Black Gay Men and our Political, Social, and Spiritual Responsibilities
By. Intelekt Kane
Responsibility is such a huge word. It has such a vast encompassing scope. There are words that I think our community needs to embrace a lot more. Integrity, diplomacy, and responsibility are just three of many. The mirror of our community can reflect a great many things. Take for example the history that we have inherited from Marlon Riggs, Bayard Rustin, and Wallace Thurman to the “new” history makers like John Amaechi, Keith Boykin, and Patrik Ian Polk. Yet, with all of this as a backdrop we have not created a Rites of Passage for the younger generation, created safer and respectful housing programs and retirement homes for our black senior gay and lesbian people of color, acknowledge, outreach, and support black lesbian and gay individuals with physical disabilities, created a unique political power-base, gotten rid of internalized homophobia, support the creation of new shelters for thrown-away gay and lesbian youth, and support “gay” and gay affirming churches and spiritual institutions. Some of these things are being tackled by a few of us, but the rest of us have becoming apathetic.
The lack of Rites of Passage is something that we need for our future gay and lesbian leaders. Molding younger people into strong articulate and dynamic gay and lesbian people is in the best interest of the greater black community as a whole, not to mention the best way to affect change in the paradigm of Black American life in regards to black people of same sex desires. Youth are the makers of the world we have yet to experience, but as the youth bring energy and innovation it means nothing to the overall progress of our community if they do not have guidance, support, and wisdom of many of the men who have come before them. The attitude of many older men in our community, and especially the so-called “leaders” is to let young people fend for themselves. This is so apparent when you look at the amount of gay youth who are prostituting or given themselves into damaging relationships just to have a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs. Many of us see these kids everyday and we turn and walk away as we scurry into the closest gay bar. This attitude is why we do not have a foundation to stand on when it comes to making a change for a better tomorrow.
We are all connected in some way or another. It is not only by our shared sexual orientation, but also by the disparaging and suffocating system that we live in, and progress is easily stunted when generational gaps are allowed to erode the track to the goal we have been working towards. I know for a fact that I asked for mentorship from certain leaders for years and never found anyone to support me; that did not have a sexual or social ulterior motive. This has to stop! Many others point fingers at young people and say reproachful things about them, while forgetting that they were once a youth as well. Yet, justify how they were better or different all the while never recognizing that each generation before has always said the same thing about the generation after and at the end of the day we are still in the same place.
We have many members that are also apart of our community, but are consistently left out of the conversation. This includes our seniors and members of the community with disabilities. These people are just as important to the enrichment and diversity of our community as a young gay black male with the “perfect” body. Seniors are facing discrimination in retirement facilities everyday, because of homophobia and the “non-support” of the general gay population. We have to understand that prejudice dose not stop when a person reaches a certain age. We have to learn to take care of those that are sometimes considered unimportant in the community. This also includes our brother and sisters that are deaf or paraplegic, or who have any other physical disability. This is still our community and we have to embrace them all. This is not about pity but about a broader picture of what our community really is. Creating safe spaces and facilities for these communities should be apart of our discussion on creating a better environment.
We are in desperate need for a policy-based group that is willing to go to battle with the majority. This cannot happen as long as egotistical, “stingy”, and delusional individuals are leading the fight, while the rest of everyone else sits back complains and critiques. Getting things changed is about blood, sweat, and tears. It is about sacrifice of time, money, and energy. It is about understanding the need to do as Gandhi said. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” We should be supporting political groups and creating our own agendas. We do not need to follow the general “Euro” gay communities agenda and line items of achievements. My friend, Christopher Stewart Esq., of Atlanta fills so passionate about the need to create a positive image and to reject fear; however, to achieve this we need to still deal with stigma and internalize homophobia that permeates so strongly in the community. We have internalized prejudices that are eating us up, and to make change externally, we must make change internally. We need to acknowledge that we must turn the corner on the status quo. “No fat, no fem” is hypocritical and blasphemous. Having a preference is one thing, but creating levels of “gay” acceptable looks and attributes, as a cultural norm is as ugly as it gets. If you were on a cliff in a car and that car was about to go over, and a “fat” and or “fem” man was the one that could rescue you, you would not care, but in creating bonds, friendships, and allies we have allowed this dogma to bleed into the gay public discourse and it is poisonous.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with articulating the needs of our community, but we must also make sure that we articulate truth and not just opinions or myths that continue to lead us into cycles of denial and indifference. I believe whole-heartedly in concentrated education around our history and evidence that can lead us into making the best decisions for the general community. This should help us set an agenda for our community and not the “euro” establishment or the black militancy that also caters to its own agenda and not that of the general community. We have to figure in order what are the needs, and not only complain about the issues, but also set in place ways of truly tackling and solving some of these issues. This is how we then know what to ask for as a community from the government that we pay and elect into office. This can only be achieved however if the black gay and lesbian community wake up, read, watch, and learn what it is going on not only in America, but around the world.
I also believe that we need to create more places of spiritual renewal and growth for our community and also raise up new energetic spiritual leaders to help support the churches that are in need. We also need to create institutions of spiritual health and healing that may not necessarily be connected to an established religion. Spiritual nourishment is something that each human needs, and healing is most definitely something that we in this community desire and need to make available. Hope is the key to breaking barriers, faith is the essence of knowing it will happen, and love is the ingredient that will keep us going. If we do not have a place and people to help refill us for this journey and the battles that lay ahead then we will not succeed. We should not have to be forced to attend churches or institutions that continually deny our existence as a blessed part of a holy plan. We do not need to continue to hate ourselves, because others know nothing but hate for us. We do not have to cry and think that our life is not worth living because of a doctrine that has been warped and misinterpreted to create conflict and separation with a greater goal of wealth and power. We have to create spaces where the truths of the faiths we believe in are taught in the love in which those doctrines were conceived. This is how we grow. We must also not be afraid to stand up and challenge hypocritical and hateful “spiritual” leaders who teach out of bitterness and disdain for something that do not know. This is how we as a people will get to the promise land. Turning and running away from a spiritual life will not help us, but embracing our spiritual needs and beliefs and working diligently in spirit and truth will.
These are just a few things that can lead us in the right direction when it comes to responsibilities. A good friend of mines, Bishop Zachary Jones said something to me that lets me know I am right in target when he said that the soul always knows where it belongs. I know this is my community and I most definitely know that it is where I belong.
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