Black and queer: the stigma of sexuality

Curtesy of Creative Commons


I am Black. I am queer. But I am not a Black queer, a colored member of the LGBTQ community. To me, Black and LGBTQ are mutually exclusive; they can neither intersect nor align. This is not a fact, but an observation.

When I was younger, I had no concept of gayness or anything beyond my own attraction toward the opposite sex. Although I relished happily in my straightness, I can recall a faint obsession with a peer in 3rd grade, an obsession I now would characterize as a crush. When that person did not share the same passion I had for them, I was discouraged; I didn’t understand why they weren’t as interested in being my “friend.” However, my naiveté passed it off as nothing and my sexuality did not come into question until middle school.

Middle school was the time when white girls brandished their bisexuality with wholehearted passion, yet I still felt embarrassed. I envied the girls who found solace and completion in their new identity, while I existed in fear. I was worried that someone would find out, reveal my identity, and treat me differently. So I hid, protected by my equal attraction to the opposite sex that I had come to accept as more valid than the part of me that liked the same sex.

In 8th grade, I had a crush on someone from school. In my head, we were the perfect match. Of course, I never told them. How could I? I wasn’t supposed to be gay. Eighth grade was also the year that my sibling came out to our parents. It made my parents uncomfortable. My thinking was that my parents would be in dismay if I brought home a partner, their voices crying out, “Now we have two gay children! Oh, the horror!”

As I entered high school, my anxiety around my sexuality did not cease as I thought it would. Freshmen year was the year of my first partner. We were giddy. When we broke up, I knew that my sexuality, burst from its imprisonment, would return to its reclusivity.

I could list multitudes of white bisexuals in our school, yet falter when trying to recall a single queer Black person. It is not my job to be aware of every Black LGBTQ person. In fact, I and many others would like to have their sexualities remain unknown. However, there is an idea that Blackness is not only inherently homophobic but that the race has been hardened with years of oppression, making the vulnerability of queerness impossible to possess. Being Black and out is societal donation. This perception does not accompany white people of the LGBTQ community.

With this jealousy towards white gays comes a realization. It is well known and fervently noted that the Black community holds a stigma towards people in the LGBTQ community. As gayness remains deeply buried in the closet, sexuality then becomes a question of comfortability. If members of your own community are not comfortable with your sexuality, then how could the rest of the world be?

For the white queer, however, it is far less complex. I believe that among the LGBTQ community there is a perfect poster child for gays. He or she is quirky and cute and out and open and white. She is Ellen Degeneres. He is Neil Patrick Harris. But there is too much complexity, too much history in Black gayness that scares people and therefore defers acceptance from others, even from those in the community.

My parents, being of African origin, are not familiar with a world comfortable with those of the LGBTQ community. I could not name a single other gay or bi or queer member of my family beyond my sibling. This is not to say that my family is homophobic, nor that any African family is, but my experience has shown that there is little sympathy for the LGBTQ community in my household. I can recall one time my mom came into my room and screamed at me, accusing me of being gay, saying, “If you want to tell me you’re gay just say it!” That was several years ago, and she and my father have grown more accepting. Nonetheless, here I am, still closeted.

I am Black and I am queer. But I wish I could be both. The venn diagram of my existence remains separated, incomplete.