Catching Hell and Shaking Off the Flames of Homophobia in the Black Community

By: Gerald M. Palmer, MSW

The term homophobia within itself is a divisive term and one that is quickly disregarded by many. I only used the term homophobia to gain the reader’s attention. Instead of being sidetracked by a word, let us address behavior. Let us talk about a system that denies, denigrates, and stigmatizes others. This ideological system is one in which any non-heterosexual form of behavior, identity, relationship, or community is branded as not essential.

In the black community there seems to be two competing thoughts in which this ideological system (let us call it heterosexism) is prevalent. These two competing thoughts are religious thought and black consciousness. In both systems, non-heterosexuality is believed to be either chosen, brought on by past sexual trauma. Both ideologies believe that it can be changed. To be non-heterosexuality or even a supporter of the rights of non-heterosexuals is to be on the fringes of both groups and looking in. Again, these are the dominant black belief systems and it is important to know that these groups disagree on many levels but seem to unite by the way of their heterosexism. Our LGBTQ brothers and sisters catch hell from both sides. Many shake off the flames by turning away from both ideologies.

Traditionally in black religious thought non-heterosexuality is viewed as Satan’s construct used as a Heaven population control because non-heterosexuals “are disqualified from Heaven”. Those who are anything but heterosexual are believed to be controlled by their Satan given sexual desires. They are also deemed unfit for brother or sisterhood because heterosexuality is viewed by some to be incompatible to a Christian life. Many who operate in this belief or world view, purge themselves of their non-heterosexual members be they related or not. This purging could be either physical or emotional as they pull away from their non-heterosexual members. The works of Elijah J. Ward among others speak on this tragedy.

In the conscious community non-heterosexuality is viewed as a white construct used as a tool to control black population. Those who are anything but heterosexual are viewed as pawns of the white man and deemed unfit for brother or sisterhood. Race survival fuels this ideology and black gay men are seen as stumbling blocks to black survival. It is viewed that gay men are taking part in black annihilation. This ignores the fact that sexual reproduction can trump sexual orientation. Sexual behavior may not reinforce sexual orientation. Some in the conscious community believe that non-heterosexuality did not exist in African culture. Scholarship including work by Stephen O. Murray and Will Roscoe make some compelling arguments against those beliefs.

What does it mean to be both black and a non-heterosexual in America? According to many who are both black and non-heterosexual it means that you are too gay to be Conscious, too gay to be a Christian and too black for the at-large non-heterosexual community.
That is a damn shame.

Gerald is  a Husband, Father, Ordained Minister, Social Worker, Educator, Social Commentator, Social Activist, LGBT Ally and all around Renaissance Man

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