I once wrote a post asking you all whether you fear unwittingly hooking up with men/women on the DL. To date, I’m pretty sure it’s the only post I’ve specifically written that deals with the LGBTQ community (correction: I also wrote a post on Ricky Martin way back when, before I actually launched Classic Ruby), and it’s high time that I do another one. And I think it’s especially important that I address social/cultural relations of the black LGBTQ community within the larger black social community as a whole. Something has gone terribly wrong in the equal advancement of black LGBTQ members. Somehow, being black and gay means that somehow you should not be afforded the same advancements in equality and equal rights that the rest of the black folk deserve.
While looking for some background info on this post, I came across an article that addressed my overall feelings about the treatment of the black LGBTQ’s within the larger black community. Check out the article yourself, titled “Black Gay Men Are Still Invisible“. In a nutshell, it states that the distinction of white privilege exists within the LGBTQ community – white gay males think that being gay generally is no longer this forbidden, taboo topic, barely noteworthy in today’s society – and black gay males are painfully aware of the fact that just because they can now legally get married doesn’t even begin to scratch at the stigma and ostracism they experience simply for being LGBTQ within the black community.
A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a post that really made me think. If you’ve grown up in a black community, you’re well aware of the mystical hairdresser/barbershop experience. And yes, the entire thing was actually an experience, each and every time. The women spend all day at that beauty shop for something that probably only takes a few hours..but you’re not just there for the hair dressing, you’re there for the conversation, and the gossip, and the debate – the general socialization. Little girls are told to close their ears and to stop minding big-people business…so as a child, you learned how to listen very attentively while appearing to be completely enraptured in your colouring book. The adults spoke in a sort of “code”, never really saying anything specific, yet saying it ALL, if you catch my drift. There was music or movies/TV, there were amateur therapy sessions going on, the sounds of laughing, magazine pages turning, blow dryers and water spraying. Somebody was always running out to the store to grab something edible, or something to drink. Going to the hairdressers, you would come back with a LOT more than a new ‘do.
The experience for black men, while shorter, has much of the same socializing and bonding experiences. When he walks into that barbershop, he’s doing more than just waiting his turn, and then getting a sick line-up. But this man shares his experience of being a gay man walking into that same barbershop, and the scarring experience it becomes: I take for granted my status as a straight, cisgendered person in black society…while I may on principle find something that is said as offensive, that point now becomes an open dialogue/debate, and then once all points are made I can move on and away from the conversation like nothing happened. What for me is this exciting, fun-loving experience can be an anxiety-ridden hell for those on the wrong side of an openly, unashamedly homophobic population.
If you are an outsider to a black salon/barbershop, you may honestly think that I’m overgeneralizing a few instances, or blowing things out of proportion. This is most likely because: 1) Either they make a point of NOT discussing the down and dirty when outsiders are around, or 2) they make it a point to lapse into either a code, language, or speed/slang/dialect that they know you won’t understand when they want to say anything that would be blatantly offensive, or 3) you really don’t pay attention to the one-offs that occur because the conversation, and therefore commentary, in no way applies to you.
And sadly, this pack-homophobic mentality does not keep itself within the walls of some establishment, hiding itself because it knows that socially, morally, or logically it is just plain wrong. Ohhhhhhhh, no. I’m telling you, it would make you shudder if you ever really processed the amount of homophobic hate words and discussions that are thrown around in casual conversations anywhere from in a bar or restaurant, to waiting at a bus stop, in a grocery store line, at public events. And it doesn’t just end with these private, or often quite public, conversations. As a very obvious example in other mediums:
Ever notice how reggae songs can still blatantly and unashamedly not only bash gay people, but preach outright damnation, persecution and slaughter and yet nobody seems to bat an eye? Somehow these reggae songs are as popular as ever, and as the new ones are made the masses eat ’em all right up. Now perhaps this has something to do with the fact that unless you are very familiar with patois, you most likely don’t understand a damn word any reggae artist is saying; and since the general sound and tone of the song seems joyful enough, and that beat and musical pattern are just so damned catchy, who really CARES about the little details, like what they are actually saying? I mean seriously, if the melody is sing-songey then it must be a positive message, right?
Ok, so that excuses the ignorance of the masses who just plain don’t understand patois. But what about the masses that do? Are you trying to tell me that there isn’t a single LGBT member or ally who hears these reggae songs and isn’t horrified at the message? Well, in 2009 Buju Banton had some of his North American concert tours banned due to the hateful lyrics in his song Boom Bye Bye. Fantastic. One concert, one artist, were banned from performing…but I’m pretty sure I’ve heard that particular song at every club that plays reggae music that I’ve ever been to since 2009…sooooo, where’s the consistency?
