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Posts for March, 2012

NOM’s problem: black people just aren’t as stupid as they thought

Timothy Kincaid

March 27th, 2012

In reading the language of the National Organization for Marriage’s race-based strategy for delaying the eventuality of marriage equality, two things immediately struck me.

First, in order for this strategy to have any success, it had to create a long-term division in America along racial lines. Their hope was that African Americans (immediately) and Latinos (as their demographic increased in the voting population) would have a permanent division from White Americans along social issues and that this would be a race-based pride point. Their entire hope was that we all continue to see race as something that makes us inherently different from each other and would continue to view each other through lenses of suspicion, hostility, and fear.

While cynical and evil, this is not the oddest of their prepositions. In order for their plan to have effect, African Americans (and subsequently gays and Latinos) were presumed to be so stupid that they not only wouldn’t notice the objective but would blindly fall for it.

Well some did. Stupidity comes in all sizes, shapes and colors. And there are a small handful of preachers in the community who see race as all important to whom such a message was appealing and who readily lent their name and voice to NOM’s campaign. And there were a few gay folks who read this as “blacks hate us” and sniped back.

But NOM misjudged. Most blacks weren’t interested in joining their anti-gay crusade. Even when their pastor was the celebrated speaker, virtually every face at a NOM event was white. And old. And, for what it’s worth, bored. Blacks didn’t fall for the ploy.

Despite their assumptions, melanin seems to have no inverse correlation to intellect. As it turns out, black people just aren’t as stupid as NOM assumed they were.

But I do believe that NOM has had an impact on the way in which the African American community has thought about the subject of marriage. Since they started their campaign (which we observed during their Tour of Mostly Empty City Plazas), I believe that I have seen a noticeable change.

In the direction towards acceptance.

Now it’s not all champaign and roses between the gay and the black community. The polls in Maryland show that black voters are FAR less likely to support equality (or, at least, were before today). But in the community the tone is different, the leadership message is different, the community voices are different, and things are changing.

It’s hard to put numbers on it, but there it’s there if you look.

A few years ago, if a black guy made a homophobic comment he might be called on it, but there was also an accompanying demand to understand his culture and not judge too harshly. I don’t hear that part anymore. What I read are black writers condemning blatant homophobia without any room for excuses.

Where just a few years ago it was presumed that a black actress might support us but certainly no black athlete wanted anything to do with gay issues. Now some of the most respected black men in athletics speak out in favor of full equality and do so with an attitude of “yeah, of course I do, why wouldn’t I?”

And where we did have the official support of many black leaders a few years back, now some of the icons of the community are willing to put their hard-earned reputation on the line in ways we frankly have no right to expect. They worked hard to make sure that what NOM wanted would not succeed.

Sure, some of this was natural flow with the tide. But I also believe that NOM’s efforts to make opposing equality a matter of “what blacks are like” got some African Americans thinking about the issue and about what being black is really all about. And they didn’t much like what NOM was suggesting.

And NOM didn’t have success with Latinos either. It seems that their efforts to get hip young beautiful latinos e latinas were met with a blank faced, “Lo siento, no hablo Inglés … ¡que condescendiente idiota racista!”

Their joint effort during the Carly Fiorina senate campaign in California (“Vota Tus Valores”) yielded one telenovela actress who thought she was there to talk about her religious conversion and talk up the values of chastity. When she found out she was supposed to do political campaigning against the evils of Teh Ghey, she hopped back on the bus and was never seen again.

Because ya know, the funny thing about race-based points of pride is that they are just that. They are issues or matters or traits or peculiarities that feel like home. They are things that are shared that make us into “us”. And Latinos and African Americans aren’t particularly receptive to white folk telling them what they should be proud about.

Ultimately, people pride themselves in what they feel good about. If it’s food flavors that go back dozens or generations, that’s community. Facial expressions that mom got from her mom who got them from her mom, that’s family. A sense of humor that no one else gets, that makes you feel like you are totally and completely accepted and loved. A sense of honor, decency, hard work, commitment to caring for those you are responsible for, charity for those who have less, the ability to always make room for one more, showing love when others may not, those are the values you pass to the next generation.

