Being a black gay millennial is a balancing act of identity and social consideration.
In one sense, I want diverse advancement for all people who come from any one of the marginalized backgrounds I occupy because I believe they’ll speak truth to power.
However, I don’t want just anybody in the position of doing so.
When Pennsylvania’s first openly gay state representative, Brian Sims, announced this week that he will challenge sitting Democratic congressman Chaka Fattah for his seat next spring, I got several phone calls.
Everyone assumed that I would be automatically in awe that a white gay man in Pennsylvania might be elected to Congress. But just like I wasn’t rooting for Fattah’s return to office as a now-indicted stronghold black congressman, I’m really not a fan of Sims’ candidacy as well.
He’s not the best man for the job, and unfortunately, we have allowed hyper-political sensitivity to not allow us to assess exactly why.
When some of my straight friends said they weren’t supporting Sims’ candidacy, they were called homophobic before being asked why. It’s almost taboo now for even the most liberal voters to question the motivations of LGBT activists without getting a side-eye.
And even though there are some fair reasons to observe the pushback, individuals on the fence shouldn’t be shut out completely. Brian Sims has only been a state representative for three years in the Second Congressional District, which is predominately black and faces extreme poverty amidst societal turmoil.
But this district also encompasses the Gayborhood, where he rightfully vacations religiously. And that is part of the problem.
His time in office has been mostly centered on a more liberal lily-white stratosphere of social issues that are hip, safe, and not as gritty as those facing the entire district. Sure, he likes diversity, but it’s not visibly shown in how physically present he is for a wide spectrum of the communities he represents. Social media commentary and hashtags can only go so far for some when we see you at cocktail socials & fundraisers for others.
When people think of Sims, for better or worse, he models LGBT progress – but not the kind of liberation poor Philadelphians of color and the working class in his congressional district need.
As apart of that community, he doesn’t represent the district as much as I believe is required. And this is coming from a gay black man who volunteers in public schools and community-organizing groups who don’t know Sims beyond what they see in glossy magazine covers they can’t afford.
This isn’t to say that Fattah shouldn’t have an opponent – he definitely needs to go. Fattah has lost the respect and integrity of the seat and the region where many held such high regard for him.
Personally, I would nominate state representative Dwight Evans, whose work in education and other community issues reflect more of what the Congressional district currently needs.
This isn’t to say that Sims isn’t a promising statesman – he’s only 37 years old and has proven himself to be an emerging advocate.
But garnering headlines and being a handsome face for a particular issue isn’t the same as producing tangible change across all the communities you’re expected to represent. I prefer the latter.
This column represents the views of the author, and does not necessarily reflect the views of Metro US.