A sector of society which has a history of having separate rights allotted to them throughout American society is that of the gay and lesbian community. Due to the demographic nature of this community, it is not always outwardly noticeable that one was or is a member of this part of society. This sect of society (which has come to be known as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning or more commonly G.L.B.T.Q.) has been ignored or thought of as being non-existent. In Cincinnati, OH, the Genius of Water fountain, which has come to signify the city, was erected in the middle of Cincinnati’s business district in October 1871 on the behest of Henry Probasco in tribute to the death of his brother-in-law Tyler Davidson, providing propaganda that the two were secret lovers. Cincinnati was not the only American city during the 1800’s which saw gay relationships. Far out in the wild territories of the same era the 1800’s where daily life was extremely hard and a person’s lifespan often depended on their abilities to find just the basics of adequate food, water, and shelter.
Same sex relationships thus formed and sometimes flourished within an almost “anything goes” atmosphere during much of the era and also brought about many very new ideas and attitudes toward homosexuality. Before then, those who had same sex relations with others usually had not been viewed as people who were homosexual, but instead as people who happened to engage in sexual acts with members of their own gender. In other words, homosexuality was something one did, and not something one was. In addition, among the eastern states of the country during this time, the dramatic increase in school attendance and frequency of trans-generational sex, same-sex relations between persons of roughly the same age became the norm.
The reasoning behind the defaming labeling of homosexuality has mostly come from religious, legal and even some medical factions. The Catholic Church all but ignored homosexuality until the end of the 12th century. Once they began to publicly denigrate homosexual acts, legal ramifications were soon to follow. For example, there were strict criminal repercussions enforced in the American Colonies during its early settlement.
Towards the end of the 19th Century, medicine began to incorporate religious and legal doctoring in to their own diagnosis and it wasn’t until 1973 that homosexuality was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
Over the years, the G.L.B.T community has gained major strides in pursuing and establishing equal rights. With the first major American protest led by gay Americans occurring in New York, City in 1969, which escalated to the government’s refusal to identify A.I.D.S during the 1980’s on to the domino effect of states now legalizing same- sex marriage, the tides seem to be turning. This, of course, is a misnomer due to the multitudes of people who a constantly harassed, degraded and even abused due to their sexual identity and/or preference. Statistics issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (F.B.I.) show there were 1,265 hate crimes based on sexual orientation in 2007. There are even an enumerated amount of people who rather hide their sexual orientation rather than to “come out”, afraid that they would lose the respect that they have gained. Just recently, the United States Armed Forces has dropped its ban on openly gay and lesbian soldiers serving in its ranks.
It’s pretty ironic, that after all of the aforementioned strides AND our work to end inequality, African-Americans have been at the forefront of opposition to same-sex marriage, particularly giving reference to our deep ties to our religion.
The funny thing is that we as Black folk have known that there have been gays and lesbians in our church and is not an uncommon thing to have some of the aforementioned to hold powerful positions.
Pastor So-And-So prophesizes about how the Bible condemns a man lying with another man as he would a woman, but in the church kitchen or in the choir right behind him there are a myriad of people who do just the thing that he says is blasphemy. The biggest case of pot calling the kettle black is when those same pastors are involved with people of the same sex as well.
It was a major step in the right direction when last year President Obama announced his support of same-sex marriage and hypocrisy of Blacks not getting behind this movement.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People followed in line by touting their support of same-sex marriage.
Still in our churches, there is still a “don’t ask, don’t tell” mantra that keeps the lie going and keeps the door shut on the gay church closet.
Despite this paradox, there are an increasing number of churches who are not only opening their hearts to gay and lesbian parishioners but also their doors; this at a time when church attendance is down and churches are looking for ways to increase their numbers.
In addition, there are many who are actually stepping out of the closet while still embracing their religion. A perfect example can be found in gospel music star Tonex (Anthony Charles Williams II). His announcement to the world in 2009 that he was gay most likely was not a shock to his close inner circle, but, to many in the world, it was definitely a step out of the God-fearing circle of believers. This did cause his record sales to fall. Fall so much that had to revert back to preaching at his family church. He soon then reinvented himself as B. Slade and is now a star in the LGBT music scene.
I was only 18 years old and even though I was still unsure about my sexuality, I had to lie and tell the enlisting officer of the US Army that I had never engaged in homosexual acts…a great way to kick off my military career. Not only that, I had to spend my life living a lie for most of my young life growing up as I attending an African American church. As I went through my military career, and I began being more comfortable with my feelings, I was able to confide with friends that I was gay and in doing so, I found a number of other gay and lesbian soldiers who shared my same struggle, wanting to serve my country, but frightened that if I expressed too much of myself, I would be fired from my job.
The sense of loneliness and always looking over my back transcended into my life once I left the military. In fact it was not years later that I told my mother that I was gay. And that was after I had attempted to make myself straight. Who should have to live life this way?