An Online Magazine in the Reality-Based Community.

Self-respect in the house of worship

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Keith Boykin throws it down, taking on the sad, sad reaction by the black gay men challenged by homobigot minister Bishop Alfred E. Owens of Greater Mt. Calvary Holy Church in DC. When Owens said "Let all the real men come on down here and take a bow...All the real men-I'm talking about the straight men...You ain't funny and you ain't cranky, but you're straight, the closeted brothers in the pews felt they had no option other than to step on up. Keith:
Another Sunday passes and another minister is caught on tape with his homophobic foot in his mouth. Sadly, that's no longer news. I am tired of stupid ministers preaching hatred and ignorance in their churches. But I have to be honest. I am also tired of passive black gay men who go to these churches week after week and participate in their own abuse. I understand how black gay men often do not feel empowered to challenge the abuse they suffer, and I sympathize with people in this situation. But coddling these men in the hope that they will change on their own is not the solution. It's time for our community to demand more. It's time for a change.

...I know what I'm saying will not be popular in some quarters. Some might call it "blaming the victim," and no doubt black gay men are victims in Bishop Owens's church and in numerous others like it all across the country. But I think it's time for us to stop encouraging this self-destructive behavior and start changing it.

Black gay men are under attack, not only in our churches, but in our families, at our jobs, on the radio stations we listen to, in the songs we dance to at our night clubs, and in the dark spaces of the parks where we often dwell. I am not a confrontational person, but I believe you have a right and a duty to defend yourself when you're attacked. Sometimes you fight back. Sometimes you simply seek to prevent injury to yourself and others. And other times you vow to avoid those situations in the future. Either way, you do something to defend yourself.
Ending the homobigotry in the black faith community will have to start with parishioners who are willing to walk out of a service, call out the hateful comments coming from the pulpit and to let the plate pass them by.

Go read the rest, including the eye-opening comments.

***

The unwillingness of black gays in the pews to call out homophobic pastors such as Owens and Willie Wilson clearly also stems from the fact that many of these men won't even admit to being gay or even bisexual. Too many cannot even say those words.

Jasmyne Cannick pointed me to this press release for an upcoming event, Miami Beach Bruthaz 2006. The theme is "Bridging the Gap Between the Gay and Straight Communities."

The conference is open to all, mind you -- LGBT-identified folks are invited to participate, says the press release, a welcome use of the terms when, for the most part, the term "same-gender-loving" (SGL) is used by a sizable number of blacks to distance themselves from "gay". It's to show a distinction from the "white gay culture" that they cannot identify with as a strong black man, exacerbating the problem of denial for some.
Miami Beach Bruthaz 2006, scheduled July 20-23 on South Beach, promises to bring African-American men together from across the country for engaging seminars, enlightening discussion and informative workshops on issues facing straight and gay Black men. The event will feature New York Times best-selling author J.L. King, author of On the Down Low and executive producer of the BET special Down Low Exposed, Houston radio talk show host Christopher Evans and Chicago author Marshall Douglas. The event is open to men and women within the straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities.

"I'm excited about participating in Miami Beach Bruthaz 2006 because now more than ever, with so many pressures and challenges facing African-American gay and straight men, we have to create an ongoing forum that encourages dialogue, promotes new thinking and outlines the social, psychological and physical responsibilities we all face," said New York Times best selling author J.L. King.
You don't have to click far into the site to realize this affair is going to attract a whole lot of "straight" black men looking for homo action on the DL. How many of these men are out? How many are actively in a relationship with a woman who doesn't know their man is on "a business trip" to this "conference"?

Interestingly, this convention offers opportunities for real dialogue, but look at the topic list:
* Men's Total Health and Well Being
* Heterosexual Black Men Who Have Sex With Men
* Taking Responsibility
* Bridging the Gap Between the Gay and Straight Communities
* Issues Facing DL Bruthaz
* Manhood vs. Masculinity
* Homosexuality and Spirituality
Heterosexual Black Men Who Have Sex With Men. Wrap your mind around that. Of course it is possible for a straight person to have sex with someone of the same sex, but that's not really what's going on here. What this is about is Self-identified "Heterosexual" Black Men Who Have Sex With Men On a Regular Basis and Sleep With Women.

The question is, do those women know about their straight man's other activities? If they know and accept this fact in the privacy of their relationship, that's one thing. The truth is, no one knows how much "creeping" of this nature is going on.

One can only hope that all the men who attend that panel also attend the Taking Responsibility panel that follows.

This is clearly not a black-only issue, but a slice of the pie of closeted pathology that has infected one community in a way that is only beginning to be addressed; you can draw a connection between the vitriol from the pulpit and the level of denial and deception that feeds the problem.

What many in the political venue choose to ignore is that the black vote will remain a strong part of the Democratic base, but that the unaddressed homophobia within will allow for those same party-line voters to vote for anti-gay measures. Will Democrats (of all colors) stand up and call out homophobia in all circles where it exists in its party? I haven't seen much activity to suggest it will be. Dems have taken blacks for granted for decades. Who will call them out?

As far as Republicans go there's precious little hope on that front, despite Ken Mehlman's "outreach," and the high-profile blacks running for office (Ken Blackwell in Ohio, Lynn Swann in Pennsylvania, Michael Steele in Maryland) that result in stories like The Year of the Black Republican? Those campaigns are reaching out to The Base.

As I said in an earlier post, many white Dems are terrified of the race card being tossed out there by defensive, homophobic blacks who don't want this issue openly discussed. It all has to be discussed, by all of us. It goes without saying that other groups of color, such as gay Latinos, face much the same uphill battle in those faith communities.

This doesn't preclude hard discussions within the black community, with the admission of the issues here, as well as an open and honest look at the relevance of homophobia in the black community to the larger role of this sickness in the dominant culture, also fostered in that religious community.

The highest profile black figure to tackle this has been Al Sharpton. The National Black Justice Coalition held a summit in January to discuss the issue of the church and homophobia, a landmark event, but more like it are sorely needed.

***

Shakes Sis has a great post up related to this, Gotta Touch the Third Rail, and talks about this in the context of the lame attempt by the WaPo to create some kind of momentum in its Year of the Black Republican article I mentioned above.

She echoes my frustration about our posts on topics that touch on race and politics:
This is a subject both Pam and I have written about before, and we always end up grousing about the lack of comments posts on the topic inevitably receive. Progressives are willing to talk about religious intolerance toward the LGBT community, and the GOPís exploitation of gay rights as a wedge issue, and the frustrating intermingling of religion and politicsóbut as soon as race gets thrown into the mix, itís a no-commenter. The truth is, the entrenched homophobia in many black churches, confirmed repeatedly by Boykinís commenters, is an important political issue and and an important cultural issue. If the inevitable result of the GOP stealing voters based on such a despicable tactic isnít enough to get us talking about this, the forcible, faith-based marginalization of LGBT people of color surely ought to be.
Related:
* DC homobigot pastor tries to top Willie Wilson