Op-ed: The Tragic Consequences of Being an Anonymous Minority Statistic
BY Advocate Contributors
August 29 2011 4:30 AM ET
There are thousands of same-gender-loving people within the
congregations of black churches. Because I have ministered from their pulpits
for more than 40 years, I am very aware of how these churches’ refusal to
address issues such as HIV/AIDS has gravely crippled us. But there are other
more commonly overlooked culprits.
When black newspapers ignore and overlook the importance of
pertinent issues that impact the lives of gay African-Americans, they tacitly
approve and condone acts of hatred and homophobia. Black publications depend
heavily on financial support from religious institutions, and indirectly these
papers must shoulder some of the responsibility for the spread of the virus
because an innumerable amount of antigay sermons have been preached from their
In my new book, Love Won't Let Me Be
Silent, I call out the tremendously negative influence that hip-hop has
had on the nation in regard to the LGBT community. Although much of the
homophobic language has been toned down in contemporary rap lyrics, there
remain cleverly disguised, subliminal homophobic messages that make it
absolutely clear being gay is totally unacceptable and definitely not manly.
Personally, I feel that most hip-hop artists will never truly
fully embrace same-gender-loving people publicly. What's more, some gay and
lesbian hip-hop artists conceal their orientation, as asserted by Terrence Dean,
author of Hiding Within Hip-Hop. The silence contributes to the
rise in attacks on both HIV-positive and -negative same-gender-loving
To see the tragic consequence of anonymity on display, one need
only recall Oprah Winfrey’s disturbing interview with J.L. King, author of the
controversial book On the Down Low: A Journey Into the Lives of Straight
Black Men Who Sleep With Men. King’s alarming confession of what
life was like on the down low immediately garnered him national fame, and King
became a trusted HIV prevention activist and educator, especially to black
Immediately after that interview, a series of articles published
in Essence, Vibe, and The Washington Post attempted
to expose a secret sexual cultural phenomenon called "the down low."
Although those articles caused somewhat of a stir, none were as troubling as
the cover story of the August 3, 2003, issue of The New York Times Magazine titled
"Double Lives on the Down Low." Written by journalist Benoit Denizet-Lewis,
the work sent a shock wave through the African-American community as the article
aired some very dirty laundry.
Among the story's many shocking insights, the article revealed
that after 25 years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, not only had HIV infection rates
steadily climbed for African-American women, but black religious institutions,
in particular, created and supported homophobia within black communities. The
result of this homophobia, according to the article, was the birth of a
subculture of dishonesty and denial with respect to black masculinity, desire,
and sexuality. This subculture sabotaged any attempts at HIV prevention or
treatment, the article said.
Is it any wonder then that the National Coalition of Anti-Violence
Programs' researchers recently published a report that found LGBT people of
color were subjected to a disproportionate number of attacks — 70% of the 27
murder victims in 2010 were LGBT and HIV-affected people of color. That was part of a
23% increase over the previous year in murders of LGBT and HIV-affected people across the United
States, the second highest yearly total ever recorded.
Last week I awakened to find this startling message in my Yahoo!
in-box: “Iowa student dies after brutal beating in which attackers shouted gay
slurs.” While this heinous act does not surprise me, it does sadden me deeply
to see another young black man brutally murdered. Police say it was not a hate
crime, but not in dispute is that Marcellus Andrews, 19, was heard being called
“faggot” while a group of attackers beat him on his own front porch.
Simply put, even though Americans pride ourselves on living in a
technically and socially advanced democratic society, in many ways we are
hypocrites. America has allowed bigots and religious extremists to enshrine
countless unethical laws that illegally deny same-gender-loving people equal
rights, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Too many religious leaders
and right-wing politicians are allowed to use the Bible to justify their
outlandish actions. What's worse, many of them feel no remorse for their
homophobic statements that fuel attacks on innocent people of all sexual
orientations, and of all races.
Nowhere is this attitude of attack and ignore more prevalent than
among our presidential candidates, many of whom extol divisive and inflammatory
rhetoric while the country reacts with barely a notice.
We, as the black community must evolve. But we, as a nation must
evolve, as well. We must move forward and embrace the more noble aspects of our
humanity. Needless to say, it won't be easy; it never is! Nor is living easy,
particularly for HIV-affected individuals who are reading this and who will become
victims of assault, or for the thousands in the LGBT community, white and
black, male and female, who desperately and simply want to live as God created
all his children to live — happily and freely.
Terry Angel Mason is a
gay HIV/AIDS activist and author. His book Love Won’t Let Me Be Silent speaks about homosexuality and homophobia in the black community. Look
for his upcoming book, They Say That I Am Broken, this fall.
Correction: An earlier version of this article named the wrong year for research from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence
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