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Faggots and Punks

Homophobia in Black and Latino Communities

August 1997

A note from The field of medicine is constantly evolving. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!

said a Black man on the corner of 129th and Fifth Avenue in Harlem to an effeminate gay Black man walking by. Most Black and Latino heterosexual men say they have called a homosexual "faggot" or "punk" at one time or another in their life, a new poll shows.

But the Black and Latino AIDS Coalition (BLAC) survey of 500 respondents said people of color are split over the legalization of same-sex marriages. Asked should same-sex marriages be legal, 37 percent of those polled said yes and 36 percent said no, while 18 percent aren't sure. Another 9 percent said they don't care.

A whopping 58 percent said God would not approve of the gay lifestyle. And 53 percent said they would not have a homosexual friend. Clearly, homophobia is alive and kickin' in the Black and Latino community. Rappers such as Ice Cube tell us in their records, "Real niggas ain't faggots." Many Black and Latino ministers with bible raised high, proclaim homosexuality "a sin before God." And in a TV interview with Evans and Novaks in March 1997, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan made it clear he regarded homosexuality an "unnatural act," and would discourage the practice whenever and wherever he could.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Ph.D., said "[T]his will only change when more Black leaders understand that when you scratch a homophobe underneath, you'll invariably find a racist."Unless we address the issue of homophobia in minority communities, we can't begin to stop the rise of AIDS. We must teach people of color that HIV affects and infects people regardless of their sexual orientation, race, or beliefs."

What does the poll finding mean to Black and Latino heterosexuals struggling to end the AIDS epidemic in minority communities? First, the rise of AIDS among Black and Latino heterosexuals is indirectly a result of homophobia in minority communities where AIDS is still seen as a gay disease.

Indeed, AIDS and the homosexual lifestyle is one and the same thing in the minds of many straight people of color. Consequently, many heterosexual people of color hide a positive AIDS test and many refuse to test out of fear of being found positive and subsequently suspected of being gay. This misleading association of AIDS with the gay lifestyle discourages heterosexual people of color with HIV/AIDS from accessing services too.

For example, many straight women will not go to Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) because they fear being identified as lesbians or approached by them. Many heterosexual men feel the same way about GMHC regarding gay men.

BLAC is engaged in discussions with representatives of GMHC to find ways to address the homophobic fears of straight people of color. One of the reasons BLAC and GMHC are working together is to serve as a model for other communities that may be experiencing similar problems that inhibit access to services. The survey also found that six out of ten heterosexual people of color said that straight Black and Latino men must stop gay bashing. No question about it. As a matter of fact, we must build on that sentiment by finding more common ground between the gay and lesbian community and straight people of color. Politics is a good starting point. A case in point is the riff caused when Ruth Messinger endorsed Virginia Fields (a straight Black woman) for Manhattan Borough President over Deborah Glick, an openly lesbian candidate. Back in June 1997, several members of the gay and lesbian community huddled with Harlem Congressman Charles Rangel to create an open line of discussion. Apparently, the gay and lesbian community remembered that straight people of color are grossly underrepresented at all levels of New York City government too.

Whatever the case, Black and Latino elected officials have been at the forefront of championing gay and lesbain rights, and as a group, form the core group of the gay community's legislative support in both Albany and New York City. Under the circumstances, the gay and lesbian community would benefit by having grassroots straight allies and vice versa. Indeed, coalition-building between Black and Latino straight people and the gay and lesbian community is absolutely necessary in the political struggle for civil rights as well as in the struggle to end the AIDS epidemic.

A note from The field of medicine is constantly evolving. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!

This article was provided by Body Positive. It is a part of the publication Body Positive.
See Also
HIV & Me: A Guide to Living With HIV for Hispanics
The Body en Español
Quiz: Are You at Risk for HIV?
10 Common Fears About HIV Transmission
More on HIV Awareness and Prevention in the U.S. Latino Community


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