Black LGBT Health in the United States: Review

Black LGBT Health in the United States
Edited by Lourdes Dolores Follins & Jonathan Mathias Lassiter
Lexington Books

Reviewed by C. Todd White

The title of Black LGBT Health in the United States does not truly represent its content. In his introduction, Lassiter offers the phrase “Black same-gender-loving,” or SGL, rather than white-centric acronym LGB. The term is not offered up for generalization; SGL is “a specific cultural signifier” that refers to Black Americans, an attempt of self-identification that is worthy of attention by non-SGL scholars.

As a professor with two years experience teaching college anthropology classes in three New Jersey prisons (through the NJ-STEP Program) and one Youth Corrections Facility, I was particularly impressed with this book and can attest to its validity and importance. Chapter One, Robinson’s “The Forgotten Intersection,” grounds the volume in demographic facts in accord with my experience: “Black youth are unfairly represented in the U.S. juvenile justice system.” The reasons for this are many and complex, but improvements and resolutions are possible and imperative. The remaining chapters specify practical steps to identify and rectify ongoing institutional and interpersonal discrimination against SGL/T individuals.

While the book’s primary audience is SGL/T-identified scholars and policymakers—be they interested in Black bisexual women, Black LGBT youth (as defined problematically, top-down through institutions), Black women with cancer, etc.—it would be good for all people to read this book, to understand how it feels to be SGL/T in the U.S. today and join in the effort to improve quality of life for people of all colors and creeds.

The theme of resiliency in this text—a word increasingly bandied about these days—is one of the most useful discussions on the concept I have read, another reason this book should be available through every scholarly library in the nation.

C. Todd White is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He is author of Pre-Gay L.A. and other articles and chapters pertaining to the history of homosexual rights in the U.S. He is the Chair of the Los Angeles-based Homosexual Information Center and editor of Tangents Online. He may be contacted at [email protected].