Answer: There is none. In Jamaica, and many other islands, homophobics are not a select group of hate-filled individuals – it is literally ingrained into the culture and is a way of life. To be a member of the LGBT community is a scary thing in Jamaica. Just listen to some of these personal stories, to the circular Jamaican laws, and the experiences of those LGBTQ people who are trying to get by in life in the country they were born and raised in.
Perhaps, at least in the GTA, the problem lies in the fact that the black community here has a high proportion of people from the Caribbean, and the Caribbean seems to have absolutely no qualms justifying its homophobic beliefs, be it from moral, religious, or social grounds. I mean sure, as recently as a couple months ago a Jamaican artist was banned for performing at a festival in Jamaica due to his extended homophobic-lyrics. But in actuality, Sizzla was the first Jamaican performer to be banned from a festival in Jamaica due to anti-gay hate lyrics, and it seems as though the decision had much more to do with keeping tourists happy than an actual change in the beliefs and treatment of the LGBTQ community on the island. If you have any doubts on the matter, you can check out a lil interview with Jamaica’s Prime Minister in 2008 here… by the end he wasn’t even trying to pretend he didn’t discriminate or hold great disgust and prejudice against gay people.
I would love to say I come from this enlightened family which is why I believe in equality and in smashing down these walls. But the truth is, my family, especially my extended family, is just as bad. While in Jamaica last year, my Uncle and I had an extremely heated debate on the topic of gay and lesbians. If I were to take him, and all those who jumped in to his aid, at face value, then I would currently believe that being friends with a gay person would have their gayness rub off on me, and I too would become gay. And even if I had the mental capacity to ward off accidental infection, any gay person I befriend would be working their damndest to “turn” me, and since they have the devil on their side, the demonic forces would win. *blank stare*. Seriously. As to all the scientific evidence I provided proving that being gay is not a choice, and is certainly not contagious?…yeah, apparently science is being used by the devil to warp our minds and disprove God’s word. And that was seriously the end of it for him. And the other 20 or so people there.
Now, just in case you think that I’m overexaggerating, I came across this one video that truly illustrates just how baseless and uninformed this homophobic belief in Jamaica, so ingrained and blindly followed it has been for so long that people have just accepted it as a fact as basic as the fact that we need food and water to survive. Sadly, this is about as informed an argument I hear against homosexuality in general, even in North America. Check it out.
Why is it that the black community cannot understand that the more divisive we are, the weaker we stand as a whole? Why can they not see that their marginalization, discrimination, and hate of people within the community, or of others in general, based solely on falsity and conjecture and denials of factual evidence is just as bad, and just as illogical, as the racism and prejudice that we face from the outside?
For the record I am a straight woman. I have never had a bisexual urge or experience, nor will I. But, to be clear, my sexuality is not socially defined, I was born this way, and had I been born bisexual or as a lesbian I would be equally happy with me just as I am, and I would never compromise who I am just because some idiot decided my sexuality was a “choice” and therefore was in some way changeable.
Be serious for five seconds: the very first crush you had…did you CHOOSE for it to be a boy or a girl? Or did it just happen? As a child, for all intents and purposes I could have been a boy. I was beyond tomboy, I had all male friends, and I was pretty sure that most girls were strange monsters from some other planet. Seriously. And yet, my very first crush was a boy. And so was every other crush from that point on. Not by my choosing by the way: I’m pretty sure if I had had a choice then I would have chosen to be like my friends and liked girls, too. Liking boys made friendship more complicated in some ways for me. But it was what it was.
And seriously, think about this, too: why the hell would anyone CHOOSE to be ostracized, marginalized, openly hated, raped, murdered, beaten, objectified, and otherwise humiliated if it was simply a choice, an easily manipulated preference? Why would people “choose” this when they have it all: a beautiful wife or loving husband, wonderful kids, a great family, friends, job…wouldn’t they just CHOOSE to walk on the brighter, sunny side, where they already reside? Wouldn’t you just choose the path of least resistance, the path that would lead to sure happiness, love, and support?
Do you really choose who gets you all hot and bothered?
The only “choice” that’s being made here is to hate something that is different than yourself, simply because it is different than yourself, and to choose to ignore all evidence that kills any arguments against that one simple fact. The problems we have with the gay community, for example the DL issue, occur because these children grow up indoctrinated into believing that who they are is a choice they are somehow making, although they have absolutely no control. So they try and fight it, and are meanwhile being buried daily in self-loathing and disgust…ever think that if we stopped this nonsense, we would stop having any homosexual-specific issues within our community?
No matter how common place it has become, prejudice, discrimination, ostracism, and hate are always the least productive choice, and will always lead to damnation and destruction.
If you still want to explore this even further, I’ve left you with a few really great videos: the first is a get-together of black gay males in America, and they discuss homosexuality, the DL, and discrimination from their point of view. The second is a get-together of some straight black people, and they have a frank and honest discussion about the topic of homosexuality in the black community.