Being a woman who is Black and gay is nothing like being a woman, being a Black woman, or even simply being Black. Adversity comes with being a woman, being Black, and especially being a Black woman. Unlike Black men, Black women deal with adversity from men of all colors including Black men. Unlike white women, Black women deal with adversity because they are Black. Adding a dash of gay in the mix changes the game because not only do you deal with adversity for being Black and a woman, now you deal with adversity from Black women simply because you like the same sex. Do we need to make a list? Adversity can come from some or all of these places; non-Black men, non-Black women, black men, and straight Black women. Although there is a lot of adversity to talk about, let’s focus on the most important. As Black people, we need to work on being more accepting of our own people regardless of how they come. Shunning Black people who are different especially those who are gay is subscribing to white privilege but in Black face and Black people need to stop hating Black gays.
In 2005, I went away to college. I chose to attend a HBCU, Fisk University in Nashville, TN. Things were about to drastically change in my life. I was moving from Oakland, CA to Nashville, TN, TALK. ABOUT. A. CULTURE. SHOCK. I was leaving my entire family for the first time. But let’s rewind on this story so I can paint the picture a bit better. Before I went away to college, I was questioning my sexuality. During high school, I was not sexually active with boys but I was with girls and I kept it a secret. This was not only a secret to my family but even to my friends who I came out to four years after graduating high school. I kept this secret because I thought maybe I was confused or that maybe it was a phase, I simply did not want to declare something I felt like I could not take back in the future. I wanted to be sure. I thought maybe being attracted to women and pursuing them when I was in high school was a phase, so I decided when I went to college that I would ignore my feelings toward women. Not knowing where I stood with my sexuality made me, a typically confident person feel unsure about themselves. I questioned everything about how dressed, how I looked, what I said, how I wore my hair, and even how I acted around men because I was unsure. This overly confident person coming out of high school went to college and became precarious due to not knowing where I stood in my sexuality. I did everything I thought would allow me to fit in, even if it meant being someone else to not seem gay or to even attract and interact with men. Now that you have that important tidbit let’s continue with this story.
So, I get to college and W T F. A bigger damn transition than I ever expected. It may have been a combination of a brand-new city and college life. Ignoring most of the other factors, figuring out my sexuality was hard… AF. Like I mentioned before, my confidence came into question because I was questioning everything about myself to fit in a world I did not belong in. I did realize the toll this took on me mentally at the time. I double checked what I wore to make sure it was girlie enough or even in style. My world was completely different from where I came from, the mentality, style and expectation of girls my age in Nashville was not the same as Oakland. In this new world, I did my best to play straight because in hindsight that was what I was doing, playing a role. Unfortunately, I did not get to explore and develop in my gayness in an environment where being gay was more socially acceptable, I was in the south in 2005. Being gay was not normal, good, appropriate or let alone accepted. My environment felt extremely anti-gay.
Here I was at a historical Black college that was known for its amazing list of alumnae and it’s participation in the Civil Rights movement and being gay was taboo. At the time, imagine the university Nikki Giovanni graduated from being anti-gay. Despite being gay being taboo on campus you heard whispers about people and the disdain that came with it.
At one point while I attended the university there was only one member of Phi Beta Sigma on campus and he was rumored to be gay. One day everyone headed to campus and the buzz spread quickly that pink paint was thrown on the Sigma and AKA plot. It was believed that another fraternity threw the paint on the Sigma plot and then on the AKA plot to create confusion about who did it. Let’s be honest here, we know why the pink paint was thrown on the plot. That pink paint was a homophobic attack aimed at the Sigma’s because the only Sigma on campus at the time was questionably gay. Myself and others at the time believed the pink paint was also thrown on the AKA plot to discredit the idea that the Alpha’s who were on line at the time did it. My personal opinion to this day is that they did because they were homophobic and anti-gay like the rest of the campus. This was just one small thing that happened to make it clear that the consensus of the students at the time was very anti-gay. If you were to go on campus now, you can tell the culture has drastically changed.
I tell this story to talk about Black people simply hating not just gay people but Black Gay people. Think about all the negative comments (negative comments? expound) made by Black celebrities around Dwyane Wade’s daughter, people like Yung Miami who made comments about not wanting a gay son or even Kevin Hart who said he would beat the gay out of his son. How many Black families ostracize the gay cousin, sister, brother, etc.? Black men simply did not support the Black Lives Matter movement because the leader of the group is gay. Imagine not working together to fight a common enemy, injustice towards black people because of one person’s sexuality.
There is an opportunity to be better than our parents and their parents before them by having open fluid conversations to be more understanding of people’s differences within the Black community and within our own families. These conversations will be hard for many of us as they will be uncomfortable but on the other side of discomfort is understanding and compassion. We need to be more accepting and respect each other’s differences if we ever want to strengthen our community. It cannot be a battle of us versus them within our own community in order for us to break the glass above us. This not only speaks true to the issues of homosexuality in the Black community but classism, feminism, and violence. Imagine how many young people who have taken their own lives because it was not okay to have the feelings they have or to love who they love. Here are some tips from Psychology Today about discussing your differences with others:
Check your motives
Ask open-ended questions – questions that start with how or why
Repeat – To confirm your understanding repeat your interpretation of what was said
Use I-statements – I feel, I believe, I think
Find common ground
Adopt a “yet” mindset – Be optimistic as you may not understand each other YET but you will continue to work on it.
Read more tips here
We should spend more time loving and less time focusing on our differences.