And those are the pride points that you see in all communities, be they African American, Hispanic American, Irish American, Native American, German American, or I-Have-No-Idea American. The most visible differences are the foods and the songs and the dances and the history, but look past it and really everyone pretty much prides themselves on the same thing: “we are who we are because we love each other.” That is a cultural pride point that happens naturally.

Making sure that someone else doesn’t have the happiness you have? Not so much.

Sure there are tensions. The gay community and the black community have been a bit at odds for a while. But no one is proud of that. We don’t define ourselves in terms on not liking the other. And nothing will heal our grievances quicker than having some outsider try and take advantage.

As NOM is in the process of learning.

Taking the NAACP seriously?

Timothy Kincaid

August 2nd, 2011

Last Monday, the NAACP held its first ever town hall meeting on LGBT issues as part of their Annual National Convention. No More Downlow was there.

The debate got heated when the current NAACP CEO Benjamin Jealous is asked by our executive producer Earnest Winborne, “How can the LGBT community take the NAACP seriously, when its current board members are out saying that gay rights are not civil rights” – referring to current NAACP board member Rev. Keith Ratliff recent statement “Gay community stop hijacking the civil rights movement.”

Mr. Jealous responded saying the gay community should take the NAACP seriously because the NAACP was there with the Human Rights Campaign helping to pass the Matthew Shepard / James Byrd Hate Crimes Bill. The NAACP were champions of fighting Prop 8 in California as well as fighting alongside the LGBT community in Maine, Massachusetts, in Washington D.C. and in Maryland, and in other places. Jealous also said the LGBT community needed to do more ground work in the black community and not come late in the game with an expectation. He also said the black community needed to be treated with the same respect as the other allies of the LGBT community

Rather than discuss Ben Jealous’ answer, I want to make three observations.

One: I may be mistaken, and I am no weather-vane for any social trends, but I believe that I have seen a change in the way that bloggers, writers, and commentators within the black community have been discussing gay people and, more importantly, responding to those who do make slurs. I’ll leave it to those who have a better sense of the community, but it may be that a breakthrough is coming.

Two: The problem is not limited to a lack of support for gay issues in the African American community. Equally concerning are issues of racism and exclusion in the gay community. We, all of us, whatever race, ethnicity, religion, orientation, gender, or whatever need to look more for ways of seeing each other as “just like me” instead of letting our insecurities drive us into looking for differences and ways to separate. But we must also be careful that “just like me” doesn’t erase concern for each others’ real and unique challenges.

Three: In this discussion, let us never forget that “they” are already “us”. We have strong intelligent effective gay men and women who are not always valued due to prejudices that we may not even know we hold. Those who walk with a foot in two communities because of their race, religion, political ideology or other separation deserve respect. They’ve proven themselves and fought for our community and often been rewarded by being treated as the scapegoat. We, as a community, have to stop that.

New inductees into the community: add an X to the alphabet

Timothy Kincaid

April 6th, 2011

Considering that BTB’s comments section has had recent discussion about who is, or isn’t, or should be, part of our community and what nomenclature should be considered, it is a fittingly timely announcement that the LGBTQQIA community has a new letter: X, as in Malcolm X.

According to a new biography, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Columbia University historian Manning Marable, X had during his life been involved in a number of not-strictly-heterosexual encounters including hustling the streets and a relationship with a white businessman.

Of course, engaging in same-sex relations for money does not make one gay. Or even bisexual. Lord knows that there are more than a few gay-for-pay porn actors who regularly – and convincingly – utilize their assets in pursuit of a few bucks before going home to the wife. And every major city has a population of young men who will happily engage in whatever sexual act you desire if it will pay for their next meal, next room, next fix.

As Rev. Irene Monroe puts it,

I am not heterosexist apologist, but if we, as LGBTQ, use this era of Malcolm’s life to claim him as gay, we misunderstand the art and survival of street hustling culture.

Similarly, if we, as African-Americans, use this era of Malcolm’s life to dismiss that he engaged in same-sex relationships, many will miss the opportunity to purge ourselves of homophobic attitudes.

