Martin Luther King once said, "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance." I'd like to address what I feel needs to happen to lessen or eliminate the black community's reluctance to wholly accepting gays. Being gay is as much a part of me as is the color of my eyes, and, like the color of my eyes, it is also a very small part of who I am.
It's a fair question how I reconcile my gay sexuality with God and religion, but a bit awkward discussing this with an audience that tends to have a closed mind based on their religious beliefs. The resistance is evident when radio listeners phone in to condemn my sexuality, and then quote what they believe Jesus said about homosexuality. Most, like myself, have never actually read the entire Bible and are merely repeating what's been taught by others.
A history lesson on the Bible is in order for our black community. Simply repeating statements that have been passed down for 2,500 years or so certainly does not make them valid. First things first: it's important to remember that not one word in the Bible was written by Jesus or God -- so we can't claim to know what Jesus or God said! You'd be hard-pressed to find a Biblical scholar to disagree with that. Secondly, we've forgotten that the Bible we reference today was originally written in Hebrew and Greek, and only later translated into English. Translation, by its very nature, is interpretation -- the translator has to make decisions as to what the original writer meant.
Blacks have been unusually reluctant to accept gays. We've used inherited religious beliefs to condemn gays for many different reasons. Some say they find it appalling or are uncomfortable with it, while others proclaim that God condemns it. Like many who grew up in the black church, I inherited the belief that gays were inferior and their sin was unforgivable. Raised to be heterosexual, I was falsely led to believe that I was worthy and virtuous enough to judge and condemn gays.
As a result of religious and societal pressures, I married and fathered two children in my misguided attempt to live up to the expectations of my family, church and community. My using religion as a "scared-straight"-style therapy led me to include others in a web of deceit and piousness, all in the name of my religion and desire to be accepted as straight. This horrendous experience is proof that reparative therapy does not work -- after all, I was certainly raised straight by the black community and my religion.
Sadly, the black community has chosen gays and lesbians as its prey in the ongoing hate parade in this country. It's appalling that we've found comfort in hating gays and feel justified in doing so. The very same Bible that whites used to defend slavery, blacks are now using to repress and ostracize gays. Our tendency to use religion as the basis to justify superiority by labeling others as inferior is irrational at best. This method of repression has never worked, as we found out with slavery.
Denying love to others that we ourselves demand is contrary to our highest calling to love others. It's a colossal waste of time to use our precious existence on the planet critiquing and criticizing gays. Whether we are religious or not, we should ask ourselves why great spiritual teachers like Jesus and Buddha were noticeably quiet on an issue that is so contentious today? That task, still today, is left to less illustrious followers, subjected to their own biases.
Given that blacks have a history of being repressed in this country, and being made to feel inferior for so long, it seems plausible (but not defensible) that we'd reject yet another group of people. I am convinced that we as blacks must continuously focus our attention on loving ourselves first and foremost. This can be a difficult reality to accept, but we cannot give away love we don't yet have for ourselves. Love, like money or other possessions, cannot be given away if we do not have it. That same applies to hate.
But there is hope. We must seek and find our own truth individually. We cannot be held captive to dogmas established by others. Neither can we accept the preponderance of repeated assertions as adequate proof to base our beliefs on. We are free thinkers and should exercise that right. Free will is the inherent right to direct our own lives. We must lead by examples of love rather than a belief that hating will somehow create love.
This resistant path toward the acceptance of gays and eradicating homophobia in the black community is laden with phobias that are unfounded and fears that are not real. We cannot own a truth as our own simply because it has been passed down many generations. We have a ways to go toward lessening the resistance to gays, but we've made strides, as gays have started to come out in the black community to acknowledge that we were here all the time. The black community cannot validate ourselves by invalidating others. Love is the only thing real and lasting that's able to heal this divide in our society.