What is Same Gender Loving?
Same gender loving (SGL) a term coined for African American use by activist Cleo Manago, is a Black culturally affirming description for homosexuals and bisexuals, particularly in the African American community. SGL is an alternative to Eurocentric homosexual identities e.g. gay and lesbian which do not culturally affirm or engage the rich history and cultures of people of African descent. Specifically, the term SGL affirms Black homosexual and bisexual men and women through its African American conceptual origins, African inspired iconography, philosophy, symbols, principles, and values. The term SGL usually has broad, important and positive personal, social, and political purposes and consequences. SGL is only an anti-hate and anti-anti-Black identity, harm-reducing: movement, philosophy and framework.
the term Same gender loving (SGL)emerged in the early ‘90s to offer Black women who love women and Black men who love men (and other people of color) a way of identifying that resonated with the uniqueness of Black life and culture. Before this, many African descended people, knowing little about their history regarding homosexuality and bi-sexuality had taken on European symbols and identifications as a means of embracing their sexuality(ies): Greek lambdas, German pink triangles, the White-gay-originated rainbow flag, in addition to the terms “gay’ and “lesbian.”
The term “gay,” coined as an identification by White male homosexuals beginning in the in the 50s, was cultivated in an exclusive White male environment. By the late 60s, the growing Gay Liberation movement developed in a climate excluding Blacks and women. In response to this discrimination, White women coined the identification “lesbian,” a word derived from the Greek island Lesbos. The lesbian movement, in turn, helped define a majority White movement called “feminism.” In response to the racism experienced by women of color from white feminists, celebrated author Alice Walker introduced the term “womanist.”
The term “womanist” identified woman of color concerned with the oppression of women and with addressing the problem of “racism.” In this spirit of self-naming and ethnic-sexual pride, the term “same gender loving” (SGL) was introduced to enhance the lives and illuminate the voices of homosexual and bi-sexual people of color; to provide a powerful identification not marginalized by racism in the gay community or “homophobic” attitudes in society at large.
As gay culture grew and established itself in San Francisco, Greenwich Village, West Hollywood and other enclaves, Blacks, especially, were carded and rejected from many establishments. Even today Blacks, Asians and Latinos often appear in the pages of gay publications solely as the potential sexual objects of white men. Ironically, gay rights activism was modeled on the Black Civil Rights and Black Power Movements of the ‘50s and ‘60s. Unfortunately, this replication of Black liberation provided little incentive for gays to acknowledge SGL Blacks, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans.
Since the advent of the gay rights movement many Black SGLs painfully discovered that this “movement” provided little space for the voices, experiences and empowerment of Black people. The rigid influence of the Black church and its traditionally anti-homosexual stance has contributed to attitudes that repress and marginalize Black SGLs. The lack of acknowledgement and support in the Black community has led multitudes of same gender loving African descended people to the White community to endure racism, isolation from their own communities, oppression and cultural insensitivity.
The high visibility of the white gay community contributes to the tendency in Black communities to overlook or ridicule Black SGL relationships as alien or aberrant. The Black SGL movement has inspired national dialogue on diverse ways of loving in the Black community. The term same gender loving explicitly acknowledges loving within same-sex relationships while encouraging self-love.
SGL has served as a wakeup call for Blacks to acknowledge diverse ways of loving and sexualities and has provided an opportunity for Blacks and other people of color to claim, nurture and honor their significance within their families and communities.
Seeking support and positive identification, people of color still endure ethnic invisibility in many gay settings and sexuality invisibility in their own communities. It is the intention of the SGL movement to break these cycles. The term “same gender loving” (SGL) has been adopted by women and men from all over the African Diaspora. To same gender loving sisters and brothers everywhere… Peace, self-love and respect to you, to your families, communities and allies.