For decades, Derek Anderson lived a secret life. During the day,
he was a family man with a loving wife and daughter. But at night,
Anderson frequently had sex with men.
Betraying his family was something he never meant to do, yet
Anderson said he could never reveal his sexual orientation to his
family. He said he knew it would not only destroy them, but that it
would destroy his connection to the black community.
“It’s a big deal in the black community to being
labeled a homosexual. … In the black community, they made me
hate gay people.”
But eventually his lifestyle threatened his life and still does
today. One night he had unprotected sex with another man, which led
him to contract the deadly disease HIV.
Speaking at the Michigan League last night, Anderson said no
student should suffer from the same mistakes he did.
Sponsored by the sorority Delta Sigma Theta, Anderson’s
talk is one of the group’s events held at the University this
week to commemorate HIV/AIDS Awareness Week.
Although AIDS cases are decreasing in America, it is still a
prevalent sexually transmitted disease, particularly among blacks
who are 11 times more likely to get the disease than whites.
At the event, Anderson told his personal experiences with HIV
and his struggles with his homosexuality while urging students to
have protected sex to prevent them from contracting the disease.
Anderson said, this lesson is most important for black students, as
the black community still does not completely accept
Anderson said in his lecture that blacks have an especially
difficult time dealing with AIDS. He explained that the black
community tends to reject anything associated with homosexuality
and are hostile to gay blacks living in their neighborhoods.
As a result, black gay men fear revealing their sexual
orientation to their family. At the same time, the black community
ostracizes black men who have AIDS, due to its connotation to
“In our community, we have rigid lines of what masculinity
and women should be. …We do not tolerate the idea of a man
having sex with another man,” Anderson said.
This sometimes will cause black gay men to led double lives
where they have sex with men while later having sex with their
wives, he said. This lifestyle, Anderson said promotes the spread
of AIDS and prevents blacks from revealing that they have the
Anderson said his life is an example of this detrimental way of
life. He added he originally hoped that he could turn off his
homosexuality like a light switch.
But as he grew older his agitation and anger over his natural
Still, because of the stigma of homosexuality among blacks,
Anderson continued to deny it, all the way to his wedding day.
Dressed in a green tux, with huge Afro, it was suppose to be the
happiest day of Anderson’s life, he said. Even later, when he
had a daughter, inside he was extremely depressed.
“The picture-perfect life was built on a house of
cards,” Anderson said.
Unable to contain his natural urges, and still afraid to tell
his wife, he resorted to alcohol and drugs as ways to cope.
“As long as I returned home to the wife, I would be
okay,” he said.
Yet one night changed his life as he had unprotected sex with
But not until 1988, when he took an HIV test did he find out
that he had the disease.
By that time, Anderson’s wife had already discovered his
sexuality and they had been divorced for several years. The doctor
that diagnosed Anderson, said he had only two years to live.
But while Anderson has survived, he blames much of his struggles
on the mentality the black community promotes.
“Because of this you have people suffering in silence, and
people are taking risks with their body,” he said.
Anderson said this mentality within the black community must
cease. But for now, it’s most important that students make
sure they have protected sex.
Since there is a lack of conversation of sex in the black
community and no one is willing to reveal that they have AIDS,
Anderson said it is best for students to communicate with their
sexual partners, and to always use contraceptives even when they
“Your sexual health is your responsibility, and
don’t give it to someone else who might not be necessarily
responsible with their own.”
Engineering senior Bas Williams agreed with Anderson and said
the ignorance in black community has to be stopped and
conversations must begin.
“Ignorance is expensive, we live by that. That’s why
you come down with this type of suffering.”
But he disagreed with some of Anderson’s other points.
“Condoms when you are married? I don’t know about