I am a former homophobic. I once viewed gay people as too odd for me to understand so I had no reason to befriend them. I never had attraction to another man so I could fathom why another man would be attracted to another man. I felt that with all the good looking women in the world, how could any man love another man.
I was deeply Christian and I knew that the Bible said that God would send homosexuals to hell so I chose not to associate with hell headed heathens. I thought homosexuality was a choice and that men lusting after men or women having similar feelings toward women was sinful.
But I wondered why Black people in particular had such a deep hatred for homosexuality. When we speak of homosexuality I am talking about men loving men and not women loving women. Most men seem to be fine with women loving each other in an erotic way. This is based on sexism, but that’s another topic.
The three reasons that Black men hate gay Black men so much are based on their slave history, religion and the prison culture.
The slave story is not a new one. It happened. It was outlawed but some effects are still seen today. Slavery was obviously big business. Ships brought Africans from the West coast of the Dark Continent to the East Coast of America to sell Black bodies to greedy slave owners. Once the selling of Blacks had taken place to the point that Blacks made up a substantial population there was a less of a need to import anymore. Slave owners could simply breed their slaves like cattle. A homosexual slave would not be able to live his life as one since he would be whipped or killed for not making more boys and girls for the plantation.
Some scholars believe that homosexuality is European and that it was introduced to the Black race to stop procreation. That is doubtful. The first findings of homosexuality like many other things, animals, and cultures were discovered in Africa. Long before Greeks scholars were lusting after young boys Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum were lovers in Egypt.
Most Black followers of religion practice one of the tree major Abrahamic faiths. Ironically all of these religions shun homosexuality, call it a sin and do not promise any type of pleasurable afterlife for the homosexual. I once worked with a son of a preacher who was gay and said when he was younger he would wake up at night sweating fearing that he would go to hell for loving men. A wide sweep of churches in America have been accepting the homosexual lifestyle. Whether these churches are right or wrong for doing is frivolous to argue. What can be stated without question is that the Bible is against homosexuals.
This deep rooted love of religion plus the hate of homosexuality preached in the churches, temples and mosques leads to hating homosexual Black men.
Lastly prison culture has provided more lighter fluid to homophobic flames. Prison culture is a lifestyle that has been studied, documented, shown in movies and television shows but one aspect is usual hidden. Homosexuality is in prison. It is real, it happens. Prisoners feel that lack of women validates the liaisons between men in prison. The rapes, dates and consensual intercourse in prison is usually swept under the rug.
I often talk to young Black men who have chose a life of crime. I ask them are they ready to go to prison and have to watch their backs and their behinds. They state something to the effect that prison is not like that and that homosexuality is not popular in prisons. Older men in their neighborhoods have relayed that aforementioned message to them. What I always reply with is, “If you had been raped of had consensual sex with a man in prison, would you tell anybody once you were released? If someone asked you how was your prison term, would you say it was cool. Pumped iron, read books and slept with men?” They all say no. They always reply that they would not tell a soul. I explain that this is the reason why prison culture is not transparent.
The men coming home to their families would not dare talk about this. Instead they would rather hate and despise homosexuals more. In the ex prisoners mind it is okay to have sex with another prisoner while in prison due to the slim to none chance of having sex with a women. The convicted felon would not deign to have sex with a man outside prison walls.
But gay Black people have always been a keystone to Black arts and civil rights. We cannot celebrate Langston Hughes’ Harlem or talk about his “raisin in the sun” without acknowledging that he was our gay brother as well. Black Americans can not cheer for Angela Davis and her contributions to the Black race and still hate her for being gay.
I often think of the James Baldwin’s words, a gay literature icon, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”