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I've posted many times about the particular brand of homophobia found in some black churches. So much, in fact, that probably some readers here have grown weary of hearing about it, and at least one has told me that my anger regarding the subject is a sign of "self-hatred." I'd probably say that my anger stems from my own experience of the phenomenon.

I've written about black ministers like Willie Wilson, Alfred Owens, and Eddie Long spewing anti-gay hatred from the pulpit, black ministers in Indiana praying for more discrimination against gay people, another black minister who announced he'd ride with the Klan as long as they opposed marriage equality, and about how another black minister turned his back when Dwan Prince's mother asked for help in the wake of a gay bashing that left her son in a coma and in a wheelchair afterwards. And I've written about how all of the above effect the HIV/AIDS epidemic in black communities.

So, yes, I've beaten that drum a lot. Maybe too much, but as a black gay man it's something affects me -- even as a non-christian -- and thus it's something I can't not talk about.

But maybe it's to much coming from me, as I admit my own pain and anger related to the subject are still rather raw. So I was interested to see Andrew Sullivan take up the subject with a post to Billy Porter's column about his own experience with the black church as a gay man.

So here I stand. Speaking up, speaking out, and letting my glorious light shine like it should. I recently sat in the New York City hospital room of my dear friend Kevin Aviance after he was savagely beaten on an East Village street for being gay, and I thought to myself, Where are our leaders? Where are the people with influence who will stand up for me and my gay brethren? I am disappointed with our government. I am disappointed with our nation. But I am the most disappointed with my African-American 'Christian' brothers and sisters who stand proudly on their pulpits and use the Bible to regurgitate the very same hate rhetoric that was inflicted on the black community not so long ago.

I never considered myself an activist in the past. I respect that title too much to take it lightly. But with the recent increase in hate-bias attacks directed toward our community, and the struggle for us to gain the simplest of civil rights, I am filled with a raging sense of activism. Our bodies, our health, and our basic civil liberties are at stake. It is time to let the world know: We will not let you take our God away. We will not be ignored! We will not be denied! And if God is going to send us to a burning hell for being the people that He created us to be--we'll see each and every one of you there.

"Shine! Let it shine! Let it shine! Let it shine!"

Porter, a Broadway performer, wrote his remarks before performing at a Soulforce protest at James Dobson's Focus on the Family headquarters. I admire Porter's stand, though different from my own choices -- for he remained within the faith he was raised in, and has apparently chosen to stay and fight, whereas my own choice was to leave it behind. I also join Porter in his questions.

Where are our leaders? Where are the people with influence who will stand up for me and my gay brethren? In terms of high profile leaders within black churches, I can only think of a few. Jesse Jackson, Michael Eric Dyson, Al Sharpton come to mind, and other ministers who attended the black church summit in Atlanta earlier this year. But not many more than that, though there are probably countless others working anonymously against homophobia in their own churches.

The irony is that many black ministers are joining a movement that has it's roots in decades-old battles against desegregation, without knowing or caring. I've just finished Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism and I'm two-thirds through The Baptizing of America: The Religious Right's Plans for the Rest of Us, and both books detail how African-Americans who normally lean Democratic on policy issues have joined a movement that Michelle Goldberg calls Christian nationalism in her book and that James Rubin calls Christocratic in his, because it appeals to their religiously-based conservatism on social issues. Both books also go into detail about how this movement rose in part from opposition to the advances of the civil rights movement. (All of which leads to the irony of a black minister declaring he'll "ride with the Klan" so long as they hate gay people as much as he does.)

After quoting Porter, Sullivan sums up merely saying "The battle has only just started." I fear he's right, and I think Porter and others like him are the people best equipped to fight it; to become the leaders whose absence he writes about. In her Advocate column about "Taking Back the Black Gay Movement" Jasmyne Cannick wrote about the need for black gays to start speaking up in our own communities. She's exactly right.

But in assessing Porter's and Cannick's statements, I'm left wondering where exactly I could begin to enter the picture in the work that needs to be done in that arena. As I've written before, much like the person Cannick mentions in her column, I no longer have any real connection to any black community beyond the other black gays & lesbians I keep in touch with online. As a non-christian who isn't likely to ever return to the faith, it looks like a good part of the battle is going to take place in a territory where I no longer speak the language, know the landscape or share belief.

Maybe the best I can do, following Porter's example, is to let "this little light of mine" shine where I am for now. Maybe if some of us are shedding light on the inside while others of are shining our lights on the outside, the darkness in between will be illuminated; maybe even eliminated.

Crossposted from The Republic of T.

Originally posted to TerranceDC on Tue Jul 25, 2006 at 01:45 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Hi Terrance! (8+ / 0-)

    You know that we "" are winning, don't you?  I was on the radio with some black pastors here in Indiana last year (typical AM talk radio) and they had nothing new to say.