But, as Monroe’s comments acknowledge, for the young Malcolms out there today, those who dance on the line of sexuality, their orientation (should it be heterosexual) does not excuse their sexual transgression. They are not “the same as” those in their family, church, community, society who have not had such relations. Heroes simply can’t have done homo things, and vice versa.

So, as the greater community of The Respectable may often reject the membership of these not-gay-but-doing-it-anyway folk, let us open our community to include them. Of course I’m kidding about adding an X. I don’t even use the letters after T, and most of the time just go with “gay community.”

But the invitation is real. The gay community – that community of gay, lesbian, bisexual, two-spirited, same-gender loving, transgender, questioning, queer, intersex, asexual, friendly heterosexual, political ally, and elderly Russian Jewish women who wander down to Santa Monica Boulevard to watch Gay Pride every year – certainly has room for any who want to belong.

Star Parker, JC Watts and Bishop Harry Jackson file amicus brief for Prop 8 Proponents

Timothy Kincaid

September 23rd, 2010

Three organizations (consisting primarily of three individuals) which represent socially conservative African-Americans have provided an amicus brief to the Ninth Circuit for their consideration in the appeal to Judge Walker’s finding in Perry v. Schwarzenegger that Proposition 8 is a violation of the US Constitution. All three have long been opponents of equality for gay people.

The High Impact Leadership Coalition (Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr.), The Center for for Urban Renewal and Education (Star Parker), and the terribly misnamed Frederick Douglass Foundation, Inc. (former Congressman JC Watts, R-OK) weighed in to argue that “civil rights of parties to same-sex relationships are not advanced by reliance on legal principles that otherwise have served to further the civil rights of African-Americans.”

The history of marriage in the constitutions and laws in America clearly demonstrates that the American people, their elected representatives, and their legal charters flatly reject any assertion that racially segregated marriage (as in Loving) is somehow comparable to sexually integrated marriage of a man and a woman.

Miscegenation laws were based on Supremacy and invidious discrimination, you see. Ummmm….

And besides, as not all states had miscegenation laws, then the core purpose of marriage wasn’t tied to race like it is to gender. To make their point, they offer a numbers exercise.

To begin, of the thirteen States that never had antimiscegenation laws, ten now protect man-woman marriage by positive law or interpretation of statute. Four of the thirteen also protect man-woman marriage by constitutional amendment, which requires approval by at least a majority vote of the people of the State.

Seven States once had antimiscegenation laws but repealed them before Perez v. Sharp, 32 Cal.2d 711, 198 P.2d 17 (Cal. 1948). Today, five of those states expressly protect the institution of man-woman marriage, using both statutes and constitutional amendments.

Fourteen States repealed their antimiscegenation laws after Perez and before Loving. Today, all of those States protect man-woman marriage, most of them with both statutes and constitutional amendments.

So obviously, marriage as a fundamental right only applies to black people and not to gay people.

They go on to rant about the procreative aspect of marriage (citing cased from the 1880s and 1920s) never realizing that their quotes about individuals having the right “to marry, establish a home and bring up children” or about marriage being “the foundation of the family and of society” actually serve to further our argument rather than their own.

Operating under the presumption that family=heterosexual, they only reveal their bias and that it is presumption of heterosexual superiority that is behind every anti-gay marriage argument.

And they go on and on about the intents and appropriateness of the Loving decision, never noting that Mildred Loving herself saw her fight to marry the person she loved as comparable to the fight of gay men and women to marry the person they love.

This fundamental distinction lies at the heart of the point that Yale Law Professor Stephen L. Carter made on the thirtieth anniversary of Loving. He wrote: “One of the beauties of Loving v. Virginia was precisely that it was very easy to see how these were people trying to do a very ordinary thing, and got in trouble for it.”

That distinguishes Loving from the position of advocates of same-sex marriage who are trying to do a very extraordinary thing—to redefine the institution of marriage.

In their conclusion, they claim that using Loving v. Virginia as support for the fundamental right to marry, is just another example of “an illegitimate attempt to appropriate a valuable cultural icon for political purposes.” They don’t note the irony.

