At the tip of Cape Code is the LGBTQ- friendly haven Provincetown, fondly called P-town, and known as the best LGBTQ summer resort on the East Coast.
Of late, more lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people of color (POC) have not only begun vacationing in P-town, but we have also begun holding POC events.
For the past several years now, the âWomen of Color Weekendâ brings hundreds of us LBT sisters of color to P-town from all across the country.
And, it is the one time of the year many of us make the journey to P-town, anticipating we will feel safe enough, for a few days, to let down our guard.
But the sexual and homophobic harassment many of us LBT sisters endure from many of our heterosexual brothers of African descent back home in our communities, or imported from one of the Caribbean Islands has, too, become an inescapably reality at P-town.
âA few years back I sent a letter about this very subject... and I received an email from the Provincetown Chamber of Commerce, instructing me to get in touch with them and the police if this happens again...well it has happened again and again,â Ife Franklin of Roxbury, MA wrote me.
Franklin and her wife were at âWomen of Color Weekend 2011,â and she and several sisters of color were continual harassed.
âNow I will take ownershipâŠI have not called the police or contacted the town ChamberâŠ Why? Well, here is where this gets a little sticky for me...So, if I call and say âthere are some Black men harassing meâ will they round up ALL of the Black men? Even the ones that have done nothing wrong?â
Issues of race, gender identity, and sexual orientation trigger a particular type of violence against people of color that cannot afford to go unreported. Not reporting what is going on with LGBTQ people of color not only subjects us to constant violence that goes unchecked, but it also puts the larger queer culture at risk.
In the now defunct Boston LGBTQ newspaper âIn Newsweeklyâ Will Coons in 2007 expressed in his âLetter to the Editorâ his distress with the harassment. âIâm well aware of the white manâs burden and the need to be open and sensitive to historical injustices, but the flip side works as well: are these Jamaican men sensitive to, aware of, and respectful of the gay men who vacation here? My impression over the past ten years is that most of them are not and I distinctly feel uncomfortable in their presence.â
The lack of reporting about these types of harassment and assaults from LGBTQ people of color is for two reasons - all dealing with race.
The first reason is the âpolitics of silenceâ in LGBTQ communities of color to openly report these kinds of attacks unless it results in death. With being openly queer and often estranged, if not alienated, from our communities of color, reporting attacks against us by other people of color can make victims viewed as ârace traitors.â And because of the âpolitics of silenceâ that run rampantly in our LGBTQ communities of color we end up colluding in the violence against us.
The second reason has a lot to do with law enforcers, newspaper reporters, and doctors who view the topic of violence and people of color as synonymous.
Franklin wrote, âI feel that this harassment is a time bomb about to explode. At some point some man is going to take it to the next phaseâŠ my fear is that the âcat callingâ will turn into groping.... grabbing....rape and or deathâŠWhy?, Because in their hearts we are just some âbatty gurlsâ [Jamaican slang for homosexual].â
While Franklinâs fears are not unfounded, Jamaicans, however, are not the only ones harassing us.
Case in point is the murder of Shakia Gun of Newark, N.J.
On the morning of May 11, 2003, Shakia Gun, 15, was stabbed to death when she and her girlfriends rebuffed the sexual overtures of two African-American men by disclosing to them that their disinterest was simply because they were all lesbians.
Incensed that the girls rebuffed them - and by lesbians no less - the two assailants reportedly jumped out of their car and got into a scuffle with the girls.
Stabbed by one of the men, Gun dropped to the ground and died shortly after arriving at University Hospital in Newark.
A groundbreaking study in July 2010 titled âBlack Lesbians Matterâ examined the unique experiences, perspectives, and priorities of the Black LBT community.
This report reveals that LBT women of African descent are among the most vulnerable in our society and need advocacy in the areas of financial security, healthcare, access to education, marriage equality, and physical safety.
âHas there been ANY training or introduction for these âworkersâ educating them that they are in a mostly Gay culture? That the women...Black women or other wise are off limits,â Franklin asked.
As cheap and most often times exploited laborers, the shops that line P-townâs main drag, Commercial Street, care less, if at all, about their workersâ cultural competency or our safety.
I have to agree with Coons when he wrote on 2007 âI canât tell any local businesses how to run their operations. I can express my concerns, and I havenât seen or heard of any overwhelming efforts to mitigate Jamaican male distain, distrust and disgust towards gays and lesbians.â
Sadly, itâs now 2011, and nothing has changed. The issue here is our safety- physically and mentally- and that of ALL LGBTQ tourists.
Provincetownâs Chamber of Commerce has a year before âWomen of Color Weekend 2012.â And the problem can be easily remedied: either educating these men or not hiring them at all. Or, we take our gay dollars and go elsewhere.