Sunday, 29 May 2011
Homosexuality in the Black Family
Will they still want to know me?
Black and homosexual; here lay two identities that are often difficult enough to wear separately, let alone when combined together.
A conversation with a friend the other day got me thinking what it would be like if I had to tell my family and friends that I was gay. How do you begin to explain, where do you tell them, who do you tell first? Will they accept that you are still the same person you were before, even if they do not necessarily 'understand' what you're sharing with them. Only, the scenario seems to distort and deepen even further when I think about having to tell my black family and friends - why is that?
Families of African-Caribbean heritage tend to be familiarised with the church, cultural and family traditions, expectations of your elders etc, which can at times come with extremely judgemental views of right and wrongs, or acts that are 'sinful' and 'evil'. This must put many people who are considering sharing their secret in a position of added difficulty.
So why is it that in terms of women leaving the home and taking up prominent positions, Irish and Blacks drinking without restrictions in an English pub and divorces left, right and centre are all now an acceptable part of modern Society but some African Caribbean families still refuse to encourage its members that they are accepted and loved for who they are and despite 'what' they are? Hailing from the African side, it still astonishes me how easy it is for someone to use the Bible in a context that they happen to be preaching against; "he who is without sin cast the first stone" (please imagine that in an African voice lol!) - so who in this world has the right to judge any other person's will or actions? I know that the Bible I read explains no one sin is greater than another so who's to say you're not topping the leader-board yourself?? It’s the same with having a child below a certain age or out of wedlock, or even having a termination; there was a time where these things were considered unacceptable or carried out in secret but it seems as though this mentality of acceptance in black families doesn't really extend to homosexuality.
Over the last century or so, homosexuality has gradually emerged out of hiding and integrated itself into society. Many argue that they did not 'choose' to be this way and that if they did have a choice, why on earth would they decide to be anything other than 'normal'. Admittedly, this is a compelling argument.
I am straight so I can't pretend I understand what being gay is like but despite my own beliefs, I can imagine just how lonely someone may feel at that point of having to disclose such information to loved ones with such deep-rooted beliefs. To know that after this moment, you may not have a family to turn to as you did before or in extreme circumstances, you may face being run out of town with threats of violence and in some cases death.
There is also a interesting difference between men and women when discussing this subject. Maybe 95% of men I have spoken with would have a whole heap of ignorant and derogatory things to say about gay men, but ABSOLUTELY entertain the idea of lesbians, from they are involved! The women I have spoken with tend to take more of an empathetic approach and a view about one tends to be the same for the alternative.
I have known some families to go on stink just because someone has brought home a partner from the wrong tribe/ethnic group/borough/class/status - my mere existence has been frowned upon by some African family elders who weren't exactly pleased at my mother's choice of a Caribbean man! So imagine having to share something so big with your family that you may face never being acknowledged by them again - how do you start such a conversation?
As much as I would have my own preferences for my children, I would like to think that to stay true to them as their mother, I would rear and guide them the best I can, then acknowledge and support all of their decisions in life - whether it's to my agreement/understanding or not (and from they're not running around killing people, obviously!).
I mean no offence to anyone reading this post (gay or straight) but thought it would be interesting to explore what makes black people so rigid in moving forward and accepting the things our loved ones share with us. What do you think BDSSers? Is it not admirable for someone to potentially risk everything and everyone they ever knew for a secret that has most probably been tearing them up inside? Maybe you are gay and are yet to tell your family and have no idea of how to approach the topic? Or maybe you've wondered why it took you so long to tell your loved ones since they were a lot more supportive than you ever imagined? Either way, it would be really good to hear these perspectives and tips for those in turmoil.
BDSS does not discriminate (unless we’re in a heated debated about the differences between men and women :D) and we try to remain open minded about things we do not necessarily understand. Africans & Caribbeans; surely it’s possible to agree to disagree and continue on in mutual harmony - or should I pinch myself and wake up?!