Gay Black Men and the Women Who Love Them
When Don Lemon and Rashad Taylor blamed homophobia in the black community for their reluctance to come out, they threw black women under the bus.
In recent news, high-profile African-American men have come out of the closet. The latest to announce that they are gay are CNN News anchor Don Lemon and Georgia State Rep. Rashad Taylor, both of whom named homophobia in the black community as one of their reasons for previously staying quiet about the matter.
When I first heard about their announcements, a couple of thoughts came to mind: 1) I was glad that they came out and 2) yes, homophobia is rampant -- but not just in the black community. I understand their fears. But at the same time, I couldn't help worrying that some would think that homophobia is specific to our community as opposed to the world community, lessening the possibility of addressing the issue on a global scale.
Some bloggers wondered if Lemon in particular had thrown black folks under the bus. I didn't see it that way. But I do think that in making his declaration about homophobia in the black community, he was inadvertently overlooking black women. Most of us love and support gay black men. But Lemon managed to group us with straight black men, many of whom (but not all) are homophobic.
Sexism functions in the black community the same way that homophobia does -- making black women, who are hypervisible in many spaces, including schools, churches and as heads of households, invisible by virtue of being black and female. Homophobia makes gay and lesbian blacks invisible by virtue of requiring heterosexuality as a characteristic of blackness. So when Lemon and Taylor named the black community as culprits in their decision to hide their identity, the voices of black women who support gay black men were silenced. While I don't believe that silencing black women was their intention, that was the result.
When I speak of loving and supporting gay black men, I'm not talking about high-profile celebrity hookups or alleged "arrangements," like the marriages between Star Jones and Al Reynolds or Terry McMillan and Jonathan Plummer. I'm talking about the black women who are in the trenches with gay black men on an everyday basis, serving as confidantes, loyal friends and extended family members. I'm not talking about the sisters who complain that they don't have husbands because there are too many gay black men on the "down low."