Elections — we win some, we lose some. But last Tuesday’s election wasn’t particularly a regular election with a winner and a loser.
It was a sign of a deep and corroding rot in contemporary American politics: money.
It was also an indictment on democratic politics: homophobia’s role in winning races. In this case, we were outraised and outspent by dark money groups that placed a target on my back from the very beginning for being outspoken. I wanted to be a voice for working Floridians and take on large corporations’ greed and corruption. Money talks. Just look at the finances.
But we already know how corrupted the political system is, re: money in politics. That’s not the issue that brought me to write this piece today. It’s the homophobic tactics that likely cost me hundreds of votes, and maybe the election out west. Since announcing this race, I’ve been very open about my status as a Black gay candidate, and how that would allow me to represent this growing and vibrant district. A district with a very large LGBTQ+ population, which has never had an LGBTQ+ representative. While it wasn’t my central message, it was an important part of my story and our community’s story.
For most of my life, I faced double the adversity. When I walk out of my house in the morning, the color of my skin is black, and for that reason, I know that people will judge and look at me differently. I’d have to work twice as hard for less opportunity. When I walk and exist in my own community, we’re all Black, but I’m gay. For that reason, opportunities are scarce, and division runs deep. It’s a lose-lose situation. Even with our shared adversity as a Black community, I’m still isolated because of my sexual orientation.
In this election, my opponent or people close to him used my sexual orientation to target Black and Caribbean voters who were susceptible to homophobia. They used text messages and emails that claimed that I was “hardly a man.” On one side of the district, one may read that text and think “yeah, he’s too young.” On the other side of the district, out west, the inference is clear: “hardly a man,” in other words: gay.
Even in conversations I’ve had with the victor, he’d talk about how my focus on LGBTQ+ issues was a slap in the face to Black issues and race relations. How divisive. His campaign even likely pretended to be another competitor, Josephus Eggelletion III, to defame him as homophobic.
This is nothing new. Homophobia in the Black community is something I face just as loud as racism in the white community. Its pervasiveness haunts our politics, and my life every day. The tactics used in this campaign: text messages, whisper campaigns targeting churches, etc. — is a clear sign that we have ways to go to reach equality.
Daryl Campbell — I don’t know him well, but one thing’s for sure: he is not the representative we deserve. In August, we can change that.
- Elijah Manley
These thoughts are mine and not reflective of SFGN.