Bayard Rustin a Choice to Be Openly Gay

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[ April 12, 2010 ]

Mark A. LeMaster
Research Project
Global Civilization AH220
TTH 12:45

Subject: Bayard Rustin
Thesis Statement: Bayard Rustin’s choice to live as an openly gay man influenced his effectiveness as a contributor to the Civil rights movement.

Setting out with no foreknowledge of Bayard Rustin’s contributions to the civil rights movement, I found mentioned prominently in nearly every source, his sexual predisposition toward homosexuality. So the question that came to mind for me was; while being black in the 1960’s was difficult enough, what effect did being a gay man play in his role as an effective leader of the civil rights movement? Did it earn him further persecution, not just from whites of the time, but from his peers as well? Did it detract from the real focus of his cause or did it help him to elevate its importance? When I began this report, my thesis seemed to adequately reflect my intent. But as I became more familiar with Rustin’s early life, I felt compelled to introduce the highly contentious element of choice as it relates to homosexuality. I could not ignore the research that lead me to preclude that Bayard Rustin made a clear choice to be, not just gay, but openly promiscuous as well. I will examine several examples in this paper that clearly illiterate that this decision caused his participation in the civil rights movement to take a very different path than it might have otherwise. First, let me support the thesis by legitimizing my main premise; that homosexuality is a choice. Second, allow me to illustrate specific occurrences where his choice caused his path in the civil rights movement to be altered. And third, we can discuss whether these alterations influenced his overall effectiveness as a civil rights leader. In conclusion I hope to produce an honest dialogue and in this dialogue conclude that, whether for good or bad, Bayard Rustin’s choice to live as an openly gay man influenced his effectiveness as a contributor to the Civil rights movement. Homosexuality is a choice! My intention is not to turn this report into a dissertation about being homosexual, whether by birth or choice. But I do think that a good paper requires a firm foundation, so to that end I will begin here to build mine. A good deal of today’s research points to the belief that homosexuality is a genetically inherent trait. Yet, conservatives pose a strong argument for choice. The only consistency I have found is that advocates on either side of the argument can interpret the data to fit their cause. Case and point: the interpretation of scripture. A strong argument used by those who see homosexuality as a willful and sinful choice. I quote Leviticus 20:13 from the King James Bible. “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. From a Christian Liberal study entitled Homosexuality and the Scripture the author writes, “Correct Hebrew translation: "And a man who will lie down with a male in beds of a woman, both of them have made an abomination; dying they will die. Their blood is on them.” And goes on to say “it can be seen that, rather than forbidding male homosexuality, it simply restricts where it may occur. Culturally, a woman's bed was her own. Other than the woman herself, only her husband was permitted in her bed, and there were even restrictions on when he was allowed in there. Any other use of her bed would have been considered defilement.” [ (Lighthouse Ministries 2002) ] But from “Literal Translation of the Holy Bible” a translation which its authors claim to be based on Jay P. Green Sr.'s Interlinear Greek-Hebrew-English Bible, quotes Leviticus 20:13 as this. “And a man who lies with a male as one lies with a woman, both of them have done a detestable thing, dying they shall die; their blood shall be on them. [ (Olive Tree Bible Software 1998-2010) ]...
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