By Ernie McCray
After writing recently about a five-year-old girl being kicked out of a Christian Academy, in what seemed to me to be an example of rampant homophobia in the black community, I began thinking “Is it just me?”
Then a childhood friend commented on what I had written with these words: “This is all new to me in the black churches… many gay persons played the music, sang in the choir, helped get those fashion shows together and no one said a mumbling word or they never appeared to out loud.”
What a relief to discover it just wasn’t me who feels the way I do because what my homey had to say is so how I remember things back in the day – so how I happened to live all these years thinking that black folks were okay with folks who are gay.
Or, at least, let me say, I’ve thought all along that based on what we’ve been through, as a race of people, you know, slavery and Jim Crow, and all, that we wouldn’t stroll into a booth on Election Day and vote to deny a group of people the simple right to marry whomever they choose. I just flat-out didn’t see that coming. I didn’t think we would ever want anyone to feel the hurt we’ve felt being discriminated against, being held back. Do we not remember our tears, our anger, our fears?
Oh, well, the Supreme Court took care of that little injustice. So, Leviticus be damned.
But I sure hope my people can come to love all people the way we’ve always wanted to be loved in this society. And I’m not talking about a “Love the sinner and hate the sin” kind of love. I’m referring to love, in and of itself, love in its simplicity. Unadulterated love. Authentic love. God’s love, if you will.
I think if we looked at the matter of sexual identity with a loving heart we’d see that our anti-gay stances make no sense, that we’re not holding in reverence the gay luminaries in our own history, like Josephine Baker, the “Creole Goddess,” the “Bronze Venus,” the “Black Pearl”: a singer known throughout the world; one of the first black women to star in a major motion picture and integrate an American concert hall; an American-born recipient of the French military’s prestigious Croix de Guerre for lending a hand to the French Resistance in World War II; a giver, one who cared.
We might consider that maybe James Baldwin died in vain, that we were shucking and jiving when we said to him “Teach, brother” when he brought us his progressive ideas on civil rights in “Go Tell It on the Mountain.” When we praised his eloquence were we really thinking: “Yeah, yeah, whatever, but you’re going to hell for your ‘abominable’ behavior”?
Have we just let Bayard Rustin drift away from us in the breezes of time, no matter that he brought Martin Luther King to D.C. in ’63 to share “The Dream” that lifted our spirits to the sky?
Have we strayed from the spirit of brother Langston, Mr. Hughes, who wrote us poetry that dripped of the blues, and swung like a big band giving forth with all the nuances and moods of jazz, challenging us to give life the best that we have?
Did we not feel the humanity of Alvin Ailey when his dancers in “Revelations,” showcased the African-American expedition from bondage to autonomy despite overwhelming trepidations?
And are we not conscious of the same when Wanda Sykes’ jokes begin to roll, bringing laughter to our souls regardless of our life’s situations?
When we hear Tracy Chapman sing “Baby can I hold you tonight?” does that not take our minds off social putdowns that categorize some people as abominations – as we come to recognize the aches and pains and desires in her voice that portray how all people, whether they are gay or straight, simply want to be accepted for who they are?
Might that tell us that what she and Alice Walker once had was, no matter what we might think, natural for them, that they were two beautiful talented artistic sensitive people in love, that it shouldn’t be of any major concern that they were of the same gender?
With open hearts might we learn much about what sexual attractions and sexual identities are all about?
There are many who can teach us and guide us in our understanding of what life is like for our gay and lesbian sisters and brothers. Like Laverne Cox, the prominent and outspoken transgender activist and actress who has come to our attention in her role on “Orange Is the New Black.” Shouldn’t we listen to her and have her back?
And shouldn’t we know that there are still too many closeted folks in our communities who won’t feel free until we allow them to be?
Oh, I hope to live long enough to see them “matter” to us. Like I once thought they did.
Photo courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/