Trapped: The Dilemma of the African American Homosexual
April 1, 2013
Dr. Wayne Brekhus
Sociology 3300: Queer Theories
When someone hears the word “gay” or “queer”, they most often think of the middle class, Caucasian gay male. For my research proposal, I plan on studying what is very often overlooked in queer identity: the struggle of queer identity in the African American gay male. I am interested in studying this because I grew up knowing I was gay in a small, middle class town in rural America. I wish to argue how gay African Americans are restricted by Black stereotypes, gay stereotypes, acceptance with stipulations in the gay community and black community, racism in the gay community, homophobia in the Black community, perceptions of blackness and masculinity attitudes toward homosexuality and their effect on gay Black men living openly, homosexuality and religion (the black church), and media perceptions of Black homosexuality. The majority of the black community stated they wished to live restriction free lives. They are not able to fully be themselves in their daily lives and often have to assimilate to be accepted.
While much research has been conducted on white gay males, there is very little study on African Americans who identify with the queer identity. African Americans already have to struggle with the racism and stereotypes of being “black” as an extremely masculinized and heterosexual environment while struggling with the internal conflict of being gay, which makes their experience unique. “Because African‐Americans have already encountered a very traumatic experience with oppression, one could safely assume that African‐Americans would be more sensitive to socially oppressive practices such as being gay so most decide to conceal it. Sadly, African‐American homosexual males are largely viewed by Black heterosexuals as: not really Black, deviant, a disgrace, an embarrassment and, worse yet, an agent of genocide aimed against their own race” (Alexander, 2004: 76, 78). Racism within the Gay Community
It is sad to see that racism is still prevalent even within the gay community; a community that is oppressed almost as much as African Americans. The relationship between the gay community and Black community has been one of association and disassociation. The gay community throughout history has likened their struggle to that of Blacks in America. The Black community has had little interaction with the gay community and has attempted to distance itself from being compared to the gay community. Keith Boykin, author of One More River to Cross, often speaks to the dissensions between the Gay community and the Black community. He analyzes both the gay community and Black community’s relationship to each other and gay Black men. Boykin states, “The dirty little secret about the homosexual population is that white gay people are just as racist as white straight people” (Boykin, 1996: 234). To be “gay” has taken on a white face as well as white experiences” (Boykin, 1996: 235). Homophobia within the Black Community
One thing I never realized is how many African Americans feel they have to choose between “being Black” or “being gay” based on homophobic pressures within the Black community. In her book, The Truth that Never Hurts, Smith dedicates a chapter specifically to this issue. . Smith states, “The underlying assumption is that I should prioritize one of my identities because one of them is actually more important than the rest or that I must arbitrarily choose one of them over the others for the sake of acceptance in one particular community” (Smith, 1998; 125-132). This is an issue gay Black men face as they have “loyalties” to each of their respective communities. Smith acknowledges the double consciousness that many gay Black men face in choosing between the gay community and the Black community. In my experience, being a Caucasian gay male, I never had...
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