    Our local Greg Garrison in opposing gay rights in Indy on another talk show couldn't come up with anything to counter my arguments but, "Dana, what if gays and trans... want to use the other sex's bathrooms?"  

    So, besides the old you are going to hell because a book in the Bible whose other condemnations and abominations we ignore every day (ya pastor, I want to see you give up your yummy shrimp and pork bar-b-q) says so, they have nothing.

    I/we GLBT have our faults, and God will deal with those in good time I am certain, but that is between God and us, not some preacher man who can't keep his eye off the new girl in the choir.

    Dana Curtis Kincaid Ad Astra per Aspera! The enemy is not man, the enemy is stupidity.

    by angrytoyrobot on Tue Jul 25, 2006 at 01:49:04 PM PDT

  •  Shine On! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    boofdah, means are the ends

    Keep on shining in your piece of the world.  Writing and talking about injustice can be lonely at times.  Hopefully the many little lights from across the country will shine brightly enough for all to see.


    "What you see is what you get"--Just remember to take off the rose colored glasses!

    by QueerVoice on Tue Jul 25, 2006 at 02:32:01 PM PDT

  •   Keep On Doing What You Do (9+ / 0-)

    While some may tire of what you write about, it is nonetheless a critical issue. There is a dark side to the centrality of Christianity in many an African-American life.

    I place more of the blame on people, at both the individual and institutional level than I do on the faith itself. Christianity can be very empowering and uplifting, but it has also become a barrier for progress within our community.

    I think we've arrived at this point because of the role the church has played in the struggle for full civil rights. We see the inability, and the unwilligness to deal with the issue of AIDS and sexuality in our community, but we also see a deficent effort in most all of the major issues facing the African-American community as well.

    Until we get to a point where just showing up to church, and church-related activities earns one a pass to being perceived as truely "Black", or "Christian", I submit that we will continue to hear lots of jesus-speak while the community at large fails to evolve.

    Perhaps after the demographic changes in a generation's time or so we will have more favorable conditions. Until that time, we need to keep the subject alive as part of the general political discourse.

    "Most people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do so."

    by sebastianguy99 on Tue Jul 25, 2006 at 02:33:02 PM PDT

  •  Don't forget another vector. (11+ / 0-)

    Many of the loudest anti-gay voices among black ministers come from mega-churches or churches preaching a gospel of wealth (mostly benefitting the pastor and a few cronies). Certainly there are pastors in small neighborhood churches who are anti-gay. But don't forget the biggest motivating factor for the white hatemongers--it's a cash crop! Nothing sells like hate or brings in the bucks like the homoboogieman™. Booga booga booga! It's the same for many of these blowhards.

    I'm extremely fond of a quote from a black minister (I wish I knew who) who was recalling his preaching professor in seminary who admonished the class that nothing fills the pews better than preaching hate.

  •  Black Gays Need to More Visible (5+ / 0-)

    I've often felt that part of the problem is that the gay rights movement is seen as the phenomenon of White Gays...and they feed into the stereotype many older black people still have of gay people of being rich, white, and depraved.

    I know at least two black and out gays, and somehow I've escaped most of the homophobia. But the mainstream gay rights movement needs to be more diverse, so that gay rights is seen as something that belongs to "our people" too.

    Another thing to remember about this phenonmenon: the loudest anti-gay people are closeted gay folks who can't deal with themselves. The ministry offers them a way to seem "pure and chaste" rather than repressed and angry.

    A Dean Democrat-because I could have been an evacuee.

    by CarolDuhart on Tue Jul 25, 2006 at 03:53:15 PM PDT

  •  Great diary, Terrance--drifted over from Rescue : (0+ / 0-)

    As a white, straight woman who is emphatically pro-GLBT rights, I am curious, b/c your diary didn't really touch on this--but what do you think causes black Christians (besides the right-wing "Christianity" element) to drift toward homophobia as they do?

    (I have a couple of theories; but as a straight, white woman, I wonder if it's inappropriate to even bring them up.)

    •  Honestly, I think religion is the key. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The church is still a strong instutution in many black communities. And my experience is that in many black churches there si still a strong literalist and inerrantist approach to the bible.

      So the Bible is taken to mean just what it says in the KJV or whatever version happens to be lying around, cultural context and translation notwithstanding. And there's no room for interpretation, etc.

      Pointing out the pitfalls in that approach doesn't change anything. My mom once told me the bible say being gay was a sin. I told her also said she was going to hell for eating cheeseburgers and wearing cotton-polyester blends. It shut her up, but only for a minute, and didn't change anything.

