I STAYED QUIET: A DEDICATION TO BLACK HOMOPHOBIA
“Before I was called a ‘nigger,’ I was called a ‘faggot.’”
This. I read this quote a few months back and my stomach dropped. It was like someone logged into my brain, highlighted my thoughts, hit the Command + C button, then pasted it in a tweet.
When I was born, I was Black, before anything else. But as I got older, some traits began to show more than others and at times the feminine would outweigh the masculine. And while I didn’t think anything of it, everyone around sure as hell did. I never liked the more “manly” activities like playing sports, objectifying women in conversation, or even rough housing with my brothers. For the most part I thought these were all due to my lack of communication with men during my upbringing because I lived with my grandmother and my two aunts. And while my older male cousin lived with us, he was always busy because he was a college student and a worker.
As I got older, my lack of interest in male activity flatlined, while my attraction to the male anatomy only blossomed. I realized that I was now burdened with a secret that at that time I thought I would take to the grave. I was gay.
I grew up in the era where no one wanted to be “on that faggot shit.” We were at the peak of gangsta rap and with that toxic masculinity was taking over the Black community and creating an even deeper divide that what we already had. Homosexuality was the thing that you only talked about when you were already listing the things you hated.
I grew up in a time where Black families would rather praise a man who single-handedly helped put a generation of Black men behind bars, rather than talk about the gay neighbors down the street. I grew up in a time where Black families would rather talk about Magic Johnson’s biggest accomplishments, rather than debunk the myth that straight people are capable of attaining and spreading the HIV/AIDS virus. I grew up in a time where Black families openly forced each other to forgive and forget the pedophilloic actions of the same uncle their sitting at Thanksgiving dinner with, rather than have their gay son and his lover over for the holidays.
Given all of this, why would I ever want to be reveal my sexuality? Why would I want to fight through my childhood because of my sexuality? Why would I want to go through public embarrassment as people called me a “fag” and other sexuality slurs to make me feel lesser than?
I stayed quiet. I changed myself. I masked my identity.
The Black community can target the White majority for a lot of actions used to divide and conquer the Black community like camouflage, poverty, and even drugs. But one thing they have to take accountability in are the high levels of homophobia. When the White man stripped you of your masculine identity through jail and negative depiction, you found a way to let off your steam and only create more of a monster they make you to be. YOU, alone, decided you would heighten the gap of the Black community when you punched that kid in your class. YOU decided to enhance hate when you decided to use your misleading biblical texts to shun our Black boys and girls away from the church. YOU decided to give the media an even uglier depiction of what it means to be “Black” when you stripped another of their Blackness because of their sexuality.
I didn’t want to be anything but Black, so I shut up and blended myself in. I became a chameleon in toxic masculinity. I taunted and teased my gay peers to keep people from sensing my own dirty little secret. Keeping quiet in the crossfire only makes you a target. I even went as far as to fight anyone who accused me of something I was actually guilty of.
We know that Black men are one of the biggest contributors in homophobia, but what about Black women? Do Black women not partake in the degrading of our Black LTBTQ community?
Black women fetishize the idea of a “gay best friend.” They want someone to always tell them that they’re cute and someone to catch new slang from. Black women would wait hours to be “slayed” and “beat” (phrases for looking good in regards to hair, nails, and makeup) by a gay man, rather than by a woman.
Even with their fetishization of Black gay men and their fierceness, what commonality do Black women have? There’s two answers to the question.
1) As soon as a Black woman gets mad at a Black gay male, what is he called? A faggot. They turn on you and lessen your value as soon as things don’t go their way. I can recall my first time being called a faggot to my face. It was my aunt, whom had “helped” my grandmother raise me. If I hadn’t already been numb to her verbally abusive demeanor, I would have been hurt. However, a few years down the line, after getting into an variety of arguments with my former best friend, she too, decided the F word would best suit our series of disputes.
(In fact, I would say the greatest defense mechanism in taking on a fast and witty responding Black gay man is probably by dropping the F bomb.)
And 2) They pressure their sons not to cry, hang with girls too much, or even talk a lot in certain setting because those are all things that could help the public identify you as gay, or as my oh so loving aunt would call them, “little bitch traits.”
There is accountability to be held by both men and women when it comes to healing those who we have all helped hurt. Even openly Black gay men like myself have to take responsibility for my past actions. I have to use my testimony and experience to be sure that those little Black boys and girls who are labeled as “freaks” are able to let their freak flags fly. I must speak up before I expect anyone to stop being quiet.
I grew up in a time where being Black was anti-gay and being gay was anti-Black. So I stayed quiet.
It’s time to move forward. Speak up and be heard.