The inter-position of the black community and the LGBTQA+ community is an interesting one. One the one hand, there is a certain openness and a certain allowance for gender fluidity, however, this acceptance seems to end at the acceptance of sexuality. The Queer story and the Black story have a few things in common. Both feature something discrimination on the basis of something that the individual cannot and should not change. Layered on top of that a strong religious element. The Church has been and will continue to be the foundation on which the black community is built. Most people in various communities of color grew up in and around the church. The black church stretches back into slavery when slaves on the plantation would gather for religious services on Sunday. After the Civil War, black churches were founded throughout the South. When African-Americans moved north, we brought those strong church traditions with us. Christianity and it’s (mostly) protestant principles are an important part of the black experience here in America.
The Great Silence
For Queer people in the greater community, this has led to a silence even as the over-arching culture has slowly opened to the reality and acceptance of the LGBT community. Even though many African-americans are progressive for social programs, this is an area where the progressive wave comes to a screeching halt. If you want to be a black male and date another black male openly, you’re in for an uphill battle. I imagine the plight for queer black women may be similar. I can only speak for my experience. For many Queer people in the black community it means losing family, friends, and the church community. Among men, this has led to the practice of same-sex acts behind closed doors. It has led to a very negative masculinity that prioritizes only one kind of manhood over any alternatives. I find it so frustrating that so many black males quietly engage in same-sex behavior in secret while vilifying it in public. I was made aware of a story about a church in Georgia that had an outbreak of AIDS among some of the church ladies. The Pastor was shocked to find out that it was caused by their husbands engaging in unprotected homosexual acts, contracting HIV, and bringing it home to their wives.
The great silence has caused mental anguish for those Queer people forced out of church and community and it the cause of very real, life-and-death consequences. [pullquote]
What if those men felt comfortable leading honest lives as open gay/bisexual men? How would that change the black community and how would that open up the community for greater possibilities?
[/pullquote]It’s time for this silence to end.
An Inclusive Community
I think one of the questions we have to ask, as a community, is how can we make things more acceptable for black men to be themselves in the community, including being open and very real about their sexuality. At a practical level, I can’t get a date. But at a much greater level, the community is not exactly welcoming to men coming out of the closet. To make the black community stronger and truly inclusive it is well past time to start having this important conversation. It’s time to let people be honest about themselves and allow them to have a full and honest place in the community. Times have changed and the thinking has changed. Rather than be stuck inside religious dogma and tradition, it’s time to embrace our Queer brothers and sisters and like many changes within the black community, the church can and should lead the way.