      Terrance Heath
      Washington, DC

      by TerranceDC on Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 09:03:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  A lot of Christians don't see anything wrong with (0+ / 0-)

        ...being gay. This goes for progressive to moderate to even just "I don't give a damn" Christians. I totally agree with you that the fundamentalist/right-wing Christians are generally very homophobic; but right-wingers have a tendency to use the Bible as a shield for their own homophobia and bigotry--and this has long been the case for "justifying" their way out of other civil-rights issues (miscegenation/"mixed-race" marriages, slavery, even feminism).

        I'm wondering if the fact that we, as a country, haven't fully dealt with the racism that is part of our unfortunate historical fabric, has a great deal to do with why people in the black community tend to be homophobic: because they're resentful that, as their wounds haven't fully healed and continue to be ripped afresh (Katrina, poverty, other forms of latent--or not--discrimination), another maligned group, the GLBTs, takes center stage in national consciousness, taking away the attention that should, and must, be dealt to the ongoing problem of racism in our country.

        That, and the black and Hispanic community seem to put a larger emphasis on "masculinity" (or at least an illusion of it), particularly when it comes to dealing with women.

        Just some food for thought. Am I totally off the mark?

  •  great topic (3+ / 0-)

    I was reading in the paper some article about gay tolerance in the religious community.

    Buried in that article was a very powerful quote, which I can't remember so I'll have to paraphrase it.

    The person said gays are "leaving intolerant churches" and finding tolerant congregations. The intolerant churches are starting to become aware of that exodus.  

    The tide is slowly but inevitably changing.

    Ultimately, the churches that bash gays are going to have to start living up to their Christian teaching if they want to survive.

  •  Thanks for the book references... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    means are the ends

    I'm going to put The Baptizing of America: The Religious Right's Plans for the Rest of Us on my order list.

    This is a difficult issue.  Good job writing about it.

    Thank you!

  •  early rumblings should be a wake up call (0+ / 0-)

    Democrats continue to assume that Blacks and Black churches will for the most part, always be a core constituency of the Democratic party. They may be in for a rude awakening.

    Having spent way too much time over the last decade carefully studying the Biblical American movement (the social movement that seeks to use their interpretation of the Bible as the sole basis of all governance and social interaction), let me join TerranceDC in saying, start paying attention. Things are moving out here on the ground.

    I'm also in the DC area here on the Maryland side. When the wingnuts want to work in DC, around here, one of the places they consistently land is over at Hope Christian in Bowie as led by Harry Jackson (of the High Impact Leadership Coaltion and "Black Contract with America" fame).

    Sure, he's a registered Democrat, and his wife even gave to the Kerry Campaign, but if you think for one moment he's one of the 'good guys' think again.

    He spends way too much time with the likes of Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council to be my kinda Democrat.

    Now that the take over of the Republican party is completed, they're hard at work on the Democratic- on the 'moral issues' and via the churches- black churches being a core component of their strategy.

    This doesn't break down according to 'left and right' it breaks down to those who would rather live in a "Biblical America" and everything that comes along with that- reguardless of party affiliation, and those who do not wish to do so.

  •  seeking some sort of control (0+ / 0-)

    Here in Portland, I remember that during the build-up to Measure 36 (Oregon's anti-gay  marriage amendment) I noticed that of the few "Yes on 36" lawn signs I'd see in the city (the vast majority of yes votes came from outside Portland proper), most were in black neighborhoods. I noticed also that it was these same neighborhoods that also had a disproportionate number of Portland's relatively few churches.

    I thought of how the black community seems to struggle disproportionately with marriage. Was the heavy black vote (by my observation) in favor of anti-gay marriage amendments an attempt to "atone" for their own failures, an attempt to control something that they have trouble dealing with? Was it, in a sense, religious folk casting their eyes skyward and saying, "Lord, we may not have it right, but at least we'll keep it safe from gays."?

    Remember that study a few years ago which showed that the bible-belt had the highest divorce rate when viewed state by state?

    Is this what this is all about? Is it not just a religious outlook, but a guilty conscience about marriage that motivates this movement?

    There is no avant-garde. There are only people who are a little late. - Edgar Varese

    by thepdxbikerboy on Tue Jul 25, 2006 at 10:06:14 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for this thoughtful, thought provoking (0+ / 0-)

    diary. I agree with the many posters who encourage you to keep writing, keep radiating your true spirit and self.

    It seems like such a long journey to the place where each individual is loved, valued, and respected for exactly who they are. Where each person has the rights due their simple humanity. Thank you for sharing that journey with all of us, and for adding your part to head us in the right direction.

