There is an unspoken divide within the black community that complicates efforts toward unity and community change. It is a subject in dire need of understanding and resolve. The issue is the misunderstanding and ‘phobias’ shared between heterosexual and homosexual men. What many believe to be a clear-cut case of dislike and abhorrence is nothing more than confusion steeped in ignorance. This situation can be changed but we first must understand the root of discord.
The misconceptions about what it truly means to be a man sets the pace for how human sexuality (namely homosexuality and bisexuality) is viewed in the larger scheme of things. ‘Men’ are supposed to be masculine leaders with the ability to successfully combat the social regimes that keeps us bound. Men should be pillars in the community who raise awareness and coerce positive behavioral change. However, black gay and bisexual men are perceived -by most- as subpar and ill equipped to handle the social and political issues plaguing the black community as whole. This separation is unhealthy. It exacerbates the wounds created by generations of systemic injustice and disharmony.
As a black gay man I understand firsthand how it feels to be unwelcomed at spaces created to bring black men together. It is a shaming experience that can leave one feeling excluded from the communities they embrace and love. During those moments of disconnect, a question asked by black gay men is “What does my sexual identity have to do with my voice in the fight?” If everyone were honest and disclosed their bedroom activities we would see a myriad of diversity that surpasses both hetero and homo ideologies about sex. Yet, that honesty will not surface as long as the fear of judgment -by respected peers- exists.
Is there a blame for this divide? Some would say that a great deal of the indifference stems from the black church. How true that is depends on who you ask. Yet, many would agree that religious beliefs/traditions and taught indifferences play a huge part in how black gay and bisexual men are viewed by their own race. It is a sensitive area of conversation because sex and human sexuality are taboo issues within the church, so anything that furthers the reach of (traditional) understanding is left untouched. That within itself is a disservice to the community and further perpetuates the misinterpretations.
Is it possible for us to change the paradigm? I would say ‘yes’. I am affirmed that black men of -openly- different sexual identities have the ability to come together for a common cause; but the processes associated with making that happen can be weighing. Individuals from both sides must be willing to sit and have rational dialogue about their phobias. The uncomfortable Q&A could quite honestly result in an understanding that dissolves the manner in how we interact with one another.
There is a common ground on which all black men stand. Each of us is frustrated by the current state of affairs within America; especially those impacting the black community. Whether it is the entertaining presidential campaign that has insensitively addressed numerous minority issues: the blatant distrust for the legal system: the violence within our own communities: or, the lack of support from agencies who should be vested in our wellbeing. Add to that the internal spark created by the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement that leaves some to question their purpose and validity and you have a wide range of concerns to address that have nothing to do with who one is having sex with.
In the end the main thing anyone wants is respect: Respect to be who they are and how they live is a desire often ignored. No one deserves to be treated as less than; which is a common occurrence for black gay men in relation to the larger black community. Moreover, in defense of those who may take issue with the homosexual ‘lifestyle’ it can be understood why. The word ‘normal’ can be limiting and exclude individuals who deserve to be included in the masses. It is time to begin the word of expanding our lens and accept that in order for us to vehemently say ‘we are one’ a sense of oneness must be established despite how different those seated at the table may appear.
For more information, please visit www.cdc.gov/doingit. Dontá Morrison is co-founder of 6in10.org and host of the podcast The Dontá Show on Blogtalk Radio. www.dontamorrison.com