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The police don’t see my wife as a doctor, they just see a black lesbian

The police don’t see my wife as a doctor, they just see a black lesbian

A Los Angeles protest for Black Lives Matter.

I am always worried to the point of nail-biting when my spouse leaves in the morning for Boston Medical Center if she’ll return home to me, because she’s always stopped by the Cambridge or Boston police.

They don’t see Dr Thea James. Her gender non-conforming appearance and driving a brand new BMW, that many cops derisively dub as a ‘Black Man’s Wagon,’ makes her a constant target of suspicion.

When gender identity and sexual orientation come into play, the treatment by police can be harsher. And when the police realized my spouse is a woman, and a lesbian at that, their unbridled homophobia surfaces.

I’m always nagging my spouse about being safe. Now – with the killings of Alton Sterling, Philander Castile and five Dallas police officers – she has told me she worries about me, too.

She flatly stated she sees Sandra Bland in me, the African American women pulled over for a minor traffic violation on 10 July 2015 by a state trooper and three days later found hung in her jail cell. African American women combating police harassment is an ongoing struggle, too.

A gay Washington Post columnist asked me what is it that white LGBTI people don’t get about the Black Lives Matters movement as well as racism within the community?

I replied: ‘This is a time when we need the community front and center in this struggle for both our survival and change, because their African-American LGBTQ brothers and sisters stood by you with marriage equality and other issues.

‘We need now you front and center because we are hurting.’

But the queer politics of discussing race in the LGBTI community is as unresolved among us as in the dominant culture.

However, unlike the larger dominant culture, white LGBTIs can suggest and give advice to communities of color from their own experiences of abuse by law enforcement officers. We have our own LGBTI experience of police discrimination, harassment, profiling, entrapment and victimization that was often ignored.

The treatment African Americans are experiencing at the hands of some police officers is neither news nor new to LGBTQ communities. It is not surprising to us that some of those who are sworn to protect have become verbal and physical assailants.

Long before the Stonewall Riots of 1969, liquor licensing laws were used to raid establishments and bars patronized by LGBTI people. Bar raids continue to target LGBTI people, especially in the South where many of the southern states still vehemently oppose the historic US Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage.

Boston which is known internationally as one of the most LGBTI-friendly spots on the globe continues to have its own police problem with our community. In 2013, the Boston Police Department settled a case against them with a transgender woman.

The woman was arrested for using the women’s lavatory at the homeless shelter she was staying at. At the police station ‘the officers forced her to remove her shirt and bra and jump up and down to humiliate and laugh at her,’ the court learned.

The Black Lives Matter ideology

Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is our present day Stonewall. It’s a nationwide network of local state chapters that operate independently.

As an ideology and movement to cease state sanctioned killing of African American males, BLM started as a call to action after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin’s killer was acquitted of all charges based on Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law.

Founded by three African American straight and queer sisters, BLM’s ideals address poverty, homelessness, unemployment, gentrification, and community policing that intersect with systemic racism. It is a now a global cause with solidarity protest in places like Canada, Germany, Britain and the Netherlands, to name a few.

But BLM continues to receive harsh criticism whenever riots break out or killings occur, like the recent one with the lone and deranged Dallas sniper.

These incidents go against everything BLM stands for and undermine their efforts to exercise their First Amendment right to peaceful assembly.

The movement has attracted a, perhaps unlikely, supporter – former House Speaker and Republican presidential hopeful, Newt Gingrich. He expressed it clearly and succinctly:

‘It took me a long time, and a number of people talking to me through the years, to get a sense of this: If you are a normal, white American, the truth is you don’t understand being black in America and you instinctively under-estimate the level of discrimination and the level of additional risk,’ Gingrich stated during a CNN interview.

When the dominant white culture doesn’t see and hear African-American voices concerning our pains, fears, and vulnerabilities our humanity is distorted and made invisible through a prism of racist, homophobic, transphobic and sexist stereotypes. So, too, is our suffering.

I’m calling on my white LGBTI brothers and sisters for help because my spouse and I don’t know where our black bodies are safe in America.