Being anything but straight in the African American culture can be a very hard thing to deal with. My own personal story is just like many more. Although I wish the black community had a better view of homosexuality then it currently does. As a black women, I was raised to think being bisexual, gay, or a lesbian was not okay. It was looked to be a white person thing. Yeah, I know that makes so much sense, right?
I remember talking about homosexuality with my parents. My mother told me it isn’t okay; people who lay in bed with the same sex are going to hell. Crazy, huh? I wasn’t aware of my sexuality at this time, but her saying this to me made my blood boil, and at that time I didn’t understand why. No one ever sat down and told me why loving someone of the same sex was wrong. I went the next five years not knowing why being homosexual was bad, beyond what I know from the Bible’s point of view. I hid the fact that I was sexually and emotionally attracted to women, as I am men. To this day, I have yet to tell my parents about my sexuality.
The action that scared me the most was one night when I was sitting in my parent’s bedroom and was watching television with them. My father happened to pass the LOGO channel, and he saw two guys kissing. My father actually called up the cable company and asked why were they showing this? He yelled and screamed. I felt bad for the Direct TV woman. At the end of the conversation, he ended up getting the channel blocked. The first thing he said upon hanging up was, “Who wants to see a couple of faggots kissing?” My mother didn’t say anything, but in my heart I was hurt like he had said it to me. I felt, wow, if I tell him how I feel, will he think that about me? It took almost raising the dead for me not to cry in front of them. I’m guessing it hurt so badly because I was taking it personally. Maybe if I didn’t feel the way that I did, then words like that couldn’t hurt me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to make my father sound like an awful person. He just has his mind set on sexuality.
When I was about 14 was when I was ever really close to a woman. I have not slept with one, just the normal cuddling and whatnot. It felt so right, that in my head I couldn’t understand why anyone would view it as wrong. Years when by, and it wasn’t until this past year that I started digging to figure out why being or having homosexual tendencies in the black community was looked down on.
Reading paper after paper, book after book, and article after article, I’ve noticed there is common ground between the African American and the lesbian/gay/bisexual communities of this society. Both have been, and continue to be, disenfranchised by a large power structure. Both suffer the burden of stereotypical labels, which suggest that they are less than human and are not worthy of dignity. Both are compelled to demand equal rights based on the humiliating argument that they cannot help the ways in which they differ from straight, white male/females. Perhaps most importantly, both share a common population lesbians, gays and bisexuals of African descent. Homosexuality/ lesbianism are viewed as something that is deranged, perverted, and inhuman at times. To understand why, we must examine several factors: history, politics, the dynamics of racism in the lesbian/gay/bisexual community and homophobia in the African American community.
Having sex with the same sex was viewed as a white man act. As, I put it in my own words. This means that homosexuality was first introduced to the African American community by the white man, when really that is the farthest from the truth. History chooses, or how people choose to look at it. Depicting that African Americans didn’t engaged in homosexual activity before European influence entered the country. In fact, there is overwhelming evidence that homosexuality existed in pre-colonial Africa. The first recorded gay couple in history is of ancient Egypt, namely by identical twins Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum. It comes from the depictions of the two men standing nose to nose and embracing, and other pictures where one occupied the position usually designated for a wife. At that time, homosexuality was defined by sex between a man and a boy. As Egypt is part of North Africa proves that a form of homosexuality was in place way before they adopted European influences.
In a homosexual male couple, being gay shows signs of weakness, and submissiveness. For some black men positioning themselves in a submissive position to be dominated, or “Fucked in the ass”, shows or proves that they aren’t men. But in fact, that they are women, which is demeaning and embarrassing. Homosexuality is a savage act, something that wild caged animals act on. In slavery days, black men were looked at as savages, and less then. Now, in today’s world, they are still fighting to correct that stigma. Acting in a non-masculine, savage way defeats the purpose. They have the view as, “I AM MAN!” Look at my offspring. In a homosexual couple, the chances of having offspring are slim to none. A man isn’t a man in some people’s eyes, unless he can provide a woman with what she needs to produce him children to inherit his name.
As in a lot of African American families, I was raised in a Christian household. I love my faith, and I’d never abandon it. I do have to admit that I don’t agree with some of the rules that are attached. African-Americans are among the most religiously committed American ethnic groups. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans were generally accepting of homosexual behavior within certain contexts. Egyptian religion was filled with tales of adultery, incest, homosexuality and masturbation… with hints of necrophilia.
Hinduism and Buddhism tend to view homosexuality primarily from the standpoint of its karmic effects. Jewish, Christian, Sikh, and Muslim cultures have generally perceived homosexual behavior as sinful. African Americans are more likely than the general population to interpret the Bible literally and believe in God with absolute certainty, which is how I was raised. You never questioned the Bible. But as someone who is confused, I find myself questioning it, but only in the sexual orientation aspect. Knowing how committed African Americans are to their religion makes sense that many black Christians take the Apostle Paul at his word when Paul portrays homosexuality as an act of depravity and perversion in his letter to the Romans.
When it boils down to it, homosexuality for most African Americans is a huge boiling pot of ignorance. Just like any other race, ignorant and blind religious following, breeds continuous ignorance. I don’t know what it is going to take for the black community to look at homosexuality in a different way. Although most of the world has progressed, it seems that with this subject no amount of pushing and shoving is going to change the views that have been imbedded in our DNA for over the past thousands of years. I’ve come to learn that nothing is going to change until God himself says that it is okay. Until then, I do continue to keep my sexuality from my family.
Attitudes and affective reactions to lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals are slowly improving in this country. As more lesbians and gays come forward, and people see them for the people they are, rather than the label, the level of acceptance has improved. Although, it is hardly universal.