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Lt. Gov. Carroll: How Dare You Denigrate Me and My Beautiful Black Lesbian and Bi Sisters?

Florida's Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll is on the defensive (and has apparently lost her mind) after former staff member Carletha Cole claimed that she caught Carroll and her female travel aide in a compromising sexual position in Carroll's capitol office. In an absurd attempt to deflect questions about the alleged same-sex encounter, Carroll told a local news outlet that Black lesbian and bisexual women don’t look like her.

“My husband doesn’t want to hear that. He knows the type of woman I am for 29 years. I’m the one that’s married for 29 years. The accuser is the one that’s single for a long time,” Carroll continued on camera while chuckling. “Usually Black women that look like me don’t engage in relationships like that.”

What exactly do Black lesbians and bisexual women look like, Lt. Gov. Carroll, since you seem to know so well? And what “type of woman” have you been for the last 29 years that by default makes you not lesbian or bisexual?

Actually, don’t answer that. Because who knows what more ignorance and utter word vomit you can further spew. As a self-identified Black lesbian who embraces and celebrates her femininity, allow me to answer that for you.

At the core of Carroll’s problematic statement is the misconception that people “turn” gay because they are unattractive, cannot meet someone of the opposite sex and out of desperation “switch teams.” Being gay isn’t our “Plan B.” It is part of our identity that isn’t dependent on our physical features or “success rate” with men. Someone’s marriage to a man, good looks, or femininity isn’t evidence of anything related to their orientation.

There is nothing “wrong” or deviant about being a lesbian. In fact, the lesbians I’ve met personally, as friends, co-workers, lovers, partners and mentors, are some of the most radiant Black women – inside and out — I’ve been blessed to know. They are mothers, sisters, daughters, community organizers, spiritual leaders, artists, wordsmiths, CEOs, doctors, and more. Their brilliance and beauty is undeniable. These women engage in some of the most loving and committed relationships I have witnessed.

What “type” of woman exactly are you, Lt. Gov. Carroll? You seem so keen on differentiating yourself from me and my Black lesbian and bi sisters. And what makes your relationship with your husband so different from the thousands of Black women raising children together? Inquiring minds would like to know.

The fact that Lt. Gov. Carroll went out of her way to specify that Black lesbians and bisexual women don’t “look like her” implies that non-Black lesbians and bi women are entitled to more a fluid gender expression. This is yet another problematic notion of female sexuality so many Black women, and women in general, have internalized from the patriarchal policing of Black female sexuality.

To add insult to injury, then there’s Lt. Gov. Carroll’s jab at single Black women. As if those single for extended periods of time have somehow gotten the short end of the stick, or, gasp, are gay. Heaven forbid there are Black women who are single by choice or who are happily single for long lengths of time.

For the record, this is what a Black lesbian looks like. They look like me. They look like comedian Wanda Sykes, actress Jasika Nicole, model Az Marie, singer Tracy Chapman, activist Angela Davis, poet Staceyann Chin and others. Many, Lt. Gov. Carroll, look just like you. 

You can defend your marriage without dissing Black lesbian and single women. You can protect your reputation without revoking Black lesbian femininity.

That is why I am standing with the National Black Justice Coalition, the nation’s leading Black LGBT civil rights organization, and with Black lesbians, bisexual women and our allies everywhere, demanding that Lt. Gov. Carroll retract her statement immediately.

Tweet your photo to @NBJContheMove to show Lt. Gov. Carroll and others what Black lesbians look like. Use the hashtag #whatablacklesbianlookslike.

– Kimberley McLeod

Kimberley McLeod serves as NBJC's Director of Communications. 

The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) is a civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and same gender loving (LGBTQ/SGL) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS.