The Sakia Gunn Film Project and Pittsburgh

Last night, Ledcat and I attended the “People in Color” film series at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty.  We caught my first performance by Dreams of Hope which was simply mindblowing. 

They really are a bright spot in the local LGBTQ community.  We bought their educational DVD which we'll hopefully be able to review soon.  The clip above was a piece they performed Tuesday night.  Three of the youth also participated in the discussion panel.  One young man, Angelito, literally brought me to tears with his nuanced discussion of the experiences of transyouth who are often misunderstood in terms of their orientation.

The Sakia Gunn Film Project is also mindblowing.  Sakia was a 15 year old lesbian who was murdered in a hate crime in 2003.  Her story received very little attention from the MSM, straight or gay. The film documents her life and the conviction of the man who murdered her. 

The film is heartbreaking.  Sakia was stabbed and died in the arms of her best friend on the way to the hospital.  In the movie (filmed in 2006 I believe), the pain of that trauma is painfully evident.  I commented afterwards to event organizer LaTasha Mayes that it was sad that Sakia's friend was still so traumatized 23 months after the murder, but somewhat uplifting that her mother seems to have found some peace after the murdered was convicted (of manslaughter, mind you, not murder). 

It really does raise more questions than it answers.  The filmmakers talk with a range of LGBT persons of color about their lifestories and Sakia's story.  The taboo about delving into racism within the LGBTQ community is painful to acknowledge, but there you have it.  The intersection of race and sexual orientation and gender identity isn't just something to view negatively.  It is a whole cultural experience that really is different than my own.  One panelist commented how she tries to engage artists to help them understand the pain they inflict with homophobic music. 

I still don't know what I think. I'm wondering how to do things differently here in Pittsburgh?  I've been to four LGBT events in eight days. All were predominantly white gay events.  This was the queerest event.  That disconnect is a huge part of the problem.  Gay white folks should not ever say “Well, there's a Black Pride” as this topic comes up. Yes, there is.  However, these is plenty of White Pride to render that event almost obsolete in terms of advocacy, outreach, human services and leadership.

Marriage equality would not have saved Sakia's life.  It might, however, change the discourse around who makes up our families and our community.  That's the dialogue we need to prevent grown men from stabbing teen girls who identify as gay.  We may not be able to work on from the marriage angle, but nothing but ourselves prevents us from tackling the other side of the conversation. 

I'm so pleased that people attended the Lambda Bash and the GLCC Open House, but until those groups (and supporters) turn out for events like this and make an organizational commitment to be present to the whole community … I'm not sure we have an answer as to how Pittsburgh would respond to a similar situation.  Let's hope we don't find out.

Was there a single elected official who thought the story of a 15 year old murdered lesbian worthwhile of their evening? 

I can't wait for Angelito, Claire and their friends to move into leadership roles.  It is going to be amazing!



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