Guess who is NOT showing up at NOM’s rallies

Timothy Kincaid

July 29th, 2010

Today in St. Cloud, Minnesota, the National Organization for Marriage’s President Brian Brown told his ralliers, “This is a civil rights question. It’s about our civil rights.”

Brown speaks this line at every single tour stop on NOM’s Tour of Mostly-Empty City Plazas. Usually he invokes Dr. Martin Luther King.

In Annapolis, Bishop Harry Jackson, senior pastor at Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland, told the crowd that “The major civil right, for those of us who went through the civil rights movement, is the right to vote . . . .”

Here he is:

And here is his audience:

Yesterday in St. Paul, Bishop Robert Battle, Senior Pastor of the Berean Church of God in Christ (a predominantly African-American church), told his listeners that “The African American church is firm on the biblical truth that marriage is one man and one woman.”

Here’s Bishop Battle:

And here’s another view of his audience:

Today Battle was scheduled to come to St. Cloud to be the black speaker. I’m not sure if he made it – the speakers’ chairs seem to be mostly empty and NOM’s blog makes no mention – but if so, he spoke to this crowd about the commitment of African Americans to the cause:

Now perhaps it’s just me, but it just seems that on average, NOM’s ralliers have had a distinct pale hue. Even in places with significant African-American populations.

Looking at HIV with a consideration towards racial and genetic heritage

This commentary is the opinion of the author and may not necessarily reflect that of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin

Timothy Kincaid

March 31st, 2010

It has long been known that HIV and AIDS in the United States is not experienced proportionately across racial demographics. About 42% of all cumulative AIDS cases, and over 50% of new HIV infections are in African Americans, even though they only comprises about 14% of the population.

And results released last week about a survey of gay men in Washington, D.C. confirm the pattern. While the study found that 14% of the sample of gay men are HIV positive, this was not uniformly distributed.

Men of color who were 30 years or older had the highest rate, more than twice the overall HIV positivity rate. By race and all ages, over a quarter (25%) of black men who participated in the study were HIV positive, more than any other racial group. Over 10% of men who identified as multirace (11%) and other (10%) were HIV positive and 8% of white males who participated in the study were HIV positive.

In fact, this difference was most notable in participants under 30. While 12.2% of young men of color were HIV infected, “of the nearly 100 white men younger than 30, none were HIV-positive.”

This disparity is usually discussed, when it is discussed at all, in terms of social or cultural difference (especially by those who are not African-American). Non-equivalent infection rates are “part of the down-low” or “the result of homophobia in the black community” or “resultant from a lack of self-worth” or some other culture based phenomenon that hints at irresponsible behavior or an inadequate appreciation for safer sex rules.

I do not doubt that there are some social factors (discrimination, economic inequalities, social position, or even media representation) that do contribute to the prevalence of HIV in Black America. But something in this study caught my attention.

Over 40% of men did not use a condom at last sex, though men of color used condoms nearly twice as much as white men.

Younger men who have receptive anal sex (“bottoms”) and older men who have insertive anal sex (“tops”) were less likely to use condoms.

But if black men were twice as likely to use a condom, then how exactly is it that they were more likely to seroconvert?

One explanation that has been bandied about is that because the pool of black men who sleep with black men is already disproportionately infected. Therefore, because there is an increased risk of contact with infected sex partners it raises the likelihood of higher infection rates.

But that doesn’t seem to be evidenced by the results of this study.

The research allows us to compare those who were already aware of their HIV status to those who were newly infected, by race. Assuming that black men were adhering more closely to safe-sex guidelines, this should have been reflected in the ratios. But newly infected men were even more disproportionately men of color than were those already detected.

This seems contradictory to the notion that black men use condoms at higher rates than whites. So perhaps something else is going on. Perhaps there is something other than behavior that is contributing to the disparity.

We know that some communities inherently carry higher risk of certain diseases while others are fairly immune. Tay-Sacks is more commonly found in Ashkenazi Jews, sickle cell anemia is associated with people with recent ancestry from parts of Africa, the Mediterranean, India and the Middle East, and some Scottish islands have higher incidences of color blindness. These are all the results of inherited genes.

So it should not surprise us that various communities may have inherited genetic susceptibilities or immunities that greatly impact the extent to which any individual in that community is at risk for HIV transmission. And, indeed, research does seem to suggest that not all ancestor-location based gene pools respond to potential infection in the same way.

Some people seem to have inherited a resistance to HIV, effectively leaving them immune from infection.

Genetic resistance to AIDS works in different ways and appears in different ethnic groups. The most powerful form of resistance, caused by a genetic defect, is limited to people with European or Central Asian heritage. An estimated 1 percent of people descended from Northern Europeans are virtually immune to AIDS infection, with Swedes the most likely to be protected. One theory suggests that the mutation developed in Scandinavia and moved southward with Viking raiders.

Similarly, it appears that some communities have inherited ahigher susceptibility to HIV infection.

New research shows Africans and people of African descent could be up to 40 percent more likely to get HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, than people of other races.

This appears to be related to the Duffy antigen, a protein on the surface of red blood cells, which plays are role in defense against malaria. This trait appears to be present in over 90% of black Africans and about 70% of African Americans.

Indeed, as I looked for further discussion on the subject of gene-linked susceptibility, it seems that the community of scientists looking for transmission patterns, infection factors, and treatment possibilities share an assumption that genes play a significant role, and one we do not yet fully understand. And even within specific racial groups, some genetic families may be far more susceptible than others.

But this contributing factor seems to be, to a great extent, outside of common knowledge. Even most gay men – including those I know of African descent – seem not be be aware of genetic factors that contribute to increased or decreased infection risk.

And this troubles me. I believe that this is of such significance that it should be emphasized, particularly among those who may have inherited a higher possibility of infection.

As I see it, there are several reasons why an increased understanding of possible racial group or family genetic traits should be part of our consciousness.

First, if African-Americans are not aware of increased risk, they cannot be prepared. And as we learn more about subgroups or families, individuals of all races can take steps to define “safe sex” in more specialized ways. As unfair as such knowledge may seem, knowing that you can’t live by the same standards as everyone else may have life impacting importance for some individuals.

It’s all fine and good to say “always be safe”, but everyone knows someone who slipped up and ended up okay. But if some individuals have inherited higher risk , they need to know that the answer to “what are the odds” is “much higher for me so I don’t dare risk it… ever.”

Second, a different response in one’s body to the presence of HIV should be reflected in treatment and management. It would be foolish not to test to determine whether some treatment protocols were more or less effective based on inherited factors.

Our nation has a history of medical research that assumes that everyone is a white male, and a fairly interchangeable one at that. But if different protocols are more effective for those of African descent, or for others with specific genetic heritage, it would be immoral not to test for such differences and instead rely on, “this is what works for wealthy white men in West Hollywood”.

Third, vaccines under testing should be studied for whether race or inherited attributes impacts effectiveness. I am troubled by the possibility that some vaccines which were discarded as ineffective in some trials may have been very effective in a different demographic.

But I think we need to approach this with sensitivity. HIV/AIDS has a history of blame and stigma; And any discussion which seeks to assign blame or which seeks to make HIV a “black disease” will do more harm than good.

Additionally, we should remember that individuals are, above all else, individual. We should not make assumptions or assign stereotypes.

Instead, we need to focus research and funding, coordinate outreach and education, and for once talk about the impact of HIV on the African American community without hinting that the phenomenon can be explained in terms of behavior.

And in the meanwhile, let’s find a way to be part of the solution. You can contribute to HIV/AIDS prevention efforts that specifically target the African-American community:

National Black Justice Coalition
BlackAIDS.org

(my appreciation to those who read the draft and provided some insight and suggested revision)

Jeff Johnson on Homophobia in the Black Community

Jim Burroway

December 17th, 2009

JeffJohnsonDC-based journalist and activist Jeff Johnson appeared on the nationally syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show yesterday and talked about Annise Parker’s victory in Houston, making that city the largest city in America with an openly gay mayor.

