Monday, August 23, 2010
Black Gay Men and White Het Male Supremacy
Homosexuality touches the ultimate soft spot within the black community. Homophobia causes division, exclusion, and hatred. Homosexuality in and of itself has been the source of great misunderstanding and persecution in mainstream society. Because I am writing a series for Black History Month, I will look at homosexuality specifically in the black community. I will identify the historical, religious, and social reasons why homosexuality gets the greater populations panties in a bunch.
In order to understand the current state of affairs within a community, it is essential to understand what the community experienced in the past to establish a context. Historical records show accounts of homosexuality spanning centuries, continents, male and female alike. However, the black community tends to feel a certain sense of “immunity” to the condition of homosexuality. Some members of the black community reject homosexuality to the point of saying that is “the white man’s disease”. It is thought that homosexuality was forced about blacks by colonizing nations. I will explore this idea later as it is not completely untrue.
Dr. Frances Cress Wesling, author of the Isis Papers in 1991, posits that black homosexuality is a result of white supremacy and oppression. For Wesling, white supremacists have emasculated and effeminated the black male in order to undermine the black family. Wesling believes that this oppression has taken place since childhood and hence, homosexuals and bisexuals should not be persecuted for their orientation as it wasn’t their personal choice in her perspective. Weslings’ view is interesting because she differs from black Christian fundamentalists who believe that homosexuality is a choice.
Understanding the root of the extreme homophobia of blacks on other blacks, we must turn our eyes to the black church. Most Christian blacks don’t support the idea of homosexuality because it is understood to be outside of the plan of the Judeo-Christian God. This idea of homosexuality as the ultimate sin beyond all others is not supported by Biblical text. In reading the Christian New Testament, readers will find that the only unpardonable sin is “blaspheming the Holy Spirit”. Whenever one is in search of gospel truth regarding an issue like homosexuality, it is important to thoroughly research the topic. Researching with pure intentions, readers will find that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, (the town that is thought to be burned solely because of homosexuality) is quite more involved than what the conventional synopsis holds. It can be speculated the chaos stirred up by homophobia in the church is a crafty device to divide Christians further and move them away from the message of love, acceptance, and brotherhood.
Gay Black Men Talk is a YouTube video of a diverse group of gay black men discussing their gayness and their blackness co-existing simultaneously. From watching this video, we will see the popular notion of gayness negating blackness cast down. These gay men discuss the issues of family, religion, and the “Down Low phenomenon”. One of the speakers on the video denies claims that gay black males do not want to have a family. Although gay black men may not have the conventional nuclear family, he says that black men are still heavily involved in taking care of their immediate family such as sisters, nieces, nephews etc…
A powerful point that is made in this video is the affirmation of gayness by these black men. In affirming their gayness and coming into themselves, they are accepting who they are. In affirming their gayness, they are protecting the black family and the black woman by not leading her on to believe that they are heterosexual. An immediate danger that results from homophobia within the black community is the subculture of “undercover brothers”, “homothugs”,and “DL brothers”. These are black men who identify as heterosexual meanwhile they are engaging in homosexual sex. In so doing, these MSM (men who have sex with men) are potentially putting their wives, girlfriends, and lovers at risk for STD’s, HIV, and AIDs. Black women who believe that they are in a monogamous heterosexual relationship are less likely to use a condom and are officially at risk for contracting an STI or STD. This video also discusses the role of the black church in ostracizing black gays. The host of the meeting suggests that the black church could in fact bridge the gap between homophobics and homosexuals. However, the likelihood of this coalition forming is very slim.
Outwardly gay black males can be seen as doing more to preserve the heterosexual black community. The ideals of openly gay black males about their sexuality are found in this video clip: Gay Black Male Pledge.
History of Homosexuality & The Black Community:
As mentioned earlier, homosexuality is considered “the white man’s disease” especially for Caribbeans. Although not directly true, slavery and colonization forced slaves to participate in homosexual acts. This forced homosexuality on slaves and the subsequent emasculation that followed, caused embarrassment, hatred, and anger amongst victim slaves. These residual feelings morphed into homophobia. The term “porch monkeys” is used to describe slaves who served their masters and their masters company on the porch of the plantation estate. Porch monkeys served as entertainment for the master and his or her guest. Disgustingly, slave masters would force their slaves to perform homosexual acts to entertain themselves and their guests at the cost of any remaining shred of a slaves dignity and pride. Porch slaves might have been ridiculed amongst other slaves for having to do this.
The master’s porch was not the only venue for homosexual acts within the slave community. Slaves were quartered according to their sex. Men quartered with men and women quartered with women. Most sexual interaction that took place between male and female slaves was for breeding slave children to be bought and sold at the masters request. Hence, out of this living arrangement, homosexual acts were taken part in by slaves as a means to release sexual frustration. Modern-day prisons mimic this arrangement. Understanding this system, one can glean that homosexuality may not have been turned to as a first recourse for slaves. Because slaves had no control over their sex lives, they may have harbored immense hatred in their masters and themselves. And from this, we see the surviving acidity of homophobia in the black community.
Bayard Rustin & Gay Rights:
The beacon of hope for gay rights in the black community is Bayard Rustin. He was the Harvey Milk of the black community. Rustin was the son of a Pennsylvania Quaker who was raised around NAACP leaders such as W.E.B. DuBois and James Weldon Johnson. Rustin was born to be an activist. He was oriented in the Ghandian passive resistance model and went to work alongside Dr. Martin Luther King in organizing the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Rustin was a self-proclaimed homosexual. In 1953, he was arrested in California for partaking in a “lewd act”. Rustin would later plead guilty to “sex perversion” which was consensual sodomy in California at the time. Rustin was also a civil rights leader and fellow leaders in the Civil Rights Movement were afraid that Rustin’s open sexuality would inhibit supporters of the civil rights cause. Attempts were made to curb Rustin’s recognition. Unfortunately, most attempts succeeded and luckily a few failed. Strom Thurmond, the racist politician, doctored an FBI photo of Rustin and Dr. Martin Luther King showing Rustin talking to a bathing King to insinuate that the two were having a homosexual affair. Dr. King and Rustin denied these false allegations. Because of his passive tactics, Rustin was written off by Malcolm X and other black militants as a “sell out”. Rustin would defend himself by saying that he sported the Afro style long before many other brothers caught on to the movement. With his “The New Niggers are Gay” speech, Rustin advocated on behalf on the New York Gay Rights Bill. Tragically, Rustin passed in 1987 from a perforated appendix leaving his followers with much work to do.
Now that we have a contextual understanding of homosexuality in the black community from a historical, religious, and social perspective, we can initiate steps forward towards change. Knowing where images of black homosexuality come from and why they are seen as portrayals of an unacceptable existence for a black individual, particularly male, we can unravel the century wound cord around the psyches of homophobic blacks. By ridiculing black homosexuals, are we causing more division which the likes of Dr. Frances Wesling might say is quite possibly succumbing to oppression? Shouldn’t we want to join forces in brotherly love? It is important for some to not compromise their ideas and personal principles. That I understood. I am not proposing that all blacks become homosexual now. Rather, I propose that in our efforts to unite and create a common black community, we suspend the age-old notions of homosexuality. One doesn’t have to agree with everyone’s lifestyle, but we do have to respect that as individuals we are given a free will and only the respective person deals with the implications of their actions. Hence, what a fellow friend does in the privacy of their own home will not affect how I live my day today…unless I let it.