A Black Pride Atlanta call to action: Go beyond visibility to liberation

It can be easy to forget that black LGBTQ lives are under attack, especially in this era of Pose, Lil Nas X and Lena Waithe.

Don’t get me wrong. Visibility is crucial, but we must resist the urge to confuse visibility with liberation. The fight for liberation is embedded in the LGBTQ rights movement, though in recent years that fight has focused primarily on advancing equality through the courts.

As the courts become more hostile towards LGBTQ rights — the Trump administration has had 123 federal judges confirmed, including 41 to the federal courts of appeal as well as circuit courts to lifetime appointments on his recommendation — it is important for us to utilize our pride as a conduit for advancing issues that lead to expanding equity and supports our liberation. 

Black queer folks experience disparities in access to health care and health outcomes, suffer disproportionate violence and discrimination, are overrepresented in foster care system and the criminal legal system, and face broad socioeconomic inequality. 

We are the ones we have been waiting for, and right now, during Black Gay Pride Atlanta, is the time for us to begin articulating our vision of equity for our community. Here are three ways that we can start:

Advance Statewide Civil Rights Protections

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race and ethnicity, but it does not bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Georgia is one of only three states with no civil rights bill protecting people from discrimination in the workplace, housing or public spaces. 

And you guessed it: Black LGBTQ individuals are more acutely impacted by these issues, as bias and prejudice based on race, sexual orientation and gender identity intersect and increase our likelihood of discrimination. 

This year, we must support efforts to enact explicit nondiscrimination protections in Georgia.

Increase Access to Health Care

Black LGBTQ and people living with HIV (PLWH) experience a myriad of health disparities at the patient, provider and system level that act as barriers to health care. 

Georgia was one of several states that chose not to expand Medicaid via the Affordable Care Act. In states that did, there was an increase in coverage that significantly benefited people who are often uninsured or under-insured, including LGBTQ populations, PLWH and black and Latinx people. 

As the state considers a tailored approach to Medicaid expansion through a waiver, we must advocate for one that is robust and significantly increases access to care and improves health outcomes. We must also actively participate in the public comment period once the waiver is released. 

Support Legislation to Reform HIV Criminal Laws

HIV criminal laws like the one in Georgia disproportionately impact black gay and trans people who are often perceived as dangerous and deviant. 

Under the Georgia law, people living with HIV can be found criminally liable for up to 10 years in prison if they do not disclose their HIV status to consensual partners before any type of sexual contact, even if transmission is impossible. These laws work against public health policies, perpetuate HIV stigma and discourage people from knowing their HIV status. 

Last legislative session, a bill was introduced to change the law in Georgia. We should encourage our elected officials to support this bill during the next legislative session. We should also work with local prosecutors to educate them on HIV and to use their discretion to not bring charges under this statute.

Our progress shouldn’t be dictated by perceived assimilation into mainstream media, but should be measured by our ability to move the needle towards equity and liberation. We owe that not only to ourselves and to the generation coming up behind us, but to all of those who created the space for us to stand strong, black and proud. 

Eric Paulk is Deputy Director of Georgia Equality and an advocate working at the intersections of race, class and sexuality. Follow him on Twitter.

This column originally appeared in Q magazine. Read more LGBTQ writers and thinkers in Q Voices here. the full issue online here:

Pick up a new edition of Q each week at queer and LGBTQ-friendly venues around town.