Commentary: Is It Harder to Be a Black Gay Male?

A new study says that young Black gay men encounter special hardships when it comes to interacting with society.

Posted: 01/23/2013 03:48 PM EST
Commentary: Is It Harder to Be a Black Gay Male?

President Obama made history Monday by being the first president ever to show support for gay rights in an inaugural address. It was yet another sign that the United States is becoming more and more progressive when it comes to gays and lesbians, and it made many liberals cheer.

Yet despite the fact that America is now more accepting of LGBT causes than it’s ever been, it’s good to remember that life can still be very difficult for gay people. What’s more, a new study says things can be especially hard for gay Black males.

Michael C. LaSala, author of the new study “African American Gay Youth and Their Families: Redefining Masculinity, Coping with Racism and Homophobia,” says gay Black young men suffer from a uniquely hard time when it comes to finding their way in the world. The study doesn’t say that white or Asian gay men have it easy, of course, just that things like racism and cultural factors come into play to make the Black gay male experience a unique and difficult one.

A post on ScienceBlog highlights some of LaSala’s more pertinent findings:

Gay black males struggle to cope with intersecting oppressions – racism, homophobia and sexism, says LaSala. They carry a “special stigma” that some straight black males may find particularly disturbing. “The world already sees you as less than others. By being gay, you’re further hurting the image of African-American men,” LaSala says was a common reaction among the male relatives of the black youth when they learned that their relative was gay.

[…]

“I found that parents of African-American gay youth said, ‘You have everything going against you as a black man. This is one more strike against you.’ Conversely, parents of white gay youth stated, ‘You have everything going for you – and now this!’” LaSala said.

Besides the perceived impact of racism, LaSala also notes that a cultural premium placed on masculinity in the Black community can be tough for gay men to navigate. One Black woman quoted in his study told him, “You are told to be a man … and being a man does not mean you sleep with other men.”

Thankfully, it’s not all bad news. LaSala says that more education in the Black community — and better preparation for therapists and social workers — can help ease the suffering of gay Black men. What’s more, there may even be a silver lining in LaSala’s findings about Black families:

Black parents may be less likely than whites to “mourn the loss of a normal life” for their gay sons, perhaps understanding that a normal life was less of a sure thing, according to LaSala…

Black parents are already primed to know life won’t be perfect and “normal” for their children in one way. A child being born Black isn’t the end of the world, so neither should anyone think being born Black and gay condemns a man.

The views here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photo: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)

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