  •  Perhaps a generational change? (0+ / 0-)

    One thing I've noticed is that all races, across basically all religions and economic groups, all become much more accepting of gays as age decreases.  Perhaps this will finally begin to rub off on these preachers, who after all don't want toi be seen as out of touch with their flock.

    All that being said, seing homophobia in the black community has alwasy kind of pissed me off (and I'm straight and white).  I guess mostly because I figure if anyone would understand how much second-class citizenship sucks it should be blacks.

    Man, I just don't get homophobia at all.  And it's so endemic, especially with older people.

    All your vote are belong to us. Warner/Feingold 2008

    by Harkov311 on Tue Jul 25, 2006 at 10:46:29 PM PDT

  •  An inclusive commitment (0+ / 0-)

    The Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and healing supports the full inclusion of sexual minorities in the church and in society. Religions have a venerable tradition supporting healing, health care, disease prevention, and health promotion, and also a commitment to the most marginalized and vulnerable. The institute believes in the right of all people to safe and affordable access to information and health care for the treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS. The Institute calls on religious and civic leaders to respond the the suffering caused by violence and exclusion.

    For more information, visit Rev. Haffner's blog at or the Institute's homepage at

    by Religious Institute on Tue Jul 25, 2006 at 11:27:43 PM PDT

  •  I am late (0+ / 0-)

    to this diary, having drifted over from Diary Rescue.  Great work!

    Bush should stop worrying about two guys in a bedroom, and start worrying about one guy in a cave.

    by BlueInARedState on Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 03:34:18 AM PDT

  •  Not getting it (0+ / 0-)

    Last year (I think) there was an article in the WPost on some anti-gay marriage protest here in DC. It wasn't covered on the front page, but rather on the front of one of the inside sections (I'd guess Metro, but who knows)

    The lead picture was of a married couple protesting  the right of others to get married. An interracial couple. From Virginia.

    Is people's knowledge of history so incredibly limited? Are people completely unable to see themselves in others?

    I suspect that this split is being carefully orchestrated by the likes of Karl Rove, as it is one potential way for DEMs to fracture. But why pastors would allow it to happen? I just don't understand.

    [Bush] speaks to the audience as if they're idiots. I think the reason he does that is because that's the way these issues were explained to him. Graydon Carter

    by mecki on Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 06:36:32 AM PDT

  •  Any sort of polls or statistics? (0+ / 0-)

    Does anyone have any links to polls conducted in the black community regarding their attitude towards gay marriage and gay people in general?

  •  Thank God there is you.... (0+ / 0-)

    You and other people like you in the black community who are fighting this fight give me hope.

    The late Coretta Scott King's actions still give me hope.  

    Those in the black community who would so easily latch on to hatred and bigotry are ignorant and in danger.  

    If the right wingers could succeed in their fight against gays, who do you think would be the next group they would go after (again)?

    •  They're already doing it (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Tom P

      Look at the response to Katrina. Look at the attempts to gut the voting rights act. Look at Georgia's attempt to restrict voting with ID legislation (requiring a drivers license or gov't issues ID to vote, some many poor people who are also black arent' going to have).

      It's already happening, because the distraction is working.

      For the right, it's a two-for-one deal. Disenfranchise and set back two minorities for the price of one tactic.

      Terrance Heath
      Washington, DC

      by TerranceDC on Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 08:55:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  duly noted (0+ / 0-)

    this is an important post-- for everyone. it's important to you and to a huge set of communities and it's important to basic issues of justice-- what kind of politics could we possibly practice if we allow churches to aid and excuse the kind of violence that Kevin Aviance went through? and he only gets the attention we need on this issue because he's so pretty.
    also, it's a rare chance to see the words "Andrew Sullivan" without being totally offended, as a Black queer.

  •  You know that hyper-masculine . . . (0+ / 0-)

    . . . slightly hysterical closet case persona used by the proprieter of  Jesus' General?  
    The evangelical clergy, black and white, is full of real-life guys like that.

    There's a reason why these guys keep insisting, against all evidence, that homosexuality is a "choice": It has been for them. They assume that their urges are the same as every other man's. Which would be okay, but most men, if their urges consistantly involved other men, would eventually manage to figure out that they wanted to have sex with men.

    These religious right types take the same sort of information about themselves and deduce that, since they spend their waking hours contemplating things they can't even articulate about, eg, some fella in their Bible study class, and they chose to be "straight"--then every other man, gay or straight must have the same desires. And if they made the choice they did, why can't Barney Frank?

    •  !!! (0+ / 0-)

      "There's a reason why these guys keep insisting, against all evidence, that homosexuality is a "choice": It has been for them."


      There is no avant-garde. There are only people who are a little late. - Edgar Varese

      by thepdxbikerboy on Thu Jul 27, 2006 at 10:47:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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