter. Yes, Umar Johnson’s teachings and rhetoric refuses to acknowledge and embrace the entire black community.
This is why Dr. Umar Johnson and people like him pisse me off.