As Peter Tatchell causes riots at this year's MOBOs after reggae stars
known for anti-gay lyrics were nominated for awards and the Terence Higgins Trust
gets set to launch a Black Gay Equality Campaign, OutUK's Adrian Gillan examines
the extent of homophobia within black music and culture and asks whether the
white gay scene can be just as racist.
Does black culture lag behind white culture in accepting gays? Is homophobia within
a macho, religious black community any different from that in wider society? Should the
MOBO Awards have nominated reggae artists who use gay-hate lyrics? What special issues
does a man face if he's gay and black - at home, in his community and beyond? Might he
even meet racism amidst the gay community?
The Tatchell Riots
"It is appalling for members of one minority to attack members of another minority,"
says human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell. "We should stand together united against
all forms of prejudice and discrimination."
Undaunted by his recent bout with Mike Tyson over the issue of homophobia in sport,
Tatchell and gay rights group OutRage! were kicked, punched and spat at by a screaming
homophobic mob threatening to kill them outside the MOBO (Music Of Black Origin) Awards
Ceremony at the London Arena last Tuesday (1st October 2002).
Why? Tatchell was simply and peacefully displaying a placard declaring "MOBO rewards
anti-gay hate" since reggae stars Elephant Man, TOK and Capelton had been nominated as
"Best Reggae Act" at the Awards - despite their history of violent homophobic lyrics
that call for the murder of gay people.
"The collective homophobic hysteria was absolutely terrifying," says Tatchell. "It was
like what white racists did to the black civil rights marchers in the Deep South
during the 1960s. For a moment, I was in fear of my life. The hatred in those young
people's eyes was frightening. Some of them looked like they would kill me if they
had the chance."
He continues: "It is time more black community leaders spoke out louder against the
violent homophobic attitudes of sections of black youth. Their silence means that
anti-gay hatred in the black community often passes unchallenged. The prime victims are
black lesbians and gay men. No wonder there is not a single prominent gay black
superstar willing to come out."
"Their nomination is tantamount to rewarding bigotry", says Tatchell of the reggae
acts being honoured inside the Arena, none of whom won any prizes in the end. "It
is the moral equivalent of the Brit Awards nominating a racist entertainer who
incites the killing of black people."
But what's the real story behind the riots? Why is the black community so very challenged
by homosexuality? Why is homo taboo?