Jeff talked about the homophobic campaign associated with her opponent leading up to the run-off election, and the alliances that many in the local African-American community formed with her opponent, former city attorney Gene Locke. Jeff observes the oddity of many prominent voices in the African-American community uniting with other extremely political conservatives who “in many cases, they wouldn’t even want to sit down with dinner with,” and charges that “they based this alliance solely on this woman’s sexual orientation.” He continued:

We as a Black community still have not been willing to have an honest conversation about the fact that we’re homophobic, about the fact that our churches in many cases are running the lead on demonization of homosexuality even when their doctrine speaks to restoration. And so if we want to be serious we’re going to lift up this notion of there’s a problem or theirs a crisis with our down-low brothers — the down-low brothers are leading the AIDS epidemic and we have a problem — but not recognize that you create down-low brothers by having a community that’s unwilling to embrace its own brothers that are gay.

… How can we begin to have honest conversations about the fact that these are our brothers, our sisters, our mothers, our fathers, our sons and our daughters that in many cases are dealing with a crisis of identity in an environment that tells them that who they are is wrong?

I don’t want to argue the theology of homosexuality. I don’t want to argue whether you think it’s moral or not. What I want to deal with is that these are members of our community that needs to be supported. There are young people in schools that are being abused because of their sexual orientation, and we’re turning our backs on it.

You can listen to Jeff’s commentary at the National Black Justice Coalition web site.

CDC: “Down Low” Men Not Responsible For HIV Among Black Women

Jim Burroway

October 16th, 2009

African-American women make up 61% of all new HIV cases among women in the U.S., and they are 18 times more likely to become infected than White women. Until now, it was believed that this exceptionally high infection rate was due to bisexual African-American men. But a new statement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention throws cold water on that theory:

Heterosexual black men with multiple sex partners — not bisexual men who secretly have sex with men — are responsible for high rates of HIV among black women, according to a senior CDC official.

“We have looked to see what proportion of infections is coming from male partners who are bisexual and found there are actually relatively few,” said Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention. “More are male partners who are having female partners and are injecting drugs or using drugs or have some other risks that may put those female partners at risk of acquiring HIV.”

…”What we’re seeing is a concentration of the epidemic among the poor, among ethnic minorities and racial minorities in the United States,” Fenton said.

Among gay men, African-Americans are bearing a disproportionate brunt of HIV infections. In the most tragic example, Black teens make up only 13% of the nation’s teen population but they account for 69% of new HIV/AIDS cases for those among the 13-19 age group.

Julian Bond: LGBT Rights Won’t Be Won Until Black Homophobia Is Diminished

Jim Burroway

September 4th, 2009

Pam Spalding posted a lengthy discussion of LGBT advocacy in the African-American community. The entire post is well worth reading, along with this email she received from Julian Bond, Chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He sees the critical element in that is for more Black people to come out of the closet:

I do not believe the battle for LGBT rights will ever be won until we can diminish the homophobia in black communities and until more in the black LGBT community join the battle openly.  …I’ve often wondered what would be the result of black LGBT church goers standing up in the churches they attend and saying “I’m gay – you know me – I’m like you. I am what God made me. Why do you treat me so badly?”

A Sanctuary for LGBT African-Americans In DC

Jim Burroway

July 27th, 2009
Bishop Rainey Cheeks (in blue) prays with youth during a service at Inner Light Ministries (Nikki Kahn/Washington Post)

Bishop Rainey Cheeks (in blue) prays with youth during a service at Inner Light Ministries (Nikki Kahn/Washington Post)

This Sunday’s Washington Post highlighted Inner Light Ministries, a Black church in Northeast Washington, D.C., in which some two-thirds of the congregation are gay:

In the middle of a sermon, Bishop Rainey Cheeks felt his medicine bottle bulging in his pocket and realized he hadn’t taken his pills. He paused in the pulpit and faced the congregation in his tiny storefront church.

“Excuse me,” Cheeks remembers telling his parishioners last year as he poured three pills into his hand. “This is my HIV medicine. I’m going to take it now.”

As he washed down the pills with water, Cheeks saw some members staring with wide eyes. Everybody knew that their pastor, an imposing man with flowing dreadlocks who once competed in taekwondo championships, is gay. But not everyone knew that he is HIV-positive.

Inner Light Ministries is providing an important sanctuary for Black gay people, who often feel rejected by both the African-American community as well as the LGBT community. The ministry also provides a vital link for those who are dealing with the additional prejudice and stigma associated with being HIV-positive. Bishop Cheeks is worried about the complacency the younger generation has about HIV/AIDS, which he sees as a dangerous mix of believing it to be “manageable” disease and believing that it’s what they deserve:

“Most messages . . . to young folk is if you’re gay or lesbian, you’re going to hell,” [Bishop Cheeks] said. “So why take responsibility if you’re already condemned?

“They need to understand God loves them. But they also need to be accountable for their sexual behavior. Not everything goes.”

Black Gay Men, AIDS, and No Community Support

Alvin McEwen

July 6th, 2009

Alvin McEwen found an article about Black gay men and AIDS hitting really close to the gut. He posted his reaction on his blog. It’s a perspective we never talk about. I’m re-posting it with his permission. — Jim Burroway

AIDS is killing off black gay men and lack of LGBT community support may an unfortunate factor:

Black gay men have less choice when it comes to sexual partners than other groups and, as a result, their sexual networks are closely knit. These tightly interconnected networks make the rapid spread of HIV more likely. In a study looking at social and sexual mixing between ethnic groups in men who have sex with men, H. Fisher Raymond and Willi McFarland, from the San Francisco Department of Public Health in the US, show that social barriers faced by Black gay men may have a serious impact on their health and well-being.

. . . Black gay men are the least preferred of sexual partners by other races. Black men are perceived to be riskier to have sex with, which can lead to men of other races avoiding Black men as sexual partners. They are also perceived as less welcome in the common social venues of gay men in San Francisco. As a result, Black men are three times more likely to have sexual partners that are also Black, than would be expected by chance alone.

In the authors’ view, the combination of attitudes on the part of non-Black gay men, friendships and social networks that are less likely to include Blacks, and the environments found in gay venues serve to separate Black gay men from other groups.

So the personal ad phrase “no fats, no olds, no fems, no blacks” is now taking on sinister proportions. It’s not that I’m passing judgment on people’s personal dating choices. But it does go farther than that. The LGBT community can sometimes be consumed with the gay ghetto clique mentality. And as you can see, it’s killing those who are generally not allowed to be in the “clique.”

But hey, at least the black community supports us . . . when we seem to be at death’s door. That’s when folks make these lovely speeches about “it’s not just a gay disease,” and “let’s not stop until we find a cure.”

I got an idea – how about giving us a little support while we are healthy. How about not isolating us or making our lives seem dirty by using the word “lifestyle” like it’s a pooper scooper.

So both the LGBT and black community have work to do. I can only hope the work gets done before too many LGBTs of color suffer.

A Friendly Reminder

Jim Burroway

June 26th, 2009

As we discuss whether African-Americans are more, less or as homophobic than everyone else, we too often set up the discussion as a Black-versus-gay thing. But please remember this: the Black community is a part of the gay community:

In Washington, D.C., the anti-gay-rights movement attempted to put recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states to a citywide referendum (it was rejected by the Board of Elections and Ethics) hoping that the city’s mostly black population would come out against it. This dynamic may explain why Bishop Harry Jackson, an African American religious leader, has been put forth as the face of the anti-gay-marriage movement.

There’s only one problem: The face of LGBT leadership in D.C. is often black. Nationally, anti-gay-rights activists have had a great deal of success in encouraging black voters to oppose gay rights, partially because LGBT rights are seen — incorrectly — as a “white issue.” But in Washington, D.C., the diverse composition of the marriage-equality movement means that marriage-equality activists don’t have to “reach out” to the black community, because they’re already part of it. That doesn’t mean marriage-equality activists don’t face serious obstacles in garnering support among African Americans, but it makes racial divisions harder to exploit. The lesson is clear — when the marriage-equality movement is integrated, outreach becomes less of an issue.