June 14, 2010
Some experts believe that sociocultural factors, including a "wounded spirit," leave many Black gay men vulnerable to HIV. Here, a Black gay minister offers advice to other Black gay men on loving themselves, expressing their gifts and finding comfort in God.
I am a proud Black gay man who was born in the projects of Washington, D.C. Like many gay men, I struggled with religion and my orientation. So many Black gay men have been beaten down by homophobia, discrimination, the church or HIV that they feel as if they are "broken" and disconnected from their church or spirituality. Many have been rejected from their homes or churches. And that's too bad, because Black gay men have so many creative gifts to offer. We've been the backbone of many churches for decades.
If you are a Black gay, or same-gender-loving, man looking to build a closer relationship with God, my advice is simple: Study the Bible and not what people say about the Bible. Many people in the church today are more like the Pharisees and leaders Jesus came to rebuke than the Christ they say they love. If you're looking for a new church home, find one that will love the "whole" you, that will accept and honor your life and loves as a Black gay man. Sometimes there is pressure to attend a certain church or denomination, and to stay around what is familiar. Don't give in; just do "you," not what people say "you" should do.
If you're looking for something nontraditional, that's fine, too, as long as it works for you. Find your Higher Power.
But if you're looking in the Bible, there are Scriptures that tell people that God has always "known" us. My favorite is from the book of Jeremiah: "Before you were formed in your mother's womb, I knew you." These are very comforting to read, especially when people are struggling with their sexuality or trying to come out. Black gay men especially need to be reminded that we are wonderfully made and that God searches the heart -- not the orientation or the skin color.
One of the greatest tricks of oppression is to get the oppressed to believe that they are damaged goods. Many of us crave acceptance, but there is a very big difference between acceptance and love. Black people have been in America for centuries, and some people will never accept us as equals. The same holds true for gay men, especially those of color. We are already feeling "less than" because we think we don't see enough positive images of ourselves. But Black gay men are making incredible contributions -- Lee Daniels received an Academy Award nomination for Precious.
I was ordained as a minister in 2000 with the Unity Fellowship Church Movement. It's a primarily Black LGBT denomination, so you get that intense traditional Black-church worship service but with an inclusive message. Over the years I've counseled many couples and many brothas. Many have come to me when their status changed or when they learned that a partner was HIV-positive. Every day is a wake-up call to life. Sometimes this diagnosis can shake us into the present to help us become more conscious about the business of living. One of my good brotha friends has been positive for 26 years, so it can be a "live" notice and a clarion call to live your truth and do what brings you joy and happiness. It's time for some action. Don't put your dreams off until tomorrow. Today is all any of us knows.
My life as a Black gay man has been amazing. I've had a great career working in the entertainment industry and a wonderful spiritual calling. Five years ago I adopted a now 20-year-old son, and it was incredible watching him grow into a young man. Many brothas sometimes wonder how they can give back to the community. Have you considered mentoring youth? Or volunteering in your neighborhood? Black gay men have so many skills and talents that our community should tap into. And there is no greater satisfaction than seeing someone smile and hearing them thank you for helping them become a better person. When you live in your truth and stop trying to seek the approval of others, you stand taller. The truth will do that to you.
As told to Rod McCullom, a writer and television-news producer who blogs on Black gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender news and pop culture at rod20.com.