Last year, while sitting among a mix of white and black students at the East Quad Cafeteria, I brought up the topic of homosexuality for discussion. All of the black males, almost in unison, seemed to stir uncomfortably for a moment and left the table one-by-one. When the last guy left the table, he threw up his hands in desperation and said, “Why did you have to bring that up? No one wants to talk about that shit.”
Well, I want to talk about it, so there.
There is, unfortunately, a tacit rule in the black community that condemns the discussion of homosexuality in any favorable context. It is seen as monstrous, unnatural and most of all, the greatest sin against God. Even now, the black community is saturated with the pall of HIV and AIDS, and still, like a scratched Beatles record, we go about our daily lives as if this crisis doesn’t exist. A coalition of black, influential pastors in Detroit participated in a shock-and-awe campaign for Proposal 2. Two of Detroit’s most prominent churches, Straight Gate Church and Word of Faith Ministries, even went as far as to coerce their congregations to vote for President Bush on the basis of “family values.” Essence magazine, a popular black publication, wrote a scathing article on this very issue that essentially portrayed black gay men as married, sex-driven animals whose main desire is to spread HIV to their wives.
Perhaps these men wouldn’t feel a need to pretend to be heterosexual and get married if the likelihood of being ostracized by the community weren’t so high. If the black community was at least tolerant of lesbian, gays, bisexual, transgender of color, perhaps, just maybe, they would form meaningful and monogamous relationships with one another rather than indulge in clandestine acts of unsafe sex and skullduggery. These black pastors ought to preach to their congregations about the importance of acceptance, regardless of sexual orientation, rather than digging an irreparable chasm between the black community and the LGBTs of color.
Despite the polarizing environment, many gay black men have deftly adapted, usually by picking up a girlfriend along the way. The brilliance of such an illusion doesn’t lie with the fact these men are with women; rather, it is hinged upon the conclusion that these men are gay and indulge themselves in heterosexuality for the singular purpose to dismiss any would-be suspicion. This subterfuge is cunning and usually executed with such flawless precision that the mere question of the person’s sexuality isn’t even considered. This is where the panic sets in. We’re not talking about an Abercrombie, pink-triangle wearing guy from Bloomfield Hills, we are referring to a kind of “ungaydar-able” men who put masculinity