Black and gay hard to do

BY SCOTT RAYNOR | MAY 06, 2009 7:30 AM

Alexander Robinson knew he was different during his first day of grade school.

He chose to wear bright yellow pants with a similar color shirt, and as he walked into the girls’ coat room with his friends — all of whom were girls — he was openly made fun of by his teacher.

“She said, ‘Alex thinks he’s a girl,’ ” Robinson told a group of roughly 50 people Tuesday night.
Robinson, now in his 50s, spoke about his experiences as a black gay man and activist at hotelVetro, 201 S. Linn St. His stop in Iowa City was part of his statewide tour to support the Iowa Supreme Court decision to lift the ban on same-sex marriage.

“I am here in Iowa to play a role in making sure we don’t have a setback here and that the victory we won is a victory we will sustain,” he said.

Today, Robinson is the CEO of the National Black Justice Coalition, a political organization based in Washington, D.C., that specializes in black gay rights.

He addressed concerns of those in the gay black community, specifically the fear that if they come out, they will lose their strong sense of community.

“To give that up is to give up everything they know,” Robinson said.

He also spoke about the challenges he has faced as a gay man.

“Coming out is something you do every day; there is always an opportunity to hide just a little bit, to not tell that whole truth about who you are,” he said.

Before founding the National Black Justice Coalition, Robinson served as a private political consultant and the chief lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union.

His organization raises funds and lobbies on the national and state level for gay-rights issues, on top of helping black and openly gay people run for political office.

Since creating the group five years ago, Robinson said, he has seen many advancements in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues.

“We certainly have seen a lot of progress at state levels,” he said. “At the federal level, we are hopeful, but progress isn’t as strong.”

The future of the organization, he said, is continued growth and an emphasis on creating communities for black gay-community members.

“[We] hope to continue to encourage black gays to really become more engaged in their efforts in their communities to make sure that it is safe for people to go out in the open, and we know that takes a strong community,” he said.

Lynn Fallon, the event coordinator and member of grass-roots activist group I’M For Iowa, said she wanted Iowans to hear a story from a different perspective.

“Frankly, the only voices in Iowa that people are hearing in the African-American community are [black reverends] who are very against marriage equality, and we wanted to offer voices to black folks who disagree,” she said.

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