BY JAN STEVENSON
Over 50 people gathered at The Ruth Ellis Center June 2 for a discussion about black LGBT health issues, an area of study that has been largely ignored in the academic literature until now. Authors and editors of a new book “Black LGBT Health in the United States” explored black LGBT health, the resilience of the black LGBT community and its powerful resources – emotional, medical, sociological and psychological.
The panel discussion was convened by Dr. Ami Robinson, a psychologist at Detroit’s Clinic for Child Study conducting therapy with incarcerated youth and their families, and is the author of the new book’s opening chapter. “Most of the youth I see in the juvenile justice system are black, and a disproportionate number of them are LGBTQ and gender non-conforming,” said Robinson. “They are finding their way alone a lot of the time, without family support. It is amazing to watch them and to witness their strength.”
The book’s co-editors joined the panel, Dr. Lourdes Follins, associate professor at Kingsborough Community College/CUNY, and Dr. Jonathan Lassiter, an assistant professor of psychology at Muhlenberg College.
Dr. Follins said that when she was approached by the publishers to write this book she did an initial search of the literature to see what already existed and was astounded to find almost no writing about black LGBT health outside of the AIDS epidemic. “I reached out to other black LGBT scholars and asked if they would join me in this project. It was important that this book be written about black LGBT health by black psychologists and academics. We know these stories and we need to be the ones to tell them,” said Follins.
Dr. Lassiter, who is also a dancer and choreographer, was passionate in his reasons why he wanted to see this book published. “We are not victims. Too often black LGBT people are portrayed as victims, and, yes, we have struggles, but we also have incredible strength and resilience. That’s what I wanted to write about.”
Emani Love, former REC staffer, provided the panel with a youth and trans perspective. The panel discussion was moderated by Leseliey Welch, deputy director of the Detroit Health Department, and sponsored by Pride Source Media Group, the Metro-Detroit Association of black Psychologists, SAGE and the Ruth